The Top Ten Castles in Germany
German Castles are simply spectacular, some look like they have been taken straight out of a fairy-tale storybook while others are splendidly striking and all are steeped in fascinating and varied history. There are amazingly over 25,000 castles in Germany to choose from each offering their own unique story, most offer guided tours but a word of warning, castle tours are extremely popular so always book ahead.
Here are my top ten picks of the best castles to visit!
- Neuschwanstein Castle
The picturesque Neuschwanstein Castle in Southwest Bavaria literally means ‘New Swan Stone Castle’ and is set on a steep hill above a cute little village. This castle is famous for many reasons, but mainly as it appeared in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (if you remember Chitty flying over a gorgeous white castle in the clouds) as such it is the most popular castle to visit in the country. You can only view this castle by a pre booked guided tour and because of its massive tourist industry, do make sure you arrive at your allotted slot as if you are late, you may not be able to enter without booking another ticket. Inside you will be able to marvel at the magnificent throne hall and get a sense of the fantasy that King Ludwig II wanted to create with the palace’s magical turrets and towers.
- Wernigerode Castle
This beautiful red brick castle nestled in the northern Harz mountains stands imposingly on the hillside as you approach. Start your journey by experiencing the bygone era of the steam train to this 12th century former hunting lodge that was utilised by royalty and the nobles for their sporting pursuits. Later its position was harnessed for military purposes before seeing a period of extension in the 19th Century. Choose from an option of two guided tours in order to explore the interiors or reserve your place on the ‘access all areas’ tour which will even lead you into the attic!
- Schwerin Castle
This white stone castle, completed in 1857 with multiple turrets of varying sizes stands alone on its own island in the city of Schwerin on the city’s main lake. There are plenty of perfect camera shots to be taken in and around this castle as the gardens surrounding it are just as beautiful as the architecture and the encircling water changes the landscape each season. Guided tours run twice a day at a very reasonable price between the spring and autumnal months. There are several tours in English but do phone ahead to check the timings.
- Hohenzollern Castle
This castle is actually the third hilltop castle to be built on this site and was the ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern. The castle that stands today was completed in 1867 but the first castle to be built there was finished early in the 11th century. Still privately owned and attracting 350,000 visitors a year it is one of the more popular castles to admire in Germany. Tours are run regularly and last approximately 45 minutes with an option to take a tour in English.
- Heidelberg Castle
A renaissance castle which is now mainly open to the elements after it was struck by lightning in 1537. In later years wars, fire and more lightning attacked the castle to a greater extent and now it lies mainly in ruins. Nonetheless it still holds a haunting captivation allowing the imagination to picture what it was like in the days when it was a palace for kings.
- Wartburg Castle
Parts of this castle date back to the Middle Ages and can be found in the state of Thuringia. It has a curious religious history, most famously because this castle offered a place of asylum for Martin Luther after he was ex communicated by the Catholic Church. This castle became symbolic for German inclusion and unity after Martin Luther wrote his translation of the New Testament in the German language within the walls of the castle. You can join a guided tour once a day in the afternoon in English.
- Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz is the very picture of a ‘cute as a button’ castle situated 70 metres in the air built on top of a large rock and surrounded by thick forest. Amazingly this castle has stayed in the same family for thirty-three generations dating back to the 12th century. It is bordered on three sides by rivers which made it very hard to attack. At one time the castle overshadowed a small village where butchers, bakers and crafts people would serve the occupants in the grandeur above. The interiors are immaculately preserved and you are able to view the many halls and bed chambers that are all highly decorated. Tours run daily.
The castle has been updated, rebuilt and extended many times in its long history. Dating from the 12th century it was owned by knights rather than Royalty originally. In 1832 though it was bought by King Maximilian who then gave it to his son King Ludwig II and the castle developed into a neo-Gothic summer residence for gatherings and hunting. Surrounded by lush greenery, clear blue waters and against a mountainous backdrop it is a breath-taking sight. All tours here are guided and can be booked online.
- Schloss Augustusburg Brühl
This neo-classical palace has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since the 1980s and forms a historical compound of palaces with the Falkenlust Palace which is connected by manicured gardens. The look of this imposing building makes it unusual from the rest of the list in that it has clean lines and symmetry. The yellow and white facia adds to the grandeur of the complex. All tours are in German but if your tour group has enough English speakers then the tour guides have the abilities to switch language.
- Reichsburg/Cochem Castle
Reichsburg Castle overlooks the Moselle River and the green winemaking area below. It has seen its share of destruction as the original 12th century castle was completely destroyed by French attack. It sadly remained in its ruined state until it was bought in the 19th century and rebuilt in a completely unique way with Gothic and Romanesque components giving it an interesting and thought-provoking appearance. During World War II a law school commissioned by the Nazi’s took up residence in the castle. Guided tours can be booked in advance.