See sites of royal splendour in Germany
Marienburg Castle is a Gothic dream turned to reality in the 19th century by King George V, the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hannover. But how did it begin? When King George of Hannover gave his queen a 'castle' as a present in 1857, it was actually just a blank canvas – a hill to the south of Hannover offering panoramic views. In the same year, the royal couple began to build a summer residence, which Queen Marie envisioned as a romantic hilltop castle in the medieval style. Around a rectangular courtyard the Hanoverian architect Hase built a picturesque, four-winged castle that wouldn't look out of place in a book of fairytales – an awe-inspiring ensemble of craftsmanship and splendour at their very finest. The banqueting hall, which extends over two floors, remains intact to this day. It boasts an ancestral portrait gallery and a collection of splendid silver-framed furniture, crafted in 1720 by the legendary Augsburg goldsmiths. See the grandeur of a royal banquet in the dining hall with its beautifully decorated table and dinner service adorned with the Queen's coat of arms. This medieval ambience is enhanced yet further by a chapel modelled on a Parisian church and steeply vaulted galleries decorated with knights' armour. Perhaps the most magnificent room is the Queen's Library in the south-west tower. The elaborately decorated bookshelves are masterworks of German woodcarving, while the dreamlike princesses' salon has a leaded bay window and colourful paintings of fairytale scenes such as Sleeping Beauty. There is lots to see in the region around Hannover, including St. Mary's Cathedral and St. Michael's Church in Hildesheim – both of which achieved UNESCO World Heritage status in 1985 together with the treasures they contain.