My Mom-in-law had four simple requests for her long-awaited summer Euro trip. All she wanted was to spend lots of time with her grandkids (too easy), delight in a few of her favorite German delicacies (Spaghetti Eis and Rahmschnitzel), stock up on delicious local wine, and visit a castle on the Mosel River.

Wanting to pull out all the stops for one of my favorite women on the planet, I took advantage of a rare couple of consecutive days off my husband had to plan a whirlwind trip. We ended up visiting not one, but two of Germany’s most beautiful castles in 24 hours.

Burg Eltz and Reischburg Cochem are a pair of romantic, fairy-tale fortresses that are featured over and over again on lists detailing the top castles to visit in Germany (like this one, this one and this one). Lucky for us, they happen to be less than two hours from the Kaiserslautern Military Community. Even better, they’re only a little more than half an hour’s drive from each other, making it possible to visit them both on a quick overnight trip.

Sometimes, 24 hours is all you need.

Castle #1: Reichsburg Cochem

Even though it doesn’t really matter which castle you choose to begin your adventure with, for the sake of this article, I propose you start at Reichsburg Cochem, since it just so happened to be our first stop.

What to know before you go

  • Unlike many regional attractions (including Burg Eltz), Cochem Castle is open year-round. Check the website for for current opening times, as they differ by season.
  • I suggest bringing plenty of euros for parking fees and adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes to your estimated arrival time to find a spot, especially if you’re visiting during the weekend.
  • A shuttle bus runs to and from the castle from the town square until November 1. The schedule is available on burg-cochem.de.
  • If you’re prepared to walk, I recommend planning for the trek to take 20 to 30 minutes, including a few rest stops along the way. The footpath up to the castle is extremely steep.
  • Guided tours in English are everyday at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m and last approximately 40 minutes.
  • If you happen to jump in on a German tour, English-language handouts are available so you can follow along.
  • The castle restaurant is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m; however, I highly recommend reserving seats at one of the themed medieval dinners that are held on a regular basis. The cost is definitely worth the priceless memories! I’m looking forward to writing about our unforgettable experience.
  • If you have a little bit of extra time, consider exploring the charming town square beneath the castle. It’s a real treat.

Spend the night in Cochem

After an afternoon spent exploring Reichsburg Cochem, I highly recommend staying at Haus Daniela (we reserved two small apartments for a reasonable price on Booking.com). Our rooms were comfortable, clean, and equipped with stocked kitchens. The best part? Haus Daniela sits directly in front of the castle on the opposite bank of the Mosel River, offering picture-perfect balcony views from many of the rooms. If you do stay here, I suggest bringing your own coffee, just in case; one of our kitchens had plenty while the other had none.

Castle #2: Burg Eltz

Since Burg Eltz is a little more than a 30 minutes’ drive from Cochem, there’s no reason to rush the next morning. It’s a vacation, after all, even if it is brief. I encourage you to take your time getting ready, and wait to start your journey after you’ve enjoyed a few steaming cups of coffee and a hearty brunch at a riverside café.

What to know before you go

  • The castle is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. until November 5, 2017; it closes during the late-fall and winter months.
  • Insiders recommended you visit between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. or 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. to avoid long lines. Our tour guide mentioned the castle sees an average of 4,000 visitors per day. That’s a whole lot of foot traffic!
  • The castle is accessible by an 800-meter-long private road (a 10-minute walk that starts at the shuttle pick-up point; this is where I took the photo featured above) and a 1.3-kilometer-long footpath (a 15-minute walk that starts near the main parking area).
  • If you aren’t up for hiking, a shuttle bus transports visitors directly from the parking lot to the castle entrance for a few euros each way.
  • Guided tours begin every 10 to 15 minutes and last 35 to 40 minutes. If you’d like to join an English-language guide, the ticket desk clerk will help you find the next scheduled tour.
  • In the mean-time, your ticket grants you access to the treasury and armory exhibits. They are definitely worth a peek!
  • If you’re feeling famished after your visit, there are two self-service restaurants to choose from with breathtaking views of the surrounding Eltz Forest.
  • Overall, your visit will likely take two to three hours, if you add lunch or a snack to your itinerary.

By the end of our 24-hour adventure, were pretty exhausted and ready to head home, but we made sure to stop at our favorite winery along the way. Needless to say, my Mom-in-law a was a happy camper. We miss her so much already.

Have you been to Cochem Castle or Burg Eltz? Which one is your favorite?