In 1160 German nobles under Henry the Lion took over a Slav settlement and built a castle on the site. The castle became the seat of the dukes of Mecklenburg, who rebuilt and revised Schwerin, transforming it from a fortification into a palace. In 1765 the ducal residence moved away from Schwerin and did not return until 1837, by which time the building had fallen into a state of disrepair.
Grand Duke Frederick and his successor Frederick Franz II decided to effectively rebuild the castle, using the French Loire chateau of Chambord as the prime architectural model. After much debate between several architects, work got underway in 1843 under the overall guidance of Georg Adolph Demmler. By 1847 the high main tower had been built, although it was not until 1857 that Frederick Franz and his family were able to move into their fairy-tale castle. In 1913 a fire in the Elizabethzimmer (Elizabeth’s room) caused severe damage to Schwerin Castle, and in 1918, with the end of the monarchy in Germany, it was taken over by the state and opened to the public as a museum.
In 1990, after German reunification, Schwerin Castle underwent a massive restoration program; part of the castle was reopened as a museum and the remainder became the seat for the local state government. The staterooms of the dukes of Mecklenburg are on public display, and the extensive grounds that surround the castle can also be admired.