356,854 sq km with 12,000+ medieval buildings - about one castle (Burg), mansion (Schloss), or palace (Palas) for every 30 sq km.
Germany is made up of 16 states. Berlin, Bremen, and Hamburg are city-states which, for the purposes of Roads to Ruins offer little or nothing in terms of castles. In fact, the northern 25% of Germany Could prove disappointing to those traveling primarily in search of true castles. The lower 75% of Germany is where you will find the majority of castles, and they become increasingly more prevalent the further south you travel. In some regions, especially along rivers like the Rhine and the Neckar, there are so many castles you will find it quite possible to visit several sites in a day. Many others are however often easy to overlook, since they are constructed on some of the most out of the way locations imaginable.
Those medievals had no respect for laid-back tourists, so plan on doing some searching and walking. The more popular sites will have road signs on major approaches in the area, but lesser sites, and especially unattended ruins, may not have their location marked at all. But, as long as you have control over your time, the hunt is part of the fun.
To begin your search click the state in which you are planning to travel. You will be transported magically to a map of the state you selected. And with no baggage fees! Within that area will be choices of cities or regions that will help narrow your search. Those regions will be selectable only if there are known castles available. The city star icon is a linked region.
When a city/region page opens you will see the above icons scattered throughout the map on the left. They represent the condition of the castle at that location as described below. The towers are active links that, when your mouse passes over them a photograph of the castle will appear to the right.
A: A castle in habitable condition that has be converted to a hotel
B: A castle in ruins to some degree but that has be converted to a hotel or has one on the property
C: A castle in habitable condition
D: A castle in ruins (but still interesting)
E: An historic building in the region that I have not visited, and that will be a ruin of anything from a castle to a manor, palace or fortress.
F: An historic building in the region that I have not visited, and that can be anything from a habitable castle to a manor, palace or fortress. E and F icons are what you will see on almost all road maps in Germany.
In essence a tilted icon is a ruin. Due to the limits of space they will sometimes be difficult to see and I apologize for that. In addition, the icon to the left indicates a central city to help find where you are on maps. There will be a few that are medieval fortified villages, and a few will be linked to images. Because of space considerations only one photo will be possible for most structures and that is not nearly adequate to tell the entire story of the subject. I do hope to one day produce a book that will elaborate as justified by the location.
Locator Map of Germany's States and City-States
Note: This site is about castles, so only those states I have found with abundant castles are live and searchable.
Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein are not linked, as well as the city-states of Berlin,Bremen and Hamburg. These states have not proven rewarding in terms of castle searching. If you are traveling to these states do not assume there are no worthy medieval structures there - you can try to locate them using published atlases. They are, however, few and far between.
The next page in succession will display a graphic of the city with a series of castles and ruins in that general area in addition to the primary routes in the region. Click on any castle icon to view photographs and read histories.
In some instances there will be relatively little to investigate as these castle sites are in poor condition with few if any segments intact. In yet other cases the castles will be magnificent and complex structures that can take considerable time to fully enjoy. In any case I have found all of them worth the trip for, if no other reason, a good place to hike to, enjoy a quiet, out of the way picnic, and take in a breath of history and often an outstanding view. But viewing these locations through Roads to Ruins informs you of the conditions and may save you from making a trip to a site that may othrwise disappoint you.
If you are fortunate enough to embark on a trip of your own I would give some advice. Give yourself plenty of time. Even German autobahns now have speed limits (and considerable traffic), so you will need ample time to get to the area and more time to actually get to the site. One site fully absorbed is far better than four sites rushed. See less, enjoy more. A personal vehicle is virtually a necessity for all but the most popular locations. At the larger, heavily visited sites there will be an abundance of transportation modes available to and from local hotels and towns. But if you want to explore the less accessible locations you will have to work out your own transportation. If time is limited, that dictates a rental car. Otherwise bicycles, buses, taxis, trains and hiking shoes are all applicable. Even with a car you may be allowed to drive only a portion of the distance from the major road to the actual castle. Either there will not be a paved approach to the isolated castle ruins or the road will be a narrow access road reserved for owners and staff. Many sites have only walking trails, even to very popular attractions, partly because of the German love for walking, partly to preserve the site for future generations, but just as likely due to the prohibitive cost of building roads and the limited area for parking lots, especially at hilltop locations.
Enjoy your visit and, hopefully, a real life adventure into Germany's Middle Ages.