15 Beautiful Medieval Castles in Europe

1. Vyborg Castle in Vyborg, Russia

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Vyborg Castle was built by the Swedes in 1293 and is the largest building in the region. It was built as the easternmost outpost of the medieval Kingdom of Sweden. In 1710 Vyborg was under the control of the Russians, but went back to Finland in 1818. The Soviets annexed the area during World War II and thus taking the castle. The present Vyborg Castle mostly dates back to the 16th century and is currently used as a museum.

2. Akershus Castle and Fortress in Oslo, Norway

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Akershus Fortress (Norwegian: Akershus Festning) or Akershus Castle (Norwegian: Akershus slott) is a medieval castle that was built to protect Oslo, the capital of Norway. It has also been used as a prison. The first construction on the castle started around the late 1290s, by King Haakon V, replacing Tønsberg as one of the two most important Norwegian castles of the period (the other being Båhus). It was constructed in response to the Norwegian nobleman, Earl Alv Erlingsson of Sarpsborg’s earlier attack on Oslo. The fortress has successfully survived all sieges, primarily by Swedish forces, also by Charles XII in 1716. In the early 17th c., the fortress was modernized and remodelled under the reign of the active King Christian IV, and got the appearance of a renaissance castle.

3. Bellver Castle in Palma de Mallorca, Spain

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The Bellver Castle is a Gothic-style castle built between 1300 and 1310 under the orders of King James II of Mallorca. It is located at 367 feet (112 meters) above see level, it is also about 3 kilometers from the centre of Palma de Mallorca. In 1932, the castle was converted to a museum and now houses the Palma History Museum and the Despuig Collection of Classical Sculpture. The circular castle is one of the main tourist attractions on the Island of Majorca.

4. Rapperswil Castle in Rapperswil, Switzerland

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Rapperswil Castle was first mentioned in 1229, it is believed to date back to the 1220s. Albrecht II, Duke of Austria rebuilt it between 1352 and 1554. Today, Rapperswil Castle houses the Polish National Museum which opened on October 23, 1870. The museum features a library with more than 20,000 volumes on Polish history and culture. Visitors can take great photographs of the more than 16,000 roses that blossom on the Rapperswil Castle’s garden during the May to October seasons. These are also seen throughout the city of Rapperswil, this is the reason the city has been nicknamed ‘town of roses’ or Rosenstadt.

5. Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland

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The Wawel Royal Castle dates back to the early 12th century when Krakow became the capital of Poland, it was the residence of the royal family. It was expanded in the 14th century during the reign of Casimir III the Great. However, in 1595 the castle was destroyed by fire. It deteriorated over the years partly due to a series of military occupations of Poland. Wawel Royal Castle was restored in 1911. It presently has a museum which is open to the public.

6. Bratislava Castle in Bratislava, Slovakia

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Bratislava Castle is located on the hills of the Carpathian Mountains at 150 m (492 feet) above sea level. It is quite a dominating feature in the city of Bratislava. It is currently undergoing extensive restorations, these began in 2008 and will be completed in 2012. The castle was originally built in the 10th century, it was constructed of stone. Its fortifications were improved over the 15th century, this was after it had survived several attacks the previous centuries. By the late 18th century, the Bratislava Castle had lost its importance and was destroyed during the Napoleonic wars. It was left in ruins until the 1953 restoration which was finished in the late 1960s.

7. Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna, Finland

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Olavinlinna Castle, also known as Olofsborg, was built by Erik Axelsson Tott in 1475 to protect the Savo region from the Russians. It was invaded and occupied by the Russians in 1743, they remained there until 1747. The Russians had extended the towers of the castle during their rule. The Olavinlinna Castle houses two museums: the Castle Museum and the Orthodox Museum. It also stages the Savonlinna Opera Festival which is held in July. The Savonlinna Opera Festival is held annually since 1912.

8. Kalmar Castle in Kalmar, Sweden

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Kalmar Castle is considered one of the well preserved castles in Europe. The castle is located on the southern coast of Sweden. It was originally built in the 12th century as a fortified tower, its purpose was to guard against pirates and other enemies from the sea. King Magnus Ladulas ordered the expansion of Kalmar Castle around the 1280s. It was expanded again in the 16th century by King Gustav Vasa who transformed it into Renaissance castle. Kalmar Castle was seized in 1611 during the war with Denmark.

9. Loarre Castle in Aragon, Spain

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Loarre Castle is a Romanesque castle built in 1020 by Sancho el Mayor after he reconquered the area from Muslims. It is the oldest fortified castle in Spain. The castle was originally just a defensive structure with towers until 1071 when the church of San Pedro was added to the castle. The Loarre Castle has not changed much since the church was added in 1071, it went through restorations in 1913 and during the 1970s. In 2007, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

10. Schwerin Castle in Schwerin, Germany

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The Schwerin Castle was built around the 10th century, it was first mentioned in 973. After which it became home of the dukes and grand dukes of Mecklenburg. It also went through modifications over the centuries, some modifications were delayed though. In 1617, the Schwerin Castle was being rebuilt into a Dutch Renaissance. Work stopped however due to war. The current building was mostly built in the 19th century. It was converted into a museum in the 1980s until 1993 when it became both a museum and the seat of the parliament of State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

11. Krak des Chevaliers in Homs, Syrian Arab Republic

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Krak des Chevaliers was originally built in 1031 and rebuilt between 1150 – 1250 to guard the only major pass between Antioch in Turkey and Beirut in Lebanon. However, the fortress was captured several times throughout history. T. E. Lawrence described Krak des Chevaliers as ‘perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world’.

12. Devin Castle in Bratislava, Slovakia

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The Devin Castle was once one of the most important fortresses in Slovakia and has played an important part in the country’s history. It was originally built in the 8th century and is believed to have been known as Dowina, the name was first mentioned in 864 when Louis the German besieged Prince Rastislav in the ‘castle of Dowina’. The castle belonged to a number of noble families between the 12th and 13th century, by the 13th century it had lost its strategic importance. Fortifications were added later in the 15th century and Devin Castle became a threat again. It was destroyed in 1809 by the retreating forces of Napoleon I of France. Its location at a 212 meter (696 foot) cliff creates an amazing view. It is a popular tourist attraction in the country.

13. Glamis Castle in Glamis, United Kingdom

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Surrounded by more than 14,000 acres (57 km²) estate, Glamis Castle is the family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne and has been a royal residence since 1372. It was was the childhood home of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, best known as the Queen Mother. The castle is open for visitors, however it still remains a family home. The castle is famous for legends and tales, mostly ‘The Monster of Glamis’.

14. Mountfitchet Castle in Stansted Mountfitchet, United Kingdom

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Mountfitchet Castle dates back to 1066, it is believed that it was built right after a previous Iron Age fort was attacked when the Normans were invading. They quickly built Mountfitchet Castle at this location. It has now been reconstructed to its original form and declared a Historic Monument, protected by the Department of the Environment. This award winning tourist attraction will take you back in time, as you wonder around the walled village and experiencing life in the Middle Ages. Mountfitchet Castle is located right next to Stansted Mountfitchet train station. It is also close to House On The Hill Toy Museum, the largest privately owned Toy Museum in Europe.

15. Tower of London in London, United Kingdom

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Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison since at least 1100, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat.

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