Uncovered: The fairy tale castles of Germany

Fancy something a bit different for your holiday this year? Germany has a wealth of fairy tale castles that are great for visits for the whole family.

Research by Agoda.com has revealed the top castles to visit in Germany. Majestic old palaces and turreted stone castles might be the stuff of children’s fables, but for the cultural traveler they offer a beguiling glimpse into European history. Whether intact or in ruins, these fantastical buildings provide insight into the lives of nobility throughout the Middle Ages, with many restored palaces also housing extensive collections of art, antique furniture, weapons, and medieval artifacts.

Most of the best-preserved castles lie outside the major cities, their more remote locations contributing to their preservation throughout centuries of war. The more famous of these can be found in the southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, amid some of the most beautiful and pristine countryside in Europe.

To explore Germany’s fairytale castles, travelers starting from Berlin can enjoy a scenic overland journey via road or rail to Frankfurt am Main, launching trips to Trier, and taking in the wine country of Mosel.

From there, travelers can enter the Swabian Alps region, visiting Heidelberg and Stuttgart and the small medieval townships that line the valleys. To complete the fairytale tour, travelers can then go on to Füssen to see two of the country’s most famous castles, then on to Munich, the hub of Bavarian culture.

TOP GERMAN CASTLES

MESPELBRUNN CASTLE

Owned by the Ingelheim family, this moated castle (wasserschloss) is concealed in a quiet valley in the Lower Franconian countryside. It starred as one of the locations in the Cannes-nominated 1958 film, Das Wirtshaus im Spessart, based on a German fairy tale. It’s located in dense Spessart forest, about 50 km from Frankfurt.

BURGHAUSEN CASTLE

This thirteenth century castle is the longest fortress in Europe – more than a kilometer in length. It houses six courtyards, multiple towers and gates, gardens, chapels, and protected inner chambers that successions of Bavaria’s Dukes and Duchesses used as a second residence. The castle is located on the Salzach River, close to the Austrian border.

HEIDELBERG CASTLE

Now in ruins, this medieval stronghold hails from the thirteenth century. Destroyed by war, fire, and lightning, it has long been a romantic figure of the poets and artists of Heidelberg, winning the admiration of many writers, including Victor Hugo and Mark Twain. The castle overlooks Heidelberg city in the north of Baden-Württemberg, a two-hour drive from Frankfurt.

LICHTENSTEIN CASTLE

Once a fortress for the knights of Lichtenstein, this neo-gothic castle sits precariously on a rocky bluff overlooking Honau in the Swabian Alps. Its remote location in mountainous woodland helped keep it safe from destruction, and it’s still owned by the Dukes of Urach today. It’s also in the Baden-Württemberg state, a day-trip from Stuttgart.

ELTZ CASTLE

Thirty-three generations of the Eltz family have called this castle home. Perched on a hill, with pointed spires and Tudor woodwork, it’s the archetypal medieval castle, complete with a vast collection of antiques, paintings, and weapons. It’s a moderate 45-minute hike from Moselkern train station to the castle.

HOHENZOLLERN CASTLE

The flags on Hohenzollern Castle’s turrets flutter 855 meters over the surrounding countryside, a position it has enjoyed since the eleventh century. The not-so-humble home of the Prussian royal family, it was destroyed and rebuilt twice, restored to its current form in the late nineteenth century. It’s close to the Swiss border, in the foothills of the Swabian Alps.

SIGMARINGEN CASTLE

Now owned by an offshoot of the Hohenzollern family, this eleventh-century fortress has changed ownership numerous times, and was once even the seat of the French Vichy. The striking centerpiece of Sigmaringen, a quiet medieval village on the Danube, the castle today houses collections of porcelain, armor, carriages, and torture devices.

NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE

Technically not a castle, in that it wasn’t built specifically to protect, this extravagant palace was the creation of the eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria, inspired by the medieval castles of fairy tales. Its extravagant design in turn served as the inspiration for one of the most iconic fairytale castles today: Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Neuschwanstein Castle overlooks the village of Hohenschwangau in southwest Bavaria, 100 kilometers from Munich.

The early bird catches the worm…

You may have only just returned from your summer holiday this year, but now is the best time to book up next year’s luxury getaway whilst there are early booking travel offers to snap up.

Sovereign Luxury Holidays has a selection of early bird offers, for departures in May 2012, which will only be available for a limited time.

Active Family Holiday in the Sun

Save £1,059 off a luxury family holiday in Menorca.

Seven nights at the five-star, Insotel Club Punta Prima, with complimentary all inclusive board, return flights and transfers is reduced to £1,315 per family of three in the early bird sale.
Part of the Sovereign Family Collection and just 300 metres from Punta Prima’s beach, the Insotel Club Punta Prima hotel is ideal for those seeking an active family holiday.

Children will be spoilt for choice with a range of facilities and activities catering especially for them, including: the children’s club, children’s pool, playground and children’s menu.

Adults are not forgotten either with: a PADI approved scuba diving school, eight tennis courts, archery, rifle shooting, volleyball, bicycle hire, badminton and a beauty centre, gym, sauna and steam bath, just a selection of the facilities and activities on offer.

Departures are from London Gatwick on 05 May 2012.

Luxury Couples Break in Cyprus

Sovereign is also offering travellers £819 off a luxury Cyprus holiday.

Seven nights at the five-star, Annabelle Hotel in Paphos, Cyprus, with complimentary half board, return flights and transfers is now £799pp.

The hotel is both in the Sovereign Luxury Collection and a member of ‘Preferred Hotels and Resorts Worldwide’ and promises an luxurious and indulgent stay.

Facilities include: two outdoor swimming pools, a cocktail bar with live music, grotto swimming pool with poolside bar, floodlit tennis court, squash court and free steam bath at Almyra Spa. In addition, guests are invited to use the facilities of the adjacent Almyra Hotel, which include the AlmyraSpa and the Kids Club and Creche.

Departures are from Manchester on 16 May 2011.

Indulgent Luxury Get-Away in Crete

Seven nights at the five-star Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas, in Crete, with half board, return flights, transfers and a sea view room is reduced to £699pp, saving £720 per couple.

Nestled on a hillside, the Daios Cove Luxury Resort boasts a fantastic location overlooking the picturesque Daios Cove and the dazzling blue sea, seven kilometres from Aghios Nikolaos.

The impressive infinity pool and adults only pool, complete with a wet bar, provide the perfect place to relax and enjoy the hypnotic views. The hotel also has a sundeck and pier, which offers comfortable sunbeds and direct access to the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea.

For those looking for a pampering experience, the hotel’s spa and health club, Germaine de Capuccini, has a range of rejuvenating treatments, allowing you to truly relax on this luxury holiday.

Departures are from London Gatwick on 06 May 2012.

Luxury Family Break in Majorca

Save £565 on a family break to the popular Spanish island of Majorca. Seven nights at the five-star Pollentia Club Resort with complimentary all inclusive board, return flights and private car transfers is available for £1,385pp in the earlybird sale.

The self-contained complex is just four kilometres from Puerto Pollensa and directly opposite the small beach of Ca’n Cap de Bou. The facilities at the hotel are ideal for sports enthusiasts, with a full programme of organised activities during the day including volleyball, tennis, archery, squash, horse riding and watersports. Children will also be kept fully entertained with the kid’s clubs, which are available for ages 1-12 years.

Departures are from Liverpool on 06 May 2012.

For further early bird offers or to book, visit Sovereign’s summer 2012 offers page or call 0844 415 1984.

Pound continues to fall against the Euro

Thousands of families will be abandoning their European holiday this summer, as the ailing pound continues to fall against the euro.
The two week summer holiday to Europe is as popular with Brits as fish and chips, but millions of tourists will be put of this year as value for money on these holidays shrinks.
More expensive than a year ago, cash strapped Brits are struggling to afford their usually yearly holiday, over the past four years the pound has fallen more than 20 per cent against the euro.
Popular destinations such as France, Italy and Spain will see a large decrease in tourists as the weak pound pushes up the cost to European destinations.

Figures reported by the Post Office have shown that a typical family holiday to Italy has gone up by some 80 per cent in just four years.

In 2007 Brit’s were able to get approximately 1.3-1.4 euro’s to the pound, but today the figure is hovering just above one euro.
The extra holiday expenses come as well as furl surcharges, the increasing price of package holidays and budget airline tickets.
ING Direct’s Richard Doe said: ‘It’s clear that a tough economic climate is causing consumers to pull-off a very difficult balancing act – cutting down on debt while dealing with rising prices – so it’s not surprising that the summer holiday is often being sacrificed.’

BA wont strike .. but talks continue over Virgin walkout

Traveling with BA this summer? You can breath a sign of relief as the two year long cabin crew dispute looks to be over.

However those travelling with Virgin have more to worry about. Virgin Atlantic pilots have so far refused to back down from the walkout and could ruin tens of thousands of family holidays this summer.

Hitting key long-haul routes, including flights to Disneyland in California and Florida, as well as the Caribbean, the Far East and Australia, strikes would be incredibly disruptive for many holiday makers.

Strike dates have not be revealed yet, but the first is expected to take place in July, with further walk outs to follow over the summer.

But there was better news for passengers today though, as BA’s union Unite balloted several thousand of its members, recommending acceptance of an agreement thrashed out between the two sides after 18 months of conflict.

The agreement includes a two-year pay deal and the return of travel concessions for thousands of staff who took part in 22 days of strikes last year, which cost BA £150million.

Sir Richard Branson’s airline said it was disappointed but was preparing ‘contingency plans’ to deal with any walk-out.

Travel industry experts condemned the strike as ‘disappointing and frustrating’.

Balpa chief Jim McAuslan said: ‘There has been no UK pilot strike for 32 years. But there comes a time when even moderate people say enough.

‘With no pay increase since 2008, a below inflation offer for 2011 and proposals for 2012 and 2013 that will be sub-inflation this is now a six-year attack on living standards which has not happened in any other UK airline.’

He added: ‘We do not want to inconvenience the public and hope that Sir Richard will use some of his undoubted flair to settle this.’

A spokesman for the airline said its pay offer was ‘industry leading’ and ‘double the national average for a UK business’.

He added: ‘We are naturally disappointed with the result of the ballot but remain committed to further talks with our pilots’ representatives to find a solution.’