Top kid friendly European castles

Feel like taking your princes and princesses on a trip to a real castle this summer? Feature writer Lara shares her favourites.

Every fairytale worth its salt centres around a castle. There are ramparts, dungeons and bloody battles. Not to mention fearsome dragons, beautiful damsels and knights in shining armour. The imaginative possibilities are endless.

Choosing to visit a real life castle during the holidays is a great idea as, unlike amusement parks, there’s usually a bit of history and culture for the adults too.

Here are a few of my European favourites:

Neuschwanstein Castle

Location: Bavaria
Date of construction: 1873
Website: Neuschwanstein Castle

This has to get a first mention because it’s reportedly the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s own iconic structure. It was built by ‘mad’ King Ludwig II, a shy monarch with a soft spot for Wagner. Sadly, Ludwig died in mysterious circumstances while on a boat in the lake on the castle grounds, along with his psychiatrist.
Note that, due to space and safety concerns, prams and buggies are not allowed in the castle however children are very much welcome.


Location: Southern France
Date of construction: Medieval and 11th century
Website: Carcassonne

Dating back to Roman times, this castle within a city is strikingly beautiful. Filled with higgledy -piggledy stairways, arches and stonework, you will be transported back in time while your little ones imaginations run wild.

Windsor Castle

Location: Windsor, south east England
Date of construction: Medieval
Website: Windsor Castle

Closer to home, the Queen’s palace is a picturesque castle with a sweeping drive. It is  surrounded by a deer park where you can whip out the picnic basket if the weather is fine. The runaway highlight for me though is Queen Mary’s dolls’ house. Built in 1920, it is five feet tall and contains perfect miniatures of products from the time, like Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and Sunlight soap. The mini library even contains specially commissioned work from Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and others. And then there’s the teeny tiny wine cellar…

Chateau d’Usse

Location: Loire Valley, France
Date of construction: Second half of the 15th century
Website: Chateau d’Usse

Returning to Disney, this is the castle that inspired Charles Perrault, the original author, to write his famous fairytale, Sleeping Beauty. The layout is specially tailored to appeal to kids, with a fairytale theme running throughout. Although some adults may find the wax figures of characters from the fairytales a bit cheesy, it’s great for children.

Schloss Waldeck

Location: Hesse (Germany).
Date of construction: 11th Century
Website: Schloss Waldeck

Situated on a hilltop, with a breathtaking view over Lake Edersee, this is a really spectacular castle to visit. Although currently a 4 star hotel with a pool (just in case you’re interested in staying there), they do offer fabulously spooky tours of the dungeons which will keep the little ones enthralled.

Warwick Castle

Location: Warwick, England
Date of construction: 1068
Website: Warwick Castle

Built by William the Conqueror and proclaiming itself to be ‘Britain’s Ultimate Castle’, this is admittedly a great day out for the kids. Although with all the jousting, falconry and firing of the Trebuchet happening in the grounds, you’ll have to make sure you actually make it inside the castle walls!

So, there they are – a few lovely castles to take your little princes and princesses to. I’m sure there are many more though and I’d love to hear readers’ recommendations.

Photography: kanu101 @Flickr

+Lara Crisp

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