The famous Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian town of Hohenschwangau, Germany is an idealized version of a medieval castle. It was built in the mid-19th century, by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, whose odd behavior led to him being called “Mad King Ludwig”.Neuschwanstein is a very popular attraction, in part because it can be visited as a long day trip from Munich. The Castle is a two-hour leisurely drive from Munich, through beautiful countryside although many prefer to visit as a part of an organized tour.
Other travelers incorporate a visit to the castle as part of a tour of Bavaria focused on the Romantic
Road, which runs from Wurzburg to Fussen. Many of these visitors overnight in Fussen, Schwangau or Hohenschwangau.
Fussen is a moderate sized city with a number of modest attractions, although the smaller Schwangau is closer to the castle. Some visitors prefer Hohenschwangau, the hamlet closest to the castle. Although hotel and restaurant choices in the small village are limited they are certainly satisfactory.
Hohenschwangau, located near the Austrian Border, is surrounded by the stunning mountain scenery of the Bavarian Alps and numerous lakes.Over one million tourists visit the town each year to see Neuschwanstein Castle. A lesser number of these visitors are also attracted to the hamlet’s other castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, built by Maximillian II. Maximillian’s son, King Ludwig II, later known as “Crazy King Ludwig”, commissioned and participated in the design of the Neuschwanstein Castle. Ludwig’s childhood summers were spent in Schloss Hohenschwangau and his love of the area was so great that he thought it a fitting site for his “fairy tale” castle.
Tickets for the Tours
Although both castles are open year around, visits to either castle are only by guided tour. In addition, your ticket will be for a tour offered at a specific time and allows entry to the castle only at that time. If you have not reserved tickets online, you can purchase your tickets only at the Hohenschwangau Ticket Center, which is between the town’s north and south parking lots. You are not going to get lost in Hohenschwangau, as there are very few streets. We recommend you park your car in the first lot you encounter. Once parked, follow Alpseestrasse to the Ticket Center. Alpseestrasse will also lead you to the paths for both castles.
Booking online has the advantages of being able to reserve your tour time. When the castle is crowded (most of the spring and summer) booking ahead is a real plus. Book online at the official online website site for both castles. Even if you reserved ahead of time, you will have to stop at the Ticket Center to pick-up your tickets. The line for advanced reservations is usually much shorter than the lines for people who have not made reservations. In addition, you will have your tour time guaranteed, while those without advanced reservations may need to wait hours to see the castle. There is a modest fee for making advanced, online reservations.Once you have your ticket (or King’s ticket if you will be visiting both castles), you have a choice of transportation to the castles. By the way, photography of the interiors of either castle is not allowed. Finally, be sure to pick up one of the pad maps of the town while at the Ticket Center. The town is simple to navigate but the map will show you where the various trails are for the castles, should you choose to walk.
Transport to Neuschwanstein Castle from Hohenschwangau
Neuschwanstein, atop a steep, local hill, can be reached by a paved, walking trail (Neuschwanstein Strasse), an unpaved hiking trail, riding in a horse drawn carriage, or taking a shuttle bus. The castle is uphill and the walking to the castle takes approximately 45-minutes. The hiking trail can be negotiated by those in good shape in a little over 30-minutes and is reasonably scenic. Once you get to the tour, however, you will do much more walking and a significant amount of stair climbing, so consider this before deciding to walk up the hill to the castle.
The horse drawn carriages are very popular and the queue for a ride is usually a long, slow-moving one. If you are planning to take the carriage to the Castle, leave plenty of time in your schedule for queuing-up or you may wait in line so long that you will miss your tour time. In addition, the romantics among you should be warned that the carriages seat 12, so this is not a cushy, snuggling type of carriage ride. The carriage ride requires a modest fee and takes you along Neuschwanstein Strasse towards the Castle. The ride does not end at the Castle, but drops you off with a 5-minute uphill hike required to enter the castle grounds (the castle is approximately 1,000-feet further along the path).
The cheapest and easiest way to reach the castle is by coach service (from the Schlosshotel Lisl). The bus takes a different route than the carriages or walkers. From the bus stop, a paved walkway connects you to the castle after a 15-minute walk. The best part of this choice is that the walkway is mainly downhill to the castle, although the last segment is slightly uphill. The views of the surrounding countryside are beautiful (see below).
If you take the bus to the Castle and have the time before your scheduled tour, you might want to walk to the nearby Marien Bruecke (Mary’s Bridge built by Ludwig’s father Maximillian II). This iron bridge was originally built to provide a view of the gorge of the Pollat River, and now presents a spectacular, panoramic view of Neuschwanstein Castle. Many of the classic pictures that you see of the Neuschwanstein Castle are taken from this vantage point, so don’t miss it.
If you walked up to the Castle from town or took the carriage, plan on walking to the Marien Bruecke after you tour of the castle. Although the walk is mainly uphill from the Castle, you will be able to take the bus back down to town after you have seen the view. If you want to hike back to town, there is an unpaved hiking path that starts near the bus stop. It is a delightful 30-minute walk that will usually get you away from the crowds.
Neuschwanstein is located on a steep hill and its foundations are experiencing some “creep. In addition, the building has been damaged by pollution and its south side is being restored over the next few years. While the renovation work is a good thing, the photos you might hope to snap may show a building sheathed in tarps, at least for a little while longer.