Thousands of history buffs plan their vacation travels to visit castles, others like forts in Europe, several countries offer many opportunities to visit forts and castles, i.e. England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Greece.
Roman forts and hill top forts are the antecedents of castles in Europe; they emerged in the 9th century.
In the Middle Ages castles were defensive structures eventually becoming luxurious buildings. Castles differ distinctly from forts, as they are residences of monarchs, or residences of nobles.
In France, the word chateau has a wider meaning than the English castle or fortress. A chateau may be a wine farm in Bordeaux, or a manor house in the Loire. The urban counterpart of chateau is palais.
In Germany, schloss is the word for both castle or fort or manor.
Originally, forts were military construction and buildings designed for defence and as military bases. They are solid and huge, generally located on strategic points for easy defence on hilltops. Forts existed since antiquity and there are still thousands of ruins that can be visited.
In Italy castello may mean a wine farm or manor.
The invention of gunpowder and design of cannons in the 13th century changed the needs of war force in Europe. The effectiveness of castes required the building of forts that were devoid of comforts.
Even castles in medieval times did not offer comfortable accommodation. There was no central heating, modern toilettes, nor hot and cold running water, as Versailles, the residence of French Kings, just outside of Paris demonstrates.
For this reason many English noble families who inherited huge castles or manors had to install modern amenities at great expense. This, in addition t taxes forced several to convert their castles to luxury hotels to make end meet. You can book castle accommodations in England with ease.
In France, the nobility built hundreds of chateaux for pleasure, surrounded my moats for easy defence, but more importantly to entertain their friends and collaborators in other regions. The Loire was the playing field of the courtiers and nobles in Paris. There are still some 300 chateaux on both banks of the Loire River, some of which are open to visitors.
In Bordeaux, a chateau, more often than not, is a manor house with a vineyard. There are a few chateaux in Bordeaux that offer accommodation, restaurants and spa facilities.
In Spain the government bought many castles and converted them to hotels called Parador. The rooms are huge with high ceilings, and offer all modern amenities. They offer also local specialties in a range of restaurants featuring elegant service and inviting surroundings.
In Germany, Bavaria offers a wide range of schloss (castles). Kings built some of the castles at great expense, others belong by noble families, You can actually travel from north to south visiting exclusively castles, either converted to museums or simply open to public, or in ruins. In some you can enjoy exquisite paintings, furniture, scenery. Many are located in parks and forests.
In Italy, Tuscany offers the most castle accommodations. Actually, Tuscan wineries located in castles invented a new industry called agritourism. They offer remodelled large rooms with all the modern amenities including Internet connections, swimming pools, tennis courts, some even offer cooking classes, and of course the run of their vineyards and wineries.
Visitors can visit nearby towns or cities like Florence or Siena, shop for fine local ingredients (In Tuscany sausages, cheese, wine, honey and leather goods) and observe or admire dance group performances.
Selected chateaux, schlosser, castles, castellos
Hohenzollern, Baden- Wurttemberg
Schloss Nymphenburg, Bavaria
Bruge Freiburg, Carinthia
Burg Stein, Carinthia
Burg Lichtenstein, Lower Austria
Festung Hohensalzburg, Salzburg
Burg Hohenwerfen, Salzburg
Schloss Ehrenhause, Styria
Kufstein Fortress, Tyrol
Scloss Wilhelminenberg. Vienna
Palais Albertina, Vienna
Tower of London
Windsor Castle, east Sussex
Colchester castle, Sussex
Berkely Castle, Gloucestershire
Chuddinston Castle (Kent, Private residence)
Rocca Montalcino, Tuscany
Orsini Fortress, Tuscany
Castle Gabbiano, Tuscany
Cini Castle, Veneto
Schloss Brunnenburg, Trentino-Alto-Adige
Castelbuono Palermo, Sicily
Castle of Rivoli, Piedmont
Castello Miramare, Friuli-Venezia-Julia
Chateau de Beynac, Aquitane
Chateau de Chateauneuf
Chateau de Chinon, Loire
Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire
Chateau de Montbeliard
Chateau de Gisers, Normandy
Castle Santa Maria da Feira
Castle of Leiria
St. Olaf’s Castle
Fortress of Hamina
Castle fo Aljaferia
Alcazar of Jerez
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
The Alhambra of Granada
Alcazar of Seville
Torre del Oro
Torunn (birthplace of Copernicus)
St. Miachael’s, St. Petersburg
Rostov Veliky Kremlin
Bogesund Castle (Museum)
Charlottenburg Castle (Museum)
Ekenas Castle (Museum)
Claestorp Castle (Hotel)
Ellinge Castle (Restaurant)
Stockholm Palace (Residence of the monarch)