They say Germany is a fairy tale come to life and after wandering its castles, I quite agree with that statement. From dreamy turrets to impressive medieval structures, many of these castles in Germany can transform you back in time. And if you’re like me, this is enough of a reason to start planning your next trip.
Whether haunted ruins perched above historic cities or still-occupied palaces filled with the opulence of regal times, German castles have an almost fantastical quality to them. No matter where you wander, these stone sentinels are bound to titillate your imagination in the best way possible.
Germany’s castles echo centuries of stories speckled by legends of mighty kings, wealthy barons, and noble knights. There’s nothing quite like a German castle tour to immerse yourself in those bygone days, so let’s check out the best ones.
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Castles of Germany: History and Architecture
German castles are a fascinating reflection of the country’s rich history and architectural prowess. Their existence dates back to the Middle Ages when they were built as defensive fortresses, royal residences, or simply as symbols of power and prestige. Over the years, their construction style and purpose have evolved with the times.
The Romanesque style was popular between the 10th and 13th centuries. It is characterized by simplicity and robustness. Castles from this period, such as the Wartburg Castle, often feature thick walls, round arches and massive towers designed to withstand sieges and assaults.
The Gothic style emerged around the 12th century, with pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses. The famous Hohenzollern Castle is a stunning example of Gothic architecture with intricate stone carvings and soaring towers.
The Renaissance saw castles transform from purely defensive structures to luxurious residences. This is evident in castles like the Heidelberg Castle, which boasts elaborate decorations, large windows, and spacious courtyards, reflecting the period’s emphasis on comfort and aesthetics.
Baroque and Rococo styles, popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, introduced even more opulence to castle architecture. The Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich exemplifies this with its grand façade, lavishly decorated interiors and sprawling gardens.
Let’s start our list with one of the most famous castles in Germany. Built for the ‘mad’ King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle never fails to impress with its Romanesque Revival style that looks as though it’s been plucked right out of a fairy tale. Combining grand opera, Romantic literature, and ancient myths, this castle was originally intended to be a private royal residence.
Although unfinished, Neuschwanstein Castle became an architectural wonder, attracting over 1.3 million visitors each year. It is arguably the most famous German castle in the world. It served as the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle and is renowned for its fairytale-like architecture.
Perched on top of Mount Hohenzollern, the 11th-century Hohenzollern Castle is quite a sight to behold. Its dramatic cliffside setting and Neo-Gothic style make it a must-see place to imagine yourself in a different time.
Once home to the Prussian Royal House of Hohenzollern, this medieval fortress was built in the early 1200s. It was then destroyed during a siege in 1423. After enduring multiple restorations over the years, King Frederick William IV finally turned the fortification into the architectural masterpiece we know today. While the Hohenzollerns still occupy the castle today, it’s open to the public.
Lichtenstein is often said to be one of the best German castles – and it won’t take you long to see why. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the best-fortified fortresses. Today, it looks more like an idyllic setting for a gothic novel or a Taylor Swift video.
Inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s novel of the same name, Lichtenstein Castle provides beautiful views of the Swabian Alps. This Neo-Gothic building boasts medieval-inspired elements like decorative spires. The castle’s rooms are lavishly decked in Romantic style with 16th-century glass paintings, exquisitely carved wooden sculptures, and an imposing Knights’ Hall.
Originally intended as a medieval fortress, Wernigerode Castle was built in the 12th century. At first, the castle featured a classic Romanesque architectural style with imposing towers and walls, but over time, Gothic and Renaissance elements were added to it.
The castle was quite damaged during the Thirty Years War. A local count rebuilt it in the Baroque style and his descendants added some Romantic accents to it during the 19th century. Today, you’ll see bits and pieces of all these combined styles. There’s a Gothic courtyard window, a Renaissance staircase, and 50 rooms reflecting the various eras.
Perched on the shores of the Flensburg Fjord, the Glücksburg Castle is one of the most significant Renaissance castles in Germany. Built between 1582 and 1587 by the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg, the castle sits on the site of a former monastery.
Since the ducal family no longer inhabits it, the castle is now a museum that retains plenty of its royal splendour. As you walk through the castle halls, you’ll be greeted by well-preserved exhibits of elaborate furnishings and figures dressed in period attire, providing a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the erstwhile royals.
Make sure to set some time aside to stroll through the Glücksburger Rosarium, located within the castle grounds. It is a must-visit for nature lovers. Home to over 500 different species of roses, this garden is a riot of colours and fragrances, offering a tranquil space for strolls and contemplation.
Built in 1100, Reichsburg Castle was captured and destroyed numerous times throughout history, but it still retains plenty of its original features. In 1868, the ruins were acquired by a Berlin businessman who rebuilt it in a Neo-Gothic style.
Crossing the drawbridge, you’ll be lured into a medieval world of stained-glass windows, carved panelling and an Octagonal Tower. As one of Germay’s biggest castles, Reichsburg Castle offers a variety of experiences, including a Knight’s Meal Feast.
Tucked away in a lush hillside location sits one of the most gorgeous Medieval castles in Germany. Burg Schönfels is a visual feast for history and architecture enthusiasts in the heart of Saxony, Germany. This Medieval castle, constructed around 1,200, majestically overlooks the charming village of Schönfels, presenting an idyllic picture of timeless elegance.
With its intricate network of original buildings, ramparts, and moats, this castle is one of Germany’s best-preserved fortifications. Aside from its historical and architectural appeal, Burg Schönfels is a popular venue for public events and small-scale functions. Whether it’s a historical reenactment, a music concert, or a private gathering, the castle’s grandeur and magnificence provide a fitting backdrop for any occasion.
If you’re a fan of Gothic architecture with Baroque accents, this castle is for you. Be sure to head up to the tower for mesmerizing views of the surrounding countryside.
A 12th-century masterpiece, Hohenschwangau Castle will transport you back to a bygone era with its opulent, Romanesque-inspired interior. A true fairy tale castle in Germany, this imposing building once housed the knights of Schwangau.
In the mid-1800s, Crown Prince Maximilian II completely restored the now-derelict castle in a Romantic Gothic style. Later, this castle would become where the mysterious King Ludwig of Bavaria grew up. Hohenschwangau Castle’s highlights include ornately painted walls reflecting local Germanic legends.
At first glance, Weesenstein Castle looks like a topsy-turvy cluster of buildings. Peer closer though, and you’ll quickly realize that this is one of the most fascinating castles in Germany.
Weesenstein Castle is a collection of three different castles. What makes them interesting is that they were built in different periods, which is why the buildings don’t make much sense. For example, the vaulted cellars are found right below the stables, which are on the 5th floor.
When visiting the castle, keep your eyes peeled for other quirky elements, like how every four windows are followed by a fifth ‘window’ that’s nothing more than a painting.
A medieval marvel nestled in the mountains, Eltz Castle is vastly different from other German castles. For starters, it remained completely unscathed by the many wars that plagued Europe. In addition, it’s been cared for by the same family for nearly 900 years.
As you wander up the forested areas and past the moat that leads to the inner courtyards, you’ll immediately be greeted by delicate turrets and Renaissance accents. With unique architecture, the castle still has many of its eight-century-old furnishings.
If you’re dreaming of German castle tours brimming with knights and sieges past, you really don’t want to miss a visit to Marksburg Castle.
Not only has this castle remained virtually unchanged since Medieval times, but it’s also part of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. First mentioned way back in 1231, this castle is easily recognizable by its triangular layout.
You’ll need to cross through several Medieval gateways- including a drawbridge gate- to enter the compound. Take time to fully immerse yourself in the Great Hall, the medieval cellars, and the tower, which offers sweeping views of the Rhine.
Sitting proudly above the historic city of the same name, Nuremberg Castle (also known as the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg) has been watching over its domain for several centuries. Believe me when I say that it’s all too easy to feel the history seep from every stone as you gaze up at the battle-worn towers and ramparts.
First mentioned in a document in 1050, this castle did sustain plenty of damage during the wars, but it’s been gradually restored to its former glory. For a more authentic experience, check out the castle’s oldest sections, including Kaiserburg and the Pentagonal Tower.
Dating back to the year 1000, Marburg Castle was built as a fort. Not long after, it became the primary residence of the Landgraviate of Hesse. Most visitors actually find their way to the castle as part of the Fairy Tale Route since the Brothers Grimm famously studied at Marburg University.
As far as German castle tours are concerned, Marburg’s are the most fascinating, mainly because the castle has now been turned into a museum, so there’s loads to see- five floors to be exact. The museum is open all year long. You can also sign up for a guided walking tour from April to October (weekends only).
This UNESCO World Heritage Site stood sentinel over the valley for numerous centuries, but it’s primarily known for housing cultural icons like Martin Luther, who translated the New Testament during his time there.
Made of tufa and sandstone, Wartburg Castle boasts gloriously restored halls and rooms designed to reflect life in the Medieval and Renaissance eras. Art aficionados will be thrilled by the castle’s impressive collection that features more than 9,000 historic pieces.
Offering just about everything you’d hope for from the best castles in Germany, Heidelberg Castle is often said to be one of the most fantastic examples of Renaissance architecture- and for good reason. Standing almost 200 meters high, this red sandstone structure can be seen from virtually anywhere in Old Town Heidelberg.
As fate would have it, the castle burned down no less than three times, and it’s been uninhabitable ever since. Rest assured that it’s still possible to see surviving relics like a massive, seven-meter-tall barrel in the cellar, a pharmacy museum, and a Renaissance courtyard.
Final Thoughts on Famous German Castles
There are over 25,000 castles in Germany, so deciding which ones to see can be challenging. With such a pick of castles, choosing which ones to visit can be a daunting task. The good news is that you’ll find plenty to love and won’t run out of castles to explore.
From awe-inspiring medieval fortresses to charming Romanesque manors and imposing fortifications, Germany’s castles showcase a rich and diverse architectural heritage. These majestic structures serve as a testament to the country’s history, culture and grandeur.
If cultural treasures hold a special place in your heart, check out this handy UNESCO World Heritage Guide for more fascinating sites to visit during your trip to Germany. So, whether you’re captivated by the medieval charm or intrigued by the architectural wonders, Germany’s castles are sure to leave you spellbound. Embark on a journey through time and immerse yourself in the captivating stories that these magnificent structures have to offer.
Guided tours of German castles
Exploring the many beautiful castles of Germany offers a captivating journey through history, architecture, and culture, providing a deeper understanding of this remarkable country’s heritage. Most German castles offer guided tours, where you can learn about their history, architecture and the stories of those who once lived there. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the castle’s rich past. Here are some tours I recommend taking to explore the castles and palaces in Germany.
VIP tour of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof castles from Munich – Book now
Heidelberg and Rhine Valley day trip with wine tasting & dinner from Frankfurt – Save your spot today
Small group Hohenzollern Castle tour from Frankfurt – Get your tickets today
Full day in the footsteps of the Saxon rulers – Book your private day tour
Frequently Asked Questions About Historic Castles in Germany
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