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There are some incredible castles in Germany.
The Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Empire, the Bavarian Empire, the Prussian Empire, and the Saxons. These are just some colonial nations that ruled parts of Germany over the span of 1000 years until the German Empire was founded in 1871.
As a result, hills and mountains across Germany today are crowned with incredible castles and palaces that tell the fascinating, and somewhat tumultuous tales of its history. Some of Germany’s castles will take you back to tough medieval times with their thick walls and half-timbered frames, while others will have you swooning with their romantic Romanesque beauty.
In this article, we take you across Germany, from Schwerin to Berlin, Eisenach, and down to Dresden to show you the best castles this country has to offer.
Best Castles In Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau
Perched high above the tree-tops on a tall hill in Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, the magical white exterior of Neuschwanstein and its Rapunzel-like turrets can be seen for miles around.
The castle was dreamed up by King Ludwig II in the 19th century, reflecting a Romanesque Revival style, and its slender beauty is so captivating, it’s said to have inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. As it sits on such a steep hill, Neuschwanstein Castle is difficult to reach, and can only be visited through a guided tour, but there’s a reason it’s the most-visited castle in Germany.
The interior is as equally as impressive as the exterior, not just because the views across the neighbouring mountains and lake are to-die-for, but because every room is dripping with decadence.
Hohenschwangau Castle, Schwangau
Just two kilometres away from King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle is his childhood home, Hohenschwangau Castle, where he lived with his mother, Queen Mary of England.
While it may not be as grand or whimsical as Neuschwanstein, the neo-Gothic Hohenschwangau Castle is still like something out of a fairytale. In true Bavarian style, it was built high upon a hilltop as a symbol of wealth and importance with mustard-yellow walls glowing next to the mountainous backdrop.
A guided tour must be taken to visit the castle, but the treasures it holds from its royal past, as well as its regal interiors, are well worth seeing. We recommend visiting both Schwangau castles during winter when a blanket of snow is likely to cover the area, making it all-the-more magical.
Imperial Castle, Nuremberg
The alluring Imperial Castle was named following Nuremberg’s imperialism by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in the 12th century.
It became an important castle in the lives of many emperors of the Middle Ages, who frequently stayed there and held Imperial Diets (representative assemblies of the empire), until the empire dissolved and it was handed to King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
After WWII, the castle was partially destroyed, but rebuilt to resemble its original exterior, which was strongly reflective of medieval Germany with half-timber buildings with steep roofs, thick walls, and wide turrets. The interior, designed in a neoGothic style, features a permanent exhibition of the castle’s enthralling Roman and Bavarian history.
Hohenzollern Castle, Bisingen
Hohenzollern Castle is a magical looking castle due to its Gothic Revival-style brown brick exterior featuring thin turrets that soar into the sky.
It sits atop a mountain reaching over 850 metres high, providing unbelievable views of Baden-Württemberg, and the flat countryside beyond. The castle is named after the former royal German dynasty, and was once used as its imperial seat.
Today, the castle is still owned by the Hohenzollerns, but it is fortunately open to the public. Having played such an important role in Germany’s history, there are many valuable historical artifacts to see in the castle, including the Crown of Wilhelm II.
Lichtenstein Castle, Lichtenstein
Lichtenstein Castle is not Germany’s biggest or most decadent castle by any means, but it has a wow-factor none of its rivals possess. The small yet mighty Gothic Revival castle teeters unnervingly on the rocky cliffs edge of an 820-foot hill, which drops vertically towards the trees below.
Although the castle’s unique position may seem a little daring, the dizzying views of Lichtenstein’s lush green valley below are well worth the risk.
The castle is privately owned, and some rooms have been modernized, but the owners offer tours of the preserved rooms, and even hire out rooms for weddings and events. Would you dare to walk along the suspended wooden drawbridge leading into the grounds and look over the edge?
Eltz Castle, Wierschem
Having been owned by the Eltz family for 33 generations to the present day, the 12th century medieval castle is one of the best preserved in Germany.
Like many German castles, its turrets protrude over 30 metres from the forest canopy, leaving those who climb them speechless at the views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Unlike many German castles, Eltz’s interior is refreshingly modest and simplistic with a delightful dose of old-world charm, as many of its furnishings from the past eight centuries have remained unchanged.
To reach the castle, you can walk amongst the rare fauna of the Eltz Forest nature reserve and then walk along the top of the castle wall which leads directly to the front gate, just like in a fairytale.
Schwerin Castle, Schwerin
Schwerin Castle is a romantic palatial mansion situated on a private island on Lake Schwerin in northern Germany.
Dating back to the 19th century, the castle is built in a French neo-Renaissance style defined by its ornate exterior and symmetrical landscaped gardens. The gardens are open to the public, and locals often cross the short bridge from central Schwerin to stroll around the island and absorb its masterful beauty. The castle itself, however, and the history it contains, is reserved only for ticket holders.
The interior is just as magnificent as the exterior, with tall frescoed ceilings, marble doorways, and gold-leafed walls running throughout the castle, including in the parlours, drawing rooms, and throne rooms.
Reichsburg Castle, Cochem
Reichsburg is a short statured neo-Gothic-style castle built above the charming town of Cochem along the banks of the Moselle River.
Although once an imperial castle, Reichsburg is by no means as lavish as many other castles in Germany, but it stands out amongst its peers for that very same reason. The rooms, characterised by dark wood-panel walls and deep red furnishings, are dimly lit by candelabras chained to the ceiling, giving them a gothic feel.
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg
Heidelberg Castle sits on a ledge overlooking the quaint town of Heidelberg in eastern Germany, as a continual reminder of its tumultuous yet intriguing past.
Not only did the castle fall victim to the Thirty Year War, it was then destroyed for a second time by the French in the 17th century, and struck by lightning in the 18th century. Having been put back together so many times, Heidelberg Castle is a unique mish-mash of architectural styles, much of which is now in ruins, including the Renaissance structure, which was considered one of the most important in Northern Europe.
However, the patchwork palace is all-the-more beautiful for its flaws, and some of its quarters have fortunately remained open to the public.
Wartburg Castle, Eisenach
Wartburg Castle is a small 11th century medieval castle complex overlooking Eisenach and central Germany’s vast countryside. The castle is known as one of the best preserved in the country, despite its charming make-shift exterior which looks as if it has been haphazardly fitted together with pieces of different puzzles.
On the inside, however, the castle is thoughtfully and tastefully designed with breathtaking 19th century mosaic frescoes and tile patterns covering the walls and arched roofs of many of its rooms, including Lady Elizabeth’s Chamber.
This unique castle gained further recognition after Adolf Hitler requested the religious cross atop its tower was replaced with a swastika, but thankfully the cross remained, maintaining the castle’s integrity.
Zwinger Castle, Dresden
Zwinger Castle is a stunning 18th century palatial complex in the historic heart of Dresden, connected to Dresden Fort.
The castle is known as one of the best examples of Baroque architecture throughout the world. It was built in an ornate Rococo style to match the fort designed by the same architect. Unlike most German castles, it doesn’t have a significant focal point; instead, the palace is defined by its pavilions and arcaded galleries, which surround a beautiful symmetrical courtyard with ornate ponds and fountains.
Originally built in the era of Augustus the Strong for tournaments and court games, Zwinger Castle is now a museum complex with important artworks and scientific instruments.
Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin
Charlottenburg Palace is a late 17th century Rococo-style palace and garden complex in eastern Berlin.
Built for Sophie Charlotte, Queen consult of Prussia, this lavish building is stylish, graceful, and wonderfully feminine with a predominantly pastel colour palette. The queen loved to entertain, and so she frequently invited poets, musicians, philosophers and the like to dinners and dances at the palace, which now holds 100 table services, some of which are displayed in the Silver Vaults.
The palace also holds a significant collection of blue and white porcelain items, as well as the remaining Prussian crown jewels. Beyond the palace is the extensive and equally elaborate garden, which lies serenely along the Spree River.
About the Author: Emily Draper
Originally from the UK, Emily Draper has lived in Chile, with an Amazonian tribe in Peru, in a Wisconsin trailer park, and on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea. Considering herself, and the rest of us, as global citizens, Emily’s mission as a writer and journalist is to expand global consciousness of the fundamental importance of travel, culture, and diversity.