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Wartburg Castle

For 300 days, Martin Luther hid out in the mountaintop fortress of Wartburg while translating the Bible into German. You can visit the rooms where he worked and slept.

From: Eisenach, Germany

Warburg Castle Eisenach

ABOVE: A view of Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Thuringia.

Eisenach's Wartburg is everything that a German castle should be:

  • It's old. Wartburg Castle was founded in 1067, and its central structure dates back to the 12th Century. By comparison, Neuschwanstein in Bavaria--which was inspired, in part, by the Wartburg--is a modern fairy-tale confection from the late 1800s.

  • It's imposing. Wartburg Castle looks like a fortress, even though it was never used for military purposes.

  • It's perched on a mountaintop. Or at least a hilltop: The castle is 410 meters or 1,230 feet above sea level, which is 220 meters or 722 feet higher than the town which it overlooks.

  • It's historic. Martin Luther hid out in Wartburg Castle for 300 days in 1521-1522 after being declared an outlaw and a heretic at the Diet of Worms, and he translated the Bible into German during his stay. Another famous German, the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, spent five weeks at the Wartburg in 1777.

  • It's romantic. Parts of the castle were transformed into a fantasy of mosaics, frescoes, and other expressions of German Romanticism from 1838 to 1890, and Wagner set Tannhäuser--officially titled "Tannhäuser and the Singers' Contest at Wartburg"--in the castle and its surroundings.

  • It's on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage List. The castle received its blessing from UNESCO in December, 2009.

In light of these characteristics, it shouldn't be surprising that Wartburg Castle draws many thousands of tourists and Protestant pilgrims annually.

The castle is also a musical and preaching venue, with operatic performances, chamber music, blues, jazz, Christmas music, and religious services in the Festival Hall or Castle Chapel during the course of the year. There's even a Weihnachtsmarkt on the weekends before Christmas.

A trip to Eisenach simply isn't complete without a visit to the Wartburg. Fortunately, the castle is easy to reach from town (whether by public transportation or car), and it's open to visitors year-round.

Visitor information

Wartburg Castle ticket office and gift shop

ABOVE: The ticket office and gift shop at Wartburg Castle.

Hours: Wartburg Castle is open 365 days a year, with hours that vary by season. Guided tours are available in normal years, although they were suspended for hygiene reasons during the 2020 pandemic.

Tickets: Admission to the castle courtyard is free, but you'll need a ticket to see the castle interior and the museum. Prices depend on whether you book a guided tour (which we recommend) or just want to visit the exhibition and museum on your own.

For up-to-date information, see the English-language Wartburg Castle Web site.

How to reach the Wartburg

Wartburg Castle is on the southwestern outskirts of Eisenach, on a road called the Wartburgallee.  (It's about 4 km or 2.6 miles from the railroad station.)

By car: If you're driving, follow the street signs for Wartburg. (From the A4 Autobahn, you'll want the "Eisenach-Ost" exit.)

As you leave the city, bear right on the Wartburgallee just after the Reuter Wagner Museum. (Be careful not to continue on the B19, which leads to Mariental.) Follow the winding road to the castle and and park in the public lot. In summer, the lot may be crowded, and you'll need to pay for parking.

By public transportation: You can save time and avoid parking hassles by taking a city bus from Eisenach's city center or from the bus station in front of the Hauptbahnhof (main railroad station).

Once you've arrived at the Wartburg Castle parking lot by car or bus, you'll need to follow the paved path uphill.

The 500-meter or 1/3-mile walk isn't strenuous, but if you're out of shape, you may be out of breath by the time you reach the top. Take a moment to enjoy the views from the scenic overlook before entering the castle.

Please note:

  •  A free shuttle bus is available for elderly and handicapped visitors. (It is not intended for people who simply dislike walking.)

  • On summer days in good weather, children can ride to the castle on donkeys for a fee. Look for the donkey station or Eselstation along the road just after the parking lot.

  • During the summer, Wartburg attracts more than 3,000 visitors per day. To avoid crowds and waiting lines for tours in high season, it's best to visit on a weekday (preferably early in the morning or late in the afternoon).

Staying at Wartburg Castle

The Romantik Hotel auf der Wartburg is an historic (and upscale) inn and wedding venue next to the castle.

It has 37 rooms and suites, indoor and outdoor restaurants, and free Wi-Fi.

More Wartburg Castle photos

Wartburg Castle entrance

A paved walking path from the parking lot leads uphill to Wartburg Castle's Zugbrücke or entrance bridge.

The path is about 500 meters long, and although it's a little steep in places, it's easy enough to climb or descend as long as the pavement isn't icy.

If you're elderly, infirm, or handicapped, you can take a free shuttle from the parking lot to the castle entrance.

Wartburg Castle entrance

An entrance bridge and tunnel lead into the castle courtyard. (You can enter the castle grounds without buying a ticket.)

According to our Wartburg tour guide, the fortifications weren't meant to serve any defensive purpose: Wartburg Castle was built as a symbol of the founding Ludovinger family's power, wealth, and social status.

Wartburg Castle ticket office and gift shop

To reserve your place on a guided tour of Wartburg Castle, or to visit the museum, go to the ticket office in the castle's first or outer courtyard. (Guided tours conclude with a visit to the museum.)

You'll also find a gift shop with souvenirs, books, Thuringian handicrafts, and other items next to the ticket office.

Toilets are nearby; look for the sign in the courtyard.

Wartburg Castle cistern

Wartburg Castle's large cistern, or Zisterne, is an impressive sight.

Wartburg Castle medieval column and ceiling

The guided tour begins with a visit to the Romanesque section of the castle, where you can still see the original oak ceiling beams from the 12th Century.

stone bas relief in Wartburg Castle

Stone carvings, such as this bas-relief, add to the medieval atmosphere of the older rooms in Wartburg Castle.

St Anna Selbritt woodcarving at Wartburg Castle

This representation of St. Anna Selbritt was carved in lindenwood around 1515.

The carving shows the saint with her grandson Jesus and her daughter, the Virgin Mary.

Angel at Wartburg Castle

Wartburg Castle had angels long before they came to Montgomery.

Wartburg Castle mosaic room

Wartburg Castle's most over-the-top feature may be the Mosaic Room, which looks as if it were lifted from a Byzantine basilica.

The intricate mosaic decor was commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II and created from 1902 to 1906.

St Elisabeth mosaic at Wartburg Castle

The castle's mosaics portray the life of Heilige Elisabeth von Thüringen (a.k.a. St. Elizabeth of Thuringia or St. Elizabeth of Hungary), who died at age 24 after founding hospitals and caring for the poor in Germany.

Martin Luther room at Wartburg Castle

Lutherstube signThe Lutherstube, or Luther Room, is one of Wartburg Castle's most popular attractions. Martin Luther stayed in this room (and the sleeping room behind it) for 300 days in 1521-1522.

Although the walls are original, the desk and chair are replacements from the Luther family's furniture collection: The desk and chair that Martin Luther used while translating the New Testament into German and writing polemics at Wartburg Castle were carted away over the centuries, one sliver at a time, by religious pilgrims.

Wartburg Castle Festsaal

Wartburg Castle's Festsaal or Festival Hall is on the top floor of the Romanesque Palas, where it runs the entire length and width of the building.

The room (which has been restored and enhanced over the centuries) was the site of the Wartburg Festival of 1817, when members of university fraternities organized what has been called the first democratic meeting on German ground.

Today, the Festsaal is a popular venue for concerts and other events, including concert presentations of  Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser (whose story takes place on the Wartburg).

Weihnachtsmarkt am Wartburg

During the weekends before Christmas, Wartburg Castle's Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas Market attracts locals and tourists.

Photo: Thüringer Tourismus GmbH/Andreas Weise.

Wartburg car

Wartburg Castle didn't just inspire Martin Luther's translation of the Bible into German or Richard Wagner's transfer of the Tannhäuser legend to the operatic stage: It also inspired the Wartburg automobile, or at least its name.

In 1898, the first car factory in Eisenach built the Wartburgwagen. The name "Wartburg" was later used on BMW's first sports car in the 1930s.

From 1956 until the fall of the German Democratic Republic, the Wartburg was a popular car in East Germany and abroad. Production ceased in 1991, and today Eisenach's 2,000 auto workers (compared to 12,000 in the Wartburg's heyday) are building Opels.

Related articles:
Eisenach, Germany
Bachaus Eisenach
Lutherhaus Eisenach
Hotel Vienna House Thüringer Hof
Lutherstuben Restaurant

Also see:
Luther Cities

Top photo: Wartburg Stiftung Eisenach.