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Europe’s Most Breath-taking Castles

20th January 2015

There are many things that you can find on the banks of Europe’s river - lush vineyards, stately period homes and stunning Gothic cathedrals to name just a few. But perhaps the most eye-catching features of rivers like the Danube and the Rhine are the compelling castles that dominate the landscape at certain intervals.

Many river cruises along these waterways will offer travellers the chance to explore these fortresses in a bid to relive their history and poignancy. But which particular examples should you be looking out for when discovering the next itinerary you want to experience.

Neuschwanstein Castle – Bavaria

Neuschwanstein Castle

If you are intrigued and delighted by the romanticism that castles often possess, then Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavarian Germany will have your heart pumping out of your chest. It stands high up on the hillside, overlooking the Pöllat river gorge and close to the town of Füssen.

It has a strange sense of familiarity; something that is likely to do with the fact that it looks like it has been taken straight out of a fairy-tale. Indeed, it is thought that Sleeping Beauty’s castle, seen in Disney’s animated film, was actually modelled on Neuschwanstein Castle.

The impending structure was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and paid for out of his personal fortune. However, since his death in 1886, it has been open to the public. The grounds include a nostalgic waterfall, a bridge over the gorge and a hiking trail.

Castle Rheinstein – Bingen am Rhein

Castle RheinStein

Another German castle, this one can be seen on our Rhine river cruises close to the small town of Bingen am Rhein. It is one of a number of castles found along this stretch of the river, along with Reichenstein Castle and the ruins of Ehrenfels Castle. Although not quite as romantic as Neuschwanstein, the structure is still pretty breath-taking and is part of what is a beautiful landscape in this part of the world.

The medieval structure dates all the way back to the early 14th century but was rebuilt in part by Prince Frederick of Prussia in the 1800s. A look inside will take you back in time as you gaze at stained glass windows created throughout Castle Rheinstein’s history, marvel at replica weapons such as 17th-century cannons and 15th-century catapults, and wander through the beautiful gardens that overlook the river.

Bran Castle – Transylvania

Bran Castle

This is perhaps the most famous castle in the whole of Europe, but few will know it by its official name. This fortress is better known as Dracula’s Castle, featured in the writing of Bram Stoker. However, it is disputed as to whether the author was indeed referring to this structure when telling the story of this much-loved villain. Nevertheless, the legend lives on in the form of souvenirs sold in the local gift shops and stories told by Romanians and tourists alike.

In the past, the castle has served as a defence against the Ottoman Empire, a customs post along the mountain pass between Wallachia and Transylvania, and a royal residence. However, in 2014 it was put up for sale by the current owner Archduke Dominic.

Kuenringer Castle – Dürnstein, Austria

Kuenringer Castle

This castle may not be as famous, as impressive or as complete as some of the other fortresses on the list, but it is a place of interest because of who was kept there as a prisoner. Known as Burgruine Dürnstein, but owned by the Kuenringer family, the structure served as a prison for none other than Richard the Lionheart in 1192. The King was held here after insulting Leopold V, the Duke of Austria, on his way back from the Crusades.

Today, the castle stands in ruins but is still a popular tourist attraction for anyone looking to follow in the footsteps of King Richard I. You can visit what’s left of Burgruine Dürnstein on some of our Danube river cruises.

Europe is truly blessed with castles that were built in many different periods throughout history and which represent a variety of styles from Gothic to romantic. If you would like to see some of them for yourself, as part of a scenic river cruise, call us today or contact us through our website.

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