Wartburg Castle, Eisenach, Germany
I’ve decided to walk all the way up to Wartburg Castle. I can see it high on a mountain, far away from where I am down in the town of Eisenach in the middle of Germany. Buses and cars go past me as I leave town and start the uphill section into a forest. I’m sure some of the people passing are looking out the window and wondering why anyone would be so foolish.
But I don’t see this as a foolish endeavour. When the castle was first built in the 11th century, this is how everyone would have approached it – up winding paths through the trees towards the summit. The forests have changed very little in the millennium since Wartburg Castle was built. I like that the nearby urban areas have not encroached too far. This great fortress has stood on the same spot for more than a thousand years, looking out over these same landscapes.
The first construction of the castle was in 1067 but changes over hundreds of years have left the complex like a museum, documenting the shifting culture of the region. There are Romanesque structures, medieval touches like the drawbridge, half-timbered buildings from the 14th century, and interior design from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Important residents of the castle have included St Elisabeth of Hungary, who was known for her charitable work, and Martin Luther, who translated the New Testament of the Bible into German in a small room over the course of just ten weeks. They have all left their mark on the site.
Wartburg is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Germany. Its significance as a World Heritage Site is, to a large degree, because of the architecture and the collections of styles within such a small compound. However, you can’t underestimate the importance of what was achieved by people here. It may have been a small and rather bland room where Martin Luther did his translation, for example, but he started a religious movement that was to change the nature of European society.
Visiting Wartburg Castle
Although you can get up to the castle and see the outside of it for free, it’s only possible to go inside with regular guided tours. Inside the castle, the evidence of styles of even more generations is on display. From beautiful golden mosaics, to magnificent frescoes, to the ornate decorations of the Festival Hall, the artwork tells the story of the castle’s history through the images and through its influences. It really is not worth going to the castle and not taking the tour.
A visit to Wartburg Castle offers more than just one experience. It’s a combination of the architecture of the buildings, the art treasures inside, and the views across the wooded plains beneath. There’s a good reason this is one of the most popular sites in the region.
All the things you need to know
Auf der Wartburg 1, 99817, Eisenach, Germany.
You can see it on a map here.
April – October: 0830 – 1700
November – March: 0900 – 1530
A ticket for an adult is €9.
For students a ticket is €5.
You can also buy a family ticket for €21.