A trip to Germany means a journey to a castle, especially when traveling with teens. and there are no shortage of great towering hillside castles to choose from. Each has its own unique story, and some combine centuries of family feuds, war battles, or religious refuge. Rated one of the most beautiful castles, Burg Eltz was on the list of must-see castles for our family.
A quick reference point but not always clear cut: typically “burg” is a castle designed for defense and “schloss” is a palace with accompanying gardens. However, as we discover more German castles, it’s not always black or white.
After Neuschwanstein, Burg Eltz (or Eltz Castle) has that similar fairytale medieval castle feel. Even better, the castle was never destroyed and has remained under the same family ownership since it was built. But there are a few things to know before you head out to Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate region for the adventure.
Want a Castle to Survive Centuries? Build it on a Forested Mountain
Unlike other castles perched on top of hills in cities, Burg Eltz sits in the middle of nowhere — no rivers (the Moselle isn’t too far away), no cities, no vineyards. In fact, to get to the castle, we had to drive along a small road for a while and hike through the lovely surrounding forests.
After listening to our tour guide boast about the castle surviving more than 850 years of tumultuous history, we realized it likely still stands intact because no one wanted it. Why? Because there’s nothing nearby. No river, no major city. It’s literally in the middle of no where and has no obvious strategic value.
Wander Through the Woods to the Castle
It’s not possible to drive directly up to the castle so there are two options for getting there from the parking lot. Option one: park the car and take the shuttle bus to the front entrance to the castle. Option two: our choice, park the car and walk the 1.2 km path to the castle. It’s a lovely and easy walk for all abilities, and when rounding the last corner, BAM!, there is the castle. It’s impressive going that route, and it really does look like something from Harry Potter. If you have Potter fans, this is one location to enjoy.
To Visit Inside, You Must Take The Tour
The only way to see inside the castle is with a 40-minute tour. Depending on the season, the tours run almost every hour and English tours are available as well. My recommendation is to call/email ahead and make sure there are tours in the language you prefer. Expect to shuffle through the castle going up and down various staircases. The castle is not very big, but the guide will squeeze the tour group through a few dining rooms, bedrooms with toilets (always a favorite on any castle tour), and a great big kitchen. The castle interior is certainly not grand like the Bavarian castles, but each room reflects the history of Rhineland-Palatinate region.
Depending on the tour time, pop into the treasury while waiting for the tour to begin or visit it afterwards. It’s included in the ticket price with entry and the tour. It’s small museum with collection on armory, weapons, jewelry, dishes, etc.
Explore Other Areas to Visit Nearby
While Burg Eltz is not part of a town, there are other places to round out a trip. From Frankfurt, the castle is about two hours by car and about the same from Köln. Expect to spent approximately two and a half hours touring Burg Eltz and the paths around it. In all honesty, there isn’t much to do besides the castle itself. If enroute from Trier or Koblenz this may be a good stop, but it was a lot of driving for not a lot of activities.
After a little more research I found a few other places which might be tacked onto a trip to Burg Eltz. Nearby Burg Thurant provides a different perspective on “burg” with full-on castle ruins and gardens. The city of Cochem, which is directly on the Moselle, also has a castle that might round out the day.
Also, not too far away is the Geierlay Suspension Bridge, which is the largest suspension bridge (360 meters) in Germany. I don’t think we’d make an extra trip out that way for the just the bridge but in hindsight, I wish we had researched other things to do in the area while out there.
Food options are limited at the castle. There is a restaurant with typical German food and on a nice day would be worth sitting for a coffee. On the guidance of a friend, we packed a picnic. There are plenty of lovely spots around the castle and down the hill near the creek to picnic. Do keep in mind the hike from the car and the size of the picnic basket.
Overall, I’m glad we made the journey to see this castle but with a caveat–the four hours of driving for the brief visit didn’t seem worth the effort. I believe we spent more time driving than actually at the castle. In retrospect, I should have researched a few other places in the area to visit.
Interior photos via Burg Eltz