Are there any castles in the neighborhood where you live? Unless you live in medieval Europe, chances are there aren’t many castles nearby. Of course, Wonderopolis has lots and lots of castles. Many of them have unicorns in the backyard, too…but that’s another Wonder for the future.

Wouldn’t it have been cool to live back in the days of knights and kings and queens? How neat would it have been to come home to a castle? All your friends would’ve probably lived in castles, too. It must have been so much fun to invite friends over to swim in your moat.

Well, truth be told, not all kids in medieval Europe lived in castles. In fact, some of you may be wondering whether there really are castles in the world. Or are they just the stuff of fairy tales?

Castles are indeed real. There are many of them around the world that you can visit. You won’t find many people building castles today, but they were popular at one time.

Royalty in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages often built castles, which were just fortified homes. Castles are different from palaces, which are huge homes that aren’t fortified. Likewise, fortresses are fortified, but aren’t used as homes. If you find a fortified structure and it’s used by a nobleman and his family as a home, you’ve got yourself a castle.

Castles were built for about 900 years, starting back in the 9th century. At that time, land was divided into many different territories. Individual noblemen would build castles to live in. Fortification was necessary to defend their home from invaders seeking to take their land.

Castles were built in a wide variety of sizes and styles. They had all sorts of different features. A few features, though, were quite common.

For example, one primary characteristic of most castles is the tower. Many castles feature multiple towers. Towers allowed residents to survey the land around them and spot invaders long before they got close to the castle.

The largest and most strongly-defended tower was called the “keep.” The keep was where the royal family would stay in times of crisis. They would often store their most valuable items in the keep, as well.

Moats were another popular feature of many castles. Moats are deep rings of water surrounding a castle. They provided a good defense against attacks, as the only way to cross the moat to gain access to the castle was to cross a drawbridge controlled from inside the castle.

When you think of a castle, you probably imagine a huge structure. Many castles were indeed very large. So where’s the largest castle in the world? That all depends on how you define castle…

Some people define a castle as a single building, while others define a castle as a group of common buildings fortified as a single complex. In this latter category, the Guinness Book of World Records gives the title of biggest ancient castle to Prague Castle.

Home of the Czech Crown Jewels and the home of the Kings of Bohemia, several Holy Roman Emperors and various presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, Prague Castle is made up of multiple palaces, churches and halls that share a common defensive wall and sit on over 18 acres of land.

24 Join the Discussion

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    • How great, Wonder Friend Annie! We are so excited to hear that this Wonder has helped you with your castle adventures! SWEET! :) We are glad you visited us today– castles are amazing buildings filled with history… and even some mystery! We look forward to the next Wonder of the Day® — thank you for sharing your predictions! :)

  1. There’s a castle by my house. It’s in Wayne, and it’s up for sale. Of course, I’m not sure a lot of people will buy it.
    I always kinda liked castles. They’re fun to draw, with all the details and everything.
    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about the evolution of man, or anthropology!!!
    Emily

    • WOW, that is so cool, Emily! A castle for sale near your house? How NEAT! We Wonder if you have been able to check it out… are there lots of different entrances? We love exploring and going on cool adventures, and we’re glad you shared your awesome connection to today’s Wonder! Keep using your imagination- castles are full of detail and we bet your drawings are beautiful! Thanks for sharing your comment and prediction, Wonder Friend Emily! We’ll see you soon! :)

  2. Hello, great and powerful Oz. Would you please grant me a brain? Or maybe a heart? I had the courage to do this so I think I’m good on that front. This a student from Mrs. Sullivan’s homeroom at Laurens District 55 Highschool and I wanted to send you a message to say hello.

    • Hey there, Jacob, thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis! We’re so glad you shared your comment– we really enjoyed it! Thanks for saying hello, and we hope you enjoyed today’s royal Wonder! :)

  3. Hi wonderopolis
    Your website is the coolest thing in the world. You’re the coolest guy in the world. Have you ever seen Duck Dynasty? Who is the 10th president? Do you have a pet?

    • Hey Matty 1! Thanks for sharing your awesome comment- we think you’re super cool, too! Some of us here at Wonderopolis have watched Duck Dynasty, and they have really enjoyed it! We’ve got a few pets here at Wonderopolis… a dog, a cat, and a bunny, too! Sometimes Wonder Friends from Wonderopolis bring their pets from home– it’s always a lot of fun! :)

  4. WHAT WAS COOL TO ME IS THAT CASTLES WERE BUILT 900 YEARS STARTING IN THE 9th CENTURY. WOOOOOOOOOOW . I THINK TOMORROW’S WONDER WILL BE ABOUT PLANETS.

    • WOOHOO, we LOVE your enthusiasm for our Wonder today, Jaya! Thank you for sharing your favorite part of our Wonder– it’s pretty incredible to think of huge castles being built without the technology and machinery we have today! WOW! :)

      We look forward to WONDERing with you again soon! Have a super evening! :)

  5. Me and my friend Camille always walk past a huge house such a big house it’s a castle. On Halloween we peek in the front room and it has flowers all the way around and the floor is polished and there is a huge glass light hanging from the celling.

    • WOW, what a cool place, Kate! We feel like we’ve been there thanks to your awesome description of the house… or castle! It sounds like you and Camille are always up for a fun adventure– thanks for including us! We’re so glad you shared your comment! :)

  6. Biggest castle in the world is based in Poland. Malbork Castle 143,591 square meters, and is bigger than second (Mehrangarh Fort 81,227) and third (Prague Castle 66,761) combined.

    • WOW, thank you so very much for sharing this awesome information with us, Stefman! We are so glad you’ve been WONDERing on your own and you shared all this information about Malbork Castle with us! You rock! :)

  7. In the Harry Potter series there is castle named Hogwarts which is pretty tall! Did you know? The real one is called Alnwick Castle and it’s in Scotland. By the way, are you a big Harry Potter fan? I am. :)

    • What a great connection to our Wonder, Ovi! It’s so great that you mentioned Harry Potter, and you gave us even more information about Hogwarts and Alnwick Castle- we’re so happy you’re WONDERing with us! We LOVE Harry Potter, and many of our Wonder Friends here at Wonderopolis are re-reading the books because we just can’t get enough! HOORAY for using our imagination with Harry, Ron, Hermoine and Hagrid! :)

  8. Learning about castles is so interesting and cool! I am doing this wonder for homework. I love wonderopolis!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your comment with us, Libby! We are so excited that Wonderopolis is part of your homework– how fun! We Wonder if you have ever visited a castle, or read about one in your favorite book? If you could build a castle anywhere, where would you build it? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Where is the biggest castle in the world?
  • What are some of the features of most castles?
  • What kind of castle would you build?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Once upon a time…it was time to extend your learning about castles by trying out one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Do you love castles? We do! If you love to look at castles and imagine what it would be like to live in one, you’re sure to love checking out some photographs of the most beautiful castles in the world. Just jump online and explore National Geographic’s Castles Photo Gallery. Which castle is your favorite? Why?
  • Have you ever built a castle? We doubt any of you have ever built a real castle, but maybe you’ve built a sand castle! If so, did you realize that you were getting some hands-on experience with science in the process? It’s true. Just check out NASA’s The Physics of Sand Castles article for some interesting insight that might help you build a better sand castle the next time you hit the beach!

Up for a challenge? Castles are probably the setting of some of your favorite books and movies. Grab a notebook and a pen and get ready to write your own story that takes place in a castle. You could write your own fairy tale with a princess trapped in a tower. Or maybe you’d rather write an adventure story about a prince who saves his family’s castle from an invading horde of rabid badgers. It’s up to you! Make your story as realistic or as imaginative as you want it to be. Just make sure you set your story in a castle. Describe your castle in as much detail as you can. Your reader should be able to picture your castle clearly in her mind. What does it look like? How tall is it? Does it have a moat? Are there flags at the top of the parapets? How long is the drawbridge? If you want, draw a picture of your castle and post it to Facebook to share with your Wonder Friends. Feel free to post your story, too. We can’t wait to see — and read! — your castle story!

Still Wondering

ArtsEdge’s Castles and Cornerstones lesson explores the historic importance and function of castles in King Arthur’s time and introduces children to a general history of castles and architectural terms.

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