All across Germany there are excellent examples of rococo architecture.
If you haven’t heard of the style before, just imagine a flowing and graceful elegance with light colours, gold, and ornate stucco design.
Rococo was more light-hearted than other styles of its period and placed an emphasis less on public religious statements and more on nature, fun, and privacy.
Although you can find many grand 18th and 19th-century public buildings in Europe designed with the ethos (the Wieskirche is a wonderful example), it all started somewhere – and that place is the Castle of Augustusburg, and the neighbouring Castle of Falkenlust.
Even within just these two buildings, the rococo style saw a rapid development as artists played with the ideas behind this new fresh way of decorating grand residences.
Looking at the castles now, you’ll be dazzled by their beauty. But look closer, and you may also see them as workshops where rococo was able to reach its potential.
Why is Augustusburg Castle important?
Augustusburg Castle, along with its hunting lodge Falkenlust, were among the earliest examples of rococo architecture in Europe. With a variety of artists working on the buildings, they also show the evolution of the beautiful art style.
Who lived in Augustusburg Castle?
It was the Prince-Elector and archbishop of Cologne, a man called Clemens August, who commissioned Augustusburg Castle, and it was his successors who lived here.
After the Second World War, it was used by the German Government for official receptions, and it is now owned by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
What is Brühl Castle?
Brühl Castle is another name for Augustusburg Castle, and is often called that because it is located in the town of Brühl. The name also usually includes the Falkenlust Hunting Lodge which is part of the extended site.
The reason I’m talking about Augustusburg Castle and Falkenlust Castle together is because they are essentially part of the same site, which is often just called Brühl Castle.
Augustusburg Castle is the main residence, a much larger and more opulent palace. The smaller Falkenlust Castle is less then two kilometres away across parklands and was originally built as a hunting lodge.
From Cologne, it’s easy to visit Augustusburg Castle, as well as Falkenlust Castle, which are located in the German town of Brühl.
Since the 18th century when they were built, these architectural masterpieces have been well looked after and walking through the interiors is like visiting a colourful wonderland of art.
They’re set amongst expansive gardens and parklands that were in the middle of the wilderness when the idea for their construction was first raised, but have now been landscaped into an attraction in its own right.
Let’s start with Augustusburg Castle, the largest building at the complex, which was founded as the main residence in 1725 and took about 40 years to be completed.
Because it took so long – partly because of the scale of the project and partly because of changes in the vision – a number of outstanding European artists contributed to the final appearance.
It’s because of this that the evolution of the rococo style if clearly evident over the years from its very beginning.
Along the wings of the castle, a series of interconnecting rooms show the hierarchical nature of society at the time. The further along the wing that visitors were permitted, the more important they were considered.
The decorations of the rooms reflect this with changing levels of ostentation. The difference in the interior design between the more public upper floor and more private lower floor also demonstrates the separate roles of the areas.
I think the most striking part of Augustusburg Castle is the central staircase, which incorporates marble and stucco with jasper columns and an impressive fresco on the ceiling. It was designed to impress visitors and create a physical height difference between them and their host.
Augustusburg Castle was originally built for a man called Clemens August (hence the name), who was the Prince-Elector and archbishop of Cologne at the time.
From 1949, it was used by the German President for about 50 years as a formal venue for important receptions and events. Now, it is owned by the state and open to the public.
Falkenlust Castle is just two kilometres away, through the estate’s gardens, but was designed to feel like a country retreat from the main residence.
Construction began just a few years after the main palace and, because it’s much smaller, was actually finished first (in 1737).
When I visit Falkenlust Castle, I get the sense that it’s much more intimate and with a higher concentration of different artistic influences.
Because it was used primarily as a hunting lodge, the ground floor rooms are decorated with motifs of this sport along with other natural elements.
The upstairs has an almost-heavenly feel of serenity, with references to religion, folklore and family history. It’s a sanctuary for the residents from the slightly more public area downstairs.
If you walk between the two castles, take note of which way you are going. The location of Falkenlust Castle was chosen because it was on the flight path between the Palace Garden and the fishing grounds of the local herons, a favourite prey in falconry.
Visiting Augustusburg Castle
They may not be the most famous castles in Germany, but the style of Augustusburg and Falkenlust Castles – and, more importantly, their interior designs – were to influence the creation of other princely courts for more than a century.
They are extremely significant in terms of architecture and design of the 18th century and are worth visiting for anyone interested in those topics.
Both castles are close to each other and just short walks from the train station at Brühl. It is an easy trip from nearby Cologne and could be done quickly in an afternoon or morning – or as a more leisurely day trip.
It is definitely worth seeing both castles and spending a bit of time in the surrounding gardens as well.
Augustusburg Castle can only be seen as part of a guided tour but Falkenlust Castle is open for you to explore at your own pace. It doesn’t matter which you see first but it might be a good idea to base that decision around when the next tour is starting.
A few other things to note:
- You don’t have to book or reserve your tickets in advance.
- Augustusburg Castle is partly accessible by wheelchair, but Falkenlust Castle is not.
- Strollers aren’t allowed inside the castles.
- Photography inside the palaces is not allowed.
- Dogs are allowed in the park and the gardens (except for The Secret Garden)
Where is Augustusburg Castle?
The Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust lie in Brühl, a town mostly known for Phantasialand about 30 minutes southwest of Cologne.
The Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust are located at: Parkplatz, Max-Ernst-Allee, 50321 Brühl, Germany.
You can see it on Google Maps here.
How do you get to Augustusburg Castle?
To get to the castles, catch the train to Brühl and they’re both just a short walk from there. Basically, if you’re riding other modes of transport, you just have to go to Brühl and then follow the signs to “Augustusburg”.
When is Augustusburg Castle open?
The castles are open at the following times:
Tuesday – Friday: 09:00 – 16:00
Saturday, Sunday, Public Holidays: 10:00 – 17:00
CLOSED: December, January, and February
The gardens and park are typically open for longer, but the exact opening hours differ per month.
What is the Augustusburg Castle entrance fee?
A combo ticket for both Augustusburg Palace and Hunting Lodge Falkenlust costs €15 for standard tickets and €11.50 for concessions. Students (up to 30 years) pay €7.50 and if you’re in a group of 15+ people, you will only pay €11.50.
Family options are also available. There’s Family A (2 adults and their school-aged children) which costs €30.50 and Family B (1 adult and their school-aged children) which costs €19.
It’s also possible to buy tickets for each castle separately (a standard ticket is €9.50 for Augustusburg and €7 for Falkenlust).
Are there tours to Augustusburg Castle?
Visits to Augustusburg Palace are only possible as part of a guided tour. The guided tour is available in 15 languages with audio guides. Do note that this is for Augustusburg Palace only.
When it comes to Falkenlust Palace, a guided tour is not required for entry. However, there are also guided tours with audio guides available in 15 languages should you wish to know more about the place. The themed tour of Falkenlust is only available on Sundays.
For more information, see the official website of the Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust.
Once you visit Augustusburg Castle, you can admire the scenery at the Gardens and Park grounds and take a stroll there. If you’re tired, you can rest at the nearby Röstcafé Augustusburg and enjoy some coffee.
If you’re on a day trip from Cologne, spend the rest of the day in Brühl enjoying the town, exploring the Max Ernst Museum or hiking in the Rheinland Nature Park.
And, of course, there’s Cologne Cathedral nearby – one of the most impressive World Heritage Sites in Germany.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN COLOGNE
If you’re visiting the castles, the easiest base for accommodation is Cologne, where there’s a good range of options.
With a central location and great atmosphere, Cologne Downtown Hostel is a great backpacker choice.
For something a bit budget, Hotel Weber is a good choice in the centre of Cologne.
With cool modern design, I would highly recommend 25hours Hotel The Circle.
And when it comes to luxury, The Savoy Hotel has been upgraded and is a great hotel.