Long before it helped to inspire Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Neuschwanstein was a refuge for Germany’s King Ludwig II of Bavaria who spent much of his kingdom’s fortune building castles. Neuschwanstein is the most popular, welcoming more than 1 million visitors per year. Only 14 of the castle’s planned 200 rooms were finished, and they’re impressive with opulent gold leaf, ornate woodcarving, and vibrant murals that reveal a mad king’s obsession with the myths and legends of composer Richard Wagner's operas.
At least once in our lives we’ve twirled in a glittery dress and tiara, or tussled with fire-breathing dragons from a crenulated tower. Indoctrinated by bedtime stories of our youth, we’d close our eyes and wonder where those horse-drawn carriages went when they turned right at happily-ever-after. Now all grown up, we can still dream a little thanks to storybook abodes that really do exist, especially in Europe where hundreds of well-preserved castles dot enchanted landscapes. Here are ten that live up to our fairytale fantasies.
Kimberley Lovato is a freelance journalist and author based in San Francisco who spends most days planning trips to faraway lands and dreaming of happily ever after. Follow her @kimberleylovato and on her website.
- Nat Geo Expeditions