Schloss Drachenburg in Königswinter
Steeply up the rack railway goes. The Drachenfels near Königswinter, Germany’s most frequently “conquered” mountain, affords a vast view of the Rhine. It’s well worth stopping half-way up at Schloss Drachenburg, too.
Two large, golden stags welcome visitors on the Venus terrace in front of the large outside staircase that leads them into the palace. The terraces afford a great view of the densely forested Siebengebirge, and even the Cologne cathedral is still visible in the far distance. Poets such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Hölderlin already used to enthuse about Rhine Romanticism. Nevertheless, it was a stock exchange speculator, of all people, who made his architectural dream come true by building Schloss Drachenburg in this idyll. Back in 1882, Baron Stephan von Sarter laid the cornerstone for this magnificent Wilhelminian building.
Tristan and Isolde in the palace
Just why the son of an innkeeper from Bonn had this hybrid of villa, castle, and palace built remains unknown. It may have been due to a woman. Maybe the banker grown rich simply wanted to follow in the footsteps of nobility. In any case, he never lived in the opulent rooms and halls of Schloss Drachenburg, opting to remain in his rented flat in Paris instead until his death in 1902. It was only a year later when Sarter’s nephew Jakob Biesenbach took over the property, opening it to the public as a “summer resort”. The log cabins he built in the park of Schloss Drachenburg are still named Isolde, Parsifal, Tristan, and Valkyrie today.
Tower room with a breath-taking effect
Biesenbach also made sure that Schloss Drachenburg – after threatening to crumble several times – is once again shining in its original splendour today. A postcard series issued at the time enabled reconstruction of the neogothic art gallery and private apartments. Restorations included some of the richly decorated stained-glass windows, to be admired by visitors during guided tours, regular concerts, and special events. Walkers can find plenty a cosy spot for a picnic in the sprawling park around Schloss Drachenburg as well. Romantics should try renting the suite with tower room, enjoying the breath-taking view of the Rhine valley from far above.
An even better view of the river and Siebengebirge can be found on the Drachenfels summit, where the remains of a 12th century castle can still be found. Visitors can enjoy the vista from a panorama restaurant on the Drachenfels plateau as they fuel up for their way back. Anyone who isn’t feeling up to the hour’s walk can take the rack railway back to the valley.
Christmas market and castle illumination
On the first three advent weekends, Schloss Drachenburg hosts a Christmas market in its magical palace ambience. Visitors will feel almost as if entering a fairy tale when the palace is lit in different colours, seemingly suspended in the darkness. The market stands in front of it offer plenty of tasty treats to eat and drink, such as wine from the Siebengebirge and local dishes of wild game. The palace interior can be explored as well. In late January, the Drachenburg will once again shine in a special light, when 400 lamps and a dozen projectors are installed for the “castle illumination”, making the trees, paths, shrubberies, and, of course, the palace itself radiate in a variety of colours.