Marksburg Castle in Germany's Rhine river valley, is a gorgeous, authentic castle with amazing views of the River - it is a must-see when visiting Germany! Great kid-friendly activity near Frankfurt.
When my husband lived in England as a kid, they toured castles around Europe often - it was easy and quick to head to new countries and watch history lessons come alive. Of all the castles and places he and his family visited in Germany, Marksburg stood out as his favorite.
When we were recently visiting his brother, who is living in an adorable town outside Frankfurt, we had a lot of "to-sees" on our list - but Marksburg was high on his list.
Marksburg, which sits high above the Rhine about an hour west of Frankfurt, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was first constructed in 1117 and is well-preserved, surviving conquests, Napoleonic rule, and World Wars.
Often when visiting castles, they can be painfully overdone - over-outfitted and kitschy, in a way that doesn't match the time period or actual life at the castle. These "Disney-fied" castles can be fun, but aren't incredibly authentic.
Marksburg strikes a fantastic balance - it's been updated, but minimally - so it feels authentic while still providing a bit more to explore than a castle site in complete ruins.
The most "done up" rooms are the kitchen and servants quarters - outfitted with antique and simple replica pieces to give a feel of what servants worked in.
Tips for Visiting Marksburg Castle
-If time permits, head into town below and enjoy the view of the castle above.
-Watch for afternoons - we were told many of the river cruise boats come in during the afternoon, making it a busy time in winter. This actually worked out for us on this trip, because our tour was followed by a Viking River Cruise tour - which was being conducted in English (unlike our tour, see my tips below for this issue), so we could make out a couple important tidbits from their guide.
In summer, crowds should be expected pretty much all the time.
-Book a tour - to walk through and explore Marksburg from inside the gates, you must book a tour. It is 7 euros for adults, and since both of our kids were under 7, they were free!
-Don't expect an English tour.
Unfortunately, in winter, unless you book with an outside tour company who is affiliated with the castle, there are no tours provided in English.
While our tour guide did speak English (and did offer to answer questions for us) and we were provided with a pamphlet which talked about the castle and the rooms we visited so we could follow along - but I'm sure we missed a ton of interesting tid-bits and stories that tour guides provide.
-Hit the Cafe.
In winter, the cafe was serving kinderpunsch and gluehwine - both were incredibly tasty. The castle also was serving warmed house-made brandy (I took a small bottle home) on the balcony as you enter. The drinks were delicious and really warmed us up on a cold winter day!
There is also an on-site restaurant which provides hearty German classics - and also offers medieval feasts for groups touring through. Inquire early for availability, especially in summer when Marksburg is very very busy.
-Enjoy the view!
Marksburg has a fantastic, unspoiled view of the Rhine - you can watch the river cruise ships, barges, and boats sailing the river, take in the gorgeous rolling hills of the valley, and see for miles and miles. We stood and just gazed for a long time while visiting - the view was spectacular!
Visit the Gift Shop!
Ok, I will admit this sounds odd - especially if you're used to American kitschy gift shops. Yes, there is plenty of kitsch at the Marksburg shop - but there are tons of books, local art, fun toys (my kids got swords, a princess crown, and a knight's helmet - we would have bought them complete mid-eval costumes, but we had so much more of our trip we didn't want to blow our whole budget.)
Because the castle is right off the river cruise route, they will ship to you in America if you don't have room for your purchases, which is a nice way to know something special you grab can make it back home, without having to jostle for room in your suitcases!