Top 10 Oldest Castles in Europe - The First Castles (2023)

Keep reading the article below to know more about these 10 oldest - the first castles in Europe that are still opened for tourisms.

Top 10 Oldest Castles in Europe - The First Castles (1)
Top 10 oldest castles in Europe

Few tourist attractions are as impressive to visit as castles. These awe-inspiring structures are characterized by their strong, fortified walls, often made of stone that is strong enough to remain standing for hundreds or even thousands of years. Check out a few of the oldest castles in Europe that can still be visited today.

The List of top 10 oldest or first castles in Europe

10. Urquhart Castle: Inverness, Scotland

9. Bourtzi Castle: Nafplio, Greece

8. Corfe Castle: Dorset, England

7. Cahir Castle: Waterford, Ireland

6. Ljubljana Castle: Ljubljana, Slovenia

5. Stirling Castle: Glasgow, Scotland

4. Akershus Castle: Oslo, Norway

3. Conwy Castle: Conwy, Wales

2. Dublin Castle: Dublin, Ireland

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1. Prague Castle

What are the oldest or first castles in Europe?

10. Urquhart Castle: Inverness, Scotland

Top 10 Oldest Castles in Europe - The First Castles (2)
Photo: VisitScotland

Discover 1,000 years of drama, experience a glimpse of medieval life and enjoy stunning views over Loch Ness from the ruins of the greatest castle in the Highlands.

Climb the Grant Tower that watches over the iconic loch, peer into a miserable prison cell, said to have held the legendary Gaelic bard Domhnall Donn, and imagine the splendid banquets staged in the great hall. A more comfortable view of the iconic ruins, against a backdrop of Loch Ness and the hills of the Great Glen, can be enjoyed from the café.

Urquhart’s stories are also told through a remarkable collection of artefacts left by its residents, historic replicas, including a full-sized, working trebuchet siege engine, and a short film.

The castle has a distinctly Highland heritage and the site has witnessed some of the most dramatic chapters in our nation’s history. This is where St Columba is said to have worked miracles in the 6th century, where acts of chivalry and defiance provided inspiration during the Wars of Independence and where the MacDonald Lords of the Isles struggled with the Crown for power.

The visitor centre is fully accessible and there is a photographic guide for those who have mobility issues. Disability buggies are available on request.

9. Bourtzi Castle: Nafplio, Greece

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Photo: Greece

A small island at the entrance of the port of Nafplio which is fully covered by a venetian castle from which it took its name.

The castle of Bourtzi ιs located in the middle of the harbour of Nafplio. The Venetians completed its fortification in 1473 to protect the city from pirates and invaders from the sea. The Greeks regained it from the Turks on June 18, 1822, from where they assisted in the siege of Nafplio. Until 1865 it served as a fortress. It was then transformed into residence of the executioners of convicts from the castle of Palamidi. From 1930 to 1970, it served as a hotel. Since then, it is mainly a tourist attraction hosting occasionally parts of the Summer Music Festival.

It is a beautiful castle and appears to to be in good condition

8. Corfe Castle: Dorset, England

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Photo: Tripsavvy

Corfe Castle ruins are one of Britain's most iconic and evocative survivors of the English Civil War, partially demolished in 1646 by the Parliamentarians, they sit proudly upon a hill of this beautiful historical village with the same name.

Discover 1,000 years of its history as a royal palace and fortress. This special place is a favourite haunt for adults and children alike where people are captivated by these romantic ruins that offer breathtaking views across the Purbecks. With fallen walls and secret places, there are tales of treachery and treason around every corner.

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Spot the 'murder holes' and count the arrow loops or take part on one of our quests around the ruins. Throughout the year, there are an abundance of events and exciting things to do here for all the family, from watching falconry displays, hunting for clues on the Easter trails or taking part in knight school as part of the medieval village. History comes to life at Corfe Castle where you can step back in time and discover what life might have been like once upon a time

A brief history of a thousand-year-old royal castle shaped by warfare…

The first stone of Corfe Castle was laid more than 1,000 years ago. Since then it’s seen its fair share of battles, mysteries and plots. It’s been a treasury, military garrison, royal residence and family home.

The keep was built in the early 12th century for King Henry I, William the Conqueror’s son. It was designed to be impressive – and it certainly was. Standing 21m tall and on the top of a 55m high hill, this gleaming tower of Purbeck limestone could be seen from miles around.

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7. Cahir Castle: Waterford, Ireland

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Photo: Wikipedia

Cahir Castle is one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles. It stands proudly on a rocky island on the River Suir.

The castle was was built in the thirteenth century and served as the stronghold of the powerful Butler family. So effective was its design that it was believed to be impregnable, but it finally fell to the earl of Essex in 1599 when heavy artillery was used against it for the first time. During the Irish Confederate Wars it was besieged twice more.

At the time of building, Cahir Castle was at the cutting edge of defensive castle design and much of the original structure remains.

An excellent audiovisual show now provides sightseers with a detailed appreciation of the castle’s long history. Visitors also flock to the castle because of its role as a film and TV location – it has featured in productions like Excalibur and The Tudors.

6. Ljubljana Castle: Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Photo: Reddit

Crowning a 375m-high hill east of the Old Town, this castle is an architectural mishmash, with most of it dating from the early 16th century when it was largely rebuilt after a devastating earthquake. It’s free to ramble around the castle grounds, but you’ll have to pay to enter the Watchtower and the Chapel of St George, and to see the worthwhile Slovenian History Exhibition, visit the Puppet Theatre and take the Time Machine tour.

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There are several ways to access the castle, with the easiest being a 70m-long funicular that leaves from the Old Town not far from the market on Vodnikov trg. There's also an hourly tourist train that departs from south of the Ljubljana TIC. There are three main walking routes: Študentovska ulica, which runs south from Ciril Metodov trg; steep Reber ulica from Stari trg; and Ulica na Grad from Gornji trg.

You can explore the castle's various attractions at your own pace, or join one of the highly recommended 90-minute Time Machine tours, led by costumed guides.

The castle's 19th-century watchtower is located on the southwestern side of the castle courtyard. The climb to the top, via a double wrought-iron staircase (95 steps from the museum level) and a walk along the ramparts, is worth the effort for the views down into the Old Town and across the river to Center. Within the watchtower, there is a 12-minute video tour of Ljubljana and its history in several languages.

5. Stirling Castle: Glasgow, Scotland

Top 10 Oldest Castles in Europe - The First Castles (8)
Photo: Viator

Stirling Castle is one of Scotland's most historically important sites and was once a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations at the castle.

In its grandeur with its superb sculptures and beautiful gardens. It was a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations from christenings to coronations.

Today you can meet the costumed characters in the roles of bodyguards, court officials, maids of honour and servants who will welcome you into 16th century life. Families can have fun in the palace vaults where children can try out activities such as dressing in period costume and playing medieval instruments. Don't miss a guided tour with knowledgeable staff who will bring the castle's infamous characters and history to life in great detail.

Other highlights include the Great Hall, Chapel Royal, Castle Exhibition, Regimental Museum, Great Kitchens, Tapestry Studio and the nearby Argyll’s Lodging, a 17th century town house.

4. Akershus Castle: Oslo, Norway

Top 10 Oldest Castles in Europe - The First Castles (9)
Photo: Getty Images

The Akershus Fortress was built in the late 1290s by King Håkon V to ward off attacks from the Norwegian nobleman, Earl Alv Erlingsson of Sarpsborg. The fortress’s value came from its strategic location near the sea, and it has survived numerous sieges, never being captured in active battle. However, during the Second World War, occupying German forces captured the fortress (without a fight) and used it as a prison and execution center.

However Akershus Castle was used as a prison prior to WWII too. It housed many famous prisoners, including early Norwegian socialists.

The fortress houses a castle, church, the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum, a model of Christiania (Oslo’s former name), and a prison museum. In addition, many members of the Norwegian royal family are buried in the castle’s mausoleum.

The Akershus fortress has the status of a national symbol because of its role as seat of the king and government and the many important and dramatic historical events that have taken place here. The national importance is underlined by the fact that the castle now used as government's premier entertainment venues and hosts the Royal Mausoleum.

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Top 10 Oldest Castles In The World

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3. Conwy Castle: Conwy, Wales

Top 10 Oldest Castles in Europe - The First Castles (11)
Photo: The Castles of Wales

Conwy Castle (Welsh: Castell Conwy; Welsh pronunciation: [kastɛɬ 'kɔnwɨ̞]) is a fortification in Conwy, located in North Wales. It was built by Edward I, during his conquest of Wales, between 1283 and 1289. Constructed as part of a wider project to create the walled town of Conwy, the combined defences cost around £15,000, a huge sum for the period. Over the next few centuries, the castle played an important part in several wars. It withstood the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn in the winter of 1294–95, acted as a temporary haven for Richard II in 1399 and was held for several months by forces loyal to Owain Glyndŵr in 1401.

Following the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, the castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I, holding out until 1646 when it surrendered to the Parliamentary armies. In the aftermath, the castle was partially slighted by Parliament to prevent it being used in any further revolt, and was finally completely ruined in 1665 when its remaining iron and lead was stripped and sold off. Conwy Castle became an attractive destination for painters in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Visitor numbers grew and initial restoration work was carried out in the second half of the 19th century. In the 21st century, the ruined castle is managed by Cadw as a tourist attraction.

UNESCO considers Conwy to be one of "the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe", and it is classed as a World Heritage Site. The rectangular castle is built from local and imported stone and occupies a coastal ridge, originally overlooking an important crossing point over the River Conwy.

2. Dublin Castle: Dublin, Ireland

Top 10 Oldest Castles in Europe - The First Castles (12)
Photo: Dreamstime

Dublin Castle is the heart of historic Dublin. It is one of the most important buildings in Irish history. The city gets its name from the Black Pool - 'Dubh Linn' - which was on the site of the present Castle garden where the River Liffey met the River Poddle. The original fortification may have been an early Gaelic Ring Fort. Later a Viking Fortress stood on this site. From 1204 until 1922 it was the seat of English, then British rule in Ireland.

After a fire in 1684 destroyed much of the Medieval Castle, the magnificent State Apartments were built as the residential quarters of the Viceregal court. They are now the venue for presidential inaugurations, official state visits, state functions, exhibitions and other events . The State Apartments may be explored by guided tour or self-guided. Brochures are available in 17 languages. Paintings are a particular strength of the Dublin Castle collection, but it is also rich in sculpture, furniture, clocks, china, glassware, prints, tapestries, stained glass and textiles from the 17th century to the present day. On occasion, the State Apartments may be closed for official purposes.

The Tower and Medieval Undercroft' remain from the original 13th century Castle. The Tower is not currently open to visitors but offers great photo opportunities and adjoins the Chapel Royal. The Medieval Undercroft excavations and the Chapel Royal are only available to visit on a guided tour, which is very interesting.

1. Prague Castle

Top 10 Oldest Castles in Europe - The First Castles (13)
Photo: Heygo

Prague’s history is said to have begun in the ninth century in this very castle at the hands of Prince Borivoj, who, in addition to the castle, ordered for a palace, three churches and a monastery to be built, among other landmark buildings. The castle enjoyed its greatest moment of splendour under Rudolf II, the last member of the House of Habsburg to use it as their main residence. Despite the many fires and invasions that it has been subjected to, churches, chapels, halls and towers from each one of its great periods of history have survived.

The Guinness Book of Records claims that Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world and its magnitude is certainly astonishing. Spanning a length of 570 metres, the complex is over seven times the size of a football pitch. The area containing the castle, however, spans 45 hectares. From 1918, Prague Castle has been the official residence of the presidents of the Czech Republic.

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What is the oldest castle in Europe? ›

Converted into a donjon around 950, Château de Doué-la-Fontaine in France is the oldest standing castle in Europe.

When was the first castle built in Europe? ›

European Castle History: Who built the first castles? The first castles were probably constructed in Europe in the 800s. However, from the 10th century onwards, it was the Normans who started to build castles with particular vigour.

What are the 4 main castles? ›

Use the links below to read through the information on each of the four different types of Medieval castles; Motte and Bailey, Concentric, Shell Keep and Square Keep.

What is the most oldest castle? ›

Ghumdan Palace, also Qasir Ghumdan or Ghamdan Palace, is an ancient palace and fortress in Sana'a, Yemen. It is the earliest known castle in the world.

What are the 3 main castles? ›

The three main types of castles are the motte and bailey castle, the stone keep castle, and the concentric castle.

Who built the first castles? ›

The first castles were built by the Normans

The Normans introduced the first proper castles, starting with the wooden Motte and Bailey castles, to England following their victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

When were the first castles built? ›

The first stone castles were built in the 11th century, soon after the Norman Conquest (1066), and they continued to be built, re-built and extended over the following centuries.

Who built the first castles in Europe? ›

The first castles

Even before the battle, William the Conqueror built a castle at Hastings, near his landing place. Over the next 150 years, the Normans covered the country with them, and built around 1,000 in England and Wales.

What was the first castle called? ›

What were the first castle like? The first proper castles built in England were the Motte and Bailey castles. The term motte and bailey castle comes from Norman French words for mound and enclosed land. Bailey - enclosure.

What was the largest castle in history? ›

The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (Polish: Zamek w Malborku; German: Ordensburg Marienburg) is a 13th-century Teutonic castle and fortress located near the town of Malbork, Poland. It is the largest castle in the world measured by land area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Reference no.

What are old castles called? ›

Medieval Castle: Motte and Bailey Castles

Motte and Bailiey castles were the earliest form of medieval castles built completely from scratch by the Normans. As their name suggests they had two parts the Motte and the Bailey. The Motte was a large hill made of earth on which was built a wooden keep or lookout.

What is the oldest building still standing in Europe? ›

The Pantheon is the oldest building in the world that's still in use today. Since the 7th century, it has been a Roman Catholic church. Built around 125 A.D. by the Roman emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus, it was actually the third iteration of the structure.

Which castle was built by the first European? ›

In 1482, the Portuguese built St. George's Castle (Elmina Castle). This vast rectangular 97,000sq ft fortification is the earliest known European structure in the tropics.

What is the oldest castle in USA? ›

See you in March! Bacon's Castle is the oldest brick dwelling in North America and was built for Arthur Allen and his family in 1665.

What is the oldest French castle? ›

France has over 40,000 castles and fortresses dating from between the 9th and 21st centuries. The oldest one is the Château de Thil, started in 850 AD, and the most recent one is the Château Louix XIV, completed in 2011.


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