German Castles: Beyond the Fairy Tale Facade

The Neuschwanstein Castle, a famous tourist attraction in Bavaria, Germany.

Take a grand tour of the most awe-inspiring German castles, each with its own unique story, architectural grandeur, and breathtaking vistas. From the fairy-tale spires of Neuschwanstein to the historic fortifications of Wartburg, these beautiful castles offer a captivating journey through time and jaw-dropping views.

Germany is a land of contrasts, from bustling cities to serene landscapes, but one thing that remains a constant is its rich history. Germany’s amazing castles beautifully encapsulate this history, accenting the landscape from the Alpine foothills of Bavaria to the rugged coastline of Northern Germany. No wonder they’re one of the things Germany is famous for!

In this article, I’ll take you on a virtual tour of these architectural marvels, diving into their histories, unique features, and the stunning landscapes they call home.

Visit 17 enchanting fairy tale castles in Germany, known for their picturesque architecture and rich history.


Have You Visited a German Castle?

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Map of German Castles

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German Castles in Baden-Württemberg

Baden-Württemberg is a captivating state in southwest Germany that shares its borders with France and Switzerland. The region is a tapestry of rolling hills, dense forests, and the majestic Black Forest, providing a dramatic backdrop for its historic castles.

A German castle sits on top of a cliff.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Lichtenstein Castle (Schloss Lichtenstein)

Perched on a cliff in the Swabian Alps near Honau, Lichtenstein Castle is a 19th-century marvel designed to honor medieval knights. However, its roots go back to the 12th century when an earlier castle stood on the site.

The Gothic Revival castle is renowned for its extensive collection of historic weapons and armor, making it a must-visit for history buffs and medieval enthusiasts. The architecture is a feast for the eyes, featuring intricate carvings and turrets that seem to touch the sky. If you’re planning a visit, don’t miss the guided tours that delve into the castle’s rich history and showcase its impressive collections.

A majestic German castle sits on top of a hill, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding valley.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Hohenzollern Castle (Burg Hohenzollern)

Hohenzollern Castle sits atop Mount Hohenzollern, offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside that are simply breathtaking. The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt twice, with the current structure dating back to the 19th century.

It’s known for its art collections, including a letter from George Washington to Baron von Steuben, making it a treasure trove for history enthusiasts. The castle also houses the Prussian King’s Crown, adding another layer of royal allure. If you’re visiting, consider taking the “Queen’s Staircase” for a royal experience and breathtaking vistas. The castle frequently hosts events like medieval markets and concerts, so check the calendar to make your visit extra special.

The sun setting over the Heidelberg Castle.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss)

Located in the charming town of Heidelberg, the Heidelberg Castle is a blend of styles from Gothic to Renaissance. Built in the 13th century, it has faced multiple bouts of destruction and subsequent rebuilding. Today, its ruins are considered some of the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps.

The castle grounds include a pharmacy museum, which adds an unexpected twist to its historical allure, and the Heidelberg Tun, one of the most enormous wine barrels in the world. Also, consider taking the funicular up to the castle for an easier climb and a scenic view of the town below. The castle’s gardens, known as the Hortus Palatinus, are another highlight, offering a tranquil escape with stunning views.

German Castles in Bavaria

Bavaria is Germany’s largest state, located in the southeastern part of the country. Known for its stunning Alpine scenery, dense forests, and charming villages, Bavaria is a land steeped in tradition and history. This picturesque backdrop makes it a perfect setting for some of Germany’s most iconic castles.

A German castle in the middle of a lake with a swan in the water.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Mespelbrunn Castle (Wasserschloss Mespelbrunn)

Nestled within the Spessart forest between Frankfurt and Wurzburg, Mespelbrunn Castle started as a simple house built on water by a 15th-century knight. Over the years, it has become a must-visit water castle in Germany. Despite its popularity, it remains privately owned, adding an air of exclusivity to its romantic setting.

The moated castle’s lush gardens make it a popular location for weddings and photography. You’ll find a fascinating collection of period furniture and family portraits inside. If you’re planning a visit, take advantage of the guided tours offering a deep dive into the castle’s intriguing history and legends.

Neuschwanstein castle, one of the iconic German castles, bathed in the warm glow of a Bavarian sunset.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein)

Perched high in the Bavarian Alps, Neuschwanstein Castle is a global icon. Often dubbed the “fairytale castle,” the enigmatic King Ludwig II commissioned this palace as a retreat and in homage to composer Richard Wagner. The castle that Germany is famous for is a masterstroke of 19th-century Romanticism with turrets and frescoes that have inspired everything from Disney castles to Instagram posts.

The castle interior is equally impressive, featuring opulent rooms adorned with intricate wood carvings and stunning murals. If you’re visiting, you should arrive early to beat the crowds and even book a horse-drawn carriage ride for a truly royal ascent up the steep hill.

Hohenschwangau Castle sits on top of a green hill in Germany. castles in Germany, sits on top of a green hill.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Hohenschwangau Castle (Schloss Hohenschwangau)

Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau Castle is a jewel in its own right. It served as the childhood home of King Ludwig II and was where he first dreamed of building Neuschwanstein.

The castle is adorned with intricate murals depicting Germanic myths, adding a layer of storytelling to its walls. The rooms are filled with original furniture from Ludwig’s time, offering a more intimate look at his life and inspirations. A visit here provides a unique perspective on the man behind some of Germany’s most impressive castles.

A German castle sits on top of a hill overlooking a river in Germany.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Burghausen Castle (Burg Burghausen)

Stretching over 1,050 meters (a little more than half a mile), Burghausen Castle holds the title of the longest castle complex in the world. Situated near the Austrian border, the castle is a labyrinth of courtyards, museums, and fortifications. Its history dates back to the 11th century, offering a rich tapestry of architectural styles from Romanesque to Gothic.

The castle houses several museums, including one dedicated to the history of photography and another showcasing medieval life. A walk along its extensive walls offers panoramic views stretching beyond the Alps on a clear day.

Castles in Central Germany

In the states of Hessen, Thuringia, and Saxony-Anhalt, Central Germany has a rich history and natural beauty. From the river valleys of Hessen to the rolling hills and dense forests of Thuringia, the landscape provides a dramatic backdrop for the region’s castles.

A stunning German castle proudly perched on a scenic hill, with a serene backdrop of lush trees.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Marburger Castle (Landgrafenschloss Marburg)

Located in Marburg, Hesse, Marburger Castle (also known as Landgrave’s Castle) is not just a historical monument but also a part of the University of Marburg. The medieval castle offers panoramic views of the old town and the Lahn River, making it a popular spot for both tourists and locals.

Inside, you’ll find a museum that delves into the region’s history and the castle itself. The palace is easily accessible by a funicular, and the journey offers some of the best views of Marburg.

A grand stone castle.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Wartburg Castle

Situated in Eisenach, Thuringia, Wartburg Castle is one of Germany’s most historically significant castles. Founded in the 11th century, it gained fame as the refuge of Martin Luther, who translated the New Testament here in the early 16th century.

The castle is one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses in Germany and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Visitors can reach the castle by a steep hike or a convenient shuttle bus. Once there, don’t miss the chance to explore its richly decorated rooms and the museum showcasing medieval art.

Wernigerode castle with turrets on a cloudy day.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Wernigerode Castle (Schloss Wernigerode)

Located in Saxony-Anhalt, Wernigerode Castle originally dates back to the 12th century but has undergone several transformations over the years. Today, it is a fine example of historicist architecture, featuring elements from different periods.

The castle offers guided tours that take you through lavishly furnished rooms, showcasing the lifestyle of German nobility. The castle is also known for its beautiful gardens and terraces, which offer stunning views of the Harz Mountains and the town below.

Castles in Northern Germany

Northern Germany, particularly the states of Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, provide a different flavor of German history and architecture. Vast plains, numerous lakes, and a rugged coastline along the Baltic Sea mark the landscape here. This region’s castles often reflect the influence of various European architectural styles, from Gothic to Renaissance, each set against a backdrop of natural beauty.

A German castle nestled amidst a lush forest and a winding path.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Marienburg Castle (Burg Marienburg)

Located in Lower Saxony, Marienburg Castle is a Neo-Gothic masterpiece that looks like it’s straight out of a storybook. Built in the 19th century as a summer residence for King George V of Hanover, the castle is now a popular tourist attraction.

It offers guided tours that take you through its opulent rooms, filled with original furniture and artwork. The castle also hosts various events throughout the year, from classical concerts to Christmas markets. Take advantage of the panoramic views from the castle tower, which offer a sweeping vista of the surrounding countryside.

A large German castle sitting on top of a snowy field.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Schwerin Castle (Schweriner Schloss)

Situated on an island in the main lake at Schwerin, this castle in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is as picturesque as they come. With roots tracing back to the 10th century, Schwerin Castle has a long and storied history, including serving as the home to the grand dukes of Mecklenburg.

Today, it functions as both a museum and a government building. The castle is said to be haunted by a friendly ghost named Petermännchen, adding a layer of intrigue to your visit. The museum showcases the region’s history and the castle, and the beautifully landscaped gardens are a must-see.

German Castles in North Rhine-Westphalia

North Rhine-Westphalia is a diverse region in the western part of Germany. It’s a land of contrasts, from the bustling industrial cities of the Ruhr Valley to the serene landscapes of the Sauerland and Eifel regions. The area is rich in history, and its palaces often reflect the region’s complex past, from medieval fortresses to 19th-century romantic castles.

A German castle that is the world's first youth hostel.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Altena Castle (Burg Altena)

Set on a hill overlooking the town of Altena, this castle is known for being the first to open its doors as a youth hostel back in 1914. Altena Castle dates back to the 12th century and has undergone various renovations over the years.

Today, it houses a museum that offers a journey through the Middle Ages, complete with armor, weapons, and historical documents. The castle also offers spectacular views of the surrounding Lenne Valley. When you visit, don’t miss the chance to explore the castle’s dungeons and secret passages.

A grand German castle overlooking a river in Germany.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Drachenburg Castle (Schloss Drachenburg)

Located in the Siebengebirge hills near Bonn, Drachenburg Castle is a relatively new castle built in the late 19th century. But despite its youth, it captures the romantic spirit of older medieval castles.

The castle is renowned for its ornate architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens, which include terraces and a grotto. Inside, you’ll find a mix of styles, from Neo-Gothic to Renaissance, and rooms lavishly decorated with frescoes and stained glass. The castle is easily accessible by the oldest cog railway in Germany, a unique way to visit.

German Castles in Rhineland-Palatinate

Rhineland-Palatinate is a state in southwestern Germany known for its lush vineyards, rolling hills, and the scenic Mosel and Rhine rivers. The region is steeped in history, evident in its well-preserved castles that often sit majestically overlooking rivers or nestled in forested areas. These stunning castles offer a glimpse into the past and provide some of the most breathtaking views in Germany.

An aerial view of a German castle on a hill overlooking a river.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Reichsburg Cochem Castle

Overlooking the Mosel River in the town of Cochem, Reichsburg Cochem Castle is a sight to behold. Originally built around 1000 AD, the castle has a tumultuous history, including being nearly destroyed in the 17th century by French King Louis XIV. Restorers later revived the castle in a Neo-Gothic style, and it now features an impressive collection of Renaissance and Baroque style furniture. The Reichsburg Castle offers guided tours that delve into its rich history, and the panoramic views of the Mosel Valley from the castle are simply stunning.

Fun Fact: The picturesque waterway that begins in France’s Vosges Mountains is known as the Moselle River. As it winds its way to the Rhine River, crossing to border into the German-speaking countries of Luxembourg and Germany, it is known as the Mosel River, so don’t let the two spellings for the same river stump you!

A German castle proudly stands on top of a hill hidden amongst the enchanting forest.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Eltz Castle (Burg Eltz)

Eltz Castle is one of the few German castles never destroyed, thanks to its strategic location and strong fortifications. The Eltz family, caretakers for over 800 years, still own the castle in the hills above the Mosel River. The castle is renowned for its authentic medieval architecture and a treasury that houses many gold and silver artifacts, weapons, and more. Guided tours are available, and they offer a fascinating look into the castle’s history and daily life during medieval times.

Sage Advice: One of my favorite ways to admire Rhineland-Palatinate’s gorgeous castles is on a Mosel river cruise

A German castle sits on top of a hill in a forest.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Schönburg Castle (Burg Schönburg)

Perched above the Rhine River, Schönburg Castle provides a unique experience as it’s now a hotel. The castle was burned down in the late 17th century and lay in ruins until it was restored in the late 19th century. Today, it offers guests the chance to live like royalty, complete with antique furnishings and modern amenities. The castle also has a restaurant that serves regional cuisine, making it a perfect spot for a romantic getaway.


Castles in Germany are a Journey Through Stone and Time

It’s clear that each German fortress is a time capsule, preserving centuries of history, culture, and architectural innovation. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates stunning views, these German castles offer a unique and enriching experience. So, the next time you find yourself in Germany, carve out some time to explore these magnificent structures— you won’t regret it.

Have You Visited Any Famous Castles in Germany?

Which German castle captured your interest and imagination the most? Do you have any insider tips or perhaps a lesser-known castle that deserves a shoutout? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

Cologne, Germany, at sunset with the cathedral in the background.


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4 thoughts on “German Castles: Beyond the Fairy Tale Facade”

  1. This was fun reading about the castles. This makes me want to go to Germany more then ever. So glad you posted this.

  2. I can’t wait to explore the fairy-tale spires of Neuschwanstein and the historic fortifications of Wartburg. Germany’s castles are more than just fairy tales; they’re living history.

    1. Yes, they are! And Neuschwanstein is too impressive for word or pictures — you have to experience it first-hand!

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