8 Oldest Castles in the World

Castles are a staple of world history, particularly European history, as several of them still stand today. The earliest parts of these ancient castles were built as fortresses to protect the area’s people against invading armies. In most cases, the grand stone structures that exist today, were constructed after the initial fortress or smaller castle was built. All of these castles have received extensive repair work throughout the centuries and most of them are open to the public today as tourist attractions.

8. Killyleagh Castle

 Year Established: 1180
Location:  Killyleagh, Northern Ireland
 Still Standing: Yes

Killyleagh_Castlephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Killyleagh Castle is the main attraction in the small village of Killyleagh in Northern Ireland. The oldest parts of the castle date back to 1180 and it is believed to be the oldest castle in the country. King James I gave the land the castle sits on to James Hamilton, who later became the 1st Viscount Claneboye – he built a single towered castle and courtyard walls.

Since 1625, Killyleagh Castle has been the home of the Hamilton family. In 1666, James Hamilton’s son, Henry Hamilton rebuilt the castle, adding another tower and built the long fortified wall in front of the castle. His castle is what still stands today.


7. Alcázar of Segovia

 Year Established: c. early 12th century
Location:  Segovia, Spain
 Still Standing: Yes

Alcázar of Segoviaphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Alcázar of Segovia was originally an Arab fortress built atop the remains of a Roman fort. The earliest written records mentioning the castle date back to around 1120 after the city was reconquered by King Alfonso VI. Under the reign of King Alfonso VIII and his wife Eleanor of England, the castle became their primary residence and they began the construction of the castle as it exists today.

The castle remained one of the most important fortresses for the monarchs of Castile until they moved the capital to Madrid. In 1882, the castle was slowly restored to its original state and in 1896, King Alfonso XIII gave the castle to the Ministry of War to use as a military college.


6. Rochester Castle

 Year Established: late 1080s
Location:  Rochester, Kent, South East England
 Still Standing: Yes

Rochester Castlephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Rochester Castle was built sometime in the late 1080s after William II asked Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester to build a stone castle in Rochester so he could take command of an important river crossing. This stone castle is one of the earliest of its type in England, as many of the country’s early castles were initially built of motte and bailey.

In 1127, the Archbishop of Cantebury began building the castle’s great keep, which is one of the best preserved in England or France as well as the tallest such building to survive in Europe. The castle was repaired during the 19th and 20th centuries and today is open to the public under the guardianship of English Heritage.


5. Hohensalzburg Castle

 Year Established: 1077
Location:  Salzburg, Austria
 Still Standing: Yes

Hohensalzburg Castlephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The initial fortress of Hohensalzbug Castle was built in 1077 by Gebhard I of Helffenstein, who was the archbishop at the time. Although Archbishop Gebhard was forced into exile, his successors completed the fortress. During the reign of the Holy Roman Empire, the archbishops of Salzburg continued to expand the castle to protect their power and interests. Around 1500, Archbishop Leonard von Keutschach completed the fortress as it looks today.

Although the castle was built as a fortress, it only came under siege once during the German Peasants’ War in 1525. The castle was refurbished during the late 19th century and has remained as a popular tourist attraction since then.


4. Windsor Castle

 Year Established: 1070
Location:  Windsor, Berkshire, England
 Still Standing: Yes

Windsor Castlephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although there was a royal residence at Windsor during the Saxon times, around the 9th century, construction of the first castle began sometime around 1070 after the Norman Invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Since the reign of King Henry I, Windsor castle has been used by England’s reigning monarch, which makes it the longest-occupied palace in Europe.

The original castle was built of motte and bailey, but was gradually replaced with stone fortifications. When Henry III came into power, he built a luxurious royal palace within the castle and Edward III rebuilt the palace to make it even grander. Windsor Castle is still owned by the English royal family and is a popular tourist attraction.


3. Warwick Castle

 Year Established: 1068
Location:  Warwickshire, England
 Still Standing: Yes

Warwick Castlephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The first castle to be built on the site of Warwick Castle was constructed in 1068 by William the Conquerer. Beginning around 1260, the castle was gradually rebuilt in stone by each successive Earl of Warwick. Over the next century, various Earls of Warwick added onto the original structure and in 1350, Caesar’s Tower and Dungeon was constructed followed by Guy’s Tower in 1395.

Warwick Castle fell into disrepair during the 16th century and did not undergo repairs until the early 17th century. In 1978, the Greville family who had owned the castle for over 374, sold it to the Tussauds Group (a media and entertainment company) for £1.3 million ($1.7 million), who extensively restored the castle and grounds.


2. Reichsburg Cochem

 Year Established: 1000
Location:  Cochem, Germany
 Still Standing: Yes

Reichsburg Cochem photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Reichsburg Cochem or Cochem Castle is one of the oldest castles in the world. It is believed that the castle was first built around the year 1000 by the Palatinate count Ezzo. The earliest documentation of the castle dates back to 1051 when Richeza, Ezzo’s oldest daughter and former Queen of Poland, gave the castle to her nephew Palatine count Henry I.

In 1151, the castle officially became an Imperial castle after King Konrad III occupied the castle by force. It was partially destroyed in 1688 by French King Louis XIV’s troops, but was restored in the Gothic Revival style businessman Louis Fréderic Jacques Ravené in 1868. Since 1978, the castle has been owned by the town of Cochem and is administered by a company named Reichsburg GmbH.


1. Citadel of Aleppo

 Year Established: c.3000 BCE
Location:  Aleppo, Syria
 Still Standing: Partially; greatly damaged in the Syrian Civil War

Citadel of Aleppo photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Citadel of Aleppo is one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. The castle sits atop a hill in the Ancient City of Aleppo, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back to at least the 3000 BCE, but the majority of the current structure was probably built during the Ayuubid dynasty sometime during the 12th century.

During the early 2000s the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with the Aleppo Archaeological Society performed extensive conservation work on the citadel. Unfortunately in recent years, the citadel has been severely damaged in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.

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