Castles and Palaces

Castles and Palaces | Burgen und Schlösser

Welcome to our guide to castles and palaces in Germany! Learn about the history and key attractions of Germany’s many enchanting castles – plus how and when to visit them. First of all, let’s explore the differences between a castle (die Burg) and a palace (das Schloss).

Heidelberg Castle

The castle in Heidelberg is mostly a ruin today, but it offers wonderful views of the town and the Neckar River below. – See Photos: Castles and Palaces. PHOTO © Hyde Flippo

In German there are two main words for castle: Burg and Schloss. In English they can be translated in various ways, but generally a Burg is a fortress (a castle designed for defense in battle) and a Schloss is a palace – designed more as a residence. However, the difference between the two terms can get somewhat blurred in practice.

For instance, Burg Eltz, one of the castles featured in this guide, was never built for defensive purposes, but it is called eine Burg rather than ein Schloss. Most of the castles in Germany were designed as royal residences, and most of them are called Schlösser (palaces) in German, even though they are often called “castles” in English (such as Schloss Neuschwanstein, Neuschwanstein Castle). No matter. Call them what you will, they are all fascinating places to visit and explore!

See more about German castles and palaces below.

A Guide to Castles in Germany

  • Burg Eltz | One of Germany’s oldest and most picturesque castles, Eltz Castle is situated in forested hills not far from the equally picturesque Moselle River between Koblenz and Cochem. Dating back to 1157, Burg Eltz has been continuously occupied for over 800 years.
  • Burghausen | “Germany’s longest castle” – over a kilometer (0.62 mi) long – lies in Bavaria on the German-Austrian border. The Burg zu Burghausen really should be better known than it is. Besides the distinction of being the world’s longest castle, it is also a real medieval castle – complete with moats, bridges and torture chamber (now a museum). It offers marvelous views of Burghausen’s Old Town and Austria just across the Salzach River. More…
  • Burg Vischering | This moated castle in Lüdinghausen (near Münster in North Rhine-Westphalia) is completely surrounded by water. Castle Vischering, built in 1271, now houses the Münsterlandmuseum and a special knights’ armor exhibit for children. WEB: (in German)
  • Charlottenburg | One of Germany’s most attractive palaces is found in Berlin. Charlottenburg Palace (Schloss Charlottenburg) dates from 1695 and was the largest and most important residence of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Its garden park is modeled after Versailles and has been the location for several recent motion pictures. Badly damaged during WWII, the palace has been lovingly restored. (See photo below.) WEB: Prussian Palaces: Charlottenburg (official site, in English)
Charlottenburg Castle, Berlin

Berlin’s Schloss Charlottenburg during the Christmas season. PHOTO © Hyde Flippo

  • Cochem: Reichsburg | The German town of Cochem has a famous castle landmark that towers above it. The Reichsburg was only a ruin dating back to the 12th century when wealthy Berlin merchant Louis Ravené decided to buy it and renovate it. Recommended sidetrips: A cruise on the Moselle River, a visit to the nearby Roman city of Trier (Germany’s oldest!) and, in the other direction… More… – Also see: Photos: Castles and Palaces
  • Heidelberg | Mostly a ruin today, Heidelberg Castle, high above the city, offers wonderful views of Germany’s most famous university town! – See this castle ruin in Photos: Castles and Palaces
  • Herrenchiemsee | This palace built by Bavarian King Ludwig II on an island in the Chiemsee was not only modeled after Versailles, it was also intended to surpass the French original. But Ludwig died during its construction and only 20 of its 70 rooms were ever completed. Even in its unfinished state, Herrenchiemsee is still impressive.
  • Hohenschwangau | Another Bavarian palace located near Neuschwanstein and also connected to Ludwig II. Schloss Hohenschwangau was his childhood home and was built by his father, King Maximilian II. Guided tours are offered daily throughout the year.
  • Linderhof | This palace (Schloss Linderhof) is the only one that Ludwig II saw completed in his lifetime. The smallest of his three large palaces or castles, Linderhof and its formal gardens are also an architectural gem well worth a visit. WEB: (in English and German)
Burghausen Castle, Bavaria

This view of the Burg zu Burghausen (along the top of the ridge) is from the Austrian side of the Salzach River. PHOTO © Hyde Flippo

  • Marienberg | The Franconian (northern Bavarian) town of Würzburg on the Main River is home to two very different castles: The Fortress Marienberg (Festung Marienberg) is a medieval fortress castle overlooking the city, while the Baroque-style Residenz is a former royal residential palace, once home to the Fürstbischöfe (Prince-Bishops) of Würzburg, near the center of the city. The two landmarks are connected by public bus transportation. Today Fortress Marienberg is a park and museum. WEB: Fortress Marienberg (in English and German) and Residenz Würzburg (in English and German)
  • Neuschwanstein | It’s the most famous (and most visited) castle in Germany! With its mountain setting and its fairy-tale design, you can easily understand why. Neuschwanstein is the creation of Bavaria’s “Mad” King Ludwig II – who also built the beautiful Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee palaces. More… – Also see: Photos: Castles and Palaces
Neuschwanstein postage stamp

Neuschwanstein Castle was featured on this 1977 German postage stamp.

  • Nordkirchen | North Rhine-Westphalia is known for its Wasserburgen, or moated castles. Schloss Nordkirchen, not far from Münster, is a notable example.
  • Sanssouci | The rococo summer residence of Frederick the Great is surrounded by a magnificent park. Easily reached by commuter train (S-Bahn) or car, the palace lies southwest of Berlin in nearby Potsdam.
  • Wartburg | This well-preserved medieval castle just south of Eisenach in Thuringia is famous for serving as a refuge for Martin Luther during the Reformation.

Next | City Guides: Germany

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