Wilhelmstein - square island in Germany


Wilhelmstein is an artificial square island in the Steinhuder Meer lake in Germany. The island is an old fortification. Its dimensions are 120x120 meters, and the total usable area is about 12500 m2. In the southern part of the island there is a small marina.

Where is the island of Wilhelmstein

The island is located in the southwestern part of the Steinhuder Mer lake about 1300 meters from its coast in northern Germany, 30 kilometers east of Hanover.

Geographic coordinates of 52.460522, 9.307567.

Wilhelmstein Island

A bit of history

The island was built in the 18 century, and more precisely from 1761 to 1767 years. At that time, Count Wilhelm of the Schaumburg-Lippe dynasty ruled in the region. The name of the island, as you already understood, came from the name of the count.

In order to protect himself from threats as much as possible, William decided to build himself a fortification directly on the lake.


At the heart of the island is a large number of stones delivered there by boat by local fishermen. Locals created around 30 m3 sand, gravel and stones daily for five years. In summer, fishermen transported the material in boats, and in winter on ice in sleighs.

Interesting fact. Initially, instead of an artificial island, they tried to make wooden flooring on poles driven into the bottom of the lake. But the tree quickly rotted and collapsed.

Check out the Jal Mahal Water Palace in India. It is also located in the middle of the lake.

At different times, a military school and a prison were located on the island of Wilhelmstein.

Wilhelmstein Island

Military school

Upon completion of the construction of the fortress, Count Wilhelm organized a military school in it, which he called Practical Artillery and the School of Genius. She served to train officers, sergeants, and artillery crews. The students alternately lived on the island and in the town of Steinhude. The school taught not only military knowledge, such as ballistics and tactics, but also general subjects - physics, medicine, chemistry, history and foreign languages. Moreover, school attendance was free.

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After the death of Count William, the military school was transferred to Bukkeburg.


From the end of the 18 century, the island was abandoned, until at the beginning of the 19 century it was turned into a prison. He became the official prison of the county of Schaumburg-Lippe. At first, there were criminals sentenced to long terms of imprisonment up to life. By 1815, there were an average of 10 permanent prisoners on the island. In total, about 300 criminals have been in this prison for 80 years. Some of them died and were buried on the island.

Wilhelmstein Fortress

The most important building of the island is its fortress in the shape of a tetrahedral star. She is still in the center of the island.

In the period from 1765 to 1767, a hill with four bastions and a citadel was built on the island. The external walls were made of stone blocks, and the inside was brick. The soldiers were housed in casemates inside the fortress.

Protected storage served as ammunition and food depots.

inside the Wilhelmstein fortress
Casemates of Wilhelmstein fortress

Behind the casemates, a castle was built as a living space for the fortress commander and officers. It had a tower on which an observatory has even been housed since 1774.

In planning the fortress, the Count drew on his military experience as an artilleryman in the Seven Years' War. He also took into account the military experience of the Portuguese kings. The count armed the fortress with numerous cannons for defense. In 1777, 166 cannons were located here. But by 1850 there were no more than 100 left.

Wilhelmstein fortress cannon

In case of war, a reserve of 800 soldiers was planned. In the early years of regular service there were 250 soldiers. A little later, the number was reduced to 150 people. In 1782, the military contingent was only 22 people.

Service in the fortress was not safe for the health of soldiers. High humidity contributed to frequent colds and rheumatism. Therefore, in peacetime, soldiers were here until 10 days. Outside the island, the military was stationed in Hagenburg and Steinhud.

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The fortress still belongs to the family house of Schaumburg-Lippe.

Fortress on the island of Wilhelmstein
Wilhelmstein Fortress

Siege of the island of Wilhelmstein

Wilhelmstein received its first and only baptism of fire in the 1787 year, exactly 10 years after the death of Count William. Then the Hessian troops occupied the entire county, not meeting resistance. But about 150 people took refuge on the island.

The Hessians besieged the island. There were about 2800 people advancing, but they could not take the fortress. The gunfire was unsuccessful, since the island was quite far from the coast, and the marshland did not allow to come closer. The island was not starved either.

To help the defenders of the fortress came people from neighboring counties. When the coalition gathered several thousand soldiers, the Hessians retreated.

Germany's first submarine

Interesting fact. The first submarine in Germany was built on the Steinhuder Mer Lake, and Wilhelmstein Island was its shipyard and base.

Steinhuder Hecht - that was the name of the first German submarine made in 1772. Hecht translated "pike."

Military engineer Jacob Chrysostomus Pretorius designed a wooden fish-shaped oak structure. She had sails and a movable tail. Presumably, the sketches of the boat were first presented in the 1762 year to Count William. Initially, the project was chased by failure, but by 1772 the first working prototype was created.

Further information is rather vague. They say that the submarine was able to plunge into the lake for as many as 12 minutes. But the depth of the reservoir does not exceed 3 meters, so this statement is doubtful.

Today, the military museum Wilhelmstein exhibited models and drawings of this submarine.

Steinhuder Hecht
Steinhuder Hecht - the first German submarine (naturally layout)

Wilhelmstein Island in Tourism

Today, Wilhelmstein is a historical museum and a popular tourist destination. For more information, visit the island's official website.

On the island there is a small cozy coffee and two guest houses.

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In the 21 century, the owner of the island (Prince Alexander Zu of Chamburg-Lippe) during the period from 2005 to 2009 carried out restoration work on the island in the amount of about 1 million euros. After that, the island became even more attractive to tourists.

Initially, the island had 16 houses. To date, only 9 of them have survived, and most of them are not original buildings, but stone copies built in the middle of the 19 century.

Wilhelmstein Island Homes
Houses on the island of Wilhelmstein

Periodically, art exhibitions are held on the island.

About 80 000 tourists visit the island annually.

The island is accessible for visiting from March 20 to October 31.

Schedule - daily from 10: 00 to 18: 00.

Interesting fact - Since 1900, weddings have sometimes been held on the island. From 2005 year to 20, couples a year could get married here.

Getting there

Wilhelmstein Island can only be reached by boat from the coastal towns of Steinhude (in the southern part of the lake) and Mardorf (in the northern). The nearest major city is Hanover.

so you can get to the island of Wilhelmstein
On these boats you can get to the island of Wilhelmstein