Germany is famous for many things, among them Pretzels, Bratwurst, and Octoberfest. But beyond imbibing beer and feasting on hearty food, there are plenty of other amazing cultural sites, among them German’s incredible castles and palaces. Some German castles are masterpieces of Medieval architecture, resting on top of mountain peaks and commanding incredible views of the valley below. Then there are German palaces that sprawl in Baroque splendor across manicured gardens and man-made lakes, rivaling their French cousins like Versailles. Still other German castles are imaginative recreations of a romanticized past. No matter your tastes in art and architecture, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest among these 7 incredible German castles and palaces.
Schloss Augustusburg is one of the most magnificent Baroque palaces in Germany, or anywhere in Europe for that matter. Built by the Archbishop and Elector of Cologne Clemens Augustus, the centerpiece of the palace is the Rococo entry hall with its sweeping staircase. Black and grey veined marble walls are trimmed with Baroque flourishes, culminating in a magnificent ceiling painted by Carlo Carlone to look like a rounded cupola. The architect Balthasar Neumann had the interior decorated with the gilded splendor of the Baroque era, which includes superbly painted ceilings, chandeliers, and gilded trim everywhere. If Schloss Augustusburg looks like it should be on your travel itinerary, check out accommodations in nearby Bruhl.
Burg Eltz, towering over the Elzbach Valley and the meandering Moselle River, has been described by art critic Georg Dehio as “the epitome of how a castle should look.” One approaches the castle over a stone bridge towards a rounded gateway at the foot of steep walls. High above, rounded stucco turrets and exposed wood timbering protect the eight interconnected towers that formed the residence of the von Eltz family, who received this fortress as a gift from Emperor Frederick I, also known as Barbarossa. The castle has grown organically over five centuries, incorporating a variety of styles. If Burg Eltz looks like it should be on your travel itinerary, check out accommodations in nearby Trier, which is also home to some fascinating Romanesque architecture.
Burg Hohenzollern commands incredible views of the Swabian and Swiss Alps, along with the Black Forest—and is itself a commanding feature of the landscape. This German castle looks like a picture-perfect keep from the days of lords and ladies in waiting, but it’s current look is actually owed to the 19th century patronage of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who rebuilt his ancestral home as a gesture of defiance against the Parliamentarism that threatened to eradicate the monarchy. King Friedrich dreamed of awakening the castle from its own sleeping ruins like Sleeping Beauty, and visitors today will certainly feel that they are stepping into the Gothic and Romanesque setting of a fairy tale. If Burg Hohenzollern looks like it should be on your travel itinerary, check out accommodations in nearby Hechingen.
Burg Lichtenstein sits precariously—almost impossibly—on a rocky outcrop just south of Reutlingen. Duke Wilhelm von Urach was inspired by the historical novel Lichtenstein, so much so that he journeyed to the site of the once-impregnable fortress described in the book, which was home to the exiled Duke Ulrich von Wurttemberg. The romanticized nature of the novel led Duke Wilhelm to recreate a fantastic keep from the ruins of the previous castle. A narrow bridge leads one to the gateway, just beyond which sits a pair of stone buildings with stepped gables. High above their arched windows, a single round tower rises into the sky. If Burg Lichtenstein looks like it should be on your travel itinerary, check out accommodations in nearby Reutlingen.
Schloss Moritzburg has a wonderfully symmetrical and harmonious facade of yellow walls and vertical white trim. At the corners are rounded towers, crowned with red-tiles, that juxtapose nicely with the square central block and the triangular slope of its roof. The Renaissance building was begun in 1542 as a hunting lodge, but when Elector Frederick Augustus I took power, he rebuilt the palace in a Baroque style. Having enjoyed the palace as a hunting lodge in his youth, he chose to make it the scene of his court, and accordingly gave it the glamor it deserves. One of the more stunning features outside the building is the man-made lake that reflects the facade, a feature that fits nicely into the French-style Baroque manicured grounds. If this palace looks like it should be on your travel itinerary, check out accommodations in nearby Moritzburg.
Schloss Nymphenburg was designed as a summer residence, but over the centuries it has become one of the most noteworthy Baroque palaces in all of Germany. Designed by Italian architect Agostino Barelli, the summer residence became the central part of what is today a sprawling white villa of a renaissance-like central structure flanked by pavilions—all of which overlooks a central canal, the axis of which cuts through a classically landscaped garden. The rococo Hall of Mirrors in the Amalienburg Pavilion rivals that of Versailles, with its white walls, pastel trim, flowering goldwork, and magnificent chandeliers hovering over a ballroom floor. Also worth a visit is the Nymphenburg porcelain factory and the Museum of Royal Carriages. If Schloss Nymphenburg looks like it should be on your travel itinerary, check out accommodations in nearby Munich.
Neuschwanstein Castle is the very epitome of a German castle. Like a magical palace in a fairy tale, this incredible, breathtaking fortress on a rocky point 3,300 feet high is the idyllic image that everyone has in their mind when as a child. The brainchild of the somewhat eccentric King Ludwig II, it was built for almost two decades and never truly completed. The castle was actually designed by stage set designer, Christian Jank, who was commissioned to design a masterpiece that would embody the spirit of German mythology and the work of Richard Wagner, who Ludwig knew and very much admired. Unfortunately Ludwig was caught in the plot engendered by political opponents, declared insane, and driven from his throne. He died in mysterious circumstances, but left behind a castle that in his own words, stands “in the authentic style of the castles of the German knights of old.” If Neuschwanstein Castle looks like it should be on your travel itinerary, check out accommodations in nearby Fussen.