Three stunning castles you should get off your bike for

Some buildings are simply unmissable. In these three magnificent castles, you can let your imagination run riot while treading the same paths as medieval knights, Augustinian monks and eccentric German kings. Each with centuries of stories to uncover, they're worth taking the time to get off your bike and explore in full.

1. Plassenburg Castle, Kulmbach, Germany

Plassenburg Castle

This sprawling red-tiled structure on a hill overlooking the city and surrounded by dark forest is quite possibly one of the most spectacular castles in Germany. In summer, enjoy an evening performance underneath the symmetrical arches of the building's aptly named Renaissance-era 'Beautiful Courtyard'. You can also visit the largest tin figure museum in the world, which houses a charming mix of miniatures from brightly coloured painted soldiers in traditional German dress uniform, to detailed recreations of the city's history. Before you leave, take a look around the Margravial Rooms, with their heavily gilded original furniture, then hike back down to Kulmbach for some of the city's world famous bratwurst. A finely ground variation of the German favourite, this local dish is ideal with sauerkraut and crisp fried potatoes.

2. Hochosterwitz, St Veit an der Glan, Austria

Hochosterwitz Castle

Perched precariously on a rock situated 160 metres above the dense surrounding forest, Hochosterwitz is a spectacularly atmospheric castle, where visitors can easily imagine hauntings through the echoing corridors. Protected by its height, the 14 medieval gates that enclose it, and traditional defences such as holes through which hot oil could be poured onto would-be attackers, Hochosterwitz castle has never been conquered in all of its long history. It's a very long history too, with the first recorded mention of the castle dating back to 860 AD. Despite its age, the building is incredibly well preserved, with no major changes made to the monument since the sixteenth century. There's a small museum and pretty chapel with intricate gold fittings onsite, and you can also stop to sample classic Carinthian cuisine in the castle's restaurant.

3. Schloss Herrenchiemsee, Chiemsee, Germany

Schloss Herrenchiemsee, Chiemsee, Germany

The corridors of this famous castle are swathed in gold and illuminated by glittering crystal chandeliers, so it's no surprise that the building was modelled on the opulence of Versailles. The building's spectacular grounds are dotted with fountains and formal gardens, while the furniture is some of the best of its type in the world. The castle does, however, retain a uniquely Bavarian charm in part thanks to its unique location. The nineteenth century monument is on an island in the middle of deep blue Lake Chiemsee accessible via old fashioned paddle steamers. Chiemsee is Bavaria's largest lake and is in fact so big that it's sometimes called the 'Bavarian Sea'. Construction of the castle was started in 1878 by 'Mad' King Ludwig, who became nocturnal from 1875, travelling around the countryside at night on a sleigh, dressed in period costumes. You can learn about him in the King Ludwig II Museum, as well as visiting the baroque Augustinian monastery that's also housed on the island. During the summer, you can really step back in time, exchanging your bike for a horse-drawn carriage ride between the pier and palace.

Click here to discover which tour you should be taking to visit these magnificent castles.

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