Travel back in time to the best castles in Germany

Welcome

to the ultimate source about medieval castles in Germany. Here you can find tons of information, images and videos on our favourite topics. In the video above you can see some of the most popular “specimens” of german history.

So you booked your holiday and arranged plane tickets, packed up your sun lotion, double checked your digital camera, batteries and lenses and are now ready for some action in the land of beer, wurst and sauerkraut. Whether you have been sent on a business trip to Germany or you decided to spend some quality vacation time, it is very likely that you have a couple of free days to not only enjoy the local cuisine, but to take a look around and experience some of the most awesome cultural heritage Europe has to offer.

Brief History

German tribes have populated the lands between the rivers Elbe, Rhine and Danube even before the world has even heard of the Roman empire. Slowly, in the following centuries towns and villages have formed and during the early and middle ages, with the influence of kings and other royal families, they evolved into castles and fortifications. Most of those buildings have been erected near the rivers to facilitate transport and trade with other cities and in the same dominate the local countryside. Others had special purposes, such as outposts, hunting lodges and were situated in mostly in forests, mountains and particularly scenic locations.

Many have been destroyed during the years, later rebuilt only to be destroyed again. The cycle carried on even in the 20th century when during world war II many historical monuments in Germany have been completely demolished.  However, the main bombing targets of the allies were big cities, which left many of the isolated buildings intact. In the following years and economical growth of germany, most of what has been destroyed has been rebuilt again, castles including.

Today there are more than thousand castles (this number can be speculated a lot depending of what one considers as “castle”) spread across sixteen states. If you were to visit all of them you might have needed quite a few months to get to every single one of them. This is the reason I created this website – to give you an overview of the most famous german castles, which of them are worth visiting, how should you adjust your plans so that you are able to combine as many worth-visiting locations as possible in the small precious time frame you have available.

The best castles in Germany

What I give you here is by no means the ONLY possible way of looking and evaluating things. However, I have had this middle-age obsession for a long time and during the decade I spent in Germany i managed to visit quite a few of this magic places and get a good idea what is worth and what is not respectively.

First of all I would like to offer you a list of locations I find interesting. You can check what big city lies nearby (I have tried to find the biggest city in 50-100km radius), when was the castle created and what architectural style it was built in. The last two points are also debatable, because of the fact that most of them have been evolving with time, going through many different epoques and including quite a lot of design influences.

After thatI will give you what I think is the absolute must see list of german castles. This way you will know what your primary goals should be when your trip begins.

Finally I will not leave you hanging and will provide you with some nice further reading and useful information regarding you next trip to Germany.

So without further ado I give you the most famous castles in Germany:

Image Name Province Nearby big City Built in Style
Albrechtsburg-2007 (1) Albrechtsburg Saxony Dresden 10th centuy late gothic
Burg_Altena_20080215 Altena Castle North Rhine-Westphalia Dortmund 12th century
ECE_Schloss_06u07_1b braunschweig schloss / Brunswick Palace Lower Saxony Brunswick 18th century
castle-eltz-57332_640 Burg Eltz Rhineland-Palatinate Koblenz 12th century Romanesque, Baroque
RheinlandPfalz_Rheinstein_tango7174 Burg Rheinstein Rhineland-Palatinate Mainz 14th century
P1010270_Burghausen Burg zu Burghausen Bavaria Munich 11th century
SchlossCharlottenburgNacht Charlottenburg Palace Berlin Berlin 17th century
DD-Schloss-gp Dresden Castle Saxony Dresden 15-18th century
Schloss_Ehrenburg_1900 Ehrenburg Palace Bavaria Coburg 16th century Baroque
DIGITAL IMAGE Frankenstein Castle Hessen Frankfurt 13th century
Jagdschloss_Granitz_4 Granitz Hunting Lodge Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Rostock 19th century
Heidelberg-Schloß Heidelberg Castle Baden-Württemberg Heidelberg 13th century Gothic, Renaissance
Schloss Herrenchiemsee Herrenchiemsee Bavaria Munich 19th century Neo-Baroque
DE_Bavaria_Hohenschwangau_castle_Nov Hohenschwangau Castle Bavaria Munich 12th century Neo-Gothic
Burg_Hohenzollern_im_Blick_von_Mariazell Hohenzollern Castle Baden-Württemberg Stuttgart 11th century Neo-Gothic
Luftaufnahme Festung Königstein im Oktober 2008 Königstein Fortress Saxony Dresden 13th century
Schloss_Lichtenstein_04-2010 lichtenstein castle Baden-Württemberg Stuttgart 19th century Neo-Gothic
Linderhof-1 Linderhof Palace Bavaria Munich 19th century Rococo
1010_Löwenburg_Bergpark_Kassel Löwenburg Hessen Kassel 18th century Neo-Gothic
Ludwigsburg,_November_2006,_44 Ludwigsburg Palace Baden-Württemberg Stuttgart 18th century Baroque
Marburger_Schloss_024 Marburger Schloss Hessen Marburg 16th century Gothic
Schloss_Moritzburg_von_Süd-West Moritzburg Castle Saxony Dresden 16th century Baroque
Schloss Moyland Moyland Castle North Rhine-Westphalia Duisburg 17th century Neo-Gothic
Neuschwanstein_Castle_from_Marienbrücke,_2011_May Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria Munich 19th century Romanesque
Luftbild Nürnberger Burg Nuremberg Castle Bavaria Nuremberg 12th century
Cochem,_Reichsburg,_2012-08_CN-01 Reichsburg Cochem Rhineland-Palatinate Koblenz 19th century gothic
Burg_rheinfels_2004 Rheinfels Castle Rhineland-Palatinate Koblenz 13th century
NewPalaceSanssouci san souci New Palace (Potsdam) Brandenburg Berlin 18th century baroque
Schloss-Schaumburg-JR-G6-3708-2009-08-04 Schaumburg Castle Rhineland-Palatinate Koblenz 12th century Neo-gothic
Schloss_Biebrich_fg01 Schloss Biebrich Hessen Wiesbaden 18th century Baroque
Aschaffenburger_Schloss,_edit Schloss Johannisburg Bavaria Aschaffenburg 17th century classicism
SchlossLieserSky Schloss Lieser Rhineland-Palatinate Wiesbaden 19th century Neo-Gothic
Schloss_Nordkirchen_KdM02 Schloss Nordkirchen Westphalia Dortmund 18th century Baroque
Schwetzingen03 Schloss und Schlossgarten Schwetzingen Baden-Württemberg Heidelberg 14th century Baroque
Schloss_Weissenstein_2_ReiKi Schloss Weißenstein Bavaria Nuremberg 18th century Baroque
SchlossWilhelmshoehe_kasselgalerie_de Schloss Wilhelmshöhe Hessen Kassel 18th century classicism
Schlossbruecke_Schwerin_01_09 Schwerin Castle Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Rostock 10th – 19th century gothic
Schloss_Sigmaringen_2013 Sigmaringen Castle Baden-Württemberg Stuttgart 11th century Romanesque, Gothic
Aerial_fg085 Stolzenfels Castle Rhineland-Palatinate Koblenz 13th century Neo-Gothic
Veste_Coburg_Luftbild Veste Coburg Bavaria Wuerzburg 10th century
Wernigerode Aufgang zum Schloss Wernigerode Harz Foto 2005 Wolfgang Pehlemann Wiesbaden PICT0022 Wernigerode Castle Saxony-Anhalt Brunswick 19th century Baroque
PICT1077.JPG Zwinger Palace Saxony Dresden 13th century Baroque

Image source: Wikipedia

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How to pick the right places?

This depends on a lot of factors some of which are – available time, budget and size of the group you are travelling with. Easiest is going or your own, or with someone you get along really well. The optimal would be if you had all the time in the world, stockpile of cash and do whatever you want. Sadly, for many of us this is not the case, so let’s stop imagining unicorns and look at some real-life examples:

Example 1: Your time is short and you have just a couple of days to look around.

In this case you should definitely pick one or maybe two castles to visit. The thing is that in most areas there is always something else worth seeing and you want to spend less time travelling and more time looking at  great monuments and shooting awesome pictures. If you can get to another castle in less than an hour then maybe combining two in the same day might work. Otherwise you would  have to rush yourself and you wouldn’t want to experience things only halfway.

Example 2: You are on a tight budget

In this case you should limit your trip to an area and spend less money on transport. Find a place where you can stay for a relatively low price and then use a cheap rent-a-car or regional trains. The latter might be the cheapest way of travelling in radius of 40-50 kilometers. It may take longer, but if you have the time available it is worth experiencing having a beer or two with your friends during the trip (yes, this is possible in Germany) while watching the scenery through the train window. For more information about travelling by train in germany check my detailed post addressing that matter.

There are also other aspect that are worth considering. In many castles in Germany there are annual events such as bard songs and minstrel shows, opera and concert events as well as middle-ages-style knight contest and craftsmanship shows where you can dress up like the cast of “robin hood”. There are some castles that have been turned into hotels or hostels, so if you want to have more authentic and extraordinary tourist experience you might consider renting a room inside. I will try to write something about this in my future posts. So if you want to stay in touch and find this website again, don’t forget to join the facebook community here.

Now as promised, following is the list of castles I consider as most awesome. There is no particular order since I think this is a matter of personal preference. If I were to make the call, I’d say “see them all”, but I am not, so find which fits best to your plans and is closest to your location.

The 7 MUST SEE castles in germany

 

1. Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein_Castle_from_Marienbrücke,_2011_MayWith its 1.3 million visitors a year there is no doubt this castle is the most famous not only in Germany but maybe even in whole europe. Translated from German the name means “New Swan Stone”. There are too many superlatives that can be made about this one. It is not only the castle and it’s design that is amazing. The scenery is breathtaking, the tour guides are competent and the goulash soup in the nearby locale is the best thing that you could experience in a cold winter day.

If you think of the beginning of every disney movie you will remember the castle with the orbiting star around it. Well this castle has been inspired heavily by Neuschwanstein and is also part of Disneyland. So I guess most people have seen it without even knowing. There is a lot more to say on this one, but I will do that in a whole article regarding this topic.

2. Heidelberg (link)

Heidelberg-SchloßThe old town of Heidelberg is one of the greatest german tourist attractions. Lots of nice locales, various cuisine both for starving people on a low budget and sophisticated epicures, the old cathedral and the famous neckar bridge are a great supplement to the main event – the old castle of Heidelberg. Many historic ruins combined with an amazing garden overlooking the whole town, the demolished tower, the alchemist museum and the biggest vat you’ve ever seen (220,000 liters or 60,000 gallons !!!) are what makes this castles unique and worth investing your time and money to visit. You can easily spend a whole day wandering around and imagining what must have been like living in a place like this. If you are going for this one – start it early in the morning so you have enough time to see and enjoy everything it has to offer.
read more here.

3. Schwerin (link)

Schwerin castle front lookWords are insufficient to describe this magnificent piece of art and architecture. The current seat of the state parliament has taken almost ten centuries to get its current form. Surrounded by water and magnificent gardens, this castle can take up a whole day of your time. My recommendation is visiting in late spring or summer so you can enjoy the whole complex to the fullest. You should definitely take a tour inside the castle, because the interior is really well preserved and at some point you will really forget about being in the real world. What makes the story of this castle even more interesting is that many people think it is being haunted by a small gnome ghost by the name of Petermännchen. Do not be alarmed though, because Petermännchen is the friendly housekeeper-keymaster welcoming everyone good intended. So if you happen to meet him do not forget to wave, smile and be as polite as possible.

4. Burg Eltz (link)

castle-eltz-57332_640It took more than five centuries for burg Eltz to become what it is today. During that period inside the 100 rooms of the building lived 33 generations of one and the same family. This fact alone is more than fascinating. Nevertheless, seeing in person the stacked levels and towers lying magnificently on top of a hill overseeing Eltzbach valley and the Moselle river is a mindblowing experience and a dream come true for every hobbyist-photographer. Another interesting fact is that back in the days of the deutsche mark, this castle was on the old 500 bill. Looking at the contemporary euro coins you will see an oak tree leaf, which is a nice coincidence, given the fact that oak trees are surrounding the pathway that will lead you to the castle. The memories from this castle can’t be bought though, neither with dms nor with euros.

5. Zwinger

PICT1077.JPGAt the entrance of the Zwinger you step into a time capsule which takes you 200-300 years back in time. Everything is so remarkably well preserved and the complex has a lot of museums worth seing. The gallery of the old masters contains paintings of Raphael, Canaletto and Rubens. There is also the old armory where you can see many armors and weapons from the 16th-17th century. The Dresden porcelain collection is considered as one of the largest in the world. If you fancy old time mathematical and astronomical tools you defenitely should check out the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments which has been reopened this year (2013 at the time of writing this post). If you get tired of all the museums and exhibitions, you can go out and chill in the huge 2km² great garden located just a couple of kilometers nearby. There you could check another castle called the summer palace or ride the park train.

6. Lichtenstein

Schloss_Lichtenstein_04-2010The lichtenstein castle is another fairytale keep built in the 19th century. While walking the bridge to the entrance of the castle you feel yourself as being part of some Game of Thrones episode. Some of the buildings there are accessible to view and you could see armours and furnitures from that era. This castle is not so commercialised and depending on the season you pick, there might be just a few people. Another plus is that this castle does not necessarily have to be visited in summer on a sunny day. On the contrary – picking a rainy and foggy day even enhances the mystical feeling. Maybe this is why I liked it so much. There are a lot of weddings taking place there, so if you are planning one, you just might consider the lichtenstein castle as an option. The place is suitable for kids and the scenery and castle detail is amazing.

7. Hohenzollern (link)

Burg_Hohenzollern_im_Blick_von_MariazellOh my… Welcome to a Germany fortress storybook. The castle is located on a steep hilltop that you have to reach, so saddle your horses and prepare for the climb. Or you could just take the shuttle bus :) . The view from the battlements on top of the hill is of course breathtaking given the fact you are able to see the whole valley underneath and even have a glimpse of France and Switzerland. You are paying different tickets  - one for the battlements and chapels and another one for the actual castle building with its extraordinarily decorated rooms. Both are worth it, so don’t be an uncle Scrooge and just go for it. There are also catacombs to explore. This castle is also good for visiting in winter especially on christmas time when you can enjoy the Christmas market built there. It may not be thousands of years old but yet again is still stunning, functional and definitely worth your time.
Read more about the castle of Hohenzollern and the mysterious ghost if the “White Lady”.

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