If it is monumental architecture and postcard-worthy vistas you are after on your next vacation, you can't go past Germany, the castle (schloß in German) capital of the world. There are close to 200 restored and partially restored castles in Germany, most located in picturesque spots on hilly outcrops and lofty peaks by major rivers. Many are open to the public or used as museums, but if visiting them isn't enough of a medieval fix for you, you can sleep in one of several that has been converted into a hotel. Known as a "Burg," they are relatively well-priced and range in comfort level from hostel to five-star luxury.
Located on the beautiful Rhine River and overlooking the old town of Kaub and the towers of Pfalzgrafstein Castle on Falkenau Island, you could not ask for a more romantic setting that the 13th century Burg Gutenfels (tel. +49/677-4220; www.rhinecastles.com/hotel-burg-gutenfels). There are no tourist crowds here except those that ogle from afar at the castle from cruises that sail past along the river. Single rooms start at $131 and doubles at $151. The decor is a little Spartan with furnishings that are rustic and eclectic but the views of the vineyards and the river are sensational. They also rent out an apartment in the tower for up to five people for 205 per night. Breakfast is additional at $16 per person and if you choose to bring your dog, that will be an extra $16 too. Even though the site is rather remote, it is easily accessible, at only 45 miles from Frankfurt Airport or 92 miles from the Cologne Airport.
Located halfway between Ansbach and Rothenburg in the Franconia region is Burg Colmberg (tel. +49/980-391-920; www.burg-colmberg.de) a medieval masterpiece surrounded by stone walls with a central courtyard and tower. By day, the Colmberg attracts tourists visiting the countryside between Würzburg and the Bavarian Alps but by evening, this castle becomes a boutique hotel with themed rooms and an intimate atmosphere. Double rooms range from $104 to $143 per night and single rooms $55 to $112. Family rooms that can accommodate two adults and two children start from $151. Room rates include breakfast buffet, service and tax. The property also includes a private golf course and a wildlife park.
If these properties fall outside your budget, never fear: You can still have your castle experience and only pay hostel prices. Burg Stahleck (tel. +49/6743-1266; www.hostelz.com/display.php/12718+Jugendherberge+Burg) in the wine-growing town of Bacharach is 10 miles upstream from St.Goar and 63 miles from Frankfurt, on the Rhine River. Burg Stahleck offers panoramic views over the Rhine valley at moderate prices, about $20 per person per night. If you haven't got a car the trek to reach the 14th century castle at the top of the hill may take its toll, but the views, unique ruins of arches, a central courtyard and a chapel make it worthwhile. Rooms here are actually dormitories with six to eight bunk beds -- but all are modern and comfortable, plus there are family rooms with private bathrooms.
Another budget conscious option is the 10th century Burg Veldenstein (tel. +49/915-6633; www.burghotel-veldenstein.de) located overlooking the Pegnitz River in Neuhaus, Bavaria, a short distance from Nuremberg. My German is a little rusty but I managed to make my way through the website to know that single rooms including breakfast start from doubles start from $78, a triple is $88 and a quad room is $108. Rooms feature a combination of antique and contemporary furnishings and the hotels posts its restaurant menu with traditional German fare (albeit in German) on their website. From July 20 to 23, 2007, the castle will host a music festival with a variety of contemporary German musical acts performing.
Originally built in the 13th century but featuring additions from subsequent centuries, the Schlosshotel Kommende Ramersdorf (tel. +49/228-440-736; www.schlosshotel-kommende-ramersdorf.de) is one of those castles that looks like its stepped right out of a fairy tale. The whitewashed structure is resplendent with towers and turrets, gothic spires, attics and a beautiful paved central courtyard. It is located just outside the city center of the city of Bonn and features 18 guest rooms. Single rooms are priced from $72 to $105 per night and doubles are $117 to $138, all including breakfast. Although it is surrounded by a small forest and landscaped gardens, it does happen to sit on a major highway interchange leading out of Bonn, so it may not be the totally tranquil retreat that other castles offer.
For an interesting and castle saturated self-drive eight-day tour, check out the proposed itinerary from www.germany-castles.net at book stays through www.online-reservations.de. The sites also links to castle hotel reservations, packages and visitor information. For a relatively concise listing of German castles and their status (such as hotel, museum, ruin, open to the public, etc.) visit www.roadstoruins.com/directory.html. Some of the most stunning examples that are museums include the famed Neuschwanstein (the inspiration for Disney's Magic Kingdom castle) 35 miles southwest of Munich, the 13th Lichtenstein Castlein the Baden-Wurttemberg region, Marksburg high above the town of Braubach and the Rhine river, and the 13th century Vishering castle, surrounded by a moat in the north Rhine-Westphalia region.
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