These Historic Castles Still Have Residents Living In Them

hohenzollern castle on mountain, germany

Last Updated on December 20, 2023

When discussing castles, vivid imaginations picture knights and princesses, dreamy fairytales, and gritty historical dramas. 

However, most stories draw some inspiration from reality, and castle tales are not the exception. Many people lived in these extravagant places and called them home. Plenty of them still do. 

Luxurious and exclusive, these architectural marvels are works of art that invite the imagination while remaining the home sweet home of royalty and nobles. Take a look at ten of the most imposing castles that remain inhabited.

Windsor Castle

Location: Berkshire, England

Occupied by: British royal family

changing of the guards at windsor castle, the residence of the british royal family at windsor in the english county of berkshire, united kingdom

Perhaps the most well-known castle on our list, Windsor Castle, is an emblematic royal seat of the British crown and the reason why the royal family styles itself as the House of Windsor.

Windsor Castle’s history is ancient—its oldest parts were built in the 11th century, making them nearly a millennium old. However, its constant renovation projects have made it a potpourri of different architectural styles and trends.

The building is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in the world, and it has been the official residence of almost every English monarch since Henry I in 1,100. In fact, it was the main living quarters of the late Queen Elizabeth II until her death in 2022.

Highclere Castle

Location: Hampshire, England

Occupied by: Lord and Lady Carnarvon 

highclere castle, a jacobethan style country house, home of the earl and countess of carnarvon. setting of downton abbey newbury, hampshire, england uk

Perhaps best known as the primary location for Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle is a spectacular architectural masterpiece that dates back to the 17th century and is the family seat of the Earls of Carnarvon.

The large 300-room castle features an Egyptian exhibition, as the 5th Earl of Carnarvon sponsored Howard Carter, who found Tutankhamun’s tomb. The castle also hosts countless exhibitions and events.

Nonetheless, the Earl of Carnarvon and his family still live in a private segment of the Highclere Castle and move to their cottage whenever it is open to the public.

Hohenzollern Castle

Location: Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Occupied by: House of Hohenzollern 

hohenzollern castle in the black forest, germany

High in the mountains, atop Mount Hohenzollern, rests the Hohenzollern Castle—the ancestral home of a long line of German kings and emperors. 

But despite becoming a democracy, the castle still stands tall and proud. It is the third version, built in the 19th century after the previous two were destroyed in wars. It doesn’t see combat nowadays, instead welcoming over 350,000 visitors annually and some film crews. 

The castle serves as the residence for both branches of the House of Hohenzollern. Whenever the Prussian or Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen flags are visible, it indicates that one of the families is present and the castle is off-limits to visitors.

Balmoral Castle

Location: Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Occupied by: British royal family

balmoral castle scottish residence of the royal family

Balmoral is a unique residency for the monarchy, as it is privately managed by the family and not through governmental means. It was purchased by Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, in 1852. 

Prince Albert oversaw the project personally, and Balmoral soon became the couple’s getaway. This tradition continues today, as the castle remains the family’s preferred summer residence.

Balmoral Castle has a stunning structure that is reminiscent of a country house. However, since it is a private residency, the public can only access the gardens and the ballroom for a few months each year.

Blair Castle

Location: Perthshire, Scotland

Occupied by: Clan Murray of Atholl 

blair castle

The ancestral home of Clan Murray for over seven centuries, Blair Castle is one of the most emblematic Highland estates and the de facto seat of the clan’s chief, the Duke of Atholl.   

The distinctive silhouette of the castle, with its striking white walls, has stood tall since the baseline construction in the 13th century, while its ornate landscaped garden dates back to the Victorian era. 

While the current Duke of Atholl lives in South Africa, the family often spends time within Blair Castle. It is also the living headquarters of the Atholl Highlanders—the only private army within Europe. 

Lichtenstein Castle

Location: Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Occupied by: Dukes of Urach 

germany, lichtenstein castle.

Although it is not the most prominent castle within this list, Lichtenstein Castle is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque, as it sits on the edge of an escarpment above the Echaz valley.

With its imposing neo-Gothic style, Lichtenstein Castle seems a lot older than it is. It began construction barely in the late half of the 19th century, during the Victorian era. Design-wise, it was inspired by the book Lichtenstein by the commission of the then Count Urach. 

Lichtenstein Castle remains a private state, but it is open to visitors.

Dunrobin Castle

Location: Sutherland, Scotland

Occupied by: Clan Sutherland 

fairytale view of dunrobin castle, with a magnificent garden full of flowers, sutherland, scotland, britain

Striking in its beauty and size, the Dunrobin Castle combines early medieval architecture with a chateau-like building dating to the 17TH and 18th centuries. As such, its walls reflect the changing architectural styles of the Highlands for nearly 700 years.

The only thing more impressive than its design is its history.  After retiring from castle duties, Dunrobin functioned as a naval hospital and a boarding school for boys, and it now remains open to the public. However, a portion of the building remains closed to the public, as they are the private home of the Sutherland family.

Arundel Castle

Location: West Sussex, England 

Occupied by: Ears of Arundel and Dukes of Norfolk

arundel castle in arundel city, west sussex, england, united kingdom. bird eye view. drone point of view.

Initially built in 1067, Arundel Castle still preserves many original features. Nonetheless, thanks to many restorations and expansion projects, the castle looks spectacular despite being only 50 years away from a millennium. 

The castle is the personal home of Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Arundel, and his family. The House of Howard has a long and noble trajectory, including in its members the famed Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, wives of Henry VIII.

The awe-inspiring castle combines medieval segments with beautiful neo-Gothic structures, and it’s a popular filming destination. 

Prague Castle

Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Occupied by: President of the Czech Republic 

aerial view of prague castle, czech: prazsky hrad, with saint vitus cathedral. panoramic view from petrin lookout tower. prague, czech republic

Extending over 750,000 ft2, Prague Castle is noted to be the largest ancient castle complex in the world. It has also been the symbol of the Czech state and the seat for the ruler since 880, still fulfilling that role nowadays as the president’s official residence. 

The complex encompasses many architectural styles owing to its many expansions and restorations. However, it is most famous for its Gothic segments.

Every president of the country moves into an area of the building that remains private. Other segments are open to the public.

Eltz Castle

Location: Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Occupied by: Counts of Eltz-Kempenich 

eltz castle or burg eltz.

Nestled amidst lush greenery and hidden atop the hills lies Eltz Castle, a whimsical castle with an architectural design that seems taken directly from the pages of a fairytale. 

Three branches of the Eltz family owned the castle until 1815, when the Eltz-Kempenich branch took over management. Their original segment of the castle continues to be their private living space, and it is closed to tourists. However, the rest of the castle opens during different seasons to anyone who wishes to explore.

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