Belvedere Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 22 must-see castles in America

Feel like you're in Europe by paying a visit to these spectacular castles that are right here in America.

Scott Snowden

When you think of a towering castle, perhaps you think of medieval Europe. Of Downton Abbey and the seasons of drama. Of corsets and carriage rides and scandalous goings-on. And yet, you don't need to cross the Atlantic for a taste of that aristocratic life. America is home to its own roster of magical, jaw-dropping castles, and one worth visiting is likely no more than a road trip away. 

So trade your Netflix queue and become your own Lady Whistledown as you explore these grand castles, complete with sprawling grounds, lavish ballrooms, and hidden passages. These fairytale sites are worth a detour from iconic must-visit estates, like the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina and California's famous Hearst Castle. Take in the opulent decor, stunning architecture, and stories of a bygone era of wealth and glamor.

The most beautiful train stations in the U.S.
The most famous buildings and monuments in the U.S.

Beautiful castles in the U.S.

1. The Breakers | Newport, RI

Though this late 19th-century Vanderbilt family mansion stands in a part of Rhode Island that is chock full of grand mansions, The Breakers still soars above the rest. Designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt, the 125,339 sq ft, 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo was inspired by the 16th-century palaces of Genoa and Turi. The elegant and extravagant home is situated on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the most visited house museums in the U.S.

2. Biltmore Estate | Asheville, NC

Built by George Vanderbilt in the late 19th century as a country home in the idyllic Blue Ridge Mountains, the Biltmore Estate is America’s biggest private residence. The extravagant home is filled with 16th-century tapestries, a banquet hall with 70ft-tall ceilings and a library boasting over 10,000 books. The lush grounds, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead of Central Park fame, are glorious in the warm months.


3. Loveland Castle | Loveland, OH

This stone castle was built by one very remarkable man, Harry Delos Andrews. Andrews served as a medic during World War I where he became sick with meningitis and was declared dead prematurely. By the time word got back to America, six months later, that he was alive, his fiancée had already married someone else. Andrew took off on a grand tour of Europe and explored many castles. He eventually became a boy scout troop leader of a squad called the Knights of the Golden Trail, and frequently camped at a secluded part of the Little Miami River in Ohio. Andrews built stone tents to keep their camping gear and supplies by the creek safe and dry. The structures became a full-blown medieval castle—Loveland Castle. Now, troops can still spend the night on the premises while visitors can tour the property while admiring a collection of swords and other old weapons.

4. Hearst Castle | San Simeon, CA

Easily the country’s most famous castle, this National Landmark took decades to be built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morga. Hearst had grand ambitions for his retreat, La Cuesta Encantada (Enchanted Hill), which was built on his family’s expansive ranchland. Situated almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the scenic Pacific coast, Hearst Castle is a popular stop for roadtrippers. Visitors can check out the 165-room estate, 123 acres of gardens full of exotic flowers, the ornate pools and Hearst’s legendary art collection.


5. Boldt Castle | Alexandria, NY

This extraordinary summer dream home is on Heart Island, part of New York’s famed Thousand Islands. Construction on this six-story private home began in 1900 by hotel magnate George C. Boldt as a gift to his wife but was halted four years later when his beloved died. Boldt never returned to the premises, and the unfinished castle fell into disarray until the Thousand Island Bridge Authority bought the island in 1977 for $1. Boldt Castle and its nearby yacht house have since been completed and can be visited during the warm months.

6. Grey Towers Castle | Glenside, PA

Just outside of Philadelphia is the large, 40-room, late-19th century Grey Towers Castle, which was built using limestone and greystone to resemble the famous Alnwick Castle in England. The structure was the home of sugar magnate William Welsh Harrison and includes an extravagant-looking ballroom and dining hall. Today, it is part of the Arcadia University campus and is used as an administrative office and a space to host college events.


7. Belvedere Castle | New York, NY

Designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, Belvedere Castle in the middle of Central Park was originally meant to be purely ornamental but, over the past century, it has become a weather tower. Visitors worldwide climb the castle's stairs daily, admiring the view of Central Park, including Turtle Pond and the Delacorte Theater. 

8. Fonthill Castle | Doylestown, PE

Built in the early 1900s by Henry Chapman Mercer—an archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramist, scholar and antiquarian—Fonthill Castle functioned as Mercer’s home and showplace for his many artifacts. He referred to the unique structure as his "Castle for the New World." It is built out of concrete and includes quite a hodgepodge of building traditions (Medieval, Gothic and Byzantine). Upon his death, the massive structure was turned into a museum showcasing Mercer’s collection of tiles and prints. 


9. Castle in the Clouds | Moultonborough, NH

While certainly not the biggest castle in the country, this beautiful example of arts and crafts-style architecture is nonetheless a sight to behold. Built on the top of Ossipee Mountain by millionaire Tom Plant in 1918, Castle in the Clouds offers great views of the surrounding natural landscape, including Lake Winnipesaukee. Visitors take a trolley up the mountain to reach the premises.

10. Gillette Castle | East Haddam, CT

Stage actor, playwright, and director William Gillette originally built Gillette Castle towering over the Connecticut River as his private residence in 1919. Designed to look like Medieval ruins, the castle boasts thousands of refinements created by local craftsmen, including 47 unique doors (no two within the structure are the same), light switches carved of wood, built-in couches and, perhaps most strangely, a series of hidden mirrors that allowed Gillette to spy on visitors from the master bedroom. Upon his death, the state of Connecticut took over the property in 1943 and turned it into a state park.


11. Castello di Amorosa | Calistoga, CA

This Napa Valley winery was built to resemble a 13th-century Tuscan castle. Castello di Amorosa visitors can appreciate the architecture, including fun details like a drawbridge and moat, and beautiful scenery while on a tasting tour. Various tours include access to the vineyard’s two levels and samples of five or more wines. Cheese and food pairings are also available. Do note, though, that reservations are required to enter the grounds.

12. Bannerman Castle | Pollepel Island, NY

Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman built this abandoned castle in the Hudson River Valley near Cold Spring on the uninhabited Pollepel island in 1901. Bannerman owned a military surplus supply company but his Brooklyn store could not hold his entire arsenal, so he decided to design a replica of the castles like those in his homeland to store the extra ammunition. After 200 tons of shells exploded in 1920, the castle was left partially in ruins. Visitors can see the outside of Bannerman Castle up close (it’s dangerous to walk inside) by taking a passenger boat around the island or by traveling on a tour by canoe or kayak.


13. Thornewood Castle | Lakewood, WA

A hundred years ago, a 400-year-old English Tudor was shipped all the way from Great Britain to the Pacific Northwest. The original gothic mansion was bought by Chester Thorne as a gift to his bride and rebuilt brick by brick under the supervision of architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter at a scenic location just a short trip from Tacoma, Washington. The mansion has a beautiful 'sunken garden' designed by the Olmstead brothers that can be seen through gorgeous stained glass windows. Today, Thronewood Castle operates as a bed and breakfast and event venue.

14. Lyndhurst Mansion | Tarrytown, NY

Built in 1838, Lyndhurst is one of America’s greatest Gothic Revival mansions. The architecture and design details (narrow halls, intricate woodwork, peaked, vaulted ceilings) make the home romantic and gloomy, befitting a 19th-century gothic romance like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. The mansion houses a large collection of antiques and furniture and boasts a stunning view of the Hudson River alongside well-manicured grounds.


15. Bishop’s Palace | Galveston, TX

Bishop's Palace, known locally as Gresham Castle, is a late 19th-century home designed by the Gresham family. The four-story, 19,082-square-foot house includes French revival elements, a complex roof and exotic building materials. The rooms are very grand and sturdy (the house withstood the devastating Great Hurricane of 1900).

16. Coral Castle | Miami, FL

Dubbed one of the world’s most "mysterious accomplishments," Coral Castle was crafted single-handedly by Edward Leedskalnin, an eccentric self-taught engineer and sculptor. Among the jaw-dropping structural features is a two-story tower where Leedskalnin lived, an accurate sundial and celestial stars and plates and eclectic furniture, including a table shaped like the state of Florida and another heart-shaped one. 


17. Hammond Castle | Gloucester, MA

Though this stone castle might look like it’s straight out of medieval Europe, it was actually built in the 1920s by inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. to serve as his home, laboratory and gallery for his sizable collection of Roman, Medieval and Renaissance artifacts and antiquities. Today, you can see the collection and check out exhibits about the former homeowner's life and inventions as you tour Hammond Castle, including the guest bedrooms, war room and manicured grounds.

18. Iolani Palace | Honolulu, HI

The only official royal residence in the United States, Iolani Palace was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, one of the last monarchs of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The monarchy was overthrown 10 years later, but the palace remains and has since been restored to its original grandeur with meticulously replicated furnishings and artifacts and made into a National Historic Landmark.


19. Castle Farms | Charlevoix, MI

Built in 1918 by Sears executive Albert Loeb, this elegant farm was designed to replicate the stone castles of Normandy, France. Originally a working dairy farm open to the public for browsing farming equipment sold through the Sears catalog, Castle Farms has since been used as a rock music venue and is currently a World War I museum. Visit and take a self-guided tour of the gardens, hop on a coach ride or ride around the ground on a train.

20. Castle Williams | New York, NY

Originally constructed to fend off naval attacks in the early 1800s, the red-sandstone, circular fortress that is Castle Williams still sits on Governor's Island in New York Harbor. At the time, it served as a model for "new forms of coastal fortification." Over the years, the structure has served various purposes (including a prison during and following the Civil War); today, it is managed by the National Park Service, which opened it to the public for the first time in 2011, exactly 200 years after it was completed.


21. Singer Castle on Dark Island | St. Lawrence County, NY

In the early 1900s, this granite behemoth was being built at a prime moment in New York castle history as the Boldt Castle rose just down the St. Lawrence River. When the Boldt Castle construction was halted, businessman Frederick Bourne hired the laid-off workers to complete his island hunting retreat. (Singer Castle earns its name from Bourne's role as the fifth president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.) The four-story, Scottish-inspired castle is made of granite and is complete with an ornate boathouse.

22. The Kentucky Castle | Versailles, KY

Kentuckian Rex Martin and his wife were inspired by the castles they saw on a trip to Europe and decided to build a Versaille-inspired retreat in their home state, breaking ground in 1969. But six years later, the couple divorced and construction halted. After several decades of sitting vacant, Martin's death facilitated the sale of the property, and renovations began; today, the now-named Kentucky Castle is home to a hotel complete with a farm-to-table restaurant and event center open to the public.

    You may also like
    You may also like