It amazes and mesmerizes, and there is something uniquely captivating about it. Some even say it is the most beautiful medieval castle in Germany. No wonder that in recent years Burg Eltz has taken Instagram by storm. In this article, we will talk about how to photograph Burg Eltz, what are the best photo locations, and how to plan a successful trip to this incredible place.
- What is Burg Eltz
- Photography Spots for Burg Eltz
- Tips for Better Photos
- Getting to Burg Eltz
- Should You Go Inside?
- Other Photo Locations Nearby
What is Burg Eltz
Castle Etlz (Burg Eltz) lies in the forest not far from the river Mosel in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany. Today, it is hard to believe that back in the 9th century this was a simple manor. And yet, over the years and generations, it grew into an impressive fortress.
The end result is striking, to say the least. Burg Eltz is an absolutely gorgeous castle with numerous towers, spires, and keeps all bunched together into a fabulous whole that will surely leave you breathless when you first see it.
Unlike most medieval castles, Eltz wasn’t built on top of the highest mountain. Instead, it occupies the lower ground in between the surrounding hills. And that makes it a perfect subject for photography, as you can easily view it from above without even needing a drone!
Miraculously, Burg Eltz never got destroyed or captured. Still owned by the same family as in the 12th century, it is one of only three castles in this part of Germany that survived to the present day completely unscathed.
This is why I would personally rank Burg Eltz higher than the world-renowned castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. Both are stunning, for sure, but while Neuschwanstein is essentially a 19-century residence of an extravagant king, Burg Eltz is a real deal. A proper stronghold that has seen its share of battles.
For instance, in 1331, the lords of Eltz got tangled up in a feud with the Archbishop of Trier. The latter even constructed a siege castle of his own on a nearby summit and started bombarding Eltz with catapults.
The scrap lasted for two years but eventually, the Archbishop abandoned the siege and left. His castle fell into disarray. Its ruins are still visible nearby, although hardly anything remains. Meanwhile, Burg Eltz still stands proudly to this date. How crazy is that!
Photography Spots for Burg Eltz
As for photography, Burg Eltz isn’t too difficult to photograph. There are only a handful of locations, most of which are easy to access and close to each other. I have marked them on the map below together with the two parking lots.
Note that you need to hike a fair bit from the lower parking lot (approximately 25 minutes). So unless you prefer a workout, I suggest picking the upper one instead, which I will refer to as “visitor”.
Paved Route to the Castle
From the visitor parking lot, an easy-to-follow paved road will take you straight to Burg Eltz. It will only take you around 10 minutes to reach it. But don’t rush this initial descent — there are numerous vantage points that you don’t want to miss.
The first photo spot is around the halfway mark, some 5 minutes from where you left the car. When you notice a small outcrop to your right, turn there. At its end, you will be treated to a marvelous first view of the Burg Eltz in all its glory.
A little further to the side, the remains of the Archbishop’s siege castle peek through the foliage, but I won’t blame you for not noticing them. Burg Eltz is astonishing from this higher viewpoint, stealing the show.
There is just one composition here, from the far corner of the platform. Some of the tree branches might be partially blocking the view, however. This shouldn’t be an issue when shooting hand-held, but if you plan on using a tripod, bring a tall one.
Once you are happy with the photo, continue down the path to the castle. From here on Burg Eltz is never really obscured anymore, so feel free to stop and take as many images as you wish. You’ll probably end up with quite a few!
In Front of the Gate
THE spot, if you will, for photographing Burg Eltz, is right in front of the entrance. It is the most beloved photo location among photographers and Instagrammers alike. If you did any research on Burg Eltz, I’m sure you have seen many images from it.
What you have here is a cobbled pathway leading to the massive front gate, the fortress spires towering behind it. Strangely, from this closer distance, Burg Eltz somehow appears even more fairy-tale and toy-like.
What makes this area so special is the abundance of angles, compositions, and focal lengths you can experiment with. Both the pavement stones and the parapets provide a variety of leading lines, allowing you to fill in the foreground nicely.
I would recommend playing with the wide-angle lens, then switching to mid-range zoom for more close-up shots. And if you have a model willing to pose for you (or fancy being one yourself), this is where to put them to good use.
This is, after all, the most instagrammable location around Burg Eltz!
Time-wise, this is traditionally a morning or sunrise spot. But in my experience, you can get fantastic results here also in the evening. In summer, when we visited, there weren’t many people around by nightfall, so you can certainly work your magic undisturbed.
From the Stairs
Slightly ahead of the previous area, midway through the causeway leading to the castle gate, there is a staircase joining it from the left. That is the endpoint of the hikes from Moselkern or the farthest of two car parks.
However, it doubles as a very interesting photography spot that I feel deserves a special mention. Together with the massive stone barriers, the stairs form a new and exciting compositional element that you can play with.
You can use them as the leading lines or for additional framing in the image. Or perhaps even both. Either way, the result will be a refreshing take on a familiar subject. Which, I think is safe to say, is always a desired outcome.
Pathway to the West
When facing the castle gate, right before the causeway begins, you’ll notice a pathway branching off to the right. This is another trail connecting Burg Eltz with the main visitor parking. It is somewhat longer and less steep than the paved descent I mentioned before and goes through the forest.
Follow this road for a bit, and you will soon reach an opening allowing you to photograph the western side of Burg Eltz. It is a completely different view of the castle and is definitely worth checking out.
As you are shooting towards the east, this spot would work really well for sunrise. Likewise, the evening golden hour could be a good choice, with the light of the setting sun hitting the castle walls in front of you.
But, if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t quite fancy the look of Burg Eltz from here. It stretches out, losing some of its magical appeal in the process. It is by no means bad, just felt a little lackluster compared to the other perspectives.
Nonetheless, I did see some decent attempts on this composition, so it might be just a matter of taste. I will leave it to you to decide.
Top of the Nearby Hill
The last photo spot I would like to point out is a bit further away and requires some exercise. But with the right conditions and a little luck, it may turn out quite rewarding. It is the summit of the hill directly east of Burg Eltz.
To reach it, start by heading down the stairs that we talked about a couple of sections back. Follow the route across the river, then turn left and continue up. Keep walking until you see a pathway branching off to the right. This will eventually lead to the opening high on the slopes.
It is a rather steep hike that will probably get you puffing and sweating. Luckily, it is also a short one (around 15 minutes), and the grand vista justifies the extra effort. If the last location was a bit of a letdown, this one surely delivered a pleasant surprise.
Once again, you will be looking at Burg Eltz from the side, but I found this angle much more appealing. I suspect that is because you are now occupying the higher ground, which does change the perspective quite dramatically.
Depending on your style, it might be an afternoon or morning location. In the evening, you will be shooting against the setting sun which might work both for and against you. Me, I tend to enjoy such conditions, although they often make the edit difficult.
In this particular case, I had to blend in several frames and eliminate some flaring artifacts in post-processing. Wasn’t straightforward, but I love the outcome.
Tips for Better Photos
In my experience, Burg Eltz is less about the actual locations and more about what you can achieve with them. Everything is so compact and close by that everybody will probably stumble upon all the same places. Even if by pure luck.
So to truly stand out, you have to look for other ways to make your images pop. Of course, even that can be challenging with a well-known landmark such as Burg Eltz. Still, here are some tips and techniques to consider.
Come Early and Stay Late
To take outstanding photos at Burg Eltz you need two things: good light and no other people around. Incidentally, both are the easiest to achieve early in the morning or late in the evening.
The touristy crowds are either gone or haven’t arrived yet, while conditions are at their best, producing dramatic skies and that soft golden light photographers so adore.
This won’t be a problem either. The working hours for Burg Eltz are only for the inner yard. All the viewpoints I mention in this article are open and accessible around the clock.
So then, sunrise or sunset? To me, it boils down to personal preference. Honestly, both will be great for photography if you know what you are doing.
Some would argue that morning is a better option. There is a higher chance of fog rolling in, giving the scene a sinister and mystical mood. Plus, this early you will likely have the place all to yourself.
While there is certain merit to those arguments, I wouldn’t be overly obsessed by them either. Fog is nice, but not a deciding factor by any means. As for people, there aren’t that many later in the day either. At least on the warm summer afternoon when I showed up, there was hardly anyone else around.
So I say — just pick the time that suits you and your style best. I chose the evening and am pretty happy with the way the images turned out.
And whatever you do, be sure to stick around or come early enough to witness Burg Eltz during twilight. As darkness sets in, the castle attains a special charm and mood that you will surely want to capture.
Angles Are Everything
Conditions play a significant role in landscape photography. But what if the weather just won’t cooperate? After all, it is not every day that you score a glorious sunset. Luckily, there are other things that you can tweak.
One crucial element you have full control over is composition. So when at Burg Eltz, put aside a bit of time to play around and experiment. Try out different lenses and various angles and see if something catches your eye.
As one example, shooting low to the ground often produces remarkable results. By filling the foreground with cobbles you accentuate the medieval feel and introduce a certain continuity in the photo.
Similarly, parapets and walls can be used as leading lines while branches and foliage are natural framing elements. Both emphasize the main subject and help create more appealing images.
Have Someone Pose for You
Another technique that is especially popular on Instagram is to have a person in the photo. Human presence is a well-known compositional trick, and Burg Eltz is definitely a place where it does a fantastic job.
Obviously, you don’t need to hire a professional model. Just have your friend or significant other pose for you. And if you come alone, why not do it yourself? Most modern cameras have an intervalometer function built-in. Simply switch it on, put the camera on a tripod, and off you go.
The rest is up to you and your imagination. Be that a girl in a beautiful dress or someone in medieval attire, the opportunities are endless.
Now, to be fair ― these types of photos are increasingly becoming a little cliche. It will certainly be hard to come up with something truly novel in that department. Still, people like them, so I wouldn’t shy away from trying.
Drones Aren’t Allowed
Unfortunately, I only have bad news for those preferring aerial photography. Drones are sadly not allowed anywhere near Burg Eltz. The castle is privately owned, and banning the flights in the area was the decision of the owners.
Whether you agree or disagree is a different story. Either way, I cannot tell you what to do. There are both videos and images online that are clearly taken with the drone, so at least some people get away with it. But if you go down that route, just know that you do so at your own risk.
What Gear to Bring
You don’t need a whole lot of gear to photograph Burg Eltz. I recommend a camera (naturally!), a wide-angle lens, and a medium-range zoom, such as 24-70mm or 24-105mm.
As for the telephoto, I didn’t find much use for it. The longest I ever shot was 73mm, so unless you specifically intend to do close-ups, you can probably leave it at home.
Tripod is a must during twilight and blue hour. Be sure to bring one that can hold the camera close to the ground, as you will surely want that ability.
Getting to Burg Eltz
There are a variety of options to reach Burg Eltz. Depending on your travel plans, you may opt for a quick visit or arrange an entire day trip.
The closest village is Moselkern on the river Mosel. Moselkern is connected to nearby towns of Cochem or Koblenz by boats and trains. Koblenz, in turn, is a larger transportation hub with trains from Frankfurt Airport, Cologne, Bonn, and Mainz all stopping there.
From Moselkern you can then hike to Burg Eltz. The route is 5km long and will require around an hour to complete. The elevation gain is approximately 110 meters, so it won’t be too demanding.
On weekends, from May to October, there is also a bus service from Treis-Karden directly to Burg Eltz. The bus runs 4 times a day and stops in Moselkern as well. The cool thing about it is that it will also carry bikes. So you can take the ride up, then cycle back.
Finally, the easiest way to get to Burg Eltz is by car. There are two parking lots at your disposal. The main one is north of the castle, 10 minutes walking away from it.
The second parking is further south and is more suitable for those who want to engage in some hiking. The trail is shorter than from Moselkern (1.6 km), but will still mean some 20-25 minutes of uphill trekking.
Both cost 2€ for the entire day (24 hours). I recommend the northern one, simply because it is closer to most of the photo spots we discussed.
Should You Go Inside?
Well, you can if you want to. But merely for educational and entertainment purposes. Photography is not allowed inside the castle without prior permission, so you won’t be able to take any images.
Therefore, it is really up to you. For me, it was enough to simply admire Burg Eltz from a distance. It is a remarkable building, and not visiting the internal chambers didn’t take away from the experience for me.
That said, if you would like the full package, the castle is open from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. The ticket costs €11.00 and includes a guided tour and entry to the treasury.
Other Photo Locations Nearby
As charming as it is, Burg Eltz is by far not the only place of interest in the area, both for photographers and casual travelers. The entire Mosel region of Germany is strikingly beautiful and well worth exploring.
Cochem is an easy further spot to recommend. It is a cool town with a lot of history and an outstanding castle of its own. But there are countless other villages all along Mosel, numerous medieval ruins, and endless photo opportunities.
And of course, the famous river bends of Mosel are a great subject for landscape photography. The one near Bremm is probably the most popular, but there are others as well.
And don’t limit yourself to photography only. It is a fantastic area for hiking, cycling, kayaking, and a ton of other activities. And if you are into German wine, there is simply no better place to enjoy it.
Burg Eltz is a stunning example of medieval architecture and in my opinion one of the most spectacular castles in Germany. It is a fascinating destination to explore on its own merit but is also an incredible photography location.
Being such a famous landmark, Burg Eltz is photographed a lot. This perhaps begs the question of whether it is even possible to get a photo from there that doesn’t exist yet. Indeed, the best spots are well-documented and frequented by photographers.
Perhaps that is true, but I still believe that such a magical place is always worth exploring and photographing yourself. I had a blast at Burg Eltz and got the results I am very happy with. And I am sure you will too.
I hope you enjoyed this photography guide to Burg Eltz. If so, please share it with your friends and help spread the word. I would really appreciate that. And if you have any comments, let me know.
If you liked this article, I am sure you will find my other guides quite useful as well. Here is a quick selection of some of my favorites to get you started:
- Photographing Castle Neuschwanstein
- Mont Saint-Michel Photography Guide: Best Locations and Tips
- One day itinerary for landscape photography in Southern Bavaria
- Mallorca Best Photo Spots and How to Plan A Trip
- Three days in Saxon Switzerland
Thanks again for reading and happy travels!