By Jessica Russo
You’ve seen them in storybooks, you’ve seen them in movies, now it’s your chance to see them in real-life! From hilltop castles and colorful villages to sky-high mountains and sparkling turquoise lakes, explore the hidden treasures of Central Europe.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Does this castle happen to look familiar to you? Think: Disney. Yup, you got it! Disney used Neuschwanstein Castle as a model for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle in California. Nestled on the southern tip of Germany in Bavaria, this 19th-century gem was once home to King Ludwig II and is now a favorite among tourists.
Hint: In order to get the perfect picture of this storybook castle, head to nearby Marienbrucke bridge. Not only is the bridge a spectacle in itself, but it offers unbeatable views of the castle and its surrounding rolling hills.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Over 100 miles of lush forest, teal lakes, and peaceful waterfalls? Yes, this mesmerizing place really does exist. Wind through these 16 terraced lakes by trail, boat, or even zipline! Located between Zagreb and Split, this national park makes for a perfect stay or day trip.
Burg Kreuzenstein, Austria
Feel like royalty at this breathtaking castle in lower Austria! Only a quick 30-minute drive from Vienna, Burg Kreuzenstein majestically sits a whopping 265 meters above sea level. From the castle, feast your eyes on gorgeous views of the Danube River, the Vienna Woods, and the quaint village of Leobendorf.
Triglav National Park, Slovenia
This may be Slovenia's only national park, but it surely exudes enough beauty for the whole country! Explore over 300 square miles of rocky mountains, river gorges, sparkling blue lakes, forests, caves, waterfalls - the works. Gawk at the park's centerpiece, Mount Triglav, the highest peak of the Julian Alps! Be sure to hit Lake Bohinj, Soca, and Vintgar Gorge on your journey.
Hint: Pay a visit to Lake Bled and its picture-perfect surrounding town, located just east of Triglav. The perfect home base for a hotel? Sounds about right.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Upon visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber, you'll think: is this a theme park or a real town? This adorable fairytale town is a sight in itself. Fall in love with its narrow medieval streets, colorful tudor-style storefronts, and warm traditional feel. One of Germany's most well-preserved old towns, Rothenburg will completely take you back in time.
Hint: Be sure that you plan to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber, on the Tauber River. There are many "Rothenburgs" in Germany, and believe it or not, many tourists wind up in the wrong town!
Grossglockner Road, Austria
Wind through sky-high mountains on the highest surfaced mountain pass road in Austria! This amazing bend connects Bruck in Salzburg to Heiligenblut in Carinthia. On this adrenaline-pumping drive, you'll feel like you're in a sports car commercial as you look out at the towering snow-capped mountains and vibrant greeney that surrounds you.
Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic
Stroll across the Vltava River on this bridge that is equally as historic as it is beautiful. One of Prague's most raved-about sightseeing spots, the pedestrian-only Charles Bridge is a Gothic masterpiece of baroque statues, Czech artists, and street musicians. Not to mention, the perfect place for a spectacular sunset over the city.
Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania
Immerse yourself in the magical, mythical legend of Dracula at his very own castle! This Romanian national monument and landmark is a fortress situated near Bran in Transylvania. Become both spooked and awestruck as you feast your eyes on the eerie stone towers of this stunning hilltop castle.