Altdahn Castle

Dahn, Germany

Altdahn castle was probably built in the early 13th century. Certainly in 1236 the castle was being run by Frederick of Dahn as a vassal (Lehnsmann) of the Bishop of Speyer who, at that time, was Conrad IV of Dahn and may well have been a relative. The subsequent history of the castle is characterized by many wars and frequent destruction, that was, time and again, followed by rebuilding.

Altdahn was first destroyed in 1363 in the course of a feud between the Dahns and the Fleckensteins. In the end a squire took possession of the castle and carried out temporary repairs. In 1372 it was destroyed again and the squire driven out. In 1406 the castle was destroyed in the War of the Four Lords, which played out from 1405 to 1408 especially in the Bliesgau, 40 kilometres to the west. In 1426 and 1438 the castle caught fire without being caused by any military action.

After two centuries of relative prosperity Altdahn suffered further damage during the Thirty Years' War (1618–48). And right at the start of the War of the Palatine Succession the castle was finally destroyed in 1689 by French troops under General Mélac.

On 11 May 1820 a rockfall occurred, that caused the majority of the remaining ruins to collapse.

On the ridge of the Dahn castle group, which run roughly from east-northeast to west-southwest, Altdahn Castle occupies the two largest, easternmost rock outcrops, which have a total length of about one hundred metres. Its access is in the northeast, where the gateway and a small, water-filled neck ditch have survived. The lower ward is dominated on the north side by a horseshoe-shaped turret and, on the south side, by another tower of similar design.

Other notable remains of the upper ward on the western rock outcrop that have survived, include the north wall of the palas and a watchtower that, from the remains of an oriel, indicate that it may well have been used as a garderobe tower. The southern part of the palas was destroyed in the rockslide of 1820. This also opened the remains of a round cavern, in the rock in the shape of an inverted cone, that has been identified as a cistern or dungeon. On the remains of the eastern side, rusticated ashlar stonework is visible.

The isolated eastern castle rock is accessible over a narrow gangway. It used to support a small tower.

In 1877 the first conservation work was carried out by the Dahn Conservation Society (Dahner Verschönerungsverein) under the Bavarian government. In 1936, during the Nazi era, restoration work was restarted. After an interruption caused by the Second World War they continued from 1960 to the present day.



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K40, Dahn, Germany
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Founded: 1200-1236
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Germany)

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Leandra Swiers (2 years ago)
Great views. Peaceful. Since it consists of multiple castles, there is lots to see. You can buy an information booklet at the cafe. Cafe offered beverages and cake. Friendly service. One of the castles hosted a small museum which was closed. Unclear when it would be open.
Danielle Cummings (2 years ago)
Came here today (a warm September Thursday afternoon) with my three kids ages 6, 4, and 2, and a friend with her 6 year old. We parked at the Wanderparkplatz .3km away from the castle, which was easy to find when set as our destination in Google Maps using GPS directions. The lot is paved and free, but is rather small; it fits about 10 cars if done well, though thankfully it is largely shaded, at least late in this late summer afternoon. Though the lot is close to the castle entrance, the wide gravel path is entirely uphill, and stroller friendly, aside from the incline and the fact that you can't use the stroller in the castle, and took my kids about 10 minutes to climb. Once at the base of the castle, there are several different paths to take, but you need to go through the gate next to the house-like building (which is actually a drink/ice cream kiosk) to access the interior of the castle. From there you can get up to Altdahn and Tanstein castles; there is a middle castle which we assumed is Grafendahn castle that we weren't able to figure out how to get in, though there are railings and a flagpole at the top. Anyways, the castle has free admission but does have limited hours (10-5 on this September day). Just in front of the gate there are two informational signs (one on the fence and one on the rock behind it, the latter having a map in English, French, and German). Once through the gate, you can decide which castle to start with. We went left and explored Altdahn castle first, which is the largest and most time consuming to explore as it has many stairways and hallways and nooks and rooms (some of which are quite dark, though some had automatic light sensors). We almost got "lost" a few times, not remembering which halls or stairs we had already taken. This castle took over an hour. Tanstein is much smaller and can be explored in about 20 minutes at a quick pace. The whole complex is very reminiscient of the nearby Drachenfels (which can be seen from this castle) and Fleckenstein castles, but the unique aspect here is that you can almost see the progression in the method of building and designing - Tanstein feels much older and more worn than Altdahn does, while Altdahn has beautiful trim and design that Tanstein doesn't have. The castle is largely safe, but I'm sure a determined toddler or reckless preschooler could manage to fall from one of the bridges or stairways and seriously injury themselves, as there are steep, uneven rocky steps with adjacent cliffs all over, though all stairwells and platforms have railings or walls, if they do have gaps here and there. Point being, watch your children and be careful yourself. The tops of each castle are very sunny, so bring hats/sunglasses/sunscreen if the season warrants. The views from the tops of each castle are stunning. We were there for 3 hours in total, which includes exploring the castles at my 4yo's walking/stair climbing pace and several breaks to take snacks. The food kiosk has wine, ice cream, tea, and a few other menu items I didn't look through as the first two items were all we wanted. There are some benches within the castles themselves, but the only picnic tables were surrounding the kiosk at the base of the castle. Overall, this is a great free castle for people of all ages (but warrants being quite cautious and watching over children carefully), with plenty of ruin to explore and views to appreciate, though hours are limited, but made better by the fact that there is a kiosk serving refreshment during opening hours and the close if small parking lot. FYI, this is a review of the entire castle complex so is a duplicate of that which I wrote for Tanstein, though the photos are only of this castle, the entrance, or parking lot.
Derek B (2 years ago)
Beautiful site to visit. Plus it's free!
Melissa Corkin (2 years ago)
We LOVE this castle, but they really need to update their listings to reflect that it is still closed 2 years after COVID.
Teddy The Bear (3 years ago)
I love this place. I was living in Dahn around 1990, had a "Postcard" view of these ruins from my living room. We'd walk up the hill to see this place just about every weekend. Looks like things are a little different from when I was there.
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