Experiencing Europe’s Most Magnificent Castles Whilst on Vacation
It’s perfectly possible to stay in a Medieval castle hotel in Europe.
Or – if that’s potentially a bit chilly for you – there’re many tours and trips to help you discover the most magnificent castles within the continent.
1. Castle Hotels: A Selection of Europe’s Finest
If you’d like to stay in a castle, there are plenty of hotels in Europe which’ll allow you to do just that.
There’s one thing I should bring up though before we begin, though. Although there are some exceptions to every rule, few hotels are in Medieval castles. This would be pretty impractical – and freezing cold.
Most castle hotels tend to be within ‘follies’ – c18th, c19th or c20th neo-gothic mansions, that were built to evoke the beauty of Medieval castles. These buildings have beauty and history in their own right – just bear in mind they won’t date to the Middle Ages.
Here are my picks of some of the most interesting castle hotels in Europe.
Stay in a Medieval Castle in England
Luxury-class Amberley Castle Hotel, in England, is unique – it’s a high end lodging in an authentic, bona-fide Medieval castle.
The castle has a truly fascinating history. The castle is more than 900 hundred years old and bloomed into significance in the early Modern period – it was visited by Henry VIII, no less, and was then leased to Elizabeth I between 1588 – 1603.
The little fortress is in the South Downs (driveable from London) and is a stone’s throw from an achingly quaint English village of the same name. As a cute touch, they even raise the drawbridge at night!
A Selection of Castle Hotels in Ireland
Ireland has a burgeoning market in luxury castle hotels, studded across the hills and dales of the Emerald Isle.
There’s, of course, a fair selection of hotels around Dublin – including Clontarf Castle, a modernised, neo-gothic mansion that’s enduringly popular with visitors.
If you’re more interested in a rural weekend in a country pile, world-famous Ashford Castle is housed in 350 acres of countryside, good for all manner of hunting and fishing.
2. Organised Castle Tours and Guided Daytrips
If you’re coming to Europe from an international flight, you’re almost certainly going to spend a few days in a capital city: London, Madrid, Paris, or perhaps to some of the hubs in Germany – such as Frankfurt or Munich.
These big cities are always great starting points for a guided tour to some of the greatest castles in the region.
Castle Tours from London, UK
There are loads of excellent castles to visit in London and its environs – and as a Londoner, I promise you an incredible time here 😉
Evidently, the Tower of London is unmissable – a brilliantly preserved piece of heritage in the heart of our city.
The other essential visit is within Greater London, to Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. I know it’s not technically a castle but I can’t imagine you’d pass up an opportunity to visit.
Both these sites are within the central zones of the London transport system and are accessible from any hotel.
Slightly further from London – about 1hr each way in travel-time – you’ll discover Windsor Castle (the Queen’s official residence).
The other two castles I’d personally recommend in daytrip-distance would be storybook Bodiam Castle (you’ll need your own car) and Dover Castle, so-called ‘defender of England’ which is perfectly possible to reach by train.
I recommend Viator as a tour guide, as they run some excellent heritage trips from London to these points of interest.
Castle Tours within Germany
Munich is undoubtedly the European destination for anyone who’s keen to get out there and visit some of the world’s most famous castles.
It’s the access-point for visiting the castles of ‘Mad King Ludwig’ – including the spectacular Neuschwanstein and his smaller palaces of Linderhof and Hohenschwangu.
There are a number of other castles in Bavaria which, although somewhat less accessible, have a more authentic flavour than King Ludwig’s rather grand and chintzy creations.
If you’re heading to Western Germany on vacation, I’d personally recommend Heidelberg Castle to be an excellent daytrip from either Frankfurt or Stuttgart.
To get the most pleasure from a visit though, I would recommend an overnight stay.
It is technically possible to visit Neuschwanstein Castle (one of the world’s most famous sites) from either Frankfurt or Stuttgart, but Munich would be a much better stopping-off point.
Visiting Castles from Madrid, Spain
I adore Madrid – it’s seethingly busy at any hour of the day, and its compact size makes it easy to explore on foot.
The closest – and most famous Spanish castle is undoubtedly the Alcazar of Segovia – the inspiration behind the Disneyworld Cinderella Castle, it’s said.
Segovia is eminently possible as a daytrip from Madrid, but has a number of interesting heritage sites (including the Roman aqueduct) so you could certainly spend a night there.
Many tourists from the USA fall head-over-heels for Medieval Toledo – it’s not a castle, as such, but this is a gorgeous little town that’s a common day-trip from Madrid, and fulfils many fantasies of Don Quixote.
3. Self-Drive Itineraries to Take In Amazing Castles
If you’re planning on coming to Europe and exploring some of our beautiful castles under your own steam, I promise you that you’ll have a phenomenal trip.
My personal advice would be to fly into a European capital and enjoy the sights and sounds for a few days. You could take a couple of castle day-trips or private tours, as detailed above.
From there, I’d counsel that you should hire a car and embark on a road-trip.
Castles tend to be secreted away from main cities, and so the freedom of a car will free you from the restrictions of public transport.
This website is absolutely full of my favourite castles in Europe, so it’ll hopefully help you glean some inspiration to compile an itinerary.