The 25 best castles in Bavaria.
By the most rough estimate there are about 300 castles in Bavaria. Quite an impressive figure, even considering the large size of the region. But remember that Bavaria’s numerous castles and palaces were built over a period of 1,000 years by different kings, nobles and archbishops. And if the medieval buildings served only one purpose – to protect possessions from encroachment, the later creations, built in the XVI-XIX centuries, were created as a country residences and summer palaces.
Especially admired by tourists are castles, built under Louis II, are real architectural masterpieces and a treasury of art. Fans of the Romanesque and early Renaissance styles will find the impregnable fortresses scattered among the picturesque Bavarian countryside irresistible.
Bavaria’s most beautiful palaces and castles
Rising against the mountain backdrop Neuschwanstein is the pinnacle of architecture, music in stone, a harmonious symphony of beauty and grandeur. The castle was built for Louis II in the XIX century, spending an astronomical sum for those times. The interior decoration of the palace rivals the exterior in luxury – the walls are painted with plots of German legends and tales, embodied in the great Wagner’s operas: Lohengrin, Parzival, Tannhäuser.
The first mention of Hohenschwangau goes back to the XII century. It was built by knights of the Schwangau family, which ceased to exist in the 16th century, and at the same time the castle began to decline. The building was restored three hundred years later under Emperor Maximilian II, who employed the best architects and artists for this purpose. After the Hohenschwangau was rebuilt, it became the summer residence of the royal family. Today it is a museum that is open to the public.
A powerful hilltop fortress located in Nuremberg. Construction of Kaiserburg began in the 11th century, later the castle became the repository of royal relics of the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. The architecture of the building is the epitome of power, austerity and simplicity of the Romanesque style. It is obvious that in the Middle Ages people cared not about beauty, but about the ability of the fortress to withstand a siege. In the XV century the Imperial Gardens appeared around the complex, slightly softening its stern appearance.
One of the largest and best-preserved castle complexes in Germany, built in the middle of the century. The first mention of it dates back to 1056. Feste Coburg changed hands many times, and the representatives of the mighty ruling dynasties fought for it. From the 15th century until the Bavarian revolution in 1918, it belonged to the Dukes of Coburg. The complex of buildings was built in the Romanesque style. Today collections of paintings, engravings, weapons and sculptures can be found inside.
The building is situated on the border with Tyrol in the municipality of Aschau-im Himgau. It was built at the end of the 12th century and was reconstructed several times, due to which a mixture of Renaissance and Baroque styles can be seen in the modern appearance. Since the middle of the 20th century Hohenassau has been used as a tourist center, a part of its territory is a museum, the other part is converted into a hotel, where guests enjoy living in historic interiors.
A 13th-century fortress built by the local bishop to intimidate the people and defend against possible uprisings. The structure has a rather austere appearance and from the outside it really looks impregnable surrounded by thick stone walls. Marienberg rises on a hill, where in Celtic times there was a pagan sanctuary. A Romanesque arch bridge, built in the 16th century, leads to it.
The castle is situated in the small town of the same name on the high bank of the river. As many other defensive constructions it was built in the Middle Ages with purely practical purposes. It has survived to this day in almost unchanged state, only minor details have been reconstructed. On the territory of the fortress there are chapels, old houses, converted into hotels, restaurants, brewery and viewing platform.
A fortification on the border with Austria, former residence of the Wittelsbach family, documentedly built in the early 11th century. The castle rises above the Salzach River, and was once the site of a Celtic and later Roman settlement. Burghausen suffered considerable damage during the Napoleonic wars, but by the end of the 19th century the complex had been restored. After another restoration in the 1960s, a museum was placed on the grounds.
On the background of a rather modest in size town, Johannesburg, built in the German Renaissance style, looks impressive. It was built by the Archbishop of Kronberg in the middle of the 16th century on the site of a burnt-out castle. The construction is symmetrical, with harmonious proportions and slender lines. The building is flanked by multilevel towers, and the roof is decorated with ornate decorative elements. The city is surrounded by a green park on the banks of the river Main.
Another residence of the noble Wittelsbach family adorns the Danube promenade in the city of Neuburg an der Don. The castle was built in the spirit of the Renaissance, with some parts of it gravitating toward the Italian classical style, while others retain typical features of the German interpretation of this style. In the middle of the XVII century Neuburg was reconstructed with Baroque features.
In the early 13th century Trausnitz was known as Landshut and was a fortified town, to the protection of which the inhabitants of the surrounding villages flocked. In 1475, Duke George the Rich and Jadwiga Jagiellonka were married here – a Landschutian wedding that with time turned into a local festival, celebrated every four years. The interior decoration of the castle has not been preserved, because in 1961 there was a devastating fire.
The castle was built in the early XIII century, but a century later it was destroyed by the army of Louis of Bavaria during the suppression of another uprising. Parsberg was rebuilt rather quickly, and 300 years later expanded. The second time it was destroyed by the Swedes during the Thirty Years War. The 17th century castle survived. In the years 1928 – 1974, the complex was used for various events and later the Museum of Folklore and Contemporary Bavarian History was established there.
This was the place of exile of Prince Albrecht of Bavaria, who had the courage to marry a commoner and angered his father. The complex served as a hunting castle, and in the 15th century was connected to the main residence Nymphenburg by an alley. It was surrounded on all sides by the river Wurm, so it is practically on an island. Today it is the seat of the library.
Built in the 12th century, Plassenburg was for several centuries the center of the principality of the same name, which was ruled by the Hohenzollerns. The castle was besieged only once in the middle of the 17th century, after seven long months its garrison surrendered. Since the early 19th century, the complex was used as a prison and a military hospital. Today there are four museums and temporary exhibitions.
The castle was built by a noble Bavarian family, one of the oldest and most respected in the region. Originally a wooden castle stood on the site of a massive construction with stone walls. When the castle was inherited by the Hohenzollerns in the 13th century, it was rebuilt from stone. Over the following centuries it was reconstructed, expanded and fortified, and its appearance changed in different architectural styles.
The hunting castle of the Wittelsbachs, built by Otto Heinrich for his wife in the mid-16th century. It is a relatively small structure in the German Renaissance and Baroque style with white walls and a characteristic tile roof. According to another version, it is believed that the Grünau was already built in the XIII century and then rebuilt, changing its appearance beyond recognition.
Renaissance style building, which was first mentioned in sources in 1062. Of course, due to the fact that the Wiesentau was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, the original style has not been preserved. The architectural appearance of the castle finally took shape in XVI-XVII centuries. This is the way it looks to tourists today. Previously the castle was owned by the Wittelsbach family, and today museum collections are housed under the roof of the castle.
Compared with other Bavarian castles Elmau has not so long history – it was built at the beginning of the XX century. Almost from the very beginning it belonged to philosopher and professor I. Müller, who by some miracle managed to save his property from confiscation after Hitler came to power. Following the death of the owner in 1949, Elmau was occasionally used for state holidays and concerts. The castle became a five-star hotel in 2007.
The castle’s Renaissance walls and round towers stand at the edge of the lake, reflected symmetrically on the surface of the mirror-like water surface. Behind the structure is a magnificent park with numerous alleys and paths. These places are very picturesque, because of what a lot of tourists come here, not for nothing Mespelbrunn is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Bavaria.
It stands alone on a hilly slope overgrown with forest. In summer, its gray stone walls contrast with the lush greenery, giving it an even more secluded feel. It is believed that the castle was built in the XIII century, and a century later it came into the possession of the Archbishops of Salzburg. At the moment, the structure is privately owned. Since the early 2000s, at the walls of Staufeneck held a costume festival with a medieval fair.
The exact date of construction of the castle is uncertain. But there is evidence that in the 14th century it already existed and belonged to one of the noble families of Bavaria. After reconstruction in the middle of the 19th century it acquired a modern look, which includes features of traditional half-timbering (the upper part of the walls) and the conservative German Renaissance style (the shape of the roof and the corner towers).
The XII century fortress, which changed owners more than once during its long existence. It belonged to a monastery for 500 years until 1803, after which it became the property of the kingdom after secularization. Falkenberg was reconstructed in the late 1930s and was owned by the von der Schulenburg family until 2008, when the castle was purchased by the city and set up as a cultural center.
New castle in Ingolstadt
Gothic castle from the 15th century, called “New Castle” because of the proximity to Herzogskasten, an old fortress from the 13th century. The complex was built after the return of Ludwig VII Bearded from France. The duke liked the French architecture very much, so he wished to build something similar at home. The castle was last restored in the 1960s, and today some of the buildings are in need of repair.
The first fortified structure on the site of Altenburg was built in the X century. By the XII century the castle had evolved from a stern fortress into a palace for royalty, where kings and high clergy gathered. In the 17th century, it became the center of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. At the same time its appearance considerably changed, which over time acquired Renaissance features. However, some parts of the complex have retained their picturesque Gothic appearance.
The only dream realized by the romantic ruler Louis II, the monarch managed to wait until the construction was finished. The sumptuous baroque and ornate, even somewhat pompous rococo interiors were every bit as magnificent as the halls in Neuschweinstein. They were painted by the best artists one could find in Europe. Linderhof gives the impression of a real fairy tale palace.
Best castles in Bavaria, Germany
The castle of Altenburg was built on the highest of the seven hills of Bamberg, above the city, and it happened in 1109 (at least, this year dates back to the first mention of the castle, although it seems very likely that it was built on top of an earlier fortress).
Bavarian land is famous for its majestic and unique castles. Among them the residence of King Ludwig II – Linderhof Castle – occupies a special place. The German ruler, who without exaggeration dedicated his entire life to building magnificent palaces, was very proud of Linderhof.
Near the town of Fussen in south-western Bavaria, not far from the Austrian border is a majestic castle Neuschwanstein. Almost all of us, looking through the beautiful cliparts on the Internet, probably more than once came across pictures of this castle.
On the very border with Austria, on a high hill near the river Salzach stands Burghausen Castle of incredible beauty and power. Its uniqueness is that it is more than a kilometer long – a European record. The height of the hill – more than 400 meters, the building occupies the entire hill.
Compared to other Bavarian castles, Irmelshausen is not so huge and impregnable, but its annals go back to the 9th century. Whether it existed at that time is unknown. Some kind of a castle is mentioned in the documents of the 14th century, but we do not know what it was.
At the beginning of the last century, the rich and eccentric British Honoreoble Mary Isabel Portman traveled around Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The mountain beauty inspired her to buy a plot of land near the village of Clais.
Despite its neat appearance, the age of Castle Mespelbrunn exceeds eight centuries. In 1412, these deep woods were given for loyal service to the knight Hamann Echter, who built a house with a pond here. Fifteen years later, his son decided to convert it into a fortified castle.
The Trausnitz castle was built in the first half of the 13th century as a defensive structure on top of a high hill. Duke Ludwig X rebuilt the castle into a palace in the 16th century, and later Duke Wilhelm converted it into a Renaissance cultural center.
Falkenstein castle in Füssen
Falkenstein (literally ‘Falcon Stone’) was constructed in the mid-13th century as a result of the war; it was the meeting point of three powerful families who were at war with one another, the County of Tyrol, the Diocese of Augsburg and the Duchy of Bavaria.
“The Bavarian Versailles” was conceived by the “fabulous king” as an ode to Louis XIV and was built in the image and likeness of the French monarch’s favorite residence. Similarities can be seen in the architecture, the layout and the interior decoration.
Near the town of Aschau im Kimgau, close to the Austrian border on a high hill rises Hohenschau Castle, one of the largest in Bavaria. The first fortifications on the trade route along the Prin River valley were built here in 1165 by the knight brothers Conrad and Arnold Hirnsberg.
Schloss Hohenfreiberg in Füssen
The ruins of Schloss Hohenfreiberg near Füssen still look impressive. Like all medieval frontier fortifications it has a long battlefield past, but it is nonetheless partially preserved.
Hoe Schless Castle in Füssen
The castle of Hoe Schless (that is, the Upper Castle) was built on a high hill above the city (the hill is so convenient for defense that the first fort here appeared in Roman times). The region had long been a frontier region, with many and frequent attempts to seize it, and powerful neighbors arguing over it – all of which required defense.
On the border between Austria and Germany, at the foot of the wooded Hochstaufen mountain rises the castle of Staufeneck. The strong, sturdy building seems to be an integral part of the majestic mountain scenery: Alpine meadows stretch all around and snow-capped peaks rise up.
The Royal Schachen Manor
The most modest and little known castle of the “fairy tale king” Ludwig II is nestled on Schachen Mountain in the Bavarian Alps, 10 km from the ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The small wooden house was built in 1872 amidst thick coniferous forests and icy peaks.
Nymphenburg Palace, or Nymph Palace, is definitely worth a visit. Architectural ensembles are in harmony with the natural beauty of the place: numerous ponds and canals, parks and gardens decorate the vast territory of the palace.
For five centuries Neuburg Castle, the seat of the younger branch of the Wittelsbach dynasty, the rulers of Bavaria, has been on the Danube. It was laid in 1527, but was not completed until 30 years later due to financial problems.
The ruins of Rothenhan castle
The ruins of Rothenhan Castle are a remarkable example of Bavarian fortification architecture of the Middle Ages. They are located near the village of Eirichshof in the vicinity of Bamberg. The year of its construction is unknown, but the fortification was destroyed in 1323 by soldiers of the Archbishop of Würzburg.
Medieval Castle Harburg, located in the town of the same name, is considered one of the best preserved fortresses. Surprisingly, its exterior and interior have hardly changed over time. Scientists cannot answer the question exactly when Harburg Castle was built.
The small German village of Schwangau, hidden on a hill among dense forests, is world famous for the majestic Hohenschwangau Castle. This fortress was first mentioned in historical documents dating back to the 12th century.
The Bavarian region of Germany is world-famous for its excellent quality beer and fine cars, but the attractions of the German region do not end there.
According to a conservative estimate there are about 300 castles in Bavaria. The famous “Romantic Road of Germany” begins in the Free State, the famous “Road of Castles” begins here and the masterpieces of Ludwig II will impress any lover of castle architecture.
Ludwig II castles
Hardly any German king left behind a lavish castle as a testament to his success and grandeur. Ludwig II in particular excelled in this. A keen connoisseur of art, the “fabulous king” of Bavaria, Ludwig II planned to build seven magnificent castles, but his plans were thwarted by his sudden death in unclear circumstances. Ludwig II managed to build only three castles that entered into the treasury of world architecture. The king’s plans were often implemented by theatrical designers – Ludwig turned to architects less frequently. He did not hesitate to squander public funds on his fairytale dreams, until by the age of forty he had completely lost his sanity.
Ludwig II spent over 30 million marks on his fantasies, which left Bavaria in financial distress for years.
But the effort was not in vain, and today the heritage of the romantic king of Bavaria attracts tourists. Centuries later the castles have fully justified the investments made on them and became almost the most visited attractions in Bavaria. Neuschwanstein alone, which has long been a hallmark of Bavaria, attracts over a million visitors every year. The luxurious Lindenhof, created by Ludwig II and influenced by the epic works of Richard Wagner, and the Herrenchiemsee, or “Versailles in miniature”, which was intended for the most important events and celebrations, do not go unnoticed. The splendor of the castle is astounding; no other Bavarian palace offers such splendor.
Over the centuries the chateaux have more than justified the investment and become some of the most visited attractions in Bavaria.
History and modernity
First castles appeared in Germany in 10-12 centuries. They were built to protect the feudal lords and their property from attacks by neighbors. The central building of the castles was a watchtower, either quadrangular or circular, surrounded by a strong wall. The castles symbolized power and might of feudal lords, and the tradition to build them on high hills enhanced their defensive functions. The castles of Bavaria, built in the 19th century, deserve a special mention. As there was no longer a pressing need to guard trade routes and the lives of feudal lords, castles were built as symbols of beauty and harmony.
Tickets to the castles of Bavaria
You can visit more than 40 castles in Bavaria (including parks and museums) with a special card: annual (45 EUR per person or 65 EUR for two) or fortnightly (24 EUR/44 EUR). A complete list of attractions (including all the major castles, with the exception of Hohenschwangau) can be viewed on the website of the Bavarian Chateau Office. The card is on sale at the ticket offices of all castles and palaces, at the Munich Tourist Office at Alter Hof, 1, as well as in the online store (with delivery). The Konigsschlosser card allows you to visit three Ludwig II castles for EUR 24: Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee and Neuschwanstein.
On public holidays: December 24, 25 and 31, January 1, the last day of Shrove Tuesday – the castles are closed. Note that in most castles is prohibited photography and videotaping.