Have you read about our Romantic Road journey yet? Whilst there were many special places, pretty views and beautiful medieval towns, Neuschwanstein Castle was a highlight of the trip, and certainly lived up to expectations. Which is why it deserves it’s own blog…
So what the heck is Neuschwanstein Castle?
As always, Rick Steves explains it best…
In short, the reclusive King Ludwig II of Bavaria commissioned the building of Schloss Neuschwanstein (New Swan on the Rock Castle) in 1864, inspired by the operas of the German composer Richard Wagner and overlooking his childhood home, Schloss Hohenschwangau. Ludwig funded the development himself – albeit going into considerable debt to do so – and oversaw the design at every stage. The exterior has soaring fairy-tale turrets, whilst the inside is a shrine to
bad taste gold, glitz, coloured glass, romance and legends
He moved into his (still unfinished) project in 1884; just two years later, King Ludwig’s body was found in a lake near his summer residence Berg Castle under mysterious circumstances. He had spent less than 180 days at his new castle. Just 6 weeks later, the incomplete castle was opened to the public, in order to recoup some of the mounting construction debt.
King Ludwig would have been pleased (I feel) to discover that his fairy-tale castle, inspired by operas and romance and legend then went on to inspire the most fairy-tale castle of them all…Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. It’s also rumoured that the woodland fresco in the “Singer’s Hall” inspired Walt Disney to create Bambi. And of course, the legendary Chitty Chitty Bang Bang also made a flight over the castle too…
How do i get there?
We stayed in Fussen, just a 10 minute drive from Neuschwanstein where there’s ample car parking available; there’s also a bus from Fussen which will take you into the heart of Hohenschwangau village near the ticket office.
Neuschwanstein can be done as a daytrip from Munich, either by train or with an organised coach tour but if you are planning this then I’d suggest you allocate a full day. Staying in the area is much more convenient as it means you can book an early tour and avoid the crowds at peak times
Tickets for the castle (Neuschwanstain, Hohenschwangau or both) can only be purchased from the Ticketcenter Hohenschwangau, either in person on the day- or reserved online here. Online tickets are picked up and paid for on the day, but have their own collection window so this is a great way to beat the crowds if you don’t mind committing to a time and day in advance.
You can find more visitor information including current opening times and admission prices here.
We’re out and about WAY before we need to be this morning. We have to pick up our castle tour tickets by 9:45, but we’re pulling up in the car park at Hohenschwangau by 8:30. It’s the gateway to the King’s Castles, and a village created almost exclusively for tourists with restaurants, souvenir shops, guesthouses and car parks. Schloss Neuchwanstein looms over us to our left, and Schloss Hohenschwangau to our right. We pick up our reserved tickets where the cheerful clerk tells us that although we can get a bus, or a horse and cart, to the castle, “it’s a lovely day for a walk”. So much for my dream of a nice lazy ascent up the hill, letting a horsey do all the hard work. We’re walking.
It’s not a particularly hard walk, but there’s a constant incline and the elevation change is only really noticeable when you look back down to the town of Schwangau and to Lake Forggensee in the distance. It generally takes between 45 minutes to an hour for the walk, factoring in stops for
getting your breath back photo opportunities. Even those who get the bus or horse and cart still face a bit of a climb. Neuchswanstein is not particularly an attraction for the mobility challenged. There’s a small plaza just after the horse and cart stop, with a souvenir shop, toilets and a kiosk selling snacks and drinks.
We still have plenty of time before our 10:55 tour so we head on up another 10 minutes walk or so to Marienbrücke. I can imagine that in peak season it can be a nightmare getting a good vantage point on the bridge, but on a Saturday morning in early April there aren’t that many others around. Most people seem to congregate at the start of the bridge so we just elbow our way past and make our way to the far end first. This is where you get those beautiful views of the castle silhouetted against the sky.
We make our way down to the castle courtyard for our 10:55 tour. It seems to work pretty well, we all have our designated tour time and numbers, and we wait for our number to appear like at a deli counter. Mr Fletche is forced to wear his backpack as a frontpack so he can now cradle his camera inside like a small child. The tours lasts around 30 minutes and takes us into the crazy and highly imaginative mind of King Ludwig II, who sadly never got to finish constructing his dream castle prior to his mysterious and untimely death. The tour is well worth the entrance fee, and even the walk up the hill. Mr Fletche even decides to take a second walk up to Marienbrücke afterwards, whilst I nurse a gluhwein and pretend it’s Christmas.
Worth the trip?
Absolutely. I pinned a picture of Neuschwanstein on my “Travel wishlist” Pinterest board I while ago, and then set about making it happen. That first glimpse was magical – similar to spotting the Eiffel Tower for the first time, or seeing the Manhattan skyline for the first time. And it would be a travesty to go all that way without setting foot inside, and seeing the amazingly lavish and – yes, often gaudy – rooms which form just a tiny part of the largely unfinished interior.
And now I’ve found out that Germany has a whole “Castle Road”, just north of Stuttgart! Neuschwanstein may be the first German castle I’ve visited but I guess it won’t be my last…