There’s no shame in admitting it, we’ve all dreamed of being royalty. Instead of kissing frogs or holding out hope that a foreign royal will whisk you away in wedded bliss, create your own happily ever after and tour the most beautiful castles in Germany.
Germany is home to some of Europe’s finest and most famous castles. We’ve gone ahead and narrowed it down to some of Germany’s best and most beautiful old haunts. Here is our list of the best castles in Germany.
1. Neuschwanstein Castle
Nestled in the Bavarian Alps and overlooking Hohenschwangau Valley is the idyllic, 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle. Built at a time when castles were no longer strategically critical to defense, the mysterious Ludwig II insisted on having his own lavish hideaway and ordered the castle to be built anyway. Ironically, just a few weeks after the king’s passing, the Romanesque palace intended for him alone opened its doors to the general public.
Today, millions of people travel to Neuschwanstein Castle to explore the shy king’s private refuge, and enjoy its stunning landscape and vistas. Often called ‘The castle of the fairy-tale king’, Neuschwanstein Castle and the story of its fanciful reclusive king have garnered much international attention, making it one of the most popular castles in Germany.
Not even mogul Walt Disney was immune to the charms of this famous German castle. Disney’s iconic castle depicted in the movie Sleeping Beauty and its real-world Disneyland counterpart were inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle. Between the sweeping views and the captivating legends of the mad King Ludwig II, exploring Neuschwanstein Castle is the perfect way to spend a day in Germany.
2. Burg Eltz
Hidden deep in a rural, wooded dell and perched atop a 70-meter high rock is the striking stone and timber Burg Eltz Castle. For generations Burg Eltz has remained in the care and private ownership of the Eltz family, who have kept the medieval rural fortress perfectly preserved for more than 700 years.
The castle still boasts much of its original furnishings and treasures of gold, silver and porcelain. Take an invigorating hike through the surrounding forest to make the most of your trip to Burg Eltz and enjoy the landscape.
Your first glimpse through the trees of this beautiful old stone and timber castle with its eight soaring towers perfectly perched above the valley floor promises to be magical. Set against the backdrop of a stunning verdant valley and a babbling brook, Burg Eltz is one of the best castles to visit in Germany and an absolute delight for guests of all ages.
3. Hohenzollern Castle
Poised atop a steep, conical cliff, and located in the heart of Baden-Württemberg is Hohenzollern Castle. For centuries Hohenzollern Castle has been home to Swabian counts and princes, Prussian kings and German emperors.
Originally built in the 11th century, and snuggly located between Lake Constance, the Black Forest and Stuttgart, this proud fortress offers majestic panoramic views of more than 100 kilometers of the rolling forest.
Over the years Hohenzollern Castle has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, with only the St Michel Chapel miraculously surviving destruction. The structure which exists today was rebuilt in the 19th century in the English Neo-Gothic style but still houses much of the royals’ old treasures. Enjoy the castle’s Treasure Chamber with its shining knights’ armors, Fredrick the Great’s uniform, the diamond and sapphire encrusted Prussian royal crown, a silver-embroidered dress belonging to Queen Louise, and the famous snuff box that once saved Frederick the Great’s life.
The castle is open year round and offers guided tours every day. Have your little princess or knight get the royal treatment with their own royal red cloaks and fancy felt slippers to make the castle visit even more fun. Visit the castle’s café for freshly baked cakes, Swabian specialties and other regional culinary delights, and sip on beer and enjoy the summer sun in the castle’s summertime beer gardens. With all that it has to offer, the list of castles in Germany isn’t complete without Hohenzollern Castle.
4. Lichtenstein Castle
Inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s romantic novel Lichtenstein, Count Wilhelm of Württemberg, Duke of Urach, had Lichtenstein Castle constructed on the historical foundation walls of a medieval knights’ castle.
Lichtenstein Castle is a charming hunting castle just an hour’s drive south of Stuttgart that offers vast views of the Echaz Valley and Swabian Alps.
With great attention to detail, Lichtenstein Castle and its neo-Gothic architecture is nothing short of the perfect homage to the Middle Ages. Even though there are a number of castles in Germany, this castle is wildly popular among German tourists.
Take a drive from Stuttgart and pass by rolling hills and small villages through the Swabian Alps, or hike up to the castle. After your castle tour be sure to try the castle’s ropes course or grab a bite to eat at Old Forester’s Lodge.
Walk, climb, swing or slide your way across the course to top off your day of exploration at Lichtenstein Castle.
5. Schwerin Castle
Built between 1847 and 1857, Schwerin Castle originally housed grand dukes before becoming state-owned. In times past, Schwerin Castle has been used as a teachers’ college, a hospital and a museum.
Schwerin Castle is surrounded by lakes and forests, and is composed of a variety of towers with golden domes and sparkling pinnacles. The castle’s architectural structure is widely admired and its attention to detail has caused Schwerin Castle to be considered one of the most significant architectural creations of the romantic historicism era in Europe.
Take a turn in the romantic garden of this famous German castle and enjoy the charming arrangement of parkways, flower beds and sculptures in the orangery. Considered one of the most impressive baroque gardens in northern Germany, Schwerin Castle’s gardens offer elements of English landscape, Italian architecture and French style.
Enjoy the castle’s museum displays of magnificent living rooms, the throne room, beautiful ballrooms, a gallery of paintings, the ducal collection of hunting and parade weapons, fine china and silver.
And if you love a good ghost story, ask about Petermännchen, the castle’s very own poltergeist believed to play mean tricks on unsuspecting wrongdoers. When it comes to the best German castles, there’s no question as to why Schwerin Castle is one of the highlights on our list.
6. Reichsburg Castle (Cochem Castle)
Reichsburg Castle, also called Cochem Castle or Reichsburg Cochem, towers 300 feet above the scenic town of Cochem and the Moselle River.
Believed to have origins dating back to 1100, French King Louis XIV had his troops obliterate Reichsburg Castle in 1689. The castle remained a colorful stone ruin for 180 years until wealthy Berlin businessman Louis Ravené decided to buy the ruins and rebuild the castle in 1868. But instead of restoring the castle to its original Romanesque style and condition, Ravené had his architects create a Neo-Gothic castle that could serve as a summer residence for his family.
Being one of the biggest castles in Germany, Reichsburg Castle offers different tours with persons of varied interests in mind. Go on a landscape garden tour, a ghost tour or the night watchman tour. Each offers special insights, riveting stories and historical facts about the castle.
Reichsburg Castle remains one of the best castles to see in Germany not only because of their tours, but because of the other fun activities and events they offer. Prepare to be dazzled by highly skilled eagles, falcons and vultures as they strut their stuff during the falconry performances, and wrap up the day by sitting down to The Knights’ Meal which features local wine, historical cuisine and performances by jesters and minstrels.
If you’re not a tour type of person, you can simply amble at your own pace up to the castle and drink in the stunning view of Cochem and the Moselle Valley. The walk up to the castle, while steep, is an enjoyable experience that takes about 20 minutes from the center of the town, and you can chill out in the castle’s gardens free of charge. If you don’t mind chilly temperatures, the colorful leaves and the sparkling snow make fall and winter an absolutely gorgeous time to visit Reichsburg Castle.
7. Heidelberg Castle
Dominating the skyline and set against the deep green forests on the north flank of Königstuhl hill is Heidelberg Castle. Heidelberg Castle’s sunset-colored sandstone ruins tower majestically over the Neckar Valley and cast a silhouette over the quaint university town’s cafés and cobbled pathways.
Once a Gothic masterpiece, Heidelberg was plundered and burned, and struck by lightning in two separate incidents. Heidelberg Castle never regained its original glory and still lies in partial ruins. Nevertheless, an estimated 1 million visitors trundle up to these rugged castle ruins each year making it one of the top castles in Germany.
The first structure of the castle was built before 1214 and later expanded to two structures in 1294.
Heidelberg Castle boasts one of the earliest palace buildings of the German Renaissance, the Ottheinrich Building, and the castle ruins are one of the most important Renaissance structures in Europe north of the Alps.
Heidelberg Castle proudly houses in its cellar the world’s largest wine barrel. At 23 feet high and 27 feet wide, with the capacity to hold 220,000 liters of wine, Heidelberg Tun is not only bigger than most apartments, it is also an absolute dream come true for wine drinkers everywhere. Enjoy the views from the palace courtyard or walk the castle halls adorned with impressive sculptures. Head down to the wine cellar to view Heidelberg Tun, bust a move on the dance floor and have some wine. Watch the summertime fireworks to commemorate the castle’s fires in 1689, 1693 and 1764, or take a boat ride on the nearby Neckar River. After a day here, Heidelberg Castle rises to the top of everyone’s list of the best castles in Germany.
8. Hohenschwangau Castle
Once upon a time, long before the famed Neuschwanstein Castle was built, there was another castle called Hohenschwangau Castle.
Hohenschwangau Castle had long been the residence of rulers but had become a ruin for some time before it was acquired by King Ludwig’s father, Maximilian II, in the 19th century. Maximilian II rebuilt and redecorated Hohenschwangau Castle in a romantic Gothic period style, perfect for a summer and hunting residence for his family.
The castle’s walls were beautifully painted with Germanic historic legends. And this, many argue, shaped the shy King Ludwig’s interest in fairy tales and legends. After Maximilian II’s death, Ludwig II spent a lot of time at the castle and designed rooms on his own terms.
If Hohenschwangau Castle’s picturesque location isn’t enough encouragement, visit the castle and walk the halls where one of Europe’s most mysterious kings grew up. Slightly south of Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau Castle is beautiful and nearby. Get tickets to tour both castles to really watch history come alive.
9. Drachenburg Castle
Drachenburg Castle has had a long and interesting history. Constructed as a private villa in the late 19th century, the wealthy banker who ordered it built never ended up living in it.
In German the castle is called ‘Dragon’s Castle’ because of an old tale that a hero slayed a dragon on that same hill. But even more interesting than the castle’s name, is the mishmash of architectural styles that make up Drachenburg Castle.
With its dreamy spires, mock battlements and square clock tower, Drachenburg Castle, standing on its wooded hill high above the Rhine River, looks like a cross between a medieval castle, a Gothic cathedral and Big Ben.
Once a summer resort, in 1910 plans were made for Drachenburg Castle to become an amusement park. This never came to fruition, but in the 1930s the castle was used as a Christian Boys’ school and chapel before being damaged throughout World War II. During the 1940s, Drachenburg Castle became a training centre before being privately owned in the 1970s.
Paul Spinat was an eccentric man who opened the castle to the general public, often held lavish parties and spun tall tales about the castle’s interior. It is believed that he would endeavor to impress tourists by filling the castle with historical artefacts of questionable authenticity.
Since the ‘80s, much work has gone into restoring and preserving the castle. Today the castle’s rooms and exterior are fully restored and refurbished, and it proudly holds the title of one of the most famous castles in Germany.
10. Mespelbrunn Castle
Mespelbrunn Castle is a late-medieval, early-Renaissance moated castle built in a tributary valley in Mespelbrunn. In the Spessart forest, between Frankfurt and Würzburg, this charming castle has become one of the most popular castles in Germany.
The charm is all around as the surrounding hills are covered in lush greenery and the castle rises out of a crystal clear lake. The castle has beautiful red sandstone and stained glass windows, and well-preserved 16th-century armors and pikes on display inside.
The family of the Counts of Ingelheim own the castle and still live on-site. They’ve made sure it remains a priceless jewel in Spessart. Even though it’s only about an hour outside of Frankfurt, you’ll truly feel like you’re in a fairytale at Mespelbrunn Castle.
11. Schönburg Castle
Schönburg Castle was first mentioned in history some time between 911 and 1166. Destroyed in 1689 by French soldiers during the Palatinate wars, the castle remained in ruins for 200 years until it was acquired by a German-American family. The family restored it, and later the town council re-entered into ownership and management of the castle before leasing it to another family some years later. The castle gardens are truly spectacular, and are a must-see no matter how long you’re staying. Many balconies decorate the property, and views of the Rhine Valley go on for days.
Since 1957 the Hüttl family has been living at the castle on a long-term lease. They currently operate an immensely successful restaurant there as well as one of the best castle hotels in Germany. Boasting a wonderfully romantic atmosphere, their restaurant Knappenstube has unbeatable views of the Engehöller Valley. The ambience of Schönburg Castle is nearly impossible to beat.
12. Löwenburg Castle
Löwenburg Castle is the main attraction in the UNESCO Site of Gesamtkunstwerk Wilhelmshöhe Mountain Park, and one of the top castles in Germany. Also called the Lion’s Castle, Löwenburg Castle is a replica of a medieval knight’s castle, with weapons and suits of armor on display inside the castle walls. Originally built between 1793 and 1800 at a time of great social upheaval, Löwenburg Castle has been rebuilt over the years by different architects. Nevertheless, the castle retains its charming semi-ruined look outside, while its interior conforms to the characteristic layout of a Baroque country palace.
Löwenburg Castle includes, besides the princely apartments, an armory collection from the 16th and 17th century and a Neo-Gothic chapel. Yes, the castle is absolutely amazing, but the rest of the park deserves a visit as well. One thing not to be missed is the cascading water feature. With so much to see and do, there’s no wonder why Löwenburg Castle is one of the best castles to visit in Germany.
13. Wartburg Castle
Wartburg Castle sits in splendor, looming 400 meters over the countryside town of Eisenach in central Germany. Described as an exemplary hilltop castle of the feudal period in central Europe, Wartburg Castle presents an impressive overview of 1,000 years of German history, and accordingly was the first German castle to be designated an UNESCO World Heritage site.
The composition and inspiration behind different aspects of the castle vary, but meld together in harmony nevertheless. The romantic ideas for reconstruction for certain parts of the property is a nod to the great people who once inhabited Wartburg Castle, and offsets the stone castle’s original Norman period architecture.
Wartburg Castle in times past housed St Elizabeth and the then-exiled Martin Luther, who translated the New Testament of the Bible into German while at the castle. Steeped in antiquity, Wartburg Castle is a must-visit for any history buff.
14. Burg Altena
About 40 kilometers from Dortmund is Altena Castle or Burg Altena, a medieval hill castle in the town of Altena in North Rhine-Westphalia. The castle was erected by counts in the early 12th century, before eventually being abandoned by them in favor of a residence elsewhere.
This fairy-tale medieval castle then served military purposes under the Prussians before becoming, in 1912, the birthplace of the youth hostel movement.
Come see the world’s first ever hostel, established more than 100 years ago, with its dark dorms and wooden triple bunks in the castle museum. View an exhibit on historic weapons and armor, check out the hunting room, then walk down to the river and enjoy the town views from the narrow streets. The museum is very interactive, and with super interesting exhibits, Burg Altena is a great place for the whole family.
15. Glücksburg Castle
Glücksburg Castle is one of the most important Renaissance castles in northern Europe. The castle was built between 1582 and 1587 by the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg at the site of Ryd Abbey, a medieval monastery that had occupied that location until the reformation.
Intriguingly, bricks and other building material from the monastery were partly reused in building the striking castle, even though the decision was made to flood the monastery to create a large pond to surround the castle.
Glücksburg Castle is built on 2.5 meters of granite foundation emerging from the pond. The pond was employed as both a defensive structure for its habitants and as fishing grounds.
In the 20th century, the formal gardens were remodeled into English landscape parks, though sections of the older garden before it remain. The orangery was renovated in 1827 into a neoclassical building, and is now used for art expositions and concerts. The Glücksburger Rosarium was created in the area of the former castle nursery in the early 1990s and now grows more than 500 different roses. Feel like European royalty with a visit to one of the best castles in Germany.
16. Wernigerode Castle
The Wernigerode Castle was originally a medieval fort used as a stronghold by German emperors on hunting excursions in the Harz during the Middle Ages. The castle was rebuilt into a Renaissance fortress in the 16th century prior to its unfortunate destruction during a 17th-century war. After the war, Count Ernest of Stolberg-Wernigerode began reconstructing the castle remains as a romantic castle residence for himself.
First established in the 12th century, the castle has undergone many changes over time. Wernigerode Castle has changed architecturally from Neo-Gothic to a Renaissance fortress and finally to a Baroque masterpiece. The present-day building, finished in the late 19th century, is similar in style to the famed Neuschwanstein Castle, though its foundations are much older.
Parts of the castle have been open to the public since 1930. Today, museum tours lead visitors through more than 40 furnished grand living quarters of the German nobility, partly furnished with timeworn original pieces. Their stunning terraces are always a favorite among guests.
The grand turreted stone and half-timber castle with magnificent views ranks as a major example of the North German historismus building style. Overlooking the medieval town of Wernigerode, cameras are more than necessary for a visit to Wernigerode Castle.
You haven’t really experienced Europe in all its glory until you’ve visited a castle or two, and Germany definitely has more than its fair share of beautiful, famous castles. Choose from our list of the best castles in Germany and kickstart your own royal adventure. From neoclassical to Renaissance period or Baroque, your fairytale castle awaits!