In Germany, castles are the new discos
Trying to plan a fairy tale wedding or party? Rent a castle.
While gallivanting in a castle may sound like a privilege reserved for the elite, Germany’s many castles can, in fact, be rented out for a reasonable cost.
Whether a wedding is coming up or Dad is turning 60, you can party like nobility in a castle's banquet hall. However, would-be lords and ladies should know a few things before planning such celebrations.
While famous castles and palaces are normally open only for tours, smaller, less renowned ones can often be rented for private functions.
"Most people immediately think of Neuschwanstein or Sanssouci, but there are plenty of smaller gems to discover," said Martina Binhack, spokeswoman for the Frankfurt-based German National Tourist Board.
The cost of holding a party in a castle depends on whether you want a full package of services or merely the use of suitable rooms to celebrate in. In the latter case, the planners have to take care of food and drink themselves and find overnight accommodations elsewhere.
Hohenstein Castle, a castle hotel in the Bavarian municipality of Ahorn, is a good place for people looking to party in princely splendour. Up to 150 people can sip champagne in its Rococo park before dining in the castle's hall of mirrors. The price is about 100 euros (127 dollars) per person.
"It's especially popular for weddings -- you can feel like a princess for a day," said Michael Koetterl, Hohenstein's co-manager. The castle has its own chapel for wedding ceremonies.
The atmosphere is more rustic at Pyrmont Castle, near the municipality of Roes in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. If you like, you can order a medieval-style banquet preceded by performances by jugglers and fire-eaters.
The entire castle and grounds can be rented for private functions. "Then you've really got the place all to yourselves," said Ingeborg Scholz, a member of Pyrmont's management team. The castle has rooms for only about 20 guests, so larger groups have to find overnight accommodations at hotels in the surrounding area.
Tannenburg Castle, near the municipality of Nenterhausen in the German state of Hesse, is even more reminiscent of the age of chivalry. Here, couples can exchange wedding vows dressed up as princes and princesses. They can also wed with a medieval entourage, including minnesingers and other costumed fans of the Middle Ages.
Tannenburg has no beds, however, so guests generally spend the night in tents in the bailey, said Stefan Uhe, one of the castle's operators. A weekend with full board costs 42 euros per person.
Groups at Lohra Castle in the German state of Thuringia can party as they please. The cost is only 8 to 10 euros per person per night and guests sleep in houses in the bailey that donkey drovers once lived in. Everything else has to be organized by the guests themselves.
A large party means a lot of work for the organizers, who have to find a business in the area that delivers beverages. If cooking and dish washing are also part of the programme, their outing could soon have all the trappings of a Boy Scout camp.
Celebrations in castles require plenty of preparation. Plans to tie the knot in one have to be made far in advance. When renting one, make sure to read the fine print. In some castles, for example, smoking is not allowed because the structures are protected as historic sites.
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