What young princesses and princes haven’t imagined living in the mysterious world of castles and crowns?

Here are nine magical palaces in Spain and Portugal where a home exchange in the vicinity can lead to a royal adventure!

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Castillo de Cardona (Barcelona, Catalonia)

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Crows wheel above the restored stone ramparts of this hilltop fortress that guards against invading hordes (but guests are totally welcome!). Dwellers in the valley below seem to agree that building Cardona Castle in 886 AD was one of Wilfred the Hairy’s best ideas. Today, it is considered an important symbol of Catalan nationalism.

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Castillo de Bellver (Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands)

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The isle of Mallorca is like a glowing emerald in the sapphire Mediterranean. What king would not covet this place? Indeed Bellver Castle in the city of Palma was originally home to royalty. Erected in the 14th century, Bellver is one of few circular castles in the world. Hence its panoramic vistas and its appeal to history and architecture buffs alike.

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Real Alcázar de Sevilla (Seville, Andalusia)

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Created by Moorish kings and built mostly in the 1300s, this exotic palace is a must-see collage of intricate architectural details in tile and marble. Pools, fountains, windows and alcoves delight at every turn. Interesting note: The Real Alcázar de Sevilla was featured in seasons 5 and 6 of the HBO series Game of Thrones, standing in for the Water Gardens of Dorne.

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Alcázar de Segovia (Segovia, Castille y León)

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Originally an Arab fort built upon the remains of a Roman compound, this castle is truly breathtaking. With dark slate spires and a setting high on a rocky crag surrounded by forest, it is said to have inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. The alcazar is in the Unesco World Heritage-designated city of Segovia, about an hour from Madrid.

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Castillo de Olite (Olite, Navarre)

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South of Pamplona – famed for the Running of the Bulls during July’s San Fermin Festival – is the stunning Olite Castle. Charles III, King of Navarre, resided here in the 14th century. His penchant for luxurious living is seen in the castle’s details: whimsical towers, lush gardens and even a zoo. It’s easy to imagine ancient times, complete with fluttering banners, jousting knights and nobles enjoying summer days with brimming goblets in hand.

*The keys to this kingdom are within grasp with our Travel to Navarre, Spain. *


Editor’s Note: Portugal is one of Europe’s smallest nations, making it easy to visit many attractions in a day or overnight trip. A HomeExchange hub in Lisbon, Porto or elsewhere in Portugal’s countryside provides easy access to much of the country!

Palácio da Pena (Sintra, Lisbon area)

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On a clear day, Pena Palace in Sintra can be seen from many parts of Lisbon, only about 19 miles away. This fairy-tale castle, in its red, yellow and purple hues, reflects the 19th-century Romanticism that was brought to bear here by King Ferdinand, and that reinvigorated virtually all of the nation’s arts. Pena Palace is recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

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Castelo de Marvao (Marvao, Alentejo)

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On the border between Spain and Portugal, the spectacular white-washed castle-town of Marvao is perched on a granite crag in the Serra de São Mamede mountains. You can drive to the castle, which was built by King Dinis in the 13th century, or take a cobbled hiking trail from charming Portagem. Marvao was listed in the best-selling book about One Thousand Places to See Before You Die.

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Castelo de Guimarães (Guimarães)

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The historic medieval city of Guimarães in northern Portugal boasts this 10th-century castle with its 18 crenellated towers. Birthplace of Portugal’s first king, Alfonso I, it was named a national monument in 1910. A fantastic time to visit quaint Guimarães, Portugal’s first capital city, is during the first week of August when it hosts a fair and handicraft market.

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Castelo de São Jorge (Lisbon)

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The oldest parts of Saint George castle date back to the 6th century, when it was fortified by the Romans and Visigoths, then the Moors…and so on. It’s seen a lot of action, including the Great Earthquake of 1755 that caused significant damage to the castle and quite literally changed Lisbon. Visitors can still clamber about the castle ramparts and enjoy spectacular views of the city, its river and red rooftops.Share your HomeExchange story

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