Magical Neuschwanstein: How to Visit Germany’s Disney Castle Like a Pro

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Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria Germany

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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 the Bavarian Alps, 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! And truly a must-see castle in Germany.

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 Germany,” the “Cinderella Castle Germany,” and even the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Castle (yes, it’s the castle they flew over in the movie).

But King Ludwig was known as the Swan King and the castle’s name literally translates as “new swan stone.”

Is Neuschwanstein Castle worth visiting?

Without a doubt, this romantic castle is one of the most iconic images of Germany. If you’re planning a visit to Germany, this one is a must to add to your itinerary. Luckily, it’s easy to reach from Munich and there are plenty of other beautiful Bavarian sights to see nearby.

Why is Neuschwanstein known as the Germany Disney castle?

One of the 19th-century 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. After visiting the German castle Disney later used design elements of the fairytale-like Neuschwanstein as the inspiration for both Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle in California and later Disney World’s Cinderella Castle in Florida.

The silhouette of this German castle is also the basis for the Disney logo shown prior to every Disney movie. That’s why it’s become famous as the Disney Castle in Germany.

Why was the castle never completed?

As many as 6,000 people a day stroll through the Byzantine style castle in the high season summer months. But ironically, Neuschwanstein’s vast labyrinth of rooms was constructed for just a single inhabitant.

Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, known as the Mad King, the elaborate palace was intended as a refuge for the reclusive king. Using his personal fortune instead of Bavarian public funds, construction of Neuschwanstein Castle began in 1869 and was intended to take 3 years to complete.

Ultimately, construction took 7 times longer than expected. Despite that, Ludwig moved into the unfinished castle in 1884 and slept just 11 nights there. Sadly, those construction delays left the castle eternally unfinished when the King of Bavaria died in 1886 under mysterious circumstances.

Shortly after his death, the unfinished palace was opened to paying visitors.

Disney Castle Germany Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria
Neuschwanstein Castle -Bavaria, Germany

How to Get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich

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.

Munich to Neuschwanstein by Car

From Munich, the drive takes less than 2 hours via the A7 motorway to Fussen. From there, follow the B17 road to Schwangau and Hohenschwangau. There’s a large pay parking lot near town and typically plenty of parking is available in the lot.  

Tip: If you need a rental car in Munich, DiscoverCars.com is my go-to site for rentals in Germany.

If you drive, stop for a photo at this lovely church on the road into Hohenschwangau

Munich to Neuschwanstein 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.

Munich to Neuschwanstein Tours

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).

Best Day Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich

If you’re visiting Munich and looking for the perfect day trip to visit Bavaria and its lovely Disney Castle, this full-day small group trip is my favorite choice:

#1 Pick
Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria Germany

Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castle Small-Group Premium Tour from Munich

This 10-hour premium guided tour by luxury coach departs Munich in the morning and visits both Neuschwanstein Castle & Linderhof Palace. It includes snacks, drinks, and all entrance tickets. If you just have one day to spare, this is a great tour.

Neuschwanstein Castle Hours

Summer Hours: March 23rd – October 15, 2024, are 9:00am – 6:00pm daily.

Winter Hours: Through March 22nd, 2024, are 10:00am – 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 Tickets

It’s possible to buy tickets on arrival at the Ticket Center. However, if you visit in the summer, I strongly advise buying tickets well in advance. The ticket line can be hours long, and same-day tickets are often sold out for the day well before noon. Tickets can be purchased online here.

The Ticket Center is open daily from 8:00am – 4:00pm. Adult tickets are €18.00. Children under 18 are free.

If you’re booking online, you’ll pay an online booking fee of € 2.50 for adults. Note: Though children under 18 are free, 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).

The bottom line: If you’re hoping to visit Neuschwanstein Castle this summer, book well in advance online or book a day trip that includes tickets!

Neuschwanstein Castle Tour Times

Tickets to tour Neuschwanstein Castle are timed and guided 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.

Can’t score a tour ticket for the day you want to go?

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. 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.

Disney Castle Germany Schloss Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein summer views

Winter in Bavaria – the Fussen Christmas Market

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. And if you visit around the holidays, be sure to visit the charming Christmas market in nearby Fussen held annually in the courtyard of the St. Mang Monastery.

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 much time do you need to see Neuschwanstein Castle?

If you visit with an organized tour, plan on a full day since most tours also include other fascinating sights nearby.

If you plan to drive on your own (or take the train/bus), the longest part is getting there. Once you arrive, it doesn’t take long at all to see the castle. The tour itself is just 30 minutes.

But the best part of visiting is viewing the impressive castle from all the many exterior viewpoints. The surrounding Bavarian countryside is just stunning. With that in mind, I usually budget for 2-3 hours total (not including the drive) when I bring my friends and family.

Inside the castle – Is it worth it?

If you have plenty of time to explore, I vote yes, spring for the guided tour to see the interior of the castle. The 30-minute tour includes the Throne Room, Grotto, and chapel.

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 castle’s beauty 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 village 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.

Honehschwangau Castle Bavaria Germany
Views along the walk (Hohenschwangau Castle below)

Shuttle Bus: Adult tickets are €3.00 to go up and €2.00 to come down (or €3.30 roundtrip). Children (6 and under): free, 7-12 years: €1.50 ascent, €1.00 descent (or €2.00 roundtrip). Tickets for the shuttle buses can be purchased at the bus box office at the bus stop or directly from the bus driver (no credit cards).

Horse-drawn Carriage: This is kind of a kitschy option and not my favorite, but hey, it’s there. The price is €8.00 per adult going up and €4.00 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, the bus is the best way to get to the top. And hey, you can always walk back down!

The town of Hohenschwangau

Best spots to view Neuschwanstein Castle

This is one Germany castle that is breathtaking from just about every angle. But there are a few vantage points that offer the best views for photos.

Marienbrücke

The most popular viewing spot and one you definitely shouldn’t miss is Mary’s 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).

Marienbrucke Bridge Neuschwanstein Photo spots
Marienbrücke

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.

Marienbrucke Bridge Neuschwanstein Germany
Views of Neuschwanstein through the love locks on Marienbrucke

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.

Note: In the winter months, the bridge is frequently closed due to inclement weather. You can check the daily status of the bridge here.

Pöllat gorge

If you visit Neuschwanstein Castle during the summer months, the views from the Pöllat Gorge below are another great vantage point. The imposing 10-kilometer-long gorge was closed for many years due to falling rocks and landslides, but it re-opened to pedestrians in 2019. 

Combined with a visit to the castle and a short detour to the Marienbrücke, a visit to the Pöllat Gorge is a lovely way to round out your German castle experience. 

Tip:  The gorge is closed in the winter and on rainy days. Check the website here for the latest information on whether the Pollat Gorge is open or closed before your visit. 

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 day 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.

And if you’re looking for more great destinations in Germany, start here:

Lindau, Germany: The Loveliest Bavarian Island You’ve Never Heard Of

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Germany’s Fairy Tale Christmas Village

Germany’s Best Christmas Markets – Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt