During a September visit to Europe this past fall, I was in Munich for five days to coincide with Oktoberfest. Even though the festival was the main reason we chose to visit Munich as part of the trip, I knew Munich and Bavaria had a lot to offer, and was excited to explore as much as I could fit into our stay.
Frequently spotted on Pinterest and in Instagram pictures, Neuschwanstein is one of the most well-known castles in the world. Many know it as the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Yet, others know it for its sight alone- a castle sitting atop a rocky ledge in the Bavarian Alps, it looks like something straight out of a fairytale.
In truth, I was on the fence about visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle until the day before going when I finally booked a reservation. I wanted to visit the castle because it looks like a literal fairytale come to life in the mountains of Bavaria. But, friends of mine who had visited the castle said they weren’t too impressed with the experience. They compared it to other castles in Europe, which are much older and have the historical presence Neuschwanstein lacks.
All said though, I’d recommend visiting Neuschwanstein. I booked my visit as part of a Grayline tour, which meant I saw two beautiful castles, visited a Bavarian town and drove part of the Romance Road, allowing me to see parts of Bavaria I would have otherwise missed.
Whether you decide to take a tour or get to the castle on your own accord, here’s what you should know about visiting Neuschwanstein for the day.
History of Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein is located in Bavaria, near the town of Fussen. King Ludwig II, also known as the “Fairytale King” built the castle.
Ludwig loved Richard Wagner’s (the great composer) work, and Neuschwanstein was built in his honor. Many of the castle’s rooms are inspired by Wagner’s characters. What’s more, the word “Neuschwanstein” literally translates to “New Swan Castle”, a reference to “the Swan Knight”, one of Wagner’s characters.
The castle overlooks the Hohenschwangau valley, a beautiful part of the Bavarian Alps. It was meant to serve as a place for escape for Ludwig, who was known for being a bit of a recluse.
Ludwig began building the castle in 1869, and because he wanted the castle to be perfect, it was still in construction 17 years later when Ludwig died. At his death, only 14 of the rooms inside the castle were done. Cost to build the castle was extraordinary, and to this day, the castle remains unfinished.
The rooms that are finished though, are stunning. The throne room is designed in a majestic Byzantine style, and there’s even an artificial cave. No photos are allowed inside the castle, so you’ll have to visit for yourself to see how beautiful it is.
Before or after your visit to the castle, walk ~15-20 minutes to the Marienbrucke Bridge. Just follow the signs to the bridge from the castle, and you’ll be treated to great views of the below valley, as well as of the castle itself.
Tips for Visiting the Castle
- Getting to Fussen: If you aren’t visiting with a tour, you can catch a train to Fussen and catch a bus from the station (either the 73 or 78) to Hohenschwangau. Once you’re in the town below the castle, you’ll need to find the ticket office before you head up to the castle.
- Getting to the Castle: You can reach the castle from foot, shuttle bus or horse-drawn carriage. Whether you take a tour or get to Fussen on your own, you’ll be dropped off at the town located below the castle. I opted to walk to/from the castle. The walk up took me about ~25 minutes, while the walk down only took ~15 minutes, likely because it’s downhill. Because ticket entry times aren’t flexible, I’d recommend building in a good buffer for your visit- plan on the walk up to the castle taking anywhere from 20-45 minutes, depending on how fast you’re able to climb the hill. If you want to take a bus or carriage, I’d recommend leaving at least an hour to get up to the castle. Although, you’d think it’d be quicker to take transit, the lines can be long. Worth noting, even by bus or carriage, you’ll still have a 10-15 minute walk to the castle itself once you’re at the top
- Touring the Castle: The inside of the castle can only be toured with a guide. If you reserve with a tour (as I did), the operator will take care of your tickets. If you’re visiting on your own, reserve your tickets ahead of time to avoid waiting in a line once you get to Fussen (over 6,000 people visit the castle per day during peak season). You will be required to reserve tickets for a specific time of the day, which isn’t flexible. The tour itself is only 35 minutes long, although as I noted above, it takes some time to get to and from the castle once you’ve arrived in Fussen
- What to do in Fussen (besides visiting Neuschwanstein): If you’ve got time to spare in Hohenschwangau after visiting the castle, visit the Hohenschwangau Castle (the castle belonging to Ludwig’s parents) or spend time exploring the town of Fussen- there are a few small shops you can check out and restaurants you can grab a bite to eat in.
About the Tour I Took
I can’t say enough good things about the Grayline tour I took. Our guide was FANTASTIC, regaling us with stories of King Ludwig and Bavaria the whole way to the castle and back. I enjoyed being able to get on the bus from central Munich and not having to worry about any of the day’s logistics.
In addition to tour Neuschwanstein, you’ll also tour Linderhof, a 19th century royal palace Ludwig built, inspired by Versailles (think: intricate gold detailing, immaculate gardens).
In between castles, we stopped in the charming village of Oberammeragau. Although we only had ~45 minutes in this town, it was cool to see another slice of Bavaria. The town of Oberammeraguau is known for wood working, and you’ll see that reflected in all of the town’s shops.
If I’ve convinced you to visit Neuschwanstein, good! Although it may be one of the most touristy attractions in Bavaria, it’s a gorgeous castle. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a sunny day, you’ll be rewarded with truly breathtaking views.