7 Castles Renowned For Their Beauty and Fortitude

Modern humans are captivated by the grandeur and allure of castles. With their towering turrets, castles are more than architectural marvels or mere fortresses. They are also a repository of cultural heritage, historical significance and a reminder of a bygone era. 

Today, castles transcend their physical grandeur to serve as gathering places, cultural centers and even the crux of political power. Within their walls, you will find chapels, museums and, yes, guided tours and gift shops.

Exploring a castle when you travel can give you insight to a rich tapestry of history and culture. When you visit a castle, you will walk the path of the previous inhabitants and immerse yourself in antiquity. Moreover, you become a liaison to ensure the stories within and around the fortification remain alive for the next generation.

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Himeji Castle, Himeji, Japan 🇯🇵

Himeji Castle Japan
Himeji Castle is also known as “White Heron Castle” or “White Egret Castle” 

Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates back to the 1300s. Constructed during a chaotic feudal period, this hilltop fortress and surrounding complex is a network of sophisticated defensive systems. The castle itself is protected by a complicated maze of gates that open up to a six-story wooden keep (tenshu) capable of observing the surrounding territory for kilometers in all directions. 

Beyond its structural design, the castle blends in aesthetic appeal with its elegant white-plastered walls and ornamental roofs to create harmonious composition of functionality and beauty.  Himeji Castle’s white exterior has led to the nickname the “White Heron Castle” or “White Egret Castle.”

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Edinburgh Castle sits upon Castle Rock

Sitting atop Castle Rock in Scotland’s capital city, lies the imposing presence of Edinburgh Castle. Dating back to the 11th century (or prior), this impressive structure has served as a royal residence, military garrison, prison, and now, one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions. The Scottish Crown Jewels (Honours of Scotland) have been on display to visitors here since their return to Scotland in 1996.

Still an active military base today, an iconic event that’s not to be missed is the One O’Clock Gun firing. In times past, the firing of the cannon from the castle’s ramparts was used by sailors in the harbor to set their maritime clocks accurately. Today, the tradition is purely pomp and circumstance and continues except on Sundays and specific holidays. 

Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad, Telangana, India 🇮🇳

Chowmahalla Palace crafted during the 200-year rule of the Asaf Jahi dynasty

The grandeur of Chowmahalla Palace cannot be overlooked. It derives its name from the four palaces that make up the complex – Aftab Mahal, Afzal Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal, and Mahtab Mahal. Construction began in the 1700s to centralized power under what would become the 200-year rule of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. Upon completion, the impressive complex included palaces, clock towers, Belgian crystal chandeliers and spread out for more than 40 acres. 

Reflective of being situated at the crossroads for trading between Europe and Asia, Chowmahalla Palace’s architectural style is a synthesis of Mughal, Persian, and European influences. Upon completion of its modern-day restoration in the early 2000’s, the palace was recognized by UNESCO in 2010 for exceptional cultural heritage conservation.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro , Puerto Rico 🇵🇷

Castillo San Felipe del Morro, aka El Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro, aka El Morro, is a renowned 16th-century citadel located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Commissioned by King Charles I of Spain in 1539, El Morro was built to guard the entrance to San Juan Bay and defend the then-Spanish colony from attack. The citadel’s design evolved over 250 years, from a simple fortified tower into a formidable fortified complex under the direction of King Philip II.

Today, Castillo San Felipe del Morro stands as an iconic symbol of Puerto Rico’s colonial past and a testament to Spanish craftsmanship. With over 2 million visitors annually, it remains one of the island’s most entertaining and educational portals into its rich history and cultural heritage.

Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria 🇸🇾

Aleppo Citadel has been occupied by the ancient Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans

Nestled in the city of Aleppo in Northern Syria sits the large medieval fortified palace known as The Aleppo Citadel. It is considered one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. The origins of the fortification are so old, when it actually began to be inhabited is unclear. The earliest archeological evidence points to the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE, when a temple to the ancient storm god Hadad stood at the summit. Over time, the ancient Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans are just some of its known occupants.

The citadel is built on a 50m high mound covered in limestone. Its iconic entrance is a complex consisting of seven arched bridgways, defensive towers, and a complex system of paths to deter invaders. Today, the Aleppo Citadel  is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its strategic hilltop location looming over the city below, it is an iconic symbol of Syria’s cultural heritage spanning thousands of years.

Bojnice Castle, Bojnice, Trencin, Slovakia 🇸🇰

Bojnice Castle is host to an annual International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits, as well as a Summer Music Festival

Nestled in Western Slovakia, Bojnice Castle is a magnificent medieval castle renowned for its romantic neo-Gothic architecture. Initially a wooden fortification built in the 12th century, Bojnice was recast over the next hundred years and metamorphosed into a spectacular stone acropolis. During the 17th century, the castle went through several transitions to achieve the Baroque makeover that has given it the romantic look and feel it has become famous for today. 

Visitors today are astonished by the time-period exhibits in the castle’s museum. They may also be passing through as part of a broader agenda to attend the International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits or the Summer Music Festival held annually on the grounds. Bojnice Castle has also served as a filming location for several movies.

Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City, Mexico 🇲🇽

Chapultepec Castle houses Mexico’s National Museum of History

Chapultepec Castle, located atop Chapultepec Hill in Mexico City’s iconic Chapultepec Park, is a magnificent castle that is forever memorialized for playing a pivotal role in Mexico’s history. The hill was a sacred site for the Aztecs, who initially built a religious center and residence for their rulers there. After being subverted by Spanish invaders, structures on the hill were built up from a chapel, the Summer palace to eventually a National Military Academy. 

In 1939, the castle was converted into the National Museum of History (Museo Nacional de Historia) in order to showcase Mexico’s rich cultural heritage. The castle grounds feature beautiful gardens and the inspirational Niños Héroes memorial. Chapultepec Castle offers stunning panoramic views of Mexico City.

Castles come in all styles, shapes and sizes. Whether you’re a fan of architecture, history or culture, you may well have an opportunity to visit a castle on your next trip. Have you had just such an opportunity on a previous holiday? If so, let us know about it in the comments!

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