Slideshow: World's Prettiest Castles

U.S. News & World Report

Slideshow: World's Prettiest Castles

While their original inhabitants have long since passed away, left or lost power, these 10 gorgeous castles are steeped in history and await exploration. We've rounded up a handful of the most picturesque palaces for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy! Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles
Château de Versailles

Château de Versailles

Versailles, France
Designed as a modest hunting lodge for King Louis XIII in the 1630s, Versailles became one of the world's most sprawling palace complexes. Sitting 15 miles west of Paris, Versailles contains 2,300 rooms, 67 staircases, 2,153 windows and 250 acres of gardens — much of which is open to the public. Find out more about:
The Best Hotels in Paris
The Best Things to Do in Paris Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles
Next:

While their original inhabitants have long since passed away, left or lost power, these 10 gorgeous castles are steeped in history and await exploration. We've rounded up a handful of the most picturesque palaces for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy! Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

Château de Versailles

Versailles, France
Designed as a modest hunting lodge for King Louis XIII in the 1630s, Versailles became one of the world's most sprawling palace complexes. Sitting 15 miles west of Paris, Versailles contains 2,300 rooms, 67 staircases, 2,153 windows and 250 acres of gardens — much of which is open to the public. Find out more about:
The Best Hotels in Paris
The Best Things to Do in Paris Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto, Japan
When it was completed at the end of the 16th century, Matsumoto Castle's black walls and slanting eaves garnered the nickname Crow Castle, or Karasu-jo in Japanese. And while the castle is no longer the home of the Matsumoto Domain's daimyos (feudal lords), it remains a popular tourist destination in central Japan. Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

Catherine Palace

Pushkin, Russia
The Catherine Palace that stands today is not the modest homestead Tsar Peter the Great envisioned when he commissioned it in 1717. When Peter's daughter Empress Elizabeth inherited the palace in the 1740s, she renovated it to be comparable to Versailles. With her flair for the dramatic, Elizabeth festooned her palace with more than 220 pounds of gold and filled the famous Amber Room nearly 12,000 pounds of amber gems. Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

Neuschwanstein Castle

Schwangau, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Germany may look like a fairy tale palace (it did inspire Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland), but its history isn't quite as fanciful. King Ludwig II commissioned Neuschwanstein in 1869 to be his isolated Bavarian retreat. Unfortunately, King Ludwig would never see the castle reach completion; he died mysteriously in 1886. Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

The Alhambra

Granada, Spain
Visitors to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain will notice a disparity in architectural styles: Parts of the palace feature intricate Moorish carvings and archways, while others flaunt Renaissance-style columns. The Alhambra was originally built to house the Muslim rulers of the Nasrid Dynasty, but it eventually fell to the Catholic rulers of Spain in 1492. Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

Hawa Mahal

Jaipur, India
In 1799, the royal women of Jaipur, India, wanted to keep up with what was going on in their city. However, their observation of Purdah prevented them from venturing out in public or being seen by strangers. To overcome this obstacle, Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh had the Hawa Mahal built over a market square in Jaipur. The palace's 593 latticed windows allowed the women of the court to peer at the outside world while keeping them concealed. Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

Hearst Castle

San Simeon, Calif.
It may have never housed actual royalty, but the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif. is a castle all the same. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst commissioned his dream home in 1919 and filled it with an eclectic array of art and artifacts from around the world. Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

Grand Palace

Bangkok, Thailand
Even though Bangkok's Grand Palace hasn't actually been used as a royal residence since 1932, its golden spires and manicured grounds are still wondrous to behold. The palace's architecture borrows from an array of different styles, including Sri Lankan, Thai, French and Italian. Find out more about:
The Best Hotels in Bangkok
The Best Things to Do in Bangkok Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

Château de Chambord

Chambord, France
Built by King François I beginning in 1519, Château de Chambord's architecture is renowned for its grandeur and ingenuity. In fact, some of the castle's architectural elements — like its double-helix spiral staircase — are so complex that it's rumored that Leonardo da Vinci designed it himself. Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles

Smithsonian Castle

Washington, D.C.
The turrets and towers of this red sandstone castle on Washington D.C.'s National Mall seem lifted from medieval times, but the Smithsonian Castle only dates back to 1855. It used to house the Smithsonian Institution's entire collections, but today it serves mainly as the Smithsonian's administrative building and welcome center. Find out more about:
The Best Hotels in Washington, D.C.
The Best Things to Do in Washington, D.C. Read More:
World's Prettiest Castles
1 of 11

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.