Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Germany (photo: RudyBalasko/iStock)

Must-See European River Castles

By Conan Tobias

Some of Europe’s most storied castles are located near its winding rivers. Whether you’re visiting one country or many, by land or via river cruise, these five centuries-old manors are definite must-sees.

Bavarian King Ludwig II spent his personal fortune building opulent castles in the hopes of raising his country’s standing in the world. His financial ruin is your sightseeing tour, as Munich and the surrounding area is a wonderland of beautiful palaces. Ludwig personally oversaw Neuschwanstein’s design, which was inspired by the castles of medieval knights and the operas of German composer Richard Wagner. Today, Neuschwanstein is one of the most photographed castles in the world (the fact that it inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle probably helps a bit).

Linderhof was the only one of Ludwig’s castles to be mostly completed before his death, and its architecture takes some cues from France’s famed Palace of Versailles. It’s small by castle standards, featuring just six rooms—a hall of mirrors, bed-chamber, dining room, audience hall and two tapestry chambers. What it lacks in size, it makes up for with a splendid 50-hectare garden and its Wagner-inspired Hunding’s Hut, where Ludwig hosted large feasts.

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Burghausen Castle is more fortress than palace. Its origins date back to at least 1027 and, stretching 1,000 metres, it’s one of the longest castle complexes in the world. It features one inner and five outer courtyards, along with some classically gothic features, such as drawbridges, ditches, watchtowers, and five-metre-thick protective walls. Not to be missed: the castle museum, featuring plenty of late gothic works from the Bavarian State Picture Collection.

european river castles prague czech republic
Gates of Prague Castle (photo: Pleskyroman/iStock)

Housing the office of the president of the Czech Republic, Prague Castle is one of the nation’s most important cultural institutions. But over its long history—it was founded around 880 by Prince Boivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty—it has been home to Bohemian kings and Holy Roman emperors. Spanning 70,000-square-metres, it’s also the largest castle in the world. The site contains several palaces and buildings of many styles—dating from the 10th to 14th centuries—one of which houses the Bohemian Crown Jewels in a secret room.

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Buda Castle is the historical home of the Hungarian kings of Budapest. Its original sections were completed in 1265, but the Baroque palace standing on the site today was originally built between 1749 and 1769. Much of that palace was destroyed during the Second World War, but it lives on thanks to several reconstruction projects. The structure now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.

Prague, Vienna and Budapest (Trafalgar)
A 10-day tour on a luxury, air-conditioned coach with onboard Wi-Fi and an expert tour director. Includes four-star accommodations, daily breakfast and three dinners.

From $2,275 per person (tour only)
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