From unexpected fortresses in modern cities to spectacular citadels in ancient lands, the world is filled with castle vacation destinations. Here are eight strongholds to check out.
1. Boldt Castle, Alexandria Bay, New York
For many travelers, New York tourism begins and ends with the ten-mile-long island of Manhattan. But the 54,000 square miles of upstate New York offers a world of vacation options.
One of the lesser-known gems is the Thousand Islands area at the northernmost reaches of New York. There, situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River, you will find Boldt Castle – an impressive and historic chateau. Built by hotel magnate George Boldt in 1900, this castle is easily reachable from New York and Ontario, Canada.
2. Ilha Fiscal, Brazil
This grand castle in Rio De Janiero was built in 1889 in the Gothic-Provence style and was used as governmental offices for the Brazilian customs authority. At the time, Rio De Janiero was the capital city of the Empire of Brazil. Also in 1889, just months after the castle was inaugurated, the imperial government hosted a large, lavish party reportedly attended by up to 5,000 guests. A week later, the empire was overthrown in a military and political coup, which ultimately resulted in the Republic of Brazil. Today, visitors can learn all about the history of the Brazilian republic and the castle’s role, as the site is now a museum administered by the Brazilian Navy.
3. Gwalior, India
Although it may not look like a medieval castle from fairy tales, the fortress at Gwalior has stood since at least the 10th century AD. Some inscriptions found on the structure suggest it may even date back to the 6th century. This castle is actually a network of palaces and temples stretching over a 1.2 square mile estate. The entire area is now a museum housing Indian antiquities, and the exhibits include several important artifacts in the Hindu and Jain religions. Located in central India, this castle is about 200 miles south of Delhi, the capital of India.
4. Chateau Frontenac, Quebec, Canada
If you are looking for a castle that doubles as a grand hotel, look to the majestic old-world charm of Quebec City. There, in addition to much history and the most European-like atmosphere that can be found in any North American city, you will see the towering Chateau Frontenac. This hotel was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway company in 1893, as part of a program to construct exceptional chateau-style accommodations along the route.
5. Malbork Castle, Poland
Europe is full of famous castles – ones you have likely heard about and which will be crawling with other tourists. Malbork in Poland is actually the most massive castle in the world by land area. Construction began in 1273, but it wasn’t completed until 1406. It was built for the Teutonic Order, a Roman Catholic regiment of Knights, and it stood both as a fortification and as a symbol of the Crusades. Later, the palace became the official residence of the kings of Prussia and Poland.
Like many historic buildings, the castle was severely damaged in World War II. Full restoration was completed in 2016, and the castle remains the largest brick structure in Europe.
6. Fort Jesus, Kenya
Built by the Portuguese in the 1500s, Fort Jesus is located on Mombasa Island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Kenya. This 16th-century castle has changed hands between Portugal, Britain, and Kenya over the past 500 years, before becoming a national park in the modern era. Since 2011, the castle has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is noted as the best-preserved example of Portuguese renaissance-era military fortification. The entire site is a monument to the history of Kenya, from indigenous Swahili culture to that of the colonizing Europeans, and the history of Indian Ocean trade in general.
7. Pena Palace, Portugal
Pena Palace is a stunning example of Romanticist castle architecture, standing tall upon a hill overlooking the town of Sintra, Portugal. This national monument is perched so high on its mountain base that it is visible in Lisbon, some 30 kilometers away. Construction of the palace – which was initially a modest chapel – began in the Middle Ages. According to tradition, work began on the palace after the Virgin Mary appeared at the site. The palace functioned as a monastery until heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1755. It remained abandoned and untouched for centuries. Recently, it has enjoyed prominence as a national park, with a lavish garden that is visited by many tourists each year. Due to Sintra’s proximity to Lisbon, tours are just a short train ride from the major metropolis.
8. Sunshine Castle, Australia
On the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia’s Sunshine Castle was built between 1971 and 1973. First, this building was a smaller setting for some fairy tale dioramas, but over the years its purpose has evolved. Now, the castle serves as a museum on the history of the middle ages. If that history intrigues you, it’s definitely worth a stop!