Lichtenstein Castle (Schloss Lichtenstein) is a privately owned tourist attraction built in Gothic Revival style and located in the Swabian Jura of southern Germany. It was designed by Carl Alexander Heideloff and has been described as the “fairy tale castle of Württemberg.” It overlooks the Echaz valley near Honau, Reutlingen in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The modern castle was inspired by the novel Lichtenstein (1826) by Wilhelm Hauff and was built in 1840-1842. The ruins of the medieval castle that inspired the novel are a few hundred meters away. The name Lichtenstein translates as “shining stone.”
The castle is located on an escarpment that marks the northwestern edge of the Swabian Jura. It is in the Reutlingen district and has an altitude of 817 m (2,680 feet).
Beginning around 1100, a castle belonging to a family of ministerials of the counts of Achalm and later counts of Württemberg, was located on the escarpment above the source of the river Echaz. The castle and its denizens, the lords of Lichtenstein, were not friendly with the Free Imperial City of Reutlingen and were thus under frequent attack. The old castle was destroyed twice, once during the imperial civil war of 1311 and again by the citizens of Reutlingen sometime between 1377 and 1381. A new castle was built in 1390 some 500 m from the ruins of the old one. The site selected was the same as that of the current structure. It was one of the most impressive fortifications of the Late Middle Ages. Despite such features as early casemates that made it nearly unassailable, the castle ceased to be the ducal seat in 1567 and fell into disrepair. During the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48), it was taken over by the Tyrolean line of the Habsburgs following the death of the last member of the Lichtenstein family in 1687 during the Great Turkish War. The coat of arms of their family, a pair of golden angel wings on a blue background, is still displayed in the Great Hall of the castle.
In 1802, King Frederick I of Württemberg came into possession of the castle, dismantled it to its foundations and replaced it with a hunting lodge.
Desiring an accurate emulation of a medieval castle to live in and house his substantial collection of medieval arts, arms, and armor, Wilhelm recruited architect and restorationist Carl Alexander Heideloff after turning down designs by Württemberg court painter Franz Seraph Stirnbrand and Christian Wilhelm von Faber du Faur – designs that differed substantially from today’s structure. Construction of the New Lichtenstein Castle began in 1840 and was managed by Johann Georg Rupp. This structure, its design heavily influenced by Count Wilhelm, used the ancient foundations of the castle of 1390, and stood up to three stories tall, with a curtain wall and courtyard to complete the castle complex. A barbican and a sprawling outer bailey, complete with corner bastions and turrets, was constructed in 1857.
The castle was completed in 1842, and the king was present for its inauguration ceremony. In 1869, it became the official residence of the dukes of Urach.
Here are 6 facts about Lichtenstein Castle:
1. Lichtenstein Castle Has a Nickname
It’s a source of pride among locals in the southwest state of Baden-Württemberg. So much so that it has acquired not one, but two nicknames. The first is Neuschwanstein’s Little Brother, after Neuschwanstein Castle, the most famous castle in all of Germany. The second, as already mentioned is the Fairytale Castle of Baden-Württemberg. It’s again indirectly referring to Neuschwanstein Castle, which was the inspiration for the Disney castle. No word on what the proud residents of the nearby Hohenzollern Castle, or Ludwigsburg Palace have to say about that.
2. It Isn’t Overrun with International Tourists
Despite being a source of local pride, it isn’t on the radar of most international tourists to Germany. As a result, the 30-minute tour is only available in German.
Travel tip: English-speaking guests can ask a handout in English on the tour. It may also be possible to arrange a tour in English or French. However, it’s only available for groups. Arrangements must be made ahead of time.
Despite it not being a stop for most visitors to Germany, it’s popular with German tourists eager to see the castle and the fantastic views. I loved Lichtenstein Castle. Even J.P., my German husband who’s not much of a castle guy said it was “cute.”
3. It’s a Relatively Young Castle
It’s still an infant in castle years having being built between 1840-1842. However, the grounds have a much older history. The original castle dates back to 1200, but it was destroyed twice until it finally fell into ruins. It was reconstructed to feel like a medieval knight’s castle though, so it feels older than it actually is.
It was reconstructed to feel like a medieval knight’s castle though, so it feels older than it actually is.
4. It’s a Small Castle
Lichtenstein Castle is the smallest castle I’ve been to in Germany. It’s even smaller than King Ludwig’s Linderhof Castle. However, that doesn’t make it any less impressive.
One of the things I loved most was the vast views of the Echaz Valley and Swabian Alps. And when you consider that it was only built as a hunting castle, it does start to seem rather large.
I’ve never thought of a castle as cozy but that’s the feeling I had as I toured inside – well except for all the antique rather uncomfortable looking furniture. Despite being a “cute” castle, there are a lot of historic weapons and armour on display, reflecting its history as a medieval fortress.
5. It’s Based on the Novel “Lichtenstein”
How many castles have been inspired by a book? This is one of them, the 1826 novel Lichtenstein by Wilhelm Hauff. I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on my reading list. I’m curious to find out how a book inspired this Neo-Gothic structure.
I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on my reading list. I’m curious to find out how a book inspired this Neo-Gothic structure.
6. Its Name is Self Explanatory
No real secret here if you speak German. Lichtenstein is German for light-colored stone on which the castle is built on. Clearly, German practicality has been around for at least a couple of centuries.