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15 Palaces and Castles in Germany from Neuschwanstein (Cinderella’s) to Frankenstein’s Castle
Every castle has a story.
When it comes to the castles in Germany, Neuschwanstein is by far the most famous, since it is believed to have inspired Cinderella’s castle in Disneyland.
But that’s just the beginning.
Each castle on this list has an interesting story, from concealing Martin Luther to inspiring the story of Frankenstein.
We will look at all that, but let’s start with the Heidelberg castle, whose story is perhaps the most peculiar.
It was on 24th June 1764
The king, Karl Theodore, had planned to move his court from the town of Mannheim to Heidelberg, where it had originally been.
But just as the preparations were completed, flashes of lightning appeared in the sky and struck the Heidelberg castle twice, setting it on fire.
This ‘sign from heaven’ changed the king’s mind and carved a permanent mark in the history of the castles of Germany, particularly the Heidelberg.
But the building you see today hasn’t always looked like that.
This is because many wars in the Middle Ages did a good job in breaking the Heidelberg castle apart and what you find today is a collective restoration from different schools of design baked into one block of architecture.
One of the most photographed castles in Germany, Neuschwanstein castle remains true to its roots as a ‘house of art’.
This is because it transitions naturally into its surroundings, creating natural blends of white and cream in the winter, and a plush combination of reds and yellows in the fall.
Here is its story:
When King Ludwig II lost his sovereign power, he decided to console himself by building a castle.
And because he loved operas so much, he instructed that the upper rooms be decorated with pictures of swans, as they reminded him of his favourite operas.
It is from this fascination of medieval history and music that one of the best castles in Germany, the Neuschwanstein castle, got its name, which means ‘new swan stone’.
Other than being the castle that inspired Cinderella’s castle, it is also one of the most admired and renowned castles in Germany.
With a close proximity to the Neuschwanstein, this is where King Ludwig II spent his childhood.
It was also where he borrowed many of his ideas when building the Neuschwanstein, particularly the Knight’s hall.
But did you know that this was the castle which was originally called the Schwanstein?
The name was given to the Neuschwanstein in the 19th century, because when Ludwig wanted to build another castle, he wanted it to be more of a rebirth of the Hohenschwangau, and so historians saw it as more befitting of the label ‘Schwanstein’
And so as a result, the original Schwanstein became Hohenschwangau, meaning upper Schwangau, or more specifically, the upper house of the Schwangau.
This is because it was the residence of the upper class of Schwangau, who included knights and counts.
Who was the second man to land on the moon?
Mein Opa – my grandfather!
And which is the second Neuschwanstein castle?
The Lichtenstein castle!
The Lichtenstein castle is so similar to the Neuschwanstein castle, that it has been nick-named Neuschwanstein’s smaller brother…
While the other castles in this list inspired a book, the Lichtenstein castle on the other hand was inspired by a book under the same name, written by Wilhelm Hauff.
The name Lichtenstein means ‚light stone‘, which came from the stones that were used to build it.
This castle was badly destroyed during WWII but was restored almost immediately after, and today you will find an assortment of rustic furniture and hunting trophies all over the castle.
Not much to talk about, but the next castle will make you smile.
The Drachensburg castle is one of the best palaces in Germany.
It has an unconventional story, which goes like this:
Firstly, it was built in 3 years, which is a very short time for a castle.
Secondly, its name means dragon’s castle, because it is believed that a knight slew a dragon on a mountain close by.
The third aspect is all about one of its owners, Paul Spinat.
Spinat, a wealthy merchant, bought it in 1971 to save it from being demolished by the government, as it was very run-down at the time and didn’t have any use.
He then opened it into a museum and in an attempt to attract people he would throw parties and pretend to play music from an organ, even though the actual music played from a hidden recorder.
At one point he bought an old sculpture and claimed it was carved by Michelangelo, and added many artefacts, including a chair which he claimed to have belonged to King Louis XIV of France.
To impress his guests even more, he placed a flight of iron stairs in the middle of the Great Hall, from where he could descend from to make his ‘grand entrance’.
But since those stairs led nowhere, he concealed the top with curtains, and all he did was stand there for about an hour waiting for guests to arrive.
Spinat may have pulled people’s legs, but he contributed greatly to today’s charm and interest in the Drachensburg castle.
Another palace in Germany, the Schwerin castle is unique in that it is open to the public and also houses government offices.
But what is most distinctive about it is that it stands on Lake Schwerin, where it derives its name.
It is said that there was a short fat ghost (good one) who lived at the castle and scared off intruders and thieves, and kept the guards awake at night.
His name was Petermännchen (‚Peter‘ is a first name and ‚Männchen‘ means little man).
But if you don’t like bedtime stories, then you would find it pleasurable to visit the castle’s gardens, where stairs on both sides usher you from the pristine chambers to the charming bushes and fountains below, which are always a delight to see.
And the next castle is all about the wine…
This popular Swahili phrase is the same as the name of this castle, Sansoucci, which means ‘no worries’.
But the castle’s name is from France and not East Africa, which is not a wonder when you consider that there is a vineyard on the front yard.
Yet while castles are not often associated with the search for truth and enlightenment, the Sansoucci palace was at one point a melting pot of philosophy, as this is the castle where Voltaire and other philosophers gathered to discuss the whither in the what and the wherefore in the why.
veritas in viño – truth in wine! ?
Sasa kuna matata!
What this means is that ‘now there is a reason to worry’!
Otherwise what else comes to your mind when you think of Frankenstein?
On a tour up the Rhine in 1814, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein’s author, heard of Johann Dippel, a medieval scientist who lived at the castle and made liquids from animal oils which he sold to the local folks claiming it gave them extra strength and long life.
And with this story she went off to write one of the most influential horror novels of all time.
Even though Mary was British, her work greatly contributed to the development of American literature, and so during WWII, to commemorate her work, American soldiers held a Halloween party at the castle, and this kind of party has now become an annual event.
Moreover, the castle’s restaurant often holds scary dinners and banquets, and that makes it an absolute German castle to visit, especially for literature lovers.
And this brings us to the next castle:
Closely connected to the Frankeinstein’s story is the Mespelbrunn castle.
This is because as Mary Shelley was growing up, she used to read a lot of creepy stories by the Brothers Grimm about the Spessart forest, which surrounds the Mespelbrunn castle.
This forest makes this castle so hidden that it remained undamaged during its entire time, despite the many wars that have taken place in Europe.
The story of the Mespelbrunn castle is one of peace and tranquillity, and so if you want to enjoy a cosy and beautiful castle that is not overrun by visitors, your tour of castles in Germany will be incomplete without the Mespelbrunn Castle.
A tour typically takes about half an hour and costs EUR 5, and beside seeing fish and swan swimming leisurely in the pond, you will be treated to an impressive display of boar heads and antlers in the dining hall.
After that short calm, the next castle takes us back to the mountains…
Why did the bear go up the mountain?
To see the Hohenzollern castle!
And why didn’t the bear come down from the mountain?
Because he got drunk!
Bären in Deutschland trinken gerne Bier!
Bears in Germany like to drink beer!
…and that is the story of the Hohenzollern castle!
Well, didn’t you know this was where Fredrick Miller started brewing beer before moving to the U.S. to found the Miller beer company?
And when he wasn’t brewing it at the Hohenzollern, he was brewing it at the Sigmaringen!
(Schloss Sigmaringen )
Both the Hohenzollen and the Sigmaringen castles are owned by the same family.
And that’s how it happens that when Frank Miller wasn’t brewing beer at the Hohenzollern, he was brewing it here!
The interiors of this castle are lavished with pink and gold accents, and some halls display a glittering display of lights, but this room of trophies may be the most interesting part for the adventurous at heart.
And now we know what happened to the beer after he got drunk.
Trinken Sie kein Bier, wenn Sie auf den Hohenzollern Berg gehen!
Do not drink beer when you go to Mount Hohenzollern!
Without a doubt, Linderhof castle is one of the best palaces in Germany.
Outside the castle, the gardens are perfectly symmetrical, being ranked as among the best castle gardens in Europe, and you don’t have to go to Ukraine to see a tunnel of love!
Perhaps it could be important to note that it was built by the man of taste himself, King Ludwig II – yeah, the guy who also built the Neuschwanstein!
While that could be a story in itself, King Ludwig’s love for operas extends to the Linderhof castle, and inside is a cave which opens through a secret trap door.
Inside the cave is a 10’ deep pool of water, a wave producing machine and a boat shaped like a shell, with one of the walls depicting a life-sized mural from one of his favorite operas.
This breath-taking cave is called the Venus Grotto, and Ludwig liked his operas performed there, with the lead singer standing in the water.
But don’t cringe, the water was heated!
Needless to say, your castles in Germany tour cannot be complete without visiting the Linderhof.
…matter of fact, it was Ludwig’s favourite!
From castles on mountains to castles on plains and back to castles on mountains, this article feels like one hell of a roller-coaster ride.
But we are on a castles in Germany tour, aren’t we?
The Cochem castle is where King Conrad III lived, the man who was destined to become The Holy Roman Emperor, since he ruled over both Germans and Romans and was a descendant of Charlemagne the Great.
Yet even though he died before becoming Emperor, he managed to unite many of Germany’s states and is generally referred to as the first real king of Germany.
One of the oldest castles in Germany, the Eltz castle has been owned by the same family for 33 generations.
What makes it unique is that the knight’s hall is lined up with joker heads, and though they were supposed to lighten the normally solemn mood of the knights, they can look quite terrifying in low light.
Among the guests to have stayed here include Victor Hugo, the French poet who had also stayed at the Heidelberg, and wrote about the lightning that struck it twice.
Other dignitaries include the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, 3 German presidents and 2 U.S. first ladies.
And finally, the next castle gets the religious ball rolling…
The Wartburg castle in Germany got famous because this is where a German professor of Theology called Martin Luther stayed as he translated the Bible (New Testament) into German.
When you visit the Wartburg castle, you will find Martin Luther’s room still intact, bearing little else than a chair, a table and the feeling of a contribution to religion that is still relevant today.
There is no other castle in Germany famous for such contribution to religion, and that alone may earn the Wartburg castle a top spot on your castles in Germany tour.
Planning a castles in Germany tour?
If you are thinking of touring the above and other castles in Germany, equipping yourself with the basics of the German language will be very helpful because most of the guided tours are in German.
It would also be nice to greet the locals in their own language, and you may get a special treat if you order a meal in a castle restaurant in German.
But don’t worry if you know no German. I can teach you in a method which is as interesting as the article you’ve just read, and you will learn naturally without having to remember what you read, take notes or sit for any exams.
Even if you just want to know the basics, that’s ok. I got you.
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