Vast landscapes, haunting architecture and enchanted castles are just a few of the incredible sights you can expect to see on a river cruise. From your ship, you’ll witness the misty hills in the distance frame these magnificent architectural marvels that still stand after thousands of years. Every castle has a unique history, with stories of war and fallen kingdoms, and represents the spectacular styles of the period in which it was established.
Among the many Rhine River castles you’ll spot during a scenic afternoon of cruising in this region are Ehrenfels, Rheinstein, Sooneck, Heimburg, Stahleck and Maus.
One of the best ways to see these impressive castles is on a river cruise. Here we will talk about some of the castles you can spot along the way, so you can learn more about their history before you see them for yourself.
The monumental structure of Ehrenfels Castle is quite a sight to behold. It was formed in 1211 together with the Mäuseturm and the Klopp Castle to protect the territory of the archbishopric of Mainz. It was remodelled in 1356 and survived the Thirty Years’ War but was burned by the French in 1689.
Today, the ruins are a reminder of its turbulent past and it is still as impressive as ever. The castle is best viewed from the Rhine River, where you can see it on the hillside among the grape vineyards.
Situated on a rocky cliff on the Loreley Valley, the imposing Rheinstein is approximately 80 metres above the Rhine River. It was built around 900AD to serve as a post for the German Empire.
In 1823, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig, Royal Prince of Prussia and nephew of King Friedrich Wilhelm III purchased the castle ruin and its foundation stone. It was then rebuilt by famous castle architect, Claudius von Lassaulx.
Since 1975, the castle has been privately owned by the Hecher family who have repaired and restored it to its former glory.
True to its medieval construction and design, Burg Rheinstein still has a working drawbridge and portcullis. The courtyard (known as “Burgunder-Garden” named after the grape vine growing there) offers a spectacular view of the Rhine River. The vine is approximately 500 years old, and still produces grapes to this day.
Burg Sooneck was named after the nearby Soon Forest and constructed as early as the 11th century. Sooneck was built along with Reichenstein, Heimburg and Vauzburg to protect the area around Niederheimbach.
Over the next three centuries, it was rebuilt and destroyed again by French Troops during the War of the League of Augsburg.
In 1842, Sooneck underwent restoration once again. Its restoration involved creating a simpler yet romantic plan with colourful roses along its ramparts. As the Keep is quite large, it is best admired from a distance. Similar to the Rheinstein, the best views are from the river itself.
Not much is known about Heimburg Castle, though it was built around 1300 by the Archbishop of Mainz as protection against the Palatines. In 1689, it was destroyed by French troops during the reign of King Louis XIV.
In the 19th century, the castle fell into the hands of industrialist Hugo Stinnes, who converted it to a neo-Gothic-style residence with a square layout.
The exact year of Stahleck castle’s construction is unknown, but it was definitely occupied as early as 1095. It was first mentioned in 1135 in documents under the name Goswin von Hochstadt.
After the Thirty Years’ War, in 1666 restoration was made by the elector count palatine Carl Ludwig. However, between January and May 1689 the castle was blown up by the French troops, where it was left in ruins for over 200 years. In two construction phases (1925-27 and 1965-67) it was rebuilt to its current impressive size. Today, it is one of the most popular youth hostels in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Construction on Maus Castle (once known as Thurnberg) began in the 14th century by arch bishop Boemund II to protect his newly acquired territory. It was one of the most modern and interesting constructions of its time. The castle evaded destruction and was sold in 1806 to Friedrich Habel. It was renovated shortly after, and care was taken to preserve its original appearance.
Maus opens its gates for visitors. Inside, you can admire the precious antique furniture and beautiful décor. Tours are offered from the end of March to the beginning of October where you can also learn about the birds who call the castle home and watch their spectacular flying displays in the sky.
Have you seen any of these castles up close?
A cruise on the River Rhine will not only take you through spots where you can see these enchanting castles, but also offers breathtaking landscapes with beautiful vineyards located at every turn. Our most popular Rhine cruises for castle tours and viewing include Canals, Vineyards & Paris, Romantic Rhine, Central European Experience, the Rhine & Moselle and more. You can also view our entire list of Rhine River Cruises and start your adventure.