Around 400m above the Thuringian village of Seitenroda sits the majestic Leuchtenburg Castle, an incredibly diverse castle complex from the 12th century. However, this is not just another castle in Germany.
What you find here is a medieval castle experience with not only 1000-year-old castle grounds but also the award-winning Porcelain Worlds with interactive exhibitions, an extraordinary porcelain church and the legendary Skywalk of Wishes.
With mostly locals knowing about this place, the castle can still be ranked among real hidden gems in Germany with good value for money. Thanks to the great location close to several Thuringian cities, such as Jena, Weimar or Erfurt, I consider this castle a perfect day trip.
I was invited to visit the castle grounds while traveling around the Saale region on a getaway. As I know a lot of you guys are as fascinated by medieval castles as I am, I couldn’t be more thrilled to share my photos and thoughts with you.
In this post, you’ll learn about the features of this gorgeous castle and why I think it’s absolutely worth visiting Leuchtenburg Castle before the tourist crowds start lining up to enter the grounds.
Leuchtenburg Castle may be visited daily from 9am – 7pm (April – October) and 10am – 5pm (November – March).
13,50 € / Adult (various discounts available)
There’s a free car park at the foot of the castle. Handicapped visitors may also park their cars right next to the castle (for more information, inquire at www.leuchtenburg.de)
How To Get There:
It is challenging to get to Leuchtenburg Castle using public transport. There’s a direct bus from Kahla to Seitenroda (the village at the foot of the castle) three times a day. In order to be a little more flexible, I recommend traveling here by car.
1. Medieval Castle Grounds
Leuchtenburg Castle was originally constructed around 1200 by a noble lineage from Franconia. The castle grounds mostly served as a center of administration until they were used as a jail in the 18th and 19th century. In the early 1900s, the castle became home to the first youth hostel in Thuringia, which had to be closed 20 years ago.
In 2007, the Leuchtenburg Castle foundation was launched, which, over the past ten years, has not only developed but also implemented new utilization and exhibition concepts.
Today, most of the castle grounds are accessible and very well-preserved.
You can even follow the narrow set of stairs into the old dungeons inside the defense towers, where prisoners used to be kept. The whole castle is surrounded by a solid wall, which is, in parts, attractively landscaped.
What I also enjoyed a lot was the castle keep and its observation deck. From up there you have panoramic views all over the Saale valley as well as the village of Seitenroda.
2. Castle Events
Sadly, I don’t always have the chance to travel to Leuchtenburg Castle whenever something is going on. Definitely make sure to check beforehand if there will be an event taking place while you’re there.
In fact, Leuchtenburg Castle hosts all kinds of public events throughout the year. From themed guided tours, live music and medieval games to religious services and book readings.
There are also events centered around public holidays or particular seasons.
One of the most visited events at the castle is the annual Christmas market that takes place on the second and third weekend in December. Starting at 11am, the courtyard turns into a sparkling Christmas world with traditional handicrafts and local specialties.
However, Leuchtenburg Castle also offers regular events, most of which have something to do with food. Early birds can catch the first sun rays while enjoying the sunrise breakfast. Late risers can take a relaxed Sunday brunch followed by an exploration of the castle grounds. In summer, you can spend a romantic evening at the castle with a barbecue dinner and a gorgeous sunset. Every now and then, you can also take part in an authentic knight’s banquet with delicious food and entertainment.
By the way, Leuchtenburg Castle can also be booked as a venue for corporate events, family festivities or weddings.
3. Porcelain Worlds Exhibition
One of the highlights of Leuchtenburg Castle is definitely the extensive porcelain exhibition.
Now you might be thinking of your grandma’s old porcelain tableware, but let me stop you right there!
This exhibition is so much more than just a collection of a few old cups and vases made of white gold. In fact, seven interactive experience worlds invite guests on a journey through the fascinating history of porcelain – you can even touch and experience this ancient material.
Each of the seven worlds has a different color theme as well as a lovely and very detailed design. Most of them offer stations where both kids and adults can actively participate.
Besides century-old tea bowls that were retrieved from the sea and classic dinnerware, the exhibition features both the world’s tallest vase (8m in height) alongside the world’s smallest coffee pot, which you can only see through a magnifying glass.
Another highlight of Leuchtenburg Castle’s porcelain experience is the unique porcelain church designed by a former student of the famous American architect Daniel Libeskind. He managed to turn the castle chapel into a whole new attraction with vertical blinds made of matt white porcelain which give the entire room an exceptional ambiance.
The most spectacular feature of the Porcelain Worlds, however, is the legendary Skywalk of Wishes. Visitors are invited to write their personal wish on a porcelain plate and let it drop from the skywalk. It is widely believed that broken crockery brings fortune, so why not give it a try?
4. Beautiful Nature & Views
Situated on a hill around 400 meters above sea level, Leuchtenburg Castle offers fantastic views of Seitenroda as well as the lush Saale valley.
In fact, the Saale region is worth a visit itself. It is among the most fertile landscapes in Germany and a popular wine-growing area. You can easily explore the Saale valley following either the official Saale-Radwanderweg (Engl. Saale bike trail) by bike or the Luther hiking trail on foot. Both paths run along Leuchtenburg Castle by the way.
At Leuchtenburg Castle (actually, all over Thuringia), food is a top priority. 🙂
The medieval castle tavern offers hearty food, delicious castle cakes and beverages served in authentic iron mugs. Stop here for some coffee or tea after visiting the castle grounds and let all the impressions sink in before exploring the porcelain exhibition.
Upon arrival or right before leaving, you may also enjoy some sweet Thuringian delicacies in the bistro, which is located inside the visitor center right in front of the castle. From there, you’ll also have access to the cozy sun terrace, which is probably one of the best spots to have a nice cup of coffee.
When it comes to wining and dining, Leuchtenburg Castle offers a lot of options. Consider one of their regular culinary events (s. Castle Events above) to combine a visit to the medieval castle with a unique brunch, lunch or dinner experience.
The reason I am mentioning this feature is that most castles I know are anything but barrier-free. In fact, most castle grounds that I’ve been to had very narrow alleys, lots of stairs and uneven grounds.
However, Leuchtenburg Castle came up with a concept so that wheelchair users are now able to visit (most) of the castle grounds. Between the old building and the new construction, a panoramic glass elevator facilitates access to all three levels of the exhibition grounds.
Apart from that, both the large castle square and the alleyway along the castle wall are accessible by wheelchair.
It is evident that the Leuchtenburg Castle foundation put a lot of dedication into finding a long-term strategy for aspects like accessibility or energy efficiency. And they did succeed.
In 2014, the efforts to make Leuchtenburg Castle as sustainable and barrier-free as possible were rewarded with the Thuringian energy efficiency award as well as the official seal for barrier-free travel.
Located about 20 km from Leuchtenburg Castle, the city of Jena is one of the most popular university towns in Central Germany and can easily be linked to a visit to Leuchtenburg Castle.
The 20.000 students living here make this city a vibrant cultural hub with a decent café and nightlife scene.
Apart from that, Jena is high on history. If you’re interested in German history, especially historical personalities from the early 19th century (Goethe, Schiller), Jena should totally be on your list.
Since the foundation of the university in the 16th century, Jena has been devoted to research, development, and innovation. Today it is home to many scientific institutes as well as start-up companies, some of which have turned into successful businesses over the past decades.
The whole city center of Jena is pretty walkable. Just grab a map at the tourist information center on the market square and off you go. Also, check out their website – you might find some useful information for your visit on there.
Be sure to include JenTower on your walking tour through the city. There’s an observation deck 125m above ground (admission 3,50 €), from where you have an excellent view all over the town of Jena as well as the surrounding Saale Valley.
8. Perfect Day Trip
Since the location is close to other cities plus visiting Leuchtenburg Castle can easily be done in just one day, you may squeeze this historical site in while en route in the state of Thuringia.
Distances (by car) from Leuchtenburg Castle…
…to Jena: 22 km (25 min)
…to Weimar: 43 km (45 min)
…to Erfurt: 60 km (55 min)
…to Gotha: 85 km (1 hr 10 min)
…to Eisenach: 120 km (1hr 20 min)
Are You A Castle Fan?
If you’re as fascinated by the magic of medieval castles as I am, you should add the following places to your bucket list as well.
Not far from Leuchtenburg, you’ll find the legendary Wartburg Castle, which became an important historical site when Luther translated the bible here in the 16th century while residing at the castle for 300 days.
Southern Germany is also home to many gorgeous castles, the most famous one being Neuschwanstein Castle with thousands of visitors every day. If you’re looking for more off-the-beaten-path castles, I recommend checking out medieval ruins and castles in the Franconian Switzerland region, including Rabenstein Castle, Egloffstein Castle, Hohenstein Castle or Altenburg Castle near the UNESCO town of Bamberg.