Ever dream of living in a castle? At Go Ahead, we can admit we’ve thought about it a time or two—and Germany is filled with several castles to fantasize about. Go Ahead staffer Laura was lucky enough to explore a few of them while on one of our Germany tours. Read on to see some of Laura’s favorite castles from her tour.
I grew up reading and loving fairy tales, from Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella, and I was dying to see a castle. After doing some research on where I could find some of the best places to see castles, I landed on Germany. There are over 20,000 castles in Germany alone, and I was ready to explore them all. From iconic castles like Neuschwanstein, which are nothing short of a fairy tale, to sprawling castles like Nymphenburg, which cover many acres, here are six of my favorite German castles I saw on our Historic Germany: Berlin to Bavaria tour.
Neuschwanstein was easily our most anticipated stop while in Germany. The castle is often the first to pop into your mind when thinking about the fairy-tale castles Germany has to offer. It did serve as the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty after all! Located high up on a hill surrounded by trees, it’s easy to see how Walt Disney crafted the fairy tale we know today from this stunning scenery. The best part? It’s easy to visit Neuschwanstein on a day trip from Munich.
Traveler Wendy offered this tip (which I also highly recommend): “Don’t forget to walk out on Mary’s Bridge for an enchanting view.” Mary’s Bridge is also the drop-off point for the trolley you can take up the hill to get to the castle. A 10-minute walk from the bridge brings you straight to the front steps of the castle. The castle grounds are themselves worth a visit. Grab tea or coffee from the restaurant before heading back down the hill.
You can learn about King Ludwig II of Bavaria and his vision for the inside of the castle, which, unfortunately, was left unfinished when he died. King Ludwig II, also known the Swan King, was the king of Bavaria and is one of the most legendary figures in German history. He ascended to the throne at only 18 years old, was fascinated by music and operas, and designed his castles with the same theatricality that he loved so much.
While we were touring Neuschwanstein, our guide recommended we go to Linderhof Castle as a companion to Neuschwanstein. It’s also located outside of Munich, which makes it accessible as a day trip. Depending on how much time you spend at each castle, you may also be able to squeeze it in the same day you go to Neuschwanstein. While Neuschwanstein was the project King Ludwig II never got to finish, Linderhof was his home. Nicknamed “Little Versailles,” his home was a dedication to his love of the famous palace in France.
Photography isn’t allowed inside the castle, so you’ll just have to take my word for it—this castle is truly a can’t-miss destination. Be sure to wander through the Hall of Mirrors, which King Ludwig used as a drawing room, or the yellow-and-lilac-hued audience chamber. We were so happy that we visited and got to see one of the best castles in Germany.
Another perk? The garden and grounds are maintained just as well as the castle itself. We found the perfect spot near the fountain to take in the picturesque scenery of the mountains and trees surrounding Linderhof.
Rounding out the trilogy of King Ludwig II’s castles is Hohenschwangau, his childhood home. Luckily, this castle is located so close to Neuschwanstein that you can purchase a combo ticket and see both castles while you’re out! Hohenschwangau is famous for its yellow color, which is easy to spot from a distance.
While not as big as Neuschwanstein, this castle gives a homey feel, and you can sense the history as you tour the rooms and hear the stories of the generations of people who stayed here. My favorite room was the banquet room, titled the Hall of Heroes. It’s decorated with paintings of legendary German heroes and medieval legends. There are also homages to swans throughout the castle to play off King Ludwig II’s Swan King nickname.
The next castle we visited was the Neue Residenz, or New Residence, located in Bamberg’s Old Town. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has three state apartments that are open for tours, which I highly recommend you take advantage of. The outside of this castle is huge. According to our local guide, it was built in two stages that took over 100 years to complete. Used as both a home and a political hub, this residence remained unharmed during World War II.
I loved seeing all of the colors and furniture pieces used throughout the residence when I toured the inside of the building. The furniture dates back to the the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Imperial Hall is home to some of the best examples. From the crystal chandelier to the colorful artwork stretching up the walls onto the ceiling, you truly step back into history when you’re in this room.
While the inside of the castle is a must-see, a can’t-miss for this castle is the rose garden in the back. Filled with statues and 4,500 roses, this garden backs up into a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
My personal favorite castle we visited in Germany was located in Potsdam, which is an easy day trip from Berlin. Another UNESCO-listed site, Sanssouci Palace is located in Sanssouci Park. To get the most out of your visit here, I recommend dedicating a full day to exploring the castle and gardens. It'll also be a great way to see several palaces in Germany! If you’re short on time or are only here for a day, like I was on tour, you’ll still be able to wander the garden and see the lemon trees Fredrick the Great planted.
“Sans souci” means “no worries” in French, and that is exactly what Frederick the Great wanted for his summer home. This bright-yellow castle is only one story tall, so touring its 10 rooms is easy. This castle is also the resting place for Fredrick the Great and his beloved greyhounds, whose gravestones you can visit in the upper vineyard of the park. Federick reigned as King of Prussia for 46 years. When you visit, you’ll see his tomb is adorned not with flowers, but potatoes. That’s because, legend says, Frederick brought the potato to Prussia.
The last castle we visited was Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, one of the more famous castles in Germany. This grand home has housed Bavarian Kings for over 300 years. Even today, there’s still a member of the Wittelsbach family living in one of the wings! The palace itself is larger than Versailles and contains not only the residences itself, but museums you can tour, as well as sprawling gardens. The park itself has four tiny “palaces” you can visit, including Amalienburg, which is the pink hunting lodge made for Maria Amalia of Austria.
The tour of Nymphenburg Palace brought our trip full circle, as it’s also the birthplace of the same King Ludwig II who built Neuschwanstein! But the most fairy-tale part of the castle has to be its marble hall. With sweeping staircases fit for a princess to enter a ball, it’s easy to get lost imagining the parties that happened here.