Travel Germany. Schwerin: A town and its Castle - one thousand years of history

Schwerin Castle is a prime example of Romantic historicism in Europe. I find that its home on one of Schwerin’s many islands makes this place extraordinary charming. Imagination inspires the soul. We all need courage, confidence, and dreams just in the same way as we also need water and air to survive. Occasionally, we all should visit fairytale-like places that tell a story. Stories that remind us that there is always a solution no matter how complicated and hopeless the situation is. It is important to find meaning and to look at through what adventures the ones before us had to go before they experienced their fairy-tale-like ending.

Travel Germany. Schwerin: A town and its Castle - one thousand years of history

Europe is an ideal place to look at and visit castles, true. One can visit more than two thousand manor houses, palaces, and castles in Mecklenburg Western Pomerania alone. You can spend a whole lifetime visiting historical sites without experiencing a dull day.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is one of Germany's sixteen states. You find it in the north of the country, with its coastline on the Baltic Sea. After World War II and until the fall of the wall it was on the territory of the German Democratic Republic. A particular impressive castle is in Schwerin. Schwerin, in the west of the state, is the capital of Mecklenburg Western Pomerania. This friendly and small town with a population of only 100,000, was first mentioned in 1018, and Heinrich the Lion awarded it city rights in 1164. You find a whopping total of twelve lakes within the city’s boundaries. 

Schwerin Castle – once upon a time in the ninth century

Traces of a first castle complex on the island in Lake Schwerin date back to the 9th century. It is here that a Slavic tribe settled. When looking at the origin of the place's name, Schwerin, zuarin in Slavic language, place of animals, it tells us that one reason might be that there were lots of possibilities for hunting and food. This was apparently way before intensive animal farming was considered normal.

In 1160 the Slavic princely family lost their territory and their king was killed in the fight. Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, a member of the House of Welf Dynasty, founded the town of Schwerin in 1160. The reign over Schwerin and the surrounding areas received one of his vassals. The descendants of the Slavs were baptized, successively received parts of their lands back and proved to be fantastic in their role as tenants. Eventually, they were awarded prince status of Mecklenburg and in 1348, they became imperial princes. They became dukes of Mecklenburg. They also managed to buy back the lands of Schwerin, and with that their old possessions.

A castle with several towers on an island in a lake under a blue sky.

You may call us Royal Highnesses

Fast forward to the nineteenth century. With the Vienna Congress in 1815, which was established to keep the peace, and to restructure Europe following Napoleon's fall, the dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin were awarded the status of grand dukes. They did not really gain anything from it other than to be addressed as "Royal Highnesses" and to become part of the highest circles of European nobility. The house of Mecklenburg goes back all the way to the Slavic ruling families who controlled the area before the conquest by Henry the Lion. It was one of the oldest princely dynasties in Europe. From this house stem English and Swedish queens and crown princesses, Russian grand duchesses, and Dutch kings.

Reading these tales from the past, you are excused to feel this was all nonsense and that a title would not matter in our modern times any longer. Wrong. Remember that the Queen and Buckingham Palace recently announced that Meghan and Prince Harry will not use their title HRH any longer. History in the making.

A lake with sea lilies under a bright blue sky.

Turrets of a castle under a bright blue sky.

Parts of a castle tower and an ornately decorated pillar of a stone bridge under a bright blue sky.

A child and his vision – kudos to the son

Around 1840, Grand Duke Friedrich had big plans for the town of Schwerin where he also wanted to build a castle. He died of pneumonia before anything could be realized. Left behind was his then only 19-year-old son. Children need to follow their own dreams and visions. Friedrich Franz II build the castle on the grounds of a traditional renaissance castle on the island, and that was not in the place in town his father had in mind. The dad dreamed of building a castle in the spot where the museum is today. Kudos to the son. He clearly had a more superb idea. And, he surely understood very well how to present himself as strong and powerful.

After initial inconsistencies and issues regarding the style of the castle, Friedrich Franz II sees no option other than to send his architects and designers to England and France for a little bit of inspiration. In the end, it is a combined effort, a whole team of architects and horticultural experts build the dream castle and the gardens.

The castle is considered a prime example of Romantic historicism in Europe. This architecture style of the 19th century uses elements of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque and even antiquity. The castle's 365 turrets and towers - one for every day of the year, 635 rooms with countless windows, corners, columns, orioles, balustrades, gold ornaments and figures surrounded by the most magnificent English landscaped garden are a picture-perfect estate. The view of the iron-cast decorated Orangery is worth a visit alone. It has this true fairy-tale look. It has this true fairy-tale look. No matter from which point you look at it, you are going to see it in all its grandeur. This castle was built decades before Neuschwanstein in Bavaria.

The tower of a castle behind an iron-clad orangery.

The facade of a castle in Romantic historicism style.

An ornately decorated stone pillar of a wooden brdige that leads to a castle built in Romantic historicism style.

Kindergarten teachers and politicians

During the dictatorship of the GDR, the castle used to be a school for Kindergarten teacher apprentices and a museum. And now, imagine this. The palace has been the seat of the state parliament since 1990. There is also still a museum one can visit. It is remarkable, imagine that the castle has been used ever since it was built. It is here that you can become a witness of more than one thousand years of history.

Schwerin Residence Ensemble – Fit to be UNESCO World Heritage site

This. The Schwerin Residence Ensemble, as a Cultural Landscape of Romantic Historicism, Schwerin Castle has been a candidate for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage ever since January 2015.

A cyclist on wooden brdige that leads to a castle built in Romantic historicism style.

Schwerin Castle – haunted. The legend of the castle spirit

Long before Schwerin Castle came to be, there used to be a temple of a pagan god in its spot. When the messengers of Christian belief roamed the country, the pagan god fled into the depths of the oceans of the world. The pagan god left his servants, the spirits, behind. Over time all spirits but one took up residence in Petersberg. The spirit called Petermännchen was the only one that stayed on the island. Legend has it that Petersberg in Pinnow is connected to the island via long and dark corridors beneath the lake, that made things easy for the little guy.

Strictly speaking, Schwerin castle is haunted. The friendly castle spirit lives in the cellar vaults and in the attics and corridors of Schwerin castle. He apparently shows itself to people in different forms and shapes. As a guardian of the castle, he rewards the honest and the good. Sometimes he turns up as an old man with a wrinkled face and a long flowing beard. Another time he appears as a medieval horseman. He chases away thieves with his nightly rumblings. The last sightings, recorded in writing, are from 1913 and 1930. The ghost appeared to a young girl when part of the castle was ablaze. A police officer claims to have seen a figure with a pointed hat in the castle garden before it disappeared into the night.

The ircon-clad decorated orangery of a castle in Romantic historicism style.

A walking path beneath the canopy of bright green trees in summer.

The tower of a castle in romantic historicism style.

An ornately decorated stone pillar of a bridge.

The iron-clad decorated orangery of a castle under a bright blue sky.

Walk through Schwerin: Half– timbered houses and cobblestone streets

The old town of Schwerin is walkable and easy to navigate. Visit the old town market, a popular square with cafés and a monument that tells the story of the city's father Heinrich the Lion. From here it is only a short walk of a few steps to Schwerin Cathedral with its 120 meters high church tower. Stopover at Buschstrasse 15 to look at a timbered house that was build in 1698 that is home to a popular woodturner. If you keep on walking you reach the popular Pfaffenteich. It is believed that a dam was built in the 12th century to store the water for a mill. Later, this dam proved pretty useful for pastors and bishops of the nearby cathedral congregation as they needed to water their vegetables and plants. Hence today’s name ‘Pfaffenteich,’ pastor's pond.

Three storey half– timbered house with a bright green entrance door and window frames painted in light green.

Two storey half– timbered house with a brown entrance door and window frames painted in red.

A large sized light pink rose in full bloom.

A market square with only a few pedestrians framed by white-pillared property and a large red-brick cathedral under a blue sky.

Two women sitting on the green grass by an artificial large-sized city pond, next to an oversized bright red flower pot with yellow plants, under a bright blue sky.

Walk along the shore (August-Bebel-Strasse) and you will soon reach the Schwerin borough of Schelfstadt. It is believed that 'Schelf' stands for reed used to characterize the area with its swampy grounds. Keep walking up Körnerstrasse. Follow the narrow cobblestoned streets into the heart of the Schelfstadt, with its charming half-timbered houses and stately refurbished period properties. Fishermen and traders lived here long before Schwerin's official founding. The Schelfstadt was officially planned as a new town by Duke Friedrich Wilhelm at the beginning of the 18th century aiming to stimulate the economy and with that gain political independence. In 1832 the shelf city became part of Schwerin.

The GDR, East Germany, had lots of problems, one major one was the lack of money and funding. At the end of the 1980s, the houses in the Schelfstadt were neglected, severely damaged and decayed. Imagining this now, as a history and architecture lover, it can be best described as a sort of a 'crime,' but at the end of the 1980s, the houses were to be demolished. Luckily, the houses and their stories were preserved and refurbished, as we can see today. Walk all the way towards Puschkinstrasse and turn to the right and walk back down towards the market square. On Puschkinstrasse you can browse small shops and visit cafes and wine bars.

Two-storey half-timbered house with a light blue entrance door, and window frames and shutters painted in blue.

Bright yellow bush of roses in front of a three-storey red-brick property  with an oversized bright red flower pot with a green plant next to the entrance door.

A white bicycle parks at the start of a cobblestone lane lined by three-storey timbered houses.

A small sized two-storey timbered house with a bright green entrance door and colourful windows and a wooden sculpture of a man in its gable.

People sitting in a cafe on a cobblestone lane that leads to a large red-brick cathedral.

Please keep in mind that due to the threat of Covid-19 it is fair to wear a face cover when you enter shops, churches, and museums, to protect those around you. Right now, it is compulsory to wear a face cover.

What you need to know to travel to Schwerin

Visa requirements for Germany

You can apply for the German Schengen Visa, as a Member State of the EU, Germany is a member state of the Schengen Area. Visitors from the Schengen countries do not need a passport or visa, only a valid an ID-card or passport. Visit this website to see whether you need a Visa to visit Germany.

How to get to Schwerin

By car. From Berlin roughly 210 kilometres. From Hamburg roughly 110 kilometres. There is a visitor car park located at one of the entrances of the park. By public transport: Take the train from Berlin central station to Schwerin, the commute takes around two hours. 

Best time to visit Schwerin

Summers are dry and can be hot with temperatures up to above 30 degrees Celsius at times. Wear sunscreen. Spring is a pleasant time, on good days temperatures can go up to 20 degrees Celsius. Autumn is a colourful time to visit. Winter can be rainy and miserable, with the odd snow day; on some days, temperatures can fall well below zero degrees Celsius. Wrap up warm.

Germany – Currency and how to pay

Germany is a member of the European Union. The official currency in Germany is the Euro. Exchange money on arrival at the airport, or get some cash at an ATM. You can pay in cash still almost everywhere in town (some shops/restaurants/cafes only accept cash though). Credit cards are hardly if ever, accepted. The situation might change due to the coronavirus covid19 epidemic as more and more businesses are asked to accept cashless payment. Only time will tell if Germans are ready for cashless payment. Until then, bring cash and be on the safe side.

Info, tickets and hours Schwerin Castle and Castle Garden

Schwerin Castle. Lennéstraße 1, 19053 Schwerin. Tickets Adults EUR 8.50, reduced EUR 6.50. Annual pass EUR  50/ reduced EUR 30. Children under 18 years: free. Audio guides EUR 2. Hours: Castle museum, April 14 to October 13, Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm. October 14 to April 13, Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Closed on Monday. Palace gardens and park, publicly accessible at any time. Please visit the website before your visit. Please email for detailed information:

Accessibility Schwerin Castle and Castle Gardens

The Schwerin Castle Museum is barrier-free. The first and second floors are accessible by elevator. Access to the third floor (event floor, with state rooms, including the throne room) is not barrier-free (five steps, no lift). Access to the Hofdornitz with hunting and ceremonial weapons is not barrier-free (nine steps, no stairlift). A disabled toilet is located on the first floor (accessible by lift). There is a castle shop and a cloakroom on the ground floor. Please email for detailed information:

A lake with sea lilies and wooden cottages under a blue sky.

From Berlin with love