Burg Eltz in the Moselle Valley

Burg Eltz, Germany’s Most Enchanting Fairy-Tale Castle

Ok, we get it.  Some of you loyal readers are perhaps getting a bit tired of seeing our posts about one German castle after another. But we ask you to bear with us for one more castle – just one more! Perhaps you’re planning your first trip to Germany and are trying to prioritize what sites to see.  Or maybe you’ve been before and love visiting castles.  If that’s the case, you might already be familiar with Burg Eltz, but on the off chance you’re not, we think it’s worth seeing – even if you’ve already toured 100 other castles in Germany.

Burg Eltz in the Moselle Valley
Burg Eltz is visible from the main overlook on the road down to the castle.

For the past 850 years, Eltz Castle has nestled on a small hill in Germany’s Moselle River Valley.  The locals proudly proclaim Eltz is the second most famous castle in Germany, second only to Neuschwanstein in southern Germany.  After visiting, we can see why!

Two main routes to the castle start from the public parking area, so visitors can hike a loop for different views of the castle.

The castle is truly like something straight out of a German fairy-tale. Narrow gabled turrets tilt precariously over the hillside below.  The shiny stretch of the Elzbach River curls around the base of the castle’s relatively small earthen foundation.  A narrow, cobblestone road leads over an arched entryway, serving in lieu of a drawbridge. Thick green forests blanket the surrounding slopes.  Further up the hill, the road to the castle has long since been paved but remains closed to the public.  Instead, visitors hike from the castle’s public parking area and bus drop-off a kilometer away.

road to Eltz Castle
The road to Eltz Castle winds steeply down into the valley where Eltz Castle is perched on a small hill.

Although many of the castles in Germany are as old, or even older, than Burg Eltz, it’s unique in that despite its age, it remains a genuine reflection of the original castle as it was first built.  It has survived nearly nine centuries without meeting the fate of so many of its medieval counterparts – succumbing to fire, invasion, or simply the ravages of time.

Exterior renovations from the 19th-century are lauded for their religious attention to detail from the castle’s original design.

Not only has Eltz Castle never been conquered, but it still belongs to the descendants of the original owners from the 12th century. Historically, three different branches of the Eltz family have resided in the castle, dividing it into three separate sets of living quarters and building to suit each family’s needs.  The sections of the castle quarters that are now open to the public belong to two of the branches of the family that live off-site.

Members of the third branch, the Eltz-Kempenich family, inhabit living quarters that are private from visitors.  On the castle’s website, the Count and Countess Eltz warmly invite visitors to Burg Eltz, and a recent family portrait inside the castle encourages visitors to enjoy their home.  It’s a unique experience to tour a medieval castle in immaculate condition and realize that a modern teenager living there is likely texting her boyfriend about prom just a few rooms over.

The architecture is one of the most charming features of Burg Eltz, as is the knowledge it’s remained in the same family for nearly 9 centuries.

Folks at the castle also offer a pretty fantastic tour of the interior rooms.  Tours are offered every half hour or so, and they’re available in multiple languages.  Like the exterior, the interior rooms look much as they did centuries ago with original furnishings, tapestries, and weapons on display.  We lucked out by getting in on the last English-speaking tour of the day.  Because we had a small group and an enthusiastic guide, our lively tour took close to an hour. Unfortunately, photos of the interior rooms aren’t allowed, but we still absolutely recommend the tour.

If you have to wait a bit for your tour to start, you can always visit the treasury.  Spread out over several floors of the castle, it’s a treasure trove of interesting family artifacts.

carved ivory cube with faces at Burg Eltz
One of the more unusual pieces in the treasury is a carved cube with four different faces, each face sharing an eye with the one next to it.
The Middle Ages definitely cranked out some pretty terrifying weapons, but this hatchet that also functions as a gun is fascinating.
ivory carving at burg eltz
One entire room in the treasury features intricately carved ivory pieces that are stunning.
skeleton keys at Burg Eltz
What makes a true fairy-tale castle? Skeleton keys! You can guess which one is my favorite.

Burg Eltz is not nearly as crowded as Neuschwanstein Castle, but it’s still quite popular.  We recommend that for photographers or folks who want to avoid the crowds, aim for visiting in the early morning or late evening when it’s largely deserted.  If you want to do that but still catch the tour of the interior, it might mean visiting twice, like we did.

We enjoyed the castle so much, we visited in the evening for the tour and hiked out the next morning with our dog for another peek at it.   A surreal scene lay in wait for us. The entire valley was blanketed in fog so thick the castle was but a dim outline in the murky air. It was absolutely eerie, entirely fitting for an 850-year-old fairy-tale castle.

In the early morning, you’re likely to find the castle deserted, with the exception of a few photographers waiting for the perfect shot. One such photographer happily snaps our photo.
Mist clings to cobwebs in the trees below the castle.
Burg Eltz in fog
Burg Eltz lurks in the early morning fog.
Fog hangs over the trail along the Elzbach River where you can stroll beneath the castle.
our rat terrier romps at Burg Eltz
Our rat terrier, Ratatouille, enjoys the early morning romp to the castle.

The fog followed us as we left Burg Eltz and drove back to our guesthouse in Wierschem, the last village on the main road to the castle.  We’d found and booked our stay at  the Hotel Landhaus Neuhof entirely last minute, but we enjoyed our stay there so much, we debated about canceling our plans to continue on to the pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg in order to spend the day leisurely exploring more of the Moselle Valley.   In addition to the castle, the region is well known for its terraced vineyards, outdoor activities along the Moselle River, and local restaurants serving hearty local German cuisine.

fog surrounds the Hotel Landhaus Neuhof in Wierschem Germany
A sign in front of the Hotel Landhaus Neuhof in Wierschem points the direction of Burg Eltz.

In the end, we opted to check out as planned and continue on to the pumpkin festival.  It was difficult though to leave the hotel.  With the early morning sun just cracking through the fog, it glinted on every blade of grass in the surrounding pastures.  In the distance, a man paused to pet a horse when it trotted up to say hello.  If a sense of peace is what you’re after, you’ll surely find it here.  Even in Germany, where stunning castles and pastoral landscapes are almost commonplace, it feels as if the Moselle Valley is perhaps a land of the fairies.


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Know Before You Go:

  • Official website for the Hotel Landhaus Neuhof (DE)  The owner speaks English, is friendly, and promptly responds to email.
  • Official website for Burg Eltz (EN, FR, DE, NL)
  • Photos are allowed inside the treasury but not during the castle tour of the interior rooms.
  • The castle is open to the public from April through October.
  • An adult ticket costs €10, which includes an optional 40-minute tour of the castle interior and a tour of the castle treasury.
  • Generous discounts are available for students and families.
  • Castle tours are available in several languages.  They don’t require an appointment, but if you have a large group or are visiting during peak summer season, it’s recommended.
  • After you’ve bought your tickets to the castle, if you don’t have an appt for a tour, just ask the person taking tickets at the treasury entrance and they’ll point you to a door marked “Privat” in the central courtyard where you can inquire about the next tour.
  • If you’re driving, a pay parking lot is available for flat rate €2 for cars and motorcycles, €4 for larger vehicles.
  • Public buses are also available.  Buses drop off passengers at the public parking area.
  • Dogs are not allowed inside the castle buildings, but they’re welcome everyone outside.
  • Visitors arriving by public bus or private car will still have to walk about 1 km on either a steep paved road or a fairly flat dirt trail to the castle.  We recommend making a loop so you see different views of the castle!
  • Fun fact!  From 1961 to 1995, Eltz Castle was on the 500 Deutsche Mark bill.
500 Deutsche Mark bill with Burg Eltz on it
Before joining the EU, Germany’s currency was the DM, or Deutsche Mark. Eltz Castle is featured here on the bill.

What’s up next on our agenda?

Experiencing all things pumpkin at the world’s largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg, Germany…

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