Castles and fortifications in 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

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 destroyed ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Heidelberg, Germany

Dresden Castle

Dresdner Residenzschloss is one of the oldest buildings in Dresden, Germany. For almost 400 years, it was the residence of the electors (1547–1806) and kings (1806–1918) of Saxony of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin. It is known for the different architectural styles employed, from Baroque to Neo-renaissance. The original castle was a Romanesque keep, built around 1200. The Hausmannsturm was buil ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Dresden, 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

Schlossturm

Schlossturm tower on the riverside is all that remains of the castle of Counts of Berg. The first three storeys date back to the 13th century. In 1552, Alessandro Pasqualini added a fourth, polygonal storey, adorned with Tuscan columns. Today it houses a museum of Rhine shipping and is topped by a face.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Düsseldorf, Germany

Broich Castle

Broich Castle was originally erected to protect the town of Mülheim from invasion by the the Normans in the late 9th century. It is probably the oldest, still maintained Carolingian fortification in German-speaking Europe.  The abandoned castle was rebuilt and expanded by the noblemen of Broich in the end of the 11th century. The castle survived a long and eventful history, including bloody feuds, wars, occupat ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany

Porta Praetoria

Porta Praetoria, a gateway to the city of Regensburg, dates from 179 AD. Among Porta Nigra in Trier, it is the only remaining Roman gate north of the Alps. Giant blocks of stone were used to construct this gate in the northern wall of the Roman military camp. It survives as a reminder of Castra Regina, the Roman settlement.
Founded: 179 AD | Location: Regensburg, 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

Spandau Citadel

Spandau Citadel is one of the most important and best-preserved Renaissance fortresses in Europe. In the 16th century, developments in weaponry rendered older castles useless. Thus, Kurfürst Joachim II ordered his fortification in Spandau to be constructed as a fortress in the ‘new Italian style.’ The fortress was laid out as a rectangle of curtains (fortress walls) with bastions, entirely encircled by wa ...
Founded: 1557-1594 | Location: Berlin, 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

Isartor

The Isartor is one of four main gates of the medieval city wall. It served as a fortification for the defence and is the most easterly of Munich"s three remaining gothic town gates (Isartor, Sendlinger Tor and Karlstor). The Isartor was constructed in 1337 within the scope of the enlargement of Munich and the construction of the second city wall between 1285 and 1337 which was completed under the Emperor Louis IV. T ...
Founded: 1337 | Location: Munich, 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

Wartburg Castle

Wartburg castle, overlooking the town of Eisenach, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the home of St. Elisabeth of Hungary, the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament of the Bible into German and the site of the Wartburg festival of 1817. It was an important inspiration for Ludwig II when he decided to build Neuschwanstein Castle. Wartburg is the most-visited tourist attraction in Thuringia after Weim ...
Founded: c. 1067 | Location: Eisenach, 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

Holstentor

Holstentor (Holsten Gate) is the most well-know symbol of Lübeck. The city gate was built between 1464 and 1478 along the lines of Dutch models. Its purpose served both as a form of defence and as a form of prestige. Above the round-arched gateway entrance of the twin-towered construction, the inscription CONCORDIA DOMI FORIS PAX (unity at home, peace abroad) can clearly be seen in golden letters. Nearly every visitor i ...
Founded: 1464-1478 | Location: Lübeck, Germany

Meersburg Castle

Burg Meersburg may be the oldest inhabited castle in Germany. The central tower was first built during the 7th century, though the original structure is no longer visible. There are two theories about the construction of the Meersburg. The first is that the Merovingian king Dagobert I built the Dagobertturm (Dagobert's Tower), the central keep of the Meersburg, in 630. Around 630, Dagobert was in the Lake Constance region ...
Founded: c.630 / 12th century | Location: Meersburg, Germany

Neurathen Rock Castle

Neurathen Castle (Felsenburg Neurathen), which was first mentioned by this name in 1755, is located near the famous Bastei rocks near Rathen in Saxon Switzerland. This was once the largest rock castles in the region, but today only the rooms carved out of the rock, passages, the cistern and rebates for the timber of the former wooden superstructure have survived. In the years 1982–1984 parts of the extensive c ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Rathen, Germany

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress was built as the backbone of the regional fortification system, Festung Koblenz, by Prussia between 1817 and 1832 and guarded the middle Rhine region, an area that had been invaded by French troops repeatedly before. The fortress was never attacked. Early fortifications at the site can be dated back to about 1000 BC. At about AD 1000 Ehrenbert erected a castle. The Archbishops of Trier expanded i ...
Founded: 1817-1832 | Location: Koblenz, Germany

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle is the ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern. A popular tourist destination, Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany. The castle sits atop the 855 meters Berg Hohenzollern, an isolated 855 m promontory on the western side of the Swabian Alps. The first fortress on the mountain was constructed in the early 11th century. ...
Founded: 1454/1846 | Location: Burg Hohenzollern, Germany

Marienberg Fortress

The original castle on the Marienberg, a hill which was first settled in the late Bronze Age, was probably a small fort built early in the 8th century by the Franconian-Thuringian dukes, together with a church which in 741 became the first church of the Würzburg bishops. From 1200 an unusually large castle was built, which was extended during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Following the storming of the ca ...
Founded: 1200 | Location: Würzburg, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.

The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.

In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.

Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.

About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.

Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.

A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.