If you want to visit the second largest castle in Lower Saxony, we invite you to make your way to Wolfenbüttel. Here you will find an impressive castle complex, which was given its current Baroque half-timbered façade in the 18th century. Wolfenbüttel Castle has since been considered one of the most beautiful castles in northern Germany.
Throughout its turbulent past, the castle was repeatedly rebuilt and modified following numerous attacks and sieges. As a result, its original appearance has been changed a great deal – not to its detriment, considering its great ranking amongst the most beautiful castles!
Built as a moated castle on the Oker River at the time, it was the residence of the dukes of Braunschweig and Lüneburg for several centuries. The castle was first mentioned in 1074. Nearly 200 years later, in 1255, it was destroyed for the first time. After 30 years, Duke Henry the Admirable had it rebuilt – the castle’s foundations, the moat and the lower parts of the castle tower with the castle dungeon are remnants of that rebuild which we see today.
Always on alert – the tower guard
The tallest tower in today’s castle once served as a room for members of the municipal guard. From up here, they had the best view over Wolfenbüttel and could keep an eye out for enemies and warn of fires and danger in the city. This well-preserved tower survived every attack since its construction and even made it through the Thirty Years’ War.
The castle even has a bit of a southern flair. The courtyard of the castle is framed by arcades which are modelled after the Italian style. It’s the perfect place for a stroll – just as it was back then. If you go for a walk today, you can imagine how ladies in crinolines and collars or gallant men in breeches and velvet jerkins enjoyed their evening walk in this wonderful setting.
The castle’s still breathtakingly beautiful half-timbered façade was constructed between 1714 and 1716. Every sculpture, every coat of arms, every corner is imbued with history here, and you can experience it first-hand. Today, the building is used for various purposes. In addition to the secondary school, the Federal Academy of Cultural Education Wolfenbüttel has called the castle home since 1991.
Pomp and treasures
The castle’s heart and crown jewel is the castle museum! History comes alive and can be experienced in the state and private rooms of the ducal nobility. Splendid chambers, precious silverware, finest robes and valuable paintings tell of the golden age of the Dukes of Braunschweig and Lüneburg.
An impression of how the aristocrats moved about back then can be gained simply by walking up the dark Baroque double staircase to the first floor, which leads to the entrance of the castle museum. Directly after the entrance hall – the former ‘Trabantensaal’ or ‘Gardesaal’ – the museum extends through a total of 14 magnificent and originally preserved chambers, which were perfectly restored between 1995 and 2001.
From the anteroom to the marquetry chamber
The tour through the museum starts properly with the ‘antichambre’ – the anteroom. Visitors were brought here before their audience with the Duke. The magnificent room with its exquisite stucco ceiling and walls covered with green silk damask also served as a gallery in which the waiting guests could get a first impression of the Duke – his portrait graces the wall in the ancestral gallery.
In the audience chamber, where the ambassadors were allowed to pay their respects to the Duke, the sight of the audience chair gives an idea of how much respect was shown to the duke in this space dominated by red and gold. Life-sized statues, tapestries and a golden pendulum clock are precious works of art that can be seen in this room where the Duke received foreign diplomats three times a week. Only the highest-ranking visitors were allowed to enter the next room: in the yellow and gold state bedroom, the Duke received his visitors on a throne; the bed was for decoration only. Guests were royally wined and dined in ‘Venus Hall’. More than 35 servants ensured that everything went smoothly at the table and served small and large delicacies on silver dishes.
Another noteworthy room is the marquetry chamber belonging to the Duchess. All walls are decorated from top to bottom with valuable inlay work. This room is one of the private chambers in the castle, as is the bedroom with its four-poster bed, which is tiny by today’s standards. Duchess Anna Amalia was born here on 24 October 1739; she was later a patron of Goethe.
Castle of poets and thinkers
Other famous names are also linked to Wolfenbüttel Castle. One of its most well-known residents was the composer Michel Praetorius, who, as the court conductor in 1609, composed the verses for the Christmas song ‘Es ist ein Ros entsprungen’ (Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming). Gotthold Ephraim Lessing lived in several rooms of the castle in 1770. It was during this time that he wrote his play ‘Emilia Galotti’ (1772). The writer stayed in the Duke’s chambers for more than five years, until he and his wife, Eva König, moved to Meissnerhaus near the castle in 1776. In 1777, the couple moved to Schäffer House, which is known today as Lessinghaus.
Lessing was formerly employed as a librarian at the Duke August Library, which is adjacent to the castle and also very well worth seeing. We also recommend a visit to the armoury on the castle grounds.
If you really want to relive the glamorous old days, you should take a guided tour through the castle museum with ducal dancing master Monsieur de la Marche. He leads tours through the high-baroque state flats once each month, and is delighted to share some interesting anecdotes.
Courtly life and exciting stories for children
children and families. Children age nine and up can celebrate their birthday at the museum, where they will have the chance to don historical costumes and experience life at the court. The ‘Get-to-Know Museum’ is provided for children from the age of six years. This playful tour of discovery through the museum includes exciting stories. And there’s something for the whole family here. Equipped with an explorer’s booklet and bag (available at admissions) you can set out to unearth, search for, find, compare, complete and track down secrets. This tour is great fun for families with children between nine and 12 years old.
If you are feeling inspired to pay a visit to Wolfenbüttel Castle, be sure to take a look at the Renaissance hall on the ground floor as well. This was one of the filming locations for ‘Lessons of a Dream’ – a historical film about football in this wonderfully historic setting.