Nov 1, 2012

Fairy tale castles

While I was reading quite extensively about Ludwig's castles, this term was brought up many times: a fairy tale castle. Neuschwanstein is the one this term referred to most, for all the obvious reasons. As you might know, Neuschwanstein, among many other real and fictional castles, inspired the design of castles in some of Disney' animated movies and theme parks.
     I realized that our perception and desire for pretty castles is influenced by Disney and his animated movies to a large extent. Or am I wrong? Most medieval castles were actually rather large forts that bear little resemblance to our idea of a fairy tale castle. Those conceptions come from the far more recent Romantic period (1840-1880) when the truly dark and barbaric Middle Ages were recast as a time of magic and wonder. It is no wonder that Ludwig's castles were erected in the period where many castles were constructed or reconstructed, often with significant changes to make them more picturesque. So the truth is, most of these "pretty" castles are redesigned because it was fashionable at that time. Now that doesn't sound too romantic, does it?
     So what are some of the typical features of a fairy tale castle? Tall, possibly round stair towers, crow stepped gable, courtyards, portcullis, exaggerated and pointy turrets, circular battlements, bunch of not too big windows. Dramatic location with great views, moat or gardens help too. On top of everything, it shouldn't look neglected and it has to have a little bit of extravaganza. A fairy tale castle is about exterior by all means. By all means, a fairy tale castle is about exterior. To see if this is true, I searched through many castles to see if I support the concept.

                                                          Exaggarated and pointy turrets           


                                           It's hard to imagine a fairy tale castle without towers, right? :)
                                                                       Broadway Tower is shown on the picture.

                                                      Portcullis adds to the mystery of the castle.

So here are my top 15 fairy tale castles (in no particular order) :

Neuschwanstein, Germany

It is hard to deny it, this castle has all the elements of a fairy tale castle. It may not be the prettiest castle if you focus on details, but as a whole it is really stunning.

Alcazar of Segovia, Spain

Despite not being extravagant and looking a little dull on the outside, Alcazar of Segovia has enough features to qualify as a fairy tale castle.

Lichtenstein, Germany

A smaller version of Neuschwanstein. I love this castle.

Peleș, Romania

Quite different from the three previous castles in architecture, style, with more details and prominent use of wood, Peles castle certainly qualifies as a fairy tale castle.

Hohenzollern, Germany

This huge castle complex maintains very harmounious appearance, and with its numerous towers and gates, this one makes a perfect fairy tale castle.

Trakai, Lithuania

I think I consider Trakai a fairy tale castle because of two things- these lovely red rooftops and beautiful location. It certainly doesn't look rich or delicate, but it has its own merits.

Egeskov, Denmark

      I am not really sure why I consider Egeskov a fairy tale castle. Perhaps because of the water? Anyway, I find it very, very charming.

Hunyad Castle, Romania

          A perfect candidate for goth fairy tale.

Palazzo Ducale, Italy

Palazzo Ducale technically cannot be a fairy tale castle because it's actually a palace. But since this blog is about castles, forts & palaces, I can put it here :) The main reason is obviously beautifully decorated façade.

Grand Palace, Thailand

    Well, not all fairy tale "castles" have to be from Europe. The picture actually shows just one building in the  palace complex. Some might think it's kitschy, I find it nicely decorated. Rooftops are the main highlight.

Bojnice, Slovakia

                                                     Another "typical" fairy tale castle :)

Himeji Castle, Japan

Among relatively similar Japanese, Chinese and Korean castles, Himeji Castle is the only one I would describe as fairy tale. Again, I am not sure why, but it looks very elegant and white color definitely adds to it.

Castel del Monte, Italy

        Yep, this is one of my fairy tale castles! Simple and classy. Circular courtyard inside is fabulous.

 Belém Tower, Portugal

Some might be surprised that I chose this tower instead of Pena Palace, but the latter is too messy and kitschy IMO to call it a fairy tale castle. This one is the complete opposite and these bastions are adorable.

Royal Palace, Cambodia

  The roof is so lovely. It wouldn't be hard to imagine a princess walking down the staircase at any moment. 

     Browsing through these castles, it would be hard to determine my own definition of a fairy tale castle. Despite a good number of central European castles for which this term is most used, my choices are quite diverse. Also, many people refer to British and Irish castles and fairy tale castles, but I just don't see it. Apart from exquisite locations, a large majority are either ruined or too dull from the outside for me to even put them into consideration.

I would really appreciate your thoughts and opinions about this subject :)


Anonymous said...

Hi,I'm a Brazilian Engineer.
Since I love the architecture of medieval castles,I congratulate you for your choice of these 15 castles. Some of them are also my favorites like Neuschwanstein (the number one - "hors concurs"), Hohenzollern, Segovia, Peles,Hunedoara (Corvilinor), etc.
But between my favourites are also some castles that I think you should consider to include in your tops, because they possess all (or almost all) the features you pointed as required to be a fairy tale castle. They are:
- Burg Eltz;
- Oberhofen;
- Pierrefonds;
- Chillon;
- Yvoire;
- Nantes;
- Vufflens;
- Chenonceau.
If you have not evaluated them yet, please, look for their images on the web to check if you agree with me or not. If you want I may send you some lovely fotos of them. And there are many others, like Chambord, that I don't know if they meet those requirements to be FTC.
Best Regards,
R. Pollis

Anonymous said...

My e-mail address is

LaMix said...

Hello, thank you for your comment!

Some of the castles just missed my list, like Eltz, Chenonceau or Oberhofen. On the other hand, Pierrefonds and Nantes look too robust. For some reason, Chillon has never captured my imagionation as it does for many others. Chambord looks a bit hostile and lacks elegance in my opinion.

Of course, there are great chances the list will be completely different when I actually see those I haven't visited yet :)

Anonymous said...

Hi LaMix,
I agree with your comment, but Chambord Hostile??? Its architecture is a bit repetitive,i.e., has not varieties, all the towers are alike.
About Chillon I may say that it inner is not like Versailles. I could say that it is very simple, "military", "spartan", but the architecture is superb and the environment is really wonderful. It's worth a visit, no doubt.

LaMix said...

Yes, I do not find those bastion towers appealing :) Plus, the roof line is a bit too much of everything...