When it comes to exploring the most romantic and mysterious castles of Europe, people often think of Germany, with some of the most popular castles and palaces in the continent. These places have long been associated with various mysterious legends and tales. Explore the myths in their origins and enjoy the captivating medieval architecture of the most famous castles in Germany.
Schloss Neuschwanstein in Hohenschwangau village near Munich
Lying on a rugged hill above Hohenschwangau village in Southwest Bavaria, Schloss Neuschwanstein, or the New Swanstone Castle, is a 19th century Romanesque Revival Palace commissioned by the ‘Fairytale King’ - Ludwig II. The ‘Mad King’ was incredibly famous for his secret obsession with the works of the German opera composer Richard Wagner and his fantasy world of living in phenomenal castles, dressing like operatic characters while sleeping in the day and venturing out at night. Neuschwanstein Castle is built with several structures, including numerous towers, ornamental turrets, gables, balconies, pinnacles and sculptures.
The entrance ticket is 12 EUR (roughly 13.6 USD) and is only available at the ticket office in the village of Hohenschwangau, where you can take a shuttle bus or horse-drawn carriage up to the castle. It is possible to reach Hohenschwangau by train or car, but bicycles and cars are not allowed on the road all the way up directly to the castle. I recommend reserving the ticket online in case tickets are sold out or there are long lines. During early morning, the atmosphere in Neuschwanstein is more magical and the guide is certainly more relaxed. Until July 2016, the hiking trail to Neuschwanstein through the Pollat Gorge is closed due to the renovation of the Marienbruck. However, the guided tours through the way to the castle are not affected
Heidelberg Castle in Heidelberg near Frankfurt
Despite being in ruins, Heidelberg castle remains one of the most important Renaissance structures in the Northern Alps, with high quality interior décor maintained. The original four-storey building is home to living areas, an audience room, the Knights’ Hall and the Imperial Hall. One of the most exquisite and earliest palace buildings of the German Renaissance - the Ottheinrich Building - exhibits a massive collection including a sandstone fireplace, door jambs, colonnades, and magnificent sculptures. Heidelberg is within approximately 1 hour by bus or train from Frankfurt. The Castle is within walkable distance from the old town or city centre. From the backyard of the castle, there’s a breath-taking panoramic view of the little Heidelberg and the Neckar Valley. This is particularly beautiful during sunset, and you can revel in the views without any charge. The entrance fee is 7 EUR (roughly 8 USD) including the funicular railway fare, the great tun (a large wine barrel in the cellar), and the German Apothecary Museum. It’s also possible to stroll around the surroundings for free if you already visited the inner structure.
Hohenzollern Castle in Hechingen near Stuttgart
Another famous medieval castle in the Bavaria region is Hohenzollern, lying isolated above the Berg Hohenzollern Mountains above Hechingen Town. Nestled above the Swabian Alps, it used to be the seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern. Similar to Neuschwanstein, this complex structure is a monument to German romanticism, a symbol of a medieval knight’s castle. The complex consists of three castles built from the 11th century and completed during the 20th century after undergoing maintenance after an earthquake. The admission fee to see the castle complex without the interior rooms is 7 EUR (7.90 USD), and with the interior rooms the price is 12 EUR (13.50 USD). Hechingen is about one hour (31 miles / 50 kilometres) by train from Stuttgart, and there are several bus connections daily from Hechingen station to Hohenzollern Castle station. A shuttle bus will take you from the station to the castle. Tickets for one way (1.90 EUR or about 2.10 USD) or both ways (3.10 EUR or 3.50 USD) can be purchased on the bus from the driver.
Wernigerode Castle in Wernigerode in the Harz Mountains
The marvellous panorama of the Harz Mountains is dominated by the famous Wernigerode Castle that rises high above. The former medieval construction was eventually transformed and rebuilt into a neo-Gothic luxury castle at the end of the 19th century, where the counts and princes held court in splendour. Following the sign from Weringerode town centre, there are plenty of paths through the woods and grounds of the castle for a short hike to the castle’s front yard for a 360-degree-view over the castle itself, the edge of the Harz Mountains and the town nestledat its feet. Visitors can stroll along the wide terrace of the castle and enjoy the wonderful views of the village and the Harz Mountains. Art enthusiasts will find plenty to see, including religious art, elaborate craftwork and gorgeous interior designs from the Renaissance period to the 19th century, all while learning about the history of Germany. The castle itself is a museum and the entrance fee is 12 EUR (13.50 USD) per adult.
Marienburg Castle near Hannover
Marienburg Castle, situated high above the hills of Calenburger Land, rises up on the south-western slope of Marienberg Hill. Visitors to Hannover often include a day trip in their itinerary to this Neo-Gothic castle, which lies some 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) away. It used to be the home of the Guelph family, one of the oldest royal houses of not just Germany, but Europe. The majestic 9th-century interior designs with original paintings, singular objects of art, and even silver furniture, will take your breath away. With a guided tour, visitors can access different private rooms including study rooms of the royal princesses (daughters of King George V and Queen Mary), the Castle Kitchen, the Queen’s Library and so on. A classic castle tour costs 8 EUR (roughly 9 USD).
How to get around Germany for a castle tour
Traveling around Germany is fairly expensive, but the German infrastructure is high-quality and public transportations are punctual. To reduce the commuting costs within Germany, use Flixbus for deals as low as 5 EUR (5.60 USD) to move from one city to another, or book train tickets in advance for reduced fast-train fares. Train discounts are also available if you travel with fellow German students with a Deutsch Bahn Card. Enjoy exploring the many gorgeous castles of Germany!
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