Burg Eltz – a fairytale knight’s castle in the nature reserve of the Eifel
For centuries people have been blown away by the sight of Eltz Castle. It magically draws visitors from all over the world year after year. With this unique backdrop, it is not surprising.
Hidden in a side valley of the Moselle, it lies embedded in the wild and romantic nature. Around them is nothing but a mixed forest, with jagged and wild rocks. In the valley below, the small Eltzbach winds around the medieval castle complex. The old walls of the fortress soar into the sky on a mountain spur overgrown with grass and moss. And at the top, the many bay windows, turrets, gables and laces form the crowning finale.
For many, Eltz Castle is the epitome of a fairytale knight’s castle, and perhaps because of this it is one of the most beautiful castles in Germany.
Burg Eltz – from the beginning until today
The beginnings of Eltz Castle probably date back to 1120. In 1157 it was a gift from Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa to the knight Rudolf von Eltz, whose name was first mentioned here. He lived in the then small castle complex, which was built on a rock head up to 70 meters high. The extraordinary floor plan comes from the elliptical rock formation that forms the foundation of the castle.
Their location is also not chosen at random – on the contrary. It seems very hidden today, but at that time the location was strategically perfect. Because Eltz Castle was built to secure the trade routes between the Moselle, the Eifel and the fertile Maifeld and thus received regular income.
The castle complex has been owned by the Eltz family for over 800 years. In the heyday, up to 100 family members plus their servants lived in more than 100 rooms in the castle. In 1268 the tribes were divided and Eltz Castle was divided between the brothers Elias, Theoderich and Wilhelm. Since then, the three descendants from Eltz have lived together with their relatives on a so-called “Ganerbenburg”. The names of the partial castles originate from the main line, which was created by the division of the tribes. The surname of the respective wife was added to the surname Eltz and so the names Eltz-Kempenich, Eltz-Rübenach and Eltz-Rodendorf were created, which are still borne by the partial castles today. Of course, each family expanded their area according to their own ideas and wishes. That is also the reason why three castles were built in one.
Their descendants also continued to build diligently on the walls for around 500 years, and since it was not possible to build them in width, they added one floor to the next and built bay windows and dormers. This is how the Randhausburg was built.
Today there are a total of eight, up to 35 meter high residential towers around the narrow inner courtyard. All are adorned with red trusses, decorated arches and colored coats of arms. A wide variety of architectural styles are combined within the individual buildings – from romanticism to early baroque, almost everything is represented. This interplay certainly makes Eltz Castle one of the most beautiful German fortifications.
From 1331 to 1336 there was the only war with the Elector Baldwin von Trier. The Eltzer opposed, together with neighboring chivalrous families during the “Eltzer feud”, his expansion policy. The elector then ordered the construction of the siege castle Trutzeltz, on a rocky outcrop on the slope opposite. From there, he had Eltz Castle monitored and shot at with cannons and catapults. He couldn’t take the fortress, but the besieged finally surrendered after two years because they ran out of food. From now on the free imperial knights had to give up their status.
In the subsequent War of the Palatinate Succession (1688 – 1689), a devastating war raged in the region, in which almost all Rhenish castles were destroyed. Unlike most castles, Eltz Castle was never destroyed – luckily! Otherwise we would not have the opportunity today to admire them in their full glory. It was no accident that the walls of Eltz Castle were spared during the clashes. Because Hans Anton zu Eltz-Üttingen was a relative of the senior officer in the French army. Because of his position, he was able to have the castle system deleted from the list of the buildings to be destroyed and thus preserve them.
Even the fire that broke out in 1920 in the southern part of the Kempenich house could be restored during a ten-year construction phase.
The fact that Eltz Castle is in such good shape today is due to the careful restoration and security work. Between 1845 and 1888, Count Karl zu Eltz invested around 184,000 marks, which is equivalent to around 15 million euros today. Between 2009 and 2012, only 4.4 million euros were invested in the plant.
Today is Dr. Karl Graf von und zu Eltz-Kempenich, called Faust von Stromber the owner of the castle complex. Because in 1786 the Eltz-Rodendorf line died out and its legacy went to the Eltz-Kempenich family. In 1815 they finally bought the share of the Eltz-Rübenach family and the castle was in their sole possession. Today’s lord of the castle, who lives in Frankfurt, takes care of the maintenance of the system in order to pass it on to the 34th generation.
➤ The castle and the family name come from Elzbach, which flows in a loop around the castle. The name of the water probably comes from the old high German “Els” or “Else”. This is how the black alder growing along the river was called.
The Romans called the Eltzbach “Alisontia”, which refers to the same, probably ancient Celtic root.
How to get to Eltz Castle
The way to Eltz Castle leads via the two towns Münstermaifeld and Wierschem. After the last village, signs show the way to the castle. Then a winding path runs through the forest to the paid parking lot. At a small house on the right, a nice older man sells the parking tickets. Cars can park all day for a fee of € 2.00 (2020). A home on four wheels pays double (2020).
Once the vehicle is parked, visitors have two options to get to Eltz Castle: via the direct path or through the forest. The former begins at the barrier and is paved. It leads very steeply down the mountain at about 800 meters and takes about 10 minutes. This path gives you the first magnificent views of Eltz Castle from above.
A 1.3 km long and gently sloping path to the castle meanders from the lower car park. The path takes about 15 minutes and leads through the paradisiacal Eltzer forest, along the Eltzbach. After a last turn it suddenly stands in front of you in all its glory: the beautiful Eltz Castle. Did you know that exactly this view could be seen on the DM 500 bill?
➤ Handicapped or too strenuous? You can easily get to the gate of the castle with the shuttle bus. You will also find the stop at the barrier, next to the Antonius chapel. You pay € 2.00 per trip and per person (2020), which you ideally have ready.
➤ Wheelchair users and prams should only use the paved access road to the fortress.
Another option is the castle bus (line 330), which takes visitors from the surrounding area to Eltz Castle on weekends and public holidays. For cyclists among you, the RegioRadler Burgenbus runs four times a day from May to October. He is also only on weekends and public holidays and allows you to take your bike with you.
The bus starts in Treis-Karden and goes via Pyrmont Castle to Eltz Castle. From there it goes on to Hatzenport and then back again. You can find the timetable overview here.
The guided tour “Burg Eltz Experience”
Eltz Castle is best known for its beautiful external appearance. But behind the thick, mysterious walls, it is no less interesting. An exciting journey into the Middle Ages awaits visitors there.
Inside, Eltz Castle surprises with varied architecture. The reduced rooms are equipped with pretty, hand-carved furniture. Works of art, trophies, portraits of the family and large, detailed tapestries hang on the white walls. The ceilings are lined with heavy oak planks on which old chandeliers swing.
Other rooms, on the other hand, are very lavishly decorated, from ornate walls to magnificent furniture. The opulent wall paintings run directly into the ceiling, valuable furniture decorates the room and the small, colorful windows give you a glimpse of the thick walls and the wild, romantic nature.
The friendly guides answer all questions about the fortress during the tour: how did people live and how could they keep warm in winter and what were the meanings of the fool’s mask and the rose in the knight’s hall?
After the 12th room, the informative and entertaining journey through the history of eight centuries ends – well not quite yet.
Because the treasury in the basement is the crowning conclusion of the tour. Without a guide, visitors can calmly look at the historical treasures and the sometimes bizarre legacies.
The tour of the premises of Burg Eltz includes 12 historical rooms, which are located in the Rübenacher and Rodendorfer parts of the castle. The Kempenich House is still used privately by the Eltz family and is therefore closed to visitors.
The following rooms are visited as part of the tour:
• Rübenacher Untersaal
• Rübenacher Obersaal
• dressing room
• Writing room
• Elector’s room
• Knights’ Hall
• Angel room
• Wambolt room
• Countess room
• Flag room
• Rodendorfer kitchen
Entrance fee & opening hours
Eltz Castle opens its doors from April 1 through October 31. The interior of the castle is then open to visitors every day between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The tickets for the tour are sold in the Burg Shop, after the entrance portal, on the right side. The tour including the visit to the treasury costs EUR 11.00 per person (2020). All pupils, students and disabled people get a discounted price. There is a special rate for families with at least two children.
The tours take place every 10 to 15 minutes and take about 40 minutes. You can find all further information here.
If you would rather (almost) experience the fortress without tourists, you should make your way to Eltz in winter. Because from November the count closes the doors for four months and only a few people stray to the knight’s castle.
Standing alone in front of the impressive Eltz Castle is really a magical moment. And with a little luck, the turrets may even be covered with snow. However, the inside of the castle remains hidden from the visitor. The impressive rooms and the precious treasury can only be found in spring.
➤ Around a quarter of a million visitors flock to Eltz Castle during the season.
➤ The inner courtyard of the castle brings together 500 years of Eltzer building history (from 1150 to 1650) at a glance and is still free of charge.
➤ Dogs can accompany their owners into the courtyard and outside of the restaurant.
➤ Long waiting times before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m. can be avoided.
➤ Dogs can accompany their owners into the courtyard and outside of the restaurant.
➤ Various signs already point out the drone ban in the parking lot and prohibition signs are also set up around the castle.
Adult: 11,00 €
Pupils/Students: 7,00 €
Disabled persons: 7,00 €
Family card: 30,00 €
Season: April – Oktober
Guided tour: Daily from 9.30 am – 17.30 pm
Treasure room : 9.30 am – 18.00 pm
Dine like kings
The two self-service restaurants offer their visitors a fresh menu every day. There is definitely something for everyone here. Hearty sandwiches, currywurst with fries or savory soups are available for those who are hungry. For the very hungry there is, for example, a crispy roast crust, fresh game goulash from our own hunt or roast wild boar with fresh spaetzle and cranberries. All sweets lovers will surely find what they are looking for at the cake counter and there is of course a coffee too.
When the weather is nice, the outdoor seats on the upper and lower bar offer a wonderful view of the castle and the Elzbach valley. A tall linden tree provides pleasant shade at the lower cupboard, while you sit comfortably around the castle fountain at the upper cupboard.
If the weather is not so good, there are enough seats in the dry. In the romantic pillared hall and the old goldsmiths, you can enjoy the refreshment just as beautifully in the medieval setting.
➤ The hot dishes are offered from 10.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
➤ There are free toilets for visitors to Burg Eltz (2020).
The Burg Shop of Burg Eltz
In the castle shop you can get all kinds of memorabilia that make a visit to Eltz Castle unforgettable. In addition to the standard souvenirs such as postcards, informative books and glasses and porcelain printed with the motif of Burg Eltz, the shop surprises with original souvenirs and souvenirs. Because high-quality souvenirs such as swords, crossbows or knight’s armor would hardly have been expected as a souvenir here.
Younger guests are also catered for. For “the knight and the damsel” of today imaginative equipment is offered.
Hiking trails to Eltz Castle
For the hiking heart there are several paths that lead through the wonderful nature to the Eltz Castle. Depending on the time and requirements, each path has its charm.
Hike along the romantic Elzbach
A very nice and not too long path starts in the Moselle core, at the Ringelsteiner mill. It leads along a gentle to moderate slope 2.5 kilometers along the rippling Eltzbach, right through the nature reserve Eltzer Wald. After about 35 minutes walk you will reach the impressive Eltz Castle.
On foot from Pyrmont Castle to Eltz Castle
From the neighboring Pyrmont Castle, a 9.5 km hiking trail leads to Eltz Castle. The approx. 2.5 hours lead through the beautiful Elztal.
Alternatively, on weekends and public holidays you can take the castle bus back to the starting point. You can find information about the castle bus here.
Hike with a view of the two castles
In Müden on the Moselle, a very sporty, approximately 1.7 kilometer long hiking trail to Eltz Castle begins. It shows the unique two-castle view of the neighboring castles Eltz and Pyrmont. However, because it is sometimes very steep, it is recommended for experienced hikers. The demanding hike takes about 35 minutes from Müdenerberg.
Hike through unique nature to Eltz Castle
Another demanding 7 km hiking trail starts from the neighboring town of Treis-Karden. Experienced hikers are rewarded with magnificent views of the Moselle, Hunsrück and Maifeld. Approx. For 2 hours you pass the beautiful vineyards, flowering meadows, natural fields and forests until you finally reach Eltz Castle.
The Moselle dream path Eltzer castle panorama
One of the most beautiful dream paths in Rhineland-Palatinate leads through the Elzbach Valley, the Eltz Forest, past Eltz Castle and to the southern heights of the Maifeld.
The 12.6 km hiking trail starts at the village community center in Wierschem. Due to the steady gradients, it is also only recommended for experienced hikers. Farsighted views of the open Moselle plateaus, views of the deeply incised Elzbach valley and the Pyrmont castle make up for the strenuous hike.
The natural paths lead through the Eltzer forest, along the romantic Elzbach, past rugged rocks, to the fairytale castle of Eltz. After an excursion to the Middle Ages, you will return to the magnificent nature. The further course of the hiking trail shows the varied river valley of the Elzbach and the graceful crippled oak forest before strengthening in the Ringelsteiner mill.
With new energy it goes up the mountain, back to the Moselle plateau. Before you get back to Wierschem after about 5 hours, you pass the Tholeisterhofs, the quiet valley of the Kerner Bach and cross through small forests and vast fields. If you still have time and desire, take a look at the small Antonius chapel on the outskirts.
Most people now know that Burg Eltz once adorned the 500 DM bill between 1961 and 1995. But did you also know that it was also shown on a stamp? Between 1977 and 1982 a series of castles was published in which Eltz Castle adorned a 40 Pfennig stamp. It corresponded to the postcard postage at that time.
The official website of Eltz Castle
You can find the official website of Burg Eltz here here.