There will be many people who tell you Neuschwanstein Castle is an overrated tourist trap, swarming with selfie stick wielding tour groups. Yes it is touristy, but rightly so, because this is the queen mother of all fairy tale castles. This was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, and now attracts people from all over the world who have dreamt of one day being a fairy princess (or prince). One would guess that lovers of history and architecture are also attracted to the castle, but I can’t speak for them because I came here purely to fulfill my dreams of living in a Disney movie, preferably Frozen of course, because who doesn’t want to build a snowman? Clearly visiting during the winter would have been more appropriate.
What makes this castle so spectacular is its fairytale architecture paired with its epic views of the surrounding countryside. We lucked out with the summer weather, getting to see fields of green leading to turquoise lakes dotted with sailboats. Talk about corny but it’s not just a fairytale castle, it’s also a fairytale landscape.
Queen Bee of All the Castles
Neuschwanstein Castle is Queen Bee of all the castles in the land. Every year 1.5 million people visit the “Disney” castle, as it’s been dubbed, or Noy-Schwan-Stine for those who know their German pronunciation.
A Little Backstory
Neushwanstein was commission by King Ludwig II in 1869, as a private retreat away from public life. However, he didn’t have the greatest luck, mysteriously dying in Lake Starnberg in 1886, having only lived in the unfinished castle for 172 days. While his death was officially ruled a drowning, this has always been called into question, given he was such an experienced swimmer.
At the time of his death only 14 of a proposed 200 rooms had been completed. So the Bavarian Royal Family decided the inquisitive public could bankroll the rest of the construction, opening the castle for paid tours a mere 6 weeks after his death. The reclusive king would be rolling in his grave if he knew his personal refuge had become the theme park it is today.
Inside the Castle: Guided Tour
If you plan to see the interior of the castle, you’re going to have to suck it up and take a pretty dismal guided tour. It was a very rushed twenty minutes that had you feeling as though you were on a conveyor belt or the last ones in a store at closing time. Photography also isn’t allowed, but don’t worry the gift shop has you covered with plenty of tourist price photos. That being said, you’ve travelled all this way so it would be a shame not to see Ludwig II’s interior design talent, just keep your expectations in check.
TIP: Don’t have too much fun in the beer gardens of Munich the night before. I spent the end of our guided tour holding my paper map underneath a random girls clasped hands she’d just vomited into. Vomiting inside a historical castle should NOT be on your bucket list.
Neuschwanstein Castle can receive up to 6,000 visitors a day, so do yourself a favour and pre-book your tickets online at least two days in advance, or risk them selling out. If you’re in the mood to wing it, then simply join the masses and line up at the Ticketcenter below the castle in the village of Hohenschwangau.
Entrance costs €12 per adult, under 18s are free.
Where to Take Those Epic Photos
The most breath taking views of the castle are taken from the Marienbrücke, an iron bridge 92 metres above the Pöllat gorge. All those famous photos you’ve seen of the castle, they were taken from here. Unfortunately the bridge is now closed until May 2016 as it undergoes major renovations.
Ludwig’s Childhood Home
King Ludwig II spent his childhood at Hohenschwangau Castle, which is located in the village below Neuschwanstein. If you have the time you can also tour this castle.
Located only a 2 hour train ride from Munich, Neuschwanstein Castle makes for the perfect day trip. To get there you’ll take a the train to Füssen, then a 5 minute bus to Hohenschwangau village, where you’ll finally start the 30 minute uphill walk to the castle. Alternatively you can take a shuttle bus (which doesn’t run during the winter snow) or travel like King Ludwig II and take a horse-drawn carriage up the hill.
Have you been to Neuschwanstein Castle, if so did it meet your expectations? What other fairytale castles do you recommend or dream of visiting?