Check this list of my favorite dreamy Spanish castles and get ready to channel your inner royalty! If you love hunting for some hidden gems in Spain, I´m also sending your way a few lesser-known locations to explore some of the most beautiful places in Spain that are still not so established on the tourist track.
Castles around the world
I feel like it´s time to come clean – I have a secret obsession with castles. The German Neunshwainstein Castle was one of the first places on my travel bucket list since I was a child. But once I managed to cross it out – it only got worse, as my castles wanderlust started to grow.
Europe is worldwide famous for its cobblestone streets, historical sites, and medieval towns. But castles hold the leading role in this uniqueness of European historical heritage.
Probably, we all lack those out-of-this-world experiences in our daily lives. So who wouldn´t like to travel back in time, when the magical characters from the Middle Ages take over? – Visiting castles is our ultimate travel pill to bring up the romance with this beautiful world around us.
Castles in Spain and Europe
Spain is one of those unique European countries with a very far-reaching history of royals. Here we still have the reigning royal house of the Kingdom of Spain (even though their powers are more symbolic nowadays).
Besides, Spain has quite a few historical phenomenons from the times of the Arabs and the Romans. So you can imagine this vast number of castles in Spain going beyond the 2500 locations. Therefore, this country is an unlimited source of inspiration for people who love places that belong in a storybook.
Do you know how many times have the Spanish castles transformed my road trips and itineraries across the country? – All the time. We hit the road in search of secret villages in Spain, and end up discovering a few castles on the way. Probably, one of every three small towns in Spain has something castle-related to explore. You´ll never get bored once you get off the touristic path and keep your eyes open.
Getting into the mood
If you want to set yourself into the mood before visiting and learn more about the birth of the Kingdom of Spain, you should check the Spanish TV series Isabel and Carlos, Rey Emperador. I´ve seen both in Spanish (not sure you can find them in English, maybe with subtitles) and it literally gave me a few interesting insights into Spanish history. I´ve started seeing the same castles in a different light because names and historical figures would randomly pop into my mind while sightseeing. The most lavish and majestic Spanish castles were built exactly in the times of the Spanish Catholic Kings and their heirs, which is spotlighted in the mentioned TV series.
Also read: The Most Beautiful Cathedrals in Spain
For instance, last year in Andalusia we were exploring Christopher Columbus sites when I saw the name Father Marchena written in between the lines of a few historical documents. Actually, he was the one who supported Columbus first and convinced the Catholic Kings of Spain to sponsor his journey of discoveries. I´ve literally spent 30 min wandering around Santa María de La Rabida Monastery, trying to recall where do I know this name from… Then I realized that it was Isabel TV series and that Father Marchena was actually a confessor of the Spanish Queen. This is why he was one of the most influential figures in the Spanish Royal Court at that time and was able to push through the project of Columbus.
Of course, TV shows are not always 100% accurate, but you can always check the facts once you know what to look for. Nevertheless, holding some historical backgrounds often helps to savor the details even more.
Let´s check some of my favorite Spanish castles I got to visit over the last few years. I´ve handpicked for you the ones that looked especially dreamy and magical.
The most beautiful castles to visit in Spain
1. The castle of Belmonte
During my trip to the Spanish province of Cuenca, I just couldn´t settle for its epic Don Quijote Route and the Enchanted City. To check one of the region´s most famous Spanish castles – The castle of Belmonte – was a must.
Also read: Otherworldly Landscapes in Spain
It was initially built in the second half of the 15th century for Don Juan Pacheco (also known as Marques de Villena), one of the richest nobles of those times. However, the castle’s works remained unfinished because of his death. Later on, the Belmonte castle was abandoned from the 17th and 18th centuries. However, in the 19th century one of the heiresses of the House of Villena, Elena Guzman, decided to restore the place. She modernized the interiors while keeping the original exteriors.
2. Castle of Loarre
One of the must-stops in the Spanish province of Huesca is the dreamy Castle of Loarre. It was built in the 11th century and declared a Spanish National Cultural Heritage Site in 1906. The Castle of Loarre is considered one of the best examples of civil and military architecture in the whole of Europe. Historians claim that it was built on the ruins of the local Roman city Calagurris fibularia due to the fact that a few ancient Roman and Iberian coins were found in the area.
However, the decision to built a present-day -looking Castle of Loarre was tied to the Catholic-Muslim conflict between the Spanish and the Arabs. This castle has survived several epochs in such a good estate mainly because the Spanish went expending their territories towards the South. Therefore, its defensive role was abolished.
You can check schedules and tariffs here.
3.The Royal Palace of Olite
The Royal Palace of Olite or Palacio Real is absolutely one of the most luxurious medieval castles in Europe, located near Pamplona. It might not have the epic hilltop setting of Loarre or Morella, but this is fully offset by its interiors and views towards the city.
Also read: Must-See Magical Forests in Spain
The Olite Castle was home to the Court of Navarre until its union with Spanish Castile (1512). This is exactly one of those rare cases when you don’t get to see lots of furniture and decorations once inside, but the walls literally whisper to you how wealthy this place used to be. Everything here – towers, gardens, and window ornaments, has a sophisticated touch.
Check more details at the Kingdom of Navarre Official Tourism website.
Butron Castle is one of the most fairy-tale looking Spanish castles. I was slightly disappointed that you can not get inside, as it is a private property. But you can´t take away the magical look this place has. I´ve even read somewhere that Kate Middleton was once reported to have eyed The Butron Castle as a dream venue for her wedding. Even if you only get to wander around – a stop at the Butron Castle is a must on every Basque Country road trip.
5. The Castle of Pope Luna in Peñiscola
Peñiscola is one of the top places to visit in the Province of Castellon, as well as a popular day trip from Valencia. The Castle of Peñiscola was recently one of the Game of Thrones filming locations in Spain, which brought a lot of international fans to this small coastal town.
Rising 67m above the Mediterranean, the Peñiscola castle was once a residence of Benedict XIII (Papa Luna). It was built in 13 century on the remains of the Arabic fortress. Make sure you get to the top for some epic panoramic views of the region.
6. The Castle of Sagunto
Sagunto is one of the most popular Valencia day trips for history lovers. The city is famous for its gorgeous Roman Castle lying on the top of the hill, right in between the cities of Valencia and Castellon. Make sure you walk your way through the city towards the castle walls for some epic views.
The most unique detail about this castle is its multi-cultural heritage – Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, and Christians have left their traces behind the defensive walls of the modern Sagunto Castle.
The fortress is divided into seven squares, including the castle’s oldest part Plaza de Armas or Santa María Magdalena. Both contain the remains of the Roman forum, shafts, columns, and a cistern carved out of the rock. At the same time, at Plaza de la Conejera square you can also find the Remains of the Arab occupation.
7. Alcazar of Segovia
One of the most internationally-famous Spanish castles and an easy day trip from Madrid is The Alquezar of Segovia. It is said to have inspired Cinderella´s Castle, the eternal symbol of Disney. And there’s even more to the story here. Unlike many other Spanish Castles that simply served as fortresses, Alcazar de Segovia was home to the Spanish Royalty and has never been defeated.
Also read: The Most Colorful Villages in Spain
The first written records of the Alcazar date back to the beginning of the XII century. This place was one of the favorite residences for the Crown of Castille in the Middle Ages before the Spanish Royal court moved to Madrid. Alcazar of Segovia also has the oldest active military academy in the world.
You can check more details on visiting hours and prices here.
8. The Alataya Castle
One of the top hidden gems of the Alicante province is The Alataya Castle (also called Villena Castle). Built in the end of the XII century by the Almohad Caliphate, it was aimed to protect the local Muslim population. In 1240 The Alataya Castle was conquered by the Spanish and in the XV century, it was owned by the powerful noble Villena family (the same one that ordered to built the Belmonte Castle).
The interior wall and the two first floors of the tower are one of the oldest among Spanish castles.
You can check more details for visiting here.
9. The Real Alcazar of Seville
While the most famous castle in the South of Spain is officially the Alhambra of Granada, there’s another place I personally prefer – The Real Alcazar of Seville. This magical location will definitely make you feel the magic flowing through your system. The Real Alcazar of Seville is also very touristic, but the Alhambra is one of the seven wonders of the modern world – you can´t compete with that. Therefore, I feel like my visit to The Real Alcazar of Seville was more dreamy.
Also read: Where to find lavender fields in Spain?
Real Alcazar of Seville is still the residence of the Spanish Royal family in Seville, a UNESCO world heritage site and of course, one of the prettiest Game of Thrones filming locations in Spain.
The complex was a work in process from XI to the XVI century to gain its current look. Art lovers will definitely end up in awe of the Mudejar architecture, which in my case, I’ve first seen in Teruel and admired ever since. The lively geometry of decorations and the Alcazar´s Devine gardens will teleport you to the pages of One Thousand and One Night.
Check schedules and prices here.
10. The Alcazaba of Almeria
The Alcazaba of Almería is the biggest of the citadels built by the Arabs in Spain. Its giant walls can be seen from any part of the city. This place came into my radar while I was planning a road trip to this lesser-known region of Andalusia. We initially wanted to see the Tabernas Desert and its famous Wild West Theme Parks, but ended up at The Alcazaba of Almeria.
The entrance is free and once you get past the main gates you really should head all the way up to the San Cristobal Statue to get the best panoramic views of the Mediterranean. No wonder The Alcazaba of Almería was also one of the Game of Thrones settings in the last season.
For more Castles Inspiration check my Pinterest board – Magical Castles.