Burg Eltz: My Favourite German Castle

23 May 2017

I will say right up front: this has been my favourite castle I’ve visited so far. If you follow me on Instagram (and if you like castles you really should), you know we visit a lot of them. Ruins, restored, popular and empty – I love a castle.

But Burg Eltz, in the beautiful Moselle valley, is my favourite. And it’s nowhere near as crowded as some of the more famous castles.

Burg Eltz from down below on one of the path.
Burg Eltz from down below on one of the path.

History

This castle has been in the Eltz family for 33 generations, and through clever alliances it has remained in good condition all that time. It’s one of three Rhine castles never to be destroyed at some point. Coming through the Thirty Years War unscathed is a Herculean achievement, really. It’s a familiar refrain in the histories of all the other castles in southern Germany: ‘but in the Thirty Years War it was completely destroyed…’

The castle itself is built on a rocky point jutting out of a valley over a ridge from the Moselle River. There is actually a very small tributary of the Moselle that runs around the castle, and this funny little valley was once a major Roman trade route, making this a perfect place for a castle.

Inner courtyard at Burg Eltz.
Inner courtyard at Burg Eltz.

A castle of many parts

Like many castles of this age, the complex grew organically over the years as each successful generation wanted larger apartments, or just something a bit… different. The oldest part is from the 9th century, with another large portion built in the 12th century. My favourite area of the castle is from 1472, with a gorgeous bedchamber and original wall paintings of thick ivy climbing all up the walls and onto the ceiling. Each little section of the castle would house a different branch of the Eltz family, with some shared kitchens below stairs, one of which you get to visit.

A suit of armour in the treasury at Burg Eltz.
A suit of armour in the treasury at Burg Eltz.
An extremely detailed stein in the treasury at Burg Eltz.
An extremely detailed evesin in the treasury at Burg Eltz.

Treasury

The treasury is a little section of the castle you can visit on your own, and houses the usual collection of Roman bits, a few Ottoman swords (all the castles have them as they sent men to fight the Ottomans in France in the 16th century), a couple suits of armour, some truly wacky looking little sculptures, and an adorable set of drinking steins all painted with children’s names. This little gallery has been nicely curated, and we spent a pleasant half hour peering at everything.

You can’t take photos of the castle interior, but the Rick Steves clip from this area had permission to film inside if you’re curious.

External courtyard at Burg Eltz.
External courtyard at Burg Eltz.

Good for kids?

Oh, it’s great for kids. It is so castle-y, and refreshingly under-visited, so you’re not battling your way through crowds to see things. The tour was 45 minutes – and like all German castles, this is the only way you can see the interior – but the guide was patient and kept it as relevant as he could for the small people. As usual, you won’t be able to bring buggies or big hiking carriers (the backpack ones with a frame) on the tour, but babes-in-arms are fine, as are toddlers. There was a baby, plus two or three toddlers on our tour, all of which started complaining and wandering throughout the tour, but no one minded. There’s lot of space to run around outside near the castle, lots of places to clamber over rocks and burn off steam.

Courtyard cafe at Burg Eltz.
Courtyard cafe at Burg Eltz.
Courtyard cafe at Burg Eltz.
Lovely spot outside the castle for lunch.

Visiting

When visiting these castles throughout Germany, you have to remember that no central organization runs them – each noble family chooses to open them to the public or not, and arranges staff and restaurants and all that. Consequently, the quality of staff, displays, food, and toilets varies dramatically from one to another. Burg Eltz is obviously well loved, because all the staff were friendly, and everything is clean and well organized.

It’s worth noting that this castle is only open from April to October.

There are two cafes on site, both with tables outside on the terrace in front of the castle. It’s the usual selection of very German food, so expect schnitzel and wurst with fries, as well as some surprisingly good pasta dishes. They have some nice beer on tap as well. Don’t forget to return your beer glass directly to the cafe and ask for your ‘pfand’, that’s a deposit you paid when you bought your beer – it’s €4 so well worth it. I watched two tourists leave them on their trays! You can, of course, take them home with you as well.

Inner courtyard at Burg Eltz.
Inner courtyard at Burg Eltz.

Getting there

Burg Eltz is not an easy one to get to – there isn’t a simple public transport option. It’s about an hour’s drive from Trier, and not right on the Moselle, so the tour boats don’t stop there. You can get a tour from Frankfurt that will drive you there and back. If you’ve rented a car, it’s an easy day trip from Frankfurt, Koblenz, Trier, or Cologne.

When you arrive, there is a short hilly hike to the castle from the parking lots, or you can take the little shuttle bus for a small charge. I recommend the shuttle bus, there is a lot of walking on the castle tour and around the outside, no need to tire out little legs before you even start. Get ready for the view of the castle about 2 minutes into the shuttle bus ride, it is magical.

We stayed in a small village along the Moselle river, right in the middle of vineyards, about halfway between Trier and Burg Eltz. The Altes Pfarrhaus is a lovely old house run by a Dutch couple {affiliate link}. Very affordable, and the food is great. If you’re driving, it’s a very easy place to stay en route.

Part of a #CulturedKids linkup.

CulturedKids

8 Comments

  1. Reply

    Wandermust Mummy

    It looks worth the difficult transport to visit such a stunner

    Thanks for linking to #fearlessfamtrav

  2. Reply

    daisythebus

    This is such a stunning castle (and stunning photography of it as well!). Despite living just the “other” side of Trier, it has been over ten years since I last visited Burg Eltz, so it is high time I went back. And – yes – don’t forget the “Pfand”; this seems to confuse foreign tourists eternally. Great post – thanks! – and greetings from Luxembourg. #FearlessFamTrav

  3. Reply

    Jenny (The Liitle Adventurer)

    What a great post! I love those little windows and turrets – and that photo of your son sat outside the castle is wonderful! We have toyed with a driving holiday to Germany, so if we do, I’ll definitely add this to our list! #culturedkids

    1. Reply

      erinehm

      It’s so worth it! Trier is quite close and worth checking out as well – there’s a post on my blog about it as well.

  4. Reply

    pigeonpairandme

    A bit of outdoor space to run around in always helps keep the kids happy, doesn’t it? So many good tips in this post. I do remember the pfand, from when I visited Germany a couple of decades ago, but it’s always good to get a reminder! Burg Eltz sounds like a good destination for someone wanting to see a well-kept castle. I’m looking forward to sharing this through #CulturedKids. Thanks for joining in!

  5. Reply

    Cultural Wednesday

    Burg Eltz sounds perfect, I’m with you in loving a castle of any kind. The cafe terrace looks great as well and a top tip about the pfand. Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids

  6. Reply

    bavariansojourn

    Just stunning – straight out of a fairy tale. Mind you, Germany has more than it’s fair share doesn’t it? We lived “up the road” from Neuschwanstein for years, and the first time we visited it was covered in scaffolding! 😀

    1. Reply

      erinehm

      Haha yes! There always seems to be something requiring scaffolding doesn’t it??

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