Of all the European countries, Germany definitely has some of the most amazing castles. From castles that were built to be fortresses as well as those that make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale, Germany has it all. These castles have even inspired the Grimm Brothers’ timeless tales, and Walt Disney to create his own iconic castle. With so many beautiful castles in Germany, it’s hard to narrow it down. From the famous Neuschwanstein Castle to lesser known fortresses, here are five German castles you have to visit!
1. Neuschwanstein Castle
Nestled in the Bavarian Alps is Neuschwanstein Castle. Built in a time when castles were no longer critical to defense, the reclusive King Ludwig II insisted on having his own castle hideaway. Inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner, the castle was meant to be a kind of inhabitable theatrical setting. Unfortunately, the castle was incomplete before Ludwig’s untimely death. The castle was opened to the public anyway, and today it draws in over a million visitors annually. It is only possible to visit the castle via guided tours, which take visitors to 14 different rooms in the castle. Did we also mention that Neuschwanstein Castle is the inspiration behind the castle in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty?
2. Eltz Castle
With its picturesque ambience and fairytale vibes, Eltz Castle has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to social media. Built in the 12th century, it is one of the German castles that still remains in the ownership of the family bloodline. It also boasts much of its original furnishings, as well as treasures of gold, silver and porcelain. The castle is divided into several parts, which belong to different branches of the family. The Rübenach and Rodendorf families’ homes in the castle are open to the public, and the castle is open seasonally from April to November. Visitors can view the treasury with precious artifacts, as well as the armory of weapons and suits of armor. A bus is available on weekends in summer, but some visitors choose to take a scenic hike from the nearby Moselkern.
3. Hohenzollern Castle
Sitting atop Mount Hohenzollern, Hohenzollern Castle is the third and last remaining castle on the site. It was originally built as a family memorial and to enhance the reputation of the Prussian Royal Family. Like Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenzollern Castle is a monument to German Romanticism, incorporating an idealistic vision of a medieval knight’s castle. With over 350,000 visitors a year, Hohenzollern castle is one of the most visited German castles. Guided tours are available year-round, but sometimes during the slow season you can roam in some parts without a guide. A Christmas market also takes place here in winter, but in 2021 this will be replaced by enchanting illuminations, special performances and a special menu in the castle’s restaurant.
4. Schwerin Castle
Unlike many German castles that are perched on hilltops, Schwerin Castle sits in the middle of Lake Schwerin. It dates back to as early as 973, fortified in the 15th century, and completely reconstructed in the mid-1800s. Its fanciful golden domes and pinnacles are what makes the castle one of the most significant architectural creations. The castle is open all year round, and you can choose to get an audio guide or join a guided tour. Seeing the castle over the lake, touring its grand rooms and vast gardens while imagining life in a bygone era are a great way to spend part of a day.
5. Wartburg Castle
Originally built in the Middle Ages, Wartburg Castle might not look like much from the pictures. In reality it is the first German castle to be a designated UNESCO site, and an important inspiration for Ludwig II when he built Neuschwanstein Castle. Wartburg is also famous for being where Martin Luther translated the entire Bible from ancient Greek to German in just ten weeks! Today you can still see the room where he worked and stayed. Even though the castle has been reconstructed several times, many original structures from the medieval times still remain. A site steeped in history, Wartburg Castle is a must-visit for any history buff.