You may know Neuschwanstein Castle as the inspiration for the Disney castle. But visiting Neuschwanstein castle is not the easiest, so here are some top tips to have the best experience on your tour.
The History of Neuschwanstein Castle
Located on a high rocky outcrop above the village of Hohenschwangau, this beautiful 19th-century Romanesque revival castle is nothing less than breathtaking. King Ludwig II was well known for his eccentric creativity, and his madness of course. The interior of the Neuschwanstein is a testament of who he was and you will get to understand all of this in the castle tour.
The castle has a mix of designs that incorporates Roman, Gothic and Byzantine styles. It’s a harmonious blend of it all and pays homage to the German composer Richard Wagner. For the person with simple tastes, you may find it over-the-top. But you probably won’t find anything as unique either.
But his taste didn’t come cheap, and with just 15 of the 200 rooms complete, King Ludwig II found himself 14 million German marks (~$8 million U.S.) in debt.
He was deemed incapacitated to rule. And he died under mysterious circumstances in the shallow waters of Lake Starnberg. Despite the fact that he was an excellent swimmer.
A Touch of Irony in Neuschwanstein
Here’s where it gets ironic. Neuschwanstein Castle was a financial burden to King Ludwig. However, it became an incredibly lucrative source of income for the House of Wittelsbach rulers.
It opened to visitors just seven weeks after his death. Also ironic is that the castle was the king’s private retreat. Today it’s visited by 1.3 million people each year! A testament to how amazing this castle truly is.
I admit that the fact that it is so popular is part of the reason that Neuschwanstein is one of my least favourite castles to visit, but that’s just my opinion. By all means, do at least visit it at least once. It’s by far the most popular castle in Bavaria.
Here are some great tips for you to follow to have a great visit to Neuschwanstein:
The Best Views of Schloss Neuschwanstein:
The best views of the castle are not at the castle itself but from Marienbrucke. Mary’s Bridge in English. The bridge crosses the Pollät gorge and offers fantastic views of Neuschwanstein!
It’s about a 30-minute uphill walk from Hohenschwangau. For an even better view, climb just past the bridge for a different perspective. It’s also a great way to get some walking in on the journey.
Where to Stay Near Neuschwanstein Castle
Schloss Amerang 4* Hotel
– Getting there: You will need to have a car to get here or take the shuttle offered by the hotel for a fee.
– Price: From €165/double
This isn’t just any castle, it’s a 1000-year-old castle! Situated in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps and surrounded by parkland, it’s a gorgeous, peaceful setting.
The rooms at Schloss Amerang are quaint (i.e. small by American standards) but offer distinctive touches such as 4-poster beds, oak floors, chandeliers, balconies, and antique furniture. Ask for a view overlooking the park or the courtyard.
Guests have access to the museum and concerts that are open to the public. It’s easiest to drive if you want to explore the area, but an airport shuttle is available for a fee.
Alte Postvilla Hotel 4* Hotel
– Getting There: Train (it’s less than a 2-minute walk from the train station) or car
– Price: From €111/double
Alte Postvilla (old post office villas) offers apartments in the former post office which is now a landmark! It’s a great option for families looking for extra space. Fresh bread and a newspaper are hand-delivered right to your door each morning!
It’s located right in Oberammergau, making it easy to walk and explore the town.
Hotel Rübezahl 4* Hotel
– Getting There: Train + bus, or driving
– Price: From €238/double
While Hotel Rübezahl is not a castle, it does provide excellent views of both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles – the next best thing to actually sleeping in a castle!
It has a spa area (try the Kneipp area for a local treat) and a gourmet restaurant serving regional food and an elegant cozy atmosphere. Best of all, it’s location can’t be beat!
It can also arrange for entrance tickets for both the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles upon request.
Should You Visit Schloss Neuschwanstein Alone or with a Tour Group?
The castle itself, you can only visit with a guided tour lasting 30 – 35 minutes. If your visiting during peak season make sure to be prepared for the crowds. The tours move fast in order to accommodate everyone and you may find yourself in small rooms with bigger crowds than you would expect. I would advise visiting during shoulder seasons (fall and autumn) to avoid the vacation crowds. During peak times you may find yourself feeling rushed. You’ll be stuffed into each room with the other 60 or so other visitors on tour.
Unfortunately, that’s your only option for visiting the castle. The tickets cost around €12. It’s also worth noting that you aren’t allowed to take photographs once inside. I don’t say this to dissuade you from going, just to give you a realistic idea of what to expect. It is one of the reasons why I think that a Neuschwanstein Castle tour is the better option.
Why I Recommend Visiting Schloss Neuschwanstein on a Guided Tour
I recommend going with a guide. The reason being that Neuschwanstein can receive up to 6000 visitors a day in peak season!
In other words, it’s a madhouse. You must be organized and reserve tickets in advance. Otherwise, you risk waiting for several hours, as I did.
Even worse, you could arrive, and tickets could be sold out for the day. It’s also a lot to navigate if you don’t know where you’re going.
The downside of purchasing your tickets in advance is that they’re only good for a particular time. You need to calculate enough time to get there. Then walk up to Neuschwanstein which takes ~ 30 minutes from Hohenschwangau.
It takes a lot of planning to avoid waiting around for hours. In other words, too much planning when you want to be relaxing and enjoying your vacation in Germany.
Which Castle Tour Should You Do?
Should you decide to visit Neuschwanstein the easy way, I would highly recommend one of these tours. They include return transportation to Munich, so you don’t need to figure out to get there. Some of them also include lunch which is always an added bonus especially as visiting Neuschwanstein will keep you active and make you hungry.
Also, your guide will time everything correctly. You can rest assured that you’ll get to see Neuschwanstein. Without missing it because it’s sold out or because you’ve arrived past your ticket time.
Another tour that I recommend is the day trip that includes a visit to both Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Castles. Schloss Linderhof is another King Ludwig II castle. The tour offers you a unique opportunity to take in more than one amazing site in the day and you won’t have to worry about the stress of transport and planning.
While it’s small, for what it lacks in size, it makes up for in grandeur! It’s also the only finished castle of King Ludwig II. The grounds are also beautiful!
My favourite part about Schloss Linderhof is the Venus Grotto. It’s an illuminated artificial cave made primarily to illustrate the first act of Richard Wagner’s Tannhaüser! I’ve never seen anything like it!
Travel Tip: Unless you’re driving, being part of an organized tour would be the easiest way to visit both castles in one day. It would take a long time if you were doing it by public transportation.
How to Get to Schloss Neuschwanstein by Train from Munich
Perhaps you have decided you do want to do it on your own. The first recommended, but not a necessary step is to buy your castle ticket in advance. It’s available here. Note: At the time of writing there was an extra fee of €2.50 for each ticket purchased in advance.
You catch your train at the München Hauptbahnhof, Munich’s main train station. The entire journey will take between 2:23 and 2:45, depending on which train and bus you catch.
Your trip will be in two parts. First, a train from Munich to Füssen. Then a bus from Füssen to Hohenschwangau. Finally, a 30-minute walk up to the castle itself. The train leaves every 1:20 hours or so.
Check the Deutsche Bahn train schedule to cut your wait time. Train reservations aren’t needed. You can buy your tickets at the ticket machine. It’s cheaper than buying them at the counter. That costs an extra €2. The ticket machines have an English language option.
What Train Ticket to Purchase
You’ll want to buy a Bayern Ticket. It allows you to travel the day anywhere in Bavaria. It costs €23 a person and €5 extra for each additional person. You can have a maximum of 5 people on one ticket. So if you are travelling as a group of 2, you would pay €28 for the entire day. The ticket is also valid for your return ticket if you come back the same day.
Travel Tip: the Bayern Ticket is only valid after 9:00 am. Make sure your train leaves after 9:00 am. If you board a train that departs at 8:55, the Bayern ticket isn’t valid.
While the train is comfortable enough to sleep, you definitely won’t want to. The route is a picturesque journey of mountain peaks and cows grazing in green meadows as you enter the Allgäu Alps. I’m convinced this region is home to some of the happiest cows on the planet!
Getting from Füssen to Hohenschwangau
Once you’ve reached the Füssen train station, you have two options for buses. Take the one that comes first. Ride line RVA/OVG 73 in the direction of Steingaden / Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Alternatively, you can also take line RVA/OVG 78 in the direction of Schwangau. You’ll get off at the Hohenschwangau / Alpseestraße stop for either bus.
Once you reach the village of Hohenschwangau, it’s about a 30-minute walk to the castle. If you’re travelling with your bags, there is luggage storage at Füssen station.
Getting from Hohenschwangau to Neuschwanstein Castle
It’s worth noting that if you need to buy your ticket, buy it before you start heading up to the castle! Tickets are only available at the Ticket Centre in Hohenschwangau, and not at the castle itself.
If you plan to walk up to the castle, it takes about 30 minutes. You can manage it in a shorter time if you are fit. You’ll want to wear comfortable shoes. The path is steep in places, but paved.
If your planning on doing it with kids it is doable. I saw many families walking up with strollers, but keep in mind that strollers need to be left outside at your own risk.
If you didn’t want to walk up you could go by horse and buggy. It costs around €6 per person uphill and around €3 per person downhill. Note: You still have to walk up 300 meters if you take this option.
Your other option is to go by shuttle bus (which doesn’t run in snowy conditions). It costs about €1.80 per person uphill, €1 per person for downhill or €2.60 for a return trip. This map shows you how to get there.
Is it Worth Visiting Schloss Hohenschwangau As Well?
Admittedly, I did not visit this castle, when I visited Neuschwanstein. A lot of my friends had recommended it, so I made a separate day trip to this very different palace.
Travel tip: Visit Schloss Hohenschwangau before visiting Neuschwanstein. If you visit it afterward, it will pale in comparison.
If your planning on doing them both in one day then buy yourself a combined ticket. It works out cheaper and will save you some time.
I love the idea of staying over in Hohenschwangau to take in the authentic feeling of the area. And you will find some beautiful hotels there too.
One final travel tip: When you’re in the village of Schwangau, stop and pick up some Bergkäse (mountain cheese). The cheese from the Allgäu is legendary. Happy cows make incredible cheese!