Castles for us have always been synonymous with the fairytales. The tales around the fairy castles have filled our childhood with delight be it the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or the ‘Cinderella’. And visiting one such castle in real would be no less than a dream.
Having moved to Switzerland recently we hadn’t explored much of Europe yet. The only castle we visited was the Chillon Castle of Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva which we were completely in awe of but Neuschwanstein Castle of Germany has a completely different aura magical and mystical. We were more than excited to visit Neuschwanstein, the castle which was the inspiration for the Disney’s Sleeping beauty and Cinderella castles.
One of the best castles in Germany Neuschwanstein is located in the village of Hohenschwangau majestically perched on a rocky hill in the lush green forests of Bavarian Alps. It was first of the castles built by King Ludwig and sits on the ruins of former medieval castles.
Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich
Neuschwanstein Castle day trip is one of the popular and top things to do on a visit to Munich. The best option is to take a train from Munich station to the village of Fussen and then a short bus ride to Hohenschwangau village at the base of the castle.
You can also choose to drive all the way to the Hohenschwangau village. Though there are no parking options directly at the base of the castle there are a few options around the village. Check the map here.
We had a year old Chhavi accompanying us hence we choose to book a guided day tour from Munich. We boarded the train to Fussen from Munich along with our guide and few more enthusiasts. The 2 hrs journey to Fussen was fun our guide answered our curiosities of the castle and the stories around it as the train chugged past the scenic countryside.
The bus from Fussen drops you at the base of the castle which has few restaurants in case you want to have a quick breakfast. From here you can either take a pricey horse carriage, a cheap option shuttle or just hike your way up which takes around 40 minutes.
Neuschwanstein Castle Tickets
The Hohenschwangau village has a ticket office, it is here that you buy your tickets in case you haven’t bought already online. Make sure to buy here before you ascend all the way up to the castle as then there would be no possibilities to buy one up there.
There is a different combination of tickets available for Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau Castle, and Museum of Bavarian Kings to choose from. You can buy your tickets online here.
We got the first glimpse of the fairytale castle covered in mist perched high amidst the clouds surrounded by lush forests.
We choose to ride the shuttle along with other travelers. The shuttle dropped us at the Marienbrucke (bridge) which offers the picture perfect view of the castle rising amidst the lush forests. You can also hear the gush of the waterfalls from Pollat Gorge which cascades beneath the bridge.
After the wonderful view of the castle, our guide set off with the storytelling. From here you need to walk another 10 minutes to the entrance of the castle which for us was effortless accompanied by the mysterious stories of the Bavarian King Ludwig II, the man behind the castle.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria, an eccentric and reclusive king built the ostentatious castle in the cradle of nature as an escape from the real world affairs. King Ludwig was a great follower of operas and characters of the renowned composer Richard Wagner which inspired the artwork that graced the interior and exterior of the castle. And the remarkable architecture of castle with its towers, turrets, and balconies look like they have been taken straight out of a fantasy storybook.
Our guide engaged us with a passionate story giving an insight into the life and passions of the Bavarian King, his obsession that made him build his fantasy castle and the reason for his downfall.
Along the way up we got a sneak peek of the fairytale castle through the dense wood several times. At one point you get a wonderful panoramic view of the Hohenschwangau Castle with striking yellow color contrasting the lush greens around.
The neo-Gothic Hohenschwangau Castle was completed in 1837 by Ludwig’s father King Maximilian II on the ruins of a former medieval castle. The castle served as a summer residence for the Bavarians where King Ludwig spent his childhood. One can also visit the inside of the Hohenschwangau Castle possible with a guided tour of 30 minutes. The tour walks you through several rooms decorated with murals, colorful paintings, and lavish furnishings.
Our guide had arranged for the Neuschwanstein Castle tickets which were prebooked for us with a timeslot. All we had to do was to wait in the courtyard for the group ticket number to be displayed on the board. While you are here take a look at the surrounding alpine beauty which is breathtaking.
Neuschwanstein Castle Tour
We were accompanied by a tour guide who walked us through the rooms of the castle. We were also provided with audio guides for more information on each of the castle rooms. Though the apartment rooms of Ludwig II were in no way less ornate the room which left us spellbound was the two-story high magnificent Throne Hall embellished in Byzantine style with beautiful paintings and mosaics. Each of the apartment rooms the dining room, bedroom, dressing room were decorated with murals, elegant wood carvings and rich elaborate silk textiles with gold embroidery.
The most exquisite was the neo-gothic bed of the King with silk covering adorning his bedroom. Another interesting part of the castle was the grotto with large glass windows with wonderful views of the alpine hills. The last section was the ‘Hall of the Singers’ which occupies the complete floor on the fourth level and is decorated with elaborate carvings, murals, and colorful paintings.
After the tour, we spend time sauntering around the castle enjoying the vistas and finally walked down the hill to join our guide waiting to drive us back to the station.
On our way back our guide concluded the story of the mystery of the King’s death which he had saved for the return journey and we listened with all ears.
The ambitious castle projects had put the King under huge debt owing to which he was deposed and forced to leave the palace. It was sad to hear that Ludwig could not live to see his cherished refuge completed and was found dead in Lake Starnberg in 1886, the cause of which remains to be a mystery till date.
The castle which took 17 years to build was initially named as the New Hohenschwangau Castle but was later named as Neuschwanstein meaning “New Swan Stone” after the death of the King Ludwig II. Weeks after his death, his fantasy refuge was opened to the public as a museum and turned out to be popular tourist attraction enticing millions of visitors every year.
You may call it insanity or madness but the King’s artistic legacy is an architectural masterpiece which is far beyond our sane imaginations.
Know Before You Go
Fussen is one of the charming and lesser known cities in Germany worth spending a day if you have more time. We, unfortunately, could not make it as we were on a guided tour with a fixed schedule.
Neuschwanstein Castle tickets office is located at Hohenschwangau village below the castle buy the tickets before you start your ascent.
Buying tickets in advance is highly recommended to avoid time waiting in queues and running the risk of entrance tickets being sold out for the day as the number of participants and the time slots both are limited for a day.
The tickets can be booked online only 2 days in advance until 3 p.m. (German local time)
The guided tour of the interior of Neuschwanstein Castle can be done only with a guide assigned to the group and lasts for 30 minutes.
Heavy luggage and buggies are not allowed inside the castles. Though you can leave the buggies near the information center in the courtyard you will have you arrange for your luggage.
It is recommended that you start early to avoid crowds and to have ample of time to explore the surroundings of the castle and also include a visit to the Hohenschwangau Castle, museum and the lakes if interested.
More details on train schedule and buses from Fussen to the Hohenschwangau Village here.
Best time to visit Neuschwanstein
Though summer sounds like the best time to visit for the weather conditions, the panorama of the castle is equally stunning in all seasons. Visiting the castle during the fall when the forests are painted in varied hues of colors and during the winter when the everything is covered in dreamy snow is on our wishlist. The fairytale castle must be absolutely stunning covered in snow.
Note: Visiting castle during winter comes with its own drawbacks, the Marienbrucke (bridge) might be closed and the shuttle and carriage service can be disrupted owing to the bad weather.
Exploring the Neuschwanstein Castle definitely needs some walking uphill and its recommended you be prepared for unexpected weather changes if you are visiting during the offseason.
Looking for more do check for our top picks here.
Do the fairytale castles allure you? How many of them have you visited? Share with us your stories in comments.
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