October 31 is not just any old night: it is, of course, the spookiest night of the year. Hunting for a thrilling way to celebrate this ghostly season? Spook yourself out with a visit to one of Europe’s many haunted castles. These are the best ones open to explore – but be warned, you’re in for an unnerving adventure.
Tower of London, England
According to legend, this historic castle overlooking the Thames in central London has the most ghosts of anywhere in England. Built in the era of William I, it’s been a prison, a royal residence, an armoury and a treasure chamber for the crown jewels. Of all its spirits, the most notable is Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife who was beheaded here in 1536. Her ghostly presence is rumoured to have been wandering around the Tower ever since, but she’s not alone. King Henry VI, Prince Edward V and the Duke of York are looming here, too.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
The most famous ghost that inhabits this fortress is the lone piper, an icon of Edinburgh’s history. Legend has it that he was forced to explore the castle’s secret passages and play his bagpipe to help guards create a map. But at some point the bagpipes stopped and the boy was never seen again. Some say his spirit remains trapped under the castle. Some have apparently heard the sombre bagpipes being played.
Bran Castle, Romania
Perhaps better known as Dracula’s castle, this place bears an eerie resemblance to the one described in Bram Stoker’s famous novel. Although this ghoulish castle was never home to Vlad the Impaler, whom the infamous vampire was inspired by, it’s a magnet for lovers of the tale. The fourth floor is only for the boldest adventurers: dare to go this far, and rumour has it there’ll be werewolves and ghosts lurking in the shadows.
Palace of Versailles, France
As well as being one of the world’s most spectacular palaces, Versailles is known for its ghostly inhabitants. The most famous former resident of this palace is – of course – Marie Antoinette. After she was executed at Place de la Concorde in Paris, it’s rumoured her ghost still haunts Petit Trianon, the mansion inside the grounds where she lived during her reign. Some have claimed to hear her gloomy cries and see flashes of light in the building.
National Palace of Mafra, Portugal
A spectacular feat of architecture, this palace is the most important Baroque monument in all of Portugal. The grounds also include a basilica and a convent, and like every great building, it is steeped in myth and ghoulish history. The spirits of the workers who were killed during the Palace’s construction are thought to still roam its corridors, and legend has it that enormous mutant rats scurry around the basement tunnels.
Predjama Castle, Slovenia
This is not only the largest cave castle in the world, but it’s also said to be home to the spirit of Eramos de Predjama, a knight who famously resisted the siege of the Austrian Empire’s troops for over a year. The castle is an indomitable fortress, with a wall of rock over 120 metres high. It’s thought that Predjama was only defeated after he was betrayed by one of his servants, and his ghost looms through the castle, waiting to take revenge.
Liria Palace, Spain
This place is home to the Duke of Alba, and is one of the most extraordinary private residences in Madrid. The museum recently opened to the public and among its precious assets, which include magnificent jewellery and works by El Greco and Goya, is the ghost of Empress Eugenia de Montijo. The wife of Napoleon III died here at the age of 94, and still apparently roams the palace to this day.
Palazzo Vecchio, Italy
Located on Piazza della Signoria, this palace is one of the most popular attractions in Florence, and is the former residence of the Medici family. In addition to its collection of invaluable artworks, it seems that the palace has had a guest of honour ever since 1441. A brave warrior, Baldaccio d’Anghiari, was murdered in one of the Palace’s rooms after being betrayed. His body was thrown out of the window and his corpse was beheaded. He lingers in the shadows awaiting justice, according to legend.
This fairytale-esque castle, located just outside of Amsterdam, has a dark and mysterious history. Legend has it that the ghost of Count Floris V, who ordered the construction of the castle at the end of the thirteenth century, continues to haunt the place after he was allegedly captured, imprisoned and murdered by his friends within the grounds.
Want more ghostly inspiration for Halloween? Check out our list of the 20 most haunted places in the world.
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