To visit a German castle is to step into a fairy tale setting, where castles sit atop high mountain peaks, their towers and turrets reaching to the sky. Germany is famous for its castles, with their pasts filled with knights, dukes and the devastation of wars. The castles, which boast a rich history, have been restored to their former glory and, in some cases, are lived in by families of the founders. Their treasures include previous artifacts, paintings, furniture and weapons.
The Reichsburg Castle in Cochem was built around 1000 by a palatinate count, and later changed hands when an emperor pawned it to pay for his coronation. It was nearly destroyed in the 17th century when French King Louis XIV invaded the region. The castle was rebuilt in Neo-Gothic style. Sitting on a hill overlooking the Moselle River, the castle has an impressive display of Renaissance and Baroque furniture.
Mespelbrunn Castle began as a simple house built on the water by an early 15th century knight. Located within the Spessart forest between Frankfurt and Wurzburg, the castle may lack the gingerbread look of other German castles, but its simple beauty makes it one of the most visited water castles in Germany. Indeed, it has been described as one of the loveliest castles in Europe. This northern Bavaria castle is privately owned, but the family opens its doors to tourists throughout the year. Taking a walk on the paths throughout the castle grounds is highly recommended by past visitors.
Wartburg Castle was founded in the 11th century, but its fame dates from a few centuries later. Located in Eisenach, Martin Luther hid out here while he finished translating the Bible in the early 16th century. In the 20th century, Adolf Hitler wanted the castle to take down its cross and replace it with a swastika. One of the best preserved medieval castles in Germany, visitors have the option of taking a hike up a steep slope to reach the castle or take a shuttle bus.
Lichtenstein Castle is one of Germany’s newer castles, built only in the 19th century to honor the medieval knights of Lichtenstein. A castle stood on the site as early as the 12th century, but fell into disrepair until the current castle was built. It stands boldly atop a hill, accessible by a stone bridge stretching to another hill. Located in the Swabian Alps near Honau, the Neo-Gothic castle is known for its collection of historic weapons and armor.