Photo by Shutterstock
Photo by Niti Kantarote/Shutterstock
Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the Taj Mahal in Agra in 1631 to honor his late wife.
These enchanting palaces and royal monuments immortalize real love stories in stone.
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There’s a reason why so many fairy tales end with a royal romance in a castle. With their soaring towers and whimsical gardens, palaces serve as dreamy relics of a bygone era—but storybook fortresses aren’t exclusive to mythical kingdoms and romantic tales. These enchanting castles were built to immortalize real love stories in stone. Seek them out to find your own happily ever after.
The 15th-century Italian nobleman Pier Maria Rossi was already married when he fell in love with his mistress Bianca Pellegrini, but that didn’t stop him from building her a sprawling castle overlooking the foothills of northern Italy. In 1448, construction on Castello di Torrechiara began near the town of Langhirano; its dramatic drawbridges, stone towers, and defensive battlements took more than a decade to complete. Inside the feudal fortress, decorative interiors include grotesque-style frescoes credited to Benedetto Bembo, such as Camera d’Oro, which depicts courtly interactions between Pier Maria Rossi and Bianca Pellegrini and recounts the tale of their love. Castello di Torrechiara is open to visitors seven days a week (hours vary by season). Admission costs about $6 for adults and is free for children under 18.
Situated on the south bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, the ivory-domed Taj Mahal commemorates India’s most celebrated romance. In 1631, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the white marble mausoleum to honor his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died during childbirth earlier that year. Between 1631 and 1648, thousands of master artisans, painters, calligraphers, and masons from across Asia were brought to Agra to construct and embellish the 42-acre complex, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest works of Mughal architecture. Tickets to the Taj Mahal can be purchased online or at the gate for approximately $28 in total entrance fees. Admission includes timed entry to the mausoleum where the emperor was buried by his wife’s side for eternity after he died in 1666.
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This southeast England estate hosts more than 900 years of royal history, but one of its greatest tales is a love story that began with an arranged marriage. In 1254, King Edward I and Queen Eleanor of Castile were married at a very young age, and although Edward had a reputation for being arrogant and quarrelsome, the pair eventually fell deeply in love. In 1278, Eleanor bought Leeds Castle (which was formerly a military stronghold) and transformed its 11th-century foundations with Spanish-influenced pavilions, gardens, and other polished designs. When Eleanor died in 1290, Edward inherited the 500-acre grounds and built an on-site chapel in her memory. Over the next two centuries, England’s medieval kings upheld the tradition of dedicating ownership of Leeds Castle to their queens. Visitors today can explore the palace, which is nicknamed “the loveliest castle in the world,” on self-led tours as well as audio tours, which are available to purchase on-site (for $4.20 per person). For tickets booked online at least one day in advance, admission costs $34 for adults, $31 for students and seniors, and $23 for children between 15 and 4. Children under 4 years old enter for free.
Tucked away in the forested valleys near Batu Gajah, Perak, this unfinished castle in northwest Malaysia was commissioned by Scottish civic engineer William Kellie Smith for his wife, Agnes. In 1915, Smith imported materials such as bricks and marble from India and Italy to realize the innovative design, which blended Moorish and Indo-Gothic architectural styles. The original plans included a six-story tower, secret tunnels, a rooftop entertainment area, and a wine cellar, but Smith died of pneumonia in 1926 before his dream home was realized. His grieving wife sold the property and moved back to Scotland, and the castle was abandoned to ruin for decades. The haunting landscape was made famous by the 1999 film Anna and the King, and today visitors can take self-guided walks through the castle for a small entry fee of around $2.50.
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In 1900, millionaire hotelier George Boldt (proprietor of the world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City) purchased Heart Island on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York, where he mapped out a Rhineland-style castle for his beloved wife, Louise. Boldt hired 300 workers to construct the six-story, 120-room castle outfitted with a drawbridge and tower, but when Louise died suddenly in 1904, the heartbroken Boldt halted construction and never returned to the island. The abandoned estate in Alexandria Bay remained in ruins until 1977, when the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority purchased the property and funneled millions of dollars into its restoration. Today, Boldt Castle welcomes visitors from May through October. Tickets cost $10 for guests over 13 years old and $7 for children over 5. En route to the castle, which is only accessible by tour boat, look for the heart-shaped gardens that surround the structure in honor of George and Louise.
In 1911, Canadian electricity tycoon Sir Henry Pellatt hired architect E.J. Lennox to design a lavish Gothic revival castle in Toronto for himself and his wife, Mary. Inspired by his love of European architecture and design, Pellatt decorated Casa Loma with lavish furnishings, including bronze doors, a stained glass ceiling, marble fountains, and fur rugs. When Pellatt’s business failed and left him bankrupt in 1924, he was forced to auction off the $3.5 million estate along with all its riches—and Mary died later that year. The city of Toronto purchased the property in 1933, and today the historic attraction hosts curated exhibits and special events, from afternoon teas to symphonies in the Great Hall. General admission throughout the year includes a self-guided audio tour and documentary screening; tickets costs $25 for adults, $22 for seniors over 65 and youth (between 14 and 17), and $18 for children between 4 and 13 years old.
Vast stretches of land and sea between Europe and New Zealand didn’t stop 19th-century businessman William Larnach from importing Venetian glass, English tile, and Italian marble to the picturesque South Island to build a dream castle for his wife, Eliza. Two hundred workers began building Larnach Castle’s main structure in 1871 on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin; it took three years to construct before European artisans spent another 12 years decorating its ornate interior. Today, the restored estate is New Zealand’s only castle, and it hosts high tea and guided tours throughout the year. Visitors can also stroll through the seven acres of romantic gardens blooming with azaleas and rhododendrons on self-led tours. Admission costs $22 for adults and $8 for children between 5 through 14 years. Children under 4 enter for free.
In 1907, Tacoma banker Chester Thorne purchased and dismantled a 400-year-old Elizabethan manor in England and shipped many of its pieces—including the front door, oak paneling, and oak staircase—to the Pacific Northwest, where he built a Tudor Gothic estate for his wife, Anna. Today, the Thornewood Castle still stands in Lakewood, Washington, as a romantic bed-and-breakfast with medieval stained glass windows, antique furniture, and a century-old walled garden that was designed by the influential 19th-century landscape architects the Olmsted brothers. Former U.S. presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt were both once guests at the castle known as the “the house that love built.” Rates for overnight stays range from $150 to $500 per night.
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