Top 10 Best Castles in Germany:
Out of all the countries in Europe, Germany hands down has the best collection of amazing castles! From defensive Medieval wonders, to fairy tale castles straight out of a story book, Germany has it all. Some of the magnificent structures were built to protect towns, while others were formed just for the pleasure of mad kings. In the past, some of these properties have helped inspire Brother’s Grimm to write timeless tales, provided the back drop for Frankenstein’s laboratory, and even gave Walt Disney the model to create his own iconic castle. Our complete list of the best castles in Germany is sure spark your imagination just like they have done for other travelers over the centuries!
1. Neuschwanstein Castle (Füssen, Germany):
About Neuschwanstein Castle: Tucked on the edge of the mountains South of Munich is the crown jewel of Europe’s fairy tale castles and the best castle in Germany, Neuschwanstein (website) . Meaning New Swanstone Castle, Neuschwanstein (Noy-shvahn-shtine) is an over-the-top castle is so impressive that Walt Disney used it as his model for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. From the alpine setting overlooking a lake, to the timeless design, and lavish interior, you’ll quickly understand why Disney loved Neuschwanstein so much. It is not just one of the best castles to visit in Germany, but maybe the best fairy tale castle in the World.
While the Neuschwanstein may look like it is straight out of the Middle Ages, Germany’s best castle was actually work of Bavarian King Ludwig II in the mid-1800s. The site had formerly been the fortress of the Knights of Schwangau from the 1100’s until 1535, but laid in ruins by the time Ludwig’s dad King Maximilian II built the family home on the hill below. Ludwig grew up in the shadow of the ruins and was inspired to build his masterpiece through is obsession with the works of opera composer Richard Wagner. The castle has everything from a man-made grotto cave to tons of grand rooms that only a theater mind could drum up. It was fitting that when Wagner went broke, Ludwig let him move into Neuschwanstein where he wrote some of his best work. One of our favorite things to do at Neuschwanstein is to explore Mary’s Bridge (closed in winter) which spans a large waterfall behind the castle. You can even hike further past the bridge for unique elevated views of Neuschwanstein.
Along with a guided tour into the depths of Neuschwanstein you will also get to tour King Ludwig’s boyhood castle Hohenschwangau (website) which sits right next door and also made our top castles in Germany list (explained below). Visiting both castles together gives you a lot better insight into the King behind Europe’s greatest castle. Just as fun as the castles is taking a paddle boat out onto nearby Swan Lake just like the young King Ludwig did in his childhood. As you leave it is crazy to think that in his day the citizens called Ludwig the Mad King and got upset about his grand projects. They even got so mad that they kicked him out of office after getting fed up with his over spending. As time has pasted, however, Ludwig has become beloved in Bavaria for the beauty of his projects.
Getting Here: Take train directly from Munich to Füssen (2:05) then either Bus 73 or 78 directly to the Castles’ ticket office (0:10). It it is 1:45 by rental car. Important Ticket Tip: This is the crown jewel of world-wide Fairytale Castles and therefore are super busy in the Summer, so we highly suggest calling ahead for your tickets you’ll have almost no wait without the risk of getting turned away. They also take reservations online here, but it is in German only and confusing. Reservations Phone Number: +49 (0) 8362-930830.
2. Burg Eltz (Münstermaifeld, Germany):
About Burg Eltz: Tucked into a lush valley, Berg Eltz is one of the greatest fairy tale castles in the World. The current castle was built from 1490-1540, and the property has been in the hands of a single family for over 33 generations since 1157. Berg Eltz is only one of 3 castles in the Rhine River region from Medieval times that hasn’t been destroyed or re-built over time.
Because of its protected location, Berg Eltz can only be accessed by taxi from nearby Münstermaifeld or with a dream-like 45 minute hike from the train station. Hiking lets you truly feel the seclusion of this fairy tale castle and helps make your first glance a pure Medieval fantasy. As you pass onto the stone bridge into the huge castle you can feel its history which originally dates back to before the 1100s. It was in 1157 that the Eltz family acquired the deed to the property and started expanding. Interestingly, Count and Countess Eltz, who are directly decedents still manage and live in the property today. If you wish to explore the area further a day trip riding down the Rhine River will let you see dozens more castles stilling high above the water. The nearby off-shoot of the Mosel River is also great and leads to one of our favorite Medieval towns, Cochem.
Seasonality: Please note that the castle is close from the late Fall until mid-Spring each year. Castle Website: (HERE).
3. Hohenzollern Castle (Hechingen, Germany):
About Hohenzollern Castle: Hohenzollern Castle is one of the most amazing castles in Europe and is bound to inspire images of dragon myths. The Castle almost doesn’t seem real as it sits high up on a hilltop in the German countryside. The Prussian Royal family has a house on this hilltop since 1061 AD and a full on castle since 1267. The castle has changed styled of the years and even required a complete rebuild in the 1423, but the Prussian Royal Family has remained its caretakers. It is almost unheard of to have the same royal family control a property for so long.
Today the Prince of Prussia and his wife still live in the Hohenzollern, but they keep their fairy tale castle open to the public. We absolutely love the way they do their tours as your guide will be wearing an authentic Medieval outfit. During the slow season they even let you roam parts of the Castle without a guide at your own pace. They also have Sigmaringen Castle right in the middle of the city of Sigmaringen to fall back on during the months when Hohenzollern gets too busy. It was in this urban castle where Frederick Miller starting brewing beer for the royal family before moving to the United States to found Miller Beer in 1855.
Getting Here: By rental it is a 45 minute drive from Stuttgart plus either a 15 minute shuttle ride or 30 minute steep hike from the parking lot. By public transportation from Stuttgart by train to Hechingen (0:33), followed by the castle shuttle (0:15) which meets the incoming trains at 11:25 & 1:25 daily (4 additional times on the weekends during peak season). Remember that it is also close to Lichtenstein Castle so you can see both. Castle Website: (HERE).
4. Lichtenstein Castle (Lichtenstein, Germany):
About Lichtenstein Castle: Clinging to the edge of a cliff and connected to land by a series of bridges, Lichtenstein Castle is amazing! In the beginning of the Middle Ages the Knights of Lichtenstein built a fortified stronghold in int village. The fortress was destroyed in a revolt in 1377 and a little over a decade later the local Lord of Lichtenstein decided to build a new cliff side fortress 15 minutes outside of town. In 1567 the Lord’s family lost their title and the fortress went into disrepair. By the 1800s the castle was replaced by a modest hunting lodge which was bough by Count Wilhelm in 1837. Using the foundation of the Medieval fortress, the Count built the amazing castle you see today.
Getting Here: By rental car it is 45 minutes from Stuttgart. By public transportation from Stuttgart it is about 2 hours with train to Reutlingen (0:40), followed by Bus 400 to Honau (0:30), and a 45 minute walk up to the castle. Remember that it is also close to Hohenzollern Castle so you can see both. Castle Website: (HERE).
5. Schweriner Castle (Schwerin):
About Schweriner Castle: Straight out of a dream, this mega-sized castle sits on an island in the middle of Schwerin Lake. As Germany’s third largest lake, there has been been a fortress here in 973 when Slav tribes settled the area. With battles between Germanic tribes and noblemen of the romantic location, the castle eventually fell under the rule of local Dukes. In the 1500s most of the castle was rebuilt, greatly expanding the grounds. Duke Friedrich Franz II remodeled the castle into what you see today in 1850. He worked off as much of the original rooms as he could while expanding Schweriner Castle into a grand 653 room palace. Seeing the castle over the lake and touring the vast gardens are an amazing way to spend part of a day.
Visiting Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, stays open until 6pm in Summer. Cost: 6€ per Adult or 10€ for a Family ticket. Castle Website: (HERE).
About Reichsburg Castle: As a tiny village of 5000 residents clinging to the wine terraced banks of the Mosel River, Cochem is an unreal Medieval town. The rows of colorful houses are dominated by the Gothic tower of the Cochem Imperial Castle perched high above. While the was restored in the 1800s after previously being damaged by the French, large sections from the original castle remain which date all the way back to the 1100s! The Castle gained Imperial status when King Conrad III, Germany’s 1st King, stayed here in 1151. The Cochem Imperial Castle has remained true to its roots and now holds great ghost tours, a knight’s meal, and a Medieval feast. To put your visit over the top, consider staying at the Burghotel which is filled full are knight’s armor and has Medieval themed rooms.
Castle Website: (HERE).
About Braunfels Castle: Sitting just North of Frankfurt, the fortified castle in Braunfels was built in 1246 to protect the village against the Counts of Nassau. The hilltop castle was expanded many times over the centuries but was badly damaged in the Thirty Years’ War while it changed hands 7 times in the mid 1600s. In 1845, the “Hunting Prince” Ferdinand had the castle re-built on the original foundation including the Knights Hall and Keep off of historic records. The amazing silhouette and towers were added in 1880 by Prince Georg.
Seasonal Hours: Castle is open daily from April-October with tours running every hour starting at 11am. Tour in English are every Saturday at 1pm or other times with a request in advance. Closed in the Winter. Tour Cost: 7€ for adults and 2.50€ for kids. Castle Website: (HERE).
About Frankenstein Castle: Now in ruins, this castle was built for Lord Conrad II Reiz in 1250 and was later the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein in 1818. Most of the folklore was based off of the life of Johann Conrad Dippel who was born in the castle in 1673. Dippel was an alchemist who set up a lab in the castle and produced animal oils he would sell which he marketed as the elixir of life. It’s said that Mary Shelley heard some of the local folklore surrounding Dippel while on a cruise up the Rhine River in 1814. It is no wonder that Shelley was able to run with the story as she grew up with her step-mother working as an English translator for the Brothers Grimm who wrote quite creepy fairy tales.
In WW2, American soldiers had a Halloween party at the castle which has since been an annual event. In addition, the restaurant often hosts scary dinners and Medieval Banquets
Hours & Tours: The castle ruins are open daily from 9am to sundown. Tours can be arranged ahead of time, plus they have set tours on Sundays at 2pm & 3:30pm. Cost: Free. Castle Website: (HERE).
About Heidelberg Castle: The ruins of the Hiedelberg Castle complex are a real treat. The castle started in 1196 with the upper castle which was followed by the lower castle in 1212. The biggest expansion happened when Emperor Rupert III decided to make the small castle into his palace in 1410. The complex was one of the most impressive around. In 1537 the upper castle was struck by lightening and burned to the ground. The lower palace was spare but 150 years later was seized by the French. Although the lower castle was rebuilt it too was struck by lightening in 1764 and laid to ruin by fire. Today touring the castle is unreal. It starts as you see the ruins sitting above both the town and the river. Working through the courtyards you’ll pass working fountains from the old gardens which were called the 8th wonder of the world in its day. Our favorite thing to see is the Heidelberg Tun from 1751 which is considered the World’s largest wine vat. The huge wooden barrel is 23 feet tall, 28 feet wide and can hold over 58,000 gallons of wine. The vat was by Prince Elector Karl Theodor to store the enormous amount of wine that he was given as tax payments. After visiting Heidelberg, it will be no wonder that Mark Twain wrote about his travels to the inspiring castle and that author Victor Hugo would also visit the grounds often.
Castle Website: (HERE).
About Hohenschwangau Castle: Sitting below the shadow of the fairy tale Neuschwanstein, is another top castle to visit in Germany called Hohenschwangau. The beautiful bright orange Hohenschwangau (Ho-en-shvahn-gau) was the childhood home of King Ludwig II and is the more lived in of the family’s famous castles. Because of this, the rooms in Hohenschwangau Castle are very interesting and well decorated. This beauty and the family history of Hohenschwangau make it one of the best castles in Germany.
Originally the property was part of the fort for the Knights of Schwangau which they controlled from the 1100s until 1535 called Schwanstien. Over the centuries to follow the fortress fell into ruins until it was bought by Bavarian Crown Prince Maximilian in 1832. Following the plans of the original Schwanstien which sat ruined up the hill, he built the Hohenschwangau castle you see today. The new Hohenschwangau (High Country Of The Swans) became a family retreat as Maximilian became King and was where he raised his son Ludwig II. From the lakeside castle, a young Ludwig could see the other ruins up the hill and let his imagination run wild. He would later built Neuschwanstein Castle and many other extravagant projects which led him to be called Mad King Ludwig.
Getting Here From Munich: It sits right below Neuschwanstein Castle and is seen with a combo ticket (see directions above). Entrance Ticket Tip: We highly suggest calling ahead for your tickets you’ll have almost no wait without the risk of getting turned away. Reservations Phone: +49 (0) 8362-930830. Castle Website: (HERE).
About Mespelbrunn Water Castle: Reflecting off of its natural moat, the Mespelbrunn Water Castles is one of the most magical places in Germany. It was originally a built as a remote farm house in the 1100s before fortifications and a tower were added in 1427. Over the centuries many of the fortifications were removed as the rural location and natural moat from the lake added ample protection. In 1958 the water castle was used in the film The Spessart Inn which was based off of a fairy tale written by Wilhelm Hauff.
Visiting Hours: Closed in Winter. Open Daily starting in March 9am-5pm. Cost: 4€ which includes a 40 minute guided tour. Castle Website: (HERE).
About Drachenburg Castle: Sitting on the edge of Dragon’s Rock (Drachen in German), the fairytale-style Drachenburg Castle is perched perfectly to provide stunning views of the German countryside near Bonn. The hilltop of Dragon’s Rock was famed in Medieval folklore as the location where the Norseman Sigurd slayed a dragon as it slept in a cave. This fable lead to the Bishop of Cologne to build the first castle, called Siebengebirge, on the hilltop in 1138AD. Siebengebirge was sacked in 1637 during the Thirty Years’ War and its ruins above Drachenburg Castle are a popular tourist destination.
With the history and the commanding views, Baron Stephan von Sarter built the current Drachenburg Castle in the shadow of the original in just 2 years from 1882-1884. Stephan grew up modestly as son of a local inn keeper before getting super rich off of the stock market and by providing funding for the Suez Canal. To make the commute up the hilltop easier, he even built the Drachenfelsbahn railway, which is still used today. Stephan had meant to live in his new castle, however, he never did and died in Paris in 1902. After Stephan’s death, his nephew bought the estate and was going to built a huge amusement park around the castle, but he died in combat during WW1. Later, in WW2, the castle served as a Nazi school for boys before being liberated by the Americans. Today you can tour the grounds and the amazing rooms of the castle including its famed staircases, mega sized paintings, and beautiful Baroque details. One of the weirdest things in the glorious interior is a fake pipe organ which was added to the music room in 1971 by the last owner of the castle, Paul Spinat. The quirky owner would hold organ concerts with music that would play from a hidden tape recorder.
Castle Website: (HERE).
About Schönburg Castle: Sitting high above the Rhine River, the study Schönburg Castle was first mentioned in 911. While many other castles on the Rhine are partial ruins, Schönburg was preserved because of a unique family decision. Early on the family decided that when the duke died the castle would be inherited by all of the sons instead of just the oldest which was a more common practice. Because of this there were many more stake holders in the property and at its height in the 1300s there were 250 people from 24 families living in the castle. After the castle was burned in 1689 it fell into ruin until a German-American family bought it in 1914 to begin restorations. It was sold back to the city in 1950 and operates as a family run hotel thanks to a long term lease. It is one of the rare chances Germany to stay overnight in a castle which is a magical experience.
Cost Per Night: $200 for a single room up to $400 for the biggest suite. All rooms include a welcome drink, breakfast, and 4 course dinner. Castle Hotel Website: (HERE).
About Löwenberg Castle: Modeled after an actual Medieval knights castle, Löwenberg was built as a private home from 1793-1800 by Landgraf Wilhelm IX. The castle was a masterpiece, but start to fall into ruin after Landgraf’s death. Today it is part of the larger Wilhelmshöhe Park which is a great place to visit. Around the park, Colossal Palace was built 1700-1717 capped with a huge Hercules Monument and tiered ponds going down the hill. The water features are turned on as a show everyday in the Summer and Fall starting around 2pm and includes man made waterfalls. Museum from 1778 and numerous out buildings adding in the 1800s including a greenhouse. Because of the different attractions a visit to the castle is a well rounded experience.
Visiting Hours: Summer they are open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm. In Winter they are open Friday -Sunday 10am-4pm. Castle Website: (HERE).
About Wartburg Castle: Built in 1067, this castle has an amazing history. At the turn of the 13th Century it was one of the most important castles in the region after attracting many famous poets. This led to it hosting the annual Minstrels’ Contest which was medieval to the max. The castles biggest claim to fame happened in 1521, when religious icon Martin Luther stayed here for a year following his excommunication by Pope Leo X. Working at breakneck speed, Luther translated the entire Bible from ancient Greek into German in just 10 weeks. It quickly became the most widely circulated version of the Bible in German. Today you can still see the room where Luther worked and stayed. We love touring the medieval banquet hall and checking out the amazing frescoes at the castle.
Castle Website: (HERE).
About Burg Altena: No German castle list is complete without Burg Alteana. The Castle, built in 1108, became the 1st Youth Hostel Association hotel in the World in 1914 which paved the way for Europe’s modern hostel system. Hostels in general and even most Castle Hotels owe Burg Altena for blazing a new path. We like the thought of staying in a German castle hotel since the country has our 2 favorite castles in all of Europe Burg Eltz and Neuschwanstein.
Cost Per Night: Is only around $40 a night for an adult with discounts for kids. Must book on the Youth Hostel International website here. There are 5 hostel rooms in the Castle itself (3 beds, 4 beds, 13 beds, and 14 beds) and 5 rooms Jugendstil guesthouse near the main entrance. Hotel Website: (HERE). Other Castle Hotel Options: Auf Schönburg Castle overlooking the Rhine Valley from a hilltop perch is another great choice in central Germany as the stretch of river is littered with castles. Landsberg Castle in Meiningen Germany is a little smaller but is covered in vines and has a great drum tower.
Reichenstein Castle, Trechtingshausen: Amazing draw-bridge castle built over the Rhine River in the 1200s.
Marienburg Castle, Hanover: Stunning hilltop castle built in 1858 by King George V of Hanover as a birthday gift to his wife.
Sigmaringen Castle, Sigmaringen: Was built by the royal family of Prussia who still resides here. They was best known for there other property Hohenzollern Castle.
Wernigerode Castle, Harz: Since it was first built in 1213, this Saxon hill-top castle has been rebuilt many times. The current version was built in the 1800s and looks like it could be straight out of a vampire movie.
Nuremberg Castle, Nuremberg: Built in 1140 by King Conrad III, this hilltop castle helped Nuremberg become a Medieval powerhouse. Largely damaged by WW2 bombings, parts of the castle have been restored and are once again great to visit.
Stolzenfels Castle Koblenz: This unique castle was built in 1259 to protect the toll station that sat in the middle of the Rhine River. It was occupied by the French and Swedish many times before being destroyed in 1689. In the 1800s it was given by the city as a gift to Prussian Crown Prince Frederick William IV of Prussia who refurbished the run down castle. Notable guest include Quenn Victoria of England.
Burresheim Castle, Mayen: Built in 1157, the stout Burresheim Castle was one of only two castles in the region to never be over taken in the upheavals of the 1700s-1800 or the French Revolution.
Babelsberg Castle, Postdam: The reach of the Prussian Royal family and their castles was large. In addition to Hohenzollern and Sigmaringen Castles mentioned above, they also had Babelsberg Castle near Berlin. Prince Wilhelm of Hohenzollern built this one in 1833 as a Summer home before becoming King of Prussia and Germany. It is on the smaller side, but still pretty cool.
Landsberg Castle Hotel, Meiningen: Get a rare chance to sleep in a castle in this small palace turned 4-Star Hotel is covered in vines and has a great drum tower. Located in in Meiningen straight north of Numburg between Frankfurt & Berlin.
Marksburg Castle, Braubach: With a keep dating back to 1117, this in one of the few castles on this list that has been untouched since Medieval times.
Stahleck Castle, Bacharach: Dating back to 1135, this Rhine River castle is one of the oldest on our list. Today is serves as a youth hostel.
Herten Castle, Herten: Lakeside castle first built in the 1300s known known for its beautiful reflection in the water.
Rheinstein Castle, Trechtingshausen: Built on the Rhine in 1323, this picturesque castle was re-built in the 1700s by Prince Frederick of Prussia.
Ehrenfels Castle, Rüdesheim: Built on the Rhine River by the Archbishop of Mainz in 1212 to protect the local territory. Today the ruins are smaller but surrounded by vineyards.
Sooneck Castle, Niederheimbach: Built over the Rhine River in 1271, the central tower is the only main part remaining of the castle.
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