A Guide to the German Castles

A popular destination for many other reasons, Germany is the land of fairy tales castles, most of them located on the Romantic Route. Created in 1950 in an effort to revive the tourism industry, it crosses the southern provinces of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, going through historic town like Würzburg and Augsburg, reaching the medieval fortified citadels of Rothenburg, Dinkelsbühl and Nördlingen and heading towards the Alps and ending at the Austrian boarder.

Hohenzollern Babelsberg Alte Burg Meersburg Neuschwanstein Hohenschwangau
Linderhof Wartburg Reichsburg Cochem Marksburg Schwerin
Heidelberg Sanssouci Mespelbrunn Zwinger Festung Königstein
Burg Eltz Braunfels Herrenchiemsee Residenz Frankenstein

Hohenzollern

Hohenzollern

Hohenzollern Castle Reviews

Residence of the family who gave the castle’s name for several centuries, the Hohenzollern Castle was completed in 1867, after several reconstructions and redesigns.

Overlooking the world on top of a steep 855 meters high rock, it seems to defy time and represents a fascinating discovery for all architecture and history lovers.

Read more about Hohenzollern Castle here.

Babelsberg

BabelsbergBabelsberg Castle Reviews

Babelsberg Palace was built in 1833 as a summer residence for the later Emperor William I and his wife Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenachin.  Standing atop and next to the Havel River, the castle features a Neo-Gothic architectural style. The original design was signed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The architect based the castle’s design on English models, imitating the English Tudor style.

The original concept was later on modified, but some of the original features were maintained. The palace is surrounded by a large park designed by Peter Joseph Lenné and Prince Pückler-Muskau as English landscape garden.

Alte Burg Meersburg

Alte Burg MeersburgThe oldest inhabited German castle, Alte Burg Meersburg, whose history goes back to the 7th century, offers a beautiful view of Lake Constance.

Its construction was begun by a Merovingian king, Dagoberth. During its early decades, the castle served as residence for the bishop of Constance.

The castle’s tour includes 30 rooms, including an old kitchen, the Knights’ Hall, the barn and the northern bastion.

The famous German poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, who often stayed here in the mid 19th century (1841-1848). She died at the castle on May 24th 1848. The rooms where she lived are also shown during the tour.

Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein Castle1Neuschwanstein Castle Reviews

Also known as the “fairy tale castle”, Neuschwanstein is certainly the most beautiful castle in the whole world. If, when seeing its picture, you have a deja vu feeling, you should know there is nothing wrong with you. You have most probably watched the Sleeping Beauty’s story.

The result of a king’s obsession for Wagner’s opera, the Neuschwanstein Castle has never been completed. However, you discover a few halls whose decorations are inspired by the famous composer’s works.

While you are there, don’t miss the opportunity of taking a walk to the Marienbrucke bridge, from where you can get an amazing panorama over the castle.

Read more about Neuschwanstein Castle here.

Hohenschwangau

HohenschwangauHohenschwangau Schloss Reviews

The first mention of this castle in historical documents dates from the 12th century. Until the 16th century, it was the property of Schwangau family; hence, the name of this royal edifice.

After a long period of abandonment, the castle was purchased by King Maximilian II and rebuilt according to the original plans. After its renovation, it was used as residence by the Bavarian royal family.
In 1928, it was purchased by the Wilttelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds .

The place where Ludwig II spent his childhood, Hohenschwangau Castle is visible from Neuschwanstein and offers splendid views over the latter. If you want to take a look at the scenery, rent a boat on the lake that surrounds the castle.

On the castle’s premises, you can also find the Museum of Bavarian Kings. It is opened daily from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Linderhof

LinderhofLinderhof Palace Reviews

Surrounded by superb gardens, Linderhof is another German castle whose building was ordered by Ludwig II and inspired from Richard Wagner’s creations.

An artificial cave with multicolored lights was added to the castle to illustrate the composer’s Tannhäuser opera show.

Besides the impressive halls, you can also visit the exterior gardens decorated with allegorical statues representing the continents, the seasons and the four elements (air, earth, water and fire).

Wartburg

WartburgWartburg Castle Reviews

The first mention of the castle in historic doments dates from 1080, and it is believed that the edifice’s foundation was laid back in 1067. Since then, Wartburg Castle has seen much history being written.

This is the place where Elizabeth of Hungary was raised. She lived at the castle from 1211 to 1228.

The most German of the German castles, Wartburg is the venue where Martin Luther hid from May 1521 to March 1522 and translated the New Testimony from Greek to German.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stayed here for a few weeks in 1777, making different sketches of the buildings.

Reichsburg Cochem

Reichsburg CochemReichsburg Cochem Castle Reviews

Victim of numerous attacks and fires, the 10th century castle proudly displays nowadays a Neo-Gothic architecture featured by charming towers rising over 300 feet high above the Moselle River and guarding the entire region with their solemn silhouettes.

According to some Romanesque fragments discovered in the well, it is believed the castle underwent some renovation works around the year 1056. This is probably the time when core featuring this architectural style was built.

If you decide to make a tour of the castle, you might also be interested to see a falconry show. They are held each day of the week except Monday on the castle’s premises. Night tours of Cochem are also available.

Marksburg

MarksburgMarksburg Castle Reviews

Overlooking the Rhine from up a hill, Marksburg Castle overlooks the town of Braubach with its slender silhouette.

This royal edifice dating from the 12th century houses one of the most impressive arsenal collections in the world as well as one of the oldest cannons in Germany.

Marksburg Castle is also home to the German Castles Association, whose property it is since 1900, when this institution bought the castle for a very small price, thanks to the German Emperor Kaiser WilheIm II.

Schwerin

SchwerinSchwerin Schloss Reviews

Currently housing the  Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state Parliament, Schwerin Castle mirrors it image in a beautiful lake and is surrounded by superb Burggarten gardens. The importance of this royal building erected at the end of the 19th century goes much beyond the tourist attraction, the edifice being one of the most important examples of Romantic Historicism and of neo-Renaissance architectural style in Europe.

You can visit the quarters where the royal family lived as well as the ceremonial rooms, including the room of the throne and an ancestral portrait gallery. Take the time to admire rich sculptural and painted decor.

You will find here also an interesting museum – the Schloss Schwerin Museum, exhibiting on three floors an eclectic mixture of artistic gems, most of them dating from the 19th century. The Gallery of Old & New Masters is the most interesting part of the museum.

Heidelberg

HeidelbergHeidelberg Castle Reviews

Although a ruin by now, Schloss Heidelberg continues to dominate the eponymous town and to represent not only one of the most romantic landmarks in the country, but also one of the most impressive German castles. Spreading its vestiges across the Jettenbuhl Hill, Heidelberg Castle is visible from all the corners of the historic and charming town.

The first foundations of this edifice that underwent several construction and deconstruction processes were laid in the 11th century. The castle was then divided into two parts – an upper and a higher one. The latter was struck by lightning twice – first in 1537, and then again in 1764. The last one was the castle’s final blow, signing its fate of ruin to eternity. 

However, between the two incidents, Heidelberg Castle knew flourishing times, especially during 1508 and 1618, under Ludwig V, Otto-Heinrich and his successors. This is when the walls were fortified, the Renaissance and English Wings, the baroque palace and the multi-layered Hortus Palatinus gardens with their impressive statues were added.

Sanssouci

SanssouciSanssouci Palace Reviews

A gem of Baroque architecture, Schloss Sanssouci was Frederick the Great’s summer residence and the venue where he used to entertain the musicians and thinkers of his time (including Voltaire). There is no other place in this world so connected so tightly with the personality of this King of Prussia as Sanssouci Palace. His summer residence was his favorite refuge in difficult times.

Frederick the Great is actually buried in the castle’s gardens.

The location of the palace overlooking the famous vineyard terraces is impressive. The rooms are the climax of elegance and stylish splendor.

Mespelbrunn

MarksburgMespelbrunn Castle Reviews

Tucked away discreetly valley between a pound and the Spessart forest, the Mespelbrunn Castle is the result of a simple house’s reconstruction in 1551. The knight who commissioned the reconstruction, Hamann Echter, a knight received the house from the archbishop of Mainz as a reward for his services against the Czechs.

Now the castle features a Renaissance architectural style and a very romantic atmosphere. The main part of this impressive water castle has a square base and faces a lake. Its court is surrounded by two storied houses.

Zwinger

Zwinger CastleAnother impressive example of Baroque architecture, Zwinger Castle is actually a complex of palaces, museums and gardens. The construction of this royal edifice started in the year 1709.

Initially, Zwinger Castle was conceived as an open area with wooden buildings  around. The sandstone palace was erected later on, and its design was signed by Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann.

The most famous part of the castle, the Crown Gate features decorative statues embodying Greek mythology figures. Next to the Rampart Pavilion, you will find the Nymphaeum, one of the finest examples of baroque fountains in the country.

Nowadays, the Zwinger Palace is home to a series of museums. Some of the most interesting things to visit while touring this castle are the Dresden porcelain collection, the armoury with its comprehensive collection of weapons, armour suits and ceremony garments, and the Semper Gallery, housing an impressive collection of paintings dating from the baroque to the Renaissance period. Here you can admire Raphael’s famous Sistine Madonna.

In the same area, you can visit the Church of Our Lady dating from the late 18th century. Destroyed during World  War II, this baroque architecture gem was rebuilt from 1994 to 2005.

Festung Königstein

Festung KönigsteinFestung Königstein Reviews

The oldest fortress in Germany, Festung Königstein is a confluence of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and 19th-century architecture.

The oldest mention of the castle dates from 1233 and it was made in a document of King Wenzel I from Bohemia, to whom the edifice belonged.

After going through various uses, including a prison, a refuge of the royal family, a war camp, the headquarters of the German Reich, and a military hospital, the castle is now the property of the Free State of Saxony.

A tour of the castle will enable you to browse centuries of German history, and visit iconic places, not to mention enjoy great panoramic views.

Burg Eltz

Burg EltzBurg Eltz Castle Reviews

Tucked in the Moselle River valley, and perched on a 70 meters high rock Burg Eltz is the best preserved German medieval castle.

The castle is currently inhabited. However, tours are allowed and visitors can admire not only the period furniture and original decorations, but also the 20 toilets with drainage system that supposedly dates from the 15 century.

Unscathed by wars and and cared for by the same family since the moment it was built until today, Burg Eltz features a unique architectural style and eight towers, rising up to 35 metres high.

Spend some time in the castle’s inner courtyard – the mirror of five centuries of activity, telling the story of the Eltz family and of the royal edifice itself.

Braunfels

BraunfelsSchloss Braunfels Reviews

A medieval castle dating from the 13th century, Braunfels was renovated during the 19th century in a Neo-Gothic style. However, inside the castle you can see medieval exhibits such as guns, pictures and china.

Touring the Braunfels castle feels like entering a fairy tale. Continuously inhabited by royalty and nobility figures for eight centuries, the edifice is now a cultural and historic attraction, home to exceptional art treasures.

Some of the highlights of a tour of the castle are the courtyard from where you can get some stunning views over the surrounding hills, the Knight’s Hall with its collection of weapons, armors and armaments, the Stairways Hall and the State Room – home to an impressive art collection.

Herrenchiemsee

HerrenchiemseeSchloss Herrenchiemsee Reviews

Built in 1878 on an island of the Chiemsee Lake purchased especially on this purpose, this German version of Versailles can be reached solely by boat.

Initially meant as a tribute to Ludwig XIV, who was fascinated by the French palace, Herrenchiemsee succeeded to surpass its inspiration in point of size and opulence.

Residenz

The Residenz of WurzburgThe Residenz of Wurzburg Reviews

Permanent residence of the ruling Wittelsbach family for over 500 years and one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in Europe, the Residenz castle is located in Munich.

This UNESCO World Cultural Heritage landmark includes a huge complex, richly decorated, that was built between 1720 and 1744 by Balthasar Neumann for the bishops of Würzburg.

Both the external facade and the interiors feature an eclectic mix of Renaissance, early Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles.

The Residenz is now home to various museums operated by the Bavarian Administration of State-owned Palaces, Gardens and Lakes.

Frankenstein

FrankensteinFrankenstein Castle Reviews

Famous for the myths and legends surrounding it, Frankenstein Castle dating from the 10th century is located in Darmstadt (half an hour away from Frankfurt).

It had become a ruin prior to the beginning of the 19th, when its rehabilitation was triggered by the raising interest in the Gothic and Romantic literature and by the publication of the novel bearing the same name, written by Mary Shelley.