If you ever find yourself on a Rhein (Rhine) River cruise in the Middle Rhine, you’ll spot plenty of castles along the way. This post features 11 castles that I spotted during the cruise from Rüdesheim am Rhein to St. Goarshausen, as well as four castles on the same route that I missed.
Burg Klopp (Castle)
Possibly built on Roman fortifications, this medieval castle – along with Burg Ehrenfels – had been used as a toll station until it was destroyed by French troops in 1689. Only the bergfried (tall tower), the moat, and part of the walls remained. The bergfried was rebuilt in the late 19th Century and a Gothic building was added between 1875-79. Today the Gothic building houses the city council.
Brömserburg / Niederburg (Castle)
Once owned by the Archbishops of Mainz from the 10th to the 19th Century, Brömserburg is now the Wine Museum of Rheingau. (It appears to be temporarily closed?)
Not a castle but this timber-framed medieval residence behind the Brömserburg Castle was a residence of the aristocratic Brömsers. Today it houses Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet (Museum).
Burg Ehrenfels (Castle)
This castle ruin dating back to the 13th Century also served as a toll station before it was destroyed in 1689 by French troops. Although the ruins are closed to the public, there might be private guided tours available.
Burg Rheinstein (Castle)
Dating back to the 10th Century, Rheinstein features a drawbridge, portcullis, chapel, crypt, tower, and a knight’s hall! It was bought in the 19th Century and rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style by Prince Frederick of Prussia and it became his favourite residence. Historical special guests include Queen Victoria and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia. The castle is open from March-November.
Burg Reichenstein (Castle) / Falkenburg
This castle museum was first built in the 11th Century and destroyed in 1253 and again in 1282. The castle was rebuilt in the 19th Century in the neo-Gothic style. Today, the castle is open to visitors from February-December.
Burg Sooneck (Castle)
Built around the 11th Century, this castle was destroyed many times until the 19th Century when Friedrich Wilhelm IV turned it into his hunting ‘lodge’ in 1842. Today the castle is open year round to visitors by guided tour.
Burg Heimburg (Castle)
Built in 1294, Heimburg eventually fell into disrepair before it was destroyed by French troops in 1689. It was later rebuilt in the 19th Century. It is not open to the public.
Burg Fürstenberg (Castle)
Fürstenberg Castle was built in 1219 for the Bishop of Cologne as a toll station and was also destroyed in the 17th Century. The castle ruin is privately owned today and is not open to the public.
Schloss Stahleck (Castle)
If staying at a castle is your dream but a hotel is just a tad too expensive, this youth hostel (Hostelling International) is the key to your dream come true! Built in the early 12th Century, this castle has changed hands quite a few times: it had once belonged to the diocese of Cologne before it was acquired by Kaiser (Emperor) Barbarossa for his brother, and was later acquired by the House of Wittelsbach from Bavaria! Like many castles along the Rhein, it was blown up by the French troops in 1689. In the early and mid-20th Century, the castle was reconstructed and eventually turned into a hostel.
Schloss Pfalzgrafenstein (Castle) & Schloss Gutenfels (Castle)
Pfalzgrafenstein, the mini castle in the middle of the river, was built in 1327 and served as a toll station until 1866. Interestingly enough, this castle was never destroyed. Cruise travellers can visit the castle from January-November.
In the backdrop, you can see Schloss Gutenfels, dating back to 1257. It had been a castle of the Electors of Palatinate. It was rebuilt between 1889-92 and is now a hotel.
Another castle turned hotel, Schloss Schönburg is as charming inside as it is on the outside (albeit my photo doesn’t do it any justice). Dating back to the mid-12th Century, the castle was destroyed in 1689 but rebuilt in 1885. There is a Tower Museum offering a panoramic view of the Rhine Valley.
The Loreley / Die Lorelei
“Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr gold’nes Geschmeide blitzet,
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
“The loveliest maiden is sitting
Up there, so wondrously fair;
Her golden jewelry is glist’ning;
And sings a song, passing time.
It has a most wondrous, appealing
And pow’rful melodic rhyme.”
Not a castle but this impressive slate rock is the main sight of the river cruise. Immortalised as the infamous and beauteous Lorelei by Heinrich Heine, the siren who sent many a poor seaman to the bottom of the Rhein, this rock is known as the ‘murmuring’ rock (muted these days thanks to urbanisation) and stands 433 ft high.
“Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe,
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.
Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn,
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen,
Die Loreley getan.”
“The boatman aboard his small skiff, –
Enraptured with a wild ache,
Has no eye for the jagged cliff, –
His thoughts on the heights fear forsake.
I think that the waves will devour
Both boat and man, by and by,
And that, with her dulcet-voiced power
Was done by the Loreley.”
Don’t worry, the siren has no power over today’s boats so you’re highly unlikely to find yourself shipwrecked and drowned.
Built in 1245, the castle began as the residence of the counts of Katzenelnbogen. Two centuries later, the castle became a fortress in 1479. Although it survived Louis XIV’s troops in 1692, it was not so lucky in 1794 when it was blown up by the French Revolutionary Army. Today, the castle is a museum (open from March-November), hotel, wellness centre, and restaurant.
Burg Katz (Castle)
The ‘cat castle’ was built in the 14th Century for the Count of Katzenelnbogen as a military base to protect Rheinfels Castle. Unfortunately, both the castle and [Rheinfels] fortress were destroyed many times and finally blown up by Napoleon’s army in 1806. In 1896, the castle was rebuilt in its original design and in 1989, the castle was acquired by a Japanese who turned it into a hotel.
For a list of other castles you can visit, these links have maps and more details on each castle:
I will need to take a holiday there someday. I’ve been to the Loreley on a daytrip and also remember seeing a bunch of castles from rather far away but I bet many of them are very worth discovering up-close.
It’s certainly worth it for the castles, nature, and wine!