You don't need to travel to Europe to marvel at Middle Ages-inspired architecture; Canada's castles make it possible to step into a period drama right here at home. From crumbling ruins to castle hotels to sprawling National Historic Sites, these castles are all worth a visit – or an overnight stay – especially if you're looking to write your own whimsical fairy tale.
A castle for scholars
Colwood, Greater Victoria, British Columbia
Hatley Castle (aka Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters in the X-Men movies) on Vancouver Island is a National Historic Site that is home to sprawling grounds, stunning gardens and even a university. The castle now houses a museum and offices for the lucky administration of Royal Roads University. It’s free to visit the gardens, but to check out the inside of the estate you’ll need to take a guided walking tour which operate seasonally from April to September.
A castle for foodies
Dundurn Castle, built in 1835 in Hamilton, Ontario, is an 18,000-square-foot, 40-room villa. The two-acre kitchen garden is a sight to behold, especially when the costumed interpreters are working in it, using 19th century tools. Visitors can help harvest ingredients for use in historic recipes during workshops hosted at The Kitchen Garden at Dundurn.
A castle hotel for nature-lovers
Lake Louise, Alberta
Built in 1890 on the cerulean shores of Lake Louise, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise offers the ultimate fairy tale setting. Located within Alberta's Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is no shortage of breathtaking views and stunning scenery. Hugged by wilderness, outdoor adventure abounds.
A castle for Jane Eyre enthusiasts
Victoria, British Columbia
If you long to experience the Victorian era, Craigdarroch Castle is the spot for you. Built between 1887 and 1890 (and meticulously restored), the castle sits atop a hill overlooking British Columbia's provincial capital. Grab your most Victorian era-inspired outfit and head over for a day of marvelling at the intricate architecture, stained glass windows, Victorian furnishings and relics like ballroom dance cards.
A castle with secret tunnels and hideaways
CC by 2.0 by | Flickr/Larry Koester
Casa Loma | Francisco De Legarreta C.
Casa Loma, Toronto’s only castle, has 98 rooms, 30 bathrooms, an electric elevator, a library, a dining room for 100, three bowling alleys, a rifle range and an (unfinished) swimming pool. But that’s not even the most interesting part. The castle also has secret staircases, tunnels and an underground passageway. Prepare for a full afternoon of exploring, then dine in at BlueBlood Steakhouse or beneath the conservatory's stained glass ceiling at Don Alfonso 1890.
A castle for artists
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Mac Armstrong
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Mac Armstrong
Castle Kilbride is an ornate Victorian home built in 1877 for flax industrialist, politician and entrepreneur James Livingston. The castle was designated as a National Historic Site in 1995, in large part because of the incredible Trompe l'oeil ceiling and wall murals, which give the illusion of three-dimensional depth, making it seem as if the paintings' subjects are real.
A castle with sprawling grounds
Willistead Manor, a 36-room mansion, boasts 15 acres of grounds, which are used as a public park. The manor is a beautiful architectural hub of Windsor – but it almost didn’t survive. Deeded to the town by its former owner, it was used for years as the Walkerville Town Hall, Art Gallery of Windsor and as a public library branch, until the 1970s when the municipality wanted to demolish it due to the demands of upkeep. Preservationists stepped in, and now this manor house can be rented for events.
Flickr/Gilles Douaire (CC by SA2.0)
Glengarry, Ontario (19998 County Rd 18, Williamstown, K0C 2J0)
For those who are romanced by crumbling castle structures, you’ll enjoy a visit to St. Raphael’s Ruins. While it’s not actually a castle (they’re cathedral ruins) it definitely has medieval castle vibes, and is worth the day trip to Glengarry, Ontario for the photo op alone. Built in 1821, the cathedral burned down in 1970, leaving only the framing behind. The ruins were preserved and are now a dedicated national historic site.
A castle you can only visit in the winter
Hand Luggage Only @handluggageonly
If you have any Disney Frozen fans in your house, you’ll want to make sure you visit Edmonton’s "Ice Castles," a stunning wintertime display of frozen structures. The ice castles, located in Hawrelak Park, are on display each year during the coldest months. The exhibit also includes ice slides and a light display.
Editor's note: While Edmonton has hosted the ice castles since 2015, the pandemic has cancelled the 2021-2022 season.