Get to Know the Enchanting Castles of the Rhine Gorge

Cruising the Castles of the Rhine Gorge

A highlight of traveling the Rhine river is scenic cruising through the valley of the upper-middle UNESCO World Heritage Rhine Gorge. In 4 hours you will travel the approximately 40-mile stretch that features many castles and fortresses that originated back in the middle ages. 

As you travel between the towns and villages of the Rhine, you can’t help but wonder about the many castles and fortresses that loom above you.

Discover some of the stories of the world-famous Rhine castles:

Marksburg Castle

Location: Outside of Lahnstein in the Rhine Gorge

Age: 1117 AD

Architecture: Medieval Germanic

Story: A primary site within the Rhine Gorge, it was built as a protectant of Brauback the town it sits above by a powerful family of the region. Purchased by one of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen in 1283, it was passed down and expanded for generations. In 1429 when no male heirs existed Marksburg was passed to the Count of Hesse whose lineage continued to expand the property. In 1806, Napoleon captured the castle and gifted it to the Duchy of Nassau to use as a prison until it became a Prussian territory in 1866. It remains one of the only Rhine castles that was never destroyed or left in ruins.  

Marksburg Castle -
Rheinstein Castle

Location: Between Rudesheim and the south entrance of the Middle-Rhine Valley.

Age: 1316 AD approximate

Architecture: Medieval fortress

Story: Due to its location on the river, the castle was in ruins after only 30 years. It sat in this state under the guidance of Archbishop feudal lords until the mid-1800s. In 1823 the Prince of Prussia bought the property and rebuilt it as his home. He welcomed Queen Victoria and other notable royalty here. The most typical medieval castle in the Rhineland now serves as a museum and restaurant and features a still working drawbridge featuring 500-year-old vineyards that still produce wine.

Rheinstein Castle -
Pfalzgrafenstein Castle

Location: Falkenau island in the center of the Rhine River in the Rhine Gorge

Age: 1327 AD

Architecture: Medieval fortress

Story: Built by King Ludwig the Bavarian as a river toll station. The property was controlled by the Count of Katzenelnbogen (Burg Katz) for the Holy Roman Empire. A chain was placed from Pfalzgrafenstein to Gutenfels castle which sits across the river. All passersby were forced to stop and pay the toll. Anyone who could not pay was kept in the dungeon until a ransom was paid. After 1867 when the castle was acquired by Prussia, the tolls ceased and the property was used as a river signal station. Never conquered or destroyed, it looks exactly as it did in the 14th Century and houses a museum that can be accessed by ferry.
Burg Schönburg

Location: Eastern (right) bank of the Rhine Gorge

Age: Estimated 9th – 11th Century AD

Architecture: Medieval fortress

Story: The Lords of Schönburg resided here and ruled over the nearby town of Oberwesel. They were feared for their rough tactics and tariffs they imparted on passers-by on the Rhine river. They ruled over the region until 1689 when the castle was burned down by French soldiers. It remained in ruins until the late 1800’s when a German-American family purchased and rebuilt the property. In 1950 the property was reclaimed by the town of Oberwesel. Today the property is used as a hotel and restaurant. 

Schönburg -
Burg Katz & Burg Maus

Location: Right bank (eastern) side of the Rhine Gorge

Age: Katz – 1371 AD, Maus – 1356

Architecture: Medieval fortress

Story: Meaning the cats elbow, Burg Katz was originally built by the Count of Katzenelnbogen who ruled under the Holy Roman Empire in the late 1300s. The burg was destroyed by Napoleon’s troops in 1806. Then rebuilt in 1896 – 1898, and it was renamed Neukatzenelnbogen (new Katzenelnbogen).  Burg Maus (Mouse castle) was named because it was built by the catholic church and political rivals of the Count of Katzeneinbogen. It is one of the few castles in the region that were not destroyed during historical conflicts. Abandoned in the 16th and 17th centuries it sat in disrepair but was restored in the early 1900’s. Both castles are privately owned and are not available for tours.

Schloss Stolzenfels

Location: Lahnstein south of Koblenz on the left (west) bank

Age: 1259 AD

Architecture: Medieval former fortress/castle

Story: Built by the Prince Bishop of Trier as a protective fortress for the toll station for the Rhine river which sat below. It was built into a castle in the 14th century. During the Thirty Years War, 1618 – 1648  it was occupied by French and Swiss soldiers and destroyed by the French in 1689 during the Nine Years War. In 1823 the property was gifted to a Prussian crown prince after the Rhineland had become a Prussian province, who rebuilt the castle and added gardens making it his summer palace in the Gothic Revival style. The castle is owned by the city of Koblenz and is open for visiting.

Discover the awe of cruising the Rhine river and seeing these historic beauties for yourself. With 40 castles there are many more stories to hear. Rhine River cruises begin or end in Amsterdam and travel through historic cities like Cologne on itineraries that range from 7 to 11 days. 

We would love to be your guide aboard an unforgettable fairytale journey from the Netherlands, through Germany, into France, and ending in Switzerland. BucketList Travel Advisors will be cruising with a group in June 2023 on an 11-night journey along the Rhine and the lesser-known tributary of the Rhine, considered the most beautiful river in Europe, the Moselle river. 

Join us on this active quest or let us plan your own journey through breathtaking scenery and fairytale locations. Ask us how you too can discover the tales of the Rhine River. 

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