The fog rolled in overnight and now, as I climb the mountain, everything seems to be trapped within grey padding. If I open my mouth and bite, I’m sure I could eat the cloud that’s surrounding me.
I can make out the trees nearby but I can’t see too far ahead. Luckily there’s an easy path uphill to follow.
When I get to the top, the fog is even thicker. Now, though, instead of trees poking through the haze, it’s the entrance to an old castle with the intimidating portcullis raised as a welcome from the grey.
This is how I arrive at Hohenzollern Castle, the home of the Prussian kings.
A thousand years ago, the family which would eventually rule this part of Germany – and then the whole country – established their home here.
Why is Hohenzollern Castle famous?
There are two reasons Hohenzollern Castle is famous. Firstly, because it is the ancestral home of the House of Hohenzollern, the dynasty that eventually became hereditary German Emperors and Kings of Prussia!
But the castle is also well known because of how it looks – a stunning and alluring castle at the top of a hill, poking out from the rolling forest beneath it.
Does anyone live in Hohenzollern Castle?
The Hohenzollern family did once live on this site, but the castle you see today is the third version, built between 1846 and 1867. No member of the family ever lived permanently in Hohenzollern Castle. These days, some may come and stay for a short visit. Otherwise it’s just a few staff members who live here.
Can you go inside Hohenzollern Castle?
Yes, Hohenzollern Castle is now open to the public and you can walk through and see most of the rooms for yourself. There are also regular guided tours. I’ve got more information below about visiting Hohenzollern Castle.
This castle is a reconstruction from the 19th century but more than a millennia of history is contained at the top of this mountain.
“You could call it the heart of Swabia, or the southwest of Germany,” the castle’s guide, Dirk Horrmann, tells me.
History of Hohenzollern Castle
Dirk knows this castle well – all 140 rooms of it. He’s not going to show me them all… but as we start the tour, I get a bit worried at how much there is to see.
We begin in the entrance room where the family tree of the owners is painted on all the walls.
“This is the family tree of the Hohenzollerns,” Dirk says.
“A thousand years of family history…. Don’t be afraid, I don’t want to tell you all the details.”
I get the sense he’s told that joke before but everyone in the group still chuckles. I feel like you need to encourage the Germans when they try to show a sense of humour.
It’s a majestic castle. On a day when there’s no fog, the castle at the top of the mountain is one of the most iconic images of this region. But it’s here, inside the rooms, that you can really appreciate the royal influence.
There are the golden chandeliers with candles that needed to be replaced every day, the high cathedral-like ceilings, the plush blue lounges in the queen’s chamber, the stained glass and the watchful statues.
If it feels a bit like a museum, I guess that’s because it is. Hohenzollern Castle has not been a permanent residence for hundreds of years.
“No family member of the Hohenzollerns was living here for long term… so I would call it a kind of weekend house,” Dirk says, to more chuckles.
“There was only a kind of staff or soldiers being responsible for the castle but there were a few decades where no family member was living here in the castle at all, only for visits or short stopovers.”
The Hohenzollern family
You do wonder why you wouldn’t live in such a splendid home if it belonged to you. For the Hohenzollerns, though, power was more important.
They moved to Berlin to take their place in the leadership of the German Empire and just never came back.
The castle and the surroundings stayed with the family and today is owned by George Friedrich, the Prince of Prussia. He is the great-great-grandson of the last German Emperor, Wilhelm II.
“Some of the family members still visit the castle,” Dirk explains.
“Our boss, Prince Friedrich, for a few days a year he’s here in the castle. He is a prince but he has no political power. You know, Germany is a republic so these times are gone.”
They may be gone but they are not forgotten. The decision to rebuild the castle in the 19th century, despite the family then being based in Berlin, shows how important it was to not let go of this history.
Even if it is just a showpiece now for a royal line blurred in the fog of memories past.
Visiting Hohenzollern Castle
Although it is still owned by the family, Hohenzollern Castle is primarily a tourist attraction now. It’s one of the highlights of the Baden-Württemberg region and one of the best things to do in Stuttgart.
There aren’t really any tours that go from Stuttgart to Hohenzollern Castle, unfortunately, but there is this tour from Frankfurt.
However, you probably don’t need a tour because it’s quite easy to reach the castle either by car or public transport, and there’s lots of information (and even sometimes guided tours on quiet days) once you are in the show rooms of the castle.
Although going inside Hohenzollern Castle is obviously the highlight of a visit, I recommend also giving yourself some time to walk around the grounds, both to see the exterior of the complex but also to explore a bit of the surrounding forest.
Where is Hohenzollern Castle?
Hohenzollern Castle is in a rural area of Baden-Württemberg, about an hour’s drive south of Stuttgart, or about 90 minutes’ drive north of Konstanz.
The official address is 72379 Burg Hohenzollern, Germany. You can see it on a map here.
How do you get to Hohenzollern Castle?
If you are coming by car, there is a large parking lot you can use.
By public transport, you can get a train to Hechingen station. From there, you can catch a bus to the castle – either the regular Line 306 or the Traufbus Line 344.
From the parking lot (which is also where the bus stops), there is a steep walk for about 20 minutes up to the castle. Or, alternatively, there is a regular shuttle bus which is included in the price of the entry ticket.
When is Hohenzollern Castle open?
The grounds of Hohenzollern Castle are open daily between 10:00 – 18:30 (with last entry at 17:00).
The show rooms of the castle are open daily between 10:00 – 18:00 (with last entry at 17:30).
The castle and ground are closed 3 September; 7-24 November; 28, 29 November; 5, 12, 19, 24, 31 December; 9-31 January.
How much does it cost to visit Hohenzollern Castle?
Entry to Hohenzollern Castle costs:
Children (12-17 years): €10
Children under 12: free
Family (2 adults and children up to 17): €45
A ticket includes entry to the castle grounds, a visit to the show rooms, car parking, and shuttle bus.
For more information, you can visit the castle’s official website.
There are lots of castles in Germany, and each offers something unique. I think this is one of the best. Not only does Hohenzollern Castle give you the opportunity to see a decadent interior, but it’s a strong connection to a very important part of the country’s heritage.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN STUTTGART
Most people who visit Hohenzollern Castle base themselves in Stuttgart, where there’s a big range of places to stay.
For a basic but comfortable and cheap hotel, I would suggest Hotel Astoria.
A good modern hotel in Stuttgart that’s a great option is Jaz Stuttgart.
And I think the best luxury hotel in Stuttgart is the Le Meridien, which also has a perfect location.