13 Beautiful Castles in Germany

Fall in love with Germany's noble past by touring its magnificent collection of historic castles.

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13 Beautiful Castles in Germany

German castles
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From fortified towers to medieval artwork, these fairy-tale castles are sure to wow you.

More than 25,000 castles crown the hills of Germany, so it can be difficult to choose which ones to visit. If you're seeking the best in terms of history and opulence, drive the nearly 479-mile Burgenstraße (Castle Road), which features around 60 castles and palaces between the cities of Mannheim (52 miles south of Frankfurt) and Bayreuth (55 miles northeast of Nuremberg). Or, if you'd rather stay in one spot, explore the many castles found in Saxony or Baden-Württemberg, some of which can be visited with a single multisite pass. Below, we highlight some of Germany's most stunning castles open to the public – just be sure to check the hours before your trip, as many have limited schedules or close entirely in the winter.
German castles
Credit

(Getty Images)

Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau

Princess fantasies come to life at Neuschwanstein, a 19th-century castle in the Bavarian Alps that Disneyland Resort used as inspiration when designing Sleeping Beauty Castle. King Ludwig II commissioned a set designer to create his lavish retreat in the medieval style. The cliffside location, grand ballrooms and unique spaces (think: an interior cave) have made Neuschwanstein one of Europe's top tourist attractions. Book a day tour from Munich or – at a minimum – secure tickets in advance. Expect to pay at least 12 euros ($13) per person. Also be sure to leave time to explore the grounds. Queen Mary's Bridge and the hill above it provide the most Instagram-worthy vistas.
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From fortified towers to medieval artwork, these fairy-tale castles are sure to wow you.

More than 25,000 castles crown the hills of Germany, so it can be difficult to choose which ones to visit. If you're seeking the best in terms of history and opulence, drive the nearly 479-mile Burgenstraße (Castle Road), which features around 60 castles and palaces between the cities of Mannheim (52 miles south of Frankfurt) and Bayreuth (55 miles northeast of Nuremberg). Or, if you'd rather stay in one spot, explore the many castles found in Saxony or Baden-Württemberg, some of which can be visited with a single multisite pass. Below, we highlight some of Germany's most stunning castles open to the public – just be sure to check the hours before your trip, as many have limited schedules or close entirely in the winter.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau

Princess fantasies come to life at Neuschwanstein, a 19th-century castle in the Bavarian Alps that Disneyland Resort used as inspiration when designing Sleeping Beauty Castle. King Ludwig II commissioned a set designer to create his lavish retreat in the medieval style. The cliffside location, grand ballrooms and unique spaces (think: an interior cave) have made Neuschwanstein one of Europe's top tourist attractions. Book a day tour from Munich or – at a minimum – secure tickets in advance. Expect to pay at least 12 euros ($13) per person. Also be sure to leave time to explore the grounds. Queen Mary's Bridge and the hill above it provide the most Instagram-worthy vistas.

Hohenschwangau Castle, Schwangau

If elegant Neuschwanstein is on your itinerary, save time for a visit to nearby Hohenschwangau, King Ludwig II's boyhood home. The original medieval ruins of this golden-hued castle were purchased and rebuilt by Crown Prince Maximilian in 1832 and became the royal summer palace when he ascended the throne. After Maximilian's death, Hohenschwangau remained King Ludwig II's home with his mother until Neuschwanstein was completed up the hill. A combination ticket for timed tours of both castles, plus the Museum of the Bavarian Kings, is the best value at 30 euros ($33) per person and must be reserved online in advance.

Eltz Castle, Wierschem

The impressive Eltz Castle, which is more than 850 years old, has been in the Eltz family for more than 33 generations. Thanks to its perch on a rock in the dense Eltz Forest – not to mention its eight colorful, 115-foot towers – this postcard-worthy castle is a favorite for photographers. History buffs will appreciate the guided tour of the period kitchen, Knights' Hall, parlor furnishings, artwork, armory and treasury. Some walking is required to reach the castle, though you can travel part of the way by car, boat, bike, train or RegioRadler BurgenBus, which runs between Treis-Karden and Hatzenport on weekends from May to October. Just note: Eltz Castle is closed in the winter, so check online for opening dates and English language tour times. Entrance fees range between 6.50 and 10 euros (from $7 to $11) per person.

Wartburg Castle, Eisenach

Visit the rooms where Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German at the Norman-period Wartburg Castle. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has witnessed historic and cultural events since its completion in the second half of the 12th century. Considered one of the world's best-preserved medieval castles, Wartburg is said to have been used by King Ludwig II as inspiration for Neuschwanstein Castle. To this day, Wartburg is very photogenic: The castle's striking rampart and tower jut out from lush forests more than 1,300 feet above the small town of Eisenach, which sits about 120 miles northeast of Frankfurt. The castle grounds are free to visit, but to tour the property's interior, expect to pay 5 to 10 euros ($5.50 to $11) per person.

Mespelbrunn Castle, Mespelbrunn

"Quiet," "affordable" and "charming" are just some of the adjectives past visitors use to describe Mespelbrunn Castle and its tranquil setting. It was a 12th-century stone farmhouse until a tower and fortifications were added in 1427. Although Mespelbrunn itself isn't glitzy, the land it sits on is serene. You'll find it surrounded by a moat and Spessart forest. The castle's location between Frankfurt and Würzburg off the A3 highway in Bavaria makes it easiest to reach by car. The on-site owners welcome guests themselves and sell English brochures to accompany guided tours inside the castle, which are presented in German and cost 5 euros ($5.50) per person.

Hohenzollern Castle, Bisingen

From towers to turrets to a drawbridge, Hohenzollern Castle's stunning neo-Gothic exterior rivals the ornate rooms, carved ceilings, Meissen porcelain and crown jewel collections found inside. The most recent iteration of the castle, which was rebuilt three times throughout eight centuries, was started by the Brandenburg-Prussian and Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen families in 1850. Hohenzollern descendants still own the property today. When planning your trip, look for tours in English, seasonal festivals and Royal Castle Strolls, which allow visitors to tour the royal apartments at their leisure for 6 to 12 euros (about $7 to $13) per person. For the full royal treatment, opt for the Sixt Limousine Service from Stuttgart Airport (midway between Munich and Frankfurt). The service includes a stop with panoramic views and a private tour of the castle.

Lichtenstein Castle, Lichtenstein

Located less than 36 miles south of the city of Stuttgart, the neo-Gothic Lichtenstein Castle sits on a cliff 2,680 feet above sea level. It is still inhabited by the ducal family of Urach, whose ancestor Count Wilhelm of Württemberg built the property in 1842 after being inspired by medieval castle ruins and a romantic novel. The spectacular medieval furnishings, glass paintings, armor, woodwork and painted ceiling of the Knight's Hall can all be viewed during a half-hour tour, which costs 3.50 to 8 euros (roughly $4 to $9) per person. After your tour, check out the castle's drawbridges, ropes course, hiking trails, which offer views of the Swabian Alps. There's also a tavern that's perfect for lunch.

Reichsburg Cochem, Cochem

Reichsburg Cochem (also known as the Imperial Castle) boasts a colorful history that ranges from its noble construction in the year 1000 to the stay of King Conrad III in 1151 to tales of throwing suspected witches off of its tower. The largest castle on the Mosel River, its 19th-century rebuild mixed neo-Gothic and romantic styles. Kids tours, weekend Knight's Meals, an August Middle Ages fair, destination weddings, Christmas markets and more activities – many of which are offered in English – take place at this castle. For the most affordable visiting option, choose the standard guided tour, which lasts 40 minutes and is available from mid-March to November. Fees start at 3 euros (less than $3.50) per person.

Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg

Everyone from ordinary travelers to famous faces like Mark Twain and Victor Hugo loves visiting Heidelberg Castle. Featured in the writings of Schiller and Goethe, historic Heidelberg is one of the few German cities that was not bombed during World War II and is the best base for sightseeing. The HeidelbergCARD – which costs 17 to 21 euros (about $19 to $23) per person, depending on how many days of validity you choose – includes free public transportation and a scenic funicular ride from the old town to the castle, plus castle entry, in its fee. For an extra special trip, plan to visit on one of three summer nights when fireworks follow a dramatic illumination staged to commemorate the destructive fires set by French troops in 1689 and 1693.

Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin

Ogle central Berlin's Christmas market and magnificent Hohenzollern architecture at Charlottenburg Palace, where seven generations of Prussian rulers left their mark between the 18th and 20th centuries. Much of the palace was meticulously reconstructed after it sustained damage from World War II. The decor and art collections found inside are stunning – especially in the New Wing built by Frederick the Great. Admission prices vary depending on how much of the palace you see, but expect to pay 7 to 17 euros (approximately $8 to $18.50) per person. If you're traveling during the warmer months, consider combining your visit with a daytrip to the city of Potsdam (about 20 miles southwest of Berlin) to see Frederick's opulent 18th-century Sanssouci Palace, as well as the newer Cecilienhof Palace, site of the 1945 Potsdam Conference.

Schwerin Castle, Schwerin

Situated about 70 miles east of Hamburg, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin's castle dominates an island in Germany's third-largest lake. Schwerin's ornate bell towers, gilded spires and stunning gardens were built on top of a Renaissance castle in the mid-1800s to reassert the family's royal power. This showpiece, the seat of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern parliament, features ceremonial throne rooms, a church for weddings and parlors full of armor and porcelain. Take the guided tour or use the audio guide to learn about Little Peter, the watchman who reportedly haunts the property. Audio guides are available in multiple languages and can be rented for 2 euros ($2) per person.

Sigmaringen Castle, Sigmaringen

Meet the Prussian royal family at Sigmaringen Castle on the Danube River, about 35 miles southeast of the family's Hohenzollern Castle. Beer lovers will appreciate that Frederick Miller was the property's brewmaster before moving to Milwaukee in 1855 to found the Miller Brewing Company. Although the guided tour through nearly 20 beautifully furnished rooms, parlors and galleries is typically in German, there is an English audio tour of the famous armory. Inside the room, you'll find roughly 3,000 rare weapons and armor pieces collected by Karl Anton, the Prince of Hohenzollern. The 60-minute audio tour costs 7 euros (less than $8) per person.

Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, Ludwigsburg

Visitors will find countless photo opportunities at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, a grand estate situated less than 10 miles north of Stuttgart. Originally used as a hunting lodge, the 18th-century palace eventually became Duke Eberhard Ludwig's lavish home. Today, it shows off baroque, rococo and neoclassical design elements in its four wings, as well as a theater and beautifully landscaped gardens. Most of the "Swabian Versailles" (as the property is known), including the museums, is open daily year-round, though guided tours of certain rooms are not available on Mondays during the winter. Standard admission, which includes a guided tour, costs 4 to 8 euros ($4.50 to $9) per person. If you're traveling with little ones, consider purchasing the combined Kinderreich ticket for the same price. Instead of covering a guided tour, the pass offers entry to the palace's costume- and prop-filled children's museum.
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Kyle McCarthy, Contributor

Kyle McCarthy is a co-founder and editor at Family Travel Forum, the trusted vacation planning ...  Read more

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