Sigmaringen: The Castle on a Cliff

Germany is a land filled with historical buildings and German castles and forts are among the most renowned in the world. Each week I publish a post about a German castle or fort and tell you – my readers – about its history, important things to see there and much more.

Sigmaringen Castle.

Sigmaringen Castle.

Hohenzollern Castle is not the only castle which can be attributed to one of Europe’s most famous royal houses. The castle was present as far back as 1077 in records of the area. This points to not only the long history of the castle itself, but also of the Houses of Hohenzollern and Sigmaringen, the latter family being the namesake of the castle. The castle is located on a chalk projection in the Jura Mountains in the Swabian Alps in the present-day state of Baden-Württemberg. 

The Hall of the Ancestors houses paintings of the previous owners of the castle.

The Hall of the Ancestors houses paintings of the previous owners of the castle.

Sigmaringen Castle started life in the 11th century and exchanged hands and was fought over many times in the centuries to come. It was initially a fort belonging to the Sigmaringen family but fell to the Helfenstein family in 1290. From the Helfensteins, the castle transferred to the House of Werdenberg in the 1300s. Ultimately in the 16th century, it came back to the House of Hohenzollern. Charles II of this house split the Hohenzollern line into two: the Prussian Hohenzollern who went on to become the Kaisers of Germany, and the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen who still own the castle to this day. It was Charles II who carried out significant repairs to the fort and turned it into a proper castle. Many repairs and renovations were carried out into the 18th and 19th centuries as well.

The Portuguese Gallery.

The Portuguese Gallery.

During World War Two, and following the Invasion of France by the Allies, the Vichy French government moved into Sigmaringen Castle. The Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family was forcibly relocated from the castle. It was only near the end of the war that the castle was liberated and handed back to its rightful heirs. Today, the castle is a museum and is visited by a great many tourists round the year. In my opinion, it is an unexplored gem waiting to be discovered. Or perhaps, it being relatively undiscovered is part of the charm due to a lack of throngs of tourists making the experience more enjoyable.

The Armory (photo courtesy Mark Ferwerda - Flickr)

The Armory (photo courtesy Mark Ferwerda – Flickr)

The main attraction of the castle – aside from all the fantastic and grand halls, passages and chambers – is the armory. The armory contains weapons, canons and shields from centuries past and an optical illusion painting. The immense collection of art in the Portuguese Gallery is also worth a visit. The grand French Hall is also quite a sight. The castle opening times can be found here. Please note that you can only visit the castle as part of a guided tour. The tour is 60 minutes long and provides ample time for you to wonder around and discover things on your own. Unfortunately, the castle is not equipped to handle people who require wheelchair access.

When you are near this castle, do visit the small town of Sigmaringen which displays a typical south German flair. Also do take the time to see the stunningly beautiful Swabian Alps and the Upper Danube Nature Park located nearby. The whole region around the castle is ideal for cycling.

Sigmaringen Castle in all its glory.

Sigmaringen Castle in all its glory.


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