Posted in Travel

My Top 5 Favourite Castles and Why You Should Visit Them

Let’s face it, castles are awesome. This is my list of the top 5 best castles I’ve been to. It’s by no means a complete list, as there are many castles in the world I haven’t seen, but these are my favourite of the ones I have been lucky enough to visit.

5. Chenonceau – the Loire Valley, France

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Photo cred: France Tourism

France has a lot of great castles. The Loire Valley, especially, is riddled with them. I got to see quite a few of these castles; I even lived in the same town as one (I read books in its courtyard – it was awesome). But I think my favourite castle in the Loire Valley is Chenonceau.

Chenonceau is on the smaller side when it comes to castles, but by no means does this make it any less adequate. One of the coolest things about this castle is that it’s built right over top of the Cher River. That alone is enough to put it in my top 5. Not to mention its beautiful architecture and stunning grounds (which include an incredibly fun hedge maze). There are also some great stories that go along with this castle. Henri II gave Chenonceau to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. After he died, his widow Catherine de Medici forced Chenonceau into her own possession. Symbols of this nasty love triangle can be found all over the castle in Henri II’s personal symbol:

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Here you will find the letter ‘H’ for Henri, ‘C’ for his wife Catherine, and ‘D’ for his mistress Diane. Harsh, bro.

There are also rooms were it is very evident that they’re directly over the river, as they shake when you walk through them. This is especially eerie in the all-black painted room of Catherine de Medici, which she was rumoured to use as her decoy grieving room to avoid being sent to the nunnery (can’t be forced to become a nun when you’re still grieving for your dead husband – smart lady).

Chenonceau is a beautiful little castle, and well worth a visit.

Some famous royals who lived here: Catherine de Medici

 

4. Hever Castle – Hever, England

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Photo cred: Hever Castle and Gardens

Anne Boleyn’s childhood home – need I say more? I suppose I will, yes. Hever is beautiful and very quaint, and the grounds make for a lot of fun. There’s a lot of English history to be learned here. Check out my day at Hever if you want to know more. From mazes to a mistress who got her head cut off, Hever has everything you’d expect from an old English castle, and more. You can even rent it out for weddings (I think my dream wedding just got a tad more expensive).

You will not regret a visit here.

Some famous royals who lived here: Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves

 

3. Schönbrunn Palace – Vienna, Austria

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Photo cred: Schloss Schonbrunn

Schönbrunn absolutely blew me away. Taking the grand tour of the inside of the palace is an incredible thing – the room set ups, the antiques, the history, everything is perfection. You could literally spend all day exploring Schönbrunn and its grounds, which I very nearly did, had my feet not started bleeding from all the walking (not literally, but it certainly felt like it). Not even knife-stabbing pain in my feet, though, was going to stop me from seeing absolutely everything there was to see. You can even get some apple strudel from the apple strudel demonstration, and who doesn’t want that?

If you go to Schönbrunn you will see finery at its best and I guarantee you will be just as blown away as I was.

Some famous royals who lived here: Marie-Antoinette, Maria Theresa, Emperor Franz Joseph I, and Empress Elisabeth of Austria

 

2. Hampton Court – Richmond upon Thames, England

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Photo cred: Palace Half

Now I will have to admit that my next two choices are a bit bias, due their histories being much in the way related to some of my favourite ladies of the past, but that doesn’t change the fact that these are amazing castles that everyone should get to visit at least once in their lives.

Hampton Court is a thing of special beauty. Not only does it contain symbols of the relationship between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, an incredible find to make considering the history, but it is also a palace of two eras. Hampton Court is both Tudor and Georgian, giving you views of stunningly opposite architectural styles that somehow seem to make each other look even better. Here you will find the world’s largest vine, the most beautiful dining hall I’ve ever seen, gardens galore, and maybe even a ghost or two.

Hampton Court is not to be missed.

Some famous royals who lived here: Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, Catherine Howard

 

1. Versailles – Versailles, France

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Photo cred: Hotel le Versailles

It was a tough choice deciding on the order of my top three castles, but in the end I went with Versailles as my number one because it was the very first castle I ever visited and had been before then a place I’d dreamed of visiting for a very long time. And it was even better than I could have ever imagined. Versailles is a whole other level of breathtaking.

I was quite literally hyperventilating the entire time I was there. I was walking where Marie-Antoinette had walked. I was walking through gold-laced rooms. Seriously, the amount of gold in this place is ridiculous, in the best way possible.

Versailles is famous for its Hall of Mirrors:

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And I was of course quite impartial to the Queen’s bedroom, styled for Marie-Antoinette:

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There’s so much to see here that one full day may not be enough for everything. It took me two trips to see as much as I did, the palace tour, the gardens, the Hamlet, the Petite and Grand Trianons, and I’m pretty sure I still haven’t seen it all.

Versailles is simply the most incredible thing I have ever seen, and I need to go back, and you all need to go see it as well (take me with you!).

Some famous royals who lived here: Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI, Louis XIV, Madame de Pompadour (technically not a royal, but a fascinating mistress).

 

Honourable mention: Chambord – Chambord, France

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Photo cred: Trawick International

Chambord has some of the most stunning architecture I’ve ever seen, including the incredible double spiral staircase that runs up its center (if two people were to walk up and down the spirals, they’d never meet). The only reason I didn’t include it in my top 5 was because its rooms are actually largely empty. Unlike all the other castles on my list, Chambord doesn’t have a lot of room set-ups that make you feel like you’re visiting the castle during its heyday. There’s a few things here and there (the most exciting for me being a portrait of Marie-Antoinette), but for the most part it’s empty (compared to the other castles). I like a castle that has lots of things for me to look at inside. You’ve got to have more than just beautiful architecture. Chambord is, however, most definitely worthy of an honourable mention.

 

The castles I still want to see:

The Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia is high on my list. It looks gorgeous and there’s a lot of history linked to it that I’m very interested in.

My other must-see is the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, because this is the castle which Sleeping Beauty’s castle is said to be modeled after, so OF COURSE I must go see it in person.

Are there any others I should be adding to my list that you know of?

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