Post by new International Military Life Community Manager, Courtney Woodruff
When my husband received orders to Germany, I couldn’t wait to gaze up at the towering turrets of Schloss Neuschwanstein in person. Europe is known for its fairy-tale castles and postcard-perfect palaces, but living here has taught me there is so much more to discover beyond the most popular tourist attractions.
Looking for a unique castle experience in Europe? Visit one or more of these 8 royal residences while you are stationed overseas to expand your knowledge and understanding of world military history, the fascinating people who built these impressive structures and the walls that have remained standing for hundreds of years. The best part: You can add a few new pins to your travel map while you’re at it.
Bellver Castle, Spain
This unusual island palace has a hypnotic circular design. Built in 1300 by King Jaume II as a royal residence, it was later used as a military prison and, at one time, even a mint. Today, the ancient fortress houses the Palma History Museum and Despuig Collection of Classical Sculpture.
Castel del Monte, Italy
Feast your eyes on another geometric masterpiece: Castel del Monte in southern Italy. The fortress was constructed in the shape of an octagon in 1237 by order of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. It features eight interconnected chambers and octagonal towers at each corner.
Chateau de Beloeil, Belgium
Considered the “Versailles of Belgium,” Chateau de Beloeil will take your breath away. At first glance, it appears to be floating on a glassy body of water. Get lost in its lavishly furnished rooms and immaculately landscaped French-style gardens.
De Haar Castle, Netherlands
Towers, moats and drawbridges add to the overall charm and magic of this fairy-tale castle with a Dutch twist. It is known as the most luxurious residence in The Netherlands. Join a tour, have a picnic and enjoy the romantic atmosphere of the scenic gardens, ponds and canals.
Half the adventure of a visit to Herrenchiemsee is getting there; you have to take a boat, since it’s on its very own island. King Ludwig II of Bavaria modelled this palace project after King Louis XIV’s Versailles. It features his take on the French Sun King’s Great Hall of Mirrors and Grand Canal.
Mont Saint-Michel, France
Join more than 2.5 million visitors that compete with some of the highest and most dangerous tides in Europe to visit this breathtaking hilltop monument each year. What started as a small church in 709 developed into a Romanesque abbey and monastery in the 11th and 12th centuries. Later, it became known as one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in all of Europe.
National Palace of Pena, Portugal
The colorful National Palace of Pena is perched atop the second highest peak of Portugal’s Sintra Hills. King Ferdinand II expanded upon the foundations of a monastery to build his dream castle. Explore the surrounding forest, which is home to more than 500 species of trees, and visit the House of Indulgence (Casa de Regalo) — a whimsical, alpine-style summer residence Ferdinand II built for his second wife.
Vianden Castle, Luxembourg
Luxembourg’s Vianden Castle is a stunning artifact of the European Romanesque and Gothic periods. Its towering turrets and snow-white façade is reminiscent of Schloss Neuschwanstein. Go back in time with a visit to the ancient arms hall, archaeological crypt, kitchen and knights’ study.
Which castles are on your European bucket list? Have you been to any you would recommend?
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Blogger bio: Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom, writer, editor and web content manager currently living in Germany. She has a heart for our troops and their families and hopes to share what little she has learned along the way to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Courtney At Home, or through her social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.