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15 Countries with the Most Beautiful Castles in the World

In this article, we are going to discuss the 15 countries with the most beautiful castles in the world. You can skip our detailed analysis of the global tourism industry, the revival of the tourism sector, the largest travel company in the world, and the investment in heritage tourism, and go directly to the 5 Countries with the Most Beautiful Castles in the World.

From their ancient gates to grand towers and magnificent grounds, there is something hauntingly beautiful about castles. For some, it is their location. For others, it is the history attached to them or their sheer size. And for yet others, it is because they are simply out of a fairytale. With all their majesty and grandeur, these medieval structures act as temporal transporters, visceral reminders that quests and battles and chivalry weren’t always exclusive to fantasy novels. And although these strongholds were built as tangible symbols of repression and control, meant to play an essential role in the defense of a region, they are more likely to be invaded by curious tourists than raging soldiers in these modern times. 

The Global Tourism Industry:

Tourism has evolved into a massive industry with time, encompassing several other sectors, such as hospitality, transport, entertainment etc. In 1950, at the dawn of the jet age, just 25 million people took foreign trips, and by 2019, that number had reached a mammoth 1.5 billion. As we mentioned in our article – 30 Most Magical Places in the World – the global Travel & Tourism (T&T) industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.1% between 2021 and 2026, to be worth an estimated $8.9 trillion by the end of the forecast period. 

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The World Tourism and Travel Council has reported that the T&T sector contributed 7.6% to the global GDP in 2022, an increase of 22% from 2021 and only 23% below 2019 levels. 

Revival of the Tourism Sector: 

The T&T industry was among the hardest hit by the pandemic, as people could no longer move around and the world came to an abrupt halt. Estimates from the United Nations World Tourism Organization show that international travel shrank by 72% in 2020, leading to 1.1 billion fewer trips taken and setting the industry back massively. 

However, 2022 witnessed a reversal in this trend as international borders began opening up, coupled with the disposable income people saved up during the lockdown, and their increasing longing to travel around. According to the WTO, more than 900 million tourists traveled internationally in 2022 - double the number recorded the previous year.

Largest Travel Company in the World: 

With a market cap of over $119 billion as of the writing of this piece, Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:BKNG) holds the title of being the largest travel company in the world. Operating in over 220 countries and 40 different languages, there are more than 28 million global listings available between hotels, homes, and apartments under the Booking travel sites. 

The Connecticut-based travel technology company also strongly felt the shocks of the pandemic when its revenue fell by almost 55%, from $15.06 billion in 2019, to $6.8 billion in 2020. However, Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:BKNG) bounced back strongly and boasted a revenue of $17.09 billion in 2022 after the revival of international tourism, even higher than its pre-pandemic levels. The platform has also recently started conversational trip planning with ChatGPT. 

Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:BKNG) is ranked among the 13 Best Major Stocks to Buy Right Now

Investment in Heritage Tourism: 

Heritage tourism offers travelers an opportunity to indulge in shared experiences through the celebration of culture, traditions, and history. Exploring destinations that are of cultural importance is becoming increasingly popular among tourists of all age groups and the heritage tourism industry has received a massive surge over the last couple of decades. According to IMARC Group, the global heritage tourism market was estimated at $587.1 billion in 2023, and is expected to reach $813.5 billion by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 3.69% during the forecast period. Other than instilling a strong sense of identity among the people, cultural tourism also contributes billions of dollars and creates thousands of jobs for the local economies. 

Investing in cultural heritage preservation not only safeguards our shared history, but it also has the power to transform destinations into vibrant, culturally enriched tourist attractions, thus enhancing their viability and contributing to their long-term sustainability. Among the many governments, philanthropists, and corporations contributing to this cause is also Airbnb, Inc. (NASDAQ:ABNB). 

The San Francisco-based company has donated almost $11 million to heritage organizations across Europe to help boost demand for heritage-related travel and even launched a new Historical Homes category in May 2022, making it easier for guests to discover heritage homes in Spain, Germany, Italy, France,the UK, and now also Belgium. There are around 45,000 listings in the Historical Homes category and just under 70% of European heritage listings on the platform are located in non-urban areas, helping to disperse the benefits of tourism to rural and lesser frequented destinations. To efficiently administrate historical houses and sites in various European countries, Airbnb, Inc. (NASDAQ:ABNB) also launched the Heritage Academy – a training program for hosts that aim to put their historic houses on the platform. 

Airbnb, Inc. (NASDAQ:ABNB) is counted among the Top 20 Most Valuable Travel Companies in the World

With that said, here are the Countries with the Most Beautiful Castles

15 Countries with the Most Beautiful Castles in the World
15 Countries with the Most Beautiful Castles in the World

Methodology:

To collect data for this article, we have referred to sources such as CNN, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic etc., looking for Countries with the Most Scenic Castles. To make sure we give you the best of the best, we only shortlisted countries that appeared multiple times in the aforementioned sources, assigned them a score based on their number of appearances, and ranked them accordingly. When two or more countries had the same score, we ranked them by the number of foreign tourists they received in 2022 instead. 

By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that tracks the movements of corporate insiders and hedge funds. By using a similar consensus approach, we identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). Whether you are a beginner investor or professional one looking for the best stocks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders

15. Luxembourg

Insider Monkey Score: 4

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, with its rich heritage of castles and palaces, is an ideal place for connoisseurs of medieval architecture and castleholics. Vianden Castle is one of the largest and most beautiful residences from the Gothic and Romanesque periods. Wiltz Castle, its picturesque village, and the entire Éislek region are also rich in cultural treasures to explore. 

Luxembourg may well be among the small capitals in Europe, but it has a lot to offer.

14. India

Insider Monkey Score: 4

India, with its 42 UNESCO World Heritage sites, is home to some of the grandest and most spectacular castles to be found anywhere on this planet. Rajasthan, also known as ‘The Land of Kings’, is famous for its magnificent forts and beautiful palaces, among which is also the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. An imposing structure covering an area of 1,200 acres, it is easily one of the Biggest Castles in the World

13. Ireland

Insider Monkey Score: 4

It is said that there are more than 30,000 castles and ruins left in Ireland today, most dating from the 12th to 16th centuries. This is mainly due to the fair share of internal rebellions and foreign invasions that the Emerald Isle has witnessed over the years. Arguably one of the most famous castles in Ireland, Blarney is a top destination for tourists from far and wide. 

12. Denmark

Insider Monkey Score: 5

Denmark is home to some of the most captivating castles in Europe, but perhaps the best known one is Kronborg Castle, and for an interesting reason. William Shakespeare used this Danish castle as his inspiration for his play Hamlet. 

The number of foreign visitors in Denmark has grown by 30% over the last decade and although it is relatively small in size, the country has accounted for around 45% of total overnight stays in all Nordic countries.

Denmark ranks 12th in our list of Countries with the Most Fascinating Castles

11. Austria

Insider Monkey Score: 6

Austria, with its rich history, exquisite architecture, and vibrant culture, is home to hundreds of castles and palaces, spread out from Bregenz to the west to Hainburg to the east. Sitting on a 172-meter cliff in the Carinthian region, Hochosterwitz Castle is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most impressive medieval castles

10. Portugal

Insider Monkey Score: 7

From medieval-time defensive structures to splendid 20th-century masterpieces, Portugal boasts some of the Most Beautiful Castles in Europe. The National Palace of Pena – a UNESCO site – is the most famous castle in the southern European country, owing to its colorful appearance and imposing location atop the highest hill above Sintra. 

Tourism is a key driver of the Portuguese economy, accounting for almost 15% of the national GDP before the pandemic.

9. Italy

Insider Monkey Score: 7

Italy is home to 59 UNESCO World Heritage sites – the most in the world – so it comes as no surprise that the Bel Paese has made it to our list of Countries with the Prettiest Castles in the World. Scaligero Castle, located in the town of Sirmione on Lake Garda, is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Italy, and a rare example of lake fortification. 

Italy also has 4,723 miles of coastline, dotted with some of the most beautiful shores and seaside towns, putting it among the Countries with the Best Beaches

8. Czech Republic

Insider Monkey Score: 8

The Czech Republic is a 'country of castles and châteaux', with almost 3,000 of them. Among the most popular is Hluboká Castle, a 19th century château inspired by both Windsor Castle and a white wedding cake. 

The UNWTO stated last year that the Czech tourism industry was ‘on track for full recovery’, but some challenges are still plaguing the sector, such as the economic situation and geopolitical tensions.

7. Romania

Insider Monkey Score: 9

Romania’s opulent medieval culture is the major reason why the country is home to so many majestic castles and fortresses, most of them built between the 14th and 18th centuries. Among the most legendary of these structures is Transylvania’s Bran Castle, home to perhaps the most influential character in pop culture history – Count Dracula. 

Romania’s tourism board launched ‘The Dracula Project’ in the summer of 2013, developing ‘vampire tourism’ in earnest both as a way to boost economic growth in Transylvania and nationwide.

6. Scotland

Insider Monkey Score: 10

Scotland is an amazing destination that tourists always find enthralling. It is a land of history and legends, renowned for its rich heritage and idyllic sites. Scotland’s castles are not popular only because they are so immaculately preserved, but because they are also set against some of the most breathtaking panoramas in Europe.

Tourism is one of the seven growth industries in Scotland, contributing more than $4.9 billion to the economy each year. The country received around 3.2 million foreign visitors in the year 2022. 

Scotland ranks 6th in our list of Countries with the Top Castles in the World.

Click to continue reading and see the 5 Countries with the Most Beautiful Castles in the World.

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Disclosure: None. 15 Countries with the Most Beautiful Castles in the World is originally published on Insider Monkey.