What do you need to know before visiting Neuschwanstein Castle?

neuschwanstein castle cover

Last year in December one more dream came true. As you may already know, I wanted to visit Neuschwanstein Castle since ever and it finally happened. Artfully designed, breathtaking in its beauty and in a splendid setting, it totally lived up to the expectations. I’m sure many of you also want to see in reality the “castle of all castles” and I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about it.

Short history – Why is Neuschwanstein castle famous?

neuschwanstein schloss

Neuschwanstein Castle, or Schloss Neuschwanstein, as it is called in German, was commissioned by King Ludwig II in 1868. Its construction began in 1869 but didn’t end until after Ludwig’s death, in 1886. Despite its appearance, the castle was never meant to serve any defensive purpose, but to be a place of escape and retreat just for himself.

Who was Ludwig and what inspired him?

Ludwig became king of Bavaria when he was just 18 years old. Soon after, the Prussians took over and he only was king by name. This affected him deeply and he became obsessed with being king. He began to commission different castles, supposedly because of this. Neuschwanstein Castle is the most famous one, but Linderhof Palace and Herrenchiemsee Schloss were also built by him. Because of these castles, that seem out of fairytales, he is known as the “Fairytale King”. Ludwig took inspiration from other castles and palaces around the world, but also from the Islamic world, hence the Moorish minarets.  Ludwig also had a great passion for arts and opera, which Neuschwanstein reflects clearly.

From Ludwig to the world

Neuschwanstein castle from the front

The ministers accused Ludwig of ruining the country, even if in fact, the excentric king paid entirely from his own personal fortune. He was declared mentally ill and therefore unfit to rule. Two days later, he was mysteriously found dead in the lake. It was never revealed if it had been an accident or he had been murdered. The king only got to sleep in his bed for 172 nights and never saw the castle finished. Within six months from his sudden death, the impressive castle was opened to the public.

Nowadays, it is visited annually by more than 1.3 million people, which makes it one of the most visited castles in the world. It is also the most photographed building in Germany, but only at the exterior, as you’re not allowed to take photos inside.  Hard to believe that it was initially thought to revolve around a single man.

Who owns Neuschwanstein Schloss?

It belongs to the German state of Bavaria and is managed by the state department for historic buildings, lakes, and gardens.

What is the connection between Neuschwanstein Castle and Disney?

Walt Disney and his wife took a trip to Europe and Neuschwanstein Castle. It inspired him in his future classics. Many people think that the castle in Cinderella was inspired by Neuschwanstein. Although the similarity is obvious, this is not the only Disney castle inspired by it. There’s also a confirmed connection with the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Florida, which is also the symbol of Disney and appears on the titles of Walt Disney Pictures.

Where is Neuschwanstein Castle?

Looking at Neuschwanstein Castle from Hohenschwangau just like Ludwig did almost 200 years ago

Neuschwanstein Castle is nestled in the Bavarian Alps, in Germany. The closest town is Füssen. Meters away from it stands Hohenschwangau Castle, where Ludwig spent his childhood. He wanted to literally look out of the window and watch how the work was going. The new castle was supposed to be more beautiful and habitable than Hohenschwangau. Its original name was New Hohenschwangau Castle. Neuschwanstein got its actual name only after Ludwig’s death.

How do you get from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle?

From Munich to Hohenschwangau

Due to its proximity and connections, Munich is a popular base for travelers who come to see Neuschwanstein Castle.

Tip! One might think that Nuremberg is also close, but in 2018 when we were there and investigated how to get to the castle, we realized it wasn’t worth it. Don’t try to do it on a day trip from Nuremberg!

Munich is less than two hours by car from Hohenschwangau, the village you should get to. Parking costs 6 euro per day and I really don’t think you’ll have trouble finding a spot.

If you want to get there by public transport, you can take the regional train to Füssen from the main railway station. From the train station, take a public bus to Hohenschwangau. The castles have their own stop and you can buy tickets on the bus.

Flixbus also has a route leaving Munich in the morning and returning in the evening.

Tip! Once you get to Hohenschwangau, head to the ticket center and buy your ticket. You are not at the castle yet, but you can’t purchase the ticket uphill.

From Hohenschwangau to Neuschwanstein Castle

From the ticket center in Hohenschwangau, you can get to Neuschwanstein Castle by shuttle bus (2.6 euro round trip), by horse-drawn carriage (9 euro round trip) or by foot (around 30 minutes). You can’t drive yourself up there.

Unless you have trouble walking, I suggest the last option, as the queue is so long that it will take you longer by bus or carriage. Besides, the landscape is nice and the walk is doable.

Travelers with disabilities should know that even if they choose one of the two other options, they’ll still have to walk 5-10 minutes uphill to get to the castle.

Tip! Wear comfortable shoes!

You can also take a day tour from Munich and avoid all the trouble and risks:

Do you need to book in advance to visit Neuschwanstein Castle?

As there more or less 6000 visitors/day, it would be best to pre-reserve yours in order to avoid disappointment and get a spot at the hour of your choice. We didn’t do it, as we got there from Memmingen Airport and couldn’t be sure the flight won’t be delayed. We were lucky enough to obtain tickets for Neuschwanstein, but missed Hohenschwangau, as the hours overlapped or were hours away.

Keep in mind that the tickets can be booked online until 2 days before the visit and no later than 3 pm German time. Tickets can only be pre-reserved online, not bought and there’s an additional reservation fee.

You still have to purchase the tickets at the ticket center in Hohenschwangau. Therefore, you should get there one hour before your planned admission. There are different queues for pre-reserved tickets.  If you don’t collect the booked tickets on time, you’ll be charged 5 euro.

Price: Travelers can get inside Neuschwanstein only on a guided tour. The ticket to Neuschwanstein, including a 35 minutes guided tour, costs 13 euro/adult. Children under 18 accompanied by their parents enter for free. A combined ticket for both castles costs 25 euro. Check the current rates here.

Opening hours: 9 am – 18 pm from April to October, 10 am – 16 pm from October to March.

What’s the best way to see Neuschwanstein Castle?

Neuschwanstein can be seen from afar, but everyone is on the look for the best spot and time to capture it. After all, seeing the Neuschwanstein in all its glory is a must for any lover of fairytales and Disney.

neuschwanstein castle seen from mary's bridge

The best spot for a classic photo is Mary’s Bridge (Marienbrücke) or in its proximity. The bridge hangs over a waterfall and offers iconic views of the dreamy castle. It’s just a 15 minutes walk away from the castle. From there it looks just like any photo you take could be used for one of those many jigsaw puzzles of the castle in the world.

Another suggestion is to take the Tegelberg cable car from which one can have sweeping views over the Alps, lakes and the two castles.

As per the season, Neuschwanstein looks great anytime, surrounded by fluffy white snow, colorful leaves or greenery. Even during fog, it looks mysterious and surreal.

Is it worth to visit the interior of Neuschwanstein Castle?

interior court of Neuschwanstein Schloss Ludwig

This is a question many ask themselves. We did also. In fact, we weren’t sure whether we wanted to enter or not until we got there. And then we asked ourselves: Did we come all the way to that small village just to look at the castles from the outside? Will we get the chance to see it again in the foreseeable future? Do we want to go away without knowing what’s behind those white stone walls? Would we be happy with it? All of a sudden, 13 euro and two hours or so didn’t seem like too much, even if we were told by others that it wasn’t so great inside.

However, Neuschwanstein surprised me again. Even more, as I had no idea how it looked inside. While I can empathize with the ones that say it’s interior is not as good as the exterior, I think now that both the interior and the exterior are amazing and you should see it. I’m glad we chose to enter.

Many people are disappointed by the fact that the castle is not finished inside and only 14 rooms, out of the 200 planned, are currently on view for visitors. But these 14 rooms look like illustrations of a storybook. I’ve never seen any other castle like it.

Short tour

On the guided tour, you’ll visit among others the cave-like grotto, the king’s bedroom, the king’s dressing room, the throne room, and the Singer’s Hall. Unfortunately, no photography is permitted inside the castle, but you can find some official photos here, here and here.

One of the first rooms you’ll pass through is his Tristan and Isolde inspired bedroom with murals illustrating works of German poets. The most impressive element is probably the carved oak bed draped in violet silks which top is as decorative as the top of the Dome in Milano. I’m still surprised it didn’t collapse yet. The swan-like tap is also hilarious.

Nowhere is Ludwig’s obsession with being the king as obvious as in the Throne Room built similar to a Byzantine church, with a 13 feet tall chandelier, a painted cupola and an over-the-top colorful floor mosaic with animals from all over the world. Ironically, there has never been a throne in this room.

The jewel of the castle is considered to be the Singer’s Hall where every piece of wall is covered with paintings that depict Biblical narratives and legends. The colors are vibrant and no detail was overlooked.

Yes, it is unfinished, but even the bits we could see were enough to impress us and it was definitely worth entering.

neuschwanstein schloss from hohenschwangau

What attractions are near Neuschwanstein Castle?

  • Hohenschwangau Castle – built by Maximilian II, the father of Ludwig in 1833. He was charmed by the natural beauty and decided to build a castle for himself on the ruins of the Schwanstein fortress from the 12th century. Like father, like son.
  • Tegelberg cable car that offers probably the most wonderful views over the Alps, lakes and the castles.
  • The old Center of Füssen, a charming little town in Bavarian style that’s only 15 minutes away from the castles and worth a little wonder. Füssen also has its own castle, Hohes Schloss.
  • Museum of the Bavarian Kings – there’s also a combined ticket for the two castles and the museum.
  • Alpsee.

In conclusion, it’s definitely one of the most touristy places in Bavaria, but there’s a good reason for it. I’m happy we go to see both the exterior and interior of Neuschwanstein and I wish any Disney fan will get to see it one day. It won’t disappoint in the least.

What do you think? Did you visit Neuschwanstein Castle? Would you like to?

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Complete guide to Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Complete guide to Neuschwanstein Castle

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