Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth: A 12th-Century Castle in Düsseldorf

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Last Updated on 3rd May 2019 by Sophie Nadeau

On the fringes of the city, in an area often overlooked by tourists in favour of iconic Düsseldorf sights such as the Altstadt (often referred to as the longest bar in the world), the rotating Rheinturm, and the MedienHafen (Media Harbour), Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth is an Imperial Palace which was once owned by Barbarossa. Other royal residencies over the years include stays by Henry V, Henry VI, and Conrad III, among other notable guests.

Barbarossa Imperial Palace in Kaiserswerth Germany, façade

The oldest area of Düsseldorf, Kaiserswerth

Set alongside the River Rhine, this area of the world is well-known for its impressive castles, and the entire Rhine region is characterised by its stone fortresses rising up above the river banks. Many date back centuries and so you can’t visit Germany and not see at least one or two of its ancient ruins!

Kaiserswerth is the oldest area of Düsseldorf and is home to a hospital where Florence Nightingale once worked in, as well as countless cobbled lanes. Lying to the north of the German city, the district is also one of the best places to spot pretty cherry blossom come springtime, as well as to escape the hustle and bustle of busy city life.

Where Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth now sits, a fortress of some kind or another has lain in a prominent position on the edge of the Rhine for well over a thousand years. After all, its strategic position means that it’s the best place from which to defend the city from potential invaders. In some parts of the ruins, walls are up to 15 feet (4.5 metres) thick, and you can only imagine how impressive the castle must have been during its heyday.

kaiserswerth things to do germany guide

A brief history of Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth

Documents suggest that a castle has stood in Kaiserswerth since 1016 when records show that the fortress was gifted to Count Palatine Ezzo. However, when the count’s son died with no son just a decade or two later, the castle returned to the Kingdom. Later on in the 11th-century, the fortifications were transformed into an Imperial Palace when Emperor Heinrich III made major improvements to the older building.

During the 12th-century, the castle was further improved and expanded under the watch of King Barbarossa. He had designated Kaiserswerth a city where taxes for using the Rhine waterways were collected and so he wanted to ensure that the city would be well guarded in case of invasion. Nearly all of the ruins which can be seen and visited today date back from Barbarossa’s time.

A visit to Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth, the ruins of a 12th-Century Castle in Düsseldorf, Germany. Former imperial Palace of Barbarossa in the ancient and historic area of Kaiserswerth, along the river Rhine.

Over the following centuries, many groups disputed over control of this part of the Rhine, including the ancient settlement of Kaiserswerth. The area’s prime position meant that whoever controlled the city, would control access to the mighty River Rhine and beyond. Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth was eventually destroyed during the 17th and 18th-centuries by various battles and sieges.

During the 19th and 20th-centuries, the castle was used as a kind of ‘ready-made’ quarry for those wishing to get cheap and easily accessible stone to build their houses. As a result, many of the houses and buildings around Kaiserswerth are constructed of stones taken from the former palace! Today, the ruins are owned and maintained by the City of Kaiserwerth.

A visit to Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth, the ruins of a 12th-Century Castle in Düsseldorf, Germany. Former imperial Palace of Barbarossa in the ancient and historic area of Kaiserswerth, along the river Rhine.

Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth Address | Burgallee, 40489 Düsseldorf, Germany

In order to get to Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth, you’ll need to give yourself at least a couple of hours or so to do the round-trip from Düsseldorf city centre. In order to reach the castle, take the U79 from the Düsseldorf Central station (Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof) towards Meiderich Bf. Alternatively, you could cycle from the city centre, right out to Kaiserswerth. After all, the city is a bike-friendly one, and last year Düsseldorf was even home to the starting point of the Tour de France!

During the daytime, trains depart roughly every fifteen minutes and so even if you miss one, not to worry as there will soon be another! Once aboard the U79, the journey time is approximately fifteen minutes before you’ll descend at Kittelbachstraße. From there, it’s a ten-minute walk through the historic houses and small streets which meander their way through Kaiserswerth. For an alternative way of exploring the city, consider booking a 2-Hour Segway Tour of Düsseldorf like this one.

kaiserswerth things to do germany guide cherry blossom

Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth is free to visit (it is only a few crumbling walls, after all) and is open to the public on a daily basis between 9 AM and 6 PM. That being said, when I ventured out mid-afternoon midweek last spring, the gates to the castle were closed, and so I could only admire the palace from the outside (though the gates are quite low so you can still easily snap some photos!).

Just next to the Imperial Palace, on the banks of the River Rhine, Galerie Burghof is said to be one of the best eats in town. In the summer months, you’ll also find a beautiful beer garden there where you can enjoy your traditional German beverage while watching the water flow by.

Things to know before visiting the German Castle

With many cobbled lanes throughout Kaiserswerth, you’ll want to wear comfortable walking shoes. Furthermore, though most people speak English, you’ll want to learn a few words of the local language, in this case, German. Bring along a simple phrasebook like this one to help you get by.

Next, Germany, like much of mainland Europe, uses type C and F. This means that if you’re travelling from the US, Canada, the UK, and many other countries, then you’ll need to purchase a travel adaptor. This all in one adaptor contains USB ports and works with several different plugs.

If you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of Düsseldorf, then you can even book to stay in this historic area of the city. This way, you can enjoy the Kaiserswerth castle, ancient streets, and waterside cafés at your own leisure. Check here for the best accommodation in Kasiserswerth.

A visit to Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth, the ruins of a 12th-Century Castle in Düsseldorf, Germany. Former imperial Palace of Barbarossa in the ancient and historic area of Kaiserswerth, along the river Rhine.

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!

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