Germany is home to some of the world’s most incredible castles. From defensive medieval castles to stunning fairy-tale castles built merely for pleasure, Germany has over 1000 to visit. Many are privately owned by the descendants of dukes and knights but open their portcullises to the public each year. The Brothers Grimm were inspired by some of the amazing castles they saw in Germany and Walt Disney modeled his famous fairytale castle on one of the country’s most well-known properties.
Neuschwanstein Castle is possibly one of Germanys most photographed buildings. The magical appearance of the 19th-century castle draws tourists from all over the world. It inspired Walt Disneys Sleeping Beauty Castle which itself is an icon to escapism and pleasure just like Neuschwanstein Castle.
The castle was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria. Known as the Mad King or Swan King, Ludwig had a passion for spending money. In 1864 work began on Neuschwanstein Castle which was to be a grandiose homage to the kings of old. Limited by a lost war with Prussia which saw his sovereignty removed, Ludwig focused on stamping his kingly mark upon the lands he was able to rule over. Creating a castle reminiscent of past times complete with a throne room was a way for him to do this.
Ludwig was obsessed with Wagner, the great composer. In 1861 Ludwig listened to ‘Lohengrin ‘ by Wagner and from that point saw himself as the fictional Swan Knight of Lohengrin. He also believed that he was the descendant of the knights of Schwangau and took the swan as his herald. The swan theme adorns the interior of the spectacular castle.
Such was Ludwig’s love of Wagner that when the composer ran out of money he asked him to move into the castle. Perhaps it was the castle or Ludwig that served as his muse but Wagner wrote some of his most beautiful pieces during his time at Neuschwanstein.
Ludwig was deposed because of his overspending and died shortly afterward in somewhat mysterious circumstances. His legacy is Neuschwanstein, Germany’s most iconic castle. Visitors can wander the opulent corridors and in the summer months, walk along the bridge across the waterfall behind the castle. It is with out the doubt one of the most spectacular buildings in the world.
Built between 1490-1540, Burg Eltz is another of Germany’s great fairy-tale castles. The same family, the Eltz family has owned the castle for 33 generations. It is steeped in history and because of this is hugely popular with tourists.
The castle was defensively built above the Moselle River which was one of the most important trade routes in the German Empire. On three sides lies the Elzbach River and because of the perfect position, the castle has never been destroyed. Even these days the location of the castle means that it is only accessible by a hike from the train station.
The interior is a time capsule of medieval Germany. Each room is lavishly decorated and furnished. The rooms are of odd proportions as they were built into the rock face. Eight towers soar upwards and along with the turrets create the perfect vision of a medieval castle.
The armory is filled with gold and silver artifacts and is considered to be one of the best examples in the world. It is an emotive, medieval masterpiece and a must-see for any visitor to the area.
For romantics and historians, castles are yet another reason to visit Germany.