Pfalzgrafenstein, the Castle in the Middle of the Rhine River

In the middle of the Rhein river stands a picturesque Pfalzgrafenstein Castle. Built by King Ludwig the Bavarian in 1326, its purpose was to collect the toll. The part of the river between Bacharach and Kaub was a dangerous passage for sailors over the past centuries. Those who wanted to pass the wild stream had to pass Pfalzgrafenstein Castle. Thus, it was a source of income for various rulers. However, it was never for residence purposes. It is one of the many romantic castles along the Rhine river.

Pfalzgrafenstein, the Castle in the Middle of the Rhine River
Pfalzgrafenstein, the Castle in the Middle of the Rhine River

History Information

The castle made King Ludwig himself in trouble with the Pope and the Rhenish archbishops. Therefore he was excommunicated by Pope John XXII in 1327. In 1340, the 12-metre high circular wall was built to protect the tower. In 1607 the external wall was completed by Frederic IV, Elector Palatine of the Rhine to give the castle the shape you see today. It is 51 metres long, 21 metres wide and 25 metres high with walls that were 2.6 metres thick.

In 1814, Prussian Field Marshal Blücher used the castle’s island as a passage for his 60,000 troops in pursuit of Napoleon. Meanwhile, the castle continued to be a toll station until 1867. About one year after the castle was acquired by the Prussian government. The “Baroque” roof on the tower was not added until 1714, bringing its height to 36 metres. Since 1946 Pfalzgrafenstein is owned by the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, in the years 1969 to 1975, the castle was completely renovated and repaired in the red and white baroque color version.

Castle Visiting

I visited the castle on a usual Sunday in May. The island on which the castle stands is quite small. Therefore, I took pictures of the whole castle before I boarded on the local ferry.

During the off-season, there are not so many tourists. I was able to take some good pictures without and tourists jumping into my view. After entering the yard, I followed the narrow path along the Gothic ring wall with its narrow loopholes. The former powder chamber was barely furnished.

Walking up the gloomy gun bastion up to the main tower,  I had a wider view.  Looking outside, the Rhine seems flowing calmly. But don’t underestimate the current. King Ludwig knew that centuries ago. And, if you want to know more details about the castle, you can also book a guided tour.

Inside Pfalzgrafenstein Castle

Views of the castle surrounding

In addition to its unusual location, the castle also has a unique setting, its beautiful roof. But it was difficult for me to take a picture of it using my mobile phone on the small island.

Then, I took some time to walk around outside the castle and to take more pictures of the terraced vineyards, town of Kaub, and Castle Gutenfels above Kaub on the hills. Castle Gutenfels also has the wonderful view over the most beautiful part of the Rhine Valley.

I spent an hour on the island and inside the castle. Only five other visitors were on the island.  I felt, however, I was alone there, though the island is small enough to see everyone around. It was unusual to experience the emptiness in a touristic German castle. Pfalzgrafenstein Castle is therefore, an underrated attraction because most tourists tend to visit other castles along the Rhein river.

However, it only takes less than two hours of driving from Frankfurt.  Since Pfalzgrafenstein Castle is also not far from the rose city Eltville, you can easily visit the two places in one day.

Castle Gutenfels above Kaub on Rhine

How to get to Pfalzgrafenstein Castle


Burg Pfalzgrafenstein
56349 Kaub
Guided tours
Tel: +49 (0) 6774 – 745
Fax: +49 (0) 6774 – 8174

To see the castle, you have to reach Kaub first and then take a local ferry from Kaub.

Reach Kaub by car

You can reach Kaub via B42. Between Wiesbaden and Koblenz, there is no bridge crossing the Rhine river. Due to the speed limit and traffic congestion, it could take quite long to drive along the Rhine river during the holiday seasons. And, the parking could be difficult as well.

Reach Kaub by boat

However, the best way to traveling along the Rhine river is by boats. Köln-Düsseldorfer (known as KD) offers the flexibility of enjoying the Rhine Valley and its many castles, vineyards, and more.

The cruise terminal in Kaub is about 200 metre from the local ferry to the Pfalzgrafenstein Castle in the middle of the river.

Reach Kaub by train

German Railway has trains to Kaub. The train takes quite long, for example, around 90 minutes from Frankfurt to Kaub, since it stops in nearly every town. Get off at Kaub train station it is about 5 minutes walk to the local ferry.

Ferry from Kaub to the castle

In Kaub, a small local ferry brings visitors from Kaub to the castle every half hour. It does not operate at high water levels. Check the latest information on its website.

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