Germany’s 10 most magical castles

Germany’s 10 Most Beautiful Castles

Germany is unofficially considered a country of castles, because here there are more than 25 thousand of them – more than in any other country of the world.

Alas, many of them are now only more or less picturesque ruins.

But about 4300 German castles are much better preserved and willingly admit tourists. Why yes, because these (sometimes huge!) architectural monuments have to be maintained and kept in decent shape.

Why German aristocracy built so many forts, fortresses, fortifications and castles? It’s all about the turbulent history of medieval Germany.

In fact, this state became a state in the full sense of the word only in 1871, when dozens of independent German kingdoms, duchies, counties, etc. were united around the Kingdom of Prussia.

Well, earlier all these mini-states were constantly fighting among themselves for land and power, because of which the territory of Germany, most often, was the most “turbulent” region of Europe.

That is why every self-respecting aristocrat (from the smallest baron to the noblest prince) considered it his duty to build for himself and his family a well fortified castle-citadel, in which you can hold out longer in case of war and siege.

Over the years, castles have been repeatedly destroyed by enemies, rebuilt again, very seriously rebuilt in accordance with new trends in fortification, architecture, etc.

Let’s see the most beautiful of them to date.

10. Moritzburg (Schloss Moritzburg)

Just 14 kilometers from magnificent Dresden (Saxony) in the town of Moritzburg is a very interesting baroque castle with four round towers, surrounded by a large artificial lake (or rather – connected together several small lakes).

Once upon a time, the Saxon electors of the House of Wettin liked to hunt in this place, which was entirely covered with dense forests. One day Elector Moritz of Saxony ordered to build here a hunting lodge (actually – the whole manor). So in 1542-1546 and emerged the future castle Moritzburg.

Almost two centuries later great grandson of Moritz Augustus the Strong – incidentally, not only the Elector of Saxony, but also the Polish king – wanted to arrange here his residence and ordered the court architect Matthias Pöppelmann to rebuild the Moritzburg “according to the latest fashion” (it was done in 1661). (This was done in 1661-1671.)

The castle became baroque, “island” and embodied in its interiors all possible luxury of the second half of the XVII century.

Its walls are decorated with vivid frescoes with scenes from ancient mythology, the rooms are furnished with expensive furniture, there are collections of the best samples of Chinese, Japanese, as well as Meissen porcelain.

Many rooms remind of royal hunting – they collected trophies (among them – the largest antlers in the world: 20 kilograms in weight and 2 meters long). By the way, there is a collection of carriages and baby carriages.

9. Schloss Hohenschwangau

Schloss Hohenschwangau is located in Bavaria, near the town of Fussen and is very close to the famous Neuschwanstein (about which – below). Its name translates as “High Swanland”.

In the twelfth century, the Knights of Schwangau founded Schwanstein Fortress on this site. It existed safely until the 16th century, when the Schwangau family died out. Since then, the fortress was abandoned and began to slowly deteriorate. During the Napoleonic wars it was almost razed to the ground.

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But in the early 1930s, the ruins were bought by Maximilian II of Bavaria, who liked the place. He ordered the rebuilding (in the style of fashionable romanticism).

Thus Hohenschwangau was born from 1832 to 1836, and became the official summer and hunting residence of the Bavarian monarchs. After Maximilian II died, Hohenschwangau was acquired by his son Ludwig II of Bavaria – the dreamer king. He lived most of his life here, and also invited the famous composer Richard Wagner (creating comfortable working conditions for him). In the castle, the piano, behind which the maestro wrote his magical operas, has been preserved.

All the interiors of Hohenschwangau are decorated in purple and lilac shades, and its walls are decorated with delicate frescoes with stories from Bavarian legends, most often with “swan” themes.

8. Schloss Drachenburg

The youngest castle in our top ten, the beautiful neo-Gothic Drachenburg (“The Dragon’s Castle”) stands on the Drachenfels Hill, above the town of Königswinter on the banks of the Rhine.

It is actually a successful “hybrid” of a palace, castle and villa, surrounded by a large park with fountains and sculptures. This architectural masterpiece appeared in 1882-1884 on the whim and on the money of the German “nouveau riche” of that time, Stephan von Zarter.

Zarter commoner made a very good living as a trader and one of the participants in the construction of the Suez Canal, bought a baronial title and decided, on such an occasion, to get and own the castle. However, Zarter never intended to move into it.

In 1902, he died without making a will (as he had neither wife nor children). As a result, his relative Jacob Biesenbach inherited the Drachtenburg, and he arranged a “premium hotel” in it with a view of the Rhine for the richest guests.

Then the castle was a railway school, a Catholic boarding school and a military school named after Adolf Hitler.

During World War II, anti-aircraft guns of the department of air defense were on duty at Drachtenburg, “thanks to” it was bombed by the Allied aircraft. (And then the Americans also “expropriated” from the castle many works of art).

In 1971 the state of North Rhine-Westphalia was about to demolish the dismal ruins, but they were bought and saved by Paul Spinat, who restored the Drachhenburg and lived there until his death. And since 1989 the castle is state property.

Inside the castle is as chic as it is exterior – richly decorated with frescoes and tapestries depicting themes from German mythology and legend (the Nibelungen Room is especially beautiful) and other works of art, with a fine spiral staircase leading to the upper apartments.

7. Schloss Wernigerode

The castle of the same name, which dominates the hill, can be seen from every corner of Wernigerode in Saxony. The very first fortress was built on this site (on the order of Count Adalbert) in the XII century.

In 1429, when the family of the counts of Vernigerode died out, it became the property of the counts of Stolberg (from that time they became known as Stolberg-Vernigerode). It was they who expanded the fortress into a castle in the 15th century, and in 1674-1676 significantly rebuilt it (according to the Baroque canons).

The last reconstruction took place at the end of the 19th century, when Vernigerode acquired its neo-Gothic features. By the way, the descendants of Stolberg-Vernigerode lived here until 1929.

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If the castle seems vaguely familiar to you, it’s not for nothing – the film “The Munchausen of 1979” was shot here (with the great Yankovsky). How so? Why was a Soviet movie shot in Germany? Because Wernigerode was then in the GDR.

6. Cochem (Schloss Reichsburg Cochem)

Cochem Castle was first mentioned in documents at the turn of the XI-XII centuries. The military fortress with thick and sturdy walls and a moat was founded on a hill above the Mosel by the Lotharingian Palgrave.

From there, the surrounding countryside was clearly visible. Cologne’s castle was not owned by the king until the mid-12th century, when the castle became imperial property (albeit, it was constantly claimed by the archbishops of Cologne).

Finally, at the end of the 13th century, Adolf – Count of Nassau and the new German king – had to mortgage Cochem to the archbishop of Trier (due to lack of funds for his coronation). The next king, Albrecht I, could not find the money to redeem it either, leaving it to the bishops of Trier.

In 17th century, during the war between Germany and France over Palatinate, the troops of “king-sun” Louis XIV nearly destroyed the castle, it was restored only in 19th century – in 1868, Kochem was bought by Berliner Louis Ravene, who rebuilt it in neo-Gothic style for 9 years. Since 1978 the castle belongs to the town of Cochem.

5. Schwerin Castle (Schloss Schweriner)

In the city of Schwerin, on an island in the middle of the lake, connected to the “mainland” by two bridges, is a relatively young but very photogenic castle, surrounded by a beautiful English park with a chapel of the XVII century.

It was built in 1845-1857 for the Dukes of Sweden by the architect Georg Adolf Demmler (commissioned by Frederick Franz II). Previously, on this site for a long time – since the X century – there was a military fortress, which has been seriously rebuilt several times. Nowadays there is a museum and the Landtag of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Schwerin Castle is unique for its eclecticism (a mixture of styles) – different facades and towers of his canons of the Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Classicism. And all this combines perfectly harmoniously. In the castle, you can see a collection of paintings by Dutch and German artists, samples of Meissen porcelain of the XVIII century, silverware and jewelry, etc.

4. Lichtenstein (Schloss Lichtenstein)

Another young (but very beautiful) castle sits perched on a rocky cliff 817 meters high in the Swabian Alb, near Reutlingen (Baden-Württemberg). Very close to it you can see the ruins of the former fortress of Old Lichtenstein, founded in the second half of the XI century, destroyed (almost to the ground) in the late XIV century and never rebuilt in later times.

The white and beautiful Lichtenstein was built in 1840-1842 by Duke Wilhelm of Württemberg, who was greatly inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s Lichtenstein.

Construction was carried out according to the then romantic notions of knightly castles, so it looks not at all harsh, but light and even airy. By the way, it is still inhabited by descendants of the counts of Urach, who are happy to let visitors in.

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In Lichtenstein (which you can get only by the stone bridge) is something to see – here are great collections of medieval weapons and armor, paintings, frescoes, etc. You can also enjoy a great view from the castle.

3. Burg Hohenzollern

Nestled atop an 855-meter high mountain, the enormous Hohenzollern castle is located in Baden-Württemberg, between Biesingen and Hechingen. Today it is one of the most visited castles in Germany. As is clear from its name, it is the former fiefdom of the Elector dynasty, who ruled in Prussia and Brandenburg (and from 1871 to 1918 were the Kaiser of all Germany).

In fact, the castle we can see today is already the third on the same site. The previous two were destroyed almost completely. One was founded in XI century and almost wiped out in 1423 by Swabian army. The second, built in the mid-15th century, withstood the Thirty Years’ War with honor, but was almost abandoned (and half demolished) in the XVIII century after it lost its strategic importance – in fact, only the Chapel of St. Michael remained of it. Finally, the third castle was ordered by the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV (which was performed in 1850-1867).

Now Hohenzollern has a neo-Gothic appearance, it has 140 halls and rooms, in which many valuable objects related to the history of Prussia are collected and placed in luxurious interiors. For example, Wilhelm II’s crown, personal effects of Frederick II the Great, a letter from U.S. President Washington, etc. are stored there.

2) Eltz (Burg Eltz)

Eltz looks like a real model of a medieval castle of chivalry. It was purposely built in the most inaccessible place possible – on a steep cliff in the middle of a dense forest. Even today it is difficult to see it without coming very close. And this location is justified – the castle was not captured at any time during its long history, which began in the XII century (even during the most brutal wars of XVII-XVIII centuries), and therefore it is well preserved to this day.

Elz is in Rhineland-Palatinate, not far from the Mosel River and the cities of Coblenz and Trier. It was once the family estate of the Rübnach, Rodendorf and Kempenich families.

The most recent buildings of the castle date back to the 17th century. But in general its medieval architecture is unique – as the Eltz had nowhere to expand, it was constantly growing up, “absorbing” elements from Romanesque to Baroque.

The castle is as splendid inside as it is outside: the original furniture, large collections of medieval weapons and armor, porcelain, objects and jewelry made of gold, silver and precious stones (over 500 pieces) have been preserved here.

1. Schloss Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein is reputedly the most beautiful (and therefore the most visited) castle not only in Germany but also in the world. It is located just a few kilometers from the castle Hohenschwangau (or rather – slightly above it on the hill).

Neuschwanstein was built at the request of the “fairy tale king” Ludwig II of Bavaria, who dreamed of his own romantic knightly castle, in 1869-1886.

As you know, Ludwig simply abandoned state affairs, immersed in the world of ancient German legends (his favorite character and role model was Lohengrin – the Swan knight). Therefore, all the halls of the castle are decorated with frescoes depicting vivid scenes from German mythology (the entire castle is one big illustration to them), as well as pseudo-medieval chandeliers, armor, etc. The third floor is specially dedicated to the operas of Richard Wagner, Ludwig Bavarian’s favorite composer (and true idol!).

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In the end, the king spent so much money on this big and beautiful “toy” that a huge hole was left in the Bavarian treasury. And since Ludwig was unwilling to listen to anything, continuing to build and going into debt, his ministers arrested the king and declared him mentally ill.

In June 1886, Ludwig II of Bavaria drowned in Lake Starnberg under very mysterious circumstances – the doctor assigned to him, Dr. von Hudden, was found dead along with him…

By the way, it was Neuschwanstein that became the main model for the Disney Studio logo. Take a closer look at it: isn’t it a familiar silhouette?

10 most famous castles of Germany, which tourists come to see

Eltz castle.jpg

This is a legendary castle, located in a German forest. The only way to get inside the castle is to take a guided tour. It is recommended to get to the castle in advance to take beautiful pictures without tourists and people in the background.

You can also rent a car and drive yourself. Car rentals in Germany are available to everyone, there are several websites and platforms for this. The castle has two restaurants where you can stay for dinner.

Opening hours: open to the public only in high season – from the end of March to the first week of November, 09:30 – 18:00

Booking fee: Parking 2 €, guided sightseeing tour of the castle 10 €

Address: Wierschem, 56294

Cochem castle

Cochem castle.jpg

Cochem Castle is located high on a hill above the Moselle River. It is surrounded by magnificent vineyards. Cochem Castle is over 1000 years old. To get into the castle you can only take a guided tour, most of which are in German. But tourists are given an English information sheet, and English-speaking tours are held on certain days.

Opening times: from March to November, 10:00 – 17:00

Ticket prices: adult ticket – 6 €, children ticket – 3 €, student ticket – 5 €, family ticket (2 adults + children) – 16 €.

Address: Schlossstraße 36, 56812 Cochem

Liechtenstein castle

Liechtenstein castle.jpg

This Gothic castle with a view over the valley is one of Germany’s most popular castles. Liechtenstein castle was built in 1840-1842, but was partially destroyed during the war. Restoration work is still going on. The most beautiful photos are taken at the entrance to the castle and at the bridge.

Opening hours: April – October, 09:00 – 17:30; November, February and March, open only on weekends, 10:00 – 14:00.

Entrance fee: Adults: 2 €, children: 1 €, guided tour of the castle: 8 € adults and 3,50 € children

Address: Schloß Lichtenstein 1, 72805 Lichtenstein

Burg Satzvey

Burg Satzvey.jpg

This is one of the few castle hotels where you can stay and rent a room via Airbnb. About 10 rooms are available for 125 € per night. You get beautiful photos here if you stand next to the reflection of the castle in the river. The grounds are also beautiful in the evening or at night. There are several restaurants and events throughout the year.

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Opening hours: tours only on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 12:00 – 17:00

Entrance: free of charge, guided tours of the castle: adult ticket – 5 €, children’s ticket – 2 €, children under 4 years old free of charge.

Address: An der Burg 3, 53894 Mechernich

Neuschwanstein castle

Neuschwanstein castle in the main castle.jpg

Neuschwanstein is the most famous castle in Germany. Walt Disney modeled the castle for the fairy tale “Cinderella” from this castle.

One of the busiest tourist spots, it is visited by more than a million people annually. During the winter months, it may be closed in bad weather.

To buy a ticket in advance, you must see if the bridge to the castle is open and buy it online at the website.

Opening times: October – March, 09:00 – 15:00, March – October, 08:00 – 17:00

Price: adult ticket – 13 €, children up to 18 years old free of charge

Address: Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau

Mespelbrunn Castle

Mespelbrunn castle.jpg

Mespelbrunn – a small castle, which is visited by few tourists. But it is a unique Renaissance chateau which is surrounded on all sides by water. The price of admission includes a 40 minute tour of the castle.

Opening hours: March – November, 09:00 – 17:00

Price: Adult ticket – 5 €, student ticket – 2,50 €

Address: Schloßhof 2, 63875 Mespelbrunn

Heidelburg Castle

Heidelburg castle.jpg

Like many castles in Germany, Heidelburg is located 300 meters on a hill overlooking the city. The castle is a complex with several buildings and a courtyard. It was built back in 1300, but then destroyed and rebuilt in the 17-18 centuries.

Working time: Monday – Sunday, 08:00 – 18:00

Cost: ticket to the castle and funicular: 7 € for adults, 4 € for children. Tour tickets: 5 € for adults, 2,5 € for children, 12,50 € for families.

Address: Schlosshof 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

Burg Frankenstein

Burg Frankenstein.jpg

Castle Frankenstein has a very special history – in the 1700s it was a prison and military hospital. That is why the castle is loved by tourists on Halloween. There is a restaurant with a panoramic view.

Opening times: Mon – Wed, 10:00 – 20:00

Cost: free of charge

Address: Parkplatz Burg Frankenstein, 64367 Mühltal.

Hohenschwangau castle

Hohenschwangau castle.jpg

The castle is located next to Neuschwanstein, so you can buy a joint ticket for the two places.

Opening times: October – March 09:00 – 15:00, March – October 08:00 – 17:00

Price: adult ticket 13 €, children up to 18 years old free.

Address: Alpseestraße 30, 87645 Schwangau

Hohenzollern castle

Hohenzollern castle.jpg

Hohenzollern Castle was built in 1061. A beautiful and colorful staircase leads to the castle. A round-trip bus transfer is available for guests at a cost of 3,30 €.

There are two types of tickets, which include the castle complex and access to the inner rooms. There are several small restaurants in the courtyard of the castle. This is a great place to wait for the tour to start. If you visit the castle in winter, there is a large Christmas market.

Opening hours: March – October 10:00 – 17:30, November – March 10:00 – 16:30.

Cost: adult ticket – 7 €, children ticket – 5 €.

Address: 72379 Burg Hohenzollern

We would like to thank Victoria Thielemann and Hannah Stamp for their help in making this publication.

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