Eilean Donan Castle under blue sky with reflection in the water

Magnificent photo motifs – The most beautiful castles and ruins in Europe

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Majestic castles, magnificent palaces, mystical ruins – every ancient building has its own charm. Whether in the brilliant sunshine or half swallowed up by the fog, castles and palaces are exciting photo motifs, that can be discovered from ever new angles. Europe is home to countless breathtaking castles and ruins that attract photographers from all over the world. Here we present five historic monuments that are ideal destinations for photographers.

Note: Photography is not permitted in the interiors of many castles and palaces. Check with the local authorities to find out what regulations apply and whether you can obtain a photography permit.

Palácio Nacional da Pena in Sintra (Portugal)

The colourful National Palace Pena seems to come directly from a fairy tale book. During European Romanticism in the 19th century, the palace was built on the ruins of an old monastery and combines elements of various architectural styles. Bright yellow and bright red make the palace an eye-catcher on every photo. Especially when the sky is blue, the contrasts are impressive. However, its dazzling colours make the National Palace stand out on photos even in cloudy or dull weather.

To avoid the biggest rush of visitors, you should visit the Kummerpalast early in the morning (before 10.30 a.m.) or late in the afternoon (after 16.00 p.m.). During the summer months, and especially on weekends, many tourists flock to Sintra, so out-of-season dates are recommended. To take the best photos of the National Palace, you should dare the small climb to Cruz Alta in the adjacent park. From there you have a good view of the fairytale castle. An alternative vantage point is the nearby castle ruin of Castelo dos Mouros, which is well worth a visit.

Castle Peleș in Sinaia (Romania)

Built between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Peleș is still a young but charming fortress. The royal residence Peleș combines different architectural styles – it is largely influenced by the Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Gothic, but also by typical Romanian building elements. The building can always be rediscovered from different perspectives. Exciting photo opportunities result from the combination of stone, brick, and wood.

The castle Peleș is embedded in an extensive park and garden. Since the building itself is a little elevated on a hill, you can photograph it wonderfully in its entirety as you approach the site. As with many other attractions, there are fewer visitors outside the summer season. In April or September you can usually enjoy mild weather to take plenty of pictures. Also in winter the castle Peleș has its charms: Embedded in a snow-covered landscape and by the accents of the half-timbered wooden elements the castle seems to spring from the pages of a fairy tale book.

Abtei Jumièges (France)

This impressive monastery ruin can look back on a long and eventful history: it was founded in 654, severely damaged several times, and was one of the largest monasteries in France until its destruction during the Huguenot Wars in the 16th century. The “most beautiful ruin in France” already inspired the world-famous author Victor Hugo. In view of this, it is not surprising that even the remains of this splendour still attract numerous photographers today.

If you want to photograph a ruin like Jumièges Abbey, you don’t necessarily have to wait for perfect weather. The ruin is mystical and mysterious in almost any weather. Particularly interesting are pictures taken during slightly cloudy skies, when the white limestone is not outshined by the sun. Between the preserved columns you can also capture interesting shadow plays in direct midday sun.

Miramare Castle near Trieste (Italy)

The Miramare Castle is a splendid building in a bay of the Adriatic Sea, which combines neo-Gothic style elements with typical New Medieval architecture. The castle was built at the end of the 19th century and served as the summer residence of the Habsburgs. Miramare means “sea view”: Against the background of a clear sky and the turquoise blue sea, the white limestone radiates a summery lightness.

The colour contrasts are particularly impressive when the sky is clear. Sunrises and sunsets are also a dreamy backdrop for photographing Miramare Castle. The best photo spots can be found in the surrounding park, from the castle itself you have a wonderful view of the Adriatic coast. The best time to travel is spring, when the weather is not too hot and you can relax and explore the surroundings.

Marienburg in Malbork (Poland)

The spacious castle complex in Malbork (also called Marienburg castle) is a medieval order castle that has existed since the 13th century. The imposing building is also the largest brick fortress in Europe. The warm colour mood created by the red bricks makes the Marienburg an exceptional photo motif.

To take particularly romantic photos of the castle complex, you should visit Malbork between spring and early autumn. If the weather is fine, you can photograph the reflection of the castle in the Nogat River. The colours of the old order castle shine particularly brightly at dusk or during the Golden Hour. You can use the autumnal ambience for warm, glowing photos.


Castles, palaces and ruins are imposing structures that pose special challenges to photographers. If you are looking for fairytale and mystical photo motifs, which are marked by centuries of history, you will find a variety of different fortresses in Europe, which are worth a trip at any time of the year.