Sooneck Castle was first mentioned around 1271. Like neighbouring Burg Reichenstein (Rhein), the castle was managed by the lords of Hohenfels as bailiffs for Kornelimünster Abbey near Aachen. What is certain is that the castle was besieged in 1282 by King Rudolph I. His troops overran and destroyed the castle and the king imposed a ban on rebuilding it, which he explicitly restated in 1290. When the castle was rebuilt it was given to an Austrian family who were fervent supporters of the Habsburgs, the Reitenaours, to stop Swiss expansion. The wars with the Swiss claimed many Reitenours: George, Robert and most famously, Nicholas, who died in the battle of Sempach. In April 1346 Archbishop Henry III of Mainz gave Sooneck Castle in fief to John, Knight Marshall of Waldeck, who subsequently had a new castle built on the site. After his death it passed jointly to four of his heirs and the castle thus became a multi-family property, or Ganerbenburg.

The branches of the family jointly residing in the castle were not on good terms and quarreled over inheritances. Several times, peace had to be legally imposed. When the line of Waldeck died out in 1553 with the death of Philipp Melchior, the Breidbach zu Bürresheim family, previously co-tenants, became sole tenants of Sooneck Castle. When that family became extinct, the castle began to fall into disrepair.

In the course of the War of the Palatine Succession, Sooneck - like all the castles on the left bank of the Rhine - was destroyed in 1689 by troops of King Louis XIV of France. In 1774, the Archdiocese of Mainz leased the ruins to four residents of Trechtingshausen who planted vineyards. The site later came into the possession of the village of Niederheimbach.

In 1834, the then crown prince of Prussia, Frederick William IV, and his brothers Princes William, Charles, and Albert bought the completely derelict castle and, between 1834 and 1861, had it rebuilt as a hunting lodge. In the rebuilding, which was designed by the military architect Carl Schnitzler, the historical structures were largely retained with the addition of buildings in romantic style. The Prussian royal crest over the north gate of the castle dates to this period. Disagreements within the royal family and the effects of the revolutions in Germany in 1848 prevented the castle from ever being used as a hunting lodge.

After World War I aristocratic properties were nationalized and Sooneck Castle became a possession of the state. After World War II it passed to the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and in 1948 to the State Ministry of Castles (today Generaldirektion Kukturelles Erbe Rheinland-Pfalz Direktion Burgen, Schlösser, Altertümer Rheinland-Pfalz). It can be visited on organized tours.

The residential areas of the castle are furnished predominantly with items in the neo-gothic and Biedermeier styles. The interiors are enriched by paintings owned by the Hohenzollern family and, since 1991, the Köth-Wanscheid family foundation, and drawings and sketches by Johann-Caspar Schneider among others.

Since 2002, Sooneck Castle has been part of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Details

Founded: 13th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: Habsburg Dynasty (Germany)

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Thomas Kusch (9 months ago)
Well-restored castle on a hill with great views on the Rhine valley. The road up to the castle is about 1 km downstream of the castle in the nearby village. The last part of the road is in very bad shape with larger potholes. The parking lot holds about 30 cars, and it is a 3-4 minute walk to the castle entrance up a gently sloping hill. Opening dates and hours vary seasonally, and can be found online. When open, the castle offers very frequent guided tours.
Lars Stanley (11 months ago)
This was a great castle to visit on the Rhein River. There is a little walk to get here, as you can't park right in front of the castle. They have a quick tour of the inside that you can do.
Norman (11 months ago)
It's kind of far from Kaiserslautern but, not too far where you can't make it back and forth in one day. The castle is nice but it's been updated quite a bit. The worker offered us a "guided" tour, but it wasn't that at all. A second person will meet you in the courtyard of the castle and take you up to the second or third floor. Once there, he gave us a double-sided hand out with some information about the castle and the contents of the floor we were allowed to see. Yeah, you're only allowed to see one small part of the floor that they take you to. Which is disappointing because we were looking forward to getting up to the top of the castle to be able to get a look at the surrounding area and the Rhine River, which is nearby. Alas, we weren't allowed to go up to the top. It costs 10 euro for 2 adults and 2 kids. Great views of the outside of the castle and you are allowed to walk around the entire outside of it. We went in early November so, I can imagine that the surrounding area would look much nicer in the spring when there's sure to be lots of flowers in the gardens of the castle. No matter what, it was worth the money and trip.
Niklas Tverin (15 months ago)
Well worth visiting for absolutely wonderful views and nicely preserved medieval castle. Easy access with car and spacious parking place. Only a short walk to castle.
Shane Vandecar (15 months ago)
Incredibly well preserved castle and grounds. Parking nearby and an easy walk up make this a must see if you're not into more rigorous hikes. Great views of the Rhine river abound! Guided tours in English and German are available for an additional fee.
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