When we think of castles today, we often think of fairytales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. These buildings seem so magical that we sometimes forget that they’re real – and that you can visit many of them! Germany is often overlooked as a place to visit, but when it comes to castles, there's simply no better place to explore and find hidden gems tucked into the countryside.
Germany alone is home to over 20,000 stunning castles, and many of them are worth a visit. But visiting 20,000 castles would require way too much time. So to help you narrow down your search, I’ve put together a list of the 10 best castles in Germany. And who knows? Some of these hidden gems might surprise you!
I've chosen ten castles that helped inspire the Grimm Brother's fairytales, Disney, and remind us that castles have an ancient history that inspires. While it's hard to choose just 10 out of thousands of castles across Germany, these castles truly represent what we think of when we think of traditional castles. Germany makes it easy for us to see a castle – when I lived in Germany for three years I saw a castle everyday! But the castles I choose have a significance in history, are architectural masterpieces, and will ensure you have the best experience.
Germany contains some of the best castles in Europe, and you'll be enthralled with the beauty, history, and wonder of each castle. Transport yourself to a real life fairytale and see some of the best castles in Germany!
1. Heidelberg Castle
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I might be a little bit biased since I lived in Heidelberg. But regardless, I think Heidelberg Castle is one of the best castles in Germany. With its ornate details and towering sandstone walls, a visit to Heidelberg Castle is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Heidelberg.
Originally built in 1214, Heidelberg Castle is one of the oldest castles in Germany. And over the past 800 years, Heidelberg Castle has endured through wars, fires, and even direct lightning strikes. Yet despite these disasters, many of the most beautiful parts of this castle are still standing, including the Frederick Building and the Otto Henry Building.
One of my favorite parts of Heidelberg Castle is actually Elisabeth’s Gate, thanks to the love story and legend behind it. The prince was so enthralled with his bride that he wanted to surprise her with a gift. This triumphal arch was built in separate sections and put together overnight. The next morning, Elisabeth’s husband presented this animal carving-adorned arch as a surprise for her birthday. Hidden in the arch are animals, and every time Elisabeth found a new animal on the arch, he gave her a kiss…or so the adorable story goes. And you can do the same when you visit the arch.
Heidelberg really is for lovers. Check out my full guide to Heidelberg here.
A castle that I love in addition to Heidelberg's that isn't too far away is Schloss Schwetzingen surrounded by lovely gardens.
2. Eltz Castle
Burg Eltz is known far and wide for one reason: Instagram. Many have shared this historic castle making it Instagram famous, but there's so much more to it than just being photogenic. Burg translates to “castle” in German, you can see the German phrases you need to know when visiting here.
Everything in this 12th century medieval castle is authentic. Most historic castles in Germany have been destroyed or conquered at some point in time, but Eltz Castle has managed to avoid natural disasters and wars. So as you tour the interior, you can appreciate that the furniture and personal items are all from the Middle Ages. The same family has owned this castle for over 800 years!
This historic building is a lovely combination of gray stone walls and red and white timber sections, making it unlike the other German castles.
Finally, there’s the castle’s secluded location. Situated in the Moselle River Valley in West Germany, Eltz Castle is a little difficult to get to. And while that might seem like a con, it really just means that you get to avoid the crowds and have Eltz Castle all to yourself (or close to it).
I recommend getting there early or coming late to have a chance for it to be less crowded.
3. Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle has made a name for itself as one of the best castles in the world, not just in Germany. This 19th century castle is most well-known for serving as the inspiration for Disney’s iconic castle.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria (also known as the “mad” King Ludwig) commissioned this castle in honor of the famed German composer, Richard Wagner. There are nods hidden to Wagner’s work hidden all throughout this breathtaking building. As a matter of fact, the name “Neuschwanstein” means “New Swan Stone” in honor of Wagner’s opera character, Swan Night.
After your trek or carriage ride up the steep hill to Neuschwanstein Castle, your breath will be taken away – and not just from exertion. With its towering gray walls, blue-tiled towers, and golden accents, Neuschwanstein Castle is absolutely magical. There are tours inside the castle but I've found it's more fun to view the outside. And I love the nearby town of Fussen for a bite to eat. See a full guide to this castle right here.
PRO TIP: Save yourself some time by buying your tickets a couple days in advance! At peak times of the year, you might end up waiting hours in line to purchase a ticket for this popular German castle. Buy them here on the official site.
4. Hohenschwangau Castle
If you like, you can actually visit two of the best castles in Germany in one day! Hohenschwangau Castle is just two minutes away by car from the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle.
Due to its close proximity to Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau Castle is often overlooked, making it one of the best hidden gems in Germany. Built in the 19th century, this castle is quite a bit newer than the others on this list. These golden walls once served as the childhood home of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Today, you can take your time admiring the gorgeous Hohenschwangau Castle. It’s just as beautiful as its famous neighbor, but it comes with a fraction of the crowds! You can find my guide to this castle right here.
5. Frankenstein Castle
We’ve all heard the story of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or some variation of it. This pieced-together monster has found its way into movies, TV shows, books, and Halloween costumes.
For years, this 13th century castle – named after a knight called Arbogast von Frankenstein – was just one of the thousands in the country. Then, in the 19th century, a rumor started going around that this castle served as the inspiration for the castle in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Coincidence? What do you think?
While at the Frankenstein Castle, you can hike around the castle ruins and the nearby forest, learn about the history of the castle, and take in the beautiful views of the natural landscape. But by far, the best time to visit this German castle is at Halloween. As a matter of fact, Frankenstein Castle is home to the biggest Halloween festival in all of Germany! You can roam the haunted building, watch a monster-filled show, and sip on some creepy cocktails. It's actually one of the best “haunted houses” I've ever been to!
6. Hohenzollern Castle
The Hohenzollern Castle, also known as Sigmaringen Castle or Hohenzollern Palace, has quite a complicated history. The Hohenzollern Castle that you can visit today is actually the third castle built in that location atop Mount Hohenzollern, but all three castles are significant, as they have connections to the important House of Hohenzollern.
The House of Hohenzollern was a German royal dynasty whose family members ruled parts of Germany and even Romania for hundreds of years, making them one of the most influential families in Europe. The first two castles on Mount Hohenzollern were built by members of the House of Hohenzollern in the 13th and 15th centuries. And it’s no surprise that the third castle – the one that was built in the 19th century is still standing today – was also built by a member of the House of Hohenzollern, Crown Prince Frederick William IV of Prussia.
This third castle contains all of the parts of a typical castle, including towers and turrets, and its strategic location atop a high hill certainly adds to its intimidating appearance. Inside, you’ll find a royal collection of armory, which includes everything from medieval swords to relatively modern guns.
You can even take special, topic-specific tours of the castle depending on your interests. Are you a history buff? Take a behind the scenes castle tour that centers around historical artifacts and events. Are you more of a people person? Listen to your guide regale the Hohenzollerns’ tales of love and bravery while enjoying some sweet treats. Or is Christmas your favorite time of year? Learn about how the House of Hohenzollern celebrated Christmas while taking in the magnificent modern Christmas décor. With all of these options, Hohenzollern Castle is definitely one of the best castles in Germany to visit, regardless of your interests.
7. Lichtenstein Castle
Most historic castles inspire books – but it happened the other way around with this German castle. Lichtenstein Castle was inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s 1826 novel, Lichtenstein. Fifteen years after Lichtenstein was published, Lichtenstein Castle was built.
Once upon a time, the land where the Lichtenstein Castle currently stands was home to a medieval castle. But this castle fell to ruins due to war and disrepair. Hundreds of years later, Count Wilhelm of Wurttemberg, Duke of Urach, used the foundations of this historic castle to construct a new medieval, Lichtenstein-inspired one. This awe-inspiring castle includes a tall keep tower, gothic-style windows, an intimate chapel, a romantic courtyard, and so much more.
And while the castle itself is extraordinary, it’s the views of the Echaz River and Valley that truly set it over the top and make it one of the best castles in Germany. The bright green trees and red roofed homes in the distance are simply stunning.
8. Cochem Castle
Cochem Castle, also known as Reichburg Cochem, may be the oldest castle on this list. No one’s actually sure when this soaring structure was built, but the earliest written record to mention the castle was from 1130!
But as with many of the historic German castles, this is not the castle you can see today. That castle was ruined by French King Louis XIV’s troops in 1689 during the Nine Year War. Luckily, a wealthy businessman named Louis Ravené opted to rebuild the castle – although he wanted something a little different from the castle’s original Romanesque style. Instead, he opted for a more neo-Gothic rendition with touches of Romanesque design.
While at the Cochem Castle, you can explore the Trophy Room, the Knights’ Hall, the Dining Hall, and even the Witches Tower. And during the first week of August, this German castle hosts a medieval festival complete with performance troupes, talented artisans, and costumed guests.
9. Ludwigsburg Palace
Ludwigsburg Palace is one of the best castles in Germany, because it has something for everyone to enjoy!
If you’re an architecture aficionado, you’ll appreciate the fact that this German castle seamlessly blends Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassicism together. If you’re an aspiring artist or fashionista, the Keramikmuseum (Ceramics Museum) and the Modemuseum (Fashion Museum) will likely catch your eye. If you’re a theater fan, the multi-story palace theater with rose colored columns, dozens of seats, and the original 18th century stage machinery will certainly pique your interest. Or if you’re a nature fan, the 79 acres of manicured gardens may become your new happy place.
History buffs may get the most excitement out of Ludwigsburg Palace though. While there, you can learn about Eberhard Louis, Duke of Wurttemberg, who ordered the construction of this German castle. Find out about how the duke and the palace faired after the Nine Year War and how the palace ended up in the hands of a noble named Charles Alexander.
There’s even an interactive section of Ludwigsburg Palace that’s just for kids! More often than not, the “look but don’t touch” rule that applies to many German castles can be difficult for children to follow. The interactive section of the Ludwigsburg Palace solves this problem, as kids can touch the artifacts and even dress up as a member of the Duke’s Court.
Each year the palace celebrates its annual pumpkin festival which is one of my favorites!
See the best festivals in Germany right here.
10. Rheinstein Castle
The Rheinstein Castle has made a name for itself as one of the most romantic castles in Germany. With its secluded location on the Rhine River amidst the vibrant greenery of the Loreley Valley, there’s no question of why this German castle has been granted this superlative.
Built in the 13th century, the Rheinstein Castle was originally constructed to protect the Mainz territory from robber knights. And this purpose is reflected in the design, as this amazing structure includes stone defensive towers, sturdy curtain walls, and a multi-story keep.
While the castle remained in good condition for a few hundred years it eventually fell into disrepair. Luckily, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia decided to rebuild the castle in the 19th century in the Romanticism style – just another reason the Rheinstein Castle is dubbed one of the most romantic castles in the country.
Today, you can experience quite a bit at this amazing German castle. You can wind your way through the many historic rooms, admire the striking views of the Rhine, and stop to smell the blooming flowers in the lovely castle gardens.
So there you have it! The best castles in Germany! Don’t forget to check out my full list of the best castles in the world!