Eltz Castle – Germany’s Medieval Icon (History & Travel Tips)

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Eltz Castle, also known as Burg Eltz, stands proudly overlooking the river Elzbach and is known as Germany’s iconic medieval castle for its architecture and perseverance. Interestingly, the castle is still resided in by the descendants of the same family that built it about 900 years ago. 

The castle has been unscathed by war and stands fully preserved with its original medieval architecture intact. With its stone fortification and sky-high towers, the castle attracts thousands of tourists from every part of the world each year. 

If you are planning to visit Eltz Castle or curious about knowing the history, significance, and current status of Burg Eltz–you have come to the right place.

Let’s dive deep into the castle’s history and what makes it worthy of tourists’ attention and Germany’s pride.

The castle was used to represent the exterior of the military asylum in the movie, The Ninth Configuration

The picturesque view of Eltz Castle from afar.  with view of trees and mountains.
The picturesque view of Eltz Castle from afar. Johannes Dörrstock, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Early History

The Origin Of Eltz Castle’s Name

The castle and the resident family are named after the Eltzbach river. The word has the German origin “Else” or “Els,” which refers to a commonly found tree at the bank of the rivers, known as black alder in English.

Surrounded by the Eltzbach River, Eltz Castle was established on a high rock in the 12th century. Before the construction of Eltz Castle, there were already some settlements during the 9th and 11th centuries; but with time, the need emerged to protect the essential routes for trade along the river by building more substantial fortifications. 

Photographic view of Eltz Castle in the 1860s.
Photographic view of Eltz Castle in the 1860s. BeckenhamBear, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Emergence Of Eltz Castle

Eltz Castle was mentioned for the first time in records in 1157 when it was gifted to the iconic Rudolf von Eltz by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. Some ruins–which include the residential building and the central castle tower, both in the Romanesque style–have been well kept-up up till today.

History of the Eltz Family

Eltz Castle was divided among the three brothers of the Eltz family in 1268, namely Wilhelm, Theodoric, and Eliey. The brothers lived separately in different parts of the castle. They commenced new branches of the Eltz family using specific designations to designate the separate parts of the castle and family: Eltz-Kempenich, Eltz-Rübenach, and Eltz-Rodendorf.

The castle had faced a dire military conflict during 1331-1336, which was meant to capture rebel knights within the stronghold. However, unlike other medieval castles in Germany, Eltz Castle avoided being looted or destroyed, common risks of the nineteenth century. It had barely escaped destruction thanks to Hans Anton zu Eltz-Uttigen, the owner of the castle. In 1815, Count Hugo Philipp zu Eltz procured the entire Eltz property, thus making Eltz Castle the sole heirloom of the Eltz family.

The structure inside Eltz Castle.
The structure inside Eltz Castle. IMG_9308 flickr photo by SquireSnapsalot shared with no copyright restrictions using Creative Commons Public Domain Mark (PDM)

A Tragic Romantic Tale of Eltz Castle (15th century)

Eltz Castle is also known as the tragic romantic castle due to this legend told of the castle. 

In the 15th century, Agnes, a beautiful daughter of the count, was sworn to the knight of Braunsberg. They had opposite natures: Agnes was gentle and modest, whereas the young knight was rough and hard-hearted. Agnes refused to kiss him on their engagement day, and as a result of the anger caused by her refusal, the young knight avowed war on the family.

The chapel interior of Eltz Castle.
The chapel interior of Eltz Castle. Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After carefully planning to take Agnes with him, he lured the count and his comrades out of the castle and attacked the castle behind them. Agnes fought with the young knight courageously by wearing her brother’s armor and died instantly after being shot by the knight with an arrow. The death of Agnes infuriated her servants to the point that they killed the young knight and then crushed his entourage as an act of revenge.

Current Times

Today, the castle is owned by Dr. Karl Graf von und zu Eltz-Kempenich and has been subjected to renovation many times. As it is still a home for one line of the Eltz family, only the Rodendorf and Rubenach families’ residencies are open for tourists at the castle. 

The Kempenich branch of the family still occupies the third area. Eltz is one of the few medieval castles in Europe that is still in the hands of the family that owned it initially. Today, the owner comes from the 33rd generation of the Eltz family.

A majestic aerial view of Eltz Castle.
A majestic aerial view of Eltz Castle. Wolkenkratzer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It is not open to the public throughout the year but specifically from April to November. The public is allowed to see the treasury of the Eltz family in the castle, which includes silver, gold, and porcelain artifacts. The historic armor suits and the armory are also parts of the treasury open to the public. As the castle is situated at the top of the hill, visitors can also see the surrounding hills and trees, to admire the beauty of nature.

The castle attracts thousands of visitors each year who are fascinated by its beauty and history. Another reason why people from around the world come to explore Eltz is because it’s one of the rarest castles in Europe: to have lasted so long without significant damage

The surrounding natural aesthetics of Eltz Castle.
The surrounding natural aesthetics of Eltz Castle.

The revenue generated from tourists is used to maintain the castle’s beauty and support docents at the Castle. It is well-known that keeping and maintaining such a tremendous historic castle is not easy, which makes a visit to Eltz Castle a remarkable medieval escape.

If you love such historic places and are enchanted by them, visiting Eltz Castle is a must. The beauty, history, and exciting facts about the castle will blow you away.

Interesting Eltz Castle Facts

  • An engraving of Eltz Castle was used on the German 500 Deutsche Mark note from 1965-1992.
  • The castle was used to represent the exterior of the military asylum in the movie, The Ninth Configuration.  
  • There are about 100 rooms for the family members, guests, and servants.
  • During Medieval times, there were no hotels; the noble families accommodated guests who had come with good intentions. A visitor could only live there for a year and had to pay according to the fixed rates, meaning that a prince or a king had to pay more to live in the castle than any other servant or knight. 

Hosting guests at the Burg Eltz continued for 500 years until the 17th century. Taking in guests helped to maintain and look after such an exciting ancient castle.

Visiting Eltz Castle – Tips and Tricks

If you are planning to visit Eltz Castle but do not know where and how to start,  here is ample information regarding your starting point, ticket prices, and a fully guided tour of the Castle.

The graceful view of Eltz Castle at the entrance.
The graceful view of Eltz Castle at the entrance. At the gate of Burg Eltz flickr photo by izik shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How to get to Eltz Castle?

The closest central city to the Burg Eltz is Frankfurt; take a train from there to Koblenz and then to Moselkern. From Moselkern, it takes about one hour and 35 mins by train to Hatzenport. From there, take the line 365 bus to reach directly to the foot of the hill where Eltz Castle is situated. 

If you take a walk to the castle hiking trail, it will be a 30 mins walk from the station and another 45 mins will be added to reach the castle. However, by taxi, it is a 10 mins trip from the station to the castle.

To Do Things At Burg Eltz

  • You can roam around the castle and its inner court freely without any extra charge of the free. You can also visit the two restaurants in the castle without any entrance fee. 
  • Explore the outstanding murals, artworks, hunting trophies, weapons, and more.
  • It would help if you visited the Knights Hall. It was the meeting place for meeting the Eltz family members of the three lines. 
  • It would be best if you also visited the treasury with the guide. It has tremendous ancient artifacts, including jewelry, weapons, glass, porcelain, etc. each item is worthy and has been kept for more than 500 years.

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

The visiting hours to Eltz Castle are not yeararound. The castle is open to visitors only from April 1st to November 1st, from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily. 

The ticket price to the Castle varies depending on whether you plan to visit alone, with a group, or with your family. A ticket for an adult person is € 12 ($12 USD) whereas, for an adult in a group of 20, the ticket will be € 11 ($11 USD).

Disable visitors and students must pay €7 ($7 USD), whereas school class visits cost € 6 ($6 USD) per child. For a family of 2 adults with two or more children, the ticket, on the whole, will be € 32 ($32 USD). 

The castle has well-trained guides who will give you a guided tour of the castle. They also offer guided tours in French and English, making the history and facts about the castle easily accessible. 

They also have a free flyer with the tour text in English, Chinese, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Japanese for international tourists. You can visit the treasury independently within the visiting hours.

The beautiful side angle of Eltz Castle presenting its structure.
The beautiful side angle of Eltz Castle presenting its structure. Johannes Dörrstock, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

It takes about 35-40 mins to tour Eltz Castle in its entirety.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Take a picture in the cobbled causeway to Burg Eltz for a nice shot in front of the castle.
  • Visit the Comtesse Room to hear the story of Agnes and the young knight. Agnes’ breastplate once hung on the wall of this room, displaying a hole caused by the fatal arrow. 
  • While enchanted by the beauty of the castle, many visitors forget to look at the lush green scenery and the surrounding landscape. Take some time to enjoy the view.
  • Nature lovers are also advised to visit the Eltzer Forest nearby, also called the arboretum, where many foreign and native rare species of trees reside.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Eltz Castle Areas

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Kainat Khalid
Kainat Khalid
Kainat is an English literature graduate with a profound interest in historical architecture. She has studied and explored the dusted pages of history for years which has ignited her passion to explore the existing remnants of our past glory and revisit them from a revised perspective. “There is no present without the past” is what she believes in and what drove her to begin cataloging these timeless historical monuments.

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