Germany is well-known for its nearly 20,000 castles. No visit to Cologne is complete without at least one visit to a castle or palace. While the city itself does not boast its own, there are a number of interesting and beautiful castles in the area surrounding Cologne. It is fun and easy to visit them on a day trip. From well-known favorites to under-the-radar spots, this blog post covers the coolest palaces and castles to visit around Cologne.
As local experts on Cologne and the Rhineland, the team at Art of Touring loves to show off the incredible attractions and activities in our region. We offer customized guided tours and destination management services. This list of the most interesting castles and palaces around Cologne has been created in collaboration with our knowledgeable local guides. If you are interested in creating a custom itinerary that includes visits to some of these palaces or castles, please reach out!
These are the 8 Best Castles & Palaces to Visit Near Cologne
A short train ride south from Cologne brings you to the picturesque wine village of Königswinter. This charming town is home to Drachenfels (translates as “Dragon Cliff”) and Drachenburg Castle. Most people simply call the castle Drachenfels, but both names work. The Bonn-based stockbroker Stephan von Sarter built this magnificent castle at the end of the 19th century, and it serves as a lovely example of gothic revival architecture. Drachenburg went through extensive renovations in the late 1990s after it came into ownership of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, so it is in excellent condition.
You can hike up the hill to the castle (it takes about 30 minutes), but an easier way to get up is the funicular train. Get the best of both worlds by buying a one way ticket and hiking back down. Offering spectacular views of the Rhine valley, the viewing platform at the top of the train is a great place to relax and grab a drink or lunch. Also onsite are the ruins of a much older fortress perched precariously on the hill’s summit. You need to buy a ticket to enter the castle grounds, but it gives you open access to the entire facility.
- Location: Konigswinter (40km from Cologne city center)
- Hours: Open Daily 11am – 6:00pm
- Website: https://www.schloss-drachenburg.de/index.php/en/
Brühl Castle (Augustusburg)
Augustusburg Palace in Brühl is one of the more famous sites located in the Cologne area, making it a very popular day trip from Cologne. Sometimes called the Versailles of Germany, it was once the palace of Prince Bishop Elector Clemens August of Bavaria. Today, it is one of the best preserved examples of German Rococo architecture, which is why it has UNESCO World Heritage Status. You can go behind the scenes of Augustusburg with our Instagram video featuring the palace.
You can only visit the interior of the palace on a tour (Art of Touring offers guided tours of Augustusburg for our clients). The tours are offered throughout the day in German or English. Inside, visitors get to see incredibly ornate royal apartments together with furniture from the same period. Visitors especially love the grand staircase room which is decorated in colorful marble.
Outside the palace, you can find some of the best formal French gardens in Germany. They are especially nice in spring when the roses are blooming. If all of that isn’t enough, you can wander through woods to reach another baroque jewel: the Falkenlust hunting lodge. This was the site of Clemens August’s lavish balls. He would also use the lodge to indulge in his most treasured past-time: hunting with falcons. Hunting scenes are depicted on hundreds of beautifully presented ceramic tiles.
- Location: Brühl (18km from Cologne city center)
- Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9am-4pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am-5pm
- Website: https://www.schlossbruehl.de/
Located north of Cologne, Schloss Dyck is a gorgeous moated castle that dates all the way back to the 11th century. A visit to this castle offers a classical experience with its historical exhibition and beautiful design. Schloss Dyck is a perfect place to visit for horticulturalists, thanks to the fantastic gardens surrounding the park. The picturesque moat surrounding the castle makes this location incredibly Instagrammable.
You can easily let the hours slip by lounging on the lawn while sampling some delicious local produce at the on-site farm shop. If you need more formal refreshment after a walk through the garden, there is a very nice cafe restaurant open just next to the entrance to the castle’s main courtyard. To really experience the castle, book a night at the hotel! You’ll sleep like royalty in one of the nine stylish and historic bedrooms with breakfast and a private tour of the castle included.
- Location: Jüchen (50km from Cologne city center)
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6:00pm
- Website: https://schlosspaffendorf.de/
Another marvel of Rococo design, Benrath Palace is situated between Cologne and Düsseldorf. There is a train stop located a short walk from the palace, so it is very easy to access for visitors. Benrath Palace is much smaller than other palaces on this list; but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty. The German gardens behind the palace are popular with locals, thanks to their large size and natural beauty. It is a lovely place to go for a long walk.
After purchasing an entry ticket, you can meander through the lavish rooms of Benrath independently. Photography is also allowed inside, making it a great place to snap some beautiful photos. Every room inside the pale pink palace is stunning. Careful restoration efforts are on display with all of the intricate details and large chandeliers. You will notice colorful wallpapered bedrooms and an impressive marble-clad entryway.
- Location: Benrath (30km from Cologne city center)
- Hours: Mon – Tues from 11am – 5pm, closed Wed & Thurs, Fri from 2pm-5 pm, Sat & Sun from 11 am – 6pm
- Website: http://www.schloss-benrath.de/
More off-the-beaten path than other castles on this list, the Paffendorf Castle is one of the many castles and mansions in the Erft lowlands west of Cologne. It was built in the 16th century consisting of a multi-wing, two-storey mansion and a bailey enclosing a spacious courtyard. After its initial construction, the castle fell into a state of disrepair. It was essentially reconstructed in the middle of the 19th century, which explains the castle’s current neo-Gothic appearance.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Schloss Paffendorf is the 7.5 hectare park that surrounds it. It is so serene! Extensive waterways and numerous large trees, such as old growth sequoias, gingkos and giant cedars, make this park a naturalist’s dream. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful moat that always seems to have blooming lily pads and fish adding to its bucolic appeal.
- Location: Bergheim (45km from Cologne city center)
- Hours: Open Daily 10am – 7:00pm
- Website: https://schlosspaffendorf.de/
For one of the best views in all of the Rhineland region, make your way to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. Towering hundreds of meters above the historic city of Koblenz, this castle fortress overlooks the confluence of the Rhine River and the Mosel River. The Deutsches Eck point (pictures below) is famous in western Germany, because it is the point where the two most important rivers combine into one.
To access the fortress, ride the scenic cable car ride over the Rhine river. Keep your camera handy on the ride up! Ehrenbreitstein Fortress was a strategic military outpost that served a major role in a variety of conflicts throughout German history. It sits perched on a high rock plateau that has sweeping views of the surrounding areas, and a birds eye view over the Deutsches Eck. The fort itself has been converted to a museum, covering a wide range of military and regional history.
- Location: Koblenz (100km from Cologne city center)
- Hours: Open Daily 10am – 6:00pm
- Website: http://www.diefestungehrenbreitstein.de/
Dating back to the 13th-century, Stolzenfels Castle is located a few kilometers south of Koblenz. It is very easy to combine a visit to this castle with the fortress mentioned above. It is a perfect little day trip from Cologne! Stolzenfels was largely destroyed during the 30 Years War, but it was rebuilt in the 1800s by the Prussian Crownprince, Frederick William. It has a distinct neo-Gothic style and sits perched on a small hill overlooking the Rhine River.
You are allowed to visit this castle on a guided tour, offered only in German. There are language translation guides for other languages. The tour lasts about 1 hour, taking you through a number of rooms in the castle. It is clad in medieval paintings, weapons, armor and furnishings, as well as a unique mixture of pieces from the 19th century when it was reconstructed.
- Location: Koblenz (120km from Cologne city center)
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am-5pm
- Website: https://tor-zum-welterbe.de/de/schloss-stolzenfels/
We might have saved the best castle for last! Burg Eltz is one of the most visited castles in Germany and it has seen a skyrocket in visitors since the emergence of Instagram. The fairytale design and wooded location make it incredibly photogenic and popular on the photo sharing app. Its relatively remote location in the Moselle Valley protected the castle from most wars, so it is nearly identical to its original condition.
Over the course of its 1,000 year history, Eltz Castle has been privately owned by the Eltz family. The 33rd generation still resides here today! Guided tours of the castle are offered daily in multiple languages. No photography is allowed inside. You can buy a ticket on arrival, but due to its popularity, there may be a long line to enter. Because one family has consistently owned the castle, you will find the rooms filled with original artifacts, like paintings, armor and furniture.
- Location: Wierschem (110km from Cologne city center)
- Hours: Open daily 9:30am-5:30pm
- Website: https://www.burg-eltz.de/de/