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When you think of castles, what comes to mind? Fortresses in Europe? Palaces in Asia? Castles are buildings with history (and, often, royal residents), so you’re unlikely to find a “real” one in a country as young as the United States. But don’t worry – that hasn’t stopped architecture buffs from pouring their love of turrets, arches, and even drawbridges into passion projects.
If you’re looking for a pretty castle in the US, you’re in luck. From centuries-old fortresses to grand estates to tragically beautiful ruins, castles of different shapes and forms are scattered throughout the country. We’ve compiled a list of 15 of the greatest castles in the US to help you get your fix.
- 1 1. Hearst Castle
- 2 2. Bacon’s Castle
- 3 3. Thornewood Castle
- 4 4. Bannerman Castle
- 5 5. Biltmore Estate
- 6 6. Bishop’s Palace
- 7 7. Fonthill Castle
- 8 8. The Breakers
- 9 9. Castillo de San Marcos
- 10 10. Iolani Palace
- 11 11. The Kentucky Castle
- 12 12. Hammond Castle
- 13 13. Singer Castle
- 14 14. Gillette Castle
- 15 15. Castello di Amorosa
- 16 16. Boldt Castle
- 17 17. Lyndhurst
- 18 18. Smithsonian Institution Building
- 19 19. Belvedere Castle
- 20 20. Castle in the Clouds
1. Hearst Castle
The Golden State has its fair share of palatial estates, but if you can only visit one castle in California, consider Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Built between 1919 and 1947, Hearst Castle was the home and vision of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who named his property La Cuesta Encantada, meaning the enchanted hill in Spanish. The name is an apt one – the castle sits on a slope with a stunning view of the surrounding hills, and the elaborate design of the property retains a fantastical feel.
Hearst and his architect, Julia Morgan, drew from various influences to achieve the castle’s look, including Spanish Renaissance and Mediterranean Revival styles. Today, the castle functions as a museum and offers a variety of tours that explore areas such as the grand rooms, upstairs suites, and even the cottages and kitchen.
2. Bacon’s Castle
This castle in Virginia may look more like a house than a castle, but the building boasts more history than all of the other entries on this list. Constructed in 1665, Bacon’s Castle is one of the oldest brick dwellings in North America. Located in the town of Surry near the James River, the stately structure was built by Arthur Allen as a family home, but its fame stems from its occupation by followers of Nathanial Bacon for a few months in 1676 during Bacon’s Rebellion. The house was nicknamed Bacon’s Castle, and the moniker stuck.
Bacon’s Castle is a rare example of Jacobean architecture in the US. Other notable aspects of the property include a slave dwelling built in 1830 and a reconstructed 17th-century English garden. Both interior and exterior guided tours are available to the public.
3. Thornewood Castle
Have you ever wished you could live in a castle? That fantasy is probably out of reach, but getting to stay in one as a guest could be the next best thing. And the good news is that a number of castle hotels in the United States are ready to help you live out your dreams of lounging like royalty. If you crave authenticity, Thornewood Castle in Lakewood, Washington, may be the best option for you.
In 1907, Chester Thorne purchased a 400-year-old manor in England before having it dismantled and shipped in pieces to the United States as a gift for his wife. The next few years were spent reassembling the mansion, which displays enchanting Tudor and Gothic architectural styles. A variety of rooms and suites are available, many of which boast luxuries like fireplaces and soaking tubs.
4. Bannerman Castle
Castles can take many forms. Some are fortresses, some are opulent estates, and others are crumbling ruins. Bannerman Castle falls into the last category. Located on the tiny Pollepel Island in the Hudson River in New York, Bannerman Castle was built by Francis Bannerman beginning in 1901. In actuality, the structure served as a safe storage space for Bannerman’s business, which sold military surplus goods. Bannerman, a Scotsman, designed the warehouse’s appearance as a nod to his heritage.
Bannerman died in 1918, and the castle’s construction was never finished. A series of accidents devastated the storage space over the years, leaving it in its current condition. Today, the property is protected by a trust that welcomes visitors through tours and events, including live music, movie nights, and farm-to-table dinners on the island.
5. Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, isn’t technically a castle, but it is the largest privately owned house in the US and an undeniably grand example of a Gilded Age mansion. The main house was built for George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, and the estate has been a major tourism attraction for decades.
The property offers a wide variety of tours, from guided small-group excursions to self-guided garden visits to behind-the-scenes looks at the estate’s winery. Biltmore is known for its special celebrations at Christmastime as well as its myriad wedding venue options. Overnight guests can choose from cottages and two hotels on the estate, which encompasses some 8,000 acres of outdoor space. Open-air activities include hiking, biking, fishing, falconry, and carriage rides.
6. Bishop’s Palace
One of the most beautiful castles in the United States might also be one of the strongest. Completed in 1892, the Bishop’s Palace in Galveston, Texas, was constructed primarily of stone that proved strong enough to withstand the 1900 hurricane that devastated much of the island. The mansion became the Bishop’s Palace after the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston bought the property in 1923; originally, the house belonged to the Gresham family.
Also known as Gresham’s Castle, the mansion is a stunning example of the late Victorian style and has been deemed one of the 100 most important buildings in the country by the American Institute of Architects. Self-guided tours with audio narration are available, as well as special Basement to Attic tours, which take visitors to parts of the house that are typically off-limits.
7. Fonthill Castle
Henry Chapman Mercer was a noted ceramist, archaeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian. It’s no surprise that this artist and scholar would want to live somewhere beautiful. Mercer’s solution was to build his own home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and though it’s not technically a castle, the structure’s size and design has led to its widely used moniker, Fonthill Castle. Built from 1908 to 1912, the castle is architecturally significant for its early use of poured reinforced concrete.
Today, Fonthill Castle operates as a museum. One-hour guided tours of part of the castle are available, but don’t worry – even a partial tour of the house treats visitors to some fascinating sights. The castle, which has 44 rooms, 18 fireplaces, and more than 200 windows, is decorated with Mercer’s own handcrafted ceramic tiles. The house’s stunning architectural blend of Byzantine and Gothic styles draws more than 30,000 visitors every year.
8. The Breakers
When you hear the word cottage, you’re unlikely to think of an estate whose grandeur could rival that of European castles. However, for the wealthy families who rose to prominence in the US during the Gilded Age, summer cottage was the preferred term for certain opulent mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. One of the most-visited of these cottages is called the Breakers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Breakers was commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II as a summer home for his family.
Built between 1892 and 1895, the Breakers has 70 rooms and was designed to mimic the architectural style of 16th-century Italian palaces. The house and grounds are open to the public for self-guided visits via an audio tour app. A separate, whimsical audio tour is available for children under 13.
9. Castillo de San Marcos
The word castle doesn’t just signify a lavish, palatial residence; traditionally, a castle is a large fortress that protects its residents from invasion. While fortresses may conjure up visions of mighty medieval structures, you don’t have to leave the US to find one with hundreds of years of history. Located in St. Augustine, Florida, the Castillo de San Marcos was constructed over several years beginning in 1672, and today it’s the oldest extant masonry fortification in the country.
Now a national monument, the Castillo de San Marcos was built by the Spanish in order to defend Florida and the Atlantic trade route. The fort is a popular tourist attraction today, and visitors can experience the site in numerous ways. Tours and historic weapon demonstrations are available, and rangers and volunteers in period costume are happy to educate and interact with guests.
10. Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace is unique among castles in the USA for being the only palace in the country that has served as a royal residence. Located in Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Iolani Palace was built between 1879 and 1882 and was the official home of King Kalakaua and his sister and heir, Queen Liliuokalani. After the monarchy was overthrown in 1893, the palace became headquarters for the provisional government until 1969.
Iolani Palace was restored in the 1970s before opening to the public as a museum. The palace has a unique design style known as American Florentine, which combines elements of Italian Renaissance architecture and Hawaiian architecture. A variety of tours are available, including specialty tours such the White Glove Tour and a tour that explores Hawaii’s royal connection to Japan.
11. The Kentucky Castle
Would you expect to find a sprawling stone castle in the middle of Kentucky? The Kentucky Castle, aptly located in a city called Versailles, hasn’t been around for very long, but its lack of history hasn’t prevented the property from providing a sumptuous experience to guests. The castle’s original owners began construction in 1969 after being inspired by European architecture while on a trip. Ownership changed hands several times over the years, but the castle was recently renovated into a boutique hotel.
Guided tours are available, but the best way to see the Kentucky Castle is to book an overnight stay. As well as elegant rooms and opulent furnishings, the castle property boasts an acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant that sources food from the on-site farms and gardens. The Kentucky Castle Spa has a sauna, cryotherapy chamber, reiki treatments, and more.
12. Hammond Castle
Castles throughout history have been built to defend territories and house royal leaders. Often, castles in America are conceived by individuals, visionaries who were inspired to create impressive structures where they could live and work. Scientist and inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. was one such individual, and the castle he designed on the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts, is a testament to his genius.
Hammond was a well-traveled connoisseur of European art and architecture, and he designed his castle to appear medieval in style while also incorporating features that he himself invented. The castle was constructed from 1926 to 1929 and served as Hammond’s home and laboratory during his life. Today, Hammond Castle operates as a museum. Hammond was an avid collector and left behind a large collection of art and artifacts. Both self-guided and guided tours are available, as are weekly spiritualism and candlelight tours.
13. Singer Castle
One of the best parts about visiting a castle is being able to imagine what it must have felt like to live in such a grand abode. Singer Castle in Chippewa Bay, New York, doesn’t quite have a moat and drawbridge, but it is situated on its own island in the St. Lawrence River, so the scenery is unquestionably picturesque. The castle was commissioned by Frederick Gilbert Bourne in 1903 and named after the sewing machine manufacturing company where Bourne was president.
Singer Castle accommodates group tours and events, but the real draw is the castle’s Royal Suite experience. Visitors who book this package have exclusive access to an entire wing of the castle in addition to a private tour and catered dinner. With 28 rooms and seven acres of Dark Island to explore, guests are bound to feel at least a little royal.
14. Gillette Castle
Located in East Haddam, Connecticut, and situated high on a hill on the shore of the Connecticut River is Gillette Castle, the former residence of William Gillette. Gillette was an actor, playwright, and stage manager, perhaps best known for his onstage portrayal of Sherlock Holmes around the turn of the century. Today, the 184-acre estate the castle sits on is a designated state park and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Connecticut.
Gillette’s eccentric personal touches can be seen throughout the building, whose exterior was designed to resemble a medieval castle. Its distinctive features include a large number of unique doors and wooden locks, carved wooden light switches, a water tower, and built-in couches. Tours of the castle are available year-round, and visitors are also welcome to take advantage of the park’s hiking trails and picnic spots.
15. Castello di Amorosa
Centuries-old castles can be beautiful, exciting, and educational, but the passage of time invariably leads to damage, whether it be normal wear and tear or significant devastation due to an accident or weather event. If you want to experience the authentic style of a medieval castle without tiptoeing around a fragile property, consider a destination like the Castello di Amorosa. Opened in 2007, this castle winery is fully ADA compliant, unlike most older castles.
Winemaker Dario Sattui’s passion for 13th-century Tuscan architecture is on clear display at the Castello di Amorosa. Sattui’s vision of authenticity required the use of handmade materials and construction methods from hundreds of years ago. The impressive final result includes a moat and drawbridge, defensive ramparts, towers, stables, a chapel, an armory, and 107 distinct rooms. Several tour and tasting options are available to visitors, including those who wish to abstain from drinking alcohol.
16. Boldt Castle
The St. Lawrence River, which serves as the border between northern New York and Canada, is dotted with more than 1,500 small islands known as the Thousand Islands. One of these tiny pieces of land is Heart Island, the setting for Boldt Castle. Accessible only by boat between May and October, Boldt Castle is an impressive example of a castle with extensive restoration work.
Hotelier and millionaire George Boldt wanted to build a large, Rhineland-style castle as a gift for his wife. Construction began in 1900, but the project was abandoned in 1904 when Boldt’s wife died. Boldt never returned to the island, and the castle fell victim to the elements and vandalism for the next 70 years. It has since been lovingly restored, and today the castle is a big tourist draw. Notable features include an elaborate ballroom and a grand hallway with a stained-glass dome.
This mansion situated on the east bank of the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York, may not technically be a castle, but its Gothic Revival style and 67-acre estate are grand enough to rival the real thing. Designed in 1838, Lyndhurst was initially built as a country villa for William S. Paulding Jr. The building’s asymmetrical layout and distinctive turrets led critics to label it “Paulding’s Folly.” The home was expanded and redecorated by subsequent owners before opening to the public as a historic site and museum in 1965.
The property offers a variety of tours for visitors, as well as a daily grounds pass from May to November. The Classic Mansion Tour and the Backstairs Tour explore the history of the house, its residents, and the people who worked there. Special events such as theatrical performances and holiday-themed tours are scheduled on a seasonal basis.
18. Smithsonian Institution Building
A castle in the US is a rare sight in itself; a castle in Washington, DC, is downright surprising. Who would expect to find something akin to a royal residence just a few blocks away from the White House? And yet it’s not uncommon to hear people mention “the Castle” near the National Mall. The castle they’re referring to is the Smithsonian Institution Building, a stately structure made of red Maryland sandstone.
Completed in 1855, this castle was the Smithsonian Institution’s first structure and remains its signature building to this day. The castle’s elegant, Neo-Gothic architecture originally housed a natural history collection, gallery, laboratory, and more. Today, the castle is home to the Smithsonian Visitor Center, complete with high-tech, interactive tools to help visitors plan their tour of the institution.
19. Belvedere Castle
If you’ve ever been to New York City’s iconic Central Park, you’ve probably noticed a small castle sitting atop a dramatic rock overlooking a pond. This is Belvedere Castle, situated on Vista Rock, the second-highest natural point in the park. Completed in 1872, Belvedere Castle was initially constructed as a folly, designed to be a focal point in the park as well as a lookout point for visitors to enjoy the surrounding view.
Over the years, the castle has served several different purposes. In 1919, the folly was turned into a weather station. The weather service left in the 1960s, and the castle fell victim to vandalism and disrepair. An extensive restoration was completed in 2019, and today the castle houses a gift shop and visitor center. Belvedere’s elegant mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles continues to be a popular tourist draw.
20. Castle in the Clouds
Born in 1859, Thomas Gustave Plant was an industrious man who rose through the ranks until he eventually owned the largest shoe factory in the world. Like many men of means, Plant dedicated a portion of his fortune to creating a comfortable home for himself and his family. The 6,300-acre estate was named Lucknow, built from 1913 to 1914 in Moultonborough, New Hampshire.
A subsequent owner changed the property’s name to Castle in the Clouds, a nod to its mountaintop location, and opened it to the public. The house still bears the name today, and the estate has a wide variety of activities, from dining to hiking trails to skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. The mansion itself offers tours to enlighten visitors about the home’s history and Arts and Crafts architecture style.
You may not be able to climb up a medieval tower or try to sneak a peek at some royals through a palace window anywhere in the US, but you don’t really need to in order to get that awe-inspiring feeling that a castle can evoke. The US delivers with sprawling historic estates and properties built by people who love old castles enough to recreate one at home.