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9 Castles I Want to Visit

Wherever there is money, there will be castles built. I found 300 castles in the United States alone! But it's the older castles with a rich history that I want to visit. You know about Buckingham Palace, the Vatican Palace, and the Forbidden City, and here are some other fascinating castles you may not be familiar with.

1. Predjamski

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Predjamski Castle in Slovenia is built into the entrance of a cave system that runs through the mountain, making it a seige-proof fortress. It was first constructed in the 13th century, and expanded several times. Predjamski Castle has its own railway and concert hall! You can see panoramic photos of the castle interior, the cave under the castle, and more pictures here.

2. Mont Saint-Michel

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Mont Saint-Michel was built on a tiny tidal island just off the French coast in the 8th century as a monastery. It was greatly expanded in the 11th and 12th centuries, then converted to a prison after the French Revolution. The prison closed in 1963. Mont Saint-Michel has been featured in numerous movies, cartoons, and even videogames. See more photos here.

3. Castel Gandolfo

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Castel Gandolfo lies at the intersection of religion and science. Actually, it is located on a ridge outside Rome. Built in the 17th century over the ruins of a Roman palace, it is the Pope's summer residence, but also the home of the Vatican Observatory. Of the three domes you see, one is a church, the other two are mobile telescope domes!

More fascinating castles, after the jump.

4. Palacia de Pena

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Palacia de Pena (Pena Palace) is perched atop the Sintra mountain range in Portugal. First built in the 15th century as a palace, it was later reconstructed and donated to the church as a monastery. An earthquake in 1755 ruined most of it. Prince Fernando aquired it in 1838 and rebuilt and expanded it. The style of the palace is a eclectic combination of the original and subsequent styles, plus Romantic, Bavarian, and Moorish architecture, plus an English garden.

5. Taktshang

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Taktshang (Tiger's Nest Monastery) in Bhutan hangs on the side of a cliff 2,300 feet above the Paro valley. The mountain houses nine sacred caves. The constucrtion of the original Buddhist temple began in 1692, and was recently restored after a devastating fire in 1998. Access to Taktshang is by foot or by mule only. Save yourself some steps and see a huge gallery of photos here.

6. St. Hilarion

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St. Hilarion Castle in North Cyprus was built on the site where the monk who would become St. Hilarion lived his hermit's life in a cave. The Byzantines built monastery and church in the tenth century, and expanded into a castle in the 12th century, used as a watchtower and defense against Arab pirates. It was decommisioned in the 15th century to save money, and fell into ruins.

7. Chillingham

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Chillingham Castle is in Northumberland, near the England-Scotland border. Originally built in the 12th century as a monastery, it became a military stronghold in the medieval battles between the two nations. The current owners claim that it is the most haunted castle in Britain, with sporadic appearances by the "blue boy," Lady Mary Berkeley, and other ghosts.

8. Bran

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Earlier this year, we all saw the news that Dracula's Castle was up for sale. This is Bran Castle near Brasov, in the Transylvania region of Romania. Historians don't think Vlad the Impaler ever lived there. According to some accounts, he spent a couple of days in the dungeon of Bran Castle as the guest of the Ottoman Empire. However, Bran Castle inspired Bram Stoker's writings, and it was also used in some Dracula films.

9. Poienari

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Vlad Tepes actually lived at Poienari Castle in the Wallachia region of Romania. High on the side of a mountain, it was a imposing military fortress. Poienari was abandoned in the 16th century. A landslide in 1888 brought down some of the walls. To see the ruins of Poienari Castle, you must climb 1,426 steps, or just click here.

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Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images
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Long-Closed Part of Westminster Abbey to Open to the Public for the First Time in 700 Years
The triforium in 2009
The triforium in 2009
Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

On June 11, 2018, visitors to London's Westminster Abbey will get a look at a section of the historic church that has been off-limits for 700 years. That’s when the triforium, located high above the abbey floor, will open to the general public for the first time as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, according to Condé Nast Traveler.

The 13th-century space, located 70 feet above the nave floor, had previously been used for abbey storage. (One architecture critic who visited before the renovation described it as a “glorified attic.”) After a $32.5 million renovation, it will now become a museum with killer views.

The view from the triforium looking down onto the rest of Westminster Abbey
The view from the triforium looking down toward the ground floor of the abbey
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

To access the area, which looks out over the nave and altar, architects built a new tower, the abbey’s first major addition since 1745. The 80-foot-tall, window-lined structure will provide brand-new vantage points to look out on surrounding areas of Westminster. Inside the triforium, the windows of the galleries look out onto the Houses of Parliament and St. Margaret’s church, and visitors will be able to walk around the upper mezzanine and look down onto the ground floor of the abbey below.

The museum itself will show off objects from Westminster Abbey’s history, such as a 17th-century coronation chair for Mary II and an altarpiece from Henry III’s reign, when the triforium was first constructed. Oh, and it will also display Prince William and Kate Middleton’s marriage license, for those interested in more modern royal history.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen
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A Look at One of Norway's Most Beautiful Public Bathrooms
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen

In Norway, beautiful architecture isn’t limited to new museums and opera houses. The country also has some incredible bathrooms, thanks to a program called the National Tourist Routes, which commissions architects to design imaginative, beautiful rest stops and lookout points to encourage travel in some of the country’s more remote areas.

One of the latest projects to be unveiled, as Dezeen alerted us, is a high-design commode in the northern Norwegian municipality of Gildeskål. The newly renovated site located along the Norwegian Scenic Route Helgelandskysten, called Ureddplassen, was recently opened to the public.

Bench seating outside the restroom, with mountains in the background
Lars Grimsby / State Road Administration

A view up the stairs of the amphitheater toward steep mountains
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen

Designed by the Oslo-based designers Haugen/Zohar Architects and the landscape architects Landskapsfabrikken AS, the site includes an amphitheater, a viewing platform, and of course, a beautiful restroom. The area is a popular place to view the Northern Lights in the fall and winter and the midnight sun in the summer, so it sees a fair amount of traffic.

The site has been home to a monument honoring victims of the 1943 sinking of a World War II submarine called the Uredd since 1987, and the designers added a new marble base to the monument as part of this project.

A view of the monument to the soldiers lost in the sinking of the Uredd
Steinar Skaar / Statens vegvesen

Now, travelers and locals alike can stop off the highway for a quick pee in the restroom, with its rolling concrete and glass design, then plop down on the steps of the amphitheater to gaze at the view across the Norwegian Sea. It’s one rest stop you’ll actually want to rest at.

[h/t Dezeen]

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