Built to be mighty bastions of power, Crusader castles can be found throughout Western Europe and the Middle East. Often occupied by formidable Christian military orders, these Crusader strongholds were meant to solidify the power of the Crusader states and act as military and administrative centres where these orders could consolidate their rule.
Yet, despite their often grand scale and robust defences, the onslaught of Muslim armies in the Middle East and internal conflict and rivalry with Western rulers often led to the loss of power of these orders and the destruction or capture of their fortresses.
Today surviving Crusader castles are some of the most fascinating historic places to explore and provide a glimpse into the world of those who built, occupied and fought in these powerful fortifications. If you’re keen on visiting these sites, our list of Crusader castles below can get you on your way – click on each individual castle for more information. You can also view a wider list of Crusader sites, including churches and museums.
Perhaps the best preserved Crusader castle in existence, the vast fortress of Krak des Chevaliers in Syria was the famous Knights Hospitallier during the 12th and 13th centuries until its capture by the Mameluke Sultan Baibars in 1271.
Krak des Chevaliers is a stunning example of Crusader-era military architecture and was the headquarters of the famous Knights Hospitallier during the 12th and 13th centuries. It is perhaps the best preserved example of a Crusader fortress in existence today, and is an awe-inspiring example of medieval military architecture. Built to withstand a... Read More
One of the most famous and impressive Crusader castles, the Grandmasters Palace in Rhodes was the base of the Knights Hospitaller of St John. Today it is open to the public as a museum.
The Grandmasters Palace of Rhodes was the palace of the Knights Hospitaller of St John. Dating to the fourteenth century (circa 1309), the Grandmasters Palace would be the base of this famous Christian and military order until Rhodes was captured by the Ottomans in 1522. Under this empire the Grandmasters Palace... Read More
Arsuf in Israel is home to a semi-ruined Crusader castle, once occupied by the Knights Hospitaller. Though badly damaged when the Mamluk Sultan Baibars captured the castle after a 40-day siege, it nevertheless remains an impressive crusader castle to explore.
Arsuf, also known as Apollonia, contains the remains of an ancient settlement on the Israeli coast that has stood for over 1,000 years. Arsuf is best known for the remains of a once-mighty Crusader castle which was once home to the Knights Hospitaller, but the site also contains remnants from... Read More
One of the principle cities of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusales, many of the key Crusader fortifications can still be seen in the modern city, including the Knights’ Halls and the Templar tunnels.
Acre or “Akko” is an ancient city in Israel which has been almost continuously inhabited since at least 3000 BC, during the Early Bronze Age. Today, the Old City of Acre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a myriad of ruins representing the many civilisations that ruled the area... Read More
Bodrum Castle was once a Crusader fortress built by the Knights Hospitaller in 1402 to to offer protection from the invading Seljuk Turks. Today it also includes the impressive Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Bodrum Castle (Bodrum Kalesi), also known as The Castle of St. Peter, in Bodrum, Turkey was built by the Knights Hospitaller in 1402 in order to offer protection from the invading Seljuk Turks. Constructed according to the highest standards at the time, it remained an important Christian stronghold for over a... Read More
One of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, Byblos in Lebanon contains the ruins of a 12th century Crusader castle which is still an impressive site to explore today.
Byblos (Jbail) in Lebanon is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, as attested by the incredibly diverse ages of its ruins. Thought to have first inhabited sometime around the fifth millennium BC, Byblos began as a Neolithic village of fisherman. Over time, Byblos would, amongst other things,... Read More
More famous for its Roman ruins, Caesarea in Israel was later a stronghold of Crusader forces and today visitors to the site can explore the impressive Crusader castle found at here.
Caesarea or “Keysarya” was an Ancient Roman city which is now a large archaeological site in Israel. It is believed that the city of Caesarea was initially founded atop the ruins of Straton's Tower, a third century BC Phoenician port city. Conquered by King Alexander Jannaeus of the Hasmonean Kingdom in... Read More
One of many more isolated places on our list of Crusader castles, the Citadel of Salah Ed-Din is a is a partly-preserved Crusader fortress in Syria, which was captured by Saladin in 1188.
The Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, also known as Saladin Castle and Saone, is a partly-preserved fortress in Syria which is an interesting example of Crusader-era fortifications. The site has been used as a fortification for many centuries, and is thought to have first been occupied by the Phoenicians and later by... Read More
Though now mostly of more modern construction, Fort Saint Jean was built on the site of an earlier Crusader castle built by the Knights Hospitallers, elements of which can still be explored.
Fort Saint Jean was one of two fortresses built by King Louis XIV in Marseille in the seventeenth century. Construction began in the 1660’s under the guise of wanting to protect Marseille from outside attack. In fact, the purpose of Fort Saint Jean was to subdue a rebellion by the... Read More
The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta has been the seat of power in Malta since the 16th century and was the headquarters of the powerful Knights Hospitallers.
The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta has been the seat of power in Malta since the sixteenth century. It was in 1571 that the Knights Hospitaller of St John made the Grandmasters Palace their base, a role which it would fulfil until 1798, when this religious and military order left Malta. At... Read More
An impressive 12th century Crusader castle in Jordan, the remains of the fortification of Kerak are an awesome and slightly forbidding sight even today.
Kerak Castle is an impressive 12th century Crusader-era fortification located to the south of Amman, Jordan, on the ancient King's Highway. Today the castle operates as a visitor attraction and contains a maze of corridors and chambers within the imposing fortifications. Described by a contemporary adventurer as "the most marvellous, most... Read More
Among the more obscure Crusader castles, Kolossi Castle in Cyprus was a fortification of the Knights Hospitallers built in the early thirteenth century.
Kolossi Castle was originally a thirteenth century Frankish fortification near Limassol in Cyprus. Constructed by the Knights Hospitallers in 1210, Kolossi Castle almost exclusively remained in their possession until it was destroyed by Mameluke raids in 1525/6. The only interruption occurred between 1306 and 1313, when it was taken over by... Read More
Not normally thought of as a Crusader castle, Malbork Castle was actually the headquarters of the Teutonic Knights, one of the most important a crusading military orders.
Malbork Castle (Zamek w Malborku), known in German as the Marienburg, is actually more of a medieval fortified castle complex enclosed within thick walls. Including a vast palace, a monastery, three castles and hundreds of other buildings - mostly homes - Malbork Castle was built in the thirteenth century by... Read More
Not necessarily known for its Crusades sites, Petra was in fact a Crusader stronghold for a number of years and contains the remains of two Crusader castles.
Petra is an iconic ancient site in southern Jordan. A secret to all but the Bedouins until 1812, Petra’s incredible monuments are now considered to be one of the wonders of the world. Petra was established by the once nomadic Kingdom of the Nabataeans. Carving a city out of the sandstone... Read More
Conquered by Crusaders fighting alongside Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, St George’s Castle in Lisbon went on to serve as a royal palace throughout the middle ages.
St George’s Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) in Lisbon is a medieval citadel resting high atop one of the city’s highest hills overlooking the Tagus River. Historical research has shown that the hill on which St George’s Castle sits was inhabited as early as the sixth century BC, with the first... Read More