Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany is the famous “fairy tale” castle of King Ludwig II, a Bavarian King of the Wittelsbach Dynasty. In love with the Bavarian Alps, castles and Wagner, King Ludwig II built a tribute to all three at the edge of the mountains in Southern Bavaria. The exorbitant cost of the castle, one among many that Ludwig II built during his rule, would eventually lead to his downfall. He was declared mad, removed from his throne, and died under mysterious circumstances a short time later. Neuschwanstein Castle, however, would become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, and the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle. It’s generally regarded as one of the must-sees when visiting Bavaria, Germany. Below is a guide on how to see the castle if you plan to visit.
When to go:
Like all things in Europe, summer is the busiest time of year to go to Neuschwanstein Castle. Expect crowds, long waits, and the need to buy your ticket well in advance. Fall and spring can be great off times of the year to go, crowds are less and lines are shorter. The fall in particular can lead to opportunities to take dramatic photos. Winter can also be a great season to go, as snowy views of the castle create gorgeous fairytale-like memories. Snow and ice can also mean certain areas around the castle are more treacherous than usual and the path up to Marienbrucke (Mary’s Bridge), where the most famous photo of the castle can be taken, can be closed during this time of year. Call ahead to make sure that everything you want to see and do is open.
Tickets and Tours:
The castle can only be visited by guided tour. The tours come in both German and English, and last roughly 30 minutes. Audio guides are available in a limited number of additional languages as well.
The most important thing to know is that you cannot buy tickets at the castle! You must buy them in the town of Hohenschwangau at the base of the mountain. There are lots of signs in town directing you where to go as well as a map available on the website. You can choose to buy a ticket to Neuschwanstein Castle only or get combined tickets to see Hohenschwangau Castle as well, or the deluxe ticket to visit both castles and the Bavarian Kings Museum.
Hohenschwangau was the boyhood home of King Ludwig II, who built Neuschwanstein, and tends to be less busy. The Bavarian Kings Museum contains many of the family’s heirlooms including china and clothing, and is well worth the visit if the royal history and macabre story of King Ludwig II’s death are intriguing to you.
Where to Buy:
You can buy tickets online in advance. They can be ordered here: http://www.hohenschwangau.de/543.html
Or you can simply buy the tickets at the ticket booth in town.
Note: There is a reservation fee of E1.80 to purchase online, but the time saved in lines for tickets might be worth it, especially at the height of tourist season. Additionally, you must make your online reservation before 3pm, 2 days before you plan to visit.
The Castle is open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the winter, and from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the summer, which starts March 28th and runs through October 15th.
How to get there (Munich to Neuschwanstein):
Castle Neuschwanstein is a popular day trip from Munich. A number of tour companies will take you for a fee, but if you’d rather make the trip on your own you have a few choices:
By rail: The furthest you can get by rail, is Munich to Fussen. Once in Fussen you will have to take a bus to the village of Hohenschwangau where you can purchase tickets to Neuschwanstein Castle. You can buy your rail tickets through the website (DB Link), automated ticket machines at the Hauptbahnhof, or by speaking with a Deustche Bahn representative. The website will allow you to input “Munich” to “Neuschwanstein”, even though Neuschwanstein/Hohenschwangau do not have a train station. This ticket will purchase both the rail trip to Fussen, and the 8 minute bus trip from Fussen to Hohenschwangau. The best way to save money though, is to purchase the Bayern Ticket. This ticket is 23 Euros and gives you unlimited access to regional and local transportation in Bavaria – this includes regional trains, buses and trams (And if you have kids, children under 15 travel for free with a parent or grandparent!)
By car: There are a few different options by car from Munich to Neuschwanstein.
For parking information, parking rates, and a map: http://www.hohenschwangau.de/1134.0.html
From the Village of Hohenschwangau to the Castle:
Once you arrive, and pick up your tickets from the ticket center, you’ll need to make your way up to the castle. This can be managed in a few ways:
Walk: Once you purchase your tickets in the town, you can walk the uphill path (roughly one mile). It is uphill and can be tiring, but very doable if you have the time and ability. It will take roughly 40 minutes to complete, so make sure to plan for it.
Bus: You can purchase a bus ticket to take you up the hill. For just under 3 Euros you can purchase a roundtrip ticket back to the village of Hohenschwangau. The bus does not go directly to the castle however, but to a parking lot uphill from the castle. You will still have to take a .4 mile downhill walk to the actual castle from this point. (Note: Buses are temporarily out of use until May 2015)
Horse Carriage: The most expensive option to get up the hill is the horse-drawn carriage. These carriages are outside of Hotel Muller in the village, and will take you up the hill for 6 Euros and back down for another 3. Like the buses, the carriages do not go all the way to the castle, and a short uphill walk will still be required to reach it.
Tips for going:
- There are no photos allowed inside the castle, but you shouldn’t leave your camera at the hotel. There are several places around the castle courtyards and nearby where you can still get stunning photos of the outside of the castle. Just be prepared to purchase something in the gift shop if you want to take home pictures of the inside.
- No large backpacks, or other bulky items are allowed in the castle.
- There are restaurants and hotels in Hohenschwangau and nearby Fussen. Expect elevated prices since the destination is such a popular one for tourists.