Top Ten Must-See German Palaces
With over 25,000 castles in Germany, it can be difficult to know which ones to visit, or which area of Germany to base your trip. And with so many castles, there is such a vast range of architectural styles and structures. For example, many medieval castles were built purely for protection and defence, with a more functional and utilitarian demeanour than some of the later regal residences which were more palatial and decorative. If your preferences are for the more refined medieval castles or renaissance dwellings, here are the Top 10 Must-See Palaces in Germany to help you plan your next trip.
1 – Neuschwanstein CastleThere’s a reason Neuschwanstein Castle is the most photographed and most visited tourist attraction in Germany – it is literally the stuff of fairy tales. This stunning example of Romanesque Revival architecture inspired the castles in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, as well as the real-life reproductions in the various Disney resorts around the world. Commissioned in 1868, unlike many German castles, Neuschwanstein Castle was not built for defence but as a home and retreat for King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Since it opened to the public in 1886, a staggering 61 million people have visited this magical German palace.
2 – Hohenzollern Castle
3 – Nordkirchen CastleThe superb Schloss Nordkirchen is known as The Versailles of North Rhine-Westfalia – with good reason. This 18th-century Baroque masterpiece is a stunning example of a Wasserburgen – a moated castle. Nordkirchen Castle is vast and impressive – surrounded on all sides by a spectacular moat, with an enchanting mix of French influences, English landscaping and topiary, as well as uniquely German elements. Although the castle is almost 300 years old, it has been exquisitely maintained and restored. A true jewel in Germany’s crown, Schloss Nordkirchen makes for an unforgettable palace experience.
4 – Charlottenburg Palace
5 – Linderhof PalaceAlthough this Bavarian beauty is the smallest of King Ludwig II’s palatial projects, it was the only one that the tragic king lived to see completed. After Ludwig II inherited the property in 1864, he began extending the building, only to demolish it completely and then rebuild the grand structure of today. The influence of Versailles is again evident in both the architecture and interiors, though there are also echoes of the Rococo styles of Louis XV, with the small palace being modelled on his Petit Trianon in the grounds of Versailles. With its regal pavilions and formal gardens, a chapel and fountain, even a Venus grotto, the beautiful Linderhof Palace is an architectural gem and one of Germany’s finest palaces.
6 – Mannheim PalaceIf it’s scale and grandeur that you’re looking for in a palace, Mannheim does not disappoint. Comprising over half a million square feet, this 18th-century baroque Palace is not only one of the largest palaces in Germany, but also worldwide. Though its scale was intended to rival Versailles, it’s style and vibe are distinctly German. Historically, the palace was a princely residence, as well as the home of the glamourous Stéphanie de Beauharnais, the Grand Duchess consort of Baden. Today Mannheim Palace is largely the home of the University of Mannheim, though there is also a museum that reveals the palace’s glory days, including the spectacular Library Cabinet of Electress Elisabeth Auguste von der Pfalz, which has remained untouched for centuries.
7 – Munich ResidenzAnother of Germany’s enormous palaces, this former royal palace is a treat for history lovers. The current building is the work of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who extended and updated the old palace in the early 19th century. Though the Residenz was heavily damaged during the Second World War, an extensive programme of restoration was completed in recent years. With over a hundred rooms on display, as well as 10 beautiful courtyards, Munich Residenz is a vast and fascinating blend of history, architecture and palace living over the centuries. The restored palace is today one of Germany’s finest, and a perennial favourite of locals and tourists alike.
8 – Würzburg Residence
Sculpture:Johann Peter WagnerPhoto: Daderot / Public domainIn 1981, the majestic Würzburg Residence was granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally constructed for the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg, this uniquely impressive palace is a mix of Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles – another intriguing blend of German royal residence and the inevitable French influences of the 18th century. Like a number of German palaces, it sustained damage during World War II but has been beautifully restored in the decades since. With its breathtaking facade, stunning interiors and the world’s biggest ceiling fresco, Würzburg Residence is a fascinating insight into German history over the last three centuries.