From a fairytale palace towering over the Rhine River to one of Germany’s oldest forts, there are a number of impressive medieval castles to explore outside Frankfurt and they each make for a great day trip destination. Here are a few of the best.
With a history dating back to 1226, the imposing stone ruins of Greifenstein Castle rank among Germany’s oldest fortresses, and the once-mighty stronghold is still remarkably preserved. Now a National Historical Landmark, visitors can explore the 12th-century torture chambers, wine cellars and herb gardens, climb the towers and marvel at the unique German Bell Museum.
With its majestic turrets, stone-brick towers and dramatic entry bridge, Eltz Castle is a residence fit for royalty, and it’s been the home of the Counts of Eltz ever since the 12th century. Perched atop a 70-meter cliff and surrounded by dense woodlands, the journey to the castle is as jaw-dropping as the lavish interiors, and visitors can tour the period-style rooms, including an armory room, a hunting room and the medieval kitchens.
Standing watch over the city from its hilltop perch, the striking pink sandstone facade of Heidelberg Castle is a romantic sight, framed by forested slopes. The most photogenic viewpoint is looking out over the Old Bridge across the Rhine, but it's worth riding the funicular to the top too, where you can admire the 13th-century Gothic-Renaissance ruins, stroll through the castle gardens and view the legendary Heidelberg Tun, the world’s largest wine barrel.
Built as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Bavaria in the 18th century on the site of a medieval moated castle, Schwetzingen Castle is lavishly decorated with original furnishings and features an exquisite Rococo theater. The palace is most renowned for its stunning Baroque-style gardens, which include a formal French garden, an English-style park, a monumental mosque and Turkish garden, plus a vast series of sculptures.