Five haunted castles in Germany that will creep you out

Ghost stories and castles? One of the great German combinations, alongside beer and pretzels.

The picturesque Burg Eltz.
The picturesque (and spooky) Burg Eltz. Photo: DPA

Tales of the supernatural are so often associated with castles up and down the country that one half expects to find some ancient law still on the books, legislating it.

While a guide to the country’s haunted castles could fill several leather-bound volumes, here’s five of the best if you’re looking for some historical horrors.

Peter The Great – Schloss Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Schloss Schwerin after a stormy day in September. Photo: DPA

You can’t make any list of Germany’s spookiest castles without mentioning Petermännchen, undisputedly the country’s most high-profile castle ghost.

This pint-sized poltergeist, depicted as a little person in cavalier costume, has defended the cellars of the ancient castle at Schwerin for centuries – indeed, he’s depicted in art in the castle from as early as the 17th century, when legends say he terrorized military commanders who commandeered the fortress during the Thirty Years War.

Throwing objects, making noises and, if one story is to be believed, urinating on a sleeping general, Petermännchen is said to have ensured that nobody who does not have the best interests of the castle in mind could stay there.

Of course, some have suggested that this story was just cover for the actions of recalcitrant soldiers, but those people are spoilsports.

Hell Hath No Fury – Spandau Zitadelle, Berlin-Brandenburg

The Spandau Citadel during a light festival. Photo: DPA

Another of the country’s most iconic ghosts is the ‘White Lady of the Hohenzollern’, who appears in not one, but two locations – the Berlin Schloss and the Spandau Citadel, not too far from the capital.

The story goes that this poor woman is Anna Sydow, mistress of the 16th century Elector, Joachim II Hector. Nearing death, it is said that Joachim asked his heir, Johann, to look after Anna, who had essentially served as his spouse after Hedwig Jagellion, his wife, had badly injured herself.

Contrary to his father’s wishes, however, Johann had her active around the impending death of a Hohenzollern male, heralding the death of several significant members of the ruling dynasty. She’s not seen around so much these days, partly perhaps due to the relative lack of Hohenzollern heirs, and partly due to the Berlin Schloss being a noisy building site.  

Going down swinging – Burg Eltz, Rheinland-Pfalz

You’ve seen Burg Eltz in a thousand Instagram posts – it’s the epitome of what most think a German castle should be, mixing stone walls with half-timbered protuberances.

Amazingly, it’s been in the same family for over 850 years – a fact they’re very proud of – and has never been taken in armed conflict. This refusal to give in is embodied in the tale of Agnes, the daughter of a 15th Count of Eltz. Promised to a fellow noble as a young girl, when she met him as an adult, she was appalled out how cold and rude he was.

Refusing to have anything to do with him, she sent him packing. Despite his entreaties, she refused marry him and finally, he laid siege to the castle. Seeing troops pour into the courtyard, she put on a helmet, breastplate and picked up a sword, throwing herself into the fray.

She inspired the castle’s defenders to repel the attackers, but when it was over, she lay dead, her chest pierced with an arrow. Ever since, the sorrowful spirit of Agnes is said to linger around the castle, especially in the bedroom where a perforated 15th century breastplate hangs.

A discovery of witches – Burg Werdenfels, Bavaria

A look at the Burg Werdenfels, perched on a hilltop. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The scenic ruins of Burg Werdenfels, towering over the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen actually boasts a number of ghost stories, including the ghostly singing of an imprisoned noblewoman. We will, instead, focus on a later, more harrowing event. In the late 16th century, the region was seized by witch hunts, sparked by pour harvests and abrupt changes in climate.

Suspected witches, many of them older men and women, were taken to the castle and imprisoned in appalling conditions, only emerging to be tortured as part of the judicial process.

Some local folktales suggest that the castle was the scene of executions, including burning at the stake, but records are sketchy on this detail. Since then, it is said, Werdenfels became a place with a terrifying reputation, with reports of tormented ghosts roaming the site.

Things got so bad that the site was apparently exorcised, and stones were taken to build a church. Today it’s a rather beautiful, if sad, spot that’s popular with hikers, but I wouldn’t lurk after dusk.

Upstairs, Downstairs – Schloss Ludwigsburg, Baden-Württemberg

Are there ghosts lurking in the old and ornate hallways of Schloss Ludwigsburg? Photo: DPA

Considering the magnificence and opulence of the baroque palace built by the Dukes of Württemberg in the 18th century, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the place might be haunted by some of the personalities who lived there, such as Duke Carl-Eugen. This larger-than-life figure had big tastes, guzzling food and working his way through the ladies of the court.

However, of you believe the legends, and the reports of ‘ghost hunters’, it’s the hired help, not the heirs apparent that haunt the place. Departed servants, hard done by, or just missing the place have been blamed for poltergeist activity, strange noises and one rather spectacular incident in the 19th century, when a guard post of the King of Württemberg was supposedly assaulted by an unseen force, causing patrols to be doubled ever since. Protecting the place, or taking revenge on the place they loathed being in life – you decide!

Have any of your own tales of haunted castles in Germany? Let us know, and we just may run them!

    •    Schloss Schwerin / Lennéstraße 1, 19053 Schwerin
    •    Spandau Zitadelle / Am Juliusturm 64, 13599 Berlin
    •    Burg Eltz / 56294 Wierschem
    •    Burgruine Werdenfels / 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
    •    Schloss Ludwigsburg / Schlossstraße 30, 71634 Ludwigsburg

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Five of Germany’s most magical Christmas Markets to visit in 2021

Despite rising infection numbers, most of Germany’s Christmas markets will be open to fill our hearts with festive cheer this year. We give you a rundown of five of the country’s most magical Christmas markets.

Five of Germany's most magical Christmas Markets to visit in 2021
The entrance to the Stuttgart Christmas market in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Tom Weller

In 2020, many Christmas markets in Germany had to close or were scaled back massively because of the pandemic. This year – at least at the time or reporting – lots of markets are set to open in the coming weeks. 

Here are five we love at The Local Germany. If you have any suggestions for magical Christmas markets in Germany, please leave a comment below. 

Maritime Christmas Market on the Koberg, Lübeck

Lübeck, the so-called “Christmas city of the North”, will be welcoming the festive season this year by lighting up its old town with over 500,000 Christmas lights.

The northwest of the old town island is where you’ll find the maritime-themed Christmas market which has been going since 2011.

Centred around the gothic, middle-aged church of St. Jacob, this Christmas market celebrates the city’s historical sea-faring residents by creating a cosy harbour atmosphere with old wooden barrels, nets and a stranded shipwreck as well as a Ferris wheel with an unforgettable view of Lübeck’s old town and harbour.

Culinary stands offer visitors sweet and savoury dishes, and beverages such as hot lilac punch, mulled wine and, of course, rum.

Extra info: The current rules for events and hospitality in Schleswig Holstein is that 3G applies (entry for the vaccinated, people who’ve recovered from Covid or people who show a negative test)  but from Monday, November 15th, indoor areas will be enforcing the 2G rule (excluding the unvaccinated).

The Christkindlesmarkt in Augsburg Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Christkindlesmarkt, Augsburg

With its origins in the 15th century, the Christkindlesmarkt in Augsburg is one of the oldest in Germany, and the Renaissance town hall provides a particularly beautiful backdrop to this winter wonderland.

As well as a wide variety of stands selling handcrafted nick-nacks and tasty treats, the Augsburg market also has some especially magical features, including the “Heavenly Post Office,” and “Fairytale Lane”: an animated fairytale depicted in ten scenes in decorated shop windows around the market place.

Extra info: In order to keep dense crowds to a minimum, the Angel performance will not take place this year. The market will also be spread out over more locations in the historic centre and there will be fewer mulled wine stands than in previous years. The stalls will be distributed over the Hauptmarkt, Lorenzer Platz, Schütt Island and Jakobsplatz.

Meanwhile, masks will have to be worn due to the high Covid numbers in Bavaria – and there will be 2G rules around the mulled wine stands, meaning unvaccinated people will not be served alcohol.

READ ALSO: State by state – Germany’s Covid rules for Christmas markets

Medieval Market and Christmas Market, Esslingen

The Medieval Market and Christmas Market in Esslingen, with its backdrop of medieval half-timbered houses, offers visitors a trip back in time, with traders and artisans showing off their goods from times gone by.

The stands show off the wares of pewterers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, broom makers and glass blowers, as well as some old-fashioned merchants selling fun themed goods like drinking horns and “potions” in bottles.

Extra info: This year the number of stands will be reduced from more than 200 to around 120 and the stage shows, torch parade and interactive activities will not be taking place.

View from above the historic Streizelmarkt in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Streizelmarkt, Dresden

No Christmas Market list would be complete without the Streizelmarkt – Germany’s oldest Christmas market in the “Florence on the Elbe”.

This market, which you will find in Dresden’s city centre, first took place in 1434, and since then it has acquired quite a reputation.

The ancient market is home to the tallest Christmas pyramid in the world, as well as the world’s largest nutcracker.

Amongst the dozens of traditional stands, visitors to this market must also try the Dresdner Christstollen: the famous fruit loaf that is baked according to a traditional recipe with chopped dried and candied fruits, nuts and spices and dusted with powdered sugar.

Visitors can also take a ride on the historic Ferris wheel and gaze down upon the lovingly decorated huts of the Striezelmarkt.

Extra info: This year there will be no stage program and the mountain parade has been cancelled.

Old Rixdorf Christmas Market, Berlin

Although not as well-known as some of Berlin’s other Christmas Markets, the Old Rixdorf Christmas market is a romantic and magical spot which is well worth a visit. In the south of city in Richardplatz, Neukölln the old village of Rixdorf was founded in1360.

This charming setting is home to historic buildings such as the Trinkhalle and the Alte Dorfschmiede, and is illuminated every year with kerosene lamps and fairy lights. The stalls and booths are run by charitable organizations and associations. There are homemade trifles and handicrafts, but also culinary delights such as fire meat, waffles, pea soup, and numerous varieties of mulled wine and punch.

Extra info: The Old Rixdorf Christmas Market will be following the 2G model, meaning that all visitors over the age of 12 will be required to be fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19.