Wilhelmsburg Castle in Schmalkalden.

© Reiner Conrad/Shutterstock

Schloss Wilhelmsburg

Top choice in Thuringian Forest & the Saale Valley

Overlooking Schmalkalden, the late-Renaissance Schloss Wilhelmsburg was built between 1585 and 1590 by Landgrave Wilhelm IV of Hessen as a hunting lodge and summer residence. Since then, it has largely kept its original design, with lavish murals and stucco decorating most rooms, of which the Riesensaal, with its coffered and painted ceiling, and the Festsaal are the most impressive. The playfully decorated Schlosskirche has a rare wooden organ, thought to be the oldest working organ of its type in Europe.

In addition to temporary displays, the Schloss Museum houses a permanent exhibition on the Schmalkaldic League, a military alliance of Protestant territories formed in 1531 to prevent the re-imposition of Catholicism. Laid out in the early-17th century, the palace grounds retain much of their original design, the perfect setting for what is considered one of the best-preserved Renaissance palace exteriors in Europe.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Thuringian Forest & the Saale Valley attractions

1. Viba Nougat Welt


Viba has been seducing sweet-toothed Germans with their range of nougats and chocolates for over a century. Here at their luridly-pink factory and visitor…

2. Reuter-Wagner Museum

17.95 MILES

This museum, housed in the 1866 villa once owned by writer Fritz Reuter, hosts the most extensive collection on the composer Richard Wagner’s life and…

3. Wartburg

18.02 MILES

When it comes to medieval castles and their importance in German history, Eisenach's Unesco-listed Wartburg dominates the landscape. This huge medieval…

4. Bachhaus

18.13 MILES

Comprising two 15th-century houses knocked together in the early 17th century, this is Johann Sebastian Bach's actual birthplace, and an international…

5. Lutherhaus

18.28 MILES

The religious reformer Martin Luther lived here as a schoolboy from 1498 to 1501, in one of Thuringia's oldest and most handsome half-timbered houses. Now…

6. Georgenkirche

18.36 MILES

Dominating Eisenach's central square, this is the baptismal church of St Elizabeth and Johann Sebastian Bach. It's also where Martin Luther sang as a boy…

7. Stadtschloss

18.4 MILES

Dominating the northern side of Markt is the baroque facade of this former ducal residence, now housing tourist and municipal offices and the Thuringian…

8. Predigerkirche

18.42 MILES

The crypt and several other rooms of this 13th-century Dominican church house the Thuringian Museum's exquisite collection of medieval sculpture,…