Sooneck Castle

Niederheimbach, Germany

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

James Conn (2 years ago)
Another awesome castle along the Rhine River. If you don't vist here you will regret it.
Danielle Cummings (2 years ago)
This was a great experience for us two adults and three kids ages (almost) 6, 4, 2 years. The parking lot is easy to get to, though I think Google Maps did try to bring us a "back way" that we were clearly not allowed to go - we ended up driving past that and following the clearly marked signs on the road. From the lot, the path was clearly marked to the castle and was only slightly uphill, mostly shaded. My older two walked the 5-10 minute trek without complaint or difficulty. Once there, we entered the room with the kasse/reception desk and purchased our tickets, including an adorable little book that led a treasure hunt for my kids, which they were a bit young for but were excited to do it with our help. The castle was GORGEOUS inside and out. There were decorated rooms inside with some signage explaining the history and beautiful terraces and walkways outside, with magnificent views, despite the neighboring quarry. It was truly one of the most beautiful, understated castles we''ve been to (and we've been to many) with almost no crowds on this July weekday afternoon, and a minimally difficult walk from the parking lot. We ended up purchasing ice cream cones and small gifts for the kids (in addition to the badge they got for completing the treasure hunt!) as it was so reasonably priced. We went to Rheinfels castle after this which was nice but less intimate and with less beautiful nuance than this castle had. The flowers throughout the scattere gardens were just gorgeous, though covered in buzzy bees buzzing away, as well as butterflies. This castle was an hour drive for us and well worth the trip. If you bring food, there are multiple beautiful places to picnic. I don't think there was much food selection beyond coffee and ice cream and a few select specials at the kasse otherwise. Bathrooms were a tight squeeze but clean. The walk is stroller accessible but the castle itself is not.
Shriram Srinivasan (2 years ago)
Sooneck is a nice and small castle in the Rhine valley. The castle has a nice outer grounds with a lot of flowering plants around. The walk to the Castle was beautiful as it was covered by a dense trees on both the sides. The person at the entrance was very sweet and she tried to answer our questions and help us. Most of the rooms in the Castle are under maintainance or renovation. However, if you are happy with exploring the outer grounds and enjoying the view of the Rhine valley, then this is a definite try for you.
Mike Emery (2 years ago)
Amazing castle! Beautiful scenery and lovely walk around the grounds. Very nice place to chill.
Fefe Ride (3 years ago)
This is a piece of my own family history! It is breathtaking it was in ruins which was caused by a war when our family arrived to America in 1730 it has been restored to it's former glory! Thank you for saving my family's story and not being lost. Love that it's in a historical conservation and protected!
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