12 castles in Germany that bring fairy tales to life

From Disney-esque palaces to charming hidden chateaus, castles in Germany are some of the most astounding in the world, few of which are visited by tourists.

Every one of Germany’s 25,000 castles has a unique story to tell. Some are perfectly preserved pieces of the past, while others showcase intricate architecture decorated with medieval frescoes crafted by history’s greatest designers. From gilded walls to faded stone ruins and spindly, twisting spires, this is our hand-picked list of the best castles in Germany.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Engulfed in a sea of green and auburn-coloured trees, the storybook-esque Neuschwanstein Castle can be found nestled along the foothills of the Alps. Constructed with brick, marble and light-coloured limestone in 1869, it stands today as one of the most famous castles in Germany. Its astounding presence invites guests from around the globe to explore its enchanting halls.

Neuschwanstein Castle at sunset
Neuschwanstein Castle © Adobe Stock

Neuschwanstein Castle boasts over 200 rooms (although most are unfinished) and spans 65,000 square feet. This historic German castle was originally home to King Ludwig II in the 19th century. Splashes of gold and amber shower the halls, which feature traditional European artworks from King Ludwig’s reign. Its striking resemblance to Sleeping Beauty’s castle is no coincidence, as Walt Disney based its design on Neuschwanstein’s deep blue turrets and white outer walls. It’s one of the most stunning castles in Germany to visit.

Guided tours run throughout the year for travellers wishing to examine the lavish rooms. These include the throne room, grotto and chapel. While many will admire Neuschwanstein Castle for its jaw-dropping beauty both inside and out, its rich history is the true show-stopper. It provides a snapshot of 19th-century Germany as well as some insight into “Mad King Ludwig’s” mind. All of this is explored during the tours, with guides discussing the castle’s stories and architecture.

How to get there: From Füssen, there is a direct bus to Neuschwanstein Castle. This will drop you in front of the castle.

Neuschwanstein Castle's gorgeous interiors
Neuschwanstein Castle’s gorgeous interiors © Adobe Stock

Hohenzollern Castle

Panoramic mountaintop views coupled with luxurious Victorian decor cement Hohenzollern Castle as one of the best castles in Germany. This grand court was built in 1867 and sits isolated atop Mount Hohenzollern. Hundreds of visitors flock to the castle year-round for the chance to learn more about its origins.

Panoramic views from Hohenzollern Castle
Hohenzollern Castle © Unsplash

Rustic battlements and sky-scraping towers fortify the outskirts of the castle. Its overgrown shrubbery and sculptures are scattered across its tan-bricked walls, concealing the elegance within. While Hohenzollern Castle is completely uninhabited, 140 rooms await keen explorers with an interest in historic architecture and artistry. The castle’s halls are adorned with portraits of Prussian royals, with marble columns and gilded ceilings decorating the interior. Visitors will find two breathtaking chapels with stained glass windows as they make their way through the palace, as well as the Counts Hall and a library.

Hohenzollern Castle is a snapshot of what royal life looked like in 19th-century Germany, though It’s seen many enhancements since then to accommodate the abundance of visitors. Guests are free to visit showrooms on their own accord, while the rest of the castle can be explored on guided tours.

How to get there: From Hechingen, the castle’s closest city, catch a bus to the castle on the regular Line 306 or the Traufbus Line 344. The bus will then drop you at the parking lot. From there, expect a steep, 20-minute walk up to the castle.

Inside Hohenzollern Castle
Inside Hohenzollern Castle © Adobe Stock

Heidelberg Castle

Overlooking the city of Heidelberg is Heidelberg Castle, a structure as storied as the town itself. The castle is a collection of several buildings, with the first built as early as 1300. Its deep history presents tour guides with plenty to tell, from the chequered past of its inhabitants to its long-standing architecture.

The outer walls of Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle © Unsplash

Still standing after more than seven centuries, Heidelberg Castle continues to hold its place as one of the most important castles in Germany. Located 300 metres above the city, it is surrounded by deep green forests and crystal-blue waters. The ruins are built from red sandstone, though some of the towers have deteriorated over time. The interiors of the castle have been altered and refurbished over the years, though done so in line with the original essence. The Imperial Hall is one of the most breathtaking rooms in Heidelberg Castle, displaying impressive wall carvings and sculptures.

The courtyard gardens are always freshly manicured, a serene space for guests to stroll through at their leisure. Hints of past structures and artefacts can be found scattered across the landscape, providing further insight into Heidelberg Castle. The castle’s interiors can only be explored on guided tours, providing guests with interesting facts and stories.

How to get there: Heidelberg is the closest main city. From here, take bus line 33 or bus line 20 to the stop Bergbahn. Take the Bergbahn (funicular railway) to Schloss (Castle) station.

Heidelberg Castle architecture
Heidelberg Castle’s detailed architecture © Unsplash

Marburg Castle

Marburg Castle, also known as Landgrafenschloss, stands tall as a monumental piece of Marburg’s history. Originally a fortress in the 11th century, it now sits atop Schlossberg as a landmark of great importance.

Towering structures and medieval architecture make up Marburg Castle, reflecting its 10th-century origins. It has since undergone several expansions resulting in its multi-part infrastructure. Within the palace, you will find a selection of rooms decorated with colours and religious iconography reflecting the traditions of the time. The secular Gothic halls are some of the most beautiful architectural feats in Germany, adding to the castle’s ambience.

One of the more popular castles in Germany, Marburg Castle is open to inquisitive travellers with tours that visit an array of historically significant locations in the castle. These include the exemplary Prince’s Hall, the castle chapel and medieval frescoes. Marburg Castle also hosts exhibitions.

How to get there: The closest major city is Marburg, from which visitors can catch the bus 10 route from any bus stop, which will drop visitors right at the castle.

Marburg Castle
Marburg Castle © Adobe Stock

Eltz Castle

Tucked deep into the lush growth of the Eltz Forest is Eltz Castle. This unscathed structure is a paragon of medieval elegance and can be seen from miles away. Amidst layers of vibrant greenery, the towers soar up to heights of 35 metres, its oriels and turrets mesmerising. The timber frame and golden brick walls are home to artefacts collected over the past 800 years. The armoury’s walls are laden with steel and gold, accompanied by suits of armour, weapons of war and medieval defence mechanisms. Eltz Castle is one of the most beautiful storybook castles in Germany.

Guests should expect to discover a wide range of medieval and early modern architecture on the guided tours, while also learning about the significance of everyday items found in the palace. It is open seasonally, updating its website regularly.

How to get there: From Frankfurt, take a 35-minute train to Moselkern which is at the foot of the hill where the Eltz Castle is located.

Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle © Adobe Stock

Cochem Castle

Casting an imposing shadow over the Mosel River valley is Cochem Castle, one of the most majestic castles in Germany. What was once a relic worn down by wars of centuries past has since been restored to its Neo-Gothic grandeur.

Rumoured to have been constructed around 1000 AD, this impressive fortification was revived in the 19th century to become what we see today. Sitting lonesome atop far-reaching valleys, Cochem Castle projects strength in solitude, presumably the traits it aimed to portray when originally constructed. Stone pathways lined with trimmed hedges lead guests through the exterior of the castle, which is decorated with timber battlements and steel suits of armour.

Cochem Castle
Cochem Castle © Adobe Stock

Boasting one of the most immersive guided offerings of all the castles in Germany, Cochem Castle’s multilingual tours offer guests an extensive walkthrough, including visits to the knights’ hall, the trophy room and the bower. Medieval-themed dinners are held in the cellar halls on Fridays and Saturdays, a four-hour program accompanied by bards and maids. Guests can participate in medieval customs, practices and even punishments, before ending the evening with a knighting.

How to get there: In Cochem city proper, the Reichsburg Shuttle (public bus line 701) operates between May and the end of October from Cochem bus stops. This will drop you off at the castle.

Cochem Castle's exterior architecture
Cochem Castle’s exterior architecture © Adobe Stock

Wartburg Castle

Believed to have been founded in the late 11th century, the Romanesque architecture of Wartburg Castle’s has been well preserved. The entry gatehouse features a draw bridge and moat, while the courtyard is peppered with stone carvings. The interiors reflect the qualities of a royal palace, with frescoes dating back to the Middle Ages in the marble halls and chandeliers hanging from gilded ceilings. Wartburg Castle is one of the most striking castles in Germany.

Eight different tours are hosted in Wartburg Castle covering everything from tall folk tales to craft workshops. Guided tours range from 45 to 90 minutes and each aims to deliver an educational and entertaining experience for curious history buffs.

How to get there: From Eisenach, Liliengrund, catch the line 3 bus to the castle.

Wartburg Castle at sunset
Wartburg Castle © Adobe Stock

Hohenschwangau Castle

Lustrous gold ornaments and European friezes appear in the halls of Hohenschwangau Castle, cementing itself as one of the most memorable castles in Germany. Considered to be the pinnacle of architectural romanticism, the castle is home to more than 90 paintings by designer Domenico Quaglio. Historical remnants retrieved on the grounds have been preserved close to their original condition and put on display. Guests can explore the Swan Knight’s Hall, Guelph Room and Hohenstaufen Room during their visit.

Guests visiting Hohenschwangau Castle will be granted an in-depth look into the palace’s origins. Exhibitions and tours educate guests on the architecture, design and past inhabitants of the castle. Stone-carved fountains and sculptures are scattered across the castle garden, which is a pristine spot for visitors to bask in the castle’s romantic spirit.

How to get there: From Hohenschwangau, visitors can catch shuttles and horse carriages near the town’s ticket centre to the site.

Aeriel shot of Hohenschwangau Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle © Adobe Stock

Burg Schönfels

Positioned nearly 400 metres above sea level, Burg Schönfels towers above layers of scenic forest. Its impressive appearance is rivalled only by its fascinating history which dates back more than 800 years. Presenting both Late-Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, Burg Schönfels features white stone and worn timber interiors. The large keep stands at the centre of the castle and is reminiscent of a fortress. Given the age of the structure, it’s one of the best castles in Germany for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts.

Burg Schönfels is like a museum with both permanent and changing exhibitions to keep visitors coming back.

How to get there: From Mersch, Gare, catch the bus to Schöenfels, Schlass. The castle is just a 2-minute walk from there.

Burg Schönfels
Burg Schönfels © Adobe Stock

Lichtenstein Castle

Lichtenstein Castle sits at the edge of the Swabian Alps and is built in Neo-Gothic style. Its interiors reflect a more romantic design, a masterpiece better than any palace Disney could dream up. Perched on a rocky outcrop, access to Lichtenstein Castle is granted via a narrow drawbridge. Expect jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Alps as you cross. The interior of the castle establishes a more elegant atmosphere with touches of maroon and gold throughout. The details carved into its wooden framework are intricate and precise, a suitable companion for Lichtenstein Castle’s immense art collection. If you’re looking for a destination that fuses history with art, this is one of the best castles in Germany to add to your itinerary.

Lichtenstein Castle
Lichtenstein Castle © Adobe Stock

A walk through this palace is characterised by gilded walls and ceilings. Tours are held regularly to take visitors on a more in-depth journey into the site’s history. The castle is open seasonally, updating its website regularly.

How to get there: Catch the train from Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof to Reutilingen Hauptbahnhof. Then, take a bus to Honau which will then be followed by a 45-minute hike to the castle.

Lichtenstein Castle
Lichtenstein Castle © Adobe Stock

Albrechtsburg Castle

The historic importance of Albrechtsburg Castle should not be understated. As one of the oldest castles in Germany, a wealth of knowledge is hidden within its walls and a visit here is a fairytale experience. Spiral staircases and arched windows are reminiscent of a storybook palace, with the castle’s Gothic design submerging guests deeper into the fantasy. Walls are painted with murals which, though restored and refreshed over the centuries, maintain their original beauty.

Long shot of Albrechtsburg Castle
Albrechtsburg Castle © Adobe Stock

Despite its age, Albrechtsburg Castle contains a surprising amount of technological enhancements. Guided tours and exhibitions will see guests use a Histopad, a device that allows them to view 3D reconstructions of past events in the space they occupy. The castle also has many displays of artefacts and information boards, creating an educational atmosphere for adults and children alike.

How to get there: From Meissen, the city tour of Meissen bus runs to Albrechtsburg Castle every 30 minutes from April to October.

Interior design of Albrechtsburg Castle
The interior design of Albrechtsburg Castle © Adobe Stock

Drachenburg Castle

Constructed in the late 19th century, Drachenburg Castle has maintained its romantic aura for nearly 150 years. With sky-scraping towers and keeps similar to that of Cinderella’s castle and a courtyard with manicured lawns and trickling fountains, Drachenburg is a visual dream. The interiors of Drachenburg Castle are just as breathtaking as its art collection, and wallpaper of Victorian heritage lines the walls while medieval frescoes occupy the ceilings of this fairytale-esque palace. It’s one of the loveliest castles in Germany.

Drachenburg Castle
Drachenburg Castle © Unsplash

Drachenburg Castle’s guided tours visit both main halls and private rooms. Interesting tidbits and historical facts are peppered throughout different rooms of the castle. Guests looking to elevate their experience can upgrade their tour to include an in-depth look at the castle’s features, as well as a view of the famous Rhine River from the terraces.

How to get there: Take a regional train or a regional express train from Cologne’s central station to the Königswinter train station. It is then just a 30-minute walk from the train station, which includes some steep hills.

Inside Drachenburg Castle
Inside Drachenburg Castle © Unsplash

How many castles are in Germany?

While the true number of castles in Germany isn’t officially recorded anywhere as each federal state manages its statistics, it is estimated that the number of castles, palaces, fortresses and historical ruins throughout the country exceeds 25,000.

Where is the most famous castle in Germany?

Neuschwanstein Castle is the most famous castle in Germany due to its architectural magnificence as well as its close ties to the late King Ludwig II. The 19th-century castle is located in Schwangau in the south of Germany close to the Austrian border, in the foothills of the Alps.

Can you go inside the castles in Germany?

Many historic castles, palaces and fortresses in Germany are open to the public and welcome visitors throughout the year. However, it’s worthwhile investigating opening hours and seasonal access before setting out to visit any of the castles in Germany.

Why are there so many castles in Germany?

The Middle Ages saw a lot of conflict between individual regions of Germany. This resulted in thousands of castles being constructed, many fortified with battlements and weaponry for protection. While a large chunk of castles were inhabited by German royalty, wealthy knights and noblemen also had castles built to protect their families and fortunes. With such a flurry of both soldiers and rulers seeking protection and fortification over 800 years, it is clear why there are 25,000 castles in Germany.

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