A Real-Life Fairytale Castle in Germany – Discover Miraculous Burg Eltz

If someone asked you to name a fairytale castle in Germany, you might think of Neuschwanstein Castle, the one in Bavaria that inspired the Disney castle. But here’s one you may not have heard of, but will conjure up all the Medieval magic of your dreams. Plus it’s almost 700 years older than that other castle! I’m talking about Eltz Castle (Burg Eltz) in Germany’s southwest state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

With literally tens of thousands of castles and castle ruins in Germany to choose from, here’s why Eltz Castle stands out as arguably the best of them all.

What Makes Eltz Castle So Special?

Appearance

Eltz Castle is a showstopper. Built in 1170, it has eight towers that reach up to 115 feet (35 meters) high, with bay windows, turrets, and half-timbered structures that make it everything you want a Medieval castle to look like.

Surroundings

Because of its physical location, nestled in a forest valley and surrounded by hills, it feels timeless, and really lets you look back in time. You don’t have to try to block out a view of telephone wires, or buildings, or bus stops. Eltz Castle stands in all its glory isolated from the modern world.

The surrounding forest is a nature reserve and protected as an “Arboretum,” which is a forest containing an unusually rich variety of rare indigenous and foreign tree species. This unpopulated area with no sign of modern life or manmade structures adds to the realism of what the castle must have looked like in the Middle Ages.

Condition

And it’s not just the surroundings that have remained unchanged. This is the really remarkable part. Because of the owners’ long history of establishing good relationships with neighbors, facilitating trade, and relying on diplomacy rather than force to solve problems, the castle was never destroyed. This incredible fairytale castle in Germany still stands as originally constructed throughout the centuries starting in 1157 and growing from there.

Unlike almost every other castle in this region, the French never got a hold of it, nor did competing German armies or mercenaries. It survived Medieval wars, and political upheaval unscathed.

It was also left untouched during both World Wars. There was no strategic importance to its location, and it wasn’t near any obvious targets like manufacture or transportation hubs.

Ownership

Even when Europe raged with war and destruction, Eltz castle has remained. Part of that has to do with the fact that it has remained in private hands, owned by the same family for 30 generations!

Our guide told us that despite the fact that the castle remains a private residence, the family that owns it does not live here. They live in Frankfurt now, but the administrators live in one of the three sections of the castle with their 2 dogs. Living in a castle with your dogs may just be the best job on the planet!

It’s almost unbelievable, but this magic combination of its location, surroundings, resilience, and continual ownership means you can practically step back in a time machine and have an accurate idea what it was like living in this castle throughout the ages.

Location

A map showing the location of Burg Eltz, a fairytale castle in Germany

The castle is located in the middle of Eltz Forest in the northern part of the German state Rhineland-Pfalz in Wierschem. It’s right near the riverside town of Munstermaifeld which you should also check out while you are there. It has an ancient church, lovely shops and cafés, and a charming Old Town.

Access

The castle was originally shared by three families, and two of the family wings in the castle are open to the public. The third wing continues to be used as a residence.

Burg Eltz is open daily (including public holidays) from 9:30am until 5:00pm from March 24th to November 1st. 5:00pm is the last admission at the gate, and the last tour begins at 5:30. You must visit the interior of the castle with a guide, and tours last a little over half an hour.

Adult tickets are 14 euros (about $16 each), but special rates for groups, and families can be found here at the official website.

You can also scroll to the bottom of this page to find a great map that shows parking, where to catch the quick shuttle bus up to the castle, how to access on foot by various hiking trails, and how to get there via train or bus. I’d definitely recommend taking the shuttle bus, especially if it’s a hot day. Then you can decide if you want to ride down, or go by foot.

Facilities

The Fairytale Castle in Germany You’ve Been Waiting for!

You will be able to walk all around the outside of the castle, and into the unbelievable courtyard. There you will meet up with your guide who will take you in a relatively small group to see the interior of the castle. No photos are allowed inside, unfortunately. Inside you’ll see many rooms, even some including furnishings original to the castle!

There’s a Medieval kitchen, a hunting room, spiral stairs, and even a treasury, containing stunning gold, silver and porcelain artifacts. The armory is fascinating and filled with historic weapons and suits of armor. And the fact that the medieval gold and other items in the treasury and the majority of furnishings and artifacts there are original to the place make it all the more amazing!

Gift shop

There is a cute little gift shop right near the entrance gate. They have a selection of generic Medieval gift items like mini suits of armor and letter openers that look like swords. There are also some Eltz Castle touristy souvenirs, and postcards of all the photos you’re not allowed to take inside the castle. You can also buy German postcard stamps there.

Café

My only photo of the café turned out blurry because I was in too much of a hurry to dive into that cake! It was like eating a cloud!

There’s a charming little café on a stone terrace right next to the castle. Here you can soak in the Medieval splendor of the castle above you, and have a brotchen (a small sandwich on a fantastic roll) and cake. There is also beer and wine available. We visited twice – once after our tour for lunch, and then after climbing down to look at the river for wine and cake. If you’ve never had wine and cake at a fairytale castle in Germany, I highly recommend it!

Restrooms

There are very nice restroom facilities located right near the café, but I did not see any during the tour of the castle itself.

Trails

Many hiking trails weave through the surrounding landscape, and you can also just have fun checking out the immediate area where the trailheads start. There’s a lovely little river, stone stairs, stepping stones, and nice shallow clear water if you want to cool your feet off. People even sat down by the river on a picnic blanket to enjoy snacks and a bottle of wine.

Dog-Friendliness

Dogs are not allowed inside the castle, but are allowed on the trails surrounding it.

Weather and What to Wear

If you are planning to do some hiking while you’re visiting the castle, then a good sturdy walking shoe or soft hiking boot is a good idea. Inside the castle itself you will have some uneven cobblestones and stairs, so practical flats with good tread is the name of the game.

You can check the weather in Wierschem here to plan accordingly!


To learn about other amazing castles and castle ruins in southwest Germany check out these posts:

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