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Hotels in Heidelberg

Hotels in Heidelberg

Everyone I speak to who stops in Heidelberg for a day trip wishes they had stayed longer in our  picturesque little German town – so I’ve collected up some of the best hotels in Heidelberg based on where our friends and relatives have stayed while in the city. These are recommendations from people I know, not just a list I pulled from some hotel website. 

Best hotels in Heidelberg

You could be steps away from this beautiful castle.

Hotel am Schloss

You can’t get much more central than this modernish hotel located in the same building as the bottom of the funicular up to the castle. It is a bit of a maze to find your way in (the entrance is via an elevator to the left of the ticket booth), but once you’re up there, enjoy the terraces, skylights, and beautiful views over the Altstadt. The rooms are definitely bigger than your average European hotel, and there are a few apartment rooms available with separate bedrooms, and even one with a kitchenette. I met up with an American family who were staying here, and they were pleasantly surprised with the size of their room, and they raved about the breakfast. You’re moments from the Altstadt, but off the main street enough for it to be quite quiet (I have friends who live around the corner, they report it’s fine, even during Christmas Market season). If you’ve rented a car, this hotel has parking which is unusual in the Altstadt.

Hotel am Schloss, about 180€ for a triple room

Visiting Heidelberg Castle: my local guide on how to get the best out of your visit.

The Neuenheimer Marktplatz is a beautiful leafy place for lunch or dinner, plus there’s a playground too.

Rafaela Hotel Heidelberg

We’ve been watching this brand new Heidelberg hotel as it was built in our neighbourhood. If you’d like to be a little out of the main drag for a quieter weekend, this is your ideal spot. This hotel is right on our local Marktplatz, complete with little playground, local kids playing soccer against a 12th-century church tower, twice-weekly market, and three different restaurants to choose from in the square. Every warm evening the tables under the leafy trees, locals and visitors alike enjoy dinner in the sunshine. You’re a two-minute walk from the Neckarwiese, the meadow along the river Neckar, with fenced playground, plus a natural stone water playground, beach volleyball nets, riverside cafe, and on sunny afternoons and evenings, every Heidelberger enjoying themselves. If you want to head into the Altstadt and the castle, you can either hop on a bus, or walk along the riverside until you get to the old bridge – it’s about 15 minutes. 

Rafaela Hotel Heidelberg, about 195€ for a family room

A quick walk across the Alte Brücke, or old bridge, and you’re right in the middle of the Altstadt when you stay at the Boutique Hotel Heidelberger Suites

Boutique Hotel Heidelberger Suites

This hotel is luxury on all fronts. The staff is faultless, and the hotel is across the river from the castle and the Altstadt, so you can secure a gorgeous view. Rooms and common areas are opulent and impressive, and there’s a little garden in the back in benches. They have their own in-house spa as well. The hotel restaurant is on a boat, moored on the riverside in front of the hotel. You can book a dinner or brunch cruise on the restaurant boat as well (non-guests can book too). It is gorgeous, there’s no question of that, but the price tag reflects this. If you’re looking to splurge, we know several people who have stayed here and it’s just as impressive as it looks. 

Boutique Hotel Heidelberger Suites, about 400€ for a Junior Suite

Need some suggestions on where to eat while you’re in town? Check out my Heidelberg restaurant guide

Enjoy the meadow on the banks of the river Neckar like a true Heidelberger.

Hotel Heidelberg Astoria

In the quiet Neuenheim neighbourhood just over the river from the Alstadt, the Hotel Heidelberg Astoria also benefits from being in close proximity to the local Marktplatz, like the Rafaela. This hotel is spread across two large houses down a quiet side street. It’s a little less helpful for families as the rooms are smaller, but if you’re looking for a two-person getaway, this is a great find. The main house with the lobby and breakfast room is very large and airy inside, and you’ll find the furnishings are quite modern. The staff are very friendly and helpful, and they got to know us a bit as we were in and out with our in-laws who were staying. It’s worth noting they don’t have air conditioning, but you’ll find this isn’t unusual in Germany. Rooms are provided with fans, however. Again, you’re close to a little playground here, and a five-minute walk from the river meadow. And possibly the most important thing – you’re two minutes from our favourite gelato in town.

Hotel Heidelberg Astoria, about 170€ for a superior double room

Storybook Heidelberg in the winter

Heidelberg Marriott Hotel

I know a lot of you travel on points, and Marriott is a common choice for North Americans heading overseas. My husband has stayed in this Marriott several times, and though it’s a bit dated, it’s very clean. The garden right on the river Neckar is a highlight, you can sit out here and enjoy a drink. It’s worth noting this hotel is a little further from the Altstadt and the rest of the sights, and while the walk there isn’t too far, it’s not a super picturesque one. You can expect decent-sized rooms, air conditioning (that’s worth noting, lots of hotels don’t have it), and a restaurant full of heavy duty wood paneling. It’s vey easy to get in and out from the motorways, and there’s ample parking if you’re renting a car and doing day trips. It’s worth noting that US hotel chains are relatively quite expensive, so unless you’re using points, you will find better value elsewhere.

Heidelberg Marriott Hotel, about 294€ for a junior suite

The cutest shop in Heidelberg – also where I get more unusual spices.
The one of the cutest shops in Heidelberg.

Ibis Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof

We love the Ibis chain of hotels and they are always our first choice. Rooms are basic, clean, and straightforward, but the rates are also reasonable. Breakfasts are always great, and staff have been unfailingly polite and genuine. I think we’ve stayed in over 20 different Ibis hotels across Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France. This Ibis is right next to the main train station, which is not usually my favourite place to stay in any given town, but our train station area is not as depressing. It’s also where you can catch trams into the old town, or walk through the train station to the new Bahnstadt neighbourhood to sample their selection of excellent newly built playgrounds and public spaces. This is the cheapest option on the list, and you’re paying less being next to the train tracks. Check with the hotel, often you can book a second room for 50% off if you’re all one family. 

Ibis Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof, about 77€ for a standard king room

PS – Looking for things to do in Heidelberg

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The best hotels in Heidelberg, Germany, for every budget. Explore our storybook German town with its gorgeous and romantic castle ruins. #germany #travel
The best hotels in Heidelberg, Germany, for every budget. Explore our storybook German town with its gorgeous and romantic castle ruins. #germany #travel

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Hessenpark Open-Air Museum

Hessenpark Open-Air Museum

Not far from Frankfurt is the Hessenpark, an open-air museum that has over a hundred historical buildings from the region all in one place. It’s open year-round, and has an impressive events schedule including cooking regional food, making local crafts, music making, and more. You can get to Hessenpark in about an hour from the center of Frankfurt, so it makes an ideal day trip. 

I love open-air museums. We are a history-obsessed family, but even if you’re not, it’s such an easy and enjoyable day out. When you’re traveling with kids, they can run and jump and explore without an adult constantly asking them to be quiet. Other adults get some time to actually read the information without being tugged onto the next thing. It’s win-win really. 

Beautiful historic houses at the Hessenpark. Those wires on the roofs are lightning rods, to prevent fires starting in the thatch.
Beautiful historic houses at the Hessenpark. Those wires on the roofs are lightning rods, to prevent fires starting in the thatch.

What is the Hessenpark?

In the 1970s, this park was created to conserve the history of the German state of Hesse, and take older houses that were being dismantled in villages all over the region. When a historic house can’t be preserved in its original location, it is carefully dismantled and recreated in the Hessenpark, using historically accurate materials as far as possible. Now, there are over 100 buildings arranged in several little clusters in the Hessenpark, and it’s still growing. When I originally read there were a hundred buildings, I thought, surely they are counting sheds and whatnot. But oh no, there really are loads and loads of huge buildings to explore. 

One of the coolest things about this place is being able to walk up to a random building, and the door is unlocked! Kids love this part, because when else can you wander through a village and poke around in all the shops and houses? Some are set up as exhibitions, some are arranged with period furniture as they would have been 200 or 300 years ago. 

How long should we plan for a trip to the Hessenpark?

It is easy to spend a full day at the Hessenpark and still not see everything. Between exploring the buildings, watching demonstrations, having lunch, letting kids burn off steam in the playground, and shopping, I would say not to budget less than a day here. You won’t want to feel rushed. Ideally, you could stay overnight and split up your exploring. 

Market square at the Hessen Park
Market square at the Hessen Park

When is the best time to go?

The park is open year round, but as much of it is outdoors, spring through autumn is preferable. There are more activities going on in these months, as well. However, we visited in January, and it was still lovely, and there was lots to do. In Advent (late November through to Christmas Eve, 24 December) there is lots going on with a Christmas market and special events all through the park, so that would be a magical time to visit as well. They also do special events for Karneval (end of February, early March) and Easter. Check the event calendar on the Hessenpark website to see if there’s a specific demonstration you’d like to see. 

Windmill at the Hessenpark
Windmill at the Hessenpark

What is there to do at the Hessenpark?

You pick up a map upon arrival, and just wander, opening doors at random and exploring inside. The state of Hesse was known, 200 years ago and earlier, mainly for farming, wool production and weaving, flax production, and basalt quarrying. There are buildings or sites dedicated to all these traditional types of work in the park, even a little basalt quarry. As well as weaving, Hessen women were well known for their traditional openwork embroidery, and there is a fascinating upper floor of a house dedicated to examples of this fine work. 

Colourful local chickens
Colourful local chickens

A Thuringian goat completely uninterested in getting its photo taken.
A Thuringian goat completely uninterested in getting its photo taken. Nice straw moustache though…

There are all the traditional workshops you would expect to find, including basket weavers, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, printers, roper makers, millers, and even historic firefighters and their equipment. Not every building is staffed, but you can peer in at the equipment, all set out to be used, like the workers have just stepped out for a moment. There is a full-sized windmill, a water wheel, and working farm buildings. There are chickens wandering around, pigs, and goats. In fact, the museum has been working to preserve local livestock breeds, so they aren’t just your regular farm animals you can see here. In fact, this museum is playing a vital park in keeping some of these breeds from extinction. Look out for the Coburger Fuchsschaf, literally a ‘fox sheep’, that has naturally red wool when born. There’s also the Meissner Lop rabbit, a long-eared black rabbit with gloriously shiny fur that was kept by Hessian farmers. We met some Thuringian goats, which are now endangered. However the Hessenpark goats are in fine form, in fact the kids regularly jump over the fences of their pens and wander around for awhile. The colourful local chickens walk around, completely uninterested in anyone, despite the trails of fascinated small children they have behind them. 

There are also several places of worship in the park. A synagogue, and several chapels from different areas of Hesse, including a working organ that gets a work out every month or so with singalong events. 

One of the chapels at the Hessenpark
One of the chapels at the Hessenpark

Eating and drinking

There are several places to have a meal or a snack on site. The Wirsthaus Zum Adler is a traditional inn on the market square, near the entrance, that serves traditional Hessian food, and there’s a biergarten around the back (it’s under renovation in 2019, unfortunately, check the site in case it’s open again). The Alter Markt restaurant is part of the hotel in the park, and it is also in the market square, right next to the Zum Adler, and it’s open every day from 6.30am – 10pm. 

In May 2019, a Kaffeehaus is opening on the market square, also attached to the Landhotel, and they will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-5pm. Perfect for a spot of coffee and cake, I think.

Down by the playground in the North Hesse area is the Martinsklause, a pub-type restaurant with displays on brewing beer in the area. They have a lovely terrace seating area looking over the playground. This one is only open on Saturdays and Sundays however, from 11am-4pm. 

The bakery in the market square is open daily from 10am-6pm March to October, and you can get bread, pastries, brezel, and cakes here. A perfect in between option if you’re not up for a full meal. 

When we visited in January, there was a small wheeled cart selling bratwurst in buns in the corner of the market square, and inside the Delikathessen, they were making hot waffles to order. 

Loom in one of the Hessenpark houses
Loom in one of the Hessenpark houses

There’s a hotel in the Hessenpark?

Yes! The Landhotel Zum Hessenpark (literally translates to country hotel to the Hessenpark) is right on the market square in the museum. Rooms range from €75-95 per night for a single room, €99-129 per night for a double room, and €129-159 per night for a triple family room. All rates include breakfast in the historic Alter Markt restaurant. To book, you need to fill out a form on the Landhotel Hessenpark website (in German only I’m afraid, but it’s pretty straightforward). I think I’m going to ask for a night at the museum (literally!) for my birthday this year. How cool is that?

Shops on the market square
Shops on the market square

Proper shopping

There are several places to pick up some traditional wares within the Hessenpark. The Delikat(h)essen has shelf-stable foods to take home like mustards and vinegars, as well as plenty of beautiful pieces of kitchenware, and humorous mugs and tea towels. Next door is the Trachten shop, selling traditional clothes like dirndls and lederhosen, but they also stock tin toys, books, postcards, and more little pieces. Just so you know, dirndls and lederhosen are not costumes, but traditional clothing and many German people wear them to weddings and important family events, so don’t expect to pick one up on the cheap. A good dirndl, with all its assorted pieces, easily costs upwards of €250, particularly from a quality Trachten shop like this one. Lederhosen start around €200. 

There is also a woodworkers shop with wooden toys, games, and housewares, as well as many versions of the traditional Hessian stool, called a Schawellsche, and wooden trays for apple wine glasses, another traditional product of the region. One of the most popular shops is the brush shop. Family-owned for three generations, this little workshop continues to turn out brushes and brooms of endless varieties, for specialty tasks like brushing down your felt hats, to cleaning lamps, this is the place for you. When we visited, we couldn’t even get in the door as so many people were coming in and out. The goldsmiths is not just a historic building either, but an actual working jewellery maker. You can even arrange to do a one-day class in jewellery making on site, though you have to book ahead as the courses are only for four people at a time and they are popular. There are lots of weddings at the Hessenpark, and you can even arrange to make your own wedding ring, guided by the jewellers, which I think is just lovely. 

Hessenpark entrance price and hours

The Hessenpark is open 1 November to 28 February only on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-5pm, with last entry at 4pm. From 1 March – 31 October, they are open daily from 9am – 6pm with last entry at 5pm. 

Entry price is as follows: 

Adults €9

Children and students €1

Children under 6 free

Family ticket €18 (2 adults plus up to four children 6-17 years old)

50% family ticket €9 (1 adult plus up to four children 6-17 years old)

Dogs (including a dog poop bag) €1

There’s free wifi near some of the buildings, which is marked on the map you can pick up for free where you buy your tickets. 

There aren’t guided tours or audio guides, but you’ll find informative signs outside each building, in several languages, as well as detailed exhibitions in some of the buildings as well. The map you pick up at the entrance is easy to use and very clear. 

How to get to Hessenpark

By train

Take the bus or train to Wehrheim or Neu-Anspach / Anspach Bahnhof. In Wehrheim, board the 64 bus, and in Neu-Anspach/ Anspach Bahnhof board the 63 bus and exit at Neu-Anspach / Hessenpark. From Frankfurt main train station, this journey takes a little more than an hour. The bus stops directly in front of the Hessenpark too!

On weekends and holidays, there is a direct bus service (no. 5 bus) from Bad Homburg / Gonzenheim and Bad Homburg / Bahnhof to Hessenpark.

You can book your ticket in English here:

By car

Hessenpark is about half an hour from Frankfurt, there is ample parking close to the entrance. 

PS – Want other ideas for day trips from Frankfurt?

PPS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

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Where to eat in Heidelberg

Where to eat in Heidelberg

Our lovely south German home of Heidelberg is beautiful, with its castle, old town, and river views. It’s also a very popular day trip destination for international and German tourists alike. That means it can be a little challenging to find good food, as there are the usual tourist trap places with substandard dishes and high prices. I’ve collated the best places for dinner, a quick lunch, German food, other restaurants, coffee, and breakfast below, because I’d hate for your visit to my town to be ruined by a bad meal. I’ve included a map at the end of the post so you can plan accordingly.

Looking for things to do in Heidelberg? How about my GPS-enabled audio tour? Need help getting from Frankfurt to Heidelberg?

The lovely Neuenheim Marktplatz on a spring evening.
The lovely Neuenheim Marktplatz on a spring evening.

The Marktstübe in Neuenheim
The Marktstübe in Neuenheim

Where to find German food in Heidelberg

If you’re looking for good German food, Heidelberg has definitely got you covered. We’re at the edge of several different regions, so depending on your tastes, you can find something you like. For Flammkuchen, the popular thin-crust pizza analogue, the Marktstübel in Neuenheim is cozy in the winter and allows you to stretch out in the summer with their terrace under the trees in the Neuenheimer Marktplatz. You’re a bit away from the Altstadt here, so you’ll find mostly locals. 

The Kulturbrauerei in the old ballroom
The Kulturbrauerei in the old ballroom

For a traditional big pork knuckle and local bier, the frequently recommended Kulturbrauerei in the Altstadt is a local institution for a reason. They also run the tiny old student pub Zum Seppl, and either one is atmospheric and lovely. They have much more than just pork knuckle, and it’s easy to have a good salad, fish, or schnitzel and spätzle (thick Swabian egg noodles). Our favourite is the Palatinate wurst with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. The Zum Seppl is a 300-year old student hang out and there are carvings all over the place, as well as fencing swords, photos, old drinking mugs, and all sorts of old student-y paraphernalia. When the university has been here since 1386, there are some very old student institutions! You will definitely need to make a reservation for dinner, particularly if you want to eat in the Zum Seppl, as it is very very small. 

Is this not the best view ever? Sitting outside Mahmoud's in the Altstadt
Is this not the best view ever? Sitting outside Mahmoud’s in the Altstadt

There is a large and multi-generational Turkish population in Germany, so I include my favourite middle eastern restaurants here too. Mahmoud’s has two locations, one off the big bus and tram exchange at Bismarckplatz, but the smaller one down a side street and in front of the red stone catholic church is my favourite. Their falafel with halloumi is something special for sure, and the prices are excellent. This will seem odd, but if you’re over near the newer university campus, there is a secret I will share with you. In the Mathematikon building on Berlinerstraße, there are two grocery stores, a toiletries and cosmetics shop, and a few cafes. In the back of the REWE grocery store there is a counter serving chicken Doner Kebab, and I promise you, the sweet man that runs this counter makes an incredible Doner with fresh flatbread for shocking 2.80€. This is why there is a queue that starts at 11:45. If you’re at that end of town anyway, it’s perfect. I time my grocery shopping for lunchtime, for this very reason!

The terrace at Cafe Rossi
The terrace at Cafe Rossi

Where to find other food in Heidelberg

If you’re a bit Flammkuchen and Schnitzeled out, no one would fault you for seeking something different. For a nice lunch, try Cafe Rossi near the Bismarckplatz, they also do a lovely late breakfast as well if you’ve been out late the night before, and have a decent kid’s menu. We had a generous smoked salmon and bagel with fresh juice and tea. In the summer, they have a nice terrace with a little fountain that has been recently renovated. 

Lunch with an indoor play space? The restaurant at the top of the Galeria Kaufhof department store right on Bismarckplatz has a large area for kids with little slides and other toys. The food on offer is a selection of standard German fare with a stirfry to order counter, cakes, and a salad bar. The views over the old town and the Heiligenberg across the river are amazing from this vantage point, so it’s worth it even if you just want some coffee and cake and a bit of a break from walking. You do have to walk through the toy section to get there from the store, so take the outdoor elevator out front if you want to avoid this. 

In the tourist zone? Here’s where to go

If you’re near the Marktplatz, deep in the tourist end of Heidelberg, I would suggest going to Mahmoud’s (mentioned above). Other decent options include Hans im Glück for burgers, or Vapiano for Italian. The other restaurants on the Marktplatz are overpriced and not very good. 

Coffee at Coffee Nerd
Coffee at Coffee Nerd

Best places for coffee in Heidelberg

Germans are all about the mid-afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen break (coffee and cake), and Heidelberg is well served by places for a little sit down. It’s worth noting the coffee tends towards the strong and Italian, not the American style flavouring and large sizes. The resident cool kid spot is Coffee Nerd, with excellent strong coffee and pastries. With locations in Weststadt and Neuenheim, Nomad has some of the best croissants I’ve had – they also serve breakfast and lunch. If you’re going for authentic Heidelberg, it’s hard to beat Göbes. This local bakery will have local specialties and seasonal treats. If you need some quiet and a bit of room to spread out, the cafe at the top of the Galeria Kaufhof department store at Bismarckplatz is your best bet, as mentioned above, with the added bonus of an indoor play space for small kids. 

Play area in the Galeria Kaufhof restaurant
Play area in the Galeria Kaufhof restaurant

River Café for a lovely breakfast
River Café for a lovely breakfast

Best places for breakfast and brunch in Heidelberg

My absolute best recommendation for brunch is the weekly Sunday brunch at the Weinstube in the Heidelberg Castle. That’s right, you can have brunch overlooking the inner castle courtyard in a lovely dining room built right into one of the castle buildings. It’s a three-hour affair with a full appetizer buffet, a main meal you collect in the kitchen and have a little chat with the chefs, and then a fancy dessert buffet. You need to book quite far in advance for this one, so if this is something you’d like to do, you need to book as soon as you know you will be visiting. Over in Neuenheim, River Café does a lovely breakfast in a much shorter time span, but again you will need to book ahead. In the summer, you can take advantage of their lovely terrace not far from the river. If you’re looking for a budget option, the Wiener Feinbäckerei Heberer on the Hauptstraße does a nice range of German breakfast spreads: bread, jam and butter, served with slices of cheese and salami, and a few egg options as well. 

A view over the castle courtyard with your brunch?
A view over the castle courtyard with your brunch?

Here’s a handy map:

Do you know a great Heidelberg restaurant I’ve missed? Let me know!

PS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

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Our lovely south German home of Heidelberg is beautiful, with its castle, old town, and river views. Let me tell you about our favourite places to eat around town.

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Cochem Castle

Cochem Castle

I love castles, and I have visited a lot of them in our region of Germany. So when I tell you this is one of the best ones, you know I had quite a few to compare it to! It has a great combination of location, ease of access, and history. The town of Cochem itself is gorgeous, and well worth a weekend stay.

Looking through the many arches at Cochem Castle
Looking through the many arches at Cochem Castle

Is it Cochem Castle, or the Reichsburg, or what?

Cochem is the town the castle is located in, and you can definitely call it Cochem Castle in English. ‘Reichsburg’ means the Imperial Castle, so Reichsburg Cochem just translates to Imperial Castle Cochem. You have probably seen other castles called ‘Schloss’ and this refers to their status as more of a palace as opposed to a defensive fortress (a ‘Burg’). In a land full of castles, you’ve got to start dividing them up somehow, right?

Suits of armour are everywhere
Suits of armour are everywhere

Can you imagine leaning by this window, reading a letter?
Can you imagine leaning by this window, reading a letter?

A bit of history

On the hill 100 metres above the town of Cochem, the castle was initially a fortification built around 1056. The first mention in print was in 1051, and in 1157, King Konrad III officially dubbed it an Imperial residence. The town of Cochem was important in wine growing and fishing through this period, and was well connected to the city of Trier. In the late 1690s, the castle and the town were taken by the French during the Nine Years War. Unfortunately, the French Sun King wanted to make sure the region was fully subdued, so he instructed his troops to wreak havoc. 

The castle lay in ruins for nearly 200 years, until the Berlin merchant Louis Ravené had it rebuilt as his family’s summer residence in a Neo-gothic style popular with the rich-people-rebuilding-castles movement of the 19th century. The castle has been owned by the city of Cochem since 1978. 

The beautiful hunters hall at Castle Cochem
The beautiful hunters hall at Castle Cochem

The Great Hall at Castle Cochem
The Great Hall at Castle Cochem

Should you do the tour at Cochem Castle?

Definitely. Like most German castles, you need to join a guided tour to see the interior rooms. There are many tours in English during high season, but you will want to check the times for English tours in the autumn and winter. The English tour was only available once a day when we visited in October – check their website in advance for the exact time of the English-language tour so you don’t miss it. The tour itself is one of the best I’ve been on. The guide knew a lot about the castle and the city of Cochem, but wasn’t overloading us with lists of every single noble who lived in the building. They have definitely designed the tour with children in mind as well, because there were some chocolate rewards and little surprises along the way. Even if you’re not travelling with children, you will be grateful they are entertained. 

It’s extremely unusual for a German castle tour, but you are allowed to take photos throughout the interiors, though turn off your flash. 

Peering down into the yard at Castle Cochem
Peering down into the yard at Castle Cochem

Always look up when you go on these castle tours
Always look up when you go on these castle tours

Join a Medieval banquet

If you plan ahead, you can join in a full experience of a medieval meal with costumed musicians and a castle tour. Most Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 6pm, you can join a group at the castle for a full meal, glass of wine, a special castle tour, and a take home stone mug. The tour is in German, but you can get a sheet with the English information on it. The whole package is €49 per adult and €24.50 per child (6-17 years old). If you’re thinking of booking one, do it soon, as they sell out months in advance. 

Cochem Castle is stunning in the autumn
Cochem Castle is stunning in the autumn

What time of year to visit Cochem Castle

In the summer, you have the benefit of the full leafy trees, sidewalk terraces, green vines clambering over everything, and the breeze off the Mosel. You also will have more crowds of visitors to contend with. Even though there were fewer tours available, the castle wasn’t that busy. The benefit of visiting in the autumn has to be the gorgeous colours of the grape vines. All over the castle, and the surrounding hills, the multicoloured vines transform everything into a riot of deep reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. 

The view from the cafe in the Cochem Castle
The view from the cafe in the Cochem Castle

Classic Schnitzel in the castle cafe
Classic Schnitzel in the castle cafe

Even the placements were cute
Even the placements were cute

What to eat

The cafe up at the castle itself is lovely, and we had a great meal of schnitzel at a reasonable price. I would say at least a little bit cheaper than the restaurants down in the town right on the river, so it’s definitely worth staying up here to have lunch. There’s an impressive selection of cakes, including a proper Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake) and the underrated Frankfurter Kranz, so if it’s afternoon and you just need a coffee and a sweet thing, have it up here with a view down over the town. 

View from outside the Cochem Castle
View from outside the Cochem Castle

Where to stay

I’ve got your weekend in Cochem covered in this post, but if you’re just looking for some quick hotel recommendations, I would check out these ones:

  • Hotel Germania, right next to the main bridge and in the Altstadt
  • Hotel am Hafen, across the river but next to the bridge, with good onsite restaurant
  • Zum fröhlichen Weinburg, a little ways back from the river, quiet and good value
  • Altes Fährhaus Cochem, is on the other side of the river with gorgeous views of the castle and town, and offers bike rentals on site
  • If you’re happy to be just outside of town, the little village of Ernst is our favourite spot, and the Altes Pfarrhaus our Mosel home away-from-home. A lovely Dutch family runs this small hotel, and the food is lovely, with a quiet terrace overlooking the river. 

The Cochem Castle lit up at night
The Cochem Castle lit up at night

How to get there

From Frankfurt or Düsseldorf, Cochem is about a two and a half hour journey by train, with one or two changes, depending on the time of day. From Cologne, it is about two hours with one change. It’s a beautiful journey no matter which way you arrive, however, as most routes will take you along the Rhine and the Mosel. You can book your ticket right here in English:

To get up to the castle from the town, you can walk up, which is a little intense with quite a few stairs. Or, you can take the shuttlebus. There’s a detailed schedule on their website here. If you’re travelling with small people, it would be best to take the shuttle and save their legs for the tour. 

PS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

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Visiting the haunted castle of Burg Berwartstein

Visiting the haunted castle of Burg Berwartstein

Deep in the forests of the Rhineland-Palatinate (the Pfalz, in German), near the French border, is the intriguing Burg Berwartstein. The castle rises from the natural sandstone formations into the sky, and looks every bit the robber baron fortress it once was. The most complete of the Rhineland cliff castles, the buildings you can explore today are heavily restored. From robber knights to feuds to ghosts, there are so many stories about this castle, it could spawn a long-running Netflix series of its very own, I swear. 

Local equestrians were going through a ride for the forest, and their horses tied up here looked so picturesque.
Local equestrians were going through a ride for the forest, and their horses tied up here looked so picturesque.

Looking up at the castle on the cliffs.
Looking up at the castle on the cliffs.

The beginning

The French-German border has shifted many times over the past thousand years, and this region has always been on the frontlines. The first references to the castle appear in 1152 when the last Hohenstaufen Emperor, Barbarossa, gifted the castle and its lands to the Bishop of Speyer. Historians think the fortress was in use as early as 750, however. 

The Robber Knights

From around 1200, a group of knights took over the castle, and they proceeded to rampage around the countryside. Robbing travellers and generally harassing the local population. It got so bad that the nearby Imperial Free Cities of Strasbourg and Hagenau sent troops to deal with the knights that called themselves ‘von Bewartstein’ [from Berwartstein]. One of the main benefits of this cliffside castle, however, is its natural defences. The only entrance at this point was via a precarious rope ladder through a small opening at the side of the cliff. When under attack, the residents just brought up the ladder and poured various dangerous things down on the besiegers. Together with an incredibly deep well that provided fresh water inside the castle, these defences made the fortress a daunting prospect for any attacker. Finally, in 1315, Strasbourg and Hagenau gained entry by paying off one of the robber knights. The rest were taken prisoner and held for ransom. The ransom just happened to require the selling off of Burg Bewartstein, ending the local reign of the Knights von Bewartstein.

A dog peering into the cliffside entrance to the Burg Berwartstein high above.
A dog peering into the cliffside entrance to the Burg Berwartstein high above.

Catching a fellow visitor walking out to the famous terrace.
Catching a fellow visitor walking out to the famous terrace.

Hans von Trotha

A great friend of the Prince Elector Philip in Heidelberg, Hans von Trotha was gifted the fief of Berwartstein to look after. Von Trotha’s claim to fame is his long-running feud with the Weissenburg Abbey. The Abbey were the owners of Burg Bewartstein after the robber knights had been ousted, but had entrusted the castle to the Prince Elector for upkeep and military use. When Hans von Trotha started extending it and treating it as his own, the Abbey protested. The Prince Elector responded by elevating von Trotha to Marshal and selling him the fief, which really ticked off the Abbot. Von Trotha and the Abbey continued to trade insults and petty disputes until finally von Trotha dammed the river that provided fresh water to the Abbey and its supporting town. When the Abbot, understandably, complained, von Trotha obliged by destroying the dam… and flooding the area.

The gardens around the Burg Berwartstein
The gardens around the Burg Berwartstein

Paintings inside the little chapel in Burg Berwartstein
Paintings inside the little chapel in Burg Berwartstein

My son exploring the chapel at Burg Berwartstein
My son exploring the chapel at Burg Berwartstein

The town never recovered. Von Trotha pressed his advantage and started an all-out war with the Abbey. Not even a summons from the Pope could convince him to stop, and he was eventually excommunicated. This was too much for the Prince Elector, who disowned von Trotha, though clearly still thought enough of him to send him to France as a diplomatic envoy during the Italian Wars. Incredibly, von Trotha died of natural causes back at Burg Bewartstein in 1503. His name, in the form Hans Trapp, is still famous in the Alsace Lorraine region and used to frighten misbehaving children… if you haven’t been good and Saint Nicolas has not brought you presents, Hans Trapp will come take you away!

Beautiful wall paintings inside the top floor of the Burg Berwartstein
Beautiful wall paintings inside the top floor of the Burg Berwartstein

The Castle Ghost

After Hans von Trotha died, his son Christoph von Trotha took over the castle, and slowly it faded from importance. By the time Christoph’s son-in-law took over and it passed down three generations without much incident. But in 1591, a great fire enveloped the castle. No battles were recorded here around this time, so it was probably started by a lightning strike. The tale told about the fire goes like this: the Lady Barbara woke to the smell of smoke, and went out on her terrace at the top of the castle, to see the entire lower castle was on fire, blocking her escape. Rather than die horribly in the flames, she took her child in her arms and leapt to her death on the rocks below. On quiet nights, she still appears on her upper terrace in her white nightgown, and repeats her grisly death. During the ‘ghost hour’, she haunts the lower passageways of the castle. 

Though much of the castle was still standing after this fire, it was left uninhabited for hundreds of years. This saved it, however, as it wasn’t destroyed during the wars of the Palatinate Succession that razed so many other castles in this region to the ground. 

The tour guide let my son carry his gauntlet for most of the tour, he thought it was pretty cool.
The tour guide let my son carry his gauntlet for most of the tour, he thought it was pretty cool.

Visiting Burg Berwartstein

Like most castles in Germany, you will need to join a guided tour to see the interior of the castle. Even though tours are only in German, this is well worth it. They will give you a booklet with all the details of the tour printed in English. Our tour guide was a sweet young man dressed in costume and he was happy to answer questions in English, and great with the kids. It’s quite a relaxed tour, with some of the rooms dressed to look how they would have when people lived in the castle, but most of the props are reconstructions. It doesn’t deter from the magic of the site though, with the raw red sandstone cliff all around even inside, as the castle was literally built around a jutting turret of rock.  

Beautiful gardens outside the Burg Berwartstein
Beautiful gardens outside the Burg Berwartstein

The tour starts in the Knights’ Hall, where the hand-dug well is still open. The tour guide takes a bucket of water and dumps it over the side, and it takes an unfeasibly long time to make a sound down where the water is. I’m not sure just telling us the depth of 97 meters would have made as dramatic an impression! Not only do the tours take you up to the top terrace (where the Lady Barbara supposedly through herself off!) but the guide will also unlock the passageways under the castle for you, and walk you through all lit by candles. It’s incredible to see all the little chisel marks, and it really brings home how long it must have taken to carve out these rooms out of the rock of the cliffside. 

There’s also a lovely restaurant on site, where you can have a drink on the terrace, or inside the castle itself. You can even stay overnight in one of two suites built right inside the castle. I so want to do this one day.

Burg Berwartstein in the forest
Burg Berwartstein in the forest

Opening hours of Burg Berwartstein

You can visit Burg Berwartstein all year round! Unlike many smaller castles in Germany, it’s not closed in the winter months.

The castle and restaurant is open daily March to October (check website for specific dates each year), and November through February on the weekends, except for the days around Christmas. 

They have many theme nights and costume nights that include tours, it’s worth checking their site for details. All of these events required tickets to be purchased ahead of time. 

Getting to Burg Berwartstein

Unfortunately, this castle is not easy to get to without a car. Your best bet would be to take the train to nearby town of Dahn, and a 20-minute taxi ride to the castle parking lot. The good news about this route is the parking lot is right next to the castle, you don’t have a further hike to get there. By car, you can visit some of the nearby towns, and see more of the famous red rock formations around this part of the Rhineland-Palatinate.

PS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

 

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