The castles in Saxony are many and varied and offer a unique and unexpected look into Saxony’s noble families, princes and electors. As they are often used for modern exhibitions and local festivals, the castles also provide not just a look into the past but also are a way to participate in the present and enjoy Saxony’s contemporary arts and culture. One of the ways visitors can enjoy these extraordinary structures is with a schloesserlandPASS which allows for free admission to 50 estates for only € 20 for ten days or €40 all year round. Travel in the footsteps of Saxony’s most illustrious ruler Augustus the Strong, visit scenes of former knights’ tournaments and contests and enjoy the calm and relaxation of the extensive gardens and monasteries. The passes are available at the tourist center in Dresden or at the entrance to any of the castles.
The castle of Stolpen just outside of Dresden toward the east is famous for being the prison home to Countess Cosel, the famous mistress of Augustus the Strong who banished his strong and intelligent mistress to the beautiful castle to keep her out of politics. The countess spent 49 years there in captivity against her will and was eventually buried there, a sad fate, at the age of 85. Her burial place is located inside the ruins of the Stolpen Castle Chapel. During the time of electoral rule, Stolpen was a secondary residence of the Meissen bishops but was converted into their palace when they had to leave Meissen after Reformation. Today, there are many events held at the castle and this August several rock bands will perform for Stolpen800. It is one of the most romantic castles in Saxony with extraordinary photo opportunities as the castle is perched high on a rocky outcrop.
Peace and Quiet
The monastery of Altzella dates back to 1162 when the Saxon ruler Otto the Rich was granted permission by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa to found a monastery. He and some members of his family, the Wettins, who ruled Saxony for 829 years, are buried there.In line with the Reformation, the monastery was dissolved and the library sent to Leipzig but the peace and quiet linger on. The remaining buildings and ruins and the gardens have been restored and preserved as a romantic landscape park and there is a special herbal garden that is still used to produce medicinal applications. On October 20 and 21 this year, the monastery will be hosting a Saxon cheese and specialty market that is open to all visitors.
Home to the modern Wettin Saxon Dynasty
Only about 15 miles outside of Dresden, Weesenstein Castle offers a true glimpse into from the 20th century to the medieval times. This striking castle turns 700 this year. It was the home of King John of Saxony, the most famous Wettin of the 19th century, and is still furnished beautifully in various styles ranging from the 17th and 18th to the 20th century so visitors can experience a range of the historical styles that the family lived in. There is a stunning chapel where Lutheran services are still held and a café and a micro brewery overlooking the beautiful castle gardens in the valley below. Highly picturesque and worth the short jaunt from Dresden.
Youth Hostels and Royal Spas
Some castles, not many, but a few are available for overnights and escapes for the soul. Colditz Castle where once Allied prisoners tried to escape by building a glider in the castle attic (among other ingenious ways) is now the European Youth Hostel and therefore a lively change from the past. In the south of Saxony, the town of Bad Elster, that was named the Royal Saxon State Spa in the middle of the 19th century, is still popular with Saxons and European high society. The healing waters, hundreds of flowers beds and gardens, an English landscape park filled with rare shrubs and sap-green lawns, topical gardens, sculptures, trick fountains and Lake Louisa relax both mind and soul.
Motorcycles and More
Deep in the Ore Mountains that are famous for Christmas toys, the Augustusburg Castle houses the biggest motorcycle museum of Europe and, thus, is one of the most popular destinations for motorcycle fans. The old hunting lodge rises high above the Zschopau River valley. Completed in 1572, the castle has exhibitions of game and birds, horse-drawn coaches as well as the history of hunting and the castle itself. Not too far away, just north of Zwickau, the residential Glauchau Castle offers three collections. Towards the end of the 12th century, the Lords von Schoenburg, one of the oldest Saxon noble families, erected a castle on the edge of the Mulde River valley. 300 years later, it was converted into a late-Gothic residential castle with arched curtain windows, a banquet hall and a castle chapel. Today, the castle displays the history of the castle and the town of Glauchau, the everyday life of the weavers in the von Schoenburg lands as well as the history of the interior of stately residences to the present day. Two more exhibitions are dedicated to fine arts and Georgius Agricola, who is said to have founded the study of minerals.
Orange Trees and Porcelain
Right smack dab in the middle of Dresden where the Zwinger was created by court architect Matthaeus Daniel Poeppelmann and sculptor extraordinaire Balthasar Permoser for Augustus the Strong, they are bringing back the famous orange trees that originally adorned this baroque masterpiece. Fifty trees are on their way back in the Zwinger to luxuriously adorn the sandstone and glass buildings that frame the Zwinger courtyard. The Zwinger is famous for the Old Masters Picture Gallery, Augustus’ famous porcelain collection with exhibits from China and Japan and the nearby Meissen porcelain manufactory and other museums of the Dresden State Art Collections. Augustus said of himself that he had the porcelain sickness, “maladie de porcelain” but naturally he did not die from it and visitors today benefit from his enormous porcelain addiction that made the Dresden Porcelain Collection at once the finest and the most extensive specialized collection of ceramics in the world
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