About a year ago, Hubby and I went on a Rhine River Cruise to see the fireworks above the castles. On that cruise, I was blown away by all the beautiful castles in the hills above the Rhine. I’ve made a goal this fall to explore as many of those castles as possible with the kids.
Rheinstein may be the coolest castle we’ve visited so far. I love when they just let you pay your entrance fee, and then leave you alone to explore on your own. On the guided tours, it seems like I spend most of saying Shhh! and wondering what the tour guide is saying about us when the sentence starts with “kinder.” When we are alone in the castle, history comes to life, and we can spend as much time as we want pouring over the stained glass windows and paintings on the walls.
Rheinstein is perfect for exploring on your own with children. The earliest mention of the castle was in 1323, so it was originally constructed at sometime before that. It was never harmed by an attack, but at some point, it fell to decay from lack of use. In the early 1800’s, it was purchased by Prince Friedrich of Prussia for only 100 talers (the closest I could find to calculating this equivalent would have been about 33,000 USD in today’s world). Prince Freidrich updated the castle, adding additional structures, most importantly, the chapel and crypt, where he would eventually be entombed.
Prince Friedrich was an art collector, so he put a lot of thought into the stained glass windows he had installed in the castle. Many date to the middle ages, and were salvaged from cathedrals around Europe that had been brought down during the secularization of Europe. Also collected by Prince Friedrich and used in the restoration of the castle are portions of the walls and ruins from both Koln cathedral and Heisterbach monastery, and collected items from the Wars of Liberation.
I loved that many of the rooms are still furnished, especially Princess Luise’s drawing room, the “blue salon.” Prince Friedrich’s appreciation of the middle ages is seen everyone in the building, from the architecture and gargoyles, to the furniture and wood paneling on the walls. When he lived in the castle (it was used as a summer home) the Castellan was sure to “pursue everything medieval” and held tournaments and feasts in his honor for the important residents of the Rhine River Valley to enjoy.
The cannon terrace and castle garden were a huge hit with the kids. In the garden is an entrance to the dungeon, complete with a (it MUST be fake, right?) skeleton laying in the dark. Past the garden is the entrence to the chapel, and the crypt, where Prince Friedrich and his family lay.
If you are local, Rheinstein Castle is an easy 30 minute drive up the Rhine. Parking comes up fast roadside as you approach the castle on the hill, so be looking for it. The castle and grounds are not stroller friendly, so be prepared to carry little ones. It is child friendly, and the restaurant has special prince and princess ice cream (for 3.50 Euro) to enjoy after your adventures- and plenty of other snacks and drinks for grown-ups to choose from. It’s a wonderful family day trip!