Castles and fortifications in Germany

Gemen Castle

The beautiful water castle of Gemen near Borken was founded probably in the 9th or 10th century. The first document dates from 1274. The current appearance is a result of five essential reconstruction phases. Since 1946, the castle has been used as a youth camp under the guidance of the diocese of Münster.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Borken, Germany

Nordertor

The Nordertor is an old town gate in Flensburg, Germany, which was built around 1595. Today the landmark is used as a symbol for Flensburg. The town wall of Flensburg was built step by step from 1345 onwards. A town gate, named Norder Porte, was built in the northern section of the wall. At the end of the 16th century it was replaced by the Nordertor, a building with stepped gables and archway. At this time ...
Founded: 1595 | Location: Flensburg, Germany

Detmold Castle

Fürstliches Residenzschloß, in the center of the Detmold town park, is a fine example of Weser Renaissance style. In 1263, Bernard III of Lippe fortified the settlement at the crossing of the trade route from Paderborn to Lemgo over the Werre River with stone walls and granted it a municipal charter. In 1550, Detmold became the permanent residence of Count Simon III of Lippe. The counts were elevated to princ ...
Founded: 1550s | Location: Detmold, Germany

Linz Castle

Linz Castle is an old customs castle and fortress. It dates back to 1365 and was built by the Archbishop of Cologne, Engelbert von der Mark. After an eventful history, the castle has been under private ownership since 1985. The castle in the heart of the town of Linz on the Rhine is once again a major tourist attraction after undergoing extensive refurbishment. Today visitors will find catering from the Middle Ages in th ...
Founded: 1365 | Location: Linz am Rhein, Germany

Stuttgart Old Castle

The Old Castle is located in the centre of Stuttgart. The first castle dated back to around 950 when Stuttgart was a settlement for breeding horses; it was built to guard the Stutengarten of the stud. In the 14th century it became the residence of the Counts of Württemberg and the court chamber (Hofkammer) of the House of Württemberg. In the 16th century dukes Christopher and Ludwig ordered it to be converted into a Ren ...
Founded: c. 950 AD | Location: Stuttgart, Germany

Füssen Castle

Füssen"s landmark, the Hohes Schloss (high castle), sits on a high rock and overlooks the village. Hohes Schloss is one of Bavaria"s largest and best-preserved Gothic castle complexes, and is the former summer residence and fortress of the prince bishops of Augsburg. The first castle on the hill dates back to the age of Roman Empire. The current castle was built in the 13-15th century. It was already integ ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Füssen, Germany

Mainz Citadel

The Mainzer Zitadelle (Citadel of Mainz) was constructed in 1660. The Jakobsberg hill, where the citadel was constructed, had been occupied by a Benedictine abbey during the middle ages (since 1050). Halfway up the hill, the amphitheater of the Roman settlement of Mogontiacum, which has been recently excavated, must also have been visible at that time. The Jakobsberg hill, however, had not been integrated in the ring of t ...
Founded: 1660 | Location: Mainz, Germany

Ingolstadt New Castle

The New Castle in Ingolstadt is one of the most important Gothic secular buildings of the 15th century in Bavaria. The builders were Louis VII, Duke of Bavaria-Ingolstadt and Duke George the Rich of Bavaria-Landshut, both of the Wittelsbach dynasty. The neighboring Old Castle, a medieval fortress from the 13th Century, is today called Herzogkasten. As a brother of the French queen Isabeau, Ludwig spent more than ten year ...
Founded: 1418 | Location: Ingolstadt, Germany

Stein Castle

Stein Castle is the most important cave castle in Germany. The origins of the upper house are not totally clear. It may have stemmed from a fortification dating to the Roman or Celtic period. Stein was first recorded in 1135. The romantic figure of the legendary robber knight, Hainz von Stein dem Wilden, is closely associated with the castle. He is supposed to have lived in the castle in the early 13th century and was wri ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Stein an der Traun, Germany

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle is a famous ruin and one of the the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. The rich and eventful history of Heidelberg Palace began when the counts palatine of the Rhine, – later prince electors – established their residence at Heidelberg. The earliest castle structure was built before 1214 and later expanded into two castles circa 1294; however, in 1537, a lightning-bolt de ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Heidelberg, Germany

Johannisberg Castle

Schloss Johannisberg is a castle and winery in the Rheingau wine-growing region of Germany. It has been making wine for over 900 years. The winery is most noted for its claim to have 'discovered' late harvest wine. A mountain on the north bank of the River Rhine near Mainz has been associated with the Church and with winemaking since the Dark Ages, when the estate of Ludwig der Fromme ('Louis the Pious') made 6000 litres ...
Founded: 1716 | Location: Johannisberg, Germany

Altena Castle

Altena Castle was erected by the brothers Adolf and Everhard von Berg around the year 1108 after Henry V granted them land in Sauerland. On Wulfseck Mountain they built their castle, which they named Wulfeshagen, later Altena. This is one of the three legends of the establishment of the county of Altena and the building of the castle. After the acquisition of Mark near the city of Hamm in 1198, the counts of Altena ...
Founded: 1108 | Location: Altena, Germany

Lede Castle

Burg Lede in Bonn-Vilich, the oldest part of Bonn, is a real gem. The origins of the site goes back to the 14th century. Von Loë family still lives in the castle. The personal atmosphere of the castle with its salons, the library, the castle kitchen and the small courtyard create an unusual ambiance for events ranging from weddings, official business events to a private cookery course with friends. A limited number of re ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Bonn, Germany

Brüggen Castle

Brüggen Castle was the most important castle in the north of the Duchy of Jülich. The castle was built by the Count of Kessel in the 13th century to guard a ford over the River Schwalm. In the early 14th century it went into the possession of the dukes of Jülich, who had the existing building replaced by a quadrangular castle made from brick. After the occupation of Brüggen in 1794 by Napoleonic troops i ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brüggen, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle is a nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds. The castle was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, bu ...
Founded: 1868 | Location: Hohenschwangau, Germany

Cochem Castle

The original Cochem Castle, perched prominently on a hill above the Moselle River, served to collect tolls from passing ships. Modern research dates its origins to around 1100. Before its destruction by the French in 1689, the castle had a long and fascinating history. It changed hands numerous times and, like most castles, also changed its form over the centuries. In 1151 King Konrad III ended a dispute over who should ...
Founded: 1100 | Location: Cochem, Germany

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta. The P ...
Founded: 186-200 AD | Location: Trier, Germany

Hohenschwangau Castle

Hohenschwangau Castle was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria. The fortress Schwangau, which was first mentioned in historical records dating from the 12th Century, stood high up on a rock on the site of the present 19th century Neuschwanstein castle. The knights, later counts of Schwangau were ministerialis of the Welfs. Hiltbolt von Schwangau (1 ...
Founded: 1833-1857 | Location: Hohenschwangau, Germany

Nuremberg Castle

The Imperial Castle is the symbol of Nuremberg. Since the Middle Ages its silhouette has represented the power and importance of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and the outstanding role of the imperial city of Nuremberg. Nuremberg, which was first mentioned in a document as a royal property in 1050, played an important part in the imperial and domestic policy of the Salian and Hohenstaufen kings and emperors. ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Nuremberg, Germany

Saarbrücken Castle

The existence of Saarbrücken was first documented in 999 under the name 'Castellum Sarabrucca'. In the 17th century the castle was rebuilt in the style of the Renaissance, but later destroyed and now only the cellars of this construction remain. In the 18th century Prince Wilhelm Heinrich had his architect Stengel build a new Baroque residence on the same site. Since then the castle has suffered various bou ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Saarbrücken, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.

After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.

The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.

Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.

The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.