Search for a place or activity

10 Hauntingly Spooky Castles in Europe

Prepare for ominous architecture, dank dungeons, and paranormal encounters.

A spooky European castle at dusk on a hilltop
Hi, I'm Claire!

Claire Bullen is an award-winning food, drinks, and travel writer and editor who has lived and worked in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Paris, and London. She is the author of The Beer Lover's Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, and the editor at GoodBeerHunting.com. Her writing has also appeared in Time Out New York, The Daily Meal, Pellicle Magazine, and beyond.

Typically, visitors flock to Europe’s castles for a dose of fairy-tale magic—imagine visions of soaring turrets, crown jewels, and dashing knights in shining armor. But if your tastes run more macabre, Europe’s spookiest castles are ready to serve up creepy vibes, supernatural terrors, and gore galore. From fortresses associated with famous horror stories to the sites of historic witch trials, executions, and murders, these 10 spooky castles offer frights of all types (and, if you visit during the spooky season, unbeatable Halloween celebrations).

Bran Castle, Romania

Bran Castle in Romania, nestled among hills
Bran Castle in Romania is known for being Dracula's "home."Photo Credit: Olimpiu Pop / Shutterstock

One of the eeriest spots in Transylvania.

No list of Europe’s spookiest castles is complete without Bran Castle—aka Dracula’s Castle, also rumored to be the former crash pad of Vlad the Impaler. Unsavory former (fictional and non-fictional) residents aside, this medieval fortress serves up scary-movie–worthy visuals with its craggy clifftop perch and Transylvanian backdrop.

Halloween is, unsurprisingly, a prime time to visit. Book tickets to attend Bran Castle’s annual haunted happening (or embark on a full-day excursion from Bucharest at other times of the year).

Related: Know Before You Go: Celebrating Halloween at Dracula's Castle

Frankenstein Castle, Germany

Frankenstein Castle in Germany, against a dusky sky
This castle inspired the mother of all horror stories.Photo Credit: Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock

The castle that inspired the famous haunted tale.

There are creepy castles all over the continent, but only one supposedly inspired Mary Shelley to pen her most celebrated horror story. That would be Germany’s Frankenstein Castle, now largely in ruins.

Its infamous former resident, Johann Konrad Dippel, was known for his creepy experiments (and theorized about transferring souls from dead bodies). If that doesn’t wig you out, it’s worth exploring on a day out in Darmstadt (or attending the castle’s blood-curdling Halloween parties).

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland, as seen from below
Edinburgh Castle looms large over the Scottish capital.Photo Credit: Michal 11 / Shutterstock

If you’re scared of ghosts, maybe skip this one.

Looming over the Scottish capital atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is gray, sprawling, and ominous. It’s one of the city’s best-known sights and one of its creepiest. Dating as far back as the 12th century, the castle is famous for being the most besieged in Britain. In the wake of all that conflict and bloodshed, today, it’s supposedly besieged by an army of ghosts, so keep an eye out for spirits such as the Grey Lady and a headless drummer boy. You can explore Edinburgh Castle on a guided tour or learn more about its haunted history on a ghostly excursion.

Leap Castle, Ireland

The mossy facade of Leap Castle in Ireland
Ireland has its far share of spook, but this is one of the most haunted spots of all.Photo Credit: Dontsu / Shutterstock

Billed as the most haunted castle in Ireland.

Leap Castle certainly looks the part, with its crumbling towers and weatherbeaten facade (the castle suffered a devastating fire in the 1920s). It’s a spooky fortress straight out of central casting. Today, Leap Castle (which is roughly equidistant between Dublin and Limerick) is a private residence that’s opened by the owners to only the bravest of visitors. Expect to hear plenty of macabre tales of its bloody history and be on the lookout for paranormal encounters.

Related: 15 of the Scariest Ghost Tours Around the World

Moosham Castle, Austria

Moosham Castle in Austria, surrounded by trees
This haunted hangout has quite the bloody past.Photo Credit: hecke61 / Shutterstock

Once the site of gruesome witch trials and werewolves.

The former stomping grounds of the Hapsburg dynasty, Austria is home to numerous fairy tale–worthy castles—but Moosham Castle isn’t one of them. Some 80 miles (129 kilometers) south of Salzburg, this foreboding fortress was built on Roman foundations.

However, its dark reputation dates to the 17th century, when the Zaubererjackl Witch Trials saw more than 100 young victims tortured and executed here. And did we mention the werewolf lore? Today, the castle’s threatening ambiance is still palpable—as are, according to visitors, plenty of resident specters.

Chillingham Castle, England

Chillngham Castle in England on a sunny day.
Chilling by name, chilling by nature.Photo Credit: Gail Johnson / Shutterstock

Hunt down all things paranormal at this haunted English castle.

The aptly named Chillingham Castle offers plenty of fearsome frights. This Grade I listed 13th-century fortress is located north of Newcastle, and is supposedly the most haunted castle in England. For a country that’s seen millennia of gruesome executions, bloody battles, and royal intrigue, that’s saying something. On a paranormal tour, you’ll go hunting for apparitions in its dungeons, torture chambers, gardens, and staterooms—and will learn why poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about its phantoms.

Château de Brissac, France

Château de Brissac in the Loire Valley, France
This regal castle has many a-tale to tell.Photo Credit: leoks / Shutterstock

Roam this castle’s haunted hallways.

In many ways, the grand Château de Brissac looks emblematic of its Loire Valley counterparts. Boasting plump turrets and soaring heights—it’s France’s tallest castle—the château has been owned by the same noble family since 1502.

What sets it apart from its grand peers, however, is its supernatural lore. In 1477, former resident Charlotte de Brézé was murdered by her husband within the château’s walls. Today, her ghost, known as La Dame Verte (The Green Lady), is said to haunt its hallways.

Akershus Fortress, Norway

Akershus Fortress in Norway on a sunny day
Norway doesn't lack haunted attractions, and this fortress is among the best.Photo Credit: Nanisimova / Shutterstock

A fortress with a dark prison past.

Located right on the Oslofjord in the heart of the Norwegian capital, the 13th-century Akershus Fortress looks picturesque enough by day. But as darkness descends, the castle's true character comes out. Formerly a residence for Norway’s royal family, the fortress was later used as a prison and was known for its brutal treatment of inmates. Many who visit the castle today report unexplained phenomena and supernatural encounters. Look out for them while on a myths and legends–themed Oslo tour.

Houska Castle, Czech Republic

Houska Castle on a dark night in the Czech Republic
This haunted castle is easy day-trip fodder from nearby Prague.Photo Credit: mareksaroch.cz / Shutterstock

Rumored to house the gates of hell.

It’s hard to out-horror Houska Castle. Located just an hour north of Prague but tucked away in a dense forest, this 13th-century castle was, according to legend, built to cover a deep pit that was considered to be one of the gates to hell.

Its grisly reputation continued into the 20th century when it was reportedly used by the Nazis. Today, the castle’s occult artworks and lingering spirits scare off many visitors, though hardy souls can explore on a haunted castle tour from Prague.

Predjama Castle, Slovenia

Predjama Castle in Slovenia, built into a cliffside
This castle's unique location alone makes it worth the visit.Photo Credit: Dan Tautan / Shutterstock

Watch for bats in this cave castle.

You don’t need an expert to tell you that something sinister’s afoot at Slovenia’s Predjama Castle. In addition to its medieval architecture, there’s the fact that the castle is built halfway inside a huge cave outfitted with dripping stalactites.

Then there are the stories of its former robber baron resident, Erasmus Luegg, who was killed in the castle, as well as its torture chambers. If you dare, embark on a tour of the castle and its bat-filled cavern system. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Find more things to do in Europe

1 / 5

Keep reading

1 / 5
en
c34416bd-c882-43d9-b8b7-8af8ddb5f4f2
article
Do more with Viator
One site, 300,000+ travel experiences you'll remember—direct to your inbox.
Stay in the know