Burg Eltz is the stuff fairy tales are made of.
Nestled on the hills atop the Mosel River between Koblenz and Trier in Germany, this medieval fortress with its dreamy turrets and tall spires dates back to the 12th century. Its claim to fame, aside of course from its glorious fanciful facade, is how it has never been destroyed—a characteristic made difficult after the onset of World War 2. Today it is still owned by the same branch of family that inhabited it some 850 years ago. The present owner belongs to the 33rd generation of the Eltz clan.
Burg Eltz sits atop a jagged cliff that is surrounded by the winding Eltz river amidst a lush wooded valley. Although its strategic location provides an excellent defense against invading enemies during medieval times, Burg Eltz was actually designed more for economic reasons than for fortification (and judging by its fairytale look, probably for aesthetic considerations as well). Mosel and Rhine rivers were important trade routes during that period and castles then were used to protect these routes and as bases to collect taxes and tithes from passing merchants.
Three Castles in One
Burg Eltz was originally composed of three castles. During the olden times, castle-building was an expensive endeavour so different families would share the same area and build separate homes on the land, sharing the courtyard and other amenities as well. Members of the Eltz family did the same, but in 1815 one branch of the family unified and combined all the structures into one, thus the present castle now appears as one huge manor.
How to Hike to Burg Eltz
Hiking is one of the ways you can get to Burg Eltz. There’s a good hiking trail designed for this purpose. Driving is also an option, but if you love to hike, going on foot is a glorious experience. The enchantment of taking the trek and seeing nothing but trees for some minutes, then turning a corner and catching that first magnificent glimpse of this stunning castle is simply wonderful!
Burg Eltz is near the Mosel town of Moselkern. If you’re staying in this town or in other neighbouring Mosel towns like Cochem (as we did), you can start your hike at the Moselkern train station. The station, however, is unmanned so tickets may be bought only from the vending machine. There are also no lockers or storage facilities where you can leave your bags so I suggest you leave them at your hotel while you visit Burg Eltz.
It is 2 kilometers from the train station to the actual hiking trail path. From the train station you pass through the Moselkern town, a rather sleepy little village with nothing much afoot. If you want to skip these first 2 kilometers and save time, you can ride up to the actual trail hike. We didn’t see a taxi while there, so if you don’t have your own car, you can maybe hitchhike.
If you decide to do the hike from the train station, the path to Burg Eltz is dotted with many clearly marked signs so it’s difficult for you to get lost. Just follow these signs along Oberstrasse down to Hotel Ringelsteiner Mühle. From there you follow a small path to the actual wooded hiking trail and from that point on, it’s another 2 kilometers hike to Eltz Castle.
The wooded hiking trail is a narrow path amidst a lush forest and overlooking a steep creek. The path goes uphill and sometimes downhill. It can get slippery and rather tricky to navigate especially during autumn when the weather can get inclement as was the case when we were there last.
There was nothing much to see except trees, fauna, and the creek during our 45-minute trek along the forest path. The sorroundings were quiet. Every now and then, though, we came across other hikers who just finished their own visit to Burg Eltz and were on their way home. It was mostly just us, the forest and our own thoughts—a nice time to reflect, I would say.
First Magnificent View of the Castle
After carefully plowing on, we turned a corner and then caught our first glimpse of this magnificent castle, standing tall on a hill sorrounded by the winding and glistening Eltz river. It was a glorious sight. And, admittedly a welcome one after a long hike.
Burg Eltz is accessible to the public via 45-minute tours in German and English. These guided tours take you to many different rooms of the castle and give you a glimpse of life during medieval period. Taking pictures is not allowed inside the main castle but permitted in the Treasury. There’s a souvenir shop at the entrance and an outdoor restaurant nearby where you can enjoy a nice view of the sorrounding valley.
We took the English tour along with another couple. The insides were impressive and gave us a peek on the life of German nobility in the olden times. Since we were just a small party an didn’t ask that many questions, the tour finished a bit early. We dropped by the souvenir shop and got ourselves a few knickknacks before we made our way back to the train station.
Burg Eltz, in all its original and undistorted glory, is a must-see when you’re in the Rhine and Mosel region in Germany. It’s wonderful and worth the trip.