The west-central German state of Hesse is not only known for beautiful and widely diverse cities, but a series of stunning castles, palaces and fortresses. In Hesse, you can visit castles that look like they belong to fairy tale books, and one that actually inspired fairy tales. From magnificent castle ruins to princely architecture, let’s go on a castle tour across Hesse.
Frankenstein Castle might have never been inspiration for a Disney castle, but it will certainly appeal to your sense of mystery, as its crumbling walls hide behind them a plethora of myths and legends. This castle is strongly believed to have been the inspiration behind the novel Frankenstein. It might sound easier to believe once you find out a mysterious alchemist named John Conrad Dippel, born in this castle in 1673, used to experiment on dead bodies. If that’s not spooky enough, ask a guide about the dragon who lived in the castle courtyard.
At first glance, you might think Marburger Schloss (also known as Landgrafenschloss Marburg) has been pinched right from a fairy tale. Well, you wouldn’t be too wrong, as this achingly romantic castle actually inspired several of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales that children across the world grow up on. The castle houses the University Museum for Cultural History.
The princely Schloss Philippsruhe graces the bank of the River Main in the town of Hanau. Built in 1701, this palace still stuns visitors with its beautiful Baroque architecture and its many exhibits, including original medieval furniture, fittings, pottery and paintings, telling the story of Hanau’s past and culture. The verdant parkland surrounding Schloss Philippsruhe is a wonderful spot to enjoy the sun and great views.
Löwenburg Castle, built between 1793 and 1801, is a mock-medieval ruin (a structure that is deliberately made to look ancient and crumbling). This sprawling castle is so picturesque, you’ll find yourself waiting for a knight to come galloping out of its majestic gates. The UNESCO-listed Bergpark, within which the castle is located, adds volumes to this place’s beauty. On a tour through it, you can expect to see stately living quarters done up with historic furniture, furnishings and a whole lot of artifacts.
Kransberg Castle adds distinction to the small village of Kransberg that would otherwise go largely unnoticed. This medieval castle, built in 1170, has a history of being used as a military base during World War II and the Cold War. The castle, sitting in the midst of lush greenery, looks out towards the village from atop a steep rock in the Taunus Mountains, making for an immensely scenic setting. The castle offers public tours and is also a very popular venue for weddings and events.
Kronberg Castle, built between 1220 and 1230, sits at the foothills of the Taunus Mountains, wrapped by dense forests on both sides. If you wish to learn in depth about the interesting past of the castle, and see for yourself how the lords and knights once lived here, sign up for a guided tour. Popular exhibits in the palace include a replica of a Kronberg knight’s armour and a medieval kitchen with original fittings.
Schloss Braunfels sits like a majestic crown at a height of 100 metres (328 feet) over the Lahn Valley. The first mention of this castle can be traced back to 1246, however the castle achieved its current look several refurbishments later, at the beginning of the 20th century. In the course of a 50-minute guided tour, you walk through an elegant courtyard and stately rooms, see ancient armaments in the Knight’s Hall, visit a gallery of priceless artwork and see heavy, bronze canons from the 16th century.
Ehrenfels Castle is much in ruins, but that’s probably what contributes the most to the palpable air of romance shrouding it. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the castle is perched above the gorgeous Rhine Gorge, atop steep vineyards. This 806-year-old castle provides for a great backdrop for your holiday photos from a Rhine cruise ship. If you want to see it from up close, hit the meandering hiking trails from Rüdesheim up the steep vineyards.
Auerbach Castle was commissioned by King Charlemagne (742–814), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and preserves thousands of years of history behind its walls. Though much of the fortress is in ruins, the triangular shape of the fortification and thick walls have been maintained in an almost-original condition. The castle hosts events and tournaments, and visitors are welcome to explore parts of it.