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Inside: Bavaria’s stunning Neuschwanstein Castle is one of Germany’s most epic destinations. Here’s everything you need to know to plan the perfect visit.
Located in the heart of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of Europe’s most spectacular palaces drawing 1.4 million visitors each year.
And with good reason.
My husband, Dave, and I have been living in Bavaria for a few years now. Every time friends and family come to visit, Neuschwanstein Castle is the first place we take them.
Let’s just say it’s a showstopper!
This fairytale castle is the perfect introduction to the beauty of Bavaria and a must-see on any trip to Germany.
Neuschwanstein is known by many names including King Ludwig’s Castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein (German), Slot Neuschwanstein (Danish), the “Disney Castle” and even the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Castle (yes, it’s the castle they flew over in the movie).
The history of Neuschwanstein Castle
As many as 6,000 people a day stroll through the castle in the height of the summer months. But ironically, Neuschwanstein’s vast labyrinth of rooms was constructed for just a single inhabitant.
Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the elaborate palace was intended as a refuge for the reclusive king. Using his personal fortune instead of Bavarian public funds, construction on the palace began in 1869. Sadly, it was never fully completed when Ludwig died in 1886.
Shortly after his death, the unfinished palace was opened to paying visitors.
Why is Neuschwanstein known as the Disney castle?
One of the castle’s most famous visitors was Walt Disney.
Disney visited Neuschwanstein Castle on a European vacation with his wife prior to the construction of Disneyland in California. Design elements of the fairytale-like Neuschwanstein later served as the inspiration for both Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle and later Disney World’s Cinderella Castle.
Visiting Neuschwanstein during Covid
After months of lockdown, Bavaria is finally opening up. And just in time for summer travel. Neuschwanstein Castle re-opened to the public for tours on May 21, 2021.
(Sidenote: For those of us who live here in Bavaria, it’s about time! Like much of Europe, hotels have been closed and restaurants restricted to takeout food since November. No-vem-ber. Let’s just say I am in serious need of a Biergarten and a restaurant meal that doesn’t come in a styrofoam container. STAT. But I digress…)
So yes, Neuschwanstein is now open for tours. And both the shuttle buses and carriages up to the castle are operating again. That’s the good news.
The bad news? The ticket office remains closed so tickets to tour the inside can only be purchased online (more on that later). Also, group tour sizes have been severely reduced due to Covid protocols.
The bottom line: Tickets to tour the castle interior were already difficult to get and could be even more challenging to score this summer.
But fear not! Even if you don’t tour the inside, Neuschwanstein is still well worth a visit from the outside. In fact, in my opinion, the exterior views are far superior to anything you’ll find inside.
(BONUS: Viewing the castle from the outside is totally free).
When is the best time to visit Neuschwanstein?
There’s no doubt that Neuschwanstein Castle is stunning any time of year. And there’s truly no bad time to visit.
The summer months tend to be busy with tour groups (but this summer, who knows?). I normally advise people to visit on a weekday in the spring or fall since the weather is often lovely and the crowds are slight.
Winter is also an incredible time to visit. If you’re lucky enough to catch the castle in all its frosty glory on a snowy day it truly is like something out of a fairytale.
But no matter when you visit, try to get there as early in the morning as possible since crowds tend to grow later in the day.
How to Get to Neuschwanstein
You can easily visit Neuschwanstein Castle on a day trip from Munich. But if you have time, spend the night. There’s enough to see and do in this part of Bavaria to occupy a full day or two.
By Car: The drive takes less than 2 hours via the A7 motorway to Fussen. From there, follow the B17 road to Schwangau and Hohenschwangau.
By Train: Take the train to the town of Fussen (the largest town nearby and also worth a visit!). From there, catch bus 78 or 73 and get off at Hohenschwangau. Don’t worry about missing your stop, everyone else will be getting off there, too! The journey by train and bus takes approximately 2.5 hours and regional trains depart Munich’s Hauptbahnhof every hour.
By Organized Day Trip: There are also plenty of options for day trips from Munich to Neuschwanstein. There are two perks to visiting this way: 1) most trips include a visit to nearby Linderhof Palace and 2) you don’t have to deal with the ticket lines or worry about timed entry (more on that in a moment). Here are just a few great options for tours to the castle:
Neuschwanstein Castle Tickets
Tickets to tour the castle are € 13 + an online booking fee of € 2.50 for adults. Children under 18 are free but you still need to book them a ticket online and pay the € 2.50 processing fee (this is because they are counted in the tour sizes which are strictly limited).
Currently, tickets MUST be purchased in advance online. You can purchase online tickets here. The ticket office in Hohenschwangau remains closed.
Tickets are timed and tours of the interior last approximately 30 minutes. Tours start promptly at the scheduled time so if you show up late, you’re out of luck.
Castle Tour Hours
Summer hours through October 15, 2021 are 8:00am – 4:00pm daily.
Again, no tickets are required to tour the exterior of the castle. So if you just want to see the castle from the outside, it’s free.
Neuschwanstein Castle Inside – Is it worth it?
If you have plenty of time to explore, I vote yes, spring for the inside tour. But if you’re short on time, tickets are sold out, or the tour times just don’t work for your schedule, give it a pass.
The exterior of the castle is far more ornate than the unfinished interior. And the best part of visiting is appreciating the beauty of the castle against the gorgeous Bavarian landscape surrounding it.
Plus, they don’t allow photographs inside the castle. And where’s the fun in that?
How to get from Hohenschwangau up to the castle
From the town of Hohenschwangau, there are 3 options to get up the rather large hill to the castle: walk, take the bus or take a horse carriage.
Walk: From town, the walk up to the castle takes about 45-minutes and it can be a pretty strenuous walk uphill. If you’re in reasonably good shape and enjoy a hearty walk, you’ll have no problems. In the summer months, definitely bring water with you or buy a bottle in town before starting the hike.
Bus: Adult tickets are € 2.50 to go up and € 1.50 to come down (or € 3.00 roundtrip). Children (6 and under): free, 7-12 years: € 1.00 ascent, € 0.50 descent (or € 1.50 roundtrip). Bus tickets can be purchased at the bus box office at the bus stop or directly from the bus driver (no credit cards).
Horse Carriage: This is kind of a kitschy option and not my favorite, but hey, it’s there. The price is € 7.00 per adult going up and € 3.50 coming down. Kids under 6 are free. You pay the carriage driver directly in cash.
Personally, I like the walk. But if it’s really hot or really cold, I recommend the bus.
Best spots to view Neuschwanstein Castle
Though the castle is breathtaking from just about every angle, there are a few vantage points that offer the best views for photos.
The most popular viewing spot and one you definitely shouldn’t miss is the Marien Bridge (“Marienbrücke” in German). Built over a cliff in 1855, this pedestrian bridge offers spectacular views of the castle.
The bridge itself is quite narrow and not great for anyone with a fear of heights. A digital sign at the entrance controls the number of people walking across it at any one time (sadly, this is necessary due to the large number of tour groups who tend to arrive all at the same time).
If you choose to take the bus up to the top, take it all the way to Marienbrücke to visit the bridge first, then it’s a nice walk down to the castle. If you walk up to the castle, it’s another 15-minute walk up to the bridge from there but there are some great viewpoints along the way.
About halfway between the castle and the bridge, you’ll come to a curve in the road where there’s another great viewpoint to photograph the castle.
Bonus Tip: Don’t miss the tasty “Quarkballchen”
If the walk to the top leaves you in need of a snack, stop at the stand outside the cafe near the top for a few quarkballs (quarkballchen). These little balls of doughy goodness are made from quark cheese batter and deep-fried. And as if that wasn’t good enough, then they roll them in powdered sugar. Delish.
You won’t have to look too hard for these since you’ll probably be drawn in by the heavenly aroma as you walk by.
And, honestly, if you made the walk up, you’ve earned a few.
Why not spend the night?
While days trips are the most popular way to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, the surrounding towns and Bavarian countryside are so lovely it’s worth sticking around for at least a night.
If you decide to spend the night, my favorite hotel in the area is the Villa Ludwig in Hohenschwangau. It’s a charming alpine hotel with magnificent views of the castle, beautiful rooms, and excellent service.