Europe has so much to offer in splendid sights and things to do, among them are European fortresses, forts and fortified towns. They’re excellent stops on a European road trip. I’ve asked my fellow travel bloggers which forts in Europe are their favorite. I’ve added my own and we came up with the 30 you can read about below.
But first what is the difference between a European fortress, fort and fortified town? A fortress is a defensive military construction and is usually a larger military installation as a fort. A fort is a building designed specifically to defend a territory during war (times). A fortified town is a town with walls and towers to defend itself.
From forts in Germany to fortresses in Croatia, the whole of Europe is covered.
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Dubrovnik is a port city in the South of Croatia. It’s a fortified city and it has 4 forts.
Lovrjenac fortress or St. Lawrence fortress is built upon a 37 meter/121 feet high sheer rock. The fort overlooks the Adriatic Sea. It defended Dubrovnik from attacks coming from the sea and land for hunderds of years. The fort was important in resisting Venetian rule in the 11th century. The Venetians wanted to build a fort on this spot, however the local people built a fort in just 3 months, and beat the Venetian ships with building materials.
The fort has a triangular shape. It has 3 terraces. Lovrjenac is also used as a theater nowadays. It has a beautiful panoramic view. Entrance to the fort costs 50 kuna per person. There’s a guided tour possible which is not included in the entrance fee. Take at least an hour for your visit.
The city walls surrounding the old town of Dubrovnik include two forts, namely Fort Bokar and Fort St. Ivana. The walls were built from the 8th till the 12th century. Then from the 12th till the 14th century the walls were widened and enlarged. Nowadays the walls have a length of almost 2 kilometers/1.2 miles in total. They’re 6 meters/20 feet thick and on some places almost 25 meters/82 feet high. The walls can be visited, you can walk on them. A ticket costs 200 kuna. It’s perfect to visit on a day in Dubrovnik. It’s one of the most visited attractions of the city, so expect crowds.
Then at last there’s Fort Minčeta on the highest point of Dubrovnik. From here you’ll have a view on the walled city and the sea.
La Alhambra, Spain
Contributed by Catherine from Postcard Narrative.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find another fortress in Europe that is as intricately decorated as the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. The Alhambra, whose construction began in 1238, was the last European stronghold of the Moorish empire until the Christian Monarchs conquered them in 1492. This ended the Moor’s 800 year history in the Iberian Peninsula.
On a visit to the Alhambra Palace and Fortress, you’ll be dazzled by the ornamental walls and ceilings. The throne room’s ceiling is an 8,000 piece inlaid wooden mosaic. None of the designs will feature animal figures, but instead patterns and writings. Interestingly, the phrase “only God is victorious” appears nine thousand times inside the palace.
Visitors marvel at the exquisite design of the architecture itself and the thoughtfully laid out gardens and orchards called the generalife or “garden of paradise”. Down below, gaze upon the Albayzin of Granada’s Moorish Old City. In the old city, you can enjoy a fusion of Spanish and Moorish culture. Savor the tapas in the Realejo San Matias neighborhood, try a Hammam Arab Bath, shop for Moorish lanterns, or take in a Flamenco show.
Adult tickets cost €14 (16 years+) and typical visits last about 3 hours. Granada is doable as a day trip from popular surrounding cities like Malaga, Almeria and Cordoba, but merits an overnight of its own.
Contributed by Ronja from Ronja Goes Abroad.
The Fortress of Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a habitable fortress located on an island just outside the city center of Helsinki, Finland. Suomenlinna was originally named Sveaborg (Castle of the Swedes) as Finland used to be part of Sweden. A year after Finland’s independence it was officially named Suomenlinna (Castle of Finland).
Nowadays Suomenlinna is one of the most popular sights to see in Helsinki. You can get to the fortress by ferry from the city center of Helsinki. When at the fortress you can stroll around for free (you only have to pay for the ferry). There are many spots on the islands of the fortress to see. Some of the most important sights are the Prisoner-of-war camp memorial, King’s Gate, and the Bastion Zander.
You can either stroll around for free or take a tour. The tours are 11€/adults and 4€/kids. In the summer season (June-August), guided tours are given in Finnish, Swedish, English, Russian and Chinese. During the off-season, tours are available only on weekends, and the languages are English and Russian.
How much time should you reserve for Suomenlinna? A whole day. You can spend the whole day on the island. Have a picnic and enjoy it to the fullest!
For more guides for visiting Finland check out these guides!
Tower of London, England
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Nowadays the Tower of London is surrounded by high rise buildings, this was different back in the 11th century. The fort is located on the banks of the river Theems in London.
The building of a White Tower was ordered in 1078 by William the Conqueror. Extra fortification walls were added later on, leading to an extensive building complex. The complex was named The Tower. Around The Tower a castle was built.
Over the years The Tower has had several functions, such as a fort, a royal palace, a mint, a garrison, a museum and an arsenal. However the most notorious was it being a state prison. The prison has had some famous prisoners and executions.
Right now it serves as a museum, displaying the crown jewels and a rich collection of harnesses and weaponry. The Tower is a famous and important tourist attraction, since everyone wants to see the crown jewels for themselves. Expect long waiting lines and an entrance fee of £29.90 for adults and £14.90 for kids. There are audio guide tours available for an extra fee. Take a whole day for the Tower of London, especially with the waiting lines.
The Tower of London is also part of our Greatest Forts in the World.
Forte di Fenestrelle, Italy
Contributed by Linda from Insieme Piemonte.
The impressive Forte di Fenestrelle, located 85 kilometers/53 miles west of Piedmont’s capitol Turin, is the largest Alpine fortress in Europe!
It took 122 years, starting in 1728 to build the powerful fortification, holding guard in the middle of beautiful Val Chisone. Its purpose was to defend against foreign invasions, but it was mostly used as a garrison and as a prison. After World War II, the massive building has lost its purpose and was abandoned.
Today we can visit that outstanding fortified construction which does actually consists of 3 different forts. Joined by a tunnel inside the massive fortress walls, runs the longest covered staircase in Europe. 4000 steps, 3 kilometers/1.86 miles and 635 meters/2083 feet of height difference between Fort San Carlo in the valley to Fort delle Valli at 1800 meters/5906 feet above sea level.
You can visit the main square of Fort San Carlo for free or have a sneak-peak into the fortress in a short self-guided tour at € 3.00 per person. There are 3 different, very interesting guided tours, but those are only available in the Italian language. Even if you do not understand everything, the full day tour at € 15.00 per person, is a fantastic opportunity to discover the secrets and insides of Europe’s largest Alpine fortress.
Contributed by Martine & Jürgen from PlacesofJuma.
Ston in Croatia is a rather unknown place on the Dalmatian coast and a real insider tip among the most beautiful forts in Europe. Really impressive is the wall of this fortress, which you can see partly already from the coastal road. It connects the two small romantic towns of Ston and Mali Ston. Only when you visit it, you realize that this former fortress wall from the year 1336 is gigantic. During a tour you explore the longest fortification wall outside of China! A real highlight, which many would not have expected.
On top of that, the historic city center of Ston is beautiful. During a walk through the center, you get lost in a labyrinth of alleys and admire the quaint Dalmatian stone houses. The Veliki Kaštio Fort, which is also part of the Ston Wall – the defensive fortification that surrounds the town, is absolutely worth seeing.
The Stoner fortress can be wonderfully explored in half a day. Excursions from Dubrovnik are also possible. Entrance fee is around 10 euros per person, but it is worth it. The walk from Ston to Mali Ston should not be missed.
Fort Bourtange, The Netherlands
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Bourtange is a star fort in the province of Groningen, near the German border, in the North of the Netherlands.
Willem of Orange gave the assignment during the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648) to build a fort to control the road. The road was a strategically important sand ridge (tange) through the Bourtange Swamp. It was used as part of the fortifications in the Northern provinces until 1851. The fort was never taken in all those years.
A village revolved around the fortifications before and after it was given up in 1851. Between 1967 and 1992 the fort was restored to its 18th century state. It’s now a protected townscape and an open-air museum, with people still living in the village.
There are several museums in Bourtange that tell about the history of the fort. Next to the museums there are numerous sights to see. You can visit a pastor’s home, cannons, two entrance gates, bridges, strongholds, canals, a church, guardrooms, the ramparts, a peat shed, mills, a forge and so on. Entrance to the museums is €9.00 for adults. For kids aged 6-11 it’s €5.00. Take a whole day to visit this village.
You can stay inside the fortifications, in a captain’s or soldier’s room.
Belgrade Fortress, Serbia
Contributed by Mayuri from To Some Place New.
Belgrade Fortress, located in the city of Belgrade, Serbia, is one of the oldest and most important historical sites in the country. The fortress has a long and rich history, dating back to the 3rd century AD when it was first built by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.
Over the centuries, it has been sacked by numerous armies and has been rebuilt numerous times. The fortress was originally built as a frontier post to protect the Roman Empire from barbarian invasions. Today, the fortress is a popular tourist destination and is home to many museums, galleries, and other cultural institutions.
The Belgrade Fortress consists of the old citadel (Upper and Lower Town) and Kalemegdan Park (Large and Little Kalemegdan) on a high plateau overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers.
The best way to visit the Belgrade Fortress is to make it a part of a larger Balkans road trip stop to Serbia, and then explore it. Entry to the fortress is free.
We recommend spending 1-3 hours at the complex, checking out the displays, and exhibits, and also relaxing at the gardens and viewing areas (with Sava river views).
St. John Fortress, Montenegro
Contributed by Lowri from Many Other Roads.
St John Fortress is the oldest and most notable fortification in Kotor, Montenegro. The UNESCO world heritage site fortress occupies the top part of the hill above the old town of Kotor, overlooking both old and new bays. Dating back to as early as the 9th century, this is one of the most amazing Fortresses in Europe.
The views from the fort are perhaps the best in Kotor. From here, you can see over the old town and out to sea. The view is particularly spectacular at sunrise or sunset when the sun glints off of Kotor Bay.
The fort is a must-visit spot which takes around 2-3 hours in total. Climbing up the old stone stairs is a little more challenging than you’d expect (especially when it is hot), but it’s worth it for the views over Kotor Bay. It’s stunning. From up there you can see one of the best views in Europe. Climbing through history is an amazing way to see the medieval fortress in action. It’s an amazing Summer destination in Europe.
To visit the Fortress it is 8 Euros per person, however, there are a few tours available to book in Kotor if you want a guide. For the best panoramic views over the bay, visit early or late in the day when the temperatures are cooler and the crowds are gone. Not only will it make climbing the 1350 or so steps easier, but you will get to enjoy the view more.
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber is a beautiful fortified town in Southern Germany in Bayern. The city has tot his day been preserved in medieval style. It’s on the Romantische Straße, a touristic auto route starting in Würzburg and ending in Füssen.
The fortifications of the city are many and are still standing. There are the old walls and a lot of towers. The city wall has 6 gates and several pedestrians doors. You can walk along the city walls for free. Follow Rothenburg’s Tower Trail, which is 4 kilometers/2.4 miles and takes about 2.5 hours. There’s a brochure and information panels on the route. The brochure costs €5.00.
Rothenburg is a city of towers, on its skyline you’ll see numerous towers. There are 42(!) in total. The Röderturm and the Rathausturm can be climbed. Not all towers are on the city walls, some are inside the city. This is where the first wall was built.
Warwick Castle, England
Contributed by Laura from Travelers Universe.
Warwick Castle is an English fortress situated in the town with the same name, a short day trip from London. The castle was built by William the Conqueror back in 1068. Originally a wood fortress on a meander of the River Avon, the fort was built in stone two centuries later. In the 17th century, King James I gifted it to Sir Fulke Greville, whose successors became the first Earls of Warwick.
Some 50 years ago, the castle was purchased by the Tussauds Group, the same company that owns the Madame Tussauds museums. In a stroke of genius, they filled the rooms of the castle with stunningly created wax figures dressed in period costumes, recreating a bygone atmosphere and resulting in a memorable visit. But the entertainment doesn’t stop here. Warwick Castle also organizes sleepovers, mockup battles, light shows, and birds of prey shows so the whole family can spend a fun day out. For something a bit out of the ordinary, they also organize wedding receptions.
Magazine Fort, Ireland
Contributed by Adam from Where In Dublin.
The Magazine fort is located in one of Europe’s largest city parks, the Phoenix Park. Getting to the fort is pretty easy as it’s free to enter the Phoenix Park. There are a couple of car parks scattered around the park where visitors can leave their cars and walk to the site.
Originally, where the fort is now, was known as the Phoenix Lodge, which was built in 1611 until in 1734 it was knocked down and a gun powder and ammunition storage unit were put there and named Magazine Fort.
Before March 2020, free tours of the Magazine fort were available. Tickets could be got at the Phoenix Park visitor centre but have been stalled until further notice.
The Magazine Fort is one of the many great things you can do in the Phoenix Park. A couple of hours can be spent at the fort, and for the rest of the day, you can explore the park to see what it has to offer. Make sure you spend the whole day exploring the Phoenix Park. There are tons of activities for you to do, including Dublin Zoo, Áras an Uachtaráin, and much more. The park is one of the most popular attractions in the county, so expect it to be busy when you arrive.
Brielle, The Netherlands
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Brielle is a fortified town in the South of the Netherlands. The town is located on the island Voorne-Putten in the province of Zuid-Holland.
Brielle, previously known as Den briel, is famous as the first liberated city in the Eighty Years’ War on April 1st 1572.
The old city walls are still standing, the fortifications have 9 bastions and 5 ravelins. Since 1713 not much has been changed on the fortifications, making them the most important leftover fortifications of the Netherlands. The walls, bastions and ravelins have been renovated between 1972 and 1975.
You can still wander on and around the city walls, there’s no entrance fee and you can access the walls 24/7. Take an hour for a walk on top of the walls.
Brielle has a protected townscape. Two of the bastions have a function, bastion 2, the old gunpowder magazine, has a permanent exhibition on the celebration of April 1st 1572. Bastion 5 houses an exhibition on Brielle during the French occupation.
Aurora Tower, Italy
Contributed by Elena from The Carry-On Chronicles.
With its dramatic positioning atop a giant rock formation along the water, Aurora Tower looks like something out of a fairytale. This remarkable and historic tower is located underneath Cappuccini’s Hill in Monterosso al Mare, the largest town of Italy’s Cinque Terre region. There is some debate as to the tower’s precise origin, which is believed to be between the year 1000 and the 16th century. It was first built by the Republic of Genoa as a defense against pirate attacks.
Today, it serves as a significant landmark in the village, signifying the divide between the new town of Fegina and the old village. In addition to its status as a demarcation point between the two halves of Monterosso, the magnificent structure was impressively transformed into a one-of-a-kind seaside restaurant and cocktail bar in 2017. Here, you can enjoy delicious artisanal plates, many of which feature seasonal and organic ingredients. Dining within the walls of this fascinating medieval monument overlooking the spectacular panorama of Monterosso’s Gulf will truly be an event to cherish. It’s advisable to make a reservation to secure your seaside seat at this special venue.
Fort Bard, Italy
Contributed by Michela from She Goes The Distance.
Fort Bard is in the smallest region of Italy, Valle D’Aosta, but its presence is larger than life. The House of Savoy constructed the military fortifications in the early 1800s. However, the strategic positioning of this rocky hill at the valley’s mouth has long been a stronghold of interest – records show it has been built and rebuilt upon since pre-Roman times.
Fort Bard’s unique setting has also made it blockbuster-worthy: the fortified complex was a filming location in The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Fort Bard is the perfect half-day stop on your Northern Italy itinerary. When planning a visit, keep in mind it is always closed on Mondays except for during the month of August. The basic entrance ticket costs €8.00, giving you access to the fort and one of the several exhibits or museums. No guided tours are provided by the fort itself, so you have the freedom to explore on your own. There are also amenities like a restaurant at the top of the fort.
It is easiest to reach Fort Bard by car. There is a paid parking garage close to the fort’s entrance. Or you can find free parking at the foot of the hill and walk up the steep paths to the village of Bard, a charming medieval hamlet. A unique local aspect of the village that can be admired from atop Fort Bard are the houses’ traditional, alpine stone roofs. Down the town’s main street is the ticket office.
To get up to the main area of the fort, you can walk or wait for the cable car. By walking you’re privy to the best views, but beware: the winding walkways are slightly steep, moderately long, and definitely tiring!
Muralla de Ávila, Spain
Contributed by Em from That Travelista.
If you are looking for some of Europe’s best-preserved medieval walls, look no further than the fortified old town of Ávila in Spain. The city was founded in the 11th century, intended to protect the Spanish from the Moors, who ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula for several centuries. Today, Ávila’s fortified old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In order to fully appreciate the walls and the entire Ávila old town in general, definitely walk along the city’s walls. General entry is €5, and the walkable portion of the walls is about half of the entire circumference. While in Ávila, be sure to try the famous local dessert, yemas de Ávila (or yemas de Santa Teresa), and stop by the Cathedral de Ávila, one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in Spain.
Though Ávila is not as famous as some of Spain’s other destinations, that is precisely what makes a day trip to Avila from Madrid an absolute must. You can easily organize your day trip yourself by bus or car, or join a tour bus combining Ávila with equally-stunning Segovia.
Castelo de Óbidos, Portugal
Contributed by Allison from Renovating Life.
Just inland from surf spot, Peniche, and only 80 kilometers/50 miles North of Lisbon, you’ll find the magnificent walled medieval castle of Óbidos. The fortified castle envelopes a picturesque Disney-like town full of whitewashed houses covered in bougainvillea and offers views over the rolling countryside just inland of the popular Silver Coast.
Gifted to the 13th century Queen Isabel of Aragon by her husband, King Dinis, the impressive Manueline style (late Portuguese Gothic) castle has historically been passed to princes and princesses, and after an extensive restoration, the main residence was converted to a hotel.
Stays in the hotel start at 179€ per night but peak during the town’s popular festivals, including the Medieval Fair and the Christmas Village.
Entry to the walled city is free, but you’ll need to pay for parking in one of the public lots just outside the Azulejo-tiled Porta da Vila arched entrance. From there you can follow the cobblestone streets straight back to the entrance of the castle, turn up any of a few staircases that take you up to the castle walls, or wander around the winding lanes.
This tiny walled town is easy to cover in as little as an hour, while there are many traditional Portuguese craft shops to get lost in, myriad traditional restaurants to while away the afternoon over petiscos (Portuguese tapas) or Ginjinha (sour cherry liqueur served in a chocolate cup), not to mention exploring the castle itself and walking the walls.
Óbidos can be reached by car, bus, train, or multi-stop guided tour. The express bus is a popular public option and departs from Lisbon’s Campo Grande terminal. Purchase tickets directly from the driver for 8€. While there is train service, it’s slow and inconvenient.
Peter & Paul Fortress, Russia
Contributed by De Wet from Museum of Wander.
The star-shaped Peter and Paul Fortress is the oldest building in St Petersburg. Tsar Peter the Great ceremoniously laid the first stone to the citadel in 1703, which is also considered the city’s birth. The fortress was named Sankt Petersburg after Saint Peter the apostle, soon becoming the city’s name.
It first served as a garrison, and later it was turned into one of the most feared political prisons in Russia.
Today, tourists can visit the original prison cells, the State Museum of History, and Peter and Paul Cathedral. The highlight of the complex is the cathedral, with its 122.5 meters/401.0 feet tall, gilded bell tower. History buffs will not want to miss the tombs of the Romanov family inside the cathedral.
Visitors can visit the fortress independently, or tours are also available. Put aside 2 hours to take it all in. The nearest metro station is Gorkovskaya. Entrance fee is RUB 1000 (about USD15) which includes all the sights and museums inside.
After visiting the fortress, walk down to the Neva river, where you’ll get fantastic views across the water toward the city and the Hermitage Museum on the opposite side. There is also a famous river beach where Peterburgers come to swim and sun themselves in summer.
The Peter and Paul Fortress is open daily from 10:00 to 20:00.
Batería de Santa Bárbara, Spain
Contributed by Alexandra from Tenerife Is.
La Batería de Santa Bárbara in Puerto de la Cruz is a beautiful historical monument and one of the most effective defense structures of Tenerife. It is a must-see if you plan to visit Puerto de la Cruz. Travelers love to stroll along the fort as it offers gorgeous views of the ocean and the sunset. A visit to this attraction is free to all.
La Batería de Santa Bárbara was erected in the 18th century. At this time, Tenerife was developing trade relations with almost all European countries. The main logistical and economic burden fell on the Northern port of Puerto de la Orotava.
Winemaking and agriculture flourished in Tenerife, and the market was steadily expanding. As the economy strengthened, the small island became a big target for pirates. The authorities were forced to fortify the coastlines. To defend the island against pirate attacks, the fort of La Batería de Santa Bárbara was built.
Structurally, the Santa Bárbara Battery includes a gunpowder warehouse, places to house soldiers, cannons, and an observation post with a guard’s booth. La Batería de Santa Bárbara is built on a strong stone foundation. The masonry made the structure impregnable. Pirate cannons left potholes in the wall but could not destroy the structure. The piracy waned only by the beginning of the twentieth century, so the structure remained relevant for a long time.
Koules Fortress, Greece
Contributed by Gabi from The Tiny Book.
The Venetian Fortress in the old port of Heraklion, the capital of Crete, is one of the many fortifications that you can find on the island. Located in the center of the Mediterranean, Crete was for centuries a coveted place to conquer by every civilization that sailed and commerced in the region. Known also as Rocca a Mare, the fortress dates back to the sixteenth century and it was built by the Republic of Venice which ruled on Crete for more than 400 years. When the island was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, the building became known as Koules (koules is an alteration of the Turkish word su kulesi which means water tower).
The massive, square building made of clear limestone stands out in the city landscape due to its thick defensive walls and imposing entrance adorned with an ancient Lion of Saint Mark which was Venice’s symbol. The fortress is open to the public, it exhibits ancient weapons and ammunition as well as a collection of impressive amphorae that were found in a shipwreck off the coast of Crete. For a great view of Heraklion’s skyline, climb to the roof of the castle to admire the city, the mountains, and the Cretan Sea.
An entrance ticket costs €2.00. Opening hours are from 8 am to 6 pm. The fortress is closed on Tuesdays.
Alcazaba de Malaga, Spain
Contributed by Milijana from World Travel Connector.
Alcazaba de Malaga is one of the most impressive historical buildings in Spain.
Alcazaba comes from the Arabic word Al-Qasba which means citadel. It is the best-preserved citadel in Spain.
The monumental Malaga Alcazaba dominates the city from Gibralfaro hill overlooking Malaga center and port. The Hammudid dynasty built it in the Moorish style in the 11th century. Afterward, some architectural remakes were done in the 15th century (after the Reconquista). Thus, the citadel displays a unique mix of Moorish and Renaissance styles. What’s more interesting, the Alcazaba was built with the stones from the nearby Roman amphitheater.
So, it is no wonder that Alcazaba is a top tourist attraction in Malaga. Touring this unique citadel is one of the best things to do in Malaga, Spain. The Alcazaba is easily reachable from the Roman amphitheater in downtown Malaga by a passageway called Coracha that goes through gorgeous gardens with lovely fountains. There’s even an elevator that takes visitors to Alcazaba. The elevator is behind the City Hall in Malaga. Although the elevator is faster, the Coracha provides an unbeatable experience of the gardens and the stunning views of the city.
Alcazaba is open for visits from 9 am to 8 pm (April to October) and from 9 am to 6 pm (November to March). There is a ticket office at the entrance. A ticket costs €3,50. But, the best-buy is a combo ticket for visiting Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle (which stands just above the Alcazaba) that costs €5,50. Visits to Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle are free on Sundays after 2 pm.
Alcazaba can be visited independently and by tour. An average visit to Alcazaba lasts an hour and a half.
Kronborg Castle, Denmark
Contributed by Vidyut from Triplyzer.
Located by the Oresund strait, Kronborg Castle is one of the most stunning places to visit in Denmark.
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kronborg is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.
The Castle is located in Helsingør, a town about 45 kilometers/28 miles away from Copenhagen. Being so close to Sweden, the castle held an important strategic position. Built under the rule of King Eric, the castle traces its origin back to 1420. Later, Frederik II expanded the castle into what you see today. Like all castles, Kronborg had a tumultuous history as well – it burned down, it was rebuilt, and was captured by Swedes.
The interiors are quite simple but still worth a visit. The Ballroom, The Royal Apartments, and Tapestry Room shouldn’t be missed for their beautiful decor. While the chapel is the only structure that remained unscathed from the 1629 fire. The gold decoration on intricately carved wood is beautiful to look at. In the Casemates, the maze-like cellar, you will find a life-size statue of Holger Danske. Finally, climb the castle tower for a fantastic view of the coastline.
Helsingør is a quick trip from Copenhagen, the distance of 45 kilometers/28 miles can be easily covered in under an hour. You can even visit here from Helsingborg, Sweden, just hop on to the ferry crossing the 4-kilometer/2.5 miles wide strait.
You can easily spend 3-4 hours here exploring the castle interiors and walking around on the castle grounds. The entrance fee ranges from 95 DKK to 145 DKK, depending on the season. But if you have a Copenhagen Card you can enter as well as take a train for free.
Housesteads Fort, England
Contributed by Sarah from Northumberlands Best.
Housesteads Roman Fort is one of the permanent military outposts on the 117 kilometer/73 mile long Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England. The wall, built to protect the Northern region of the Roman empire from marauding Scots, runs from the East coast in Northumberland to the West coast of England.
The fort is the best-preserved example of the forts on the route and the best place to see the original features of Hadrian’s Wall. Originally built in AD 124, two years after the wall was finished, Housesteads Fort was the first fortress in the region. There are stunning views of Northumberland National Park from here. The site today is managed by English Heritage (which means members get in for free) and tickets cost £9 for adults and £5.40 for children. You’ll find ruins of various parts of the original fort, including the hospital, Commander’s House, and granaries.
But it’s when you go into the museum that you’ll find the fort brought to life as there are incredible recreations of the original Roman buildings. There’s also a big collection of Roman finds. You can see the museum and the fort in a couple of hours, but bring a picnic, as the Housesteads walking trail is a great place to explore a little way into the Northumberland National Park. It is easiest to visit by car, but if you’re aiming to explore by public transport, check out the AD122 Hadrian’s Wall Country Bus that runs through the Summer months and stops at all the major sites on the wall.
Torre de Belém, Portugal
Contributed by Paula from Portugal Travel Hub.
UNESCO listed Torre de Belém is a 500-year-old fortress on the Tagus River in Belém, just outside Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon. It was built to protect the entry to Lisbon Harbor from invaders in the 16th century.
This four-story tower, considered a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discovery, is made of limestone and features a hexagonal bastion reminiscent of the Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest.
There are four levels inside the tower and while there is not a lot to see, you can access the top of the tower to take in the view. You will climb about 90 steps to the viewing platform. This can take some time since they let a few visitors in at one time on the top floor. Allow about 15 minutes to see the inside, longer in busy times.
If you want to visit the inside of the tower you will need a ticket. You can purchase these from a stand in the park before you reach the tower. If you have a Lisboa card, your entry is included.
The best way to reach Belém Tower from Lisbon is to jump on the No 15 tram. It’s a 6 kilometer/3.8 miles trip that takes about twenty minutes. Alternatively, take bus No 12 which runs along Avenida da Liberdade. This stops right by the tower.
While you can’t visit the tower at night, it is lit up and looks quite spectacular in the evening, particularly from the water if you take a sunset cruise. The Tower is closed on Mondays.
Before you head back to Lisbon, make sure you grab a Portuguese tart from Pasteis de Belém near the tram stop.
Tsarevets Fortress, Bulgaria
Contributed by Lyubomira from Bulgarian On The Go.
The fortress of Tsarevets is located in Bulgaria’s old capital and one of the country’s most beautiful cities – Veliko Tarnovo. The fortress stands tall, overlooking the old town and its vertiginous houses, some of which have been built hundreds of years ago.
Life on the hill of Tsarevets can be traced back to 4200 BC and the place has been inhabited throughout the centuries. However, the construction of the fortification began in the mid XII century during the rule of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
When visiting Tsarevets, you will be able to see the wall which has been partially renovated, ruins from the fortress, as well as the church at the very top. It’s strongly recommended to go inside as it doesn’t look like a regular church – the walls are covered in modern art which traces the rise of the political and cultural development of the medieval Bulgarian state. You can also take the elevator at the back of the church (costs 2 BGN or 〜1€) and get to the bell tower, which overlooks the whole city.
There are no organized tours of the fortress and the visit doesn’t follow any particular order, so you’re free to roam around and explore on your own. Make sure you have at least 45 minutes to 1 hour to visit Tsarevets properly and soak in the medieval atmosphere. The regular ticket costs 10 BGN (〜5€), with a reduced rate of 5 BGN (〜2.5€) for students and elderly. If you’re a family with children, make sure to get the family ticket.
Sagres Fortress, Portugal
Contributed by Alya from The Algarve Family.
Sagres Fortress or the Castle of Sagres is situated on a small rocky peninsula near the town of Sagres in the South of Portugal, 6 kilometers/3.8 miles South of Cabo de S.Vicente, the Southwesternmost point of continental Europe. Unlike most fortresses, the Fortress of Sagres has only one fortified wall. From the other three sides, it’s protected by the steep rocky cliffs dropping 20 meters/65.6 feet down to the sea.
The original fortress built in the 15th century was significantly damaged by the earthquake in 1755. The fortress was rebuilt at the end of the 18th century with notable changes and improvements according to the time.
The views of the coast and the sea from the fortress are truly spectacular. The nearby cliffs are a perfect spot for watching the sunset. One can spend a day exploring the fortress and the surrounding area, visiting beautiful beaches, and hiking along the cliffs to Cabo de S.Vicente following the Fishermen’s Trail.
The Summer season between April and October is the best time to visit the Fortress of Sagres. The fortress is open for visitors daily from 9.30 am to 8 pm in Summer, and from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm in Winter. The admission fee is €3.00.
Belogradchik Fortress, Bulgaria
Contributed by Anwar from Beyond my Door.
One of the best preserved fortresses in Bulgaria, Belogradchik Fortress has literally stood the test of time. The original fortress was built by the Romans and later extended by various Bulgarian rulers. The Ottomans continued to expand on the fortress after their conquest and it continued to be used in warfare through the late 19th century.
The town of Belogradchik is famous for its rock formations. Many that can be seen throughout the town as well as in the fortress itself. Quite a few of the rocks have interesting folklore attached to them.
Visiting the fortress is easy, however the location is rather large and does require quite a bit of walking. Good walking shoes and the ability to climb up steps is necessary for the visit.
The town is reachable by bus, train, taxi, or car. The closest train station (Oreshec) is about 10 kilometers/6.2 miles from Belogradchik and buses are infrequent so a private car is the most convenient option if that is available to you.
There are tours available to Belogradchik town and fortress, however they can be quite expensive. Entrance at the fortress is about 6 BGN (3 USD) for those planning to visit independently.
Fort de Roovere, The Netherlands
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Fort de Roovere is in Halsteren near Bergen op Zoom in the South of the Netherlands. Bergen op Zoom is a city in the province of Noord-Brabant.
It’s one of the largest forts on the West-Brabantse waterlinie (Western-Brabantse Water Defense Line). It’s a sconce (schans), an earthen fortification. Fort de Roovere is connected with Fort Pinssen through an earthen wal. It’s open at the back and in the front there are two bastions. It was built in 1628 to protect Bergen op Zoom. It stopped several European armies, first the Spanish, then French and at last Belgium troops. The Dutch intentionally flooded the land through inundation and built forts to protect, Fort de Roovere was one of them.
It was completely renovated in 2010. They’ve built the Mozesbrug (Mozes bridge), a bridge through the water, which brings you on eye level with the water. It’s a modern art work that has won several prices. They added a tower on 2018, the Pompejus, which you can climb for a grand view on the fort and the surroundings. The Pompejus also serves as an open-air theater and an exposition space. They’ve set out several hiking routes on the earthen walls and moaths, from 2 kilometers/1.2 miles to 5 kilometers/3.1 miles.
There’s no entrance fee.
Willemstad, The Netherlands
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Willemstad is a fortified city in the South of the Netherlands. It’s located in the West of the province of Noord-Brabant. Willemstad is one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands. The town was called Ruigenhill at first, but in 1584 renamed Willemstad in honor of the murdered Willem van Oranje.
The fortifications of the city are well preserved and you can walk them (free of charge). Take about an hour for this in your visit. Willemstad is perfect to visualize the battle that was fought here back in time between the Dutch, French and English. Cannonballs can still be seen in the walls.
Willemstad not only still has its city walls preserved of the fortifications, but also star shaped dykes, forts, bunkers, bastions and a magazine fort. Find out all about the history of the wars fought around Willemstad in the Mauritshuis.
There are guided city walks being organised on which you can find out all about how the city walls, bastions and more came to be.
The town was fortified after Steenbergen (a town close by) was sacked in 1583. It gained city rights in 1585. Later on the fortifications were expanded to form a 7 point shaped star. The whole city has been declared a protected townscape in 1970.
Mont Saint Michel, France
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Mont Saint Michel is on the Northern coast in France in Normandy. There are many forts in France, however this is a fortified tidal island. Many people think that Mont Saint Michel is a castle, however that’s incorrect. It’s an abbey. The abbey was built on a conical rock in the Middle Ages. Starting as a smal church in 708. It’s turned into a spectacular abbey and is called La Merveille (the wonder). In famous tourist attractions in France, it’s third after the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles, with over 3.5 million visitors a year. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site since 1979.
Around the abbey a village developed. The tidal island was always of strategic importance, there was already a Roman-Gallo fort in the 6th and 7th century here. During the Hundred Years War it was heavily fortified to held off English assaults. Building of the fortifications started in the 13th century, were finished in the 14th century and expanded in the 15th century.
The island can be visited for free, however if you want to visit the abbey you’ll have to buy an entrance ticket. Take a whole day to explore Mont Saint Michel. Arrive early to have a less crowded visit.
You can reach the tidal island through a wooden pedestrian’s bridge, the Porte de l’avancée. You can’t park your car near the island. There’s a paid parking lot La Bas Pays in Beauvoir, about 2.5 kilometers/1.6 miles away from the island. From here shuttle buses or a horse drawn carriage ride transport you to the island. This takes about 15 minutes. From Beauvoir there’s also a walking path all the way to Le Mont Saint Michel.
That’s the End of Our Roundup of European Fortresses
Hope you’ve found some new ideas for your next European trip!
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