3-in-1: Visiting the Dornburg Castle for Views, History & A living Queen

Dornburg Castle, Germany, with water color frame

Overlooking the gorgeous Saale valley from a height of about 90 meters (0.06 miles) and framed by fragrant flower gardens, the Dornburg Castle is a special gem in central Germany. But it’s not just one castle, it’s actually three and from different eras, featuring the respective architectural styles. Here’s how to meet the resident Queen and what to expect from the castles.

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3-in-1: Visiting the Dornburg Castle for Views, History & A living Queen

Where is Dornburg Castle and how do I get there?

You can find the three castles of Dornburg in the town of Dornburg-Camburg in the central German state Thuringia.

It’s within easy driving distance of the city Jena and can be reached within 20 minutes from there. Here are some more driving distances:

  • Weimar to Dornburg: 36 min, 19.26 miles/31km
  • Erfurt to Dornburg: 55min, 36miles/58km
  • Leipzig to Dornburg: 70 min, 56 miles/90km
  • Bamberg to Dornburg: 2h, 120 miles/193km

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Public Transport

There’s a small train station in town and it can be reached via regional trains. However, you would still need to make your way up the hill. You could take a taxi as no buses are driving up.

There’s a walking path up the hill so you don’t have to walk next to the road (which would be very dangerous).

Alternatively, there are intercity buses leaving from Jena to Dornburg. You can download the timetable for  bus 442 and 424 as the buses don’t even leave hourly. Make sure you check the last bus to not get stuck in the small town.

Need some help figuring out travel through Germany? Click through to my guides on train travel (or domestic bus travel).

How do I pronounce Dornburg?

Is a visit free?

The castle grounds and its beautiful gardens and walks are free to visit. You can see all three castle buildings and walk around them. To access the main, rococo building, you need to pay the museum entrance fee. it’s free for kids and school children.

It’s open only from April to October on all days except Wednesdays. If you visit under the week, your chances of having it to yourself are pretty good.

Key Information

  • Opening times castle: 10AM to 5PM (Thu-Tues), April to October.
  • Opening times gardens: 9AM to sunset, year round
  • Guided tour by appointment (German, English, French)
  • Entrance fee both castles: 6 EUR/6.7 USD (reduced 4 EUR/4.5 USD), free for kids up to 16 years
  • Entrance fee one castle: 3.5 EUR/4 USD (reduced 2.5 EUR/2.8 USD), free for kids up to 16 years
  • 200 parking spots for cars
  • Website

What makes the castles special?

First and foremost, the location is an absolute winner. No wonder it’s known as “Thuringia’s balcony”. Towering at about 90 meters above the Saale river below and right on the mountain edge, you can enjoy a pretty epic view.

One of the paths will lead you right along the edge with the best views, past all three castles.  You can see over the town Dornburg below and gaze around the vinyards beneath the castles.

Second, it’s pretty cool that you get to see not just one but three castles. That’s unique among Thuringian castles and German castles in general.

The Old Castle (Altes Schloss) dates back to the early 12th century and was part of a former medieval fortification. It’s now the northernmost and most simple castle. In the middle and the stunning centerpiece is the Rococo Castle (Rokokoschloss) from the early 18th century.

The last is the southernmost castle in white and typical Renaissance style (Renaissanceschloss), built in the 17th century.

One of the most prominent visitors and lovers of Dornburg Castle is the famous German poet, jack-of-all-trades and man-about-town Goethe. He frequented the gorgeous site multiple times to study botany and mentioned it in his diaries.

Last but not least, if you visit Dornburg during Rose Festival in June, you can see the castles in their most wonderful form. And see the coronation of the local Rose Queen! That’s the town’s most important event of the year and draws the crowds.

Fun fact: the local festival was first recorded in 1873, so it’s nearly 150 years old! Back then, it started as a celebration of the 55th birthday of Grand Duke Carl Alexander of Saxony-Weimar and Eisenach.

On his birthday, all his citizens were given presents. And he in turn was presented beautiful roses by the town’s most beautiful maiden.

The second noteworthy event every year is the Dornburg Castle Night (“Dornburger Schlössernacht“) in August with lots of artists on several stages in the romantically illuminated gardens and an impressive midnight firework. 2020 marks its 10-year anniversary.

What is the best time to visit?

Of course, the most important season is spring and the best date would be the weekend of the Rose Festival. Double check via mail for changes, but it coincides with the old-timer and classic car event. Entrance is 10 EUR (11.14 USD).

Should you not be able to come visit for this, worry not. It’s a gorgeous destination throughout spring and summer, especially on sunny days. In autumn, you can enjoy the colourful trees around, only in winter does it get a tad dreary and the museum is closed as well.

Should you visit in winter, you can check out the local Christmas market in town. Sadly, it doesn’t take place in the castle. There are, however, Christmas markets in Castles around Thuringia if you’d like to experience those. I’ve also got more tips on what to do in winter in the region.

More gorgeous gardens in the region are the park of Castle Kochberg, the Japanese Garden in Bad Langensalza and the Weissensee Chinese Garden.

What is there to see?

Gardens

Like the castles, the grounds are diverse as well. Around the rococo castle, the garden likewise is typical high baroque in its style and symmetry. There are ornamental statues with a beautiful rose tunnel.

Around the Renaissance castle, the park landscape is more natural. The country park features shady walks next to grassy areas. Take a path straying off and find yourself in a hidden nook wit ha bench, which is perfect for reading or hiding away.

Next to the oldest castle are smaller herbal and vegetable patches, with rhubarb, lavender, marjoram, rue and horseradish, as well as a few apple trees in the yard.

rose walk at Dornburg Castles, Germany
rose walk

The Museum Castle

The historic rococo-style castle has been well preserved. Inside, you can see its main purposes reflected: rooms for mingling, feasting and living.

The central ballroom features colorful stucco marble and ceiling decorations and the living room exhibits the original furniture with classicist walls.

The feasting room in the lower floors is decorated in blue and white, channeling classic porcelain, which is also laid out. (For more porcelain-related castles, visit the Leuchtenburg near Kahla.)

Restaurant

If you want to enjoy a meal or cake or ice cream desserts, you can do so at the restaurant at the southern edge of the castle grounds. It’s called Restaurant and Pension Schlossberg and you can book a stay overnight here.

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3-in-1: Visiting the Dornburg Castle for Views, History & A living Queen
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