Celebrating #PalaceDay: 11 Castles to See When Visiting Germany
Planning a trip to Germany? Seeing a castle (or two) should definitely be on your list of things to do while in the country. Germany has an abundance of royal and noble homes, after all the country was only united in 1871 and there used to be dozens and hundreds of small states with their own residential towns even until the end of the monarchy one hundred years ago. Estimates say that you would be able to find more than 20,000 castles dotted all over the country. But where to start? Here are eleven castles to see when visiting Germany.
If you visit Germany for the first time, chances are high that your travels will either lead you to Berlin or Munich, the biggest and most famous towns. If you happen to visit the Bavarian capital, make sure to go and see the Residenz, former city home of Wittelsbach family who ruled Bavaria for a staggering 738 years. The summer residence Schloss Nymphenburg may be more famous but if you have a limited amount of time, I really recommend the Residenz in the city centre as it has much larger variety of rooms and sights to offer. More...
If you pass by Berlin, better forego the capital's castles and head for a day to nearby Potsdam. It's only half an hour on a train and there are probably more castles and palaces than you can count on two hands to be found in the former residential town of the Kings of Prussian and German Emperors. The most famous of them all is Schloss Sanssouci, the summer palace of Friedrich the Great. The Rococo-style palace itself is actually fairly small but there are tons of other palaces and sights located in its direct vicinity.
Schloss Neuschwanstein may just be the most famous castle in the world, after all it stood model for Disney's Cinderella Castle. The dream come reality of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, alternatively known as the Mad King, the Fairytale King or the Swan King, is also the most visited castle in all of Germany. And while the tourist crowds can get a bit annoying, it's still very much worth a visit. Trust me, 15 years on and I hardly remember the crowds of people at all but it's stunning rooms are still vivid in my memory.
Almost 700 kilometres north of Schloss Neuschwanstein, you will find the palace often described as the 'Neuschwanstein of the North': Schweriner Schloss, the former residence of the Dukes of Mecklenburg and Grand Dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. A little less of a fairy tale and a lot grander, the star of the palace's show in the Throne Room. It's one of those places where you do not know where to look first because there are so many amazing details. More...
In case you fancy the fairytale side of castles a bit more, there is Schloss Marienburg, the other castle sometimes described as the 'Neuschwanstein of the North'. The Neo-Gothic castle was a birthday present from the last King of Hanover to his beloved wife, who described it as "the most beautiful place on earth". While that may be disputable, Schloss Marienburg has everything you would look for in a Romanticised version of a castle. Hanover may not be the touristic hot spot of Germany but if you pass by, make sure to visit this beauty. More...
You prefer elaborate balls to fairy tales? Then the Zwinger is the right place for you. It was actually pretty difficult to chose just one of Dresden's many gorgeous royal sights, but the Zwinger Palace simply is a Baroque masterpiece and offers a variety of stunning art to see. If you have a bit of time on your hands, also make sure to visit the Residenz next door as well as Schloss Moritzburg just outside of the city. They will also transport you back into the glorious days of Augustus the Strong who formed Dresden into the German pearl of Baroque if there ever was one. More...
Schloss Lichtenstein probably is the most scenic castle on this list certainly not lacking scenic castles. "The fairytale castle of Württemberg" is enthroned on a hill near the city of Reutlingen and another Romanticised version of Medieval castles. The modern castle was inspired by the novel "Lichtenstein" by Wilhelm Hauff and was built in 1840 and 1842. While I haven't been there myself yet, it's pretty high up on my list of places to visit.
This one I haven't seen myself yet either but Burg Hohenzollern pretty much is the quintessential Gothic revival style castle of Germany and one of its earliest examples. Previously, two other castles had been located on the same hilltop on the Swabian Alp that had either been destroyed or fallen into disrepair. The third Burg Hohenzollern, ancestral home of the future German Emperors, was constructed between 1846 and 1867 by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia. Today, the castle is co-owned by the Swabian and Prussian branches of the House of Hohenzollern.
From all the Neo-Gothic castle now onto an actual Medieval castle: Burg Eltz. The home of the Counts of Eltz, who have owned the castle for 33 generations since the 12th century, is one of the very few castles along the Rhine river that has never been destroyed. The castle is actually so famous in Germany that, between 1965 and 1992, an engraving of the Burg was used on the German 500 Deutsche Mark note. It has also been featured on a stamp and is featured in the catalogue of road signs in Germany as the example for a touristic destination.
With Schloss Ludwigburg, or the Versailles of Swabia, we head back to the Baroque way of building a palace. Former home of the Dukes and later Kings of Württemberg, the residential palace featuring 452 rooms is one of the largest in Germany and the only one from the Baroque period to not endure any damage during the Second World War, thus still showing its original splendour.
Last but certainly not least: the Würzburger Residenz. Yes, my experience of visiting may not have been unequivocally wunderbar but if you happen to catch a tour with not too many fellow tourists, it's simply a stunning and one of the most splendorous places to see. Built as a residence for the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg and later also used by both the Habsburgs and Wittelsbachs, the Würzburger Residenz is one of the great examples of Baroque art and architecture in Germany - and a must for any first time visitor. More...
Phew, that were eleven castles to visit when visiting Germany for the first (or second, or third time, or anytime, really) to mark #PalaceDay today. Not enough yet? Become a follower of Castleholic on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and get all the latest castles and lists of places to see. I'm currently compiling a list of eleven-ish more castles to visit, featuring all the insiders tips that aren't as famous as all the places featured on this list. Plus, I will revisit one of the places featured on this list very soon, so stay tuned cause on Castleholic basically every day is Palace Day!
Photos: Castleholic (5), Wikimedia Commons (6)