Picking the most beautiful castles in Germany out of the 20,000 palaces, forts and manors dotting the country was not an easy task. With over 2,000 years of history, Germany obviously had plenty of time to build castles. The oldest in the country is Meersburg Castle, it was built during the 7th century.

    Many of the must-see German castles and palaces listed below were built or renovated during the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of them have that distinctive fairy-tale design that inspired Walt Disney. Whether they’re Romanesque, Baroque, Renaissance and even Rococo, German castles have a strong romantic vibe.


    Neuschwanstein Castle

    The castle of the fairy-tale king

    The Neuschwanstein Castle is an impressive 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace.

    It’s nestled at the top of a rocky hill, near the border with Austria. It’s the castle that inspired Walt Disney to create the Magic Kingdom. The idyllic setting and the magnificence of the edifice itself make it one of the most visited castles in Europe. Guided visits take 35 minutes, but you should wear good shoes and get ready to climb a lot of stairs. Photos are unfortunately not allowed inside the castle.

    Location: Neuschwansteinstraße 17, 87645 Schwangau, Germany

    Open: April – mid-October from 9 am to 6 pm, mid-October – March from 10 am to 4 pm


    Hohenzollern Castle

    The ancestral seat of the Prussian Royal House

    Settled at the top of Mount Hohenzollern in the southwest of Germany, Hohenzollern Castle was built mid-19th century on the ruins of 2 preceding castles. It features a military architecture at the entrance, while the palatial part boasts a Gothic Revival style. The interior décor and ornaments are splendid, and the views of the surrounding neighbourhoods are simply breathtaking. With reasonably priced guided tours in English, 2 restaurants and souvenirs shops, Hohenzollern Castle is a must-see.

    Location: 72379 Burg Hohenzollern, Germany

    Open: Mid-March – October from 10 am to 5.30 pm, November – mid-March from 10 am to 4.30 pm


    Heidelberg Castle

    The residence of the Counts Palatine

    Even though it’s partially ruined, Heidelberg Castle is a majestic edifice that overlooks Heidelberg Old Town from the northern Königstuhl hillside. Made of sandstone, its warm colour contrasts with the green forest it’s surrounded by. One of the earliest palace buildings of the German Renaissance, it features splendid statues on the courtyard façade of the Ottheinrich Building. The castle grounds also host the German Apothecary Museum, a restaurant, and a beautiful garden. Take a guided tour – available in English – if you want to see the interiors.

    Location: Schlosshof 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm


    Schwerin Castle

    The former home of the dukes of Mecklenburg

    Schwerin Castle is a picturesque, palatial stately home on an island in the Schweriner Lake. The castle was rebuilt many times during its long history that dates back to the 10th century. It’s used today as the seat of the parliament of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern federal state, but a large part of its finely decorated interiors is a museum. Audio guides in English are available. You’ll also find a few restaurants just outside the castle grounds.

    Location: Lennéstraße 1, 19053 Schwerin, Germany

    Open: 15 April–14 October: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. 15 October–14 April: Tuesday-Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm


    Wartburg Castle

    Martin Luther’s secret hideaway

    Martin Luther translated the New Testament of the Bible into German here, making it a place of significant historical importance. Wartburg Castle is an imposing edifice settled at the top of a 410-metre precipice. Built between the 12th and 15th centuries, its interiors were renovated during the 19th century. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s home to a museum filled with art collections. Guided tours in English are on offer, as well as a good choice of dining options for all types of budget.

    Location: Auf der Wartburg 1, 99817 Eisenach, Germany

    Open: April–October: daily from 8.30 am to 8 pm. November–March: daily from 8.30 am to 5 pm


    Zwinger Palace

    Visit 3 museums in a gorgeous Baroque palace

    The Zwinger Palace is a magnificent property just north of Dresden Old Town. Formerly used as an exhibition gallery and orangery by the Dresden Court, it’s now a 3-museum complex. You’ll find the Old Masters Picture Gallery, the Dresden Porcelain Collections, and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments here. Built in a refined Baroque style, and featuring a large garden with fountains, it’s one of the most popular attractions in Dresden. Get to the rooftop café and restaurant to get a sweeping view of the palace and of the northern part of the city.

    Location: Sophienstraße, 01067 Dresden, Germany

    Open: November–March: daily from 10 am to 6 pm. April–October: daily from 6 am to 10.30 pm


    Nordkirchen Palace

    The "Versailles of Westphalia"

    Often referred to as the "Versailles of Westphalia", Nordkirchen Palace was built in the early-18th century, almost 1 century after its French model. Standing in the centre of a 170-hectare park, it’s the most extensive palace and estate in Westphalia. The interior can only be visited by appointment, but the garden is free to stroll. With Baroque and English landscaping, orangery and pheasantry, labyrinth and old trees, Nordkirchen Palace garden is a very beautiful place to take a walk.

    Location: Schloß 1, 59394 Nordkirchen, Germany

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm (palace tour by appointment only)


    Schloss Drachenburg

    An awe-inspiring Baroque palatial villa

    Built at the end of the 19th century by the freshly ennobled Baron Stephan von Sarter, Schloss Drachenburg is an awe-inspiring Baroque palatial villa on a forested hill that overlooks the Rhine River. Today, the castle is state-owned. Featuring sublime interiors, plenty of walking tracks nearby, and a picturesque fairy-tale architecture, Schloss Drachenburg is worth the visit. There are 2 restaurants on the road that leads to the castle.

    Location: Drachenfelsstraße 118, 53639 Königswinter, Germany

    Open: January–February: daily from 12 pm to 5 pm. March–June: daily from 11 am to 6 pm. July–August: daily from 11 am to 7 pm. September–November: daily from 12 pm to 5 pm


    Charlottenburg Palace

    Berlin’s largest and most spectacular palace

    Formerly a royal summer residence, Charlottenburg Palace and its extensive garden are now a major tourist attraction in Berlin. Initially built at the end of the 17th century, the palace blends Baroque and Rococo styles in its architecture and interior décor. The museum and exhibition galleries give you the opportunity to learn about the imperial and royal dynasties of Germany. A free English audio guide is available at the front desk. The Palace Garden Café in the Small Orangery is an agreeable place to take a break.

    Location: Spandauer Damm 20-24, 14059 Berlin, Germany

    Open: November–March: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. April–October: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +49 (0)331 9694200


    Lichtenstein Castle

    Inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s novel Lichtenstein

    True to its splendid Gothic Revival architecture, Lichtenstein Castle is often depicted as the "fairy-tale castle of Württemberg" (a historical German territory). Nestled at the top of a 250-metre-high cliff that overlooks the Echaz River and the village of Honau, it was built during the 19th century. Now privately own, the castle can be visited for a 30-minute guided tours, but only in German. Nevertheless, you can join the tour and read the English leaflet. To avoid disappointment, it’s worth noting that the castle is smaller than it looks in the photos. It can be misleading, but Lichtenstein Castle is not related to Liechtenstein, the small principality between Austria and Switzerland.

    Location: Schloß Lichtenstein 1, 72805 Lichtenstein, Germany

    Open: April–October: daily from 9 am to 5.30 pm. November–December and March: daily from 10 am to 4 pm (closed in January and February)

    Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveller

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