German castles are nothing short of outstanding. Not all of them resemble fairy tale castles, though it’s been said that some of these gleaming light-colored structures, standing out in the green forests surrounding them, put Disney castles to shame.
Like everywhere, most castles in Germany were built on hills, enabling the occupants of yore to see invaders approaching. Not all the castles in Germany, however, were successful at repelling foreign invaders, who frequently captured and destroyed them.
Castles are considered one of Germany’s crown jewels. It’s hard to argue with this, as they certainly are impressive and imposing. Germany is filled with castles, ranging from its most famous castle, Neuschwanstein Castle that was built by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, to Burghausen Castle, which is the longest castle in Europe, to romantic castles overlooking the Rhine River. In between, castles of all sizes and shapes can be found throughout Germany.
While drinking beer and visiting Christmas markets are popular fall and winter activities in Germany, visiting castles when they’re covered with snow adds a new dimension to the German experience. Castles somehow just seem more magical when they’re covered with the fluffy white stuff. Anytime, however, is a great time to visit a castle in Germany.
Plassenburg is one of the most impressive castles in Germany and a symbol of the Bavarian city of Kulmbach. It was first mentioned in 1135. It was destroyed in 1554 at the end of the second Margravian war. The castle was later rebuilt by the architect Caspar Vischer as an impressive stronghold and as a huge palace.
2. Nuremberg Castle
This castle is situated on a sandstone rock in the north of the Bavarian city of Nuremberg. It comprises three sections: the Imperial castle (Kaiserburg), some buildings of the Burgraves of Nuremberg (Burggrafenburg), and the municipal buildings of the Imperial City at the eastern site (Reichsstädtische Bauten). The castle, together with the city walls, is considered to be one of Europe’s most formidable medieval fortifications.
3. Schloss Johannisburg
One of the most important buildings of the Renaissance period in Germany, Schloss Johannisburg is located in the Bavarian town of Aschaffenburg in Franconia. It was built between 1605 and 1614 by the architect Georg Ridinger. Until 1803, it was the second residence of the Prince Bishop of Mainz. The castle was nearly destroyed in the closing days of World War II and took about twenty years to fully restore.
4. Marienberg Fortress
The mighty Fortress Marienberg is a symbol of Würzburg and has been a fort since ancient times. Most of the current structure was originally built in Renaissance and Baroque styles between the 16th and 18th centuries. After it ceased to serve as residence of the Bishops of Würzburg, the fortress saw repeated action in the wars of the late 18th and 19th centuries. It was severely damaged in WWII and only fully rebuilt in 1990.
5. Mespelbrunn Castle
Mespelbrunn Castle began as a simple house built on the water by an early 15th century knight. Located within the Spessart forest between Frankfurt and Wurzburg, the castle is one of the most visited water castles in Germany and frequently featured in travel brochures. This northern Bavaria castle is privately owned, but the family opens its doors to tourists throughout the year.
6. Veste Coburg
The Veste Coburg is one of Germany’s largest castles. It is situated on a hill above the city of Coburg. Within sight is the sister-castle of Veste Heldburg, once a hunting lodge of the Dukes of Coburg. Martin Luther lived in the Veste for a number of months during the Diet of Augsburg in 1530.
7. Callenberg Castle
Callenberg Castle is situated on a wooded hill near the city of Coburg, It was once a hunting lodge and summer residence and has long been the principal residence of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and is still owned by the same family. It is home to a large family chapel and a rifle museum.
8. Trausnitz Castle
Trausnitz Castle is another Bavarian castle that offers stunning panoramic views of the countryside below; in turn, it can be seen from miles around. Up until the 16th century, it was called Landshut after the town in which it was located. Once the home of dukes, it was later used as a prison, a hospital, a military barracks, and a wool and silk factory. The castle has been restored after a devastating fire in 1961. A collection of ducal treasures can be seen today.
The Willibaldsburg is a spur castle, built around the year 1353 in Upper Bavaria. The Altmühl river here forms a sharp bend which, due to the resulting ridge was an ideal spot for the medieval castle. Until the middle of the 18th century it was the representative castle and seat of Eichstätt’s prince-bishops.
10. Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle resembles a fairy tale castle, only it is white instead of gray. Unlike a fairy tale castle, which is easily reached, getting to this castle involves a long walk uphill and plenty of steps once inside; a horse and carriage are available for couch potatoes. Those who’ve made the climb, however, say it’s well worth it, as the castle is magical. Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th century Romanesque Revival palace that was built in southern Bavaria by Ludwig II for use as a retreat and to honor the great German composer Richard Wagner.
11. Hohenschwangau Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle is probably best known as the castle next to the world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, but it has a unique and vibrant history all of its own. Hohenschwangau had its beginnings in the 12th century as the fortress Schwanstein. The family of knights who had founded the fortress died out by the 16th century. In 1832, crown prince Maximilian II of Bavaria, the father of Ludwig II, had the ruined castle of Schwanstein rebuilt in neo-gothic style. When the work was complete, Maximillian used it as a hunting lodge, and for a summer palace.
12. Burghausen Castle
Travelers who are into big things definitely won’t want to miss Burghausen Castle, the largest castle in Europe and one of the largest castle complexes in the world. This Bavarian castle is more than 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) long and has six courtyards. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the strongest fortresses in Germany. This well-preserved castle is known for its collection of late Gothic panel paintings. It is open to public events, including weddings, today.
13. Hohenneuffen Castle
Unlike other German castles, Hohenneuffen Castle never found someone who loved it enough to restore it. As a result, this 12th century castle is mainly in ruins as it sits atop a large rock in the Swabian Alb in Germany’s Baden-Wurttemberg region. At one time, pieces of the castle were sold as building materials. The castle today has a restaurant and a medieval-style market, and hosts an annual running event. Admission is free.
14. Katzenstein Castle
Katzenstein Castle is one of the oldest remaining castles from the Hohenstaufen dynasty. The castle was burned to the ground by French soldiers in 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years’ War. It was rebuilt 20 years later. The castle is open to visitors and contains several dining rooms as well as a few hotel rooms.