About Plassenburg Castle
Just over 100km north-east of Nuremburg, Plassenburg Castle is an iconic symbol of the city of Kulmbach and the massive fortress which was first mentioned in 1135 sits high above the city like a protective parent. Its first role was as a supporting fortress for the Meranian rulers of the Upper Main and Franconian Forest.
History of Plassenburg Castle
From the 12th century, the castle has been under the ownership of firstly the Plassenburg family who were ministerial of the counts of Andechs, then the noble Franconian family of Guttenberg and from 1338 to 1791, the Burgraves of Brandenburg, all members of dynastic House of Hohenzollern.
The castle was destroyed – razed to the ground – in 1554 at the end of the second Margravian War. Five years later, renowned German Renaissance architect Caspar Vischer was commissioned by Margrave Georg Friedrich von Brandenburg-Culmbach to create a masterpiece. He did, and it included the Schöne Hof – ‘Beautiful Courtyard’ – a magnificent arcaded space that included over 120 relief busts, many of which represented the Hohenzollern dynasty and is widely considered to be one of the stand-out examples of German Renaissance architecture.
In 1810 ownership of Plassenburg Castle passed to the state of Bavaria and has been used as a prison, a military hospital and a POW camp but today, it’s one of Bavaria’s most popular tourist sites as well as a venue for myriad cultural events.
Plassenburg Castle today
The Frederick the Great Army Museum with a wonderful collection of Prussian military artefacts and paintings, the Hohenzollerns in Franconia Museum and the Margravial Rooms (including the gilt-canopied bed of Margravine Maria from c.1630) are outstanding but many visitors come to Plassenburg to see the German Pewter Figure Museum which houses over 300,000 figures as well as what is described as a ‘treasure of dioramas’.
Look out too for the Schöne Hof (literally, beautiful courtyard), one of the best examples of German Renaissance art. The palace is open daily, with slightly shorter hours during the winter months. Guided tours only run in German at present, and depart at 2:15pm.
Getting to Plassenburg Castle
Plassenburg is on the outskirts of Kulmbach: there are train and bus services there from Bayreuth, which is a half hour drive away.