From old Crusader citadels above the shimmering blue waters of the Turkish Riviera to a haunting Château on the rocks of the French coast, this list of castles to see around the Med is one to keep handy on the LBW Yachtlife.
Bodrum Castle, Turkey
Bodrum Castle can be found shouldering its way above the bobbing yacht sails and the sparkling blue harbor waters of everyone's favorite sailing town on the Turkish Riviera. A formidable medley of crenulated walls and battlements that date all the way back to the 15th century, it was built by the crusading Knights Hospitaller, who raised the great citadel to fight off the onslaught of the Mongol Horde. Today, the outline of the castle is one of our favorite sights - it marks the start of our Yachtlife Med tours, after all!
Kyrenia Castle, Cyprus
Kyrenia Castle is hidden up on the less-trodden north coast of Cyprus. Far away from the shimmering tourist beaches and throbbing bars of Ayia Napa and Paphos, it's a showcase of the rich European histories that have unfolded in this corner of the Mediterranean. There's evidence that it's tale goes as far back as the ancient Greeks, but the most substantial constructions here happened under the Byzantines and the Venetians. Today, you'll be able to see the hulking keeps on each join of the fortification walls, and wander the interior courtyard, where palms sprout from the ground and old prison rooms lurk in the arcades.
Palace of the Grand Master, Rhodes
Just wait until you sail into the harbor of ancient Rhodes town on our Yachtlife Med tour, where the mighty Palace of the Grand Master (also known to locals as, simply, The Kastello) looms on the hillsides above. The wealth of Gothic turrets and sculpted palisades, formidable towers, and endless rows of battlements that drape over the ridges is sure to draw a gasp. If you can spare the time between windsurfing sessions and ouzo tasting, be sure to head up there to unravel tales of the Crusades and the great Byzantine empire alike.
In the farthest eastern depths of the Mediterranean Basin, where the scrub-dressed Turquoise Coast of Turkey gives way to the sun-scorched beaches of the Levant, you'll discover the so-called Maiden's Castle clinging like a limpet to its very own island. Another creation of the Byzantine Empire, it is steeped in enthralling legends of princesses and poisonous snakes. If you're thinking about carrying on your travels through Turkey after leaving the YachtLife Med, this could just be the perfect addition to the itinerary!
Château d'If, France
Crack out your copy of The Count of Monte Cristo for a visit to this truly striking castle that pokes out from the rolling blue of the Mediterranean just off the French Riviera. It was here that Dumas wrote about the travails of one Edmond Dantès in his famous 1844 work, and it's also the reason so many people make the boat trip across to the dank dungeons and towers from neighboring Marseille.
Alanya Castle, Turkey
There's something truly breathtaking about the way the winding fortification walls of Alanya Castle meld with the turquoise-blue hues of the Mediterranean Sea beneath it. Built under Seljuk rule, it's one of the rare citadels in this part of the world that doesn't owe its existence to the Byzantines or the Ottomans. Once you've made it inside the grounds, you can find oodles of crumbling churches and pine-studded gardens, not to mention awesome views over the city of Alanya and the Cilician Mountains in the distance.
Kotor Fortress, Montenegro
Anyone who's sailed into the mountain-shrouded Bay of Kotor and wondered upwards at the winding, weaving fortifications of Kotor town will tell you that they are surely some of the most dramatic on the whole Med. There's a reason for that. Castle building here is thought to have started way back in the 6th century AD, while further keeps, turrets and gatehouses were added in following centuries by the Venetians, Ottomans, Habsburgs, and others. Today, you can scale the walls all the way to the top of the mountain above the Kotor old town, where sweeping panoramas of the Dinaric Alps and the sparkling Adriatic unfold.
Montjuic Castle, Barcelona
Montjuic Castle didn't come to command the hilltops above Barcelona's port until sometime in the middle of the 17th century. However, after that, it quickly became a focal point in pivotal conflicts in the Med, from the Spanish wars of succession to the modern Spanish Civil War. Today, the place is home to leafy gardens and a fine cultural center, and can be accessed from below by the Montjuic cable car – expect awesome views over the sea and the Catalan capital.
Palamidi Castle, Greece
Palamidi Castle dominates the Peloponnesian hills above the charming town of Nafplio. Not far from Athens, and surrounded by beautiful blue swathes of the Med, it's a fine place to get a dose of regional history under the sun. After scaling the demanding staircases to the fortress gates, you'll be greeted with tales of Venetian and Ottoman battles, and get to see sprouting Baroque towers looming over the bobbing boats in the Nafplio harbor below.
Miramare Castle, Italy
A welcome diversion from the wealth of defensive castles on this list, the Miramare Castle of Italy has all the flamboyance and panache you'd expect of a former residence of the Habsburg dukes. It's gilded with facades of glorious Baroque and neo-Gothic architecture, and has an interior of red-velvet court rooms, swinging chandeliers, and curious Turkish and German adornments. You can also tour the extensive gardens, manicured with blooming flower beds and stylized hedgerows.
Castle of Mytilene, Greece
The Castle of Mytilene commands its own perch on the edge of the Aegean Sea, overlooking the straights that run across from Greece to Turkey. With three distinct sections, the fortress runs from a lower castle to an upper castle, with the parts surrounding the natural hill having been added by Ottoman invaders in later times. Today, the place lies in half-ruins, crumbling and crashing down in tumbling stones towards the Mediterranean blue – a great place to really feel the pulse of ancient history in these parts.
Mseilha Fort, Lebanon
You'll have to follow the meanders of the Jaouz River a little from the rollers of the Med to the craggy peaks that enfold the coast of Lebanon to discover the Mseilha Fort. You can’t miss it though, standing tall and strong like a limpet on the rocks. Its sinewy bulwarks were raised in the 17th century by the emir of Chouf, intended to protect important trading routes in this corner of the Middle East. Today, you can still see its courtyards and praying spots orientated towards Mecca, not to mention great views of the Nahr el-Jawz Valley on all sides.
Castello di Porto Venere, Italy
The high, grey-stone palisades of the Castello di Porto Venere are one of the most enduring and striking remnants of the Republic of Genoa; a leftover from the times when city states ruled the various regions of Italy. Dating from around the 13th century, the great citadel occupies a perch above the salt-washed fishing towns of the Ligurian Coast. It's topped by the elegant Lady Bianca church spire and has a series of wide courtyards and gatehouses that are ripe for exploration.
Moorish Castle, Gibraltar
For centuries, the beige-stone walls of the so-called Moorish Castle have crowned the top of Europe's most fought-after rock. Protruding out into the Gibraltar Straits where Spain peaks its way out to meet North Africa, the spot has long been a flashpoint between invading Muslims and Christian knights. These days, the castle comes under the jurisdiction of the British, who've owned the place since the 1700s. Visitors can hike up the winding bulwarks and see the cannon-topped walls, or just wonder up at the citadel from the cafes in the bustling town squares below. Oh, and beware of the monkeys!
Of course, this is just a small sample of the awesome castles that can be found crowning the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. If you can think – or have seen – any more, we'd love to hear about them in the comments below! Or, if you want to hit the swells of the Med on your very own boating trip to seek out these awesome sights, be sure to check out our LBW Yachtlife. It's totally one for the bucket list!
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