Germany - King of the Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen

Germany boasts many amazing castles and palaces, telling of the rich history of this versatile country. We asked Lindsay Pond, our German Rail Pass travel reporter, to make a selection of the most spectacular must sees. Here's her answer.

German Castles

Neuschwanstein castle-Fussen
Neuschwanstein castle-Fussen

Neuschwanstein Castle

This 19th century castle is literally built into the side of a rugged hill located in southwest Bavaria. Credited as the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Neuschwanstein is in many ways a real fairy tale castle. King Ludwig II, who was known as the fairy tale king, had it built as his private domain. Wagner’s operas, Tannhauser, Lohengrin and Parsifal were his inspiration.

Despite the beauty of the castle, it was largely unpopular with the Bavarian people because its construction drove Ludwig II and consequently Bavaria into massive amounts of debt. Ludwig II was ultimately deposed and killed as a result of his fiscal troubles. After his death the castle was opened to the public and rapidly became one of Germany’s main tourist attractions.

When making the trip to Neuschwanstein, be sure to give yourself a full day to explore the castle and hike the surrounding hills for a better view. If you are already visiting Bavaria, this is a great day trip to take from Munich.

Take the train to Füssen and from there a bus to Steingaden/Garmisch-Partenkirchen or Schwangau to the stop Hohenschwangau/Alpseestraβe.

Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany

Heidelberg Castle

The famous ruins of this castle lie dormant in one of Germany’s biggest college towns, Heidelberg. Although a bit of an uphill trek, the castle is well worth a visit. Also, depending on the season, you’ll have the opportunity to ride the world’s oldest working cable car to the top.

With some structures dating back to the 13th century, it is clear to visitors that the Heidelberg castle was always something of a work in progress. The castle may lack in terms of cohesive vision when compared to Neuschwanstein; however, its ruins share more character and history. Privy to many fires and many expansions, different styles of architecture can be seen throughout the castle. Sat on a hill, the castle also offers a first-rate view of the entire surroundings. Heidelberg castle houses an Apothecary Museum and its cellar holds the world’s largest wine barrel.

Take busline 33 from Heidelberg central station to the Bergbahn stop. From there take the Bergbahn (funicular railway) to Schloss (palace) station.

Sanssouci Palace

A city trip to Berlin is not complete without a visit to the Sanssouci Palace in the nearby town of Potsdam. This Prussian answer to the French display of wealth and power at Versailles was built as a pleasure retreat by Frederick the Great. Sanssouci fully embodies its name, which is French for “Without Worries.”

Sanssouci, as well as the surrounding palaces and royal residences in Potsdam, is in many ways more French than German. At Sanssouci in particular, Frederick the Great required his guests to speak only French. He also held elaborate dinners and festivities, primarily of the French variety. Built in a Rococo style, with terraced gardens, Sanssouci truly does look like a royal weekend getaway.

Take the Regional Express direction Brandenburg and get off at Charlottenhoff. From there it’s a ten minute walk.

Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany

Nymphenburg Palace

What Sanssouci was to the Prussians, Nymphenburg was to Bavaria. Although situated quite centrally in Munich, it was a favorite summer residence for several generations of Bavarian royalty.

Commissioned in the 1660s, the palace’s façade has undergone many expansions and changes in the centuries that have followed, and it now bears a Baroque façade, as it has since 1716. Although now open to the public, the castle still serves as a residence and chancery to the Duke of Bavaria. However, the biggest draw of Nymphenburg is no longer the palace itself but its extensive and beautiful Baroque gardens and adjoining park which extend across 400 acres.

Take the S-bahn – all except line 7 – to Laim and then bus 51 to the Schloss Nymphenburg stop

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