The Best Castle In Europe Is A Mystical Gem With Rare Features, According To Rick Steves

There are tens of thousands of castles in Europe. We don't know how many of them travel expert Rick Steves has seen, but we imagine it's a lot. One castle in particular, tucked away in Germany's Moselle Valley, is Steves' favorite European castle of them all: Burg Eltz. On his blog, Steves wrote that Germany's numerous castles can be overwhelming, which is why he shares his best-loved options with readers. He noted that he especially appreciates the castles that haven't been beautified or overrun by tourism — exploring lesser-known destinations is undoubtedly one of the best Rick Steves travel tips.


"Beyond the touristy castles are the ones I prefer — the forgotten ones," Steves expressed on his website. "These are evocative, stony husks without plaster or furnishings — where you'll see broken stairways and open skies rather than rooftops. Their massive chunks of stone no longer guard anything from anyone. The lichen grows on walls seemingly to cushion stones for a fall they've been expecting for centuries." What's fascinating about this sentiment is that it does not reflect his absolute favorite European castle.

Although Burg Eltz is far from a Disneyfied structure — as happens to so many over time — it isn't an empty shell of its former self either. The intricate details still captured within the walls make this Germanic castle so very special to Steves. When you're ready to plan your adventure, read up on the perfect time to visit the country, according to the man himself.


Burg Eltz: Like a snapshot from 500 years ago

Burg Eltz has earned renown not just as one of the most beautiful castles in Germany but all of Europe. Yet its mainstream reputation has not deterred Rick Steves from naming it his favorite European castle. Despite his penchant for the dilapidated, story-filled castles of yore, Steves is positively enamored by Burg Eltz for the rarities it holds. Fascinatingly, he loves it even though it isn't among the hidden gem spots he usually champions.


"Lurking in a mysterious forest about 30 minutes by car from Cochem, and an hour via a handy train/bus connection (summer only), this is my favorite castle in all of Europe," Steves gushed on his website. "Thanks to smart diplomacy and clever marriages, Burg Eltz avoided wars and was never destroyed, remaining in the Eltz family for eight centuries. The castle is furnished throughout basically as it was 500 years ago. That's rare in castles."

The objects inside Burg Eltz run the gamut of the castle's 800-year life. Due to its sheer size, the treasury, which contains centuries upon centuries of artifacts and artwork, is considered one of the most important collections.

Decorative touches make Burg Eltz unique

With the majority of the castle intact, it only makes sense that Burg Eltz's interiors reflect its centuries of history as well. This is something that Rick Steves admires greatly. In a blog post on his favorite German castles, he reflects on the grandiose nature of Burg Eltz even after 800 years. "It was a comfortable castle for its day: 80 rooms made cozy by 40 fireplaces and wall-hanging tapestries," Steves expressed. "Many of its 20 toilets were automatically flushed by a rain drain. The delightful chapel is on a lower floor. Even though 'no one should live above God,' this chapel's placement was acceptable because its altar fills a bay window, which floods the delicate Gothic space with light as it protrudes out from the floor above."


Even the minutia, the details left behind by artists of yore, remind visitors of the sanctity of the castle space. Steves shared that a carved jester and rose above the central table remains in the meeting room area. According to him, anyone in the room was "free to discuss anything ('fool's freedom' — jesters could say anything to the king), but nothing discussed could leave the room (the 'rose of silence')." Having been to several castles in Europe and elsewhere, we know true artifacts are rare sights, indeed. That makes Burg Eltz an absolute treasure for history buffs.