There’s just something about Gothic architecture that inspires our imaginations. Characterized by pointed arches, flying buttresses, and elaborate stained glass windows, we can’t help but think about ghosts and darkness and fairy tale splendor amid the towers and foreboding landscapes.
This architectural style was prevalent in Europe between the 12th and 16th centuries. While some of these classic buildings are now in ruins, forgotten to time, many of them still stand to this day and are open to visitors. For your future spooky plans, we’ve compiled a list of eight incredible Gothic castles that are available for you to visit.
Situated on a peak in Upper Bavaria, Burghausen Castle is the longest castle complex in the world, running at over 3,400 feet in length! The castle (which was founded sometime before 1025) was home to several generations of Bavarian dukes and was considered a key fortress during various wars. Unlike many medieval castles in Europe, Burghausen Castle still has almost all of its fortifications intact. For much of its early history Burghausen was also the site of torture and executions, with the last official hanging taking place there in 1831. Visitors can still check out the dungeons where prisoners were kept.
Located in the Transylvanian city of Hunedoara, Corvin Castle (also known as Hunyadi Castle) is one of the largest castles in Europe and is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Romania. Work began on the castle in the 15th century and it took several centuries to become its current form. As well as a defense fort, the castle was a lavish home for John Hunyadi, a 15th-century nobleman and leading Hungarian political figure.
Today, those who operate the castle claim it was the place where Vlad the Impaler was held prisoner. As Vlad the Impaler may have inspired the vampire character in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, Corvin Castle was allegedly the inspiration for the fictional Castle Dracula. There's actually no proof that Bram Stoker had ever heard of Corvin Castle, but that hasn't stopped the proprietors from banking in on the connection. The castle was also used as the set of the "Cârța Monastery" in the 2018 horror movie The Nun.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, covering a staggering area of almost 750,000 square feet. The first structure on the region dates back to 870, but the current castle has its roots in the 14th century. The castle remained a seat of power for centuries, housing Bohemian kings, the Hapsburgs, and elected presidents. Adolf Hitler once spent a night in Prague Castle after the Nazis occupied the country during World War II. Today, it is the official residence of the president of the Czech Republic, but it's also one of the country's biggest tourist destinations.
Castle of Diósgyőr
The various iterations of the Castle of Diósgyőr have been through a lot over the past 900 or so years. The first version was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Hungary in the 1200s. A new one took its place in the 1300s as a sign of the unimpeachable power of King Louis the Great. That managed to stay intact for a few centuries, until the Ottoman invasion of Hungary in the 16th century.
For hundreds of years, the castle lay in ruins, until an archaeological excavation began in 1960 and led to a major restoration project. Now, Diósgyőr is open to visitors, with regular exhibitions on the history of the castle and plays and tournaments held twice a year that recreate the experience of medieval life.
Built in the 1200s, Malbork Castle in Poland is considered to be the largest castle in the world measured by land area. It was originally constructed by the Teutonic Knights, a German Catholic religious order of crusaders, but later served as a residence for the Polish royal family.
In the 1700s, after the First Partition of Poland eliminated the country's sovereign status, the castle became occupied by the Prussian Army. During the rise of the Nazis, Hitler's forces used Malbork as a destination for Hitler Youth meetings. By the end of the Second World War, more than half the castle was destroyed and reconstruction processes took decades to complete. Now, Malbork Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In Venice, Gothic architecture takes a very different form than one would expect, thanks to the influence of Islamic and Byzantine art. One of the major landmarks of Italy's floating city, Doge's Palace was once the residence of the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice. Doge's Palace has survived several fires, political upheaval, the dissolution of the monarchy, and the unification of Italy. Nowadays, it's one of the most visited attractions in all of Venice, with its grand courtyard being one of the city's truly iconic sights. Centuries of art are kept in the palace and the castle's architecture is a work of art in itself, including the original arches of the building that date back to the 14th century.
Scotland has hundreds of castles across its land in various states of ruin, but one of the most famous and open to visitors is Glamis Castle. Nestled beside the village of Glamis in Angus, it is the home of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and it was once the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
Glamis has over a millennium of history to its name. In Shakespeare's Scottish play, Macbeth resided at Glamis (in real life, the historical king did not). In the 1500s, the lady of the castle, Janet Douglas, was famously accused of treason against the king as well as witchcraft, and she was sentenced to burn at the stake for her crimes. Glamis is said to be haunted by various ghosts and ghouls, such as the spirit of Earl Beardie, who was condemned by the devil himself for gambling on the Sabbath, and the Monster of Glamis, who is either a deformed child, an evil vampire, or a loch-dwelling creature of doom!
Château de Chambord
There are few buildings in France as instantly recognizable as the Château de Chambord, the largest of its kind in the Loire Valley. Initially designed to be the hunting lodge for King Francis I, the building was never fully completed, and he barely spent more than seven weeks there in total. After his death, the château lay empty and in ruins for almost a century.
During the French Revolution, almost 250 years later, the place was stripped for parts by the Revolutionary Government. Over the decades, it would be used as a field hospital, a storage center for the nation's art collection, and even as a logo for various products. Nowadays, it's one of France's biggest tourist attractions outside of Paris and receives thousands of visitors a year.