If visiting medieval fairytale castles is your dream, then a trip to Germany should be high on your list. There are estimated to be at least 20,000 of them! People from all over the world (61 million of them to be exact!) travel to Bavaria to visit King Ludwig II’s famous castles. But wait! Why are some castles called a Burg and some called a Schloss? What’s the difference anyway? Let’s dive in and learn more about German fairytale castles!
Burgen (plural of Burg) were usually built prior to the Middle Ages. They were fortresses built to guard against invaders. These are usually set high upon a hill or surrounded by a moat to add to their defenses. They are often made up of a central tower (called the keep) surrounded by layers of walls. The keep was the most heavily fortified part of the castle. As the purpose was for defense, it is rare to see much ornamentation.
After the Middle Ages, the threat of invasion dissipated. The nobility no longer needed such impregnable defenses and turned their focus to comfort and style. Castles became a means with which to showcase wealth. Some Burgen were expanded to make them more comfortable. A Schloss is a castle or a palace built for such purposes. Schlösser (plural of Schloss) commonly have much more decorative elements, including intricate architecture, magnificent frescoes, and elaborate gardens.
Tucked away in the scenic Spessart forest stands Schloss Mespelbrunn. This late-medieval, early-Renaissance castle is one of the most famous Wasserschlosser (or moated castles) in Germany. At the edge of Bavaria, the castle is found between Frankfurt and Würzburg.
Count Wilhelm of Würrtemburg built Schloss Lichtenstein (“shining stone”) right into the side of a cliff at the northwestern edge of the Swabian Alps. The castle marks an architectural shift from classic to Gothic Revival. Located in the state of Baden-Würrtemburg in southern Germany, it is one of the most impressive castles in Germany.
Perched atop a hill high above the charming town of Cochem (one of my favorite cities in the WORLD btw) on the Mosel River is Reichsburg Cochem – the Imperial Castle. The castle is the largest castle on the Mosel River and is surrounded by vineyards. The castle that stands today is one of Germany’s many Neo-Gothic style castles.
Upon Berg Hohenzollern, an isolated outcropping of the Swabian Alps, sits the fairytale fortress, Burg Hohenzollern. The ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern is located 31 miles south of Stuttgart in the state of Baden-Würrtemburg.
Set upon a high rock in a valley above the Mosel River between Trier and Koblenz lies Burg Eltz. With eight towers soaring up to heights between 98 and 131 feet and half-timbered frame structures, Burg Eltz looks just like a storybook castle from the Middle to Early Modern Ages.
Germany: the place to be!
These are just but a few of the many German fairytale castles. The European Castle Institute is currently trying to get an official count of the number of castles in Germany. They estimate it may take another 10 years to fully compile this database and with an already estimated 20,000, it’s no wonder! If the romantic world of medieval knights and ladies interests you, you’ll find no shortage of things to see here in Germany!