Castles & Palaces from Stuttgart to Mosel

I'm hoping those of you who have read another posting of mine will give your opinion. We are flying into Stuttgart, renting a car, and driving north up the Neckar Valley (27 and 45) through Heidelberg (a stop in Ladenburg has been recommended) and heading north to Bacharach. We plan to soak up the scenery and cute small towns. We like history and have seen a lot of castles (all of the ones in Bavaria and several in the Italian Dolomites) in our travels. We're trying to weigh the enjoyment of villages and scenery vs. the effort and time to visit castles and palaces (they can take a chunk of time). How would you rank the following list? (Vielen dank!)

Ludwigsburg Palace
Heidelburg Palace
Schwetzingen Palace
Marksburg Castle
Rheinstein Castle
Rheinfels Castle (3 triangles by RS)
Burg Eltz (3 triangles by RS)

Posted by Russ
Paradise
2192 posts

"We like history and have seen a lot of castles (all of the ones in Bavaria...)"
That seems unlikely! Most folks don't understand that Bavaria extends from the Alps in the south to around Coburg in the north and nearly to Frankfurt in the northwest. Check your experiences against this list.

Anyway, if when you say "castles" you are thinking about King Ludwig II's Bavarian palaces - Neuschwanstein, Hohebnschwangau, Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee - your experience in the Rhineland at Marksburg, Burg Eltz and Rheinfels will take you many centuries further back in time. Marksburg and Burg Eltz are both very worthwhile, not at all the same but on par with each other, IMO. Rheinfels is a ruined castle with a small museum - you walk around the ruins at your own pace.

If you visit Burg Eltz, I would steer you over to Cochem as well for a visit to the town itself and for Reichsburg Castle - not so much for the tour but for the falconry show there (4 times daily, dark Mondays) and for the view from the castle grounds.

Rheinstein isn't particularly worthwhile, IMO. Quite small.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2029 posts

Well I've been to 4 on your list.

Ludwigsburg is unique - if you haven't been to another Baroque palace. I find it quite interesting because historically I've focused my studies on the Wurttembergs and in that context it's great because it's full of interesting Wurttemberg history at the time from them becoming a rather pathetic, provincial power to a major player in European politics (hence the bust of Napoleon).=. It is the best preserved Baroque palace in Southern Germany, and the furniture and fittings are mostly original and unchanged. It is also the site of a dark period of German history, the lynching of the "court Jew Suss" which is worth researching before you go. The tragic story was turned into a horrific propaganda film by the Nazis - there is an American documentary about the family of the director that's available on Neflix. All that aside, the Wurttembergs were relatively poor as far as monarchs go, and if you've seen, say, Versailles, Ludwigsburg will come off as cheap and chintzy and the gardens will be of more interest than the palace. If you haven't spent a lot of time visiting opulent Baroque palaces, however, it may impress you, and the English tour is quite good in my opinion. Also on the tour is one of the oldest continually operating theaters in Europe, if you're into that sort of thing.

Heidelberg schloss is mostly a ruin, but it's a grand one. It's a uniquely beautiful Renaissance castle with a few good legends and historical stories associated with it and well worth the visit, in my opinion. I quite liked the pharmacy museum in the palace as well, even if that sounds nerdy. My advice is to yes, see it, and take the funicular up and walk down, after walking around it.

Burg Eltz is simply stunning. It's what we Americans think of when we think of a quintessential European castle. We visited on a Saturday, while staying in Bacharach, so we took a train and bus up, and did the (easy) hike down instead of hiking both ways. It was simply lovely, although my friend and I had a laugh over RS's description of the forest walk from the castle. (Something about fairies disguised as falling leaves whispering "watch out" while sparrows armed with crossbows...IDK, it's pretty amazing.)

I find it's easy to get castle overload on a trip, though. I'm usually pretty good with one ruin, one preserved true medieval castle, and one baroque palace every six months. Otherwise they all tend to run together. I'd honestly pick one of each and visit them and disregard the rest. Burg Eltz is my "must see" from your list. It's one of the few RS recommendations from his Germany book that lives up to the hype.

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
345 posts

Thanks so much, Russ and Sarah, for taking the time to answer. Russ, you're right, we haven't come close to covering that list and have mostly hit Crazy Ludwig's posh palaces. We have gone through some that were centuries older in the Italian Dolomites. Based on what you both offered, the choices seem clear, with a potential stop in Cochem. Vielen Dank meine Freunde!

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10402 posts

The interiors of Marksburg and Burg Eltz have merged in my memory. I don't remember anything particularly distinct to distinguish the two, other than that some of the rooms in Marksburg appeared to have been hewed out of solid rock. English-language tours of Marksburg are far less frequent, though.

Reading your other post, you may not have enough time for Schwetzingen. I've only seen the outside and gardens (had my dog with me that day), but these were quite impressive.

On your route from Heidelberg to the Mittelrhein, consider driving on A5, along the western wall of the Odenwald mountains. You'll pass several castles, although the only ones worth a detour are perhaps Schloss Auerbach and Burg Frankenstein (above the town of Seeheim-Jungenheim). Most of the towns along the route are very scenic also, the highlight being Heppenheim.