When you come from a young country like the USA as I do, the fact that castles dating back hundreds, if not thousands, of years exist throughout the country of Germany is astounding. How have they managed to last all this time?!? It’s incredible. Visiting castles and palaces is one of my favorite things to do while traveling in Germany, and the charm hasn’t worn off even after moving here. Each one is unique from the others and with styles ranging from Rococo to Baroque to Medieval, you never get sick of visiting them!
Germany has the largest network of castles in the world, making seeing a castle or two (or 20) a must-do activity while traveling in Germany. From the fairytale-like Neuschwanstein Castle to Instagram-famous Burg Eltz, there are lovely palaces and castles throughout Germany worthy of exploration. Plus, many of them are located in stunning locations like wood shrouded valleys or perched above winding rivers.
These are the Most Instagrammable Castles + Palaces in Germany!
Location: Konigswinter (40km from Cologne)
Towering over a slight bend in the Rhine River, Drachenfels Castle in Konigswinter is an ideal day trip from Cologne with plenty of Instagrammable appeal. You are welcome to hike up the hill, but an easier way to get up is via the funicular. Buy a one way ticket and you can meander your way back down on foot.
At the top of the funicular, you will find a large viewing platform offering sweeping views of the region along with a perfectly placed beer garden and cafe. We visited on an ideal fall day in October, and the beer garden was packed with young families, friends and doggos spending a lovely day in the sun.
As you make your way down the hill via the well-marked walking paths, you will stumble upon castle ruins and garden houses until you reach Schloss Drachenburg. The castle was built privately by a wealthy family in the 19th century, but it has changed ownership many times since then. It fell into disrepair during the post-war period, and was only restored within the last few decades. If you want to see the gardens and interior of the castle, you’ll need to purchase a ticket at the entrance for a marginal fee. Unlike other castles on this list, photos are allowed throughout the premises, perfect for mini photo shoots.
Location: Moritzburg (20 km from Dresden)
For a stunning example of Baroque architecture and grandeur of the Saxon empire, then a stop at Moritzburg is a must-do day trip from Dresden. This palace is truly something to behold. Surrounded by a colossal man-made pond, the pale yellow exterior is only the beginning of the splendor of this incredible palace. If you have extra time, hop on a rental bike from Moritzburg palace to the Little Pheasants Castle at the end of the canal for more Baroque beauty.
This castle was the primary residence of notorious King Augustus the Strong. I really loved the content and layout of the museum inside this palace because it tells a simple story — the life and lifestyle of King Augustus — but in an engaging way of ‘debunking’ common myths and depictions of this lively historic figure. You wander through the opulent wallpaper clad rooms of the palace while reading about the real lives of people that happened inside the palace. From sordid affairs to over-the-top feats of human strength, you are bound to learn at least a few interesting stories while wandering through the palace.
Location: Bruhl (18km from Cologne)
If you are a lover of Rococo style architecture, then a visit to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces in Bruhl is a fun day trip from Cologne. It used to be the residence and hunting lodge for Cologne’s Archbishop, and in more recent history, hosted receptions and state dinners for Western Germany during the era of partition. Dating back to the 18th century, this massive palace has been painstakingly restored with marble pillars, gold décor, and hand-painted murals. It is really a marvel!
The French gardens at the palace are another highlight with tree-lined boulevards, well-manicured flower beds and of course, a variety of fountains and busts to discover along the walking paths. The gardens are open and free to the public year round, but the only way to see the interior of the palace is on a guided tour in which photography is strictly forbidden (and enforced by surveillance cameras). Always an advocate for responsible and rule-abided tourist behavior, the interior photo below is not mine — it is from the museum’s website.
Location: Moselle Valley (40km from Koblenz)
While slightly out of the way on a tour of the Moselle valley, the challenge of getting to Burg Eltz will be worth the reward! This is by far one of the most Instagrammed places in Germany and rightfully so — it’s beautiful! Of the German castles that I’ve seen so far, this one comes closest to rivaling the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle. Its tucked away location in a perpetually mist shrouded valley in the Moselle region simply screams romance. It’s relatively remote location also protected it during the war periods, which means it remains largely in its original condition.
Construction of the castle dates back to the 9th century, and this castle has been continuously privately owned by the Etlz family, whose 33rd generation of descendants still maintain the castle today. After paying for a ticket at the castle entrance, you will be whisked onto a 45 minute guided tour through the various Medieval styled rooms. Because one family has consistently owned the castle, you will find the rooms filled with original artifacts, like paintings, armor and furniture. Tours are offered in English and no photography is allowed during the tours.
Location: Benrath (15km from Dusseldorf)
Another marvel of Rococo design, Benrath Palace is a favorite of influencers and Instagrammers for two big reasons — the pale pink exterior and mirrored grand hallway inside. Every room on the interior is a stunner, ranging from colorful wallpapered bedrooms to an impressive marble-clad entryway. The largely untamed gardens behind the palace are a nice place to go for a long walk. You’ll see lots of locals going for a run or walking their dogs in this relatively unknown, yet lovely park.
Unlike some of the other palaces and castles on this list, you are fully able to photograph inside the palace. This palace is much, much smaller than other palaces in Germany, but it is perfectly restored and largely unknown so you can expect minimal crowds, aka nice clean photos!
Location: Heidelberg (80km from Frankfurt)
With beautiful views overlooking Heidelberg’s Altstadt, Heidelberg Castle serves as a romantic backdrop to one of Germany’s most beautiful cities. Heidelberg Castle was built over a series of centuries under different rulers, so you will notice different styles, from gothic through to the renaissance period. The pink sandstone façade in the main courtyard is decked out in renaissance details like busts and statues, while the terrace overlooking the river is much older.
You can access the castle via walking path for free, or if you want to take the funicular up to the top, it only costs 8 euros and includes a ticket to the castle as well. In my opinion, a combination of both is ideal, choosing to take the funicular up and then the walking path down. You can only visit the interior of the castle on a guided walking tour, which is an extra fee; or you are welcome to explore the terraces and squares without a guide. You cannot take pictures inside the castle and you will be asked to put your camera/phone away during the walking tour.
After your tour, pop into the Schloss Café to see the world’s largest wine cask inside the castle – it’s a lot bigger than you might guess! Don’t miss the view from the garden. We almost didn’t go to this viewpoint because it was raining and cloudy, but I’m so glad we did because it is the only viewpoint on the castle grounds where you can get a view of the castle and the city simultaneously. Plus, the gardens have an extensive sculpture collection and, in the springtime, I’m sure the flowers and blooming trees would be lovely!
Location: Meissen (30 km from Dresden)
You can learn about the history of porcelain making (along with plenty of other regional history) at the towering Albrechtsberg Palace in the center of town. Meissen was the birthplace of porcelain making in Europe in the early 1700s. The origin of this 300+ year tradition dates back to King Augustus who was an avid art collector, with porcelain being one of his favorite mediums. He started a royal commission specifically for the production and perfection of porcelain in Meissen.
You can tour Albrechtsberg on your own without an organized tour, and actually the interior of Albrechtsberg is packed with well-designed exhibits. You could easily spend several hours here if you read all of the material. I particularly liked the helpful signage at this museum! Make sure to pop across the river after your visit to snap a great photo of the palace overlooking the charming town.
Location: Schwangau (120 km from Munich)
Hohenschwangau was home to King Ludwig II of Bavaria throughout his childhood, and he lived there during the construction of Neuschwanstein until his mysterious death. Designed in a neo-gothic style, a guided tour of this palace will show you some of the 90+ paintings that adorn the walls of this underrated castle. I actually preferred the visit to Hohenschwangau to Neuschwanstein because the tour was more informative and it was FAR less crowded. It felt like a much less touristy experience, even though, of course, it was still only tourists visiting.
Perfectly paired with a visit to Neuschwanstein (mentioned below) thanks to its practically next door location, you can buy a dual ticket to visit both castles in one day! With a marginal price difference, a visit to both castles is a no-brainer if you have the time. While there are no pictures allowed inside Hohenschwangau, the lovely yellow exterior and wholly underutilized gardens make for a lovely photo backdrop. Don’t miss the quirky swan fountain along the side garden which Ludwig personally designed himself.
Location: Schwangau (120 km from Munich)
If there is a German castle that you definitely know already, it is Neuschwanstein. This is one of the most visited castles in the world and is certainly the most iconic of Germany’s castles. Bankrolled by the enigmatic King Ludwig II, everything about this castle was designed in the high romantic style he loved. It was meant to serve as the private residence for Ludwig, but his suspicious drowning at age 41 prevented the castle from being fully completed. Its fairytale-like appearance and stunning location in the German Alps may look familiar to any Disney lovers — Walt Disney is rumored to have designed the Sleeping Beauty castle after Neuschwanstein.
Available for visitation throughout the year, be prepared for large, large crowds at Neuschwanstein. You need to buy your ticket with a scheduled time slot a minimum of one week in advance. No pictures are allowed inside the castle, and you are required to be on a guided tour in order to see the interior. The whistle-stop tour leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion, but you can at least get an impression of the romantic style and grandeur of King Ludwig II.
Neuschwanstein is located at the top of a small mountain which can be accessed on foot via steep paved walking trail, by horse-drawn carriage or by shuttle bus. However, the shuttle bus doesn’t run in adverse conditions. We happened to visit Neuschwanstein on a late April day when it was 34 degrees F and sleet snowing, which we were completely unprepared for. Under these conditions, the shuttle was shut down and our only option was to walk which takes about 25 minutes directly uphill. Given this awful weather, my pictures are absolute trash, so instead, you get a series of photos of my husband and I making the best of our experience.
Location: Cochem (180 km from Frankfurt)
Also known locally as Reichsburg, Cochem Castle is precariously perched 300 feet above the charming town of Cochem sitting along the banks of the Moselle River. I could go on at length about how wonderful a visit to the Moselle is, but for the purpose of this post, Cochem Castle is a worthy castle to add to your list of must-visit castles in Germany. Believed to have origins dating back to 1100, this castle has seen many iterations over its long history. King Louis XIV actually had his troops destroy the castle completely in 1689, after which it sat in ruin for almost 200 years. It wasn’t until a wealthy Berlin businessman bought the ruins that the castle was rebuilt into the splendor you see today.
The original castle was built in a Romanesque style, but when the new one was constructed, it took on a largely neo-Gothic appearance. Like many of the other castles on this list, you are required to take a guided tour if you want to see the interior. If you are more interested in the views of the Moselle and surrounding area, you can simply amble up the shop-lined streets of Cochem at your own pace up until you reach the castle.
Location: Dresden (in the city center)
Set in the heart of Dresden, this is one of the rare palaces in Germany that is super easy to get to! The massive complex of the baroque-styled Zwinger used to be the home of Saxony’s royal family and government, but it has since been converted to a number of different museums and restaurants.
Sunset is the best time to visit the Zwinger Dresden because the lighting is absolutely stunning as it bounces around the courtyard of this historic baroque building. The central pools in the garden create perfect reflections of the building, and you’ll definitely be inspired to snap some creative shots. You’ll see plenty of other people taking photos around the garden and crowned tower of the Zwinger at golden hour, but thankfully the palace is big enough to get uninterrupted photos regardless of any crowds.
If you want to actually admire the interior of the palace, you’ll need to visit one of the museums inside the Zwinger. I recommend the national porcelain collection. This might sound like a snooze to anyone whose mother collected porcelain statues as a child (mine certainly did) but trust me — this museum is so much more than little figurines. The porcelain collection at the Zwinger includes many pieces from one of Saxony’s most notorious kings, Augustus the Strong. His love for porcelain was seemingly boundless and some of the pieces are absolutely huge. He commissioned an entire zoo featuring life-size animals made of porcelain which you’ll find inside this museum.