Germany has some cultural and natural treasures that seem to come straight out of a fairy tale. We take a look at the dreamlike castles, enchanted forests, myth-enshrouded landscapes and mystical rock formations to bring you the 17 most magical places to visit in Germany.
This medieval castle from the 11th century sits atop a 70-metre (230-foot) rock and is shrouded by the giant trees of the surrounding forest. It has survived more than 850 turbulent years of war and intrigue, and a visit to Burg Eltz catapults you straight into the times of knights and damsels, jousting and grand romantic gestures.
The name itself (‘Fairies’ Grotto’) could be the title of a fairy tale. Stalactites in all shades of beige, brown, red and grey cover the ceiling of this abandoned mine. Fairy hunters can step through the surreal underground and water-filled caves and try to spot the rock formations that gave rise to the name.
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The Rakotzbrücke (‘Devil’s Bridge’) in Kromlau Park was constructed from basalt boulders and spans the tree-lined lake of the same name. On a bright day, the reflections of the bridge in the water below create a full circle.
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Vast meadows dotted with bushy trees and overgrown with purple and lilac heather are the signature landscape of the Lüneburg Heath between Hamburg, Hannover and Bremen. You can’t help but imagine mythical creatures ranging over these rolling hills.
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Schwerin Castle is the palace Cinderella would have dreamed of. It was reconstructed and expanded over a period of more than 1,000 years and its appearance was heavily influenced by the French castles of the renaissance period. The beautiful building sits on an island in the city of Schwerin and is surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens.
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The crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Eibsee and Germany’s Alps as a backdrop make for jaw-dropping views. Right at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, the Eibsee can be explored by boat or by following the 7-kilometre (4-mile) walking path that encircles the lake.
Huge, rugged walls of shell limestone that was deposited 240 million years ago, when the area was still covered by an ocean, dominate this beautiful canyon. In the warmer months, glacier water trickles down the walls and runs through the gorge; in winter everything grows stiff with ice, creating a magical winter wonderland.
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The surreal rock formations of the Teufelsmauer could easily be the home of Pjörnrachzarck, the good-hearted rock biter from the film The NeverEnding Story (1984). A 30-kilometre (19-mile) hiking trail leads through the bizarre landscape.
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Halfway between Berlin and Dresden, the branches of the Spree River have created an idyllic moor and pasture landscape. This biospheric reserve can be explored on a rustic wooden barge or paddle boat. It’s worth staying longer and booking yourself into one of the waterside guesthouses.
Depending on the light, the water of this small myth-enshrouded river head can appear to be many colours, from dark blue to a light turquoise. Legend has it that the water is bottomless and that the colour stems from a barrel of ink that was once poured into it. A mermaid is said to have spoiled every attempt to measure the depth of the water.
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This 19th-century castle at the edge of the Swabian Alps leans against a towering rock. Wilhelm Hauff’s novel Lichtenstein inspired the castle and gave it its name. A few years ago, German filmmakers were drawn to the romantic location and used it as the setting for a remake of Sleeping Beauty.
In 9 AD the Teutoburg Forest was the setting of a hard-fought battle between Romans and Germanic tribes that ended in a historic defeat of the Romans. Today, walking and cycling paths traverse this area full of natural and cultural monuments.
Hainich National Park
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The magical landscape of Hainich National Park in Thuringia is composed of moss-covered toppled trees, large fields covered in lily of the valley and gnarly beech trees. You will wonder at when trolls and fairies are going to cross your path.
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A few demanding hiking routes lead the way to this stunning mountain lake at the German border with Austria. The reward is breathtaking views over the crystal-clear lake surrounded by the Alps. The setting of the Schrecksee seems makes a swim seem inviting, to cool off after a strenuous hike, but the water is in fact freezing cold all year round.
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His habit of building opulent and dreamy castles earned King Ludwig II the nickname ‘Fairy Tale King’. The rooms of the Linderhof Palace are ornate with murals, paintings, tapestries and gold, but its most famous feature is the wishing table in the dining hall. Just like Grimm’s fairy tale table that set itself, the table could be lowered into the kitchen and lifted up again, fixed with a three-course meal, at any time.
National Park of Saxon Switzerland
The National Park of Saxon Switzerland wows visitors with stunning landscapes of streams, beech forests, table mountains and bizarre rock formations, most notably the famous Bastei Bridge. Fog patches create a mystic atmosphere, and the sunsets are jaw-dropping.
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This list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the epitome of a fairy tale castle, Neuschwanstein. King Ludwig II’s idealised vision of a medieval knight’s castle became a reality and was completed shortly after his death in 1886. Today, more than 1.5 million visitors step into his romantic fairy tale world every year.