Who said swashbuckling knights and pampered princesses only exist between the pages of a storybook? Experience 5 real-life fairy tale backdrops with our round-up of castles, keeps and forests in the not-so-faraway lands of Germany’s Rhineland Palatinate…
Set in a forested valley above the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier, Eltz Castle’s fairy tale appeal runs so deep that you half expect to stumble upon Sleeping Beauty catching 40 winks or Rumpelstiltskin spinning a bale of gold in the attic.
The castle dates back to 1157, the heyday of shining armour and noble conquests and takes its name from the stream that runs past the castle into the surrounding valleys.
The good news is you don’t need a title or tiara to step inside and wander its hallowed halls. The castle is open to the public, with 45-minute tours taking you through the fortified quarters of the current Eltz family. The living and sleeping areas, the knights hall, the hunting room and the kitchen have all been preserved and furnished with authentic, original pieces. There’s even an actual vault containing medieval era treasures as well as many precious objects crafted by goldsmiths of the day.
Eltz castle is is open daily From 1st April to 1st November. For further information see Burg Eltz.
Perched high above the town of Braubach and looking for all the world like the Rhine’s crowning glory, Marksburg is the only medieval castle in the Rhineland Palatinate that has never been destroyed by wars or battles. Dating back to 1117, it wears this badge of honour with pride alongside its UNESCO Rhine Gorge World Heritage status.
With a keep that rises to a height of 40 metres, not even the fiercest, fieriest of dragons would have a hope…
Marksburg Castle is open all year round, from 10 am to 5 pm (11 am to 4 pm from 5th November to 15th March). In summer months there are English guided tours everyday between 12 noon and 4 pm.
Admission is €6 for adults, €5 for students, and €4 for children.
Breadcrumbs at the ready: you’re going to need a pretty strong game plan in place before you go strolling the cobbled lane-ways of this medieval town, especially it you’re following the trail of the ‘Bernkasteler Doctor.’
Legend has it that back in the 14th century, a local bigwig known as the Elector of Trier Boemund II, suffered a serious fever and searched far and wide to find a cure. Just when he had all but given up, a mysterious old winegrower showed up on his doorstep with a keg of his finest vintage. As soon as the Elector took a sip of the wine, he was miraculously cured. To celebrate his return to good health, he awarded the vineyard the honour of the title “Bernkasteler Doctor”.
Today, visitors to BernKastel-Kues can commemorate the event by taking a 90-minute walking tour through the old town with a guide dressed in full period costume.
Tours include two glasses of Bernkasteler Doctor wine and cost €9. For further information see bernkastel.de
With its half-timbered houses and Cinderella-style castle on a hill, all that’s missing from the thoroughly wholesome looking Cochem is the flutter of animated bluebirds. Located in one of the most spectacular parts of the Moselle Valley, Cochem has been charming travellers since Roman times.
Incidentally, the most generous gift left by the Romans was wine and it’s still produced on the sun-drenched slopes of the Rhineland Palatinate to this day.
Whether wine influenced the whimsical design of Cochem’s Reichsburg castle is anyone’s guess but the results are certainly something spectacular to behold. If you get the chance, time your visit to coincide with the resident falconer releasing his bird of prey or take a tour through the town with the castle’s night watch man. It’s pure theatre.
For tours and details on visiting the castle, see Burg Cochem’s official website.
Swap glass slippers for a sturdy pair of hiking boots and take on the 143km challenge of the Palatinate Forest trail through unspoilt woodland and rugged rock formations.
Most people begin the trek at Kaiserslautern and cover nine stages, taking a pitstop at Berwartstein Castle – the epitome of a fairytale castle, where they still welcome weary travellers with medieval banquets. Conveniently, the trail ends at the German Wine Gate in Schweigen, the ideal spot to raise a glass of the local Riesling.
For further information on Palatinate hiking trails see the Romantic Germany website.
Frankfurt-Hahn airport is the gateway to the Rhineland Palatinate. The area is known as the ‘romantic region’ due to its abundance of castles, palaces and medieval towns. It is also famous for its wine and is an extremely popular destination for hiking tours and bike holidays.
Flights to Germany
- Fiona Hilliard