This post has information about the Externsteine Rocks in Teutoburger Wald (Teutoburg Forest), which is Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia State.
Would you believe me if I told you that Germany has it’s own Stonehenge like natural site with rocks that standing there since the ice age?
I wouldn’t believe me, but thankfully I have visited this place twice. It is called the Externsteine, and it is often called the Germanic Stonehenge because of Wilhelm Teudt, an archeologist who popularized this term.
AKA the Germanic Stonehenge – The Externsteine
The Externsteine rocks are massive, and have a strange beauty about them as they appear to be jutting out of the earth out of nowhere.
Living in Germany, I have visited a lot of destinations within the country but this place left a strong memory in my mind. The sheer magnificence of the Externsteine rock formations will leave you in awe of the geology, the nature and the history. I loved this place so much that I visited it twice already.
The Stunning Externsteine in Winter
These rock formations are a part of the Teutoburg Forest and are protected. If you have read about the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, then you probably recognize the name of the forest.
If you’re a history buff, or a nature lover or even an adventure lover, you will enjoy your time here. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Externsteine in Teutoburger Wald.
Everything You Need to Know for Visiting the Externsteine in Teutoburger Wald
The Externsteine – What’s with the Name?
The Externsteine in Teutoburger Wald, Germany
The oldest recorded names for the Externsteine were Agistersten and Eggesterenstein. The word “steine” means stones or rocks in German language but many historians and linguistic specialists have different thoughts about the name.
Many linguistic researchers in the recent years say that the name “the Externsteine” means “sharp pointy rocks”. In older texts it was also written as “the Eastern Rocks”.
The Externsteine, Teutoberger Wald, Germany
The most popular meaning of the name Externsteine is “the rock of the magpies”, which was popularized by Hermann Hamelmann. Now you’re thinking who is Hermann Hamelmann – well, he’s an important part of the Externsteine’s recent history and we will talk about him later in this post.
By the way, if you are into massive rock formations, then you should also check out my post about Jasmund National Park in Germany, which is famous for its white cliffs.
Where is the Extersteine, Teutoburger Wald?
The Externsteine Rocks from a distance
The Externsteine is in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state. Many travelers don’t spend much time in this state because it is mostly industrial, except if they are visiting the famous city of Cologne. (Of course, there’s a lot more to see in the state like Burg Eltz, Winterberg, Münster city, etc.)
These rocks are a part of the Teutoburg Forest (Teutoburger Wald in German), which are forested hills that cover an area of 4000 square kilometers. The forested ridge of Teutoburger Wald are mostly in NRW and some in the Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) state.
If you want to be specific, then the Externsteine is 30 KMs from Paderborn or 50 KMs from Bielefeld. The nearest town is Horn-Bad Meinberg.
How old are the Externsteine rocks? A MILLION YEARS.
It is shocking but it is believed that the Externsteine rocks are 120 million year old. No, it doesn’t mean that this exact structure is so old but the rocks are. They were laid down around 100 million years ago during the early Cretaceous era.
These rocks are from the Ice Age, more than 100 million years old
These rocks were originally horizontal layers but about 70 million years ago they were folded to an almost vertical position. The pillars look like this today after years of weathering as well as having been modified and decorated by humans over the centuries – wow!
It is interesting to know that these are outcropping of sandstone rocks in a region that is usually has no rocks.
A Brief History of the Extersteine
I like knowing a little history of everything but I don’t like to go too deep in it every single time. So, keeping that in mind, I will make it short and sweet to include just the main points.
First Use of the Externsteine in the Prehistoric times
The Stunning Extersteine Rocks were first used in the Prehistoric times by nomads
The first use of these rocks was by nomadic groups who used them for temporary shelter. This was the prehistoric time and the stone tools daring back to 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC from the Ahrensburg culture were recovered. After that, there hasn’t been any evidence of the use of the Externsteine site in the bronze or iron age.
The Externsteine as a Christian Sacred Site
The Extersteine in Teutoberger Wald, Germany
As per historians, the Externsteine site was mentioned in some historical documents to be used between the 10th and 15th centuries but these documents were destroyed in the Second World War. The thermoluminescence dating of the cave walls did suggest that this location was used between the the 10th and 15th centuries.
Some historians also say that the Externsteine was used in the 9th century as a Christian sanctuary.
The rocks of the Externsteine have caves and passages within them, and there are inscriptions on some of the walls. One inscription suggests that the Externsteine was declared sacred in 1115 by the Bishop of Paderborn – Henrico or Heinrich II. von Werl.
Use of the Externsteine as a Hermitage
There are historical documents that suggest that the Externsteine was also used as a Hermitage – a temporary place for refugees. It is important to keep in mind that the place wasn’t always called the Externsteine and the documents describe the place but not name is exactly as it is known today.
Between 14 and 16 centuries, the Hermitage at the Externsteine was used as a hiding place for bandits. It was then in the 16th century that the Hermitage was dissolved here and eventually all the church activity stopped too.
Externsteine as a Sacred Pagan Site
The Externsteine in Winter
Do you remember I mentioned the name Hermann Hamelmann in the section where I talk about the name of the Externsteine? Well, he plays an important part in the history of the Expernsteine around this time in the Early Modern Period.
Hermann Hamelmann was a reformer from Westphalia who believed in works of Martin Luther. He was a theologist who worked as a priest and later as a pastor. In 1564 he wrote that the Extersteine was used as a site for Saxon pagan worship. Till date, many Germans believe that the Externsteine was indeed a pagan worship site.
The Strange but Beautiful Externsteine
Even today the Externsteine is believed to be a sacred pagan site and thousands of people gather here every summer for the Walpurgis Night. I do mention this in detail in the section about “when to visit the Externsteine”.
Dilapidation and then Sudden Interest in the Externsteine
The Externsteine wasn’t taken care of in the early 18th century but revived soon after and then it became a tourist destination. Due to this, the interest in the Externsteine grew and people because curious about its purpose historically.
In 1860s – 1870s, many publications wrote about their speculations of what may have been the history of the Externsteine and what it was used for. There were mentions again of pagan worship and around this time a lot of excavations were conducted.
Summer Flowers around the Externsteine in Teutoburger Wald
An important moment in the history of Externsteine was in 1926, when it was declared to be one of the oldest and important nature reserves in Lippe. It was around this time that the Externsteine was called “the Germanic Stonehenge” by the archeologist Wilhelm Teudt.
The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
The Battle of Teutoburg Forest of 9 AD occurred most likely in or around this area. This battle was one of the most significant defeats of the Romans. This battle abruptly ended the period of expansion under Ceasar Augustus and stopped the Romans plans for conquering Germania.
Archeologist and hiostorians have tried to conduct excavations in 1880s to find evidence of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in and around the Externsteine, but none were found back then.
Wiembecke Pond next to the Extersteine Rocks
There is a small lake that’s next to the Externsteine columns. It is actually a pond that was created artificially by making a dam on a stream of River Wiembecke which was earlier flowing past the rocks.
Wiembecke Pond in Winter
This pond is called Wiembecke Pond and is offers stunning photo possibilities of the Externsteine and its reflection in the water.
Hermannsweg Hike or Hermann Trail
The gardens around the Externsteine in Teutoburg Forest
The Externsteine is also a part of the Hermannsweg Hike, which is a Germany’s one of the most beautiful high altitude hiking trails that goes through the Teutoburg Forest.
This 156 KM trail starts at Rheine and ends at Lippe Velmerstot rock formation, which is another rock formation that’s close to the Externsteine.
How to Reach Externsteine
The drive through the Teutoberg Forest to Externsteine
Just like any other destination in Germany that’s not a main city, the best way of reaching the Externsteine is by driving to it. Put “Parkplatz Externsteine” on your navigation system and enjoy the drive through the beautiful forest.
I did mention hiking in the previous section. You can take a part of the Hermannsweg Hike, or do the full trail to reach the Externsteine.
It is easy to reach the Externsteine by train & bus too. Look for R51 train from Paderborn train station and get off at “H-BM-Horn, Jahnstraße“. H-BM is Horn-Bad Meinberg. From here, the walk to the Externsteine is 1.3 KMs.
If you want to minimize walking, then arrive in Horn-Bad Meinberg city by train and look for a bus 782 to Horn-Holzh – it is 450 meters from the Externsteine. You can search for bus tickets here.
The Walk to the Externsteine from the parking place
The Externsteine car park is just 500 meters away from the rocks. There’s a visitor information center, a restaurant and a small playground for children. The parking charge is around EUR 4.50 per day.
A carved tree trunk near the Externsteine Car Park in 2017
The same carved tree trunk near the Externsteine Car Park in 2022
The walk from the parking place to the Externsteine rocks is easy and goes through the forest. In the middle, there is a lovely moment of wonder at the first glimpse of the rocks through the trees.
What to do around the Externsteine
Walk around the Externsteine & Wiembecke Pond
The most obvious thing to do when you arrive here is to walk around the rocky columns. There is a path that goes through between two of the columns which is probably the first thing you will notice.
The view of the Extersteine across the Wiembecke Pond
This is a small trail that goes through the rocks and around the Wiembecke Pond. The trail will just take you 5-10 minutes and you can catch a glimpse of the rocks from the other side of the Wiembecke Pond.
Climb on top of the Externsteine rocks for the view
Climb on top of the Extersteine Tower
The rocks are connected to each other with a series of steps. The path is narrow and can be slippery in rain if you’re not wearing the right shoes. It isn’t free to climb on top of the towers and I remember the fee per person being EUR 3.
View from top of the Extersteine Rocks
One the days when the Externsteine is closed, a small part of the staircase is open and the remaining is closed. So you can still go a little higher and look at the view from top.
See the Grottos of Externsteine
The Grottos of the Externsteine
There is a cave inside the rocks with three chambers that are connected by passages. This part is called the Grottenfels – or the Grottos. These are man made grottos.
See the Markings and Drawings on the Rocks
The Carving showing showing Christ’s Descent from the Cross on Externsteine_
The marking and drawings on the columns of Externsteine are all different. They are very interesting to see. There is a carving that depicts the Christ’s Descent from the Cross.
One of the rocks of the Externsteine shows the coat of arms of the Counts of Lippe, which of course is one of the newest markings.
Explore the Beauty of Teutoberg Forest
Don’t forget that the Externsteine is just one of the many places in the lovely hilly forest of Teutoberg. Take out some time to explore the nature.
We did a slightly longer walk that went through the forest and it was very enjoyable in summer. On our second visit, we picked the smaller trail because there was snow and everything was slippery.
Exploring the forest around Externsteine – Teutoberger Wald
You can explore the forest on foot or you can bring your bicycle too. Pick one of the marked trails and see the beauty of the nature.
Please be careful of ticks while walking around the forest, some of them can be poisonous.
Enjoy a Picnic next to Externsteine
Picnic next to the Externsteine and Wiembecke pond
If you’re visiting on a warm day, then you can also carry your picnic mat and snacks for a memorable day here with friends.
When to visit the Externsteine?
All the seasons are good for visiting the Externsteine and offer something different.
Snow on the grass around the Externstein in Winter
If you visit in Winter, with a bit of luck you can catch the beauty of the forest with snow. We did too. Although the main tourist office of the Externsteine isn’t open in winter weekdays but only the weekends, but you can still do everything except climb on top of the towers.
Unfortunately the grass and the benches will most likely be wet during a typical winter day, so you can’t sit and enjoy the nature, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting.
Wildflowers around the Externsteine
Spring and summer months are when the most of the people visit this site. The forest is sense during these seasons and you will see a lot of flowers and bees. Carry a mat and some snacks, because it’s the perfect time for picnic.
Wildflowers around the Externsteine in summer
On April 30 – May 1 every year, many locals camp here and jam (perform music together) – to celebrate Walpurgis Night. It of course helps that there’s national holiday of the labour day on May 1. However, it didn’t happen during the peak of corona pandemic in 2020-2021.
The Externsteine Looks Lovely in all Seasons
Autumn is the best time for me to visit the Externsteine, particularly right before the leaves start to fall because of the stunning bright colors of an otherwise green and grey landscape.
Closing Thoughts on the Externsteine
Pin it – The Externsteine in Teutoburg Forest, Germany
Pin it – The Externsteine in Teutoburger wald
The Externsteine, Germany’s Teutoburg Forest
The Externsteine is a an incredibly beautiful rock formation which will leave you in awe of the geology, the nature and the history. The sheer size of the rocks will amaze you and this is sure to be a place which will remain on top of your list of memorable places.
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Magical season is here, and the best way to make the most of it is by heading to a Christmas Market.
Around this time every year, I thank the universe for making me live in Germany so that I can enjoy some of the best Christmas Markets in Germany.
Many first timer visitors try to find the most famous Christmas markets in Germany but as someone who’s living there, I highly recommend the smaller ones.
Firstly, the most famous Christmas Markets like the one in Dresden or Trier are extremely crowded. Second, the hotels sell out months in advance. Third, if you’re thinking of driving to them, then be aware that the parking areas fill out too.
Keeping that in mind, I highly suggest you check out the Christmas Markets in Germany that aren’t as famous. I did write a post about a small and sweet Christmas Market Rheda-Wiedenbruck (my town), but today I want to talk about a bigger one.
Bielefeld is a big city in North Rhine-Westphalia (the Western German state). Although I never found Bielefeld exciting but I was presently surprised by the Christmas Markets here. Here’s why I love the Christmas Markets in Bielefeld and you will too:
Many Bielefeld Christmas Markets within Walking Distance,
The View from the Top of a Ferris Wheel at Altstädter Kirchpark Christmas Market in Bielefeld
The first time I visited Bielefeld, I walked around the main shopping street between the main train station (Bahnofstrasse) and Jahnplatz. It was beautifully decorated and had a lot of small temporary shops with Chrristmas-y things and Gluhwein, I thought that was the main Christmas Market but it is just one of the many.
Big Cities like Bielefeld have multiple Christmas Markets and they usually have different names. Three of the Christmas Markets in Bielefeld are near to each other so you can just walk from one to another.
My favorite one is in Klosterplatz, it is called Weihnachtsmarkt Bielefeld “Mitte” with a Winter Wonderland theme. Another one nearby is in Alter Markt (Old Market) with the backdrop of old buildings. A third one that’s right next to it is in Altstädter Kirchpark with carousels and a Ferris Wheel. Fourth market that’s just there too is on Niedernstraße, and fifth in Obenstrasse.
To make things easy, I have marked the Christmas Markets on a Map for you, you will find it at the end of this post.
So to recap, the 6 Christmas Markets of Bielefeld are:
Weihnachtsmarkt Bielefeld “Mitte” in Klosterplatz
Shopping Street Christmas Market – Bahnofstrasse
Alter Markt (Old Market)
If the above list confuses you, and if you’d like to pick just two, then I recommend number Weihnachtsmarkt Bielefeld “Mitte” in Klosterplatz for ice skating, the bar scene and the old school feel and Altstädter Kirchpark Christmas Market for the carousels, food and bars. Actually they all have amazing bars but the ones in these two Christmas Markets especially stood out.
Honestly, if you move between these two then you can easily stop at Bielefeld Alter Markt Christmas Market, which is small but the decoration looks amazing with a backdrop of old buildings. The bars are nice and they have a nice gazebo like circular sitting area in the middle.
If you live in Bielefeld and know of another Christmas Market that I didn’t mention, then please tell me.
The Decoration (+ Santa)
Altstädter Kirchpark Bielefeld Christmas Market
Bielefeld isn’t the prettiest city if you compare it to the likes of Cologne or Heidelberg, but I love how the city lights up during Christmas time. Expect to see pretty lights, massive Christmas Trees, Santas and literally everything that will make you feel like you just stepped into a winter wonderland.
Santa Claus at Weihnacht Markt Bielefeld Mitte in Klosterplatz Bielefeld Christmas Market
A cute Christmas Tree and Shop at Alter Markt Christmas Market in Germany
The Decoration at Alter Markt Bielefeld Christmas Market
I wanted amazing Chrismasy pictures this winter, and I was planning on clicking them inside the house with the Christmas Tree but I clicked some of the best ones in the Christmas Markets in Bielefeld.
Omg, I’m in a Winter Wonderland!
Ice Skating Rink at Weihnacht Markt Bielefeld Mitte in Klosterplatz Bielefeld
That’s what I thought when I saw the Ice Skating rink in Weihnachtsmarkt Bielefeld “Mitte” in Klosterplatz. This was actually my favorite market of all because of the theme.
I absolutely love everything Christmas-y but for me the ice skating rink with pretty lights on top and wooden Christmas market stalls in the backdrop added a breathtaking touch. Activities such as ice skating, sledding or skiing scream winter. It was like a cherry on top of an amazing cake.
Ice Skating Rink at Christmas Market in Bielefeld Mitte in Klosterplatz Bielefeld
Seriously, the winter vibes can’t get more intense than this. For me, the ice skating rink was the highlight of the Christmas Markets in Bielefeld.
Glühwein (Mulled Wine)
Typical Glühwein at Bielefeld Christmas Market
If you’re a Christmas Market newbie, then you probably don’t know what Glühwein is. I didn’t know too before visiting Germany in 2014.
Glühwein is Mulled Wine, which is warm wine with herbs, fruits, and spices added on to it. I don’t mean hot spices but things like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, mace, etc. Everyone has their own recipe for Glühwein and it is fun to try all different variations.
Most of the Glühweins are made with red wine but some also with white. Some also have fruit slices in them – mostly oranges. You will also find Glühweins that are mixed with rum, vodka and more interesting things. Of course the mixed ones are highly potent.
Delicious Gluhwein with Orange at Christmas Market in Bielefeld Mitte in Klosterplatz Bielefeld
Not only it is fun to try all the variations of Gluhweins in different Christmas Markets in Bielefeld but I absolutely adore the mugs or glasses that are used in most of the shops for Glühweins.
The typical cost of Glühwein in Bielefeld Christmas market is around 3-4 Euros per glass. There’s also a “pfand” – refundable fee that you will initially pay and recover from the bar when you give your cup back. The prices go up per glass if you add more things to your glühwein.
In 2021, one needs to show a proof of two vaccinations when ordering anything from a bar in a Christmas Market in Bielefeld.
Christmas Markets are cold so if you want to warm up your hands and eventually your body, then get yourself a mug of Gluhwein. There are non alcoholic ones too!
You will find amazing Gluhweins everywhere but in terms of the variety, the bar atmosphere and the energy, I pick Weihnachtsmarkt Bielefeld “Mitte” in Klosterplatz as the best one for drinking.
Eierpunsch (Eggnog) in Bielefeld Christmas Market, Germany
Glühwein isn’t the only alcoholic Christmas Market beverage in Germany, there’s also Eierpunsch (Eggnog). This is actually made with egg, milk, cream, vanilla, and white wine.
Honestly, it sounds a little disgusting because of raw eggs and alcohol – eww. But if you have had mousse at any time or tiramisu, then be aware that they also are made with raw eggs. Thankfully if the Eierpunsch is well made then you won’t smell the egg but only vanilla.
i highly recommend the Eggnog in Altstädter Kirchpark Bielefeld Christmas Market. The main bar does tend to get crowded but the service is super quick.
The Eierpunsch in Bielefeld costs 3-4 Euros. You need to show a proof of two vaccinations when ordering anything from a bar in a Christmas Market in Bielefeld.
Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad) at Altstädter Kirchpark Christmas Market in Bielefeld
Carousels aren’t just for children. Yes, they aren’t scare if you compare then to adventure park rides but they add a magical touch. The carousels aren’t there in all the Christmas Markets in Bielefeld but are only at Altstädter Kirchpark.
You will find the typical Christmas carousel that’s simple but beautifully decorated with Christmas lights. There’s also a small snowman in the middle of the carousel that throws fake snowflakes on people. Cute, right?
Carousel at Altstädter Kirchpark Christmas Market in Bielefeld
I also love the big Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad in German) that’s in Altstädter Kirchpark Christmas Market. Of course the ride is fun (sadly a little short) but the view from the top is definitely worth seeing. You will see the Christmas Market from the high up in every direction and it looks magical with the lights.
The Carousel and Ferris Wheel costs EUR 2.5 for children and EUR 3 for adults. You need to show a proof of two vaccinations when buying your ticket.
The Food at Bielefeld Christmas Markets
Mushrooms with gravy and herb sauce and bun at Bielefeld Christmas Market
In terms of food, the Christmas Market at Altstädter Kirchpark has the most variety. You will find the typical German food that you can find in Christmas Markets – brat wurst, curry wurst, Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus, grünkohl, but also typical Kirmes food like Mushrooms with gravy, Lángos, Krakowska, etc.
My favorite of course are the Mushrooms (champignons) and I love the gravy and the bun that comes with it.
In my experience, the food in Christmas Markets in Bielefeld isn’t expensive. It is always less than 10 Euros per person and is pretty filling. Just like drinks, you need to show a proof of two vaccinations when ordering anything from a restaurant in a Christmas Market in Bielefeld.
The Old School & Winter Holiday Feeling
The View from the Top of the Altstädter Kirchpark in Bielefeld
This is actually the case with not just Bielefeld Christmas Markets but most of them in Germany. There’s an atmosphere of joy, love and merry.
A Bar with an Old School Vibe at Weihnachtsmarkt Bielefeld Mitte in Klosterplatz
The magical decor with lights and garlands add to the festive mood. The small shops with handmade winter things offer something unique for everyone. In fact, the whole decor makes one want to spend their money as quickly as possible.
Below are the markets that I have marked on the map.
Weihnachtsmarkt Bielefeld “Mitte” in Klosterplatz
Shopping Street Christmas Market – Bahnofstrasse
Alter Markt (Old Market)
Closing Thoughts on Christmas Markets in Bielefeld
Carousel at Christmas Market in Bielefeld, Germany
Ice Skating at Christmas Market in Bielefeld, Germany
The Decoration at Bielefeld Christmas Market, Germany
If you live in NRW, then give the multiple Chrismas Markets of Bielefeld a try. Arrive here by train or car, park your car and spend a few hours moving from one Christmas Market to another. You can find more information about them on the city’s official webpage.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Burg Eltz – a Castle that’s so stunning that it will make your eyes pop.
Brace yourself, I’m about to tell you about the most magical medieval castle that will transport you to the world of fairytales – Burg Eltz.
Burg Eltz is Germany’s iconic medieval castle that is more than 850 years old. Did I mention that it was an inspiration for one of Disney’s castles? A blueprint of this castle was actually used for Disney’s Cinderella movie. It is dreamy, romantic, and serene, and that’s not even the best part.
The Spectacular Burg Eltz Castle in Germany
The best part about Burg Eltz is the abundance of natural beauty around it. The Eltz Castle is surrounded by nature and there is the Elzbach river that’s next to it. There is a forest around it that’s hilly. You have to take a little hiking path through the forest from the parking place to reach here.
I have been living in Germany for the last five years. The country is known for its stunning medieval castles and for me Burg Eltz is the best of all.
Burg Eltz surrounded by the Eltz Forest in Germany CCO via Unsplash
Strangely enough, a lot of tour guides and articles about visiting Germany don’t mention Burg Eltz at all. You would read about the castles in Bavaria or the famous Heidelberg castle but enough about this one. However, Eltz Castle gained massive popularity because of Instagram.
Fun fact: an image of the castle was on the old 500 Deutsche Mark note. I wish I could hold one right now in my hands.
The old 500 Deutsche Mark note featuring Burg Eltz Germany
Oh, and it is owned privately by the descendants of the same Eltz family that lived here in the 12th century. How cool is that?
Our favorite thing about this castle is that it is surrounded by nature. Moselle River makes a tributary – Elzbach river that surrounds the castle. Even if you don’t want to go inside the castle, there’s plenty to do around. You can sit by the river, hike, or cycle around.
What’s So Special about Burg Eltz?
Posing Outside Disney’s Cinderella Castle – Burg Eltz Germany (I was 8 months pregnant)
I mention a lot of these points in detail in the article but here’s why Burg Eltz castle is so special:
Burg Eltz castle was not destroyed in any of the wars, unlike many other European castles and old buildings.
It is architecturally stunning and is surrounded by spectacular natural beauty. The castle towers over the valley where it is built.
It is owned and taken care of by the same family since it was built, till today.
Many of the original furnishings still exist in the castle from the last eight centuries.
The castle treasury boasts of the best in the world gold and silver artwork.
Is Burg a Castle or a Fortress? Burg vs Schloss
Before we go further, I’d like to mention that the German word “Burg” directly translates into “fortress”. There’s another German word for the castle – Schloss.
In most cases, a Burg (or a Fortress) is a castle designed for defense in battle, and a palace or a castle (Schloss) is more of a place of residence. To make matters confusing, Burg Eltz was never designed to be for defense, but it is still called eine Burg and not ein Schloss.
Burg Eltz Castle – Burg vs Schloss – Castle or a Fortress – CCO via Unsplash
But, we will try to make things easy, let’s call it Burg Eltz, or Burg Eltz Castle as it is popularly known with English-speaking travelers.
Yes, I know if you’re a German, you’re probably shaking your head in disappointment because calling it “Burg Eltz Castle” is like calling it “Castle Eltz Castle”, but hey, a lot of people say “Chai Tea”, and I’m an Indian and I’m not even complaining, haha.
Burg Eltz hasn’t been named after a family, but the Eltzbach River. I talk more about the family in the next section. Read on if you’re interested.
A Brief History of Burg Eltz (Castle)
Burg Eltz – Germany’s Medieval castle – CCO via Unsplash
How can I talk about a historical building and not discuss the history? Well, about Burg Eltz, it was constructed between the 11th and the 13th century so it is around 850 years old. It is STILL owned by the descendants of the same family that lived here in the 12th century, 33 generations back.
Back in the 11th to 13th century, the Eltz Castle was built along the trade route that linked the Moselle river with the Eifel and Maifeld. It was one of the most important trade routes in the German empire and therefore Burg Eltz’s location was strategically important.
The castle and the estate were divided in 1269 by the brothers Elias II, Wilhelm II, and Theoderich. Three succession lines were established, which were “with the Golden Lion”, “with the Silver Lion” and “with the Buffalo Horns”. These three families shared the estate and lived together in the castle, forming a constitution – “Ganerbengemeinschaft”.
The Romantic Medieval Castle – Burg Eltz in Germany
Until 1815, this joint constitution remained but after that, “the Silver Lion” line sold their share of the castle, and the “Ganerbengemeinschaft” was then dissolved. In the 15th and 18th centuries, the “Buffalo Horns” line (later the line Eltz-Rodendorf) had ended and the shares were transferred to the Kempenich line (of the house Eltz-Kempenich), which remained as the only owner of the Eltz castle.
Today the Rübenach and Rodendorf families’ homes in the castle are open to the public, while the Kempenich branch of the family uses the other third of the castle.
Honestly, if I start detailing out the history of Burg Eltz, I’d need much more than just one page. You can check the official page of Burg Eltz to read more about its history.
Fun Fact: Burg Eltz was featured on postal stamps from 1977 to 1982 which were published by the German post office.
Anyway, enough about the history and fun facts, now let me help you plan a trip to the Burg Eltz and enjoy everything in and around the castle.
How to Reach Burg Eltz Castle
As with most of the destinations in Europe, the easiest way to visit Burg Eltz is by driving to it. The parking place is around a kilometer away from Eltz Castle so remember to wear comfortable shoes.
The hiking trail from Castle Parking to Burg Eltz
Alternatively, you can also take a train to Moselkern or Hatzenport or Mueden stations and from a taxi from there. Call Taxi Charly, Pillig, Telephone: +49 2605 2022 or TAXI-Reuter GmbH, Treis-Karden, Telephone: +49 2672 1407.
If you’re visiting Burg Eltz on the weekends and public holidays, there’s also a bus – “RegioRadler Burgenbus” that takes you from all the above-mentioned train stations to the castle. This bus is only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from May to October.
Visiting Eltz Castle can be an adventure because you can walk from the train station, it is just 5 kms. The forest around the castle makes this walk super rewarding. But remember, that you will again have to walk 5 KMs back to the train station and also 1-2 kilometers around the castle so that’s a lot of walking for a day.
If you’re arriving at Burg Eltz by train, then I suggest you stay in the town of Moselkern overnight. Book Hotel Moselkern, that’s next to the train station and then hike to Burg Eltz whenever you want to.
What to Know Before Visiting Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz – castle surrounded by the forest – CCO Unsplash
Burg Eltz Corona Restrictions
As of September 2021, entry for the castle is only for those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, those who can show proof of recovering from the disease in the last 6 months, and also those who can show a negative corona test.
Only a limited number of people can enter the Eltz Castle complex.
Children under 11 are exempt from these rules.
It is mandatory to wear a mask inside and outside the castle while on the castle ground.
No Photos Inside the Castle Grounds
You Can’t Click Photos Inside Burg Eltz but the Best Photo Spot is Outside
If you decide to enter the castle or do a tour, then be informed that you aren’t going to be allowed to click photos. Yes, you can click a lot of photos outside and you will find many stunning spots but not when you’re inside.
This is also the reason why you wouldn’t find any photos of Burg Eltz’s interiors unless someone found a way not to follow the rules. You can buy pictures of certain interior sections in the gift shop as postcards, but that’s only if you want to.
Book Your Castle Tour in Advance to Avoid Waiting
The stunning Burg Eltz and the line of people to enter the castle – CCO via Unsplash
In order to enter the castle grounds of Burg Eltz, you have to take a tour. The tours are available in English, German, Dutch, and French.
If you’d like a German language tour then most likely you won’t have to wait for more than 10-15 mins. However, if you’d like a tour in English, then be prepared to wait for a long time. See the above picture for a row of people that are waiting to enter. If you’d like a tour in Dutch or French, then keep in mind that they are only available if you prebook.
There is more to Burg Eltz than just entering the castle complex
I have mentioned it before but Burg Eltz can be enjoyed by just hiking and looking at the castle from the entry area as well as some other viewpoints. The above corona restrictions apply to those who’d like to enter the complex. You can still enjoy the beauty of the castle from the outside.
If you’re like me and you like places where you can admire nature and historical structures, then you will love my post about the Externsteine in Teutoberger Wald. (It is a prehistoric structure unlike Burg Eltz)
Be Prepared to Walk / Hike
Sure, you want to click a picture in a pretty dress in front of the castle for your Instagram, but make sure you wear comfortable shoes because you will have to walk a lot. I suggest sneakers or flats for the trail that goes in the forest.
The View of Burg Eltz Castle from the hiking trail
Burg Eltz Parking Location and Costs
If you are driving to Burg Eltz, then here are the google coordinates of the castle parking. Parking isn’t free, it is € 2 for cars and scooters and € for vans and camper vans or any cars with trailers.
The path that goes from the parking to the castle is more of a hiking trail. It goes through the woods and offers at least 1 or 2 spots from where you admire the view. The hike is short, and fun, and adds to the experience of visiting Burg Eltz castle.
Burg Eltz Shuttle Bus
If you’d prefer not to walk, then be informed that there is a shuttle bus that goes to the Burg Eltz castle entry point. The shuttle stop is next to the barrier near Antonius Chapel. The shuttle isn’t free, it costs € 2 per person.
Honestly, I didn’t take the shuttle because I walked.
Burg Eltz is open every day during summer, autumn, and spring from 9:30 am to 5 pm. When I say “open” I mean everything beyond the entry gate that you see on this path that leads to the castle.
In winter the castle is usually closed from the inside but it can still be enjoyed from the outside. It actually looks amazing when it snows!
Honestly, the castle is so lovely and the hike around it is refreshing that one doesn’t really need to feel sad about not being able to go in when it’s not possible.
What to do when you reach Burg Eltz
Hike around Burg Eltz, 5 Hiking Trails
The Many Hiking Trails of Burg Eltz
In order to arrive at Burg Eltz, you will most likely walk for a kilometer or more. Even if you arrive by car or a shuttle to the entry point, I highly suggest you take out at least 30-60 minutes to walk around the castle. This trail is super easy. I was 8 months pregnant when I did this!
For many people, this hike is enough but some hikers will crave more. There are five hiking trails that go around the castle through the forest and along the Eltzbach river. These trails are very nicely marked and you will see the distance in kilometers on most of the markings as well.
Burg Eltz Castle panorama views from different hikes CC0 via Unsplash
1) Eltz Castle Panorama trail
The length of the Eltz Castle panorama trail is 12.5 kilometers and it takes approximately 4-5 hours to complete. This hike starts in Wiesen at the Wierschem community center. It offers amazing views from the Mosel plateau.
2) Up the Romantic Eltz Stream
The length of this hiking trail is 2.5 kilometers, and it takes approximately 35 mins to complete. This hike goes along the Eltzbach river. It starts in Ringelsteiner Mühle in Moselkern and ends at Burg Eltz. If you’re traveling with children that are over 4 or 5 years, then this is the hike that you should pick.
3) From Pyrmont Castle to Eltz Castle
There’s another castle in the area and it is the Pyrmont Castle. It isn’t as stunning as the Eltz Castle but you can enjoy an amazing hike that’s 9.5 KMs long that goes from one castle to another.
4) From Müdener Berg to Eltz Castle
The word “Berg” means mountain in German, so this hike starts at Müdener and goes to Burg Eltz. Even though it is a short route of 1.7 KMs, the hike is challenging because it gets steep in places. You can enjoy the views of both the Eltz and Pyrmont Castles along this hike.
5) From Karden to Eltz Castle
This hiking trail is 7 km long, it starts at Karten and ends at Burg Eltz. It goes through meadows, vineyards and goes along the Moselle river during the first half of the hike.
A tour inside Elz Castle costs €11 per person. The duration of the tour is around 35 minutes and is in German, English, French, and Dutch.
When you’re inside Burg Eltz, you will see the famous inner courtyard that was built over 500 years ago. If you decide to do a tour, you will get to witness the Armoury and Treasury of Eltz Castle, which is world renowned for gold and silver artifacts, as well as many other interesting precious things from the three families’ collections.
One of the most interesting sights inside any preserved palace or castle museum is a historical kitchen. Burg Eltz also has one of them and it is the Rodendorf Kitchen. It is where you will see the medieval way of kitchen life with old-school cooking machines and utensils.
Burg Eltz castle tour will also take you to the Knights Hall, which is the place where many important discussions and meetings took place. It was also the location for many festivities.
Burg Elz also has a restaurant and a souvenir shop inside.
Best Time to Visit Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz looks stunning at Sunsets and Sunrise – CCO via Unsplash
This completely depends on your purpose of visit. If you’re visiting Burg Eltz for hiking, cycling, photography or to enter the castle grounds for a tour.
For hiking or cycling, pick a day in the spring, summer, or autumn months when it doesn’t rain. Check the weather forecast to know when it will rain and avoid that day because the path through the forest will be slippery.
Another purpose of these hikes is to enjoy the views of the castle. When it is raining or cloudy, then you may not get good views. Of course, you can hike or cycle around in winter months but be prepared to handle German winters.
Burg Eltz on a cold and foggy winter day – cco Via Unsplash
If you’d like to enter the castle and do a tour, then be aware that you can only do it from May till October starting at 9:30 am to 5 pm.
You can do photography at any time in Burg Eltz, each season adds something special. The colors of the forest change throughout the year. I visited Burg Eltz in early autumn and it looked spectacular because some of the trees had turned a little yellow. Even the small hike from the parking spot to the castle offers amazing views to see fall foliage in Germany.
You can’t enter Burg Eltz in winter but it looks stunning when it snows when it is foggy or even when it rains. It is a popular spot for astrophotography because the forest around is obviously dark. Hiking in the forest at night isn’t advisable but do this in a group or call a taxi.
Burg Eltz Map
Here is a map of Burg Eltz Castle as fetched by Google Maps.
Where to Stay when visiting Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz is a short drive away from the lovely Bonn city, which is the birthplace of the legendary Beethoven. You can either stay in Bonn or pick one of the below-mentioned hotels that are just a hike away from Burg Eltz:
Hotel Ostermann is 2.5 KMs away from Burg Eltz and is along the Mosel River. This hotel also has a swimming pool and a restaurant on the terrace.
Hotel Moselkern is also next to the River Mosel and is 2.8 KMs from Burg Eltz. This hotel is pretty convenient for those who are visiting by train because Moselkern Train Station is less than 500 meters away.
Ferienwohnung Moselallee 5 Sterne (Apartments)
If you’d like to book an entire apartment with a kitchen so that you can cook your own meals, then check out the newly renovated Ferienwohnung Moselallee.
Burg Eltz Castle Germany’s Iconic Medieval Castle, was Disney’s Inspiration
Why is Burg Eltz famous?
Burg Eltz was featured on the old German currency note – 500 fünfhundert Deutsche Mark. It was also an inspiration for Disney’s cinderella castle.
Despite that, the castle was fairly unknown but it gained massive popularity in the last few years because of Instagram (of course!). It is easy to click amazing photos here because of the summary and the narrow path that leads to Eltz castle.
How long is the hike to Burg Eltz?
The hike from the parking area to the entry point o Burg Elz castle is just a bit over a kilometer, so the hike takes around 10-15 minutes if you do it at a leisurely pace.
This hike is through the forest and at the end there’s a lovely viewpoint from which one can see Burg Eltz. From there, you just have to walk around and then in the direction of the castle.
Honestly, this isn’t really a hike but a nice walk through the forest but one needs decent shoes. I have mentioned 5 other hiking trails in my post, check the section – “Hike around Burg Eltz”.
Can you go inside Burg Eltz?
Yes, you can definitely go inside Burg Eltz when it is open, which is usually 9:30 am to 5 pm. It isn’t allowed to click photographs inside Burg Eltz.
How many times has Burg Eltz been attacked?
Burg Eltz castle has been attacked only once, and it was between 1331 and 1336. The knights of several houses (including Burg Eltz) had a dispute with the leader of the Trier region of Moselle.
Here’s everything you need to know before visiting the stunning Heidelberg, things to do, how to reach, where to stay, what do eat and more.
Heidelberg is a student town but it somehow turned into a travel destination because it is pretty. It is small, yet is one of the most picturesque towns in Germany because of the castle, old bridge and an old town that boasts of baroque architecture. Yes, it is like a mini Prague.
We visited Heidelberg in August 2020 during the Corona pandemic. Honestly that was one of the lighter months because there were hardly any restrictions and the number of cases were low. Everything was functioning like normal except one had to wear a mask for even walking in Heidelberg’s old town.
Our visit to Heidelberg was as a family because we were with our 1 year old girl. We arrived here with our camper van and found a nice river side camping place. I will talk more about that at the end, but let’s talk about Heidelberg first.
Family Kayaking on Neckar River, Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg looks like it was plucked straight off a tin fudge box. Also, because it is a student town then it has a decent nightlife. We weren’t able to bar-hopping for German wines and beers in the old town because of our baby girl but we did end up doing more than we thought we would. Here are some of the best things to do in in Heidelberg for every kind of a traveler.
Fun Fact for all the Potterheads out there – Heidelberg actually has a professional Quidditch team and they are called the Heidelberg Harriers. Insane right?
What is Heidelberg in Germany known for & Why visit it?
Neckar River, Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg is situated on the serene banks of the winding Neckar River in the southwest region of Germany. It is a 14th-century town renowned for its local university, but also for its romantic and idyllic cityscape surrounded by green forested hills.
The local castle is one of the most famous landmarks in the area and a stellar example of Renaissance architecture. I have mentioned Heidelberg as a prominent part of Germany’s “castle route” road trip. If you have a thing for castles, Germany has many of them. Yes, Heidelberg Castle is beautiful but my favorite one is Burg Eltz.
Despite welcoming many students each year, Heidelberg is not the cheapest German city because it attracts tourists. You may want to keep an eye on the Forex exchange rates before you travel if you’re coming from overseas. But it’s certainly not as expensive as some other European destinations like Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam or Rome.
How to Reach Heidelberg
Heidelberg Old Bridge, Hills and Old Town
As mentioned before on this website over and over, the best and the most convenient way to travel in Germany is by road because public transport can be very expensive. Just rent a car and drive to Heidelberg if you don’t have one.
If you arrive in Germany by air, then Heidelberg is 1 hour train ride away from Frankfurt and the train ticket costs EUR 25 – super expensive. Yes, German trains are. You can also look for bus tickets from DeinBus and Flixbus. A one way bus ticket is usually 10 Euros from the nearby Frankfurt or Stuttgart.
Best Things to do in Heidelberg, Germany
1) Philosophenweg (the Philosopher’s Walk) + Heiligenberg
We just happened to walk along the Philosophenweg just by chance because we found a nice path along the river Neckar and decided to take it. It happened to be the most memorable thing that we did in Heidelberg. We were able to take our baby on her stroller for almost the entire part but not all. Which was ok, because we were 4 adults so we could just lift her up and her pram together.
Philosophenweg – Philosopher’s walk in Heidelberg via Unsplash
A little info for you – the Philosopher’s Walk is named as such because it was a walk taken initially by the Heidelberg University’s professors and philosophers. Thanks to them for popularizing this walking path for not just the students but also the visitors, dogs and solo travelers.
View from the Philosophenweg, Heidelberg
The Philosopher’s walking path has some of the most amazing views of the Castle and the old town. It overlooks the winding river beneath so you will have a lot of photo opportunities on this path. Most of the two-kilometre walk is not physically challenging, although there is a steep part towards the end. Take some water and your camera for a great hour outside the hustle and bustle of the town.
2) Admire Schloss Heidelberg – Heidelberg Palace
The Massive Heidelberg Castle over the city
You can’t visit Heidelberg and not admire the Schloss Heidelberg with its mix of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. Schloss is a German word that means castle. Actually Heidelberg Castle is many times referred to as the Heidelberg Palace too. Even if you don’t want to visit it from the inside, you will definitely look at it with awe because it is massive.
Entering Heidelberg Castle is not free. In case you’re visiting the city and are going to do some of the other activities then I highly recommend you get the HeidelbergCard. It includes the public transport, Heidelberg castle entry, cable rail to and back from the castle and a discount on many other attractions.
Click for the HeidelbergCard
This card is valid for 1 – 4 days so make sure you get it if you’re going to visit the castle and ride the cable train to it.
Here’s a little dose of history for you which I found very interesting. Heidelberg Castle was initiated as a royal residence by Prince Elector Ruprecht III who lived from 1398–1410. It was further built in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries by different Princes. However, post that the castle suffered. First, it was destroyed several times during the Thirty Years’ War. Second, it was stuck by the lightning during the restoration attempts. Third, the stones from the castle were taken apart to build new houses. Thankfully it came to an end in 1800 under Count Charles de Graimberg.
Despite its tragic history, today Schloss Heidelbergis the biggest tourist attraction in the town. If you take time to see the castle from inside, you will be charmed by it and love the breathtaking views of the region from the top of its towers. Also on-site in this 14th-century structure is a restaurant and German museum. You’ll be able to spend an entire day here and keep everyone entertained.
The Heidelberg Castle Festival is held every year in the summer months here where one can enjoy concerts, musicals and theatre performances in the courtyard.
3) Ride the Heidelberg Bergbahn Funicular (Cable Rail) to Königstuhl-Mountain
The Heidelberger Bergbahn funicular railway runs from the Heidelberg Altstadt to the Königstuhl viewpoint via the castle. “Bergbahn funicular” is actually mountain cable railway, Königstuhl means King’s Chair and Altstadt means old town. So, this train runs from “Kornmakt” in the Old Town to Heidelberg Castle and to the Königstuhl.
If you’re taking the train from the old town to the Königstuhl, then you will have to change the train once. The best part of the journey is the upper section of this cable rail – it is called Königstuhlbahn. It has a 100 year old engine and historical looking wooden cars – so truly a historical ride. The service starts at 9 am and ends late during summer but much earlier during the winter months. You will end up paying around 10-15 euros per person for a return ticket, depending on how many people are together. You can find the updated info and tickets for the train here.
If you’re thinking of riding the cable rail and also entering Heidelberg Castle then we highly recommend you get the HeidelbergCard to save money.
Click for the HeidelbergCard
Königstuhl is 567.8 meters high and is the highest peak in the Lower Odenwald forest. The view from the top at Königstuhl is known for the views of Heidelberg, the Rhine Valley, the Neckar River and Katzenbuckel mountain.
Once you’re up there, look out for the two walking paths – Königstuhl Route and the Kohlhof route. They are almost the same length which is between 4.5 to 4.8 KMs and are easy to cover. There is also a 2 KM long nature trail that you can take if you’re here with small children.
4) Walk on Karl Theodor Bridge – the Old Bridge
Karl Theodor Bridge in Heidelberg – aka, the Old Bridge
Don’t all the famous European cities have famous bridges? Prague has the Charles Bridge, Istanbul has the Bosporus bridge, Paris has the Pont des Arts, Amsterdam has 1200 and Hamburg has 2400 of them. Heidelberg has an awesome one too that goes over the River Neckar.
Walking on the Old Bridge in Heidelberg
Heidelberg’s bridge Karl Theodor Bridge is usually known as Old Bridge. It is an 18th-century sandstone bridge with interesting arches and located in the northern part of the town. The bridge has Baroque tower helmets and some strange looking structures that make interesting photo subjects. Make sure you spot the Bridge Monkey (Brückenaffe) – it is a funny looking bronze statue of a monkey which is a part of many Instagram photos.
Heidelberg Brückenaffe – the monkey on the bridge – via Pixabay
This bridge is actually a very good starting point if you’re entering the Old Town – Altstadt, because you can see a lot of places from here already. The view from the bridge captures the old town at a glorious angle.
Heidelberg Old Bridge with Baroque tower helmets
There’s something super romantic about walking on a bridge with your partner and just like most famous bridges all over the world, here too you will see couples. Of course a lot of tourists too who want to click an Instagram-worthy photo. Many things are closed on Sundays in Germany, so this is an excellent time to explore the bridge.
5) Get Lost in the Altstadt (the Old Town)
The Arch at the end of the Old Bridge in Heidelberg with old town in view
Even if you don’t do some of the above mentioned activities, you will surely do this particular one. Heidelberg’s old town is unmissable and you definitely will end up spending most of your time here. After all, it is the city’s historic heart.
Heidelberger Altstadt is long and narrow and has the typical “European-old-town” vibes – cobbled streets, beautifully preserved old buildings, main square, and even a castle.
Heidelberg Views from the streets
I do talk about getting lost in the old town but still, here are the things to do (and see) in Heidelber’s Old Town during your first visit.
Church of the Holy Spirit
The first thing that you will see in the Old Town is probably the Heidelberg Castle even before you walk on the old bridge. From the old bridge as you walk to the Altstadt, you will see the famous Church of the Holy Spirit.
Montpellierplatz in Heidelberg Old Town
Walk through the Old Town and make sure you also see Montpellierplatz. It is a very peaceful park with a very interesting looking old building. Sit here to relax for a few minutes before you move further.
Me in Heidelberg Old Town
Our little one – Heidelberg is a toddler friendly destination
When you’re in the old town, you will definitely end up walking on the famous Hauptstrasse. It means the main street and is around 1.5 KMs long pedestrian street which is more than just the town’s shopping street. You will definitely see fashion to cosmetics and handmade treasures.
Heidelberg Funny souvenir
The Hauptstrasse has some very interesting stores where you can buy super fun and quirky gifts, like we did. I normally don’t buy travel souvenirs unless they are extra special and I did find something funny here. There is even a booth within the street where you can go to exchange books. Take your used ones and pick up a new title for free.
Enjoy a Roadside Cafe in the Market Square
Heidelberg Main Square, Altstadt Heidelberger – via Unsplash
If you don’t feel like climbing the towers of the castle and would prefer a relaxing few hours, you may like to spend time in the town’s market square. The square is full of life and vibrancy with scores of bars and cafes.
Yes, town squares and market squares are touristy but there’s usually a lot of funny stuff going on to watch. Grab a seat outside, a coffee and watch the world go by in this fabulous location. Once refelled, go and explore the old town.
Heidelberg University Library & Studentenkarzer
I suggest spending some time here with an aim to get lost. We did too and we wandered off inside a part of the Heidelberg University and saw the beautiful Heidelberg University Library building. Another place to see in Heidelberger Altstadt is Studentenkarzer. It was once a university prison cell that’s now covered with graffiti.
Visit a Brauhaus and Drink Locally Brewed Beer
Explore the Beer Scene in Heidelberg
We just happened to visit Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus by chance while waiting for a friend and bought extra beer for the road. It ended up being the best tasting beer and we felt stupid for not having bought more. It is in the beginning of the old town and even if you’re not stopping here for a meal, I highly recommend you buy a bottle to try it.
Hotel Ritter in Heidelberg’s Old Town
Heidelberg streets are lovely
Walking around in Heidelberg’s old town was something that we all enjoyed as a family because there was something for everyone. Moreover, the city’s narrow streets gave me the perfect opportunity to click interesting street view photos and most of them turned out to be amazing.
6) Neckarwiese Heidelberg – the Park with a View
Neckarwiese Heidelberg along the Neckar River via Pixabay
Neckarwiese is maybe one of the best places to spend a few hours “on your own terms” while you look at the lovely city. I say in your own terms is because you get to sit, you don’t have to pay a restaurant or a cafe and you’re out in the open. Of course, this is a place to be if it is a sunny day.
We visited Heidelberg during an especially warm weekend so we did see a lot of sun bathers in Neckarwiese. It is along the Neckar river and on the opposite side of the Old Town, so it is very easy to reach. Due to it’s location, you will have a nice view of Heidelberg castle, the Old Town right behind the river Neckar.
If you’re traveling with children to Heidelberg, you will be happy to know that this park has a play area of children. There are also toilets and shower areas. Of course, like most of the German areas there is also a skate park here. This park also has a sandy beach volleyball area.
Where to Stay in Heidelberg?
NH Hotel chain is lovely, I have stayed in their Amsterdam one and I highly recommend the Heidelberg one too. It is located just outside the Old Town and hence is super convenient if you don’t have a car. You can read the reviews about this place on TripAdvisor here.
We drove to Heidelberg with our camper van, so of course we found a camp ground since our van has two beds for sleeping. We camped in a place called Camping Heidelberg Fa. Weber and it was right next to the Neckar river. It was actually very peaceful to stay here because it was away from the hustle bustle of the main city. Yet, it wasn’t too far from the city centre too.
There was a REWE Supermarket right next to the campground, which turned out to be super convenient. Also there was a bus stop literally right outside the camp ground. We walked from the camp ground to the old town, it was totally doable because we enjoyed the views. We came back with the bus in the evening.
Heidelberg – Germany’s Riverside Castle Town – Pin it
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I love German people, they are really the best. BUT it took me a while to understand them because they are culturally very different from the country where I have initially lived (India), or the country that I first traveled to for work (USA) or people from other countries that I met while traveling.
It took me a few years of living in Germany after I started understanding them. There were quite a lot of things that I didn’t notice in the first years but more things became visible after a few years of living here.
Don’t get me wrong – most of the below points don’t make anyone better or worse. I’m not saying that they are the best or the worst – these are just my observations about how Germans are different from the rest of the world. I have grown to love most of these things about Germans, and you will too if you live here.
1) Germans Love Rules (Even The Ones That Seem to Hate Them)
I can not write an article about Germany and Germans without the #1 point being about the rules. I have said it before and I will say it over and over – Germans really do love their rules.
Now it is pretty normal that you’d meet a German who would say that they don’t like rules but don’t be fooled. If you spend time with them, you will see that they actually follow every single one of them. The same people will also go out of their way to remind someone of the rules if the other person is doing something to beak them.
They can’t help it because the rules are ingrained so well in their minds they subconsciously follow them. They like how the system runs so efficiently when they all follow the rules.
2) A True German Can Open A Beer Bottle with Just About Anything
It is really a true german skill when one can open a beer bottle with just about anything. Who needs a bottle opener when they have a bunch of random things that work just as well?
Cigarette lighters are the most commonly used but I have even seen plastic bottles, remotes, phones, or keys being used in place. Wondering if I can do it too? I try from time to time but my success rate is 30%.
3) Unfit Germans are Rare ‘Cuz Germans love to “Make Sport”
This section isn’t just about how Germans are but also how they talk. The German language is interesting and I love when they translate it directly into English and say they’re “making sport”.
Yes and Germans ARE sporty. They are a country of physically active people as compared to many other countries. It is hard to meet a German who isn’t in any kind of a sport and even those rare ones are super active in every way. People of every age like to ride bicycles, and almost everyone here likes to at least run, swim and ski. It is hard to find a fat person here.
I’d also like to add that I’m a Yoga teacher and I am always in awe of how fit my German Yoga students are as compared to the ones from other countries.
4) Germans are Highly Efficient
You may think that I’m, talking about the German workers here. Sure – they are known to be efficient but this is bigger than that. They are efficient on so many different levels for every random thing that it is as if they are robots. Be it time management, packing, designing systems, or organizing, the Germans are incredibly efficient.
It is as if the knowledge of how to do even the most random things in the most time-saving manner with maximum results has been passed down from generation to generation. If you live in Germany, you will see an example of this daily.
There seems to be an important life lesson that others have failed to receive except the Germans. German supermarket cashiers are known to scan the items at a lightning speed and a typical German will pick them all up one by one at that same super-fast pace and yet efficiently stack them neatly in their carts or bags.
One can easily spot a newcomer in Germany because they are the only ones who can’t match the pace while stacking the shopping in neat piles in their carts.
Yes, Indians are spoiled and we have the supermarket staff doing this stacking for us but I’m not alone in this observation, my American, Australian, as well as other Asian friends who live in Germany, have also noticed it.
6) Germans Know Their Alcohol Good
In a country where drinking in public is allowed, you’d think that you will often see crazy drunk people walking around but that’s not usually the case.
They can legally drink from the age of 16 and they know how to handle it. They can drink down just about anyone without looking drunk, except maybe a Russian or a Polish. (Haha)
If there’s one thing that German love more than rules it is maintaining social decorum. Believe it or not but generation after generation they have been conditioned to behave well in public, hence they do even on alcohol.
Just to clarify, I’m not talking about the general “drunk-happy” people, but “out-of-control-crazy-drunk” – the kinds who yell around on the streets for nothing. Actually, you will see the latter quite often in New Delhi (where I come from) and without even alcohol. Haha
The only times when you’d see someone who’s out of control drunk is when there’s the carnival, or a soccer match.
When I first arrived in Germany, I realized that without even trying I ended up being the most colorful one because of my clothes. I’m not just talking about normal supermarket visits but also special events where I’d notice that most of the people actually wore muted colors.
If you’re a German and you’re reading this, then maybe you will shake your head in disbelief. But I have a question for you, what color are you wearing right now? If it isn’t black, grey or white then it is most likely another form of muted color.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you walk around in an arty city (like Hamburg) then you will actually see people wearing different bright colors but still not too much like the locals from the warmer countries do. More exceptions would be music festival people, the pseudo hippies, or the frequent backpackers.
Older Germans Love Jack Wolfskin and Younger Ones H&M. Yes, it actually does work like this with the majority of the germans, it looks like a dress code.
8) Germans and their English
Germans can speak decent English, but many of them don’t know that they can. A majority of Germans hesitate when it comes to speaking in English and they say “Oh sorry, my English isn’t good”. But in reality, they can speak basic English pretty well.
You see, Germans are inherently perfectionists. If they do something, it has to be perfect and “correct” and the same applies to the language They would rather not speak in English than make a tiny grammatical error. They have been taught English in their schools, many of them listen to English music and English is definitely a part of their life more than they realize it is.
On the other hand, I have met a few native English speakers like Americans or Australians who sometimes speak grammatically incorrect English more often but they don’t care. Even many of my Indian people do the same but their confidence level is crazy good.
Dear Germans, we don’t care if you make a grammatical error from time to time. Speak more English with newcomers please because your language isn’t the easiest to learn.
On the other hand, I absolutely love how Germans completely convert their language into English sometimes and say something that means something else. Actually, most of us who are not native English speakers are guilty of this, but since this article is about German people, I’d mention some of my observations here.
I love how Germans use the verb “become” for “getting it”, for example – “Oh did you become a letter today?” – just because there is a verb called “bekomme” that means getting something. Certain German words are so similar to English words with a different meaning. For example, Peperoni in the German language is chili pepper, whereas “Pepperoni” means an American salami. Imagine my surprise when I visited a vegan restaurant in Germany that was named Peperoni.
9) Most Germans Think Ginger is “Spicy”
Ask any Asian what they think spicy is and they’d say chili. Ask a South American or a Mexican, they’d say habanero. Even Italians, Americans, Australians, and Brits can handle spicy food. But Germans, of course, are a little different than everyone.
An Asian would never find ginger spicy, because that the base of 80% of our food. No, we don’t overuse it but it is there in a small quantity in most of the things we eat. In India, we even put it in our chai.
During my first months in Germany I asked someone if they wanted to try Indian food. They said yes but not spicy, so I offered them a bite. It was actually very funny for me when they said — oooh, the ginger is spicy. No, that’s not just one person but many other Germans too think ginger is spicy. Hilarious!
10) Germans Don’t Like Small Talk
If you’re a german then maybe you don’t know the meaning of small talk, because you are just not used to it. Small talk doesn’t have a purpose. It is actually a waste of time but is done to break the ice, even if you know the other person.
For example, if you were in America then most likely even a work colleague would say something random and unimportant to start the conversation – like how was your weekend, etc. After 1-2 minutes, the work colleague would actually come to the point and say that they need your help with an excel sheet or something.
It isn’t just Americans who do this but also Indians and many other people from all over the world because it is a part of our culture. We may not even realize it but we do it. Germans just don’t do it. Honestly, I really like it without the small talk because I don’t enjoy it when people don’t get to the point.
11) Germans may appear cold, but they are very “REAL”
Ok so if it is your first time in Germany then you’d probably say that Germans don’t smile much, or they are too cold. I thought so too at first. It took me a year or so to realize that Germans aren’t cold or unfriendly – they are just very real. They’d rather not fake a smile or indulge in small talk. They take time to open up to someone but when they do, you would realize that they actually have a very amazing (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor.
On the other hand, many other people from other countries can’t help but indulge in small talk. Also, if you meet an Indian, they’d smile a lot more than a German. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, but it is so interesting to notice the cultural differences.
I did mention in the earlier point that German people are highly efficient. But somehow they just don’t offer even mildly decent customer service.
I’m talking about industries like retail, hospitality, banking, and even travel. Whatever you ask anyone at any customer service rep in Germany will seem to annoy them and the nicest answer you will get is a shrug of the shoulder with “what can I do, it isn’t my job.”
Before I quit my job, I worked for a decade in a multi-national industry in India and also spent a few months in the USA. I wasn’t into customer service but it is a known fact that “the customer is the king” or “the customer is always right”. Of course, none of these concepts ever work in Germany.
Here if you actually go to a normal staff member and complain about something that’s not working in their supermarket/store/bank – they’d say “what can I do, that’s not my job” instead of actually getting up and asking their coworker who is in charge to do this.
This was actually a big cultural shock for me and every time my (German) husband would sweetly tell me that I’m wrong to complain and “what can they do”. I was so happy when I discussed this with an American friend and then a Thai friend who are all living in Germany and have the same observation. I even found so many threads about this on Reddit and an article by DW.
Guess what, I have somehow grown to accept this aspect and sometimes I even like it. Why? Because Germans are conditioned not to complain. It is when I visit other countries after living here is that I notice how many people complain too much and maybe it is a good thing that the German customer service sucks, because it conditions the people here to never complain.
13) Germans are Super Punctual
If you invite a German friend to visit you at 5 pm, most likely they will come 1-2 minutes before and wait outside and then ring the doorbell at exactly 5 pm. Isn’t that adorable? Well, it is a little freaky too. How are they so time efficient and how do they plan everything so perfectly?
14) Germans are Very Trustworthy
Have I mentioned a few times already how honest Germans are? Well their honestly makes them highly trustworthy. I feel very safe around Germans and I feel that they aren’t going to scam me. Don’t get me wrong but when I visit my own country, I can’t trust so many people because there are scammers around that are looking for an easy target. The only German city where I don’t trust as many people is Berlin because that’s the city where you can actually get scammed.
15) Strange German New Year Tradition: Dinner for One
This is actually an insanely strange but very funny. There is a tradition in Germany where Germans watch the same video every single New Years Eve and laugh a lot. (NYE is called Sylvester in Germany by the way.)
The video is called “Dinner for One” and is a small 5-10 minute long old English comedy video without any significant dialogues. It is so old that it is black and white.
I love quirky traditions and this one really is the best because it is the same effing video that the Germans watch every year and laugh so much. I wish we had a tradition like this in India too but I can’t think of any. I will leave the video for you below and let you decide how funny it is. Have a few beers and you will find it funnier than it actually is.
So, do you know any German people too? Share this post with them to make them smile. Pin the below image to save the post.
15 Things I learned about German People after Moving to Germany
Ever seen a list of the most visited destinations in the world? Most of them in the top 10 are in Europe. Yep, Europe is one of the most touristy continents. Why do I even mention it? Read on.
When a destination becomes even mildly famous in Europe, it kind of turns into Disneyland. It is not just with destinations that have been famous for decades – such as Amsterdam, Paris or Prague – but also newly famous destinations thanks to the power of Instagram such as Bucharest.
Same happened with the most famous lakes in Europe too. Yes, I’m talking about the ever famous Lake Grada of Italy, Lake Bled of Slovenia and Lake Camo of Italy again. Yes, they are definitely lovely but it is hard to enjoy the raw natural beauty of these lakes when the area all around is so developed and busy.
If you’re anything like me, then you seek peace and raw natural beauty of a lake destination instead of the hustle bustle of an overly developed town. Moreover, you would want to see the lake without too many boats in or around it.
For me, a stunning lake is the one that’s in the wilderness – or even better mountains. It is not surrounded by developed towns but you can only see empty areas if you sit next to the water. An absence of commercial boats is definitely an added advantage because it adds to the peace element. Calm and clear water so that you can see inside. Yes, that’s what it takes for a lake to be truly stunning.
Maybe I sound like a nature snob, but the thing is exploring natural landscapes is our thing. San and I are living in Germany and we often travel within the Europe on our campervan. We avoid big cities and instead head to National Parks. And guess what, some of the most beautiful lakes in Europe are found in National Parks. Yes, we have seem many European lakes and we’d like to tell you about the most beautiful ones.
The easiest way to reach most of these lakes is by car. If you live in Europe, then you can drive your own car to these destination. Alternatively, you can fly to the nearby destination and rent a car. Traveling by car is usually cheaper and more convenient in Europe.
Click the above button to see a comparison of car or van rental prices for your preferred destination from many different providers.
Europe’s Most beautiful Lakes
1) Lake Bohinj, Slovenia (Triglav National Park)
The spectacular Bohinjsko jezero – Lake Bohinj in Slovenia
Slovenian’s Lake Bled gets all the attention, but Lake Bohinj is the one that will truly take your breath away. This lake has all it takes to be on top of our list. Bohinj is the highlight of Triglav National Park so you can rest assured that the natural beauty of the area around the lake is preserved.
So what makes Lake Bohinj so special? The water is insanely clear, it is away from the main towns and is surrounded by big mountains. Mount Triglav is the highest peak of the Julien Alps. Yep, so Lake Bohinj is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Alps. Bonus point – Lake Bohinj has some ridiculously stunning beaches.
Mountains, clear lake and pretty beaches – Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
You can not just sit on the side of Lake Bohinj on one of its beaches and not get stunned by the jaw dropping beauty of the mountains around it. They are so high! I wasn’t even able to capture the complete height of the mountains even with a wide angle camera except only at one spot where I walked way far back.
One of the many beaches along Lake Bohinj – Bohinjsko Jezero – Slovenia
There are definitely many stunning lakes around the world but not many that you can camp right next to. Yes, you can actually put up your tent or park your camper van next to the lake in Camp Zlatorog Bohinj. For all these reasons, Lake Bohinj is one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe.
Many visit Montenegro for its beaches but in our experience this country’s mountains is so much better. Montenegro’s Durmitor Mountain range within the Dinaric Alps is a destination that will wow you over.
Within the Dinaric Alps, there’s a protected area called Durmitor National Park which has many glacier lakes. One of the most famous glacier lakes here is called Crno jezero (the Black Lake) near Zabljak, which should actually be called the Blue Lake. The water is extremely clear and is blue-green in color.
Crno jezero or Black Lake entry area, Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Black Lake is actually a set of twin lakes that is joined by strait. There are trees and mountains around most of the lake so the resulting landscape is super stunning. There is also a walking path around the twin lakes with many benches. You can walk around both the lakes in 1,5 hours if you make a few resting stops.
You can’t swim in the Black Lake or Camp right next to it. For more information on Black Lake, read my post about Durmitor National Park.
3) Lake Zaovine, Serbia (Tara National Park)
Swimming in Lake Zaovine in Tara National Park, Serbia
A lot of the lakes in this list are surrounded by high mountains and pine trees but Serbia’s Lake Zaovine is a bit different. Yes, there are mountains but they aren’t as high on all the sides and we definitely did not see pine trees. As a result, there is a high visibility of the landscape around Lake Zaovine.
Lake Zaovine is in Serbia’s Tara National Park, which is literally on the border of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is situated in Tara National Park which is known for its mind-blowing viewpoints.
Lake Zaovine in Tara National Park, Mokra Gora, Serbia
Talking about touristy, this place definitely isn’t. It is perhaps the least touristy destinations that are mentioned on this list. As a result, you can have the gorgeousness of this lake to yourself like we did. You can swim in it, spend a few hours around it, click endless photos without bothering about other tourists. For us, Zaovine is one of the best lakes in Europe for swimming.
Yes, Italy’s lakes are super famous and touristy, but Lago di Tovel isn’t. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t gorgeous. It has the bluest water and was semi frozen when we visited in spring. It is surrounded by snowy mountains and has everything you imagine in a typical alpine lake. The best part, you can usually see a reflection of the snowy mountains on the surface.
Lake Tovel is in Italy’s Trentino region which is known for the Dolomites. As with most of the lakes on this list, it is in a protected area – Adamello-Brenta nature park. As per the legends, this lake was once red in color. Spooky!
Lago do Tovel – the stunning lake in Val di Non, Trentino – Italy
It is possible to walk al around Lago di Tovel in 1.5 – 2 hours to discovered other scenic spots. We couldn’t because I was pregnant when we visited and I wasn’t in a mood for so much exercise. The lake is triangular in shape. No, you can not swim in Lake Tovel.
In order to get to Lago di Tovel, you need to visit Italy’s Trentino region. Stay in Val di Non to enjoy its romantic beauty and drive to Lago di Tovel.
5) Plitvice Lakes, Croatia (Plitvice Lakes National Park)
Water so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake – Plitvice Lakes Croatia
How can I write a post about the most beautiful lakes in Europe and not mention the Plitvice Lakes? It is a National Park in Croatia with 16 lakes that are formed on different levels that are interconnected. They are on different levels and as a result there are waterfalls and cascades. These lakes are stunning with insanely clear water. This area is truly a natural wonderland.
The 16 lakes of the Plitvice Lakes complex are divided in two segments – the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes. Some of the lakes are really big but in my experience the smaller lakes were better than the bigger ones because you could really see the clarity.
Plitvice Lakes National Park has 7 hiking routes that vary in length. Because of the size of the national park, not all trails cover all the lakes but just 1 of them does. That’s the hiking route we took but it took us all day and we ended up walking for 15-20 kilometers in total. You can also pick one of the smaller trails. I mention all of the Plitvice Lakes’ hiking routes in detail in my post. Be sure to read it before you go.
Maybe you were only looking for Europe’s most beautiful lakes but for me it is an added bonus when you get to enjoy the beauty of the waterfalls too. Yes, you will find a lot of them in this national park.
Sadly you can not swim in the Plitvice Lakes but it is really a good thing because that’s how the water is so clean and the biodiversity is truly protected. These lakes collectively are some of the cleanest lakes in Europe. The water is so clean that you can actually see the bottom of the smaller lakes.
Perhaps the Plitvice Lakes are the most touristy lakes on this list and the crowd peaks in the months of August and July. But you can visit them in other months and that will help you avoid crowds.
For more information, read my post about the Plitvice Lakes where I also mention how to avoid crowds.
6) Seealpsee, Switzerland
Recommended by Continent Hop
Seealpsee Switzerland – Most Beautiful Lakes in Europe
Switzerland’s Seealpsee that’s sat at an altitude of 1141 meters above sea level, is one of the prettiest lakes in Europe. The lake is located amongst the Appenzell Alps in Switzerland and reflects the nearby surroundings like a glass mirror.
To add to the magic, this alpine lake doesn’t get a lot of visitors. The only ones to be found here are ones that head off on the Wasserauen -Seealpsee hike.
You could take a picnic here and in summer possibly go for a boat ride; however, the postcard-perfect location is best enjoyed by taking a walk around it and admiring the dense trees and the glass reflections in the lake while the cows lazily graze around. On some days, the clouds almost descend on the lake, making it look unbelievably stunning.
There’s numerous options for stay here if you’d rather not spend just a single day at the lake.
7) Xhema’s Lake, Valbonë, Albania
Xhema’s Lake in Valbona, Albania – Travel the Balkans – by Robert Figgen
Albania’s Valbonë River and the Albanian Alps create a stunning natural landscape in Valbonë Valley National Park. The most famous lake in national park is Shkodër (Lake Skadar) and that’s massive. But there is a smaller lake in Valbonë village called Xhema’s Lake which is stunning.
It is easy to reach Xhema’s Lake from Valbona village. You will see the signboards in the village itself and from there it is a 30 minute walk. The lake is super clear and blue. The water is icy cold. It is surrounded by limestone cliffs that adds to a strange rugged beauty to this spot.
Please keep in mind that Xhema’s Lake dries up in late summer heat and it is a better idea to see it in spring or early summer. The above picture was clicked in late June. The locals say that the lake is at it’s best in spring because that’s when the winter ice freshly melts and as a result the water is clear blue.
When it comes to lakes, Germany doesn’t have a shortage of them and some of the best ones are in Bavaria. While Bavaria’s Königssee is definitely a more famous one, we’d like to mention Eibsee on this list, which is smaller.
Eibsee is special because not only it has crystal clear water but you can also see the Zugspitze (the highest mountain peak in Germany). It is said to be one of the purest and most beautiful lakes in Bavarian Alps.
You can visit Eibsee in all the seasons, each has something unique to offer. This lovely alpine lake freezes in winter and the water starts melting in spring. Summer is a very good time to visit with a family because the weather is warm. Bonus: you can swim in Eibsee in summer. Autumn can be a really interesting time to visit because of the contrast of warm red leaves against the cold blue water.
The landscape around Eibsee is rocky and you should take some time out to walk around the lake. You can reach Eibsee from Munich. We suggest you read Bayern Ticket Guide by Germany’s travel specialist – Happy to Wander.
9) Lago di Braies, Italy
Lago di Braies or The Pragser Wildsee, or Lake Prags, Lake Braies in North Italy
Did we save the best for the last? Maybe. Yes, it is the second one from Italy on our list and totally deserves to be here because Lago di Braies is one of most beautiful lakes in the Alps. It is also called the Pragser Wildsee.
Lago di Braies is often called the “pearl among the Dolomite lakes”. As with most of the alpine lakes on this list, you can enjoy a surreal landscape of mountains too.
Lago di Braies suddenly became extremely famous because of Instagram. This resulted in a massive spike of visitors and traffic jams. Thankfully there is now a restriction on the number of visitors from 10 am to 3 pm. If you arrive by car, you can only visit if you get a parking place in one of the valley car parks in Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Park. Another way of visiting would be by booking a bus ticket to the lake in advance from Dobbiaco or Monguelfo. Another option would be to hike from Ferrara to the lake.
During your visit to Lago di Braies, you can take some time out to walk around the lake. The walking path is 4 kms and this way you can get to enjoy the surreal beauty of this lake from different perspectives.
Did something catch your eye? Let us know which one of the above mentioned European lakes you have visited already or are planning on visiting next. Comment and let us know.
Namaste, Guten Tag!
I'm Sonal from India, living in Germany and exploring Europe. I've been writing about my travels since 2015. I often travel alone (and sometimes with family of 3).
I love European city breaks, nature, adventure, hiking to viewpoints, Yoga, and road trips. I have a think for creating the most amazing travel itineraries and in-depth destination guides which will help you make the most of your trip.