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


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Fefe Ride (2 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!
Marie Eriksson (2 years ago)
Pretty well worth a visit if you pass by!
Scottie Lahven (2 years ago)
Wiktor Sieklicki (2 years ago)
Very nice castle, not much to see inside but the gardens and all the defense walls are beautiful. Definitely worth to see.
Sabrina Gonzalez Cano (2 years ago)
It is a small castle and not many rooms can be visited but it was great for our son (6 years) who was able to participate in the Rally. This is a kind of treasure hunt where you have to search for 8 treasure boxes to get 8 stamps in your little booklet. In order to open the boxes which are closed with a lock with 4 numbers you have to solve little quizzes and answer questions. Only tricky thing was the map with the places of the treasure boxes which was a bit inaccurate and therefore we spend a lot of time figuring out which places were meant to be the correct ones. So he wouldn't have been able to do the Rally on its own but we saw a group of older kids running around on their own. The questions and quizzes were great and you could learn something about the castle and it's history and the booklet was very nice. But it took us much longer than expected ( around 1.5 hours). As a price, the kids receive a wooden knight/ princess medal which is great quality and made them very proud. Of course we had to buy also a helmet and a shield in the little shop for our son as he had already a wooden sword. He loved the visit so much, that he wanted to return with his sister right away. The restaurant/ cafe was closed but in the shop they were able to make fresh waffles and sandwiches. Parking is very close, around 400meters from the entrance with a great view over the river.
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