OK, let’s talk a bit about our German castles… Your home is your castle, but what if a castle is your home?
For one, you would have to be living in the Middle Ages or earlier, and then, you would have to be royalty and not just merely rich, or at least a fairy tale princess.
There’s something about a castle that requires an old world charm to be an integral part of its allure that is surely not evident in modern architecture. Let’s explore this allure in the castles of Germany.
German castles come down to us from a historic era when kings and emperors didn’t have to think twice about their choice of abodes. These castles were in fact secure fortifications built in strategic locations to keep the ruler safe.
The style of architecture with its typical turrets and ramparts which we today tend to associate more with lovelorn princesses, were actually common sense constructions that aided security and vantage points for attack.
History is full of anecdotes as to the origins of many such resplendent gems of architecture perched precariously on hill tops, languishing by flowing rivers, or peeping from amongst lush woods. Even in abysmal states of ruin, these castles of Germany have a dignified charm about them that defies replication in modern times.
There are about 20,000 castles dotting the immaculately splendid German landscape. Most of them are at least a hundred years old and now play host to museums, hotels, cultural art centers, and historical monuments.
Let’s talk about a handful of them…
The massive yet elegant edifice of the Heidelberg Castle is synonymous with Germany. Hundreds of visitors throng this medieval structure in admiration for a time gone by.
It used to the residence of the Palatinate electors from the 13th to the 18th century. During the renaissance period it underwent some major renovation that lends it the artistic elegance we see today.
Neuschwanstein Castle a.k.a. Swan Castle is the dream castle of Mad King Ludwig or Louis II of Bavaria standing proud on the picturesque Bavarian Alps, a testimony to his love of swans and opera. Perhaps it requires a touch of madness to be able to imagine beauty of this magnitude. Covered with slabs of lime stone, this magnificent 19th century edifice incorporates modern facilities such as running hot water on all floors.
Those who can’t make it to the Bavarian Alps to witness this splendid piece of history need to visit Disneyland to see a replica, though by no stretch of the imagination can it be said to come anywhere close to the original. Though he didn’t live to see it completed, he did have two other castles to his name that he did live in — the gorgeous Linderhof Palace and the Herrenchiemsee Castle, which he inhabited for only about 10 days.
The Eltz Castle is simply breathtaking as you come up on it suddenly among the lush woods. Its enigmatic beauty silently captures your senses. Even the most eloquent would experience a momentary loss of words when the history, the beauty, and the sheer majesty of the castle settles deep in your psyche.
It was built sometime in the 13th century and still stands today on the banks of the Elzbach River as it did then, caught in an eternal timelessness.
On spying a picturesque hilltop resplendent as a glittering emerald, Ludwig the Springer is supposed to have exclaimed, “Wait, mountain — you should become a castle for me!” And it became the famous Wartburg Castle built in 1067 and the seat of the Thuringian rulers until the 15th century.
Integrating a mesmerizing mix of influences ranging from Gothic and Renaissance to the Romanesque, it was restored to its 16th century splendor in the 1960s.
Marksburg Castle is the crowning glory atop a verdant hillside on the picturesque town of Braubach by the banks of the Rhine. Built in the 12th century, it remains intact to this day and is appropriately enough, the office of the German Castles Association.
Similarly located on a hilltop is the Gothic wonder of the Cochem Castle towering over 300 feet over the Moselle River. Built in the early medieval era, it was completed down the ages and underwent various modifications. Its marvelous silhouette stands against the blue skies standing watch over history.
A German castle that may send a shiver down your spine would be the Frankenstein Castle which is said to have inspired Mary Shelley to create the fable of the monster. Though in ruins, you can see two impressive towers that may help you imagine the impressive proportions of the original 13th century edifice.
More German Castles
You may be wondering about the other thousands and thousands of castles, palaces and residences in Germany and where they are.
Here are a few select more for you… :-)
- The shy Babelsberg Castle in Potsdam is another one that impresses as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The imposing Braunfels Castle in Braunfels, the fairytale residence that gracefully soars above the Lahn Valley and proves as a great family destination.
- The monstrous Burghausen Castle in Burghausen, which, with a length of more than one kilometer, is Europe’s longest castle complex!
- The monstrous Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin that’s probably the second most popular German Castle after Neuschwanstein, at least politically. ;-)
- The lofty Ehrenbreitstein Fortress in Koblenz once housed the Holy Tunic of Jesus Christ!
- The illustrious Goslar Imperial Palace a.k.a. Goslar Kaiserpfalz in Goslar that was the once-glorious seat of the Holy Roman Empire.
- The introvert Hohenschwangau Castle in Schwangau, the shy neighbor of the world famous Neuschwanstein Castle.
- The grand Hohenzollern Castle between Bisingen and Hechingen, where Emperor William II claimed, “The view from up here is truly worth a voyage.”
- The honored Johannisburg Castle in Aschaffenburg, a Renaissance masterpiece nestled in the Franconian countryside and boasting a Mediterranean Flair.
- The vast Marienberg Fortress in Würzburg can trace its long lineage all the way back to the ancient Celts.
- The precious Munich Residence in Munich that was a royal palace of the old Bavarian Kings and features an impressive treasury.
- The bully Nuremberg Castle in Nuremberg that’s used to be the royal residence of the Holy Roman Emperors for over half a millennium.
- The majestic Nymphenburg Palace in Munich that’s a favorite of old royal families and today’s tourists.
- The mighty Pfalzgrafenstein near Kaub, a pentagon-shaped fortress that sits in the Rhine River.
- The soothing Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam that Frederick The Great had commissioned in order to stay “without worries.”
- The knightly Satzvey Castle in Mechernich that keeps history alive with jousting tournaments and medieval markets.
- The posh Schwerin Castle in Schwerin, the “haunted” Neuschwanstein of North Germany.
- The elegant Schwetzingen Castle in Schwetzingen, the exquisite summer home of our previous Royalty and shining star and attractor factor for people from near and far.
- The remarkable Veste Coburg in Coburg showcasing illustrious stories involving Martin Luther and Queen Victoria.
- The classy Wernigerode Castle in Wernigerode, a must-see and masterpiece in the Harz Mountains.
- The glorious Würzburg Residence in Würzburg that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was adored by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte.
- The massive Zwinger Palace in Dresden, the charming, exquisite royal residence showcasing fine architecture and lovely gardens.