With over 25,000 castles and palaces to choose from you’re spoilt for choice in Germany.
During the Middle Ages, this European country was divided into many small, competitive feudal states and principalities - all home to their own fortified castle.
From the Disney classic Neuschwanstein Castle to the 11th-century Wartburg Castle, this is our pick of the most beautiful palaces and castles in Germany.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria
Perhaps Germany’s most famous castle is Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, which was used as the very model for the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Built as a romantic castle by King Ludwig II, work started on the castle in 1869 and like many of Ludwig’s schemes, was never quite finished. King Ludwig spent a miniscule 170 days in residence, but today the impressive castle is open to all those who wish to visit.
Don’t miss the impressive Sängersaal, whose frescoes depict scenes from the opera Tannhäuser. For a postcard-perfect view of the castle from the outside, head to the nearby Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge), which also offers a vista over the spectacular Pöllat Gorge and a waterfall just above the castle.
Heidelberg Palace, Baden-Württemberg
Schloss Heidelberg – or Heidelberg Palace – is the focal point of Germany’s southwestern university town Heidelberg. Surrounded by forest, this city is renowned for its baroque Altstadt (Old Town), picturesque riverside setting and charming hilltop castle. Towering over the Altstadt, Heidelberg’s ruined Renaissance castle offers a romantic sweeping view over the Neckar River below and is the perfect vantage point for looking out over the delightful town.
Those wanting to enjoy the fresh countryside air can reach the castle via a steep, cobbled 10-minute trail whilst more laid-back travellers can take the Bergbahn (cogwheel train) from Kornmarkt station. Once in the castle grounds, highlights include the Schlosshof – the castle’s central courtyard, and the Friedrichsbau room, whose collection of life-size sculptures of kings and emperors is particularly impressive.
Wartburg Castle, Eisenach
A UNESCO-listed building, Eisenach’s Wartburg Castle brings Germany’s medieval past to life. This huge medieval castle – made up of 40,000 tonnes of sandstone – has been around for almost a hundred years. Built in 1067, this unassuming hillside castle is where Martin Luther – who was excommunicated at the time – began translating the New Testament and codifying the written German language.
The castle’s history became even more interesting in 1206, when Europe’s best medieval entertainers began meeting here for ‘Battle of the Bards,’ an olden-day equivalent of American Idol. A few centuries later – in 1817 – students organised the first Wartburg Festival, a celebration of German identity. With much of the 12th-century building still intact, the incredible history-filled Wartburg Castle is well worth an afternoon of exploration.
Schwerin Palace, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Surrounded by a wonderful landscape of lakes and forests, the Schwerin Palace offers a veritable escape from reality. The seat of parliament in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, this fairytale-like castle is the focal point of the province, and rightly so. For an in-depth insight into the castle’s workings, visit the Schwerin Castle Museum. The magnificent living and ball rooms, including the throne room and ancestor gallery, are particularly impressive.
For a breath of fresh air, take a stroll through the castle’s gardens. Here, the mastery of garden architects Klett and Lenné truly comes to life. During the summer months (April to October), stop for a coffee in the Orangery café and in winter, feast on traditional delights at the castle’s Schlosscafé.