Top 15 Impressive Castles in Thuringia, Germany – Medieval to Renaissance

Castle Molsdorf in winter with water color frame

Thuringia in central Germany has tons of beautiful landscapes, monuments and especially castles. If you’re travelling the state, check out my list of both bigger and smaller castles in Thuringia. One thing is for sure: you won’t find tourist masses like in Castle Neuschwanstein. You might even have it all to yourself. So go capture your Thuringia castle!

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Top 15 Impressive Castles in Thuringia, Germany – Medieval to Renaissance

Quickfire Q&A

Where is Thuringia anyway?

Germany has 16 federal states and Thuringia is the one right in the heart of Germany. The region made up by Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia is known as Middle or Central Germany. It has a lot to offer but sadly isn’t on the radar of many tourists to Germany.

The state’s population numbers also aren’t on the impressive side. But by implication this also means that you can escape the business of popular tourist hotspots like Berlin or Munich and immerse yourself in nature with many a castle around.

How many castles does Thuringia have?

Thuringia is one of the states with the most castles, but I couldn’t find an exact number. One thing is for sure, there are tons! Wikipedia lists 315 and in the Kyffhauser region alone, there are at least 25.

Another thing you should know is that castles include proper medieval fortresses (“Burg”) as well as palaces, princely homes and manors (“Schloss”).

Over time, I am trying to cover many of these castles indivdually on this blog, so check in regularly and pin this post!

How do I get around Thuringia?

The best way to get around Germany is by car. This means you can get to villages, scenic outcrops, hikes and also historic buildings outside of towns with ease.

Public transport is generally well established but takes time. There are various train and intercity bus lines throughout the state, but to see many of the castles around Thuringia, you need to walk quite a bit from the stations.

Or get a taxi or go on a little hike. Click on the links inside the texts for more in-depth information on the places and my personal guide on how to get there.

Special Train tip

If you are taking the train to nearby cities, check here if you have the option to use either a “Hopper-Ticket Thüringen” or “VMT-Hopper-Ticket”. These special price tickets offered by train company Deutsche Bahn are a great deal and is flexible to use.

They cover distances up to 50 km, can be used from 9AM onwards. Buy at a local train ticket machine and then validate when you want to use it. One way currently costs 5.60 EUR and return is 9.10 EUR.


Medieval Wartburg in Eisenach

1) Wartburg, Eisenach

This might be the most famous castle in Thuringia. It’s where you can find the devil’s stain and see the bible Martin Luther worked on.

The medieval castle in Eisenach was the secret hideout of choice for the reformer. This way, he could hide away from the angry church and translate the Bible into German, so the public could read it too.

While doing so, legend says the devil himself appeared to derail him but Martin Luther threw his inkwell at him, leaving a permanent stain on the wall. The stain can be seen, though, to be honest, it’s so faint, I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at.

Throughout the year, there are many events taking place at the Wartburg, such as wonderful concerts in the historic theater/ball room. The setting is truly gorgeous. It’s possible to hike up to the castle from the train station or take a local bus.

Rococo Castle in Dornburg seen from the flower walks, Germany
Baroque Dornburg Castle

2) Dornburger Schlösser, Dornburg

If you’re visiting the three biggest cities in Thuringia, Erfurt, Jena and Weimar, it’s easy to stop by Dornburg.

Here, you won’t find just one castle but three and with a magnificent view over the valley. In spring especially, the surrounding gardens and shady walks in full bloom and at their most beautiful.

The grounds are free to visit and in the museum, you can admire excellent rococo styles and original furnishings. If you need more info, click through on my guide to the Dornburg Castles.

Leuchtenburg above Kahla in a snowy landscape
Leuchtenburg Castle

3) Leuchtenburg, Seitenroda

A very unique castle is the Castle Leuchtenburg near town Kahla, in Seitenroda. Here, you can see a unique museum dedicated to local porcelain history and smash some porcelain down past the castle walls. After all, Germans believe shards bring good luck (“Scherben bringen Glück”).

The castle is also a great place for experiencing one of the cozy castle Christmas markets in Thuringia’s castles. Just don’t expect snowy landscapes; that rarely happens. I was lucky I saw it once and am very proud of this photo I took.

main building at Belvedere Castle in Weimar
Belvedere in Weimar

4) Schloss Belvedere, Weimar

One of my personal favorites is Castle Belvedere a little outside of Weimar. It’s part of the massive park landscape and greenway leading all the way to Park Ilm in Weimar. (Which is a must during a visit to Weimar too.) The walk takes a few hours.

The English garden-style grounds are free to visit. If you want to take a closer look at fine porcelain, original furniture and stunning staterooms and Rococo museum, you can enter the Baroque summer palace.

You might even be serenaded with classical museum when entering Belvedere as the Weimar music school has buildings onsite.

Castle Ettersburg in Weimar
Castle Ettersburg

5) Schloss Ettersberg, Weimar

Only a stone’s throw away from Belvedere and Castle Tiefurt lies Ettersburg Castle. It was used a small but pretty summer residence for famous local Anna Amalia and served as the stage for plenty of outdoor theater performances to entertain the High Society.

Around the old wing and new palace buildings, you can pick trails for an idle stroll. One of the trails leading away from the star pattern at the foot of the castle goes straight to former concentration camp Buchenwald.

half-timbered details on stone tower of Burgk Castle
Burgk Castle

6) Schloss Burgk, Burgk

How funny is this name? Schloss is German for “palace” and Burg means “castle”. So this Thuringian castle basically is called Palace Castle.

That aside, it makes for a great day trip! Burgk is a well preserved castle erected in the 14th century. It boasts beautiful half-timbered architectural features, a tall stone bridge across the deep moat and overlooks a gorgeous damned lake.

Walk along the cliff ridge and you’ll enter a dreamy Baroque garden. Don’t overlook this. Afterwards, you can totally go for a hike after your castle exploration.

Inside the castle you can visit the museum or attend various events, such as chamber music concerts, markets or exhibitions. If you want, you can even get married here.

Lobdeburg Castle in Jena in a snowy landscape
Lobdeburg Castle

7) Lobdeburg, Jena

Not to toot my hometown’s horn but… we have three castles that fall under the name Lobdeburg. The family of Lobdeburg had three residences built in the city of Jena, two of which remain. There is smaller “town castle” in the neighborhood of Altlobeda, which you can see from the outside.

Up on the mountain, above the local restaurant, you can find the most prominent ruin, which can be seen from afar. And in turn, you can see the far-off Castle Leuchtenburg in the distance as well.

Hunting Castle Hummelshain with stag statue in Thuringia, Germany
Hummelshain

8) Neues Jagdschloss Hummelshain

Small but oh my (“Klein aber fein” in German) is the New Hunting Castle in Hummelshain. To me there does seem to be quite the stylistic resemblance to Peles Castle in Romania.

Fun fact 1: Peles Castle was inspired by German castles as the then King was German. Fun Fact 2: The four towers were inspired by the bridge tower in Prague.

The castle is a compact mansion with slightly over-the-top Neo Gothic and Neo Renaissance elements. It’s a typical example of the Historism style of architecture history, which was prevalent during its construction in 1880.

Walking around the private castle grounds is free and open from 10 AM to 4 PM. Note that you cannot enter the dilapidated neighboring houses and barracks. To go inside the castle and even climb a tower, you need to arrange a tour in advance.

view over to Castle Kochberg on a cloudy summer day in Germany
Kochberg Castle

9) Schloss Kochberg, Uhlstädt-Kirchhasel

Visiting Castle Kochberg has become a late spring tradition for me. The white water castle sits snug in a shady area framed by fragrant flower beds, ornamental walkways and shady forest paths, intercepted by a canal system and quiet pond.

It also houses a museum as well as a theater. In winter, there’s a Christmas market set up over one weekend.

Altenburg Cathedral and Castle seen from below
Altenburg

10) Residenzschloss Altenburg

You might recognize Residence Castle Altenburg from my suggestions for day trips around Dresden. But of course, I have to mention it as one of the must see castles in central Germany.

The town Altenburg might be a bit sleepy but it has a pretty old core with historic houses, which you can explore before walking up to the castle.

Way before it was a castle, the outcrop housed an old Slavic rampart, which was fortified in the 12th century.

Nowadays, you can enter the castle as part of museums featuring ducal rooms from the 17th to 20th century as well as the playing card museum. After all, the game skat was developed in Altenburg!

inner yard of Gotha's Friedensburg Castle
Friedensburg Castle

11) Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha

The castle in Gotha is easy enough to reach. It’s located right in the center of the Old Town, there’s a train station and a nice park around for an easy stroll. But what makes the baroque castle Friedenstein so special is its architecture.

After entering through the massive wooden door, you will be stunned by the symmetry with arched walkways framing the vast courtyard of the white palace.

Fun fact: The castle was build upon another castle, which was demolished in 1567, and it’s the largest 17th century palace in Germany.

There are constantly changing exhibitions as well as the permanent castle museum with stately historic rooms.

Castle Molsdorf in Erfurt covered in snow
Castle Molsdorf

12) Schloss Molsdorf, Erfurt

Not big but extremely beautiful, Castle Mosldorf in Erfurt city will leave you utterly enchanted. No wonder it’s seen as one of the most gorgeous Baroque castles in Thuringia state!

The compact castle is painted in a pastel yellow with deep reds framing the ornamental windows and doorways. There is so much intricate details and a romantic park landscape to boot.

Inside Molsdorf Castle, you can admire the paintings by Otto Knöpfer, a local artist who lived and painted rural images in the 20th century.

Heidecksburg Castle seen from Rudolstadt center
Heidecksburg Castle

13) Schloss Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt

You cannot possibly miss castle Heidecksburg in the town of Rudolstadt as it sits high and overlooks the town. It used to be the residence of Prince von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt.

Here too, the castle was built on the site of another castle, this time from the 13th century. The original castle was destroyed in the Thuringian Counts’ War in 1345.

The ‘new’ castle was built in a typical Renaissance style by a Dutch architect but then burned down in 1735 and was rebuilt with a Baroque touch.

Nowadays, there’s a museum inside and the baroque ballroom is extremely grand with its painted ceiling, massive chandeliers and ornamental niches and decorations.

close up of Castle Altenstein in Thuringia on a sunny day
Castle Altenstein

14) Altenstein, Bad Liebenstein

It’s called a castle but it was more a mansion and summer residence than a classic palace. (The original medieval castle no longer stands.) It’s totally worth a visit nonetheless, not just because of its beautiful English-style design but also the picturesque grounds.

The park of castle Altenstein measures 160 hectares and thus one of Germany’s largest park landscapes. Do walk around and spot the Romantic ruins around the fringes of the Thuringian Forest.

There are hiking opportunities around (like this circular hike) and you can get onto the Lutherweg or Rennsteig, which are two popular German hiking trails.

inside the white Castle Church of Wilhelmsburg in Schmalkalden, Germany
Church in Wilhelmsburg

15) Schloss Wilhelmsburg, Schmalkalden

The romantic town of Schmalkalden is a perfect example for medieval architecture. Roam the quiet cobblestone streets and look up.

There are many colorful half-timbered houses around with wonderful details here and there. Luther too visited the town and you can see the house, where he stayed.

The central attraction of Schmalkalden, however, is its castle. Wilhelmsburg used to be the residence of the landgrave of Hesse. What makes the castle so special are two things.

One, it has been basically unchanged overtime and can still be seen in its original Renaissance conception.

Two, as part of a visit to the castle museum, you get to enter the castle church, which might be the prettiest tiny church you’ve ever seen. It’s entirely white with golden details and there are multiple levels to look down into the hall from.

More travel tips for Germany below

Top 15 Impressive Castles in Thuringia, Germany – Medieval to Renaissance
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