Castles in the Lower Rhine Valley

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

Electoral Palace

The Electoral Palace (Kurfürstliches Schloss) in Bonn is the former residential palace of the Prince-Electors of Cologne. Since 1818, it has been the University of Bonn"s main building in the city center, home to the University administration and the faculty of humanities and theology. The palace was built by Enrico Zuccalli for the prince-elector Joseph Clemens of Bavaria from 1697 to 1705. The Hofgarte ...
Founded: 1697-1705 | Location: Bonn, Germany

Schloss Drachenburg

Schloss Drachenburg is a private villa in palace style constructed in the late 19th century. It was completed in only two years (1882–84) on the Drachenfels hill in Königswinter, a German town on the Rhine near the city of Bonn. Baron Stephan von Sarter (1833–1902), a broker and banker, planned to live there, but never did. Today the Palace is in the possession of the State Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia ...
Founded: 1882-1884 | Location: Königswinter, Germany

Drachenfels Castle Ruins

The ruined castle Burg Drachenfels, on the summit of the Dhill, was built between 1138 and 1167 by Archbishop Arnold I of Cologne and bears the same name. It was originally intended for the protection of the Cologne region from any assault from the south. Originally it consisted of a bergfried with court, chapel and living quarters for servants. The castle was slighted in 1634, during the Thirty Years' War, b ...
Founded: 1138-1167 | Location: Königswinter, Germany

Augustusburg Palace

Augustusburg Palace represents one of the first examples of Rococo creations in Germany. For the Cologne elector and archbishop Clemens August of the House of Wittelsbach it was the favourite residence. In 1725 the Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun was commissioned by Clemens August to begin the construction of the palace on the ruins of a medieval moated castle. In 1728, the Bavarian court architect Fran&ccedi ...
Founded: 1725-1768 | Location: Brühl, 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

Schloss Benrath

Schloss Benrath is a Baroque-style maison de plaisance (pleasure palace) in Benrath, which is now a borough of Düsseldorf. It was erected for the Elector Palatine Charles Theodor and his wife, Countess Palatine Elisabeth Auguste of Sulzbach, by his garden and building director Nicolas de Pigage. Construction began in 1755 and was completed in 1770. The ensemble at Benrath has been proposed for designation as a ...
Founded: 1755-1770 | Location: Düsseldorf, Germany

Linn Castle

The oldest fortress on the Lower Rhine is located in the historic Krefeld suburb of Linn. The former country castle belonging to the Electorate of Cologne has its origins around 1200. It was badly damaged during the Spanish Civil War of 1704. The beautiful water castle is well preserved and includes a bailey, hunting lodge and tithe barn. In the accompanying Landscape Museum it is possible to view excavation finds from t ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Krefeld, Germany

Bergh Castle

Huis Bergh (Huis Bergh) is one of the largest castles in the Netherlands. It gives its name to the Land van den Bergh and was previously owned by the counts van Bergh. The castle history dates back to the 13th century. The main parts of the castle are from the 14th, 15th and 17th century. In the beginning of the Dutch Revolt the house got damaged by war. In 1735 the castle burned down. In 1912 Huis Bergh and all belongi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: ´s-Heerenberg, Netherlands

Anholt Castle

Anholt moated castle is one of North-Rhine Westphalia"s few privately owned castles. It first appears in records in the 12th century. Further extensions in around 1700 created a grand Baroque residence with the feel of a palace. Today, the moated castle is used as a museum founded by Prince Nikolaus of Salm-Salm, which features a private collection documenting his family"s history. The historical housekeeping ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Anholt, Germany

Falkenlust Palace

Just a short, enchanting stroll away from Augustusburg Palace in Brühl, Falkenlust is located on the edge of a secluded grove as the favourite hunting lodge of the Cologne elector and Archbishop Clemens August (1700-1761). One of the most intimate and precious creations of German Rococo was built in a few short years (1729-1737) according to the plans of François de Cuvilliés, court architect of the Ba ...
Founded: 1729-1737 | Location: Brühl, Germany

Moyland Castle

Moyland Castle (Schloss Moyland) is a moated castle in Bedburg-Hau in the district of Kleve, one of the most important neo-Gothic buildings in North Rhine-Westphalia. 1307 is the first time that a fortified farm called Moyland is documented with ditches and ramparts. It was between 1345 and 1355 redesigned by Roland von Hagedorn into a classical gothic castle with a square floor plan. In addition to three round ...
Founded: 1345-1355 | Location: Kleve, Germany

Godesburg Castle

Godesburg castle was built in the early 13th century on the Godesberg, a hill of volcanic origin, it was largely destroyed following a siege in 1583 at the start of the Cologne War. The site has a controversial history. First mentioned in documents from the early 8th century, there was supposedly an old cult site and its name derived from the old Germanic Wotansberg, Woudensberg, or Gotansberg. The fortress founda ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bonn, Germany

Löwenburg Castle

Löwenburg castle was built around 1200 by the Counts of Sayn. Together with the Castle of Blankenberg high above the valley of river Sieg it secured their territory.  In the second half of the 13th century the old keep was torn down. Only then the castle whose ruins we see today was built. In the late Middle Ages the Löwenburg went through an eventful history until it fell to the Counts of Berg in 1484. It was destroye ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Bad Honnef, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.