A Fairytale Adventure to Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle, affectionately known as the “Disney Castle,” is a stunning masterpiece nestled in the Bavarian Alps. The first question that often comes to mind when people see Neuschwanstein Castle is, “Is this the castle that inspired Cinderella’s castle at Walt Disney World?” The answer is, yes! It was also the original inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland. A visit to this enchanting castle feels like stepping into the pages of a fairy tale. It’s no surprise that it inspired Walt Disney himself!
The small village of Hohenschwangau, Germany, is home to the castle, which welcomes an astonishing 1.4 million visitors annually, ranking it among the top 3 most-visited sites in all of Germany. During peak season, the castle draws up to 10,000 visitors daily! I can’t wait to share some of the history behind this enchanting castle and everything you’ll need plan your visit. Get ready, this is the closest you will come to a real-life fairytale!
A Royal History
In the Middle Ages, this site held two castles, governed by the lords of Schwangau. After the ‘Sfagnum’ family’s decline in the 16th century, the ‘Wittelsbach’ family took charge.
King Ludwig II (‘Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm von Wittelsbach’), born on August 25, 1845, grew up in the nearby Hohenschwangau Castle. His father extensively renovated this neo-Gothic castle. Ludwig II became Bavaria’s king in 1864, succeeding his father. The king was known for his shyness and fascination with fairytale castles and myths. This passion led to the creation of Neuschwanstein Castle, influenced by Richard Wagner’s operas. Architect Eduard Riedel, under stage designer Cristian Jank’s guidance, brought Ludwig II’s vision to life.
Ludwig II personally financed the castle, amassing substantial debt. In today’s currency, King Ludwig would have spent over €47 million on the castle during his lifetime. Construction began in 1868 with the removal of the ruins of the former castles. However, the project expanded in scope and cost, remaining incomplete upon Ludwig II’s mysterious death in 1886. In 1886, facing financial and mental health challenges, the government dethroned him and just three days later, he was discovered deceased in Lake Starnbergafter. He had only stayed in the castle a total of 186 days since it became inhabitable in 1884.
Following his passing, the enchanting castle was opened to the public to settle debts. It wasn’t until 1892 that Schloss Neuschwanstein was completed, and ongoing restoration efforts continue to this day.
Tickets: What do I need to know?
First and foremost, keep in mind that booking a guided tour is necessary to access the castle’s interior. Naturally, you can view the castle from the outside at no cost. If you would like to see the interior of the castle, I highly recommend that you purchase tickets as far in advance as possible. During peak season, online tickets sell out fast and even weeks ahead.
You can purchase tickets in the online shop. Once purchased, I would print the tickets (just in case). Although you are welcome to use your phone to scan the QR code at the entrance.
If you don’t want to purchase your tickets online, you can visit the ticket office. Each day there are a certain number of tickets available. Get there early so that you have a better chance of getting the time slots you would like for the tours. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will get your preferred time slot and be prepared for the possibility that tickets may sell out for the day. The lines may also be very long, so allow extra time to wait in line.
Combination tickets are no longer offered to tour both Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau; you must book each castle separately. It is advisable to allocate at least 2.5 hours between each castle to account for the tour and your transportation or walk to the next castle.
The Castle Interior
King Ludwig II of Bavaria was shy and eccentric, this castle was his dream retreat and was specifically built to escape public life. The interior is as magnificent as the exterior, with ornate rooms and lavish décor that transport you back in time. Schloss Neuschwanstein has more than 200 rooms, but only 15 rooms are fully finished. The castle tour will take you to the 3rd and 4th floor where the king’s most important quarters are. Also, it is here that you can witness the beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes.
I thought the castle tour was fascinating and our family enjoyed it. I especially loved imagining what life was like in the castle for King Ludwig as we toured each room. The tour lasts approximately 30-35 minutes and is available in both German and English, with audio guides provided in numerous other languages.
Please note that strollers are not allowed inside the castle, but they can be parked in the courtyard. Additionally, as a security measure, photography and videography are not permitted during the tour.
The Climb: Reaching the Castle
The castle sits at the top of a hill. There is no parking directly at the castle.
To reach the castle, you have several options:
- Walk 30-40 minutes up a fairly steep hill. We did this scenic walk and enjoyed it! Our 2-year-old was in a carrier and my 6-year-old walked it with no problem, but she is used to a lot of walking since our move to Germany.
- Ride a shuttle bus. The buses run approximately every 20 minutes and run based on the number of visitors that day. The shuttles are cash only and you can purchase tickets at the bus stop or directly from the driver. The bus will drop you off at Marienbrücke, about 600 meters above the castle (5-10 minutes steep walk downhill to the castle).
- Take a horse-drawn carriage. These run approximately every 30 minutes. You will need to pay the driver directly. The carriage ride lasts about 20 minutes and stops about 400 meters below the castle (5-10 minutes uphill to the castle).
It is important to note that you should allow time for waiting in line for the shuttle bus and the horse-drawn carriages, especially during peak season.
Also, if the roads are snowy or icy, the shuttle and carriages have limited service due to the weather conditions. On some days, the castle may only be reachable by foot. Check the castle’s website for updates.
Marienbrücke: Picture-Perfect Moments
The views from Neuschwanstein Castle on a clear day, are breathtaking. Gaze out over the alpine landscape, and you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. So where is the best spot to photograph this famous castle? Many say it is from the lookout point at Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge).
Once you are near the top of the hill, follow the signs towards Marienbrücke. If you are taking the shuttle bus, the drop-off is very close to Marienbrücke. The bridge tends to get pretty crowded, especially during peak season, so arriving early is your best bet. But trust me, the view is absolutely worth it.
Please be aware that the bridge is closed throughout most of the winter due to safety concerns related to the weather conditions. You can check on the castle’s website for updates and closures for the Marienbrücke.
So you toured, Neuschwanstein Castle. What next? You can also tour, King Ludwigs’ childhood home, the adjacent Hohenschwangau Castle or, The Museum of the Bavarian Kings. Purchase tickets for these attractions online or at the ticket center on-site. The museum also sells tickets directly at its museum counters.
After exploring the sights, make sure to kick back and relax by the nearby Alpsee lake. It’s a picture-perfect spot with the Bavarian mountains as a stunning backdrop, and the Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles towering above. You’ll find benches along the lake where you can simply unwind and soak in the breathtaking views.
The Alpsee also has a popular hiking trail with a length of about 5 km. The hike is family-friendly and takes about one and a half hours. I suggest using a carrier for little ones (the path is not stroller-friendly).
Additionally, there are several restaurants right in the village of Hohenschwangau for you to have lunch or dinner. The area is pretty compact, so a short walk around and you will find some restaurants and some food vendor kiosks.
Make It a Stay
We stayed nearby at an Airbnb in Füssen and it was in itself the most charming town, so why not make it more than a day trip? Stroll Füssen’s cobbled streets, enjoy some Bavarian cuisine, and explore other nearby attractions like Hohenschwangau Castle or take a ride on the Tegelberg cable car.
Practical Tips for Your Adventure
- Map: Here is a map showing the ticket office, parking lots, bus stops, etc.
- Tickets: Book your tickets online and in advance to avoid long lines. (All children must have a ticket)
- Admission: Check the castle website for the most current fees for admission
- Footwear: Wear comfortable shoes! There is a lot of walking even if you are utilizing the shuttle bus or a horse-drawn carriage.
- Dress: Dress appropriately for the weather. Wear layers for the cold weather, a waterproof jacket for rain and snow, and cool clothing for the summer months paired with sun protection and a water bottle.
- Timing: Arrive early to enjoy the castle and surroundings at a leisurely pace with fewer crowds. I would also allow a minimum of 4-5 hours if you are touring both castles.
- Parking: There is approximately a €10 daily fee for cars to park. There are 4 large parking lots so parking should not be an issue, especially if you arrive early.
- Pets: The castles, shuttle bus, horse carriage, and the museum do not allow pets
- Strollers: Strollers are not allowed inside the castle. Park your stroller in the courtyard before the tour. Bring a carrier, if needed.
- Note: During the castle tour, there are narrow and winding staircases (over 160 steps) that may be challenging for some.
Whew! I know that is a lot of information, but I promise you won’t regret visiting. Are you ready to plan your own fairytale adventure to Neuschwanstein Castle? It’s a magical experience you’ll love. Happy planning and may your next adventure be full of amazing new moments and memories! 🏰🌲✨
As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts or comments. If something sparks your interest or if you have any questions, please share them below. And if this piece resonated with you, please consider supporting my site through Buy Me a Coffee. Your support enables me to craft more stories to share with you all. 💕
Disclaimer: Please know that while I pour my heart and soul into providing you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, the world has its way of changing. The details and insights shared here were accurate at the time of penning them down. However, in time, some specifics might shift. Always double-check before making any plans. Safe travels and warm wishes.