Find The Hidden Gem: Castles of Cologne, Germany

Lydia Fulson

By: Lydia Fulson / Writer, Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Thrill Seeker, and Adventurer

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It looks like you've wandered into another castle-filled German city: the beautiful and bustling Cologne in North Rhine-Westphalia.

There's so much to do and see in this city, and oh-so-many hidden gems. Whether you may be traveling solo, with a group, or following relaxingly with a guided tour, there is something for everyone. A sight for every eye to see!

Let's take a look at some of the top castles this place has to offer, which is MANY! Fairy tale castles with great views turn your average day trips into a dream. Explore palaces from the Middle Ages, castles from medieval times, and famous castles that take you on a journey through the past.

Drachenburg Castle : Castles in CologneDrachenburg Castle looking as elegant as ever!

Let's dive into some castles!

 Castle Construction

Castle construction

Note that these castles are old and sometimes require construction and upkeep. Be sure to check the official castle websites or local tourist stops to stay updated and informed of any construction in the castle to avoid a scene like this. After a trip up the mountain to see Heidelberg Castle, I was met with a lovely sight of an excavator instead. Stay in the loop on castle construction to plan your castle trip around it!

List of Dazzling Castles in Cologne

Bensberg Castle

Distance from Cologne: 12 miles (20 kilometers)

Travel by car: 26 minutes

Travel by transit (bus): 35 minutes

In the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, this enormous fairytale castle once served as a former hunting lodge in the 18th century. Now, it's known as the Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg: a luxury hotel and spa. Time to kick back and relax on your Cologne tour. 

Bensberg Castle, CologneFollow that classic cobblestoned walkway to the castle of your dreams!

Stay in one of the most beautiful castles in Germany and feel like royalty as you wander the manicured gardens and gaze at the peaceful Cologne bay from your balcony view. This is the perfect place to relax and also learn some history about the stunning architecture and location.


As you drive through the massive gate lined with shaped hedges, you'll pull up to the lovely welcoming entranceway of Bensberg with a peaceful fountain in front. Make your way past all the chandeliers and Baroque-decorated halls to your royal room, decorated to make you feel comfortable and of course, fancy! Fancy is exactly how one should feel staying in a place like this.

But the rooms aren't even the best part of this place. After your spa day and romantic dinner in the tasteful dining hall, make way to the warm and stunning indoor pool.

Chairs to lounge in. Calm, warm water to bask in. A fireplace to warm up by afterward. Now that's the best way to wind down after a busy time traveling through all these awesome German castles.

Augustusburg Castle / Schloss Augustusburg

Distance from Cologne: 11 miles (18 kilometers)

Travel by car: 32 minutes

Travel by transit (bus): 20 minutes

Augustusburg Castle could be the perfect postcard photo. Check out that patterned driveway!

This is the fanciest hunting lodge you ever did see.

Much like Bensberg, it served as a royal hunting lodge and summer residence for many decades. On the site of old castle ruins, this stunning Renaissance-style palace was erected. Its beauty and intricately designed gardens landed it a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list!

Augustusburg Castle's patterned sidewalk in CologneThe most intricate driveway you ever did see

These winding gardens are a great spot for a relaxing stroll. Augustusburg was designed with French influence in mind and is a true example of an authentic 18th-century garden. The castle grounds are a work of art so amazing it almost looks fake.

Augustusburg gardens in CologneManicured to perfection!


The castle now features many museums to learn a bit about German history. But that's not all. You can journey through time and see the old carriages, dungeons and wait for it... motorcycles! The biggest motorcycle exhibit in Europe can be found here. This palace really has something for everyone.

It's the perfect mix of architectural styles, so you'll see a little bit of everything. Wander into one room, see a little Baroque style, another room … Renaissance. Stroll down the next hallway, see some Rococo. If architecture is your thing, this castle is a must-visit to move up on the list of palaces to tour.

Augustusburg architecture in CologneAugustusburg screams elegance

What sets Augustusburg Palace apart from the rest is its amazingly unique interior. Marble galore!

The staircase is the most popular spot for photos, and it's no secret why. The double staircase features a luxuriously detailed railing with big marble pillars at the bottom and the most incredibly decorated ceiling. Floating above, you can see the unique chandelier, almost resembling an old lantern.

This palace is a place of grace and beauty. Does anyone else think of Cinderella or Princess Barbie movies when they see the inside of this place?

~ Travel tip ~ 

Be sure to ask or research before visiting the castles. Some have areas that are not allowed to be photographed. Ask your tour guide! Just as one would in a museum, one always wants to be respectful of the rules and the historic buildings themselves, they are pieces of art too!

Benrath Palace

Distance from Cologne: 22 miles (35 kilometers)

Travel by car: 34 minutes

Travel by transit (bus): 33 minutes

Okay, maybe THIS is the Barbie castle. Check out that color! It's always fun to see something so bright and bold, stepping away from the traditional neutral castle colors.

There's a bonus that comes with visiting Benrath. It doubles as a park! It's a peaceful place to spend the day.  The surrounding area has been turned into a lovely conservation area.

After many years of waiting to be finished due to the Seven Years' War, then also being damaged during World War II – extensive renovations took a long time to get the stunning palace to what it is today. Nevertheless, from all the destruction came something truly mesmerizing.

Benrath Palace at nighttime in CologneBenrath and its beautiful color shimmering at nighttime

Before you go inside, take some time to walk the grounds. A lot of thought and love went into the gardens and park of this palace.

The long ponds are kept clean and the fountain gives the best ambiance for a romantic walk through the bush. A nature lover's dream will come true here.

As you walk through the beautiful path in the bush, you'll find cute bridges over streams and you're guaranteed to see some of Germany's national birds and many others. Acres of land have been turned into nature reserves to keep the abundance of flora and fauna protected.


After taking in all that the perfectly manicured gardens have to offer, come on inside!

Benrath Castle in the spring in CologneLook at that color! Does that make you think of Barbie's dreamhouse or what?

This place simply screams elegance. Some of the interior is just as pink as the outside! The ceilings are, of course, hand-painted with angelic scenes in pastel colors. Crystal chandeliers and immaculate detail in the plasterwork on the ceilings will take your breath away. Check out that detailing in the statue!

Benrath statue in CologneThe intricate details in the Benrath statues are just as impressive as the color

Make your way down the golden mirrored hallways to find the two famous museums: one dedicated to art and the other to natural history. Here, a guide will show you the popular birds that you may have seen on your scenic stroll through the park. Keep an eye out for swans! They are often spotted in the pond out front.

Be sure to come back for the Benrath light show! The glistening pink palace shines bright with white lights strung along every inch of the roof. Lights are projected not only on the building, but throughout the garden waters and gardens as well. What an indescribable sight!

Eltz Castle / Burg Eltz

Distance from Cologne: 75 miles (120 kilometers)

Travel by car: 1 hour 40 minutes

Lived in by the, you guessed it, the Eltz family for many generations, recording back to before the 11th century! The castle sits on a rocky outcrop, 230 feet high. The peaceful Elzach River and the Moselle river flow down below.

The Eltz is split into many different sections. The main building is the family area with over 100 rooms. This is where the separate parts or royal statuses of the family would live.

Eltz Castle near CologneIt may be a bit further out of Cologne, but it's worth the journey!

Surrounded by the chaos of war, no matter how much this castle endured, it still stands strong and proud. Eltz's medieval castle is considered an impenetrable stronghold.

In total seclusion from modern towns and buildings, it really feels like you're in a folklore tale. Totally surrounded by the eerily beautiful Eltz forest, this makes for a true fairytale setting for nature lovers.


While pictures are not permitted inside the castle for respect and privacy reasons, the interior gives a warm, comforting feeling. The Eltz was not decorated to be overly ornate and fancy, but to feel like a humble home and to look strong from the outside. Most rooms were turned into museums, holding beloved Eltz family artifacts. You can see weapons used during the battles and lots of art.

Eltz Castle on a rainy day near CologneSo mysterious!

The best part of this castle is that not much has changed in its hundreds of years of standing. As you tour through the Eltz, you'll be walking through the authentic rooms, walking on the original floors, and seeing original paintings. That makes it even more special. Don't let the 'no photography' get you down.

It's the perfect place to take a break from the bustling tourist photo-snapping and ditch-the-technology to bask in the beauty around you! Nearby the amazing forest are scenic hiking trails. This makes it a great place for a day trip. Explore the Eltz, stroll by the quiet rivers, and hike through the trees.

Will you be adding this one to your bucket list??

Schloss Dyck

Distance from Cologne: 30 miles (49 kilometers)

Travel by car: 55 minutes

Travel by transit (bus): 1 hour 28 minutes

This Schloss is the type of fortress that you hear about in fantasy novels. Schloss Dyck is a stunning castle that has become a very well-known tourist destination, especially for weddings.

Why so popular? It might have something to do with the super cool moat. That's right. This is the only one on the list with an entire surrounding moat! Just like what you read in storybooks growing up: The knights with clanging shields guard the castle with the drawbridge over the crocodile-filled moat. 

Okay, so there aren't any crocodiles here, but it's still really amazing! And it did technically start with a knight. Though how it truly came to be has mostly been lost in history.

Dyck Castle with field in front, near CologneAnother bright and bold beauty!

Dyck went through a few different ownerships- but mostly served as the sumptuous residence of the prince-archbishops of Cologne. It was passed down family trees until handed over to a foundation to keep its reputation going.


Inside Schloss Dyck, because of its countless owners, there were changes made. The 17th-century owner had the main building extended and a brewery added in. The stables were also lavishly built for the horses.

Dyck Castle with water view near Cologne

In the next century, more changes were made to construct the castle with more elegance and elaborate details. Fancy tapestries, massive chandeliers, and arched windows now grace the palace.

Since then, the Schloss has been used as a venue for many weddings and parties. Parts of it have even been turned into a luxury hotel. Imagine staying overnight in a castle where archbishops and grand dukes used to live! Its beautifully maintained gardens attract tourists from all over Germany and the world.

Satzvey Castle / Burg Satzvey

Distance from Cologne: 30 miles (48 kilometers)

Travel by car: 45 minutes

Travel by transit (bus): 58 minutes

This 12th-century moated castle was lived in by the Gymnich family and remodeled a number of times. Now it is a place that will fulfill all of your fantasies of being a knight-in-training. Burg Satzvey hosts themed events and medieval demonstrations to fill you in on the history and folk that inhabited this fortress on the water.

Which event you see is dependent on the season and time of year you visit Satzvey. In the winter months, the beautiful snow-covered peaks of the castle make a welcoming entrance to the winter wonderland hidden inside the castle courtyard. The most popular event is the Medieval Market.

Satzvey Castle near CologneSo medieval looking! This would be a great spot for a medieval festival! Oh, would you look at that! There already is one!

Mittelalterlicher Markt

People of all ages gather around from all parts of Germany to see this fun-filled medieval event. Throughout the courtyard are dozens of booths and tents set up to enjoy a mug or chalice of beer, snack on medieval-style treats from the Burg café, and buy handmade garments to get your costume on!

Become that knight or wandering medieval maiden of your wildest dreams.

Venture through the cobblestone castle paths and make your way, in your new costume, to the field where you'll watch the reenacted battle of a lifetime. Knights on horseback, jousting, racing and more, to show who is the greatest warrior of them all. Pick a knight and cheer him. Who will be the champion?

After all that cheering, take a shot at some archery with the knights!


What a crazy cool adventure that was. Now, it's time to wind down. But who wants to keep driving and traveling to find a hotel after such a busy day of fun? Get a room at the Satzvey and do it all over again tomorrow!

That's right. The castle has also been converted into a hotel. The few rooms aren't wildly ornately decorated like other castles we've talked about, but comforting and elegant. Stay in a tasteful room, then enjoy a tasty meal in one of the two artisanal restaurants found in the castle.

Are you left feeling exhausted from the busy festival yesterday? Well, there's good news! There's no need to travel far to see more, as the castle courtyard features shops and even workshops for you to partake in.

Falkenlust Hunting Lodge

Distance from Cologne: 12 miles (20 kilometers) 

Travel by car: 38 minutes

Travel by transit (bus): 41 minutes

Falkenlust hunting lodge was built in a beautiful, secluded area in the 17th century. The lodge is a hop, skip, and jump away from Augustusburg Castle - both of which share the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Falkenlust served as a hunting lodge for the former archbishop, Clemens August, who specialized in skillful heron hunting.

Falkenlust Hunting Lodge in Cologne

The lodge was built strategically in the path of the herons. Close to the breeding grounds on the River Rhine and in route of the light patterns, what could be a better spot for a hunting lodge?

Check out those intricate initials “C” and “A” in gold lettering on top of the gate. Beautiful work!


Falkenlust is rather colorful compared to many castles throughout Germany. One may start to think that blue was Clemens's favorite color! The interior isn't overly rich or regal, but, fun and playful. Blue tiles with different patterns grace the walls climbing with the staircase and even more blue funky tiles are found throughout the castle. Notice anything about the tiles, besides the fact that they are indeed VERY blue? Look closely. They all have birds in them! Wow.

~ Fun Fact ~ 

It is said that there are over 10,000 Dutch blue tiles on the staircase walls alone!

Painted portraits can also be spotted scattered about. The most popular painting shows Clemens dressed in falconry attire with a flacon on his arm!

Painting of August Clemens with a falcon, in Falkenlust, CologneWhat a dapper outfit. And an even more dapper falcon friend!

Other paintings show his family. The rooms are decorated with ornate designs, each different from the next. One room has a carved leather wall hanging and another has black-painted wood walls with bright lacquer Chinese pictures and symbols. Continuing upstairs, one can find stunning handmade white statues of gods and goddesses of the river.

The smaller structure seen outside is the chapel. Its architecture is just as lovely as the lodge. The inside, of course, has blue in it, but the style is incredible. The interior details took ten years to complete.

Drachenburg Castle / Schloss Drachenburg

Distance from Cologne: 25 miles (40 kilometers)

Travel by car: 50 minutes

Travel by transit (bus): 1 hour 16 minutes

Located in the western part of Germany, this culturally significant castle was built in the 19th century and went through quite a bit in its history.

Built on the east side of the famous Rhine River, Drachenburg brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, especially during the warm, summer months. There is so much history in this place.

No one knows exactly the purpose of why it was built other than to be used as a private villa. Though the owner had it built very quickly in only two years, he never lived there. Odd!

Drachenburg Castle, CologneThe Sleeping Beauty Castle of Germany!

The surrounding bush and the Cinderella vibe it gives off makes it a great place to bring the little ones. Give them the real feeling of being a princess for a day!

Enjoy a pleasant picnic on the castle park grounds. It's a must-see on your castle tour of Cologne. It made it onto the list of the best castles in Cologne for a reason.

If you're visiting in the winter, there is something extra special to see. Every winter, you can see the breathtaking “castle illumination”. This beautiful display of dancing lights is strung and pointed at the peaks of Darchenburg, lighting it up in a fantastic visual certain to fill you with the spirit of the season.

The over 400 bright lights on the castle, surrounded by the lush forests, make it seem as though the castle is floating. Now, that's something to experience!

Stick around for the yearly Christmas market, too. Grab a hot cup of cider and enjoy the snacks and lit-up hallways of the castle.


The castle took some damage during the war, destroying many original murals and the beautiful stained windows. Unfortunately, Drachenburg lost many of its artworks due to robbery as well.

While it may have some battle scars, the villa is still full of potential and provides a lovely place for us to visit and enjoy. You'll see loads of massive windows and long hallways … and look up. The murals inside are absolute works of art. Drachenburg gives more photo opportunities than the Eltz, so here, it's welcome to enjoy with your eyes AND your camera.

~Travel Tip ~ 

Always look up! In most castles, in Europe especially, murals were often hand-painted on the ceilings and are common in entranceways and hallways. So, always be sure to look up!

Honorable Mention

Cologne Cathedral

An honorable mention that's too stunning not to mention – Cologne Cathedral. The massive structure can be seen for miles, even all the way out from the other side of the Rhine. It's a true masterpiece in architecture and a symbol of impeccable power, strength, and the Catholic religion.

Cologne Cathedral, view from the Rhine RiverThis thing is so big it could be seen from space! Well, not really. But it is HUGE!

There are no other words to describe this mighty fortress other than MIGHTY!

Over 500 feet tall, the cathedral has been through the works in history. Construction has been brought to a halt several times over many decades since it was started in 1248.

The massive towers that give the structure its impressive look made for an easy target during the war, which sadly led the cathedral to suffer fourteen bombings. Of course, the cathedral suffered damage from the bombs, but by some miracle, it still stood!

Cologne cathedral - Lydia's picture!As I was taking this picture, I was awestruck at the massiveness of this towering cathedral. No picture can do it justice!

Cologne's great cathedral took on many repairs and is now as spectacular as ever. It was deemed a World Heritage Site in 1996, which was well-deserved. Cologne's great cathedral is now the most visited German landmark AND the third-largest church in the world.

Lydia sitting in the Cologne cathedral pewsWhile wandering in the great really sunk in as to why tourists love it so much. It's magical!

It was built in the shape of the Latin cross, which is common with Gothic churches. Inside - the world's oldest crucifix can be found, dating back to 960. Along with the famous Shrine of The Three Kings, built with beautiful golden intricacy, the stained-glass windows are absolutely incredible.

Stained-glass windows in Cologne CathedralIt was hard not to feel like a tiny ant while taking pics of the larger-than-life stained-glass windows.

These windows are huge, bright, bold, and beautiful. All the windows – side by side, span 10,170 feet! Just looking at this cathedral gives you goosebumps because of how massive it is in size.

The cathedral is built from sandstone, which is affected by rain, which is acidic. The reaction from the acidity is turning the sandstone black. That's why the peaks at the top seem more black than the bottom of the cathedral. Some say they like how the new black makes the Gothic style pop!

Cologne has so many castles to offer. Incredible!

Did any catch your eye? Perhaps the enchanting Drachenburg? The medieval Satzvey or the colorful Benrath? There are so many great ones to choose from. Near or far, these castles and palaces are worth seeing.

~ Travel tip ~ 

There's no better place to start than contacting a tour guide! Start by finding a reputable guide that is offering tours of the right castles that piqued your interest. Perhaps some beauties on this list? There's a castle out there for everybody!

Don't be afraid to ask them any questions you may have about the history, surrounding area, architecture, or anything out of curiosity. Guides are always willing to answer to the best of their abilities and give an incredible experience in the castle.

What is the Koelner Lichter?

The Koelner Lichter translates to "The Cologne Lights": Germany’s largest high-altitude musical firework display, which takes place every summer.

How big is the city of Cologne?

The city of Cologne is the fourth-largest city in Germany.