Oldest Castles in the World

Oldest Castles in the World – Earliest Castles Throughout History

Ancient castles are not only a common feature in mythology and folklore but are also part of our history. Yet, unlike the dragons and wizards of fairytales, many Medieval castles still exist and can even be visited in person. Where is the oldest castle in the world, though? Let us find out as we list the oldest castles in the world.



What Is the Oldest Castle in the World Today?

While today, we think of Medieval castles as magnificent and ornate edifices fit for royalty, their origins are far more humble. Many ancient castles started as very rudimentary structures, often made of wood, which were constructed along strategic positions for the purpose of territorial defense and to house the garrison and King.

Over time, the wood was replaced with stone, as the fortresses were required to upgrade their barriers to meet the increasing use of fire as a weapon of war. 

These simple structures were built on a mound, and through the centuries, new adaptations were added, such as the addition of courtyards with high walls around the main resident structures, as well as turrets and moats. This resulted in the castles we see today. Many of these ancient castles were so well fortified that not even the ravages of time have destroyed them, allowing us to explore and learn about the past and how people lived.

Famous Medieval Castles The Prague Castle (880 CE); Txllxt TxllxT, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some of the oldest castles in the world have also undergone extensive reconstructive work, allowing visitors to experience Medieval castles as they were when they were originally constructed. Luckily, many of the oldest castles in the world can still be visited thanks to these conservation efforts – you can find a Medieval castle in Europe around almost every block! But, where is the oldest castle in the world, and can one visit it?

We will be revealing that at the end of our list of the oldest castles in the world! 


Killyleagh Castle (1180) in Killyleagh, Northern Ireland

ArchitectSir Charles Lanyon (1813 – 1889) (redesign)
Date Completed1180
Height (meters)34
LocationKillyleagh, Northern Ireland

Ancient Castles The Killyleagh Castle (1180 CE); Killyleagh Castle (2013) by Albert Bridge, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Killyleagh Castle is the primary attraction in Northern Ireland’s little community of Killyleagh. The oldest components of the castle date back at least to 1180, making it Ireland’s oldest castle. The property on which the castle stands was given to James Hamilton, who eventually became the 1st Viscount Claneboye and erected a single-towered castle with courtyard walls.

The Hamilton family has resided at Killyleagh Castle since 1625. Henry Hamilton, James Hamilton’s son, restored the castle in 1666, building another tower and constructing the long defensive wall in front of the castle.

Occasionally, the castle stages concerts with artists such as Glen Hansard, Van Morrison, and Bap Kennedy having previously been featured. 


Rochester Castle (1087) in Rochester, England

ArchitectBishop Gundulf (1024 – 1108)
Date Completed1087
Height (meters)34
LocationRochester, England

Where Is the Oldest Castle in the World The Rochester Castle (1087 CE); Shaun Dunmall from Maidstone, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This Medieval castle is located in the town of Kent which is exactly where the invaders would enter England in the era. Therefore, it acted as the region’s first line of defense against those seeking to take siege of and pillage the land.

To make the structure less vulnerable to attacks, Bishop Gundulf was instructed to build the castle from stone. 

It was also strategically placed on a part along the river where the King, William II, could look out over waters for incoming invaders. Once the castle was properly fortified, the keep was constructed – among the best-preserved and oldest keeps of all France and England! English Heritage now maintains the castle, which is available to the public for guided visits.


Hohensalzburg Castle (1077) in Salzburg, Austria

ArchitectGebhard von Salzburg (1010 – 1088)
Date Completed1077
Height (meters)Unspecified (altitude 506)
LocationSalzburg, Austria

What Is the Oldest Castle in the World The Hohensalzburg Castle (1077 CE); Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hohensalzburg Castle is regarded as a very well-preserved, as well as the largest, Medieval castle in Europe. It was built to fulfill the Prince Bishop’s desire to be recognized as a powerful and authoritative political figure. Originally, it was constructed to protect the archbishops and the principality from external attacks.

The fortress was only ever besieged once, in 1525, during the German Peasants’ War, when an alliance of farmers, miners, and townsfolk tried but failed to remove Matthäus Lang, Prince-Archbishop. Throughout the castle’s history, no attacker has ever been able to seize the Salzburg fortress.

Guests can take in panoramic views of the beautiful countryside surroundings as well as walking tours of the observation towers, baroque state chambers, and the museum collection. 


Windsor Castle (1070) in Windsor, England

ArchitectSir Jeffry Wyatville (1766 – 1840)
Date Completed1070
Height (meters)52
FunctionRoyal Residence
LocationWindsor, England

Medieval Castle The Windsor Castle (1070 CE); Steve Evans from Citizen of the World, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Not only is the famous Windsor Castle one of the oldest castles in the world, but it is also the biggest fortress that people still live in! It was Queen Elizabeth II’s favored residence, and all the surrounding residents would know if she was there as the Royal Standard flag would replace the Union Jack flag on the flagpole for the duration of her stay.

Since it was first constructed, 10 kings have lived (and been buried) at the castle. 

Many members of the royal family are actually of German descent, and their original surname was Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. However, due to the negative connotations that were associated with German names at the time, the royal family adopted the name of the castle as their own.


Warwick Castle (1068) in Warwickshire, England

ArchitectWilliam the Conqueror (1028 – 1087)
Date Completed1068
Height (meters)40
FunctionFort and residence
LocationWarwickshire, England

Castle in Europe The Warwick Castle (1068 CE); DeFacto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Following the Norman Invasion in 1066, William the Conqueror erected a number of strongholds, with Warwick Castle being regarded by many as one of the most remarkable. While it was first a timber fort and then a motte-and-bailey structure characteristic of the Normans in the 11th century, the present castle was built in the 12th century and has survived numerous battles and occupations, changing from a military defense fortress to a private royal residence to a famous tourist attraction. Warwick Tower was also used as a jail for a while, and its dungeons once housed King Edward IV.

Warwick Castle boasts one of the largest armories outside of the Tower of London, with weaponry going all the way back to the first century. 


Alcázar of Segovia (c. 11th Century) in Segovia, Spain

ArchitectAlmoravid Dynasty (1050  – 1147)
Date Completedc. 11th century
Height (meters)80
LocationSegovia, Spain

Examples of Castles in Europe The Alcázar of Segovia (c. 11th century); Alcázar of Segovia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Almoravid dynasty constructed the alcázar as a stronghold in the 11th century, and it has since functioned as a royal residence for 22 kings, a Royal Artillery College, a state jail, and a military academy. Nowadays, it is utilized as a military archive and museum.

The castle, like many fortresses in Spain, began as a Roman castrum, but nothing of the original building survives apart from the foundation. 

Because so few works survived in Spain, historians seldom discuss Almoravid architecture and art. Additionally, because the Almoravid kingdom was short-lived, much of the architecture and art of the time period was obliterated or changed by its successors. The castle has four towers, multiple halls with barrel vaults, and twin windows, and it is built on a hilltop with views of the entire city.


Portchester Castle (c. 11th Century) in Portchester, England

Date Completedc. 11th century
Height (meters)30
LocationPortchester, England

Oldest Ancient Castles The Portchester Castle (c. 11th century); Matthew Folley from UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Portchester is situated near the mouth of Portsmouth Bay, and the grounds of the castle once housed a Roman fort dating back to the third century. The Roman fortifications were integrated into the medieval castle that was completed in the late 11th century. King John utilized it as a hunting lodge when it was first possessed by the royal family. It was temporarily taken over by the French before reverting to English rule in the following centuries, and it was also the location where conspirators attempting to topple Henry V were captured.

It was regularly utilized as a jail starting in the 17th century. Nowadays it is open to the public and has exhibitions for tourists to enjoy. 


The Reichsburg Cochem (1000) in Cochem, Germany

ArchitectJulius Carl Raschdorff (1823 – 1914) (later work)
Date Completed1000
Height (meters)Unspecified (83 above sea level)
LocationCochem, Germany

Different Castle in Europe Reichsburg Cochem (1130 CE);  © Steffen Schmitz (Carschten) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE or Free Art License, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

The palatinate count Ezzo is believed to have constructed Cochem Castle in the year 1000. Richeza, Ezzo’s oldest daughter, bequeathed the fortress to palatine count Henry I, her nephew. The castle continued to be linked to the palatinate counts even after Ezzo’s descendants ceased to be palatinate counts themselves.

King Konrad III ended the succession dispute by occupying the fortress with troops in 1151 and the castle subsequently became an imperial fortress under the rule of the Staufer Dynasty. 

When King Louis XIV’s troops entered the Moselle region during the Palatinate succession war in 1688, Cochem castle was also occupied. A year later it was set on fire and then blown up. It lay in ruins until Mr. Louis Ravené acquired the castle grounds in 1868. He started rebuilding the castle shortly after purchasing it, integrating the ruins of the late Gothic structures into the main castle construction and redesigning it in the Neo-Gothic style.


Château de Doué-la-Fontaine (c. 950 CE) in Doué-la-Fontaine, France

ArchitectRobert, Count of Blois (b. 885 CE)
Date Completedc. 950 CE
Height (meters)48
LocationDoué-la-Fontaine, France

Most Ancient Castles The Château de Doué-la-Fontaine (950 CE); Llann Wé², CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

An ancient Carolingian aula was erected on the site of the castle for the Count of Anjou during the 9th century and was formerly occupied by King Robert I of France before his passing in 923 CE. The Count of Blois erected the stone castle around 950 CE, and an additional cellar was constructed using the remnants of the previous aula. In 1468 and 1472, the building was refortified, although neither of these defenses survives today. The majority of the motte was ultimately leveled so that as many of the aula’s remnants as possible could be revealed.

It is commonly thought to be the earliest known stone fortress, though only the aula exists today, whereas the castle and the majority of the motte are no longer standing. 


Citadel of Aleppo (c. 3000 BCE) in Aleppo, Syria

Date Completedc. 3000 BCE
Height (meters)50
LocationAleppo, Syria

Oldest Castle in the World The Citadel of Aleppo (3000 BCE); © Vyacheslav Argenberg / http://www.vascoplanet.com/, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The castle is located on a hill in Aleppo’s Old City, which was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. The bulk of the current structure is estimated to date from the Ayyubid era sometime in the 12th century. The Aleppo Archaeology Society restored the fortress extensively in the early 2000s.

Regrettably, the citadel has been extensively damaged in recent years as a result of the continuing Syrian Civil War. 

Throughout the war, the Syrian Army employed the Citadel as a military compound, with the walls serving as shelter while bombarding neighboring villages and historic arrow slits in the walls being used by sharpshooters to strike rebels. It was damaged even further in the earthquake that recently occurred on the 6th of February 2023.


That wraps up our look at the oldest castles in the world. Despite their age, many are still viewable to the public today, where one can walk around and soak in the history and sights of these magnificent ancient castles. If you have unlimited funds, which castle in Europe would be your first choice to visit? 




Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Oldest Castle in the World That Still Stands Today?

The oldest castle in the world that we currently know about is the Aleppo Citadel in Aleppo, Syria. It was constructed sometime around 3000 BCE! Unfortunately, recent wars and the earthquake at the beginning of 2023 have caused extensive damage.


Where Is the Oldest Castle in the World Currently Situated?

The oldest castle in the world is located in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Due to the volatility of the area, it is not recommended to visit this site at present. Syria is known for being a country that suffers from conflicts and violence. There are many Medieval castles in Europe that might be a better choice at this time.


Cite this Article

Justin, van Huyssteen, “Oldest Castles in the World – Earliest Castles Throughout History.” Art in Context. August 8, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/oldest-castles-in-the-world/

van Huyssteen, J. (2023, 8 August). Oldest Castles in the World – Earliest Castles Throughout History. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/oldest-castles-in-the-world/

van Huyssteen, Justin. “Oldest Castles in the World – Earliest Castles Throughout History.” Art in Context, August 8, 2023. https://artincontext.org/oldest-castles-in-the-world/.

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