World's 10 Most Captivating Castles

They're grand, historic fortresses, and to see the best of them you have to go to Europe -- or check out these photos.

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Highclere Castle's saloon
Highclere Castle's saloon

Highclere Castle's saloon

A view of the saloon -- a room for socializing, set in the center of the house -- in Highclere Castle in Newbury, England. The ancestral home of the Carnarvon family since 1679, the castle has recently been made famous as the setting for the hugely popular TV series, Downton Abbey. 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images  

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

This entrance hall leads into the saloon, which is decorated in a gothic style with ornate decoration, including leather wall coverings. 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images  

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

A view of the music room in Highclere Castle. Sitting on 1,000 acres of beautifully landscaped land and gardens, the castle is open in the summer months to visitors. 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images  

Highclere Castle's music room

Highclere Castle's music room

The ceiling of the music room, seen here reflected in the mirror, was painted in the 1730s by English painter and one of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts, Francis Hayman. 960 1280

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Highclere Castle's music room

Highclere Castle's music room

Italian 16th-century tapestries hang in Highclere’s music room. 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images  

Highclere Castle's drawing room

Highclere Castle's drawing room

This photo of Almina Wombwell sits in the drawing room, which is decorated with bolts of green French silk given to Almina by her banking tycoon father, Alfred de Rothschild. She became the lady of Highclere Castle when she married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon in 1895. 960 1280

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Highclere Castle's library

Highclere Castle's library

The Earl's desk is displayed in the castle’s library. An active Tory in Parliament, the 4th Earl of Carnarvon would retreat here in what has been nicknamed the “withdrawing room.” In Downton Abbey, Lord Grantham can often be found in this room, mulling over papers and fretting about the future of the estate. 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images  

Highclere Castle's library

Highclere Castle's library

This hidden door leads from the library to the music room. 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd  

Highclere Castle's library

Highclere Castle's library

There are over 5,600 books stored in Highclere’s library, with the earliest dating back to the 16th century. 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images  

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

These bells were used to summon the servants, with each bell corresponding to a different room in the castle. 960 1280

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Highclere Castle's Oak Staircase

Highclere Castle's Oak Staircase

The Oak Staircase was designed by English architect and artist, Thomas Allom, who is also known for his work with Sir Charles Barry in designing the Houses of Parliament. The staircase took a year to carve and install. Downton Abbey fans will fondly recall Lady Mary descending this staircase in her wedding dress, on her way to exchange vows with Matthew Crawley. 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd  

Highclere Castle's dining room

Highclere Castle's dining room

Found in the castle’s dining room are a series of portraits, including, most notably, the equestrian portrait of Charles I by Sir Anthony van Dyck, a Flemish artist who became England’s leading court painter. 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd  

Highclere Castle's Red Staircase

Highclere Castle's Red Staircase

The Red Staircase, leading to the second floor and what was once the nurseries, is the other main staircase in Highclere Castle that is used by the family. 960 1280

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Highclere Castle's Mercia bedroom

Highclere Castle's Mercia bedroom

On the first floor alone, there are 11 bedrooms and between 40 and 50 throughout the rest of the castle. The Mercia bedroom, seen here, is decorated with 18th-century silks. Downton Abbey fans may recognize the bedroom as belonging to Cora, the Countess of Grantham (although the Earl of Grantham is known to sneak in after the ladies’ maids and butlers have gone to bed). 960 1280

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images  

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle was remodeled for the 3rd Earl in 1839 by Sir Charles Barry after he finished the Houses of Parliament. Barry described the castle’s architecture as Anglo-Italian. 960 1280

Allan Baxter/Getty Images  

The Bradbury Estate
The Bradbury Estate

The Bradbury Estate

The pool house at Bradbury Estate is about 5,700 square feet and comes equipped with a kitchen, a massage room, a shooting range and several storage rooms. 960 1280

  

The Bradbury Estate

The Bradbury Estate

This oversized copper tub at The Bradbury Estate in California is mounted on a heating coil so the bathwater doesn't get cold too quickly. 960 1280

  

The Bradbury Estate

The Bradbury Estate

The custom-built, leather-paneled poker room at Bradbury Estate has an air ventilation system designed so that cigar smoke never leaves the room. 960 1280

  

The Jones Manor

The Jones Manor

Owned by genius inventor Scott Jones, this residence in Indianapolis, known as The Jones Manor, is a 28,000-square-foot tech geek's fantasy, outfitted with state-of-the-art gadgets. 960 1280

  

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

Perched above the California coast, Hearst Castle is a 70,000-square-foot Spanish-inspired castle built for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The largest house at Hearst Castle, known as Casa Grande, is composed of 115 rooms, 38 bedrooms, 30 fireplaces, 42 bathrooms and 14 sitting rooms. 960 1280

  

The Neptune Pool, Hearst Castle

The Neptune Pool, Hearst Castle

The Neptune Pool is designed with marble and serpentine tiles and antique elements, including Mediterranean-style sculptures. The pool contains 345,000 gallons of water, which is enough to fill 15 average-sized pools. 960 1280

  

Celestial Suite, Hearst Castle

Celestial Suite, Hearst Castle

Located at the top of the Hearst Castle tower is the Celestial Suite, which was once described as being “inside a jewel box.” Adorned with gold accents, the 16th- century suite has beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding grounds and California coastline. 960 1280

  

Villa Belvedere, San Francisco

Villa Belvedere, San Francisco

Villa Belvedere, located 4 miles from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, has 7 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms and wraparound terraces boasting 360-degree views of the San Francisco Bay, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito and Alcatraz. 960 1280

  

Kitchen, Villa Belvedere

Kitchen, Villa Belvedere

The gourmet kitchen includes more than just custom cabinets and a butler's pantry -- the main sink overlooks the villa’s front terrace and the beautiful San Francisco Bay. 960 1280

  

Master Bathroom, Villa Belvedere

Master Bathroom, Villa Belvedere

The villa’s master bathroom was designed using Calcutta marble and limestone materials, and has an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge. 960 1280

  

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

Located in Asheville, NC, Biltmore Estate is America’s largest private home. Designed by George Vanderbilt, the 250-room, chateau-inspired estate opened in 1895, and sits on 8,000 acres of land in the Appalachian’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. 960 1280

  

Vanderbilt's Bedroom, Biltmore Estate

Vanderbilt's Bedroom, Biltmore Estate

Vanderbilt's bedroom, adorned with 22-karat gold leaf on the walls, overlooks the beautiful landscape views of the estate. 960 1280

  

Observatory, Biltmore Estate

Observatory, Biltmore Estate

The 2-story observatory is located at the top of the main entrance tower in the center of the house, and was designed so Vanderbilt and his guests could enjoy views of the estate’s grounds. The lower level of the observatory (pictured above) features a sitting area that provides views of the front of the house. 960 1280

  

5 Star Island, Miami

5 Star Island, Miami

The master suite in the 10,000-square-foot, 2-story main house on Miami’s 5 Star Island can be rented at $12,000 per night. 960 1280

  

Backyard Patio, 5 Star Island

Backyard Patio, 5 Star Island

The Jacuzzi pool and air-conditioned cabanas are just two of the many amenities provided on 5 Star Island’s 10,000-foot backyard patio. 960 1280

  

Boat Dock, 5 Star Island

Boat Dock, 5 Star Island

Thomas Kramer, entrepreneur and 5 Star Island owner, parks his speed boat at 5 Star Island’s dock. 960 1280

  

Old Westbury Gardens, Old Westbury, NY

Old Westbury Gardens, Old Westbury, NY

Located in Old Westbury, NY, Old Westbury Gardens is the former home of Carnegie Steel executive John S. Phipps. The English-inspired mansion sits on more than 200 acres of beautifully landscaped property that consists of gardens, fountains ponds and woodlands. 960 1280

  

Stuffed Tiger Souvenir, Old Westbury Gardens

Stuffed Tiger Souvenir, Old Westbury Gardens

Displayed in the front hall of the mansion, the stuffed tiger was shot by Phipps during his 2.5-month journey through the jungles of India while honeymooning with his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps. 960 1280

  

Library, Old Westbury Gardens

Library, Old Westbury Gardens

The library at Old Westbury Gardens houses collections of books in education, horticulture and the arts. 960 1280

  

The Mansion at MGM Grand, Las Vegas

The Mansion at MGM Grand, Las Vegas

Located on the grounds of the largest hotel in the US, The Mansion at MGM Grand is a 290,000-square-foot, 18th-century, Tuscan-inspired villa with a 125-foot-tall glass domed atrium. If The Mansion is not being occupied by members of the royal family, celebrities or high rollers, rooms can be rented at a cost between $5,000 and $20,000 per night. 960 1280

  

Private Courtyard, The Mansion at MGM Grand

Private Courtyard, The Mansion at MGM Grand

Mansion guests will be picked up from the airport in a Rolls-Royce Phantom and will be greeted by a chauffeur upon their arrival through The Mansion’s private courtyard gates. 960 1280

  

Private Pool, The Mansion at MGM Grand

Private Pool, The Mansion at MGM Grand

Mansion guests can enjoy a private, quiet and relaxing day at The Mansion’s private outdoor pool. 960 1280

  

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