Castles and Germany go hand in hand. Fun fact, Germany has over 20,000 castles – ranging from renaissance fortress style to dramatic castles that look like they could be straight out of a fairy tale. The country has some of the most castles in the world. During the Middle Ages, Germany was split into endless little states, and castles became built as strongholds and defensive bases for each territory. Now, you can visit castles in Germany in and around most cities, and seeing any castle is one of the most popular day trips when visiting Germany.
Top Castles in Germany
With so many castles in Germany, which should you choose to visit? This guide will cover the very best castles in Germany. From the famed Neuschwanstein castle to the smaller Marburg Castle, these are the most incredible castles for your trip to Germany.
1. Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most visited castles in Germany. The dramatic turreted castle dates back to the 19th century and is famed for its beautiful appearance and setting. While it is located in Bavaria, just outside the town of Fussen, it has a rural backdrop. Neuschwanstein Castle backs onto Ammergebirge nature reserve. The castle looks like it is floating above the surrounding forest. It is gorgeous in autumn when the leaves turn orange and brown.
To visit Neuschwanstein Castle you enter on a castle tour where you are directed by an audio tour. The tour whisks you around the castle complex, providing insight into the history of each room. Neuschwanstein Castle has one of the most engaging guided tours of all the castles in Germany. Because it is such a famous castle, a lot has been invested in its tourism infrastructure.
The history of Neuschwanstein Castle is equally fascinating. The castle was built by the ‘fairy tale king’ Ludwig II of Bavaria as a place to retreat from the modern world. Sadly for Ludwig II, he died before Neuschwanstein Castle was completed. But the castle still symbolizes an escape into a fantasy world – hence its nickname, the fairy tale castle.
The fairy tale appearance and story behind Neuschwanstein Castle is the reason we’ve included it in our guide. Besides, as one of the most famous castles in Germany, it is the perfect addition to your itinerary. Remember to check out some of the best things to do in Bavaria when you visit, and if you are staying in Munich, take a look at this Neuschwanstein day trip.
- Opening Times: 9 am – 6 pm
- Entry Fees: $19
2. Wartburg Castle
Wartburg Castle is a stunning medieval castle with extensive exhibits, including artifacts from German history and art from the Middle Ages. The castle stands on a rocky summit, overlooking the parkland and low-lying countryside. Wartburg Castle sits just outside the town of Eisenach and is located in central Germany – perfect if you want to get out of Germany’s major cities.
Visitors can tour the castle and castle museum. It is tastefully restored inside, and there are English translations for all the exhibits. You can opt for one of the guided tours at 1 pm or explore yourself at your own pace, depending on how much extra information you’d like. Wartburg Castle stands out for its exhibits’ quality and is ideal for those wanting a real historical immersion into one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Germany.
This Castle has a fascinating history, to say the least. The original castle was constructed during the medieval period, but much of what you see today dates from 19th-century restorations. In terms of religious history, Martin Luther translated his first copy of the Bible in Wartburg Castle. Because of this, Wartburg Castle remains a symbol of pilgrimage today,
It is widely told that Wartburg Castle was the first German castle to be awarded a UNESCO world heritage site. Regardless, it is one of the most historic castles in Germany. The depth of its history (it has almost 1,000 years of stories) and the quality of its exhibits have earned it a spot in our guide.
- Opening Times: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
- Entry Fees: $13
3. Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle is one of the most striking castles in Germany. While once a picture of grandeur, the red sandstone castle now partially lays in ruins. It is an atmospheric site to wander. Heidelberg Castle is surrounded by a thick forest on a hillside slope. However, its rural setting is deceiving, as you are just a ten-minute drive from the town of Heidelberg.
The Heidelberg Castle grounds are fascinating and include a German apothecary museum and the largest wine barrel in the world. Stopping for a wine-tasting experience while touring a medieval castle is a unique experience. This castle can be toured independently or as one of the guided tours. You can walk up to the castle or take a scenic cable car. The cable car ticket includes your entry to Heidelberg Castle. Or you can book a tour of both the town and the castle.
Mentions of Heidelberg Castle can be traced back to the 13th century – making it one of Germany’s oldest castles and medieval fortresses. According to historical records, the castle was damaged at the beginning of the 14th century. When Rupert III rose to the German throne, it began being renovated. The castle was then involved in many wars for the following centuries, including the Nine Years’ War, where French king Louis XIV destroyed the castle once again.
Heidelberg Castle is a stunning example of a Gothic Renaissance fortress. The combination of history, architecture, and title-holding attractions like the wine barrel caught our attention. The castle also holds UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Heidelberg is easily one of the most intriguing castles in Germany.
- Opening Times: 10 am – 5 pm
- Entry Fees: $10 (+ $6.50 for a guided tour)
4. Hohenzollern Castle
Hohenzollern Castle is a scenic 19th-century castle famed for being home to the Prussian royal crown and an expansive art collection. It’s one of the most classic castles in Germany, featuring turrets and a mountaintop location overlooking the countryside below. The castle is in southwest Germany within the Black Forest region, between the Bisingen and Hechingen.
Hohenzollern Castle is a prime example of a Gothic revival-style castle. The castle sits on the remains of an earlier medieval castle and has a beautiful castle chapel. You can easily spend a few hours exploring the network of passages, garden walkways, and staircases. The castle also has a royal treasury with weaponry displays.
Hohenzollern caught our eye for its Gothic revival architecture and historical artifact displays. However, we also love the annual Christmas Market in the castle’s courtyard. Hohenzollern is a beautiful festive attraction if you visit Germany in December.
It is important to note that Hohenzollern opens on a seasonal basis. For the majority of January, the castle is completely closed. And for February and March, the castle grounds are open, but Hohenzollern Castle is closed. Hohenzollern Castle only opens entirely between April and December. Furthermore, Hohenzollern Castle is around a three-hour drive from Munich – an ideal place to start a road trip. Check out our guide on things to do in Munich here.
- Opening Times: 10 am – 6:30 pm
- Entry Fees: $24 (when booked online)
5. Hohenschwangau Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle is one of the most ornate German castles in our guide. The baroque-style castle is situated in Bavaria, just outside the village of Schwangau. It is right next to a beautiful lake famous for summer swimming. The castle’s surrounding hills are blanketed with dense forest and it has that classic rural setting.
Hohenschwangau Castle can only be visited as part of a guided tour. This is no sacrifice, though, as the guided tours have excellent reviews and take you around the elegantly decorated rooms inside the castle. You will visit the royal bedroom, dressing room, throne room, and grotto. The standard of restoration and maintenance is fantastic, and Hohenschwangau Castle is one of the best castles in Germany to get a taste of the traditional interior and castle life.
Hohenschwangau Castle is also one of the most famous castles in Germany and served as the royal summer residence of King Ludwig II. The castle was first mentioned in the 12th century. However, it was fully renovated in the 19th century under the rule of King Maximilian II.
The quality of the surviving interior decided Hohenschwangau Castle’s place in this guide. However, the lake and beautiful gardens are also strong selling points for visiting Hohenschwangau Castle. If you are visiting Hohenschwangau Castle in 2023, note that some of the rooms are currently closed for restoration. We can’t complain as the owners do a great job keeping the castle in top condition but check the website for details before visiting.
- Opening Times: 9 am – 4 pm
- Entry Fees: $16
6. Burg Hohenecken
Burg Hohenecken is a lesser-visited addition to our guide. The castle stood overlooking the tiny village of Hohenecken in western Germany. Now, the red sandstone structure is a beautiful disarray of castle ruins. Atmospheric and less touristy than lots of the other castles in Germany, Burg Hohenecken is excellent for more adventurous tourists.
You can explore the grassy grounds of the castle at your own leisure. Burg Hohenecken is a place that is meant to be self-explored. It is popular for visitors to bring a picnic in summer, and many families enjoy the beautiful scenery and open space. It is a short hike up from Hohenecken and its train station car park.
Its exact date of construction is unknown, but historians estimate that Burg Hohenecken dates back to the beginning of the 13th century. It has always been on the edge of German history, even succumbing to a peasant revolt in 1525. We love its quiet but historical character. Despite seeming an unassuming (and remarkably beautiful) addition to our favorite German castles, it is certainly a hidden treasure amongst the best castles in Germany.
- Opening Times: 24/7
- Entry Fees: Free
7. Lichtenstein Castle
Lichtenstein Castle is one of the most dramatic-looking castles in Germany. The neo-gothic style structure sits on a cliff face, with one-half of the castle directly built onto the cliff edge. The dramatic setting gives Lichtenstein Castle a fairy tale appeal, and visitors flock to witness the castle’s splendor in person. The castle is a twenty-minute drive outside the city of Reutlingen. It overlooks the village of Lichtenstein and the Greuthau nature reserve.
One of the most exciting parts of visiting Lichtenstein Castle is crossing the wooden bridge to enter. Walking across the old-worldly entrance offers views of the cliffs below and truly emphasizes the castle’s striking setting. Inside the castle, the private owners decorated the interior with traditional medieval decor. You can visit on one of the regular guided tours. Keep in mind that Lichtenstein Castle closes to the public in January and February.
Unlike the rest of our castles in Germany, Lichtenstein Castle was purpose-built to replicate medieval times. The castle was designed in the mid-19th century by Carl Alexander Heidloff, inspired by the novel Lichtenstein by Wilhelm Hauff. Lichtenstein Castle’s literary influence and dramatic setting quickly won it a place on our list.
- Opening Times: 10 am – 4 pm for March, November, and December. 9 am – 5: 30 pm from April to October.
- Entry Fees: $13 (inc tour)
8. Schwerin Castle
Schwerin Castle is one of the most stand-out German castles you can visit. Forget your standard moated castle; Schwerin Castle is on its own island. The castle is situated in Lake Schwerin in northern Germany, right on the outskirts of Schwerin. Schwerin Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Germany and ideal for anyone wanting to explore a more unusual German castle.
The neo-renaissance architecture is stunning to admire from the castle grounds. Entrance to the castle grounds is also free, a definite bonus for those on a budget. You cross over on Schlossbrucke bridge and have acres of grounds to wander. Inside, you can pay to tour ornate rooms, including the dramatic throne room. Schwerin Castle was home to the grand dukes of Mecklenburg for centuries, and the castle has an illustrious history. Apart from the historical rooms and ornate furnishings, there’s also a European art collection to admire.
Schwerin Castle is one of the best castles in Germany, and some even nickname it ‘Neuschwanstein of the North’. Its island location attracted us first, but its history confirmed its position in our guide. Schwerin Castle had important former residents and also served as the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament building. For history, politics, and architecture rolled into one, Schwerin is a fantastic German castle to visit. You can book a guided tour of Schwerin here.
- Opening Times: 10 am – 5 pm
- Entry Fees: $9
9. Altena Castle
Altena is one of the most informative castles in Germany. Located on a hill above the town of Altena, the castle is home to a medieval history collection and the World Youth Hostels Museum. Bizarrely enough, Altena Castle is the site of the world’s first youth hostel – still open if you want to stay overnight for a ‘castle hotel’ experience. The small stone castle has a lot to teach you.
Inside the castle, there are numerous exhibits and educational displays. It is family-friendly and targeted to engage all ages, making it popular for school trips and family holidays. Since the castle has such a varied history, there is lots of history and different stories to uncover on your visit. The castle has been a hospital, a military garrison, and even a prison. After World War I, Richard Schirrmann opened the Altena youth hostel. He then founded the German national organization of hostels a few years later, in 1919. Visitors learn about the castle’s history in the museum – from geology to the hostel movement and how history shaped its region.
The castle’s unique connection to the hostel movement is what impressed us. However, it is also one of the best German castles for families. The engaging displays are great for keeping young visitors interested, and it is an excellent place for parents to take children on an educational day out.
- Opening Times: 9:30 am – 5 pm Tuesday to Friday, and 11 am – 6 pm Saturday and Sunday.
- Entry Fees: $5.50
10. Wernigerode Castle
Wernigerode Castle is one of the best castles in Germany if you want to experience an old medieval fortress. The castle sits in central Germany, just outside the small town of Wernigerode – which is a photographer’s heaven and contains a medieval old town. Both the castle and its surroundings are the epitome of old-worldly. The castle also backs onto nature reserves and towering hills with observation decks. It is ideal for anyone wanting to get out into the sticks and enjoy hiking.
Wernigerode Castle itself is built upon the medieval fortress ruins, and the majority of the structure that you see today dates to the 19th century. Visitors can book guided tours of the castle interior, being led through ornate chambers and historical artifacts. The blend of architecture is fascinating, and each century clearly left a mark on the castle. You can admire Gothic arched windows in the inner courtyard and a Renaissance tower that you can climb for views over the countryside. Wernigerode Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Germany, but also the most architecturally stimulating.
The blend of architecture is primarily what impressed us about Wernigerode Castle. Its access and proximity to the surrounding nature reserves are not to be overlooked, though, and it is well-suited to those wanting to visit a castle and then spend a few days hiking.
- Opening Times: Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm, and 10 am – 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
- Entry Fees: $7.60
11. Cochem Castle
Cochem Castle is also known as Reichsburg Cochem or Reichsburg Castle. Reichsburg simply means ‘imperial’, and the castle got this status when captured by King Konrad III. This pretty little hilltop building dates back to the 11th century, and it is one of the most urban German castles. Cochem Castle is located along the River Moselle right in the center of the town of Cochem. Situated in the Rhine Valley, it is one of the best castles in Germany if you want a small-town atmosphere alongside your castle experience.
Visitors can tour inside the castle on a forty-minute guided tour. The castle itself is relatively small, so exploring isn’t physically challenging. The castle receives highly rated reviews for its tour guide service, and past visitors praised the passionate guides with lots of engaging information. For extra insight into its history, a guided tour is worthwhile. Of course, for a slightly unusual experience, you could also have a dining experience at Reichsburg Castle. The castle’s restaurant has panoramic views over the town and the river below.
As we mentioned, the castle was captured by King Konrad III in 1151 and renamed Reichsburg Castle. However, the castle’s construction can be dated back to 1100, and it was initially used to charge passing ships for tolls. After passing numerous hands over the following centuries, the castle was destroyed by the French in 1689 and resurrected only in 1868.
The castle’s panoramic restaurant views and scenic position in Cochem town drew us to it. We love the small-town atmosphere and gothic feel. Look no further if you want a neo-gothic castle tour in the Rhine Valley.
- Opening Times: 10 am – 3 pm
- Entry Fees: $9
12. Drachenburg Castle
Drachenburg Castle is another gem in the Rhine Valley. The castle was modeled in the style of a medieval castle, much like Lichtenstein Castle. It has a fantastic location and sits on the banks of the Rhine River, just outside the principal city of Bonn. For views over the Rhine River, this medieval-style castle is one of the best castles in Germany.
Drachenburg Castle has numerous different tours that cover other parts of the castle. You can choose the option that best suits you, your interests, and your budget. Some include areas like the ‘private floor,’ and others add particular areas like the terrace, which has stunning views over the River Rhine.
Drachenburg Castle was built in the late 19th century and acted as a private villa before its owners turned it into multiple different ventures. Jacob Biesenbach went as far as to transform Drachenburg Castle into a community center. Egbert Von Simon (almost) transformed it into an amusement park. During World War II, a Nazi elite school took over the castle. Drachenburg Castle’s story went downhill, eventually ending in ruin between 1960 and 1970. Fortunately, in 1986, it was announced as a listed monument. It was renovated into its full glory that you see today.
Ultimately, Drachenburg Castle’s scenic locale is what won us over. It has unrivaled views of the River Rhine, and we love how accessible it is from Bonn. Its history is also diverse and colorful, perfect for those that want a more modern insight into Germany.
- Opening Times: 12 pm – 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday
- Entry Fees: $9 for standard entry
13. Mespelbrunn Castle
Mespelbrunn is one of the prettiest castles in Germany. Mespelbrunn Castle is surrounded by a peaceful moat and cuts an idyllic picture against a small forest backdrop. The castle is around an hour’s drive from Frankfurt but is in the middle of nowhere. It is the perfect candidate for a day trip away from the craziness of Frankfurt. Its nearest settlement is the tiny village of Mespelbrunn – the castle’s namesake.
Mespelbrunn Castle has that fairy tale allure that is so common amongst the best castles in Germany. You’ll have to pay the entrance fee if you want to get up close. But its delicate beauty makes the cost worthwhile. The moat is home to trout and swans. And inside, you can take a guided tour of elegant and traditional rooms.
The castle is privately owned but open to the public on special days and conditions (such as only being accessible via guided tour). It is believed to date back to the 15th century, between the medieval and Renaissance period. The castle was fortunate to have escaped destruction by the French in the Thirty Years’ War, saved by its remote location and thick surrounding forest. The castle is still inhabited today by the family of the Counts of Ingelheim.
We’ll be honest: Mespelbrunn Castle’s good looks sealed this deal. The beautiful scenery and peaceful moat make Mespelbrunn one of the best castles in Germany. It is a fantastic choice if you want a small, photogenic castle. And even more so if you are looking for things to do on a day trip from Frankfurt. Mespelbrunn is also just a two-hour drive from Nuremberg if you fancy basing yourself in a smaller city. You can check out the most amazing things to do in Nuremberg here.
- Opening Times: 9:30 am – 5 pm
- Entry Fees: $6.50
14. Landgrafen Palace, aka Marburg Castle
Landgrafen Palace is an old medieval fort that dates back to the 11th century. It is sometimes referred to as Marburg Castle, given its scenic location in the center of the town of Marburg. Marburg has a beautiful old town featuring half-timbered houses and traditional streets. Just an hour north of Frankfurt, Landgrafen Palace makes an excellent day trip.
The castle has a huge gothic hall, historical artwork, furnishings, and artifacts. It is reasonably priced to enter, with beautiful views over Marburg and its surrounding countryside. If you want more information, there’s also a Museum of Cultural History.
Starting as a medieval fortress, Landgrafen Palace progressed to the private residence of the Landgraviate of Hesse. In 1529, it held a dispute meeting between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. Finally, post-1981, Landgrafen Palace became a museum. Landgrafen has seen a lot in its years – from the conflict of the Middle Ages to the birth of modern Christianity.
What stood out most to us was its long history and location in Marburg. The castle’s distance from Frankfurt is also ideal, as it is perfect for those wanting day trips from a city break.
- Opening Times: 10 am – 6 pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
- Entry Fees: $6
15. Burghotel Auf Schönburg Oberwesel
Burghotel Auf Schönburg Oberwesel is slightly different from our other castles in Germany. This medieval castle has been transformed into a stately hotel, where guests can stay overnight in traditional rooms or dine at the restaurant with views of the Rhine. The four-star castle hotel is perched on a clifftop overlooking the town of Oberwesel on the Rhine River. It is ideal for those who want more than a standard castle experience. You can check out prices here if you are interested in staying at the hotel.
Guests can still take in the castle’s history by visiting its museum or tower. Those who decide to stay overnight, not just for a meal, can book unique rooms. Some room options are set in the castle turrets and come with balconies where you can admire the views of the river and surrounding vineyards.
Schönburg Castle was built in the 12th century and renovated in the 20th century to stabilize the original structure. It has seen many wars and dramatic events, making it an iconic part of Germany’s history and architecture. While it caught our attention with its unique 21st-century hospitality, Schönburg Castle has some fascinating stories behind it. The castle is worth visiting, and don’t forget to go wine tasting when you do.
- Opening Times: 24/7
- Entry Fees: Rate of room/meal
16. Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle is a romantic little castle tucked away in a forest near the village of Wierschem. Not far from Cochem, it is well-combined with a road trip to Cochem Imperial Castle, and it is located near the Luxembourg border. Eltz Castle is perfect if you plan to travel to more remote regions of Germany.
Eltz Castle is visited by guided tour only, lasting around thirty minutes. You can catch the shuttle bus up to the castle, which is fantastic if you want to save your legs, as the hill is a killer. You cross over a traditional stone bridge and peek inside all the different rooms, admiring the decor and hearing some incredible stories. The castle is famed for its knights hall but also has a dungeon and private chambers. At the end of the experience, you get access to the treasury and hundreds of valuable artifacts.
Amazingly, Eltz Castle is still owned by the Eltz family, who have resided there since the 12th century. 33 generations of the Eltz family have lived in the castle – a pretty impressive feat. We love its remote location and off-the-beaten-track sense of adventure. It’s also fascinating how it has been in a single family for such a long period.
- Opening Times: 9:30 am – 5 pm (April to November only)
- Entry Fees: $13
17. Dresden Castle
Dresden Castle is more of a museum than a stereotypical castle, but it is fascinating and famous nonetheless. Located right in the center of Dresden, it is one of the city’s oldest buildings and Germany’s earliest palace buildings. The castle was a residence for kings for nearly 400 years and is now ‘retired’ and considered the cultural center of Dresden.
The castle is brilliant to inside, not only for its history but also for its expansive art collection. Dresden is home to a palace state art collection. You could easily spend a day wandering its corridors and rooms, admiring the thousands of artifacts. You can admire paintings, statues, and more historical displays like weaponry, jewelry, and ancient clothing. Prepare yourself for a diverse range of exhibits.
The original castle in Dresden was built in the 13th century but was plagued by multiple disasters. The building has been rebuilt many times. The 18th century was the most damaging, involving a disastrous fire that meant Augustus II had to commission an entire rebuild – primarily in Baroque style rather than the original Romanesque and Renaissance influences. During World War II, Dresden Castle was damaged again in 1945. It was only in 2013 that the castle was restored to full glory.
Dresden is one of the most iconic castles in Germany and contains some of the country’s best treasures. The museum’s massive scale and exhibits made us decide to add Dresden Castle to our guide. Its exciting history was just the cherry on top. Check out general admission tickets here.
- Opening Times: 10 am – 6 pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
- Entry Fees: $15
Germany has so many beautiful castles; you are definitely spoiled for choice. The range of castle types means you could visit a handful of the best castles on your trip and still have a different experience at each one. Exploring ancient castle life in Germany is also an immersive way to discover more about European cultural history.
Are you debating visiting a few castles on the same trip? You can always plan a romantic road trip between them. How many castles could you see on a week-long road trip? Have a magical time visiting the best castles in Germany. You are in for a treat.