Almost no other European country can boast so many castles - or so much grandeur - as Deutschland. The history of Germany, which saw the country divided into small principalities that were no strangers to warfare, meant that steadfast, imposing castles were erected for both security and status. For those who have a taste for the majestic, the turrets of the stunning medieval and neo-gothic buildings which spring out from among Germany's many dense, leafy mountain ranges are everything Disney castles aspire to and more. Impeccably maintained, with history in every stone, the following five buildings are some of the most awe-inspiring historical buildings you'll come across on even the most comprehensive Euro trip. We've selected these five, from among the thousands, as Germany's best castles to visit.
Neuschwanstein Castle is commonly cited as the inspiration for the iconic castle in Disney's adaptation of the dark fairytale, Sleeping Beauty. Indeed, the huge castle - one of Germany's and indeed Europe's most popular castles among tourists - looks appropriately magical. The relatively modern 19th century "New Swan Stone" castle is set among the hills of Bavaria, with impressive turrets soaring skyward. Visitors can tour inside the castle and take in the castle's majestic interiors, including original handcrafted woodwork. If you'd rather skip the ticket line, the grounds of the castle and the surrounding mountainous forests with picturesque views over the Bavarian countryside are reason enough to make the trip.
One of Germany's most historically and culturally significant castles, this World Heritage Site castle was where Martin Luther rendered his translation of the bible into German. Aside from the obvious historical intrigue of this impressive castle, the complex architecture - dating from around 1068 and with several additions built between the 12th and 19th century - and sprawling landscape at Wartburg make this a must-see for any tourists in the area of Thuringia. Sensitive but expansive renovations allow visitors an authentic view of the castle's buildings as they were when originally erected. From the stunning Great Hall inside the main castle to the winding paths around charming towers and houses in the castle's grounds, a day at Wartburg truly is a leap back in time.
When visiting Neuschwanstein, pop over to the less tourist-filled - but just as interesting - Hohenschwangau Castle. A much smaller castle than its prepossessing neighbor, Hohenschwangau Castle is a charming, almost quaint building in comparison but its mountaintop location and turreted facade make it an idyllic sight. The castle - with origins dates back to as early as the 12th century - is particularly beautiful when lit up at night, overlooking the picturesque village below and surrounded on all sides by splendid mountain ranges. A tour inside the castle exposes visitors to art and original interiors from the castle's 19th century royal inhabitants.
It's clear that the Medieval Eltz Castle is something special before you even reach the castle itself. It's set among some of Germany's most beautiful countryside, surrounded by the Elsbach river and the attendant mountains, greenery and wildlife. Visitors should hike to the castle from the car park if they want to fully appreciate the view, but for the less physically active there's the option to take a shuttle bus uphill. Owned today by the same family who laid claim to the castle in the 12th century, Eltz Castle is a deeply entrenched part of German history and visitors here have the privileged opportunity to immerse themselves in the castle's story. Lavish interior decor and the castle's fairytale facade, along with the fascinating tale of the German family's long history with the castle, make the Eltz Castle tour a favorite among castle enthusiasts.
The ruins of Heidelberg present an imposing tribute to Renaissance architecture. The first building among the many and sprawling constructions that make up Heidelberg Castle dates back to the early 13th century, but the castle suffered at the hands of war and fluke fires during the 17th and 18th century and has only been partially restored. A tour of Heidelberg Castle, then, is less a faithful reconstruction of a part of German history and more a testament to the castle's - and the region's - turbulent but undeniably rich past. Visitors can tour the ruins and the castle's beautiful grounds, and tour guides offer an insightful, amusing look into the castle's history along with the many myths and legends surrounding this peculiar example of historic German architecture.