5 of the World’s Most Stunning Castles

Visiting a castle brings history alive in a way that no museum or gallery ever could. Hear ghost stories and envisage battle scenes where the ancient stone walls were bombarded, or imagine the day-to-day life of the knights who dwelled here since the interior of many castles remains almost fully intact. It’s fascinating to see the contrast between the meagre servants’ quarters and the draped velvet four poster bed boudoirs of the resident kings or aristocracy.

If you’re looking to ignite your imagination and improve your knowledge of history, there’s no better way than visiting one of these impressive relics. Here are a few of the world’s most thrilling...

Château de Chambord, Maslives, France

This French Renaissance masterpiece was the elegant hunting lodge of King Francis I and it’s rumoured that it was partly designed by the great Leonardo da Vinci. Construction began in the 16th century and its immense bastion towers and intricate facade is said to have been based on the skyline of Constantinople (now Istanbul).

The Royal Castle in Będzin, Będzin, Poland

Będzin’s Royal Castle has been home to both kings and prisoners and unlike the grandeur of Château de Chambord, this is a castle that was built for battles. Constructed in the 14th century to protect the borders of the Polish Kingdom, the Royal Castle in Będzin wears its 700-odd years of history with scarred ramparts and age-blackened battlements. The castle has been rebuilt countless times across the centuries, but still stands as a valuable testament to its history. Now a museum, its collections include armaments that date from the Medieval period and the Second World War.

Kakegawa Castle, Kakegawa, Japan

A seat of power in the Shizouka Prefecture since the 15th Century, this hilltop palace has weathered battles, earthquakes and political upheaval. Looking down across the town, Kakegawa Castle’s architecture boasts subtle, traditional Japanese building methods. The wealth and power of the castle’s feudal lords is visible everywhere, from the entrances that segregated rich from poor to the macabre golden skulls that were used as gruesome money boxes.

Castillo de Almodóvar del Río, Almodóvar del Río, Spain

Less than twenty miles from the city of Córdoba, the Castillo de Almodóvar del Río can be traced back to a Roman fortification before the site was appropriated and built upon by Berber invaders. This is where the Castillo de Almodóvar del Río acquired its characteristic square towers, which featured in Game of Thrones, as the castle was a filming location for the acclaimed series.

Mir Castle Complex, Mir, Belarus

The scope and sophistication of this collection of towers, courtyards, squares and gardens is dazzling. An 18th-century restoration saw the complex turned from a battle site to a gothic, grand residence for Belarusian dynasties. Keep an eye on the five connecting towers that run around the complex – they each have their own design quirks, with some changing in shape around their circumference and some with their own unique facades.