Since ancient times, Europe has been layered in history, and one of the best ways to see the culmination of different architectural styles is the famous castles. Many started out as medieval fortresses that served as strategic defense systems against nearby invaders. After the 15th century wars, royalty and aristocrats transformed many of the crumbling fortress into opulent, captivating pleasure chateaus that inspired Walt Disney and other famous fairy tale writers. From Rapunzel to Cinderella to Belle of Beauty and the Beast, discover the ancient medieval castles of Europe at these 10 stone fortresses.
Walt Disney drew inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World from several castles in Europe, including the Chateau de Chenonceau, the crown jewel of France’s Loire Valley. Situated on the river Cher in the small village of Chenonceaux, the chateau is one of the most visited private historical monuments in France. With its magical five arches and four corner turrets, it’s a lasting relic of medieval Gothic architecture with a touch of ornate Renaissance detailing. Such an enchanting palace is fit for Cinderella and Prince Charming, especially the moat filled with swans and richly decorate rooms with paintings by Rubens, Le Tintoret, and other great masters. Like a page out of a fairy tale, Chenonceau is a treasured castle of the Loire Valley and a testament to the passion and influence of the French Renaissance.
Another quintessential fairy tale castle is Windsor Castle built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Today, the ancient medieval fortress is still the primary castle of the royal family. Although it suffered a fire in 1992, it was renovated a few years later and fully restored to its original glory, including Gothic turrets and towers, and romantic moat, all cornerstones of a fairy tale castle. The castle was also a favorite spot for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who were the first monarchies to open parts of the fortress to the public. Now, visitors have the chance of seeing the same rooms where royalty entertained top aristocrats and dignitaries. Head to Berkshire and begin the long walk to the enchanting castle, which is considered one of the finest examples of English Perpendicular Gothic architecture.
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