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Home to the most impressive collection of fairytale castles, Germany is dotted with medieval and late Gothic palaces that sit atop mountain peaks and overlook flowing rivers. Boasting more than 20,000 castles, visit these historic landmarks to marvel at the enchanting architecture and browse through fascinating artifacts, antiques and artwork in their interior. Starting with the famous Neuschwanstein Castle that inspired Walt Disney, here are the top fairytale castles in Germany that should at the top of your list.
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The most famous castle in all of Germany, the Neuschwanstein Castle is perched over one of southern Bavaria’s most beautiful gorges and overlooks the Alps. It’s famous for serving as the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, constructed in the 1800s as a luxury summer retreat for Ludwig II of Bavaria. Just a short trip Munich, this 19th-century gem features stunning architecture, dazzling chandeliers, beautiful paintings and sweeping swan designs that create a fairytale-like ambiance.
The Hohenzollern Castle sits atop Mount Hohenzollern and was built to resemble a knight’s medieval castle, which has helped earn its title as one of the most impressive castles in the country. Dating back to the 11th century, this beautiful castle is perched 768 feet above a picturesque valley. Step inside the castle to explore over 10 centuries of history, including Frederick the Great’s belongings in the museum, royal crowns and a letter from George Washington thanking a former owner for their service in the American Revolutionary War.
With a nickname like “Versailles of the North”, you can expect the Schwerin Castle to be opulent. Built entirely on a small island, this architectural masterpiece is home to 653 rooms. Completed in 1857, the castle was once a college for kindergarten teachers but now serves as a government building for the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament. Its romantic historicist architecture is one of the most beautiful in all of Germany, adorned with a collection of ornate towers and turrets.
Built in the 19th century, the Lichtenstein Castle is perched on a steep cliff face half a mile above sea leave. Inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s novel “Lichtenstein” is accessed by a stone Bridget that stretches to another hill. Located in the Swabian Alps near Honau, this fairytale Neo-Gothic masterpiece is renowned for its collection of historic weapons and armor. Here you can enjoy smaller crowds at this picturesque hidden gem on a short day trip, as it sits only an hour away from Stuttgart.
Heidelberg Castle is located 260 feet up the northern part of a hillside, dominating the old center of Heidelberg. It is home to the most famous castle ruins in the world, where a wander around reveals gorgeous views of the city below. The construction of the castle dates back to the 1300s, but was destroyed and rebuilt in the 17th and 18 centuries. Spend a few hours touring the collection of buildings and admire its beautiful courtyard and blend of charming architectural styles.
Located high up on a hill over 300 feet above the Moselle River, the Reichsburg Cochem Castle dominates the city of Cochem. Learn about the castle’s over 1,000 years of history on a guided tour and marvel at its beautiful mosaic on the outside walls and impressive display of Renaissance and Baroque furniture. If want to immerse yourself in history, be a guest at one of the castle’s popular Knight’s Meal, where you can indulge in traditional food while being entertained by minstrels and maids.
The only medieval castle in the Middle Rhine that has never been destroyed, Marksburg Castle is an impressive fortress with white walls. It looks great for its age, dating back to the 1200s, and is open for visitors to explore its beautiful grounds. Sitting high on a cliff, it’s position helped it survive for over 700 years against enemy forces and was used a prison in the past. After exploring the historic castle, refuel at the Marksburg Schenke restaurant that offers spectacular views over the valley.
Founded in the 11th century, the Wartburg Castle is one of the oldest castles in Germany. The first castle to earn a UNESCO World Heritage site status, it is one of the best preserved medieval castles in the country. Take a step back in time inside its historic walls, as it’s noted for being the place that sheltered Martin Luther while he translated the New Testament into German. Are you a fan of the arts? Explore the castle’s outstanding art collection that spans eight centuries.
Nestled near the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier, the Eltz Castle is an iconic fairytale structure surrounded by nature. Take photographs of the castle and its lush scenery, then step inside for a guided tour of the grounds. Built in the 12th century, you can see some of the original furnishings in the medieval structure and marvel at a collection of armory, filled with gold and silver artifacts, porcelain and jewelry. Owned by the Kempenich family, its interior is well preserved and features a Knight’s Hall full of jester’s heads.
Mespelbrunn Castle is a hidden gem, located within the Spessart forest between Frankfurt and Wurzburg. It began as a simple house built on the water by an early 15th-century knight, but is now privately owned with the family opening its doors to visitors throughout the year. The late-medieval and early-Renaissance moated castle is a popular day trip from Frankfurt, where you can take guided tours or walk along its paths and take in the tranquil ambiance.
Located on the same grounds at the Neuschwanstein castle, the Hohenschwangau Castle sits in the village of Hohenschwangau near the town of Fussen. Once used as the childhood home for King Ludwig II, you can browse the interior of this fairytale castle to admire hundreds of Germanic folklore scenes that are intricately painted on the walls and ceilings. Crown Prince Maximilian II of Bavaria, Ludwig II’s father, had the ruined castle built into its Gothic style, impressed by the romantic mountain scenery.