Europe’s Most Beautiful Castles

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> Town or region: Helsinger, Denmark
> Century: 15th-17th

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, rated as one of the premiere Renaissance-era castles in Scandinavia, Kronborg was the inspiration for Elsinore (the name is an English approximation of “Helsinger”) in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

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Donegal Castle
> Town or region: Donegal Town, Ireland
> Century: 15th-17th

Legend has it that there was a 12th-century Viking fortress on the site of this famed riverside castle. Built by a chieftain of the O’Donnell clan in 1474, it was subsequently expanded. In ruins for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was restored in the 1990s.

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Château de Chenonceau
> Town or region: Chenonceaux (Loire Valley), France
> Century: 16th

Of all the famed châteaux of France’s Loire Valley, this is one of the most famous and most beautiful. It is also a rare example of a castle constructed on a bridge reaching across a river.

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Egeskov Castle
> Town or region: Kværndrup (Funen Island), Denmark
> Century: 16th

This late medieval-era castle is today the site of extensive flower, herb, and vegetable gardens and houses museums devoted to cars, motorcycles, and the history of agriculture, among other things. A full-sized replica of Egeskov was built in Hokkaido, Japan, in 1986.

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Château de Chambord
> Town or region: Chambord (Loire Valley), France
> Century: 16th

The largest château in the Loire Valley, Chambord is a major tourist attraction and has lent its name to a famed liqueur and many other products. During World War II, some of France’s greatest art treasures, including the Mona Lisa, were stored here for safekeeping — appropriately since it’s possible that Leonardo da Vinci had a hand in designing the castle originally.