Step back in time and experience the magical atmosphere of five of the world’s most famous castles, whose beauty and history attract throngs of visitors each day.
Mont Saint-Michel, France
This enormous abbey, perched on a hill and surrounded by its village, majestically casts its shadow on the surface of the water during high tide. Nearby green pastures complete a scene that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
The Abbey of Saint Michel, located between Normandy and Brittany, attracts millions of visitors each year who come to hear its stories. An important fortress in times of war, it was also once used as a prison for political prisoners. As early as the 18th century, the country’s intellectuals called for the preservation of the abbey as a place of cultural heritage. The Abbey finally became a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site in 1979.
Neuschwanstein Castle , Germany
Welcome to Walt Disney's fairytale castle – the real one! "Neuschwanstein Castle" sits like a crown on the forested mountains of Bavaria, in Germany. Its architectural style is a combination of French, Byzantine, Roman and Neo-Gothic influences that is hard to find anywhere else, being the result of the passion – some say madness - for art, literature and opera of Ludwig II of Bavaria. The design is also heavily influenced by the Swan Knight, a story immortalized in Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin.
Because the castle is the fruit of a passionate imagination and not constructed with the usual practical considerations for utility or defence, the result is whimsical, luxurious, fanciful and dreamy, as if drawn straight from a fairytale.
For more information, click http://www.neuschwanstein.de/englisch/palace
Himeji Castle, Japan
Neither the ravages of World War II nor the major earthquake of around 20 years ago could mar the greatness of "Himeji Castle" in Hyogo Prefecture, an edifice considered to be one of the 3 oldest and most beautiful castles in Japan. It is a world cultural heritage thanks to its originality, architecturural composition, advanced engineering techniques, and traditional Samurai culture.
The castle is about 400 years old and its exterior is pure white and exudes strength and grace, leading to its traditional name - the White Egret Castle. An exploration of the interior reveals the genius of this remarkable structure; a fortress that has never been conquered. In springtime, the area around the castle is breathtakingly beautiful as the thousands of cherry trees come into bloom.
Windsor Castle, England
The uniqueness of Windsor Castle, or Windsor Palace, lies not so much in its enormous size or the fact that it has stood for 900 years, but rather in the fact that this one has been in use ever since its construction, in 1070.
Looking at it from the exterior, with its medieval Romanesque architecture, majestic stone walls, giant fortress and beautiful gardens, one might imagine the castle to be simply an artifact preserved for tourism, but it is more than that. The rooms and passageways bustle with life and it is regularly used as a retreat of the British royal family. The palace is open as a tourist attraction, so visitors can appreciate the beauty of this early medieval castle while immersing themselves in history inside the museum. They can also enjoy the treasures of the art gallery and the landscaped English country gardens.
Hohensalzburg Castle, Austria
Although Salzburg is perhaps most famous as the birthplace of Mozart, the beautiful castle which stands on the hill in the centre of the city deserves equal recognition.
This ancient castle, which has stood for a thousand years, was built by the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1077, as a residence, fortress and barracks. Renovations and additions took place in the late 14th Century, in readiness for the war against Hungary. Hohensalzburg Castle is one of the European castles that have never been conquered by an army.
Standing at approximately 500 meters above sea level, the castle commands spectacular views of the town and it dominates the city’s skyline. Climbing to the top of the castle's watchtower, you can gaze out over the streets below and appreciate the full charm of this medieval city.
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