Trifels Castle is a reconstructed medieval castle near the small town of Annweiler. It is located high above the Queich valley within the Palatinate Forest on one peak of a red sandstone mountain split into three. Trifels Castle is on the peak of the Sonnenberg, and on both of the other two rock elevations there are castle ruins: Anebos Castle and Scharfenberg Castle.

Trifels Castle has been gradually restored since the 19th century and today replicas of the Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire are on display here. It is—together with Hambach Castle—one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.


The castle in Rhenish Franconia was first mentioned in a 1081 deed of donation, when it was held by a local noble Diemar, a relative of Archbishop Siegfried I of Mainz. From him Trifels passed to the Imperial Salian dynasty. Emperor Henry V in 1113 made it a Reichsburg (Imperial Castle), rejecting the inheritance claims raised by Archbishop Adalbert of Mainz. The archbishop, allied with Henry's opponent Lothair of Supplinburg, had to spend several years of imprisonment at Trifels.

Upon the death of Emperor Henry V in 1125, his nephew Duke Frederick II of Swabia made the castle a place of safekeeping for the Imperial Regalia of the Hohenstaufen emperors until in 1220 Frederick II of Hohenstaufen moved them to Waldburg Castle in Swabia.

Trifels Castle is also famous as the site where Richard the Lionheart, King of England was imprisoned after he was captured by Duke Leopold V of Austria near Vienna in December 1192 on his return from the Third Crusade. Handed over to Emperor Henry VI of Hohenstaufen, a period of three weeks of captivity at Trifels from 31 March to 19 April 1193 is well documented. According to one legend, Richard was found by the trobador Blondel de Nesle, who reported the king's location to his friends; in fact, Richard's location was not a secret.

Trifels Castle lost its importance with the Interregnum. After the fall of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, the castle was pledged several times. In 1330, it was mortgaged to the Electoral Palatinate. It finally fell to the Dukes of Palatinate-Simmern and Zweibrücken in 1410 and decayed after the Thirty Years' War. Deserted and derelict, the ruin served as a stone quarry, as a result of which the late-Romanesque residential building almost completely disappeared and the outer bailey for the most part.

From about 1840, the Wittelsbach kings of Bavaria had the castle rebuilt. After Ludwig I of Bavaria had reconstruction plans prepared by his court architect August von Voit already in 1851, Georg von Schacky made a reconstruction drawing in 1881 and the Trifels Association (founded in 1860) had carried out structural measures in 1882, in particular the erection of the great well arch, the Munich architect Rudolf Esterer designed a monumental rebuilding project following the model of south Italian Hohenstaufen castles, initiated by the Trifels Association and born by the cultural-political ideology of the Nazi epoch.

The Nazi era reconstruction in 1938-1942 and later reconstructions utilized in part the preserved walls from the Middle Ages or those found by archaeological investigations in 1935-1937, but also in many cases rigorously ignored the original medieval findings and created essentially an architectural reinterpretation of the 20th century.

The present-day castle is in large parts not true to the medieval original. It is characterized by a large well tower outside the ring wall, linked to the castle by a bridge. The surrounding rocky landscape is a popular venue for mountaineers.



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Founded: 11th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: Salian Dynasty (Germany)


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User Reviews

Danielle Cummings (4 months ago)
Came here today for a "quick stop" after visiting the Historische Walddusche with my three kids ages 6,4 , and 2 years. I had seen signs on the way there and recognized the name from my "lower priority" list of things to see while here in Germany, and figured we'd check it out since we were in the area. I wish I had known was a great castle this was, otherwise I would have left much more than the 1 hour we had before it closed at 6pm on this August weekday afternoon. We parked at the dedicated parking lot near Barbarossa and a food kiosk (which was closing when we got there at 4:30); there was also a "playground" along the "steep" path to the castle, which consisted of a single slide). I put my youngest in a baby carrier and had the older two walk. The man running the kiosk suggested I take the longer but less steep route behind the barricade for cars, which I did. This walk took about 15 minutes walking at a decent pace (once I put the 4 year old on my shoulders) and was a little over 1km. We ended up taking the "steeper" path on the way back, which was about 800 km and honestly didn't seem that steep; I'd likely choose to do that for the ascent if we were do to it again. Both were gravel paths clear of any roots or large rocks and would likely be possible for a heavy duty stroller, if you don't mind pushing one uphill. The path is largely shaded, thankfully, and has a couple of benches along the way as well as a viewpoint with a telescope to pay to use. The castle itself is the perfect balance between ruin and restoration. You can tell which parts are restored, which is always nice. The exterior is BEAUTIFUL in terms of magnificence of the structure and the 360* amazing views from many places (top of the castle, top of a tower, front of the castle atop the rock formation, etc). The interior is perfectly understated - the restored walls and accents and minimal decor and furnishings do a great job of allowing you the opportunity to enjoy its splendor without being distracted by reproduction furniture and art. There is a beautiful display of reproduced items such as a crown and sword and scepter. There are SO MANY STAIRCASES, most of which are redundant (I think there were really only 2-3 end points that they all lead to), all safe and sturdy and well lit with googd handles. The tops of the towers and all viewpoints had solid high walls that my kids couldn't climb over or fall through. There was a room with an educational (I assume, as it was in German) video to watch about the castle with ample seating. There were free bathrooms on the exterior at the base of the castle, as well as a few picnic tables. The castle kasse had souvenir coins but NO FOOD OR DRINKS OR ICE CREAM. It was inexpensive (kids were free, I was 4.50 euro). Overall, this is a BEAUTIFUL well balanced (between ruin and restoration) castle that is somewhat easily accessed (with at least 10 minutes of walking uphill on a gravel path) from a dedicated parking lot, which itself has two food and drink options. I wish I had left more than an hour to explore, though we did manage to see the whole thing in about 45 minutes walking as fast as I could corral the kids. Bring good shoes and cash, and food if you don't plan on eating at the parking lot restaurant options.
Kathryn Sanders (4 months ago)
Amazing views! And very interesting castle, definitely worth the effort getting up the hill!
Justin Hurt (7 months ago)
Neat castle with interesting history. Unfortunately all of the displays were in german so bring a translator!
Timon C (15 months ago)
Covid-vaccine pass needed for entrance, very strict on this. Fully restored but interior isn't much to look at. Nice views from the Windows. However at the top of the Tower is a huge Plague of flying ants!! Not Able to see a view because of the amount of ants.... Picture discription: a view of the valley from the Windows.
Padraig Seif (19 months ago)
A great place to visit, especially these days. Nearly deserted there is no problem with parking. You can enjoy a beautiful walk through the woods towards the castle, with nothing but the wind and sounds of nature surrounding you. The views are fantastic and the historical significance of the place can be felt at every corner. Well worth the trip!
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