10 Wondrously Unusual Castles From Around the World

Whether a fantastic feat of architecture or merely a fancy folly, these curious castles are far from ordinary.

Trosky Castle was built atop volcanic plugs in the Czech Republic.
Trosky Castle was built atop volcanic plugs in the Czech Republic. / Sarka Bejdova/500px/Getty Images
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Thanks to their long and varied histories, castles tend to have a lot of character. There are spooky castles with dark pasts that are supposedly haunted and fairytale-esque European palaces that have inspired Disney films. But there are also a few castles around the world that are a little stranger. Below are 10 castles that break the mold, either because of their unique design or because they’re built in an unusual place.

1. Predjama Castle // Predjama, Slovenia

Predjama Castle
Predjama Castle / JayKay57/E+/Getty Images

In an incredible feat of architecture, Predjama Castle was built directly into the mouth of a cave located halfway up a little over 400-foot (123-meters) cliff face. Although the site dates back to at least the 13th century, the current building was reconstructed during the 16th century. The impressive castle holds the Guinness World Record for the largest cave castle in the world.

Predjama Castle’s highly defendable position and cave system came in handy for the knight Erasmus von Lueg when Habsburg Emperor Frederick III lay siege to the castle in the mid-1480s. Erasmus used a network of secret cave tunnels to bring supplies into the castle. He didn’t survive the whole attack, though; legend says he was killed when a cannonball struck him while he was using the toilet. The cave is only open to visitors in the summer months to ensure that the colony of bats that live there aren’t disturbed while hibernating.

2. Burj Al Babas // Mudurnu, Turkey

Burj Al Babas
Burj Al Babas / Chris McGrath/Getty Images News

Burj Al Babas isn’t just one castle: It’s a luxury housing development where the properties are designed to look like miniature châteaux. But far from being a Disney dream, Burj Al Babas sits as an eerie ghost town after the project developer declared bankruptcy in 2019 and abandoned the site. At the time, 587 of the 732 three-story castles had been built—complete with fairytale turrets and ornate balconies—before progress was halted. Unfortunately, 350 of them had already been sold, going for between $370,000 and $530,000.

3. Kelburn Castle // Largs, Scotland

Kelburn Castle
Kelburn Castle / Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images News

When viewed from some sides, Kelburn Castle looks like a typical Scottish castle. But on the building’s south side, the stone tower, walls, and turrets are covered in bright, cartoon-style graffiti. The castle’s graffiti isn’t the work of vandals, but of four Brazilian artists—Nina Pandolfo, Nunca, and the Os Gêmeos twins—who were invited to decorate the walls.

When the castle’s owner, the Earl of Glasgow, found out in 2007 that he would have to replace the exterior cement facade of the castle, his children asked him to first paint the walls with fun artwork. The graffiti, which took 1500 cans of spray paint to create, was supposed to stay up for just a few years; it proved hugely popular and remains to this day.

4. Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins // Camdenton, Missouri

Ha Ha Tonka State Park features the expected natural beauty of any American state park, but it also includes the unexpected ruins of a castle. In 1905, businessman Robert Snyder employed Scottish stonemasons to build a castle overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks. Snyder died in a car crash just one year later. His sons eventually took over the project and completed the castle in 1920; they later turned it into a hotel in 1935. The building then caught fire in 1942, reducing it to the crumbling ruin that visitors to the state park can now explore today.

5. Le Palais Idéal // Hauterives, France

Le Palais Idéal
Le Palais Idéal / INDIGO WOLFSBANE, Flickr // Public Domain

Le Palais Idéal is a surreal architectural oddity built by just one person: a postman named Joseph Ferdinand Cheval. The story goes that Cheval tripped over a strange but beautiful rock while doing his rounds, which inspired him to gather up other stones and build a castle, something he had long dreamed of doing. “I said to myself: since Nature wants to do sculpture, I will do masonry and architecture,” he recounted. Working alone, it took him 33 years to complete his vision. He finally completed the castle in 1912.

Although reminiscent of the work of Antoni Gaudí—whose most famous building is La Sagrada Família in Barcelona—the palace has many unique touches. For instance, there are scaled down recreations of buildings, such as a Hindu temple, set into niches. In 1969, Cheval’s creation was declared a historic building by André Malraux, the Minister of Culture, and restoration work is regularly carried out to ensure his vision endures.

6. The Swallow’s Nest // Gaspra, Crimea

The Swallow's Nest
The Swallow's Nest / Vian, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

It’s fairly common for castles to be built near the edge of a cliff, but few look so precarious as The Swallow’s Nest in Crimea, which protrudes out over the Black Sea. The foundation of this relatively small castle—it measures just 66 feet (20 meters) in length and 33 feet (10 meters) in width—terrifyingly extends beyond the edge of the craggy 131-foot-high (40 meters) cliff. It was once merely a wooden structure, and the current stone building, which dates back to 1911, now houses a restaurant.

7. Trosky Castle // Troskovice, Czech Republic

Trosky Castle
Trosky Castle / imageBROKER/Michael Runkel/Getty Images

Sitting on top of two volcanic plugs in the Czech Republic is Trosky Castle, which dates back to the end of the 14th century. Along with the towers atop each summit, the castle is also built on the ridge that connects the peaks. The lower tower is known as Baba (Old Woman/The Crone), while the taller one is called Panna (Virgin/The Maiden). After its heyday as a highly defendable stronghold during wartime, the castle was largely abandoned—except for some well-intentioned, but ultimately damaging, renovations done during the 19th century that caused the structure to deteriorate a bit. The Czech government took control of the site in 1925 and what remains of its walls are now carefully maintained.

8. Castillo Mundo King // Sosúa, Dominican Republic

In 1993, eccentric artist Rolf Schultz moved from Germany to the Dominican Republic with a singular goal: to build a castle that would attract alien life to Earth. “The alien space fleets will not come for small things,” he explained in the 2019 documentary about his life and art, The Mundo King. Schultz, who died the year before the documentary came out, had dedicated the rest of his life to building the five-story castle perched on a hill above the small town of Sosúa.

That Castillo Mundo King isn’t like other castles is clear from its twisting exterior, but the interior takes things even further, being filled with bizarre murals and sculptures, some of which were created by Haitian and Dominican artists. As would be expected, some of the artwork is alien-themed, such as the row of large cast-iron flying saucers.

9. The Hermit’s Castle // Achmelvich, Scotland

What’s said to be the smallest castle in Europe, known as the Hermit’s Castle, stands just a little taller than a person. A man named David Scott built it on the north-west coast of Scotland in 1950. Mystery shrouds the tiny building—the story goes that Scott spent six months singlehandedly building his concrete castle, only to spend one weekend in the completed structure before abandoning it. Whatever the story may be, it no longer has a door, so visitors can freely explore the one-room folly.

10. Taj Lake Palace // Udaipur, India

Taj Lake Palace
Taj Lake Palace / Wittawat Chongnimitsataporn/Moment/Getty Images

Taj Lake Palace is a royal residence-turned-hotel that looks as though it’s magically floating on Lake Pichola. The white marble building was constructed in the mid-18th century as a summer home for the Mewar Royal family. In 1963, the palace was converted into a luxury hotel, and in 1983, it made a grand appearance in the James Bond film Octopussy.