Forts, Castles & Palaces in Germany

From defensive burgs to the Schlösser of medieval times and later, Germany has an extraordinary collection of fortresses, castles and palaces. Perhaps not surprising given the nation is made up of what was until the 19th century a number of independent princely states. Each with their own lords and nobles, royals and dynasties, and each requiring their own imposing, luxurious residences and palaces. Many of these historic buildings are attractions in their own right. Others, following extensive restoration, many have been transformed into museums and art galleries.

Albrechtsburg Castle, Meissen

Accepted by some as Germany’s oldest palace, this Gothic and Renaissance castle, and the site on which it was constructed overlooking the Elbe River, has had a long history. The first fortress was built in 929 for Henry 1, Duke of Saxony. And it was here in 1471 that brothers Ernest and Albrecht, both Dukes of Saxony, built their residential palace and administrative centre. Although they never used it as such. The Gothic masterpiece became a porcelain factory and in 1863 a museum. Innovative displays give insight into the castle’s complex history.

Castle outside Husum

Construction on Schloss Vor Husum began in 1577 on the site of a Franciscan monastery. It was built for Adolf I, the first Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf. At this time the castle was situated just beyond the town gate, hence its name. Just as this part of Schleswig-Holstein has changed hands between the Germans and the Danes, so too the castle has changed its role, from a ducal house to a royal residence for the Danish royal family. In May the park that surrounds the castle is a popular local attraction for the crocus blooms.

Charlottenburg Palace

With origins in the Baroque period and additions made until the 19th century, Schloss Charlottenburg is the largest palace in Berlin. This was the residence and ceremonial seat for Brandenburg electors, Prussian kings and German emperors. The palace was severely damaged in 1943, and it was feared that the ruins would have to be demolished. Rebuilding was completed in 1970 and soon after it was opened to the public and is now one of Berlin’s major attractions. The palace chapel and the bedchamber of Frederick I, faithful to the originals, are among the highlights of many visits.

Ellwangen Castle & Museum

From about 1460 CE the castle of Zllwangen served as the residence of the Prince-provosts. Although the castle was remodelled in a Baroque style around 1726, visitors to the castle can still see evidence of its earlier architectural grandeur. Today the castle is administrated by the State of Baden-Württemberg, and it hosts a museum with permanent exhibitions that comprise spectacular objects from over 1,200 years of the building’s history and influence in the region.

Hohenzollern Castle

On the edge of the Swabian Alps atop Mount Hohenzollern, Hohenzollern Castle has breathtaking views. The current castle, built in Gothic revival style between 1846 and 1867, is the third castle to have been built here. Since the 11th century this has been the ancestral home of the House of Hohernzollern, specifically the Swabian branch of the family. Besides being able to tour historic rooms, a number of artefacts from the Prussian royal family are on display, including the Crown of Wilhelm II.


Built in 1663, but remodelled and renovated many times since, the Crown Prince’s Palace has been home to many members of the Prussian Royal family. The last Emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II, was born here on 27 January 1859. After the dissolution of the German monarchy, in 1919 the palace became part of the National Gallery, where it showcased Modern Art until ordered to be “cleansed” of it by Hitler. The palace was heavily destroyed during the Allied bombing of Berlin, but again restored. On 31 August 1990 the palace hosted the signing of the German Unification Agreement.


In the centre of the East Frisian town of Pewsum is a small moated castle, the origins of which date back to 1458. Once the seat of the Manninga family, in 1565 the castle was sold to Count Edzard II, an East Frisian Lord. The castle was substantially rebuilt, but the ravages of time and repair costs took their toll. Today only the first floor of the castle remains with a small courtyard, a wide moat and the gatehouse. The castle houses a museum inside to the East Frisian lord and the history of the castle.

Schloss Boitzenburg

This late 19th century neo-Renaissance castle has had a chequered past. Today it is a children’s and youth hotel, but before this it was a convalescent home for the National People’s Army of former East Germany. For much of its history the castle was the ancestral seat of the von Arnim family, who were responsible for the building we see today. Earliest mention of a castle on this site dates to 1276. But the land and the castle has changed hands many times, with successive owners building a new castle.

Schwerin Castle

Set on a small island in Lake Schwerin, Schwerin residential palace is one of the most important examples of Romantic architecture in Germany. The spectacular neoclassical castle was built in the mid 19th century on the foundations of Slavic fortress dating back to the 10th century, and later buildings from the 16th and 17th century. This was the residence for the Dukes of Mecklenburg, and the beautifully restored stately rooms (including the sumptuous Throne Room) are open to the public. Today Schloss Schwerin houses a museum as well as the State Parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Wilhelmshöhe Palace

The 18th century Neoclassical palace was built for Landgrave Wilhelm IX of Hesse. It replaced an earlier 17th century, which itself replaced an earlier castle that had been fashioned out of a 12th century monastery. Today the palace houses an Old Masters Gallery, a collection of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, and a collection of over 60,000 prints and drawings. The palace is part of the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe UNESCO World Heritage site.

Zabeltitz Baroque Palace

In 1728 extensive remodelling of an earlier residential castle was carried out for the Imperial Count of Wackerbarth by a well-known builder Johann Christoph Knöffel. Prior to the castle, a medieval moated fort stood here, having been built to protect a salt road. Today the palace is also known for its French inspired Baroque garden, one of the most important historic parks in Saxony. A permanent exhibition inside the palace gives visitors the history of the palace and gardens.