France: Chateau de Pierrefonds

This is perhaps one of the most beautiful and fairytale-like castles in the world – sitting on a high cliff, with defensive towers and a moat, a palace inside, thin towering spires rising sky high, and all decorated with medieval gargoyles and statures and other whimsical creatures. There was a castle here from the 12th century. Then in 15th century it became the residence of the Duke of Orléans. In 1617 the castle was besieged by Cardinal Richelieu (yes – the bad guy from Three Musketeers) and he ordered it completely razed off the ground. The sad ruins stood for a couple more centuries when Napoléon (clearly a astute value investor) bought the whole thing for a mere 3000 franks. Fast forward again, and Napoléon III plows 5 million franks into the construction of a dream castle. Today, it’s truly fantastic – pure Lord of The Rings material! And there is also a massive crypt with hundreds of stone figures of french nobles lying or sitting in a dark basement in spooky poses and light.