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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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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
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Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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Pol Viladoms
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architecture
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
Pol Viladoms
Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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