There's something very romantic about a castle. For women, it's the idea of the princess living the life of luxury in a fortress, surrounded by hand maidens and chivalrous knights. For men, it's the idea of sword fighting, drinking, and camaraderie with their fellow musketeers. Whatever the attraction, European river cruises and ocean cruises offer cruise vacation travelers many opportunities to see and tour castles and palaces from across the centuries.
All photos are © Linda Garrison
Castles of St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg has many marvelous palaces or castles. Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and the Romanov family have palaces all over the city. The Hermitage Museum was once a winter palace, and the estates of the Catherine Palace and Peterhof are magnificent. If you love castles and well-manicured grounds, this is a great city to visit.
Baltic cruises to northern Europe and Russian waterways cruises include St. Petersburg as a port of call.
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Amalienborg Castle in Copenhagen
Three Danish Castles near Copenhagen
When your cruise ship is docked in Copenhagen, you might want to do a short driving tour into the Danish countryside and see three castles (or slots, as they are called in Denmark)--Frederiksborg Slot, Fredensborg Slot, and Kronborg Slot.
Frederiksborg is huge and a picture-perfect castle in a beautiful setting. It's often called the "Danish Versailles". Fredensborg Slot is still used by the Danish royal family as a summer residence. Kronborg Slot is perhaps the most interesting of the three Danish castles. Although Shakespeare never visited Kronborg, he renamed the castle Elsinore and made it the setting of his famous play, "Hamlet".
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Akershus Castle - Oslo Norway
Steen Castle - Antwerp, Belgium
The 1,000-year old Steen Castle is on banks of the Schelde River near where cruise ships dock in Antwerp.
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Tower of London
The Tower of London is now a museum and is one of London's most popular tourist attractions. You can see the Crown Jewels, many examples of armor and medieval weapons, and of course there's those Beefeaters and ravens. London has other castles, including Buckingham Palace.
Three ports near London--Southampton, Dover, and Harwich--are used as embarkation ports for cruises to northern Europe and the rest of the world.
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Dublin Castle - Dublin Ireland
Although the Dublin castle is no longer the seat of English power in Ireland, the buildings that make up the 700-year-old castle grounds are still used for state functions. Dublin is a port of call on cruises to the British Isles and northern Europe.
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Versailles Palace in Paris
Many people may not think of Versailles as a castle, but it was certainly a royal residence. The baroque style is more ornate than like a fortress, but this grand building and its surrounding grounds are among the finest examples of a palace in the world.
Paris is an embarkation port for Seine River cruises and is also a port of call for ocean cruises docking in Normandy. The City of Lights is also a perfect add-on extension for other European cruises.
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More on Versailles Palace from the About.com Guide to Europe Travel
Alhambra Palace - Granada, Spain
The Alhambra Palace is an interesting mix of Moorish and European architecture. Originally built in the 1300's during the Nasrid Dynasty, the palace was modified by King Charles V in the 1600's.
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Toompea Castle - Tallinn, Estonia
Toompea Castle is now the Estonian Parliament building.
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Lipari Castle - Aeolian Islands of Italy
Lipari is one of the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Italy. The Lipari Castle sits on an acropolis overlooking the small town. It's a medieval castle, with a fascinating archaeolocial museum inside.
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Rastatt Castle - Rhine River in Germany
Rastatt Castle can be visited from either the river ports of Speyer or Mannheim on the Rhine River in Germany. This 18th century baroque palace was modeled after the Versailles Palace in Paris. Rhine River cruises with Scenic Tours/Scenic Cruises include a candlelight dinner in the castle. It's quite a magical evening, with good food and entertainment in a marvelous setting.
Rastatt Castle Photo Gallery
Castles on the Romantic Rhine River in Germany
Because of the number of castles along a forty-mile stretch of the Rhine River (between Koblenz and Bingen), this "Romantic Rhine" area was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Cruises sailing the Rhine River between Amsterdam and Basel, or the Rhine, Main, and Danube Rivers between Amsterdam and Budapest highlight this section of the river and provide narratives about the various castles.
Sailing along this "Romantic Rhine" is a marvelous way to see a gorgeous part of Europe.
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Reichsburg Castle - Moselle River in Cochem, Germany
The Reichsburg Castle in Cochem dates back to the 11th century. The old castle has been restored and tours of the inside are available. The castle looks much like you would expect, with large rooms, fireplaces, and dark furniture. The views of the Moselle River are spectacular.
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Wertheim Castle - Main River in Germany
Wertheim is a quaint town on the Main River in Germany. Like most river towns, it has its own castle, and this one dates back to the 12th century. Much of the Wertheim Castle is in ruins, but it was once one of the largest on the river.
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Castles of Vienna - Danube River in Austria
Prague Castle - Czech Republic
You can't miss the Prague Castle when visiting this central European capital city. It towers over the city and offers great views from its courtyards.
Prague is offered as an add-on river cruise extension for Danube River Cruises.
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Durnstein Castle - Danube River in Austria
The Durnstein Castle is famous because Richard the Lionheart was held captive there in 1192-1193. Durnstein is a favorite stopover for Danube River cruises, and not just because of these ancient castle ruins (although the river and vineyard views from the castle are breathtaking). The town has fascinating shops and an excellent winery tour, but is also just fun to stroll the narrow streets.
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A Day in Durnstein from the River Beatrice
Schonbuhel Castle - Danube River in Austria
Cruise ships sailing through the Wachau Valley of the Danube River in Austria get a good look at this beautiful castle--the Schonbuhel Castle.
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Hinderhaus Castle - Danube River in Austria
The Wachau Valley of Austria has many castles, including this one--the Hinderhaus Castle near Spitz.
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Budapest Castle - Danube River in Hungary
Golubac Castle - Danube River in Serbia
Golubac Castle was built in the 14th century. It sits in a lovely place on the Danube River near the Iron Gates.
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Castle of Ram - Danube River in Serbia
The 16th century Castle of Ram is near the village of Ram near Kostolac, Serbia and the ancient Roman archaeological site at Viminacium. More on the Castle of Ram
Rumor has it that that Loch Ness monster lives in a cave underneath the ruins of Urquhart Castle in Scotland. We didn't see Nessie, but enjoyed touring the castle and seeing one of Scotland's most famous Lochs.