Evoking legends, lore, and full-blown fantasy, castles possess a certain magic that draws in modern travelers. The soaring structures and bountiful gardens of royal dwellings allow us to revisit those worlds of our childhood bedtime stories. Even more so, the world’s royal residences play a compelling role in telling the rich history of a place, its people, and its craft.
Their fabled halls give insight into the triumphs (and tragedies) of their rulers while the intricate frescoes and tiles decorating the grand banquet rooms honor the greatest artists of that time. The tall turrets give in-depth architectural lessons on the ornate styles that reigned during that time and beyond. And one cannot overlook the eclectic fabrics and furnishings preserved over centuries, which still can be found in many of the palaces’ original meeting rooms. Simply put, castles serve as palatial time machines allowing guests an extravagant glimpse into the past.
From a Danish palace rebuilt after a devastating fire to a Japanese fortress that echoes the beauty of nature, these enchanting estates hold bountiful tales to fill up volumes of storybooks. Here are the most enchanting castles you should visit.
- Peles Castle, Romania
Taken by the enchanting Bucegi Mountains, King Carol I commissioned the construction of a neo-Renaissance–style castle in the quaint village of Sinaia during the 1860s. The royal summer house contains 160 rooms, all of which have a distinctive theme. For example, the theater on the grounds asserts a storybook feeling with exquisite frescoes by Austrian artists Gustav Klimt and Franz von Matsch climbing the walls and ceiling.
After years of serving as a royal residence, Peleș Castle eventually was abandoned when Romania fell under Communist rule. The castle reopened as a public museum after the revolution in 1989.
- Chapultepec Castle, Mexico
Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle is the only castle within North America to ever house actual sovereigns. Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez ordered the construction of the fortress in 1785 to serve as the home for the commander in chief of the Spanish colony, New Spain.
Years after the Mexican War of Independence, the regal structure was repurposed as a military academy and later became the site of the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War in 1847. Eventually, it would once again act as an official royal residence for Emperor Maximilian I and his wife, Empress Carlota. Maximilian helped devise the castle’s current floorplan and neoclassical style, but his reign was cut short in 1867 when President Benito Juárez regained power.
Today, the castle holds the National Museum of History, which educates locals about the country’s cultures and history.
- Matsumoto Castle, Japan
The origins of Matsumoto Castle date back to 1504, when the Ogasawara clan started to build a fort to fend off invaders. Only a few years after its completion, the military fortification was captured by the powerful warlord Takeda Shingen. As the castle switched hands throughout history, its design evolved into a tall three-towered structure with inky black walls and roofs that earned it the nickname the “Crow Castle.”
Around 1872, the castle faced possible demolition as developers wanted to build newer buildings and housing complexes on the site. However, the residents of Matsumoto started a campaign to save the building and eventually, the city government acquired it.
Fast-forward to today, Matsumoto Castle has officially been named a national treasure of Japan and one of the last standing examples of a daimyo castle.