In a country as big and rich in history as Germany, you can be sure to find some of the world’s most spectacular castles – from medieval fortresses to noble palaces. Scattered all across the country, most are steeped in history, and some are still owned by the original families.
From the fairytale-like Neuschwanstein Castle widely recognized across the globe to Instagram-famous Burg Eltz, you can be sure that each place is as awe-inspiring as the other.
Germany is home to the world’s longest castle complex, and many of the country’s castles sit perched high above the surrounding scenery on hills and even cliff edges, graciously overlooking the nearby lands. While some have stood the test of time unaffected, others have been at the very heart of furious battles and wars, luckily, restored to tell the stories of the past.
Here is our list of the 15 Best Castles in Germany.
1. Eltz Castle
If there is one German castle that has risen to popularity in recent years thanks to social media, it’s Eltz Castle in Western Germany. With its picturesque ambiance, surrounded by thick, dark woods, Eltz Castle is a favorite for many photographers and landscape enthusiasts on Instagram.
This medieval castle, unique to the Rhineland-Palatinate region where it is located, was never destroyed, even during the most tumultuous historic periods. To this day the castle remains within the ownership of the initial family. Its one-of-a-kind appearance and the fact that it sits within a valley but still perched on a hill draws in thousands of tourists every month. Walking toward the castle over the cobbled gatehouse entrance, you cannot resist the feeling of being amazed and in awe. You might as well have traveled into a fairytale.
2. Neuschwanstein Castle
Generally, there are two types of castles. Ones that look like strongholds, intended for defensive purposes and sometimes having a ghostly appearance, and others that seem to have come out from a fairytale – magical and other-worldly. Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany belongs to the latter.
This 19th-century Romanesque Revival-style castle is the most visited castle in Germany as well as one of the most picturesque castles in the world. Commissioned and built by Ludwig II of Bavaria, the castle doesn’t just seem like something belonging to a fantasy. It was intended that way. Many of the interior elements within the castle suggest that.
Perched on a hill amidst stunning surroundings, anyone seeing the castle agrees it is awe-inspiring. The castle has served as inspiration for the famous Disney castle as well as that of the Sleeping Beauty.
3. Hohenzollern Castle
Hohenzollern Castle, located in Baden-Württemberg in South-West Germany, sits atop Mount Hohenzollern and is the third castle after the first two fell into despair. The construction of the current castle began in 1850. Brandenburg-Prussian and Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen lines funded the building of the castle since they were a part of the Hohenzollern family.
The castle features several architectural styles. There are elements of military architecture which can be seen in the impressive Eagle Gate which then leads to a drawbridge leading to the castle entrance. Within the palace, there are three Gothic Revival buildings. Due to its location, there are incredible views from the castle stretching as far as 100 km away.
Since the mid-20th century, the castle is filled with various historical artifacts and nowadays visitors can enjoy guided tours through this magnificent property, still within the hands of the Hohenzollern family.
4. Marburger Schloss
Marburg Castle or Marburger Schloss not only impressively rises above the old town of Marburg but has also had an intriguing history. This Landgrave castle sits in a strategic position and has changed a lot during centuries, since the first Medieval fortification.
The chapel building, as well as the great hall, remain as one of the most exceptional Gothic halls in Central European castle architecture. The castle altogether features Gothic and late-Gothic elements with Renaissance extensions.
Nowadays the Museum for Cultural History has found its home within the Marburg Castle. Famously, Marburg Castle had a role to play in the discovery of the notorious Marburg Files, which contained important documents from the Nazi government. The discovered files were reviewed within Marburg Castle.
5. Reichsburg/Cochem Castle
Reichsburg or Cochem Castle which overlooks the beautiful Moselle River and the lush green winemaking region of Rhineland-Palatinate in Western Germany is not the original castle from the 12th century. Louis XIV and his army destroyed the old castle in the late 17th century. Left in remains, it stayed that way until the 19th century when Louis Ravené, a successful businessman from Berlin, bought the ruins and rebuilt the castle.
The original castle was built in a Romanesque style. However, the new castle was predominantly rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style with Romanesque and Gothic elements in, for example, the Octagonal Tower and the so-called Witches Tower.
During World War II, Louis Ravené’s son was forced to sell the property the Prussian Ministry of Justice, and a Nazi government-led law school took over the castle. After the war, the castle was owned by the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and later bought by the city of Cochem.
6. Mespelbrunn Castle
So far we have listed castles that have a particular grandeur about them – overlooking towns, perched on top of hills, and towers rising above the surrounding scenery. Mespelbrunn Castle is much different. Neither sitting on a mountaintop nor excelling in its size, what it does have is a unique charm.
Mespelbrunn Castle was built in the late Medieval and early Renaissance time and style. The small moated castle has undergone many changes, and only the tower remains from the original 15th-century building. The reconstruction, done in the late 16th century, adjusted the castle to fit in line with manor houses rather than defensive castles.
Since the castle is rather remote, located in a valley and surrounded by thick forests, it was one of the few castles left undestroyed by the Thirty Years’ War.
To this day members of the Counts of Ingelheim family live in the Southern wing of the castle.
7. Wartburg Castle
At the very heart of Germany lies the Wartburg Castle – a place rich in history and significance. Since 1999 it has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Significantly, Martin Luther translated the New Testament of the Bible in German in Wartburg Castle.
Sitting high above the surrounding scenery and the town of Eisenach, Wartburg Castle is known to have inspired Ludwig II and the building of Neuschwanstein Castle.
The construction of the castle begun in the second half of the 11th century. In the early 14th century significant repair started after a fire had damaged the castle. Nowadays, many structures from the Medieval times remain, but the interiors do not. The current interiors date back to the 19th century.
The largest part of the castle, the Palas, was done in Romanesque style. Without much change, the barbican and drawbridge are the only access points to the castle, and both structures are signature to Medieval castle design.
8. Hohenschwangau Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle in Bavaria in Southern Germany is a 19th-century palace, where King Ludwig II of Bavaria spent his childhood years. His father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria initiated the building of the castle and construction began in 1833.
Domenico Quaglio was in charge of the architectural design of the castle in neogothic style. There are over 90 wall paintings in the castle, which depict the history of Schwangau and medieval German romances.
When Ludwig II began construction of Neuschwanstein, his mother, Queen Mary, was the only one living in the Hohenschwangau Castle until her death.
In the early 20th century, the castle opened to the public as a museum for a year, but shortly after the First World War, the formal royal family moved back in. Luckily, the castle suffered no damages during both World Wars.
Nowadays the castle is open to the public, and several hundred thousand visitors visit each year.
9. Schwerin Castle
Remarkably stunning is the Schwerin Castle located in Northern Germany in the city of Schwerin. Settled on Lake Schwerin, the palatial schloss and the surrounding lake form a spectacular fairytale-like landscape.
There are records that indicate that the first fortress on the island dates back to the 10th century. The oldest parts of the current castle date back to the 16th century, however, the current castle was built in the 19th century.
The palace was built by Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. It is believed that Castle Chambord at the river Loire served as inspiration for Schwerin Castle since Georg Adolf Demmler was trying to find a design that would suit the taste of Grand Duke. The castle is built in Neo Renaissance style.
Nowadays the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament occupies the castle.
10. Lichtenstein Castle
Lichtenstein Castle in Baden-Württemberg is a 19th-century privately owned Gothic Revival castle in the Swabian Jura. The castle is located an impressive 2,680 feet above the sea level and 820 feet above the river Echaz. 1600 feet from the castle lies the ruins of the medieval castle Burg Alt-Lichtenstein.
The building of the castle was commissioned by Duke Wilhelm of Urach, who was passionate about medieval history. He then recruited an architect and restorationist Carl Alexander Heideloff. The castle features a curtain wall and a courtyard, as well as a barbican, outer bailey, bastions, and turrets.
11. Wernigerode Castle
Wernigerode Castle is located in the Harz mountains in Saxony-Anhalt. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region. As with many castles, there once used to be a medieval fort here. Later it was rebuilt as a Renaissance fortress but after the devastating effects of the Thirty Year War, the remains were reconstructed in Baroque style by Count Ernest of Stolberg-Wernigerode.
The castle features three gardens and parks, and since 1930 parts of the castle has been open to the public. The castle features over 50 rooms, and the castle church, as well as the smokers’ salon, can be rented out for weddings.
12. Burg Rheinstein
The beautiful Rhineland-Palatinate region doesn’t lack beautiful historic buildings, and the Rheinstein Castle is among one of them. Not far from Frankfurt, graciously overlooking River Rhine, the castle once occupied an important strategic location that nowadays excels in its romantic beauty.
The castle was first built in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 19th century. Typical for medieval architecture, the castle has a functioning drawbridge as well as a portcullis. Castle’s courtyard is called Burgundy Garden after the type of grapes that grow in the surrounding area. The castle chapel features a Gothic altarpiece.
13. Burghausen Castle
In Upper Bavaria, you can find the longest castle complex in the world occupying over 1051 meters. The large Burghausen Castle is a gothic complex comprising of the main castle, an inner courtyard, and five outer courtyards. This incredible stronghold was a clear indication of the power of Bavarian dukes, and the castle was both a royal residence and a military fortification.
All of the courtyards used to be protected by moats, drawbridges, and portcullises. The first courtyard lays within the main castle complex and access to this part has always been controlled. The western part of the courtyard is where the bakery and brewery used to be.
The smallest courtyard of the five is the second courtyard, but it had the highest military importance as it held all the arsenal. The third courtyard used to house the chaplain. In the 19th century, the courtyard was used as a parade ground. The fourth courtyard features a late Gothic chapel, the St Maria’s Chapel. The outermost courtyard, the fifth, is the largest of all, and its appearance has changed the most through the centuries.
14. Dresden Castle
Dresden Castle in Dresden was where electors and kings of Saxony resided for over 400 years. Not only is it one of the oldest buildings in Dresden, but it also features various architectural styles from Baroque to Neo-renaissance.
Dresden suffered terrifying losses during the bombing in World War II. Dresden Castle, unfortunately, wasn’t spared, and it also underwent severe damage.
Nowadays, the castle is an impressive museum complex. Within the castle, there is the famous Green Vault, which is the largest treasure collection in Europe.
15. Moyland Castle
Moyland Castle is located in North West Germany, not far from the border with the Netherlands. The moated castle is built in the neo-Gothic style and is of great significance in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The main part of the castle complex consists of a four-towered keep. The main two-story building is in historicist Tudor style. The current castle dates back to 17th century.
The castle suffered devastation during World War II, and even though the exterior didn’t suffer, the interiors underwent theft and vandalism by Canadian soldiers.
Nowadays the castle features a museum with a collection by Hans van der Grinten and Franz Joseph van der Grinten.