Seven castles that give us a peek into the history of northern Germany
Visitors to Hamburg, northern Germany, will discover an abundance of old castles and palaces during their trip. These architectural gems can be found surrounded by elegant gardens in idyllic settings. These are seven of the most impressive. They are all just 30 to 90 minutes from Hamburg –where you can fly from 7,500 Avios per route.
1 Ahrensburg Palace
Considered one of the best examples of northern Germany Renaissance, Ahrensburg Palace is surrounded by an English garden and a moat. Its imposing white façade is astounding. It was built around 1585 by Peter Rantzau and is 30 kilometres northwest of Hamburg, in southern Schleswig-Holstein. Converted into a private museum in 1938, it then served as a military hospital during World War II. The palace underwent a major renovation from 2009 to 2015. Stroll through the blue room and the celebration room used for weddings and concerts. Visit its chapel and then climb the rococo staircase that leads to the upper floors, where you will find numerous treasures from the 17th and 18th centuries.
2 El castillo de Reinbek
Reinbek Castle was built between 1572 and 1576 by Duke Adolf I of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf, next to the ruins of former Mediaeval Cistercian monastery. The castle – clad in red brick and sandstone bands – is located a 30-minute drive from central Hamburg. It is divided into three wings and has a porticoed courtyard and several green spaces, including an English-style landscape garden with fountains and a pond. After undergoing several modifications, it was restored from 1977 to 1987 with the castle returning to its original Dutch Renaissance style. Take a guided tour and discover each room’s particular appeal. Its basement houses a permanent exhibition of pieces found during the excavation of the monastery, while the walls of the old kitchen feature temporary art exhibitions. Classical music concerts, among other activities, are held in the former ballroom.
3 Plön Castle
After marrying Princess Dorothea Augusta, Duke Joachim Ernest of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Plön had Plön Castle built as a residence for the couple. Located on a hill in Plön, it is a 90-minute drive from Hamburg. The building – which has three wings and elements of the late Renaissance and Baroque styles – was built over the ruins of a 12th-century castle between 1633 and 1636, during the Thirty Years’ War. Over time, it became the summer residence of the Danish kings and, later, it was used as a Prussian military academy. The castle and its surroundings can be toured.
4 Eutin Castle
Originally a 12th-century castle, Eutin Castle was enlarged over time until – after a fire in the late 17th century – it was renovated to the castle you see today: a beautiful Baroque structure clad in North German brick, with four wings, two corner towers, a gate tower, long galleries and a Mediterranean-style courtyard inside. It is surrounded by Lake Eutin, an impressive English landscape garden and one of Germany’s best-preserved orchards. The castle originally belonged to the bishops of Lübeck, before becoming the summer residence of the Dukes of Oldenburg. It is one of the most important cultural monuments in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.
5 Ludwigslust Palace
There is a waterfall in front of Ludwigslust Palace’s imposing sandstone façade; and behind it is a pond in which a reflection of the palace can be seen – and it is surrounded by an English landscape garden. The palace was built between 1772 and 1776 and blends elements of late Baroque and neoclassical styles. Ludwigslust Palace can be found in Ludwigslust, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state (around an hour’s drive from Hamburg). Its interior is a gem that conserves some of the original furnishings, as well as displaying paintings from past centuries. The palace offers guided tours to the public.
6 Schwerin Palace
Schwerin Palace’s history dates back to the 10th century, when the Slavic Obotrite people occupied the area, although the current building was built between 1845 and 1857. Neo-Renaissance in style, the palace has five wings and an impressive 653 rooms. Built on an islet in the middle of Lake Schwerin, it is surrounded by a Baroque garden, a greenhouse, a grotto and a courtyard with a fountain, sculptures, arch and colonnade. Some of the most interesting rooms include the throne room and the gallery of portraits of the various Dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Due to its large size and architectural sophistication, it is considered one of the most important buildings in German historicism. It’s currently a museum that educates visitors about its history.
7 Bothmer Castle
It was built from 1726 to 1732 on the order of Count Hans Caspar von Bothmer, a prominent politician and diplomat who served as an envoy of the House of Hanover in London. While there, he lived in the British prime minister’s house, No 10 Downing Street and that influence can be seen at Bothmer Castle – some refer to it as a “piece of England in Mecklenburg”. It is found in the area known as ‘Klützer Winkel’, on the outskirts of Klütz, just four kilometres south of the Baltic Sea. Comprising 13 individual buildings covered in reddish brick, the castle is the largest Baroque palace complex in the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. It stands on an island surrounded by a moat and a spectacular landscape garden.