Perhaps best known as the inspiration to Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Neuschwanstein Castle (translation: New Swanstone Castle, pronunciation: “Noy-shvan-stine”) is a 19th century Romanesque Revival palace that was commissioned by King Ludwig II. It rests in the rugged hillside of Schwangau, near the town of Fussen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. What was once constructed as a place of refuge for the shy king, this fairytale castle has become quite the tourist destination with more than 1.3 million annual visitors with as many as 6,000 per day in the summer.
How To Get There
If you’re anything like me and do your best to avoid tour groups, then keep reading and I’ll explain how to get there on your own. We did a day trip from Munich to Schloss Neuschwanstein by way of the train (you can do a day trip from Salzburg too). Taking the train is a personal favorite of mine because it does all the work for you (and provides a clean washroom) while allowing you to watch the entire journey to your destination. Regardless of where you are coming from, your final destination by train will be Füssen, Germany. Tickets can be purchased online or in person, at the train station.
The journey to Neuschwanstein Castle begins at München Hbf, Munich’s central station. Trains leave about every hour and the ride itself will take you 2 to 2.5 hours (depending on the train). **Disclaimer** Be sure to look at your ticket ahead of time to see if you have any stops (and where they are) that will require you to switch trains. The train attendants may not speak English and therefore aren’t very helpful if you don’t speak German.
The train ride will take you through the idyllic Bavarian countryside. The lush, green landscape, farm animals, and quaint villages will line the way. Despite your initial desire to catch additional shut-eye, I highly recommend you stay awake for this ride. It’s magnificent.
Once you arrive at Füssen station, you will get on your second mode of transportation… bus. Ride line RVA/OVG 73 in the direction of Steingaden/Garmisch-Partenkirchen or line RVA/OVG 78 in the direction of Schwangau.
They do a pretty good job at timing the trains and buses so there should be one waiting for the next round of visitors. The ride takes 8 minutes and costs 2.30 euros each way.
While You’re There
Once you reach the village of Hohenschwangau and before you trek up to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, be sure to purchase the 12 euro ticket at the ticket center if you want to go inside. Also in the summer months, it’s a good idea to reserve your ticket online before your visit. Be prepared to wait in line to pick up your ticket, despite your reservation. If you’re into it, you can also buy a combination ticket, which includes Hohenschwangau Castle and the Museum of the Bavarian Kings for 29.50 euro.
For those not wanting the extra exercise – Ha! Yes, that was a guilt trip 😉 – you can also take a horse-drawn carriage or wait for the bus. The downside, outside of the lack of exercise, is that it’s not free (like using your legs is).
From Hohenschwangau, it’s about a 30 minute (and fairly steep) walk to Neuschwanstein Castle. Follow the signs. If you are hoping to catch that iconic view of Neuschwanstein Castle from above, you will need to walk to Marienbrücke (Marie’s Bridge). Marienbrücke is directly behind and directly visible from Neuschwanstein Castle. The bridge was named by Ludwig II of Bavaria after his mother, Marie Friederike of Prussia. We made Marienbrücke our first stop and took the backroad path which proved to be mostly shaded and less crowded.
I will warn you. The bridge is not for those who have a fear of heights. I’ve never been afraid of heights, however, standing on that bridge, I found myself feeling very uneasy. The bridge was secure but the boards shifted a little more than my liking. Perhaps my feeling of uneasiness was amplified by the fact that I was also surrounded by tons of people. Needless to say, mentally prepare yourself. Continuously taking deep breaths may help you while you take photos of this majestic castle.
After the bridge, follow the pathway that leads to the castle entrance. Along the way, you will walk into a stunning viewpoint of the town and lakes below, Hohenschwangau Castle and the surrounding area. Be sure to take in the scenery (and snap a few photos).
Just around the next corner is the castle itself. Here’s another photo opportunity to capture its magnificence from a different angle.
The interior of the castle was never completed. Had it been, it would have had more than 200 interior rooms. Unfortunately, no more than about 15 rooms and halls were finished. I opted not to pay for the ticket to go inside but fully encourage you to if it suits your fancy.
Continue down the path and you’ll reach a deck that offers another photo opportunity with a view of the castle from slightly below and a view of the Bavarian countryside below.
By this time you will probably be feeling a bit fatigued and in need of some food. You will find a few eateries along the walk back down to the village. Grab a snack (maybe some ice cream) if you need it but if time allows, I suggest heading back to the bus and having your meal in Füssen. Füssen is a super cute and quaint town that requires no more than an hour or two to explore. Trust me, don’t miss out on this Bavarian beauty!
- Go EARLY! Forget about sleeping in and take the first or second train. This way you can beat the heat… and the (vast majority of) crowds!
- Pack a snack and a sufficient amount of water. The summer months are HOT and you will get dehydrated.
- If you’re traveling with your bags, there is luggage storage at Füssen station.
- You don’t need a ticket if you don’t want to go inside. The interior is beautiful but unfinished. It’s up to you whether the time and the ticket are worth it!
- Take the late train and explore Füssen. If your feet aren’t hurting too much, take an hour or so to wander around the town. It seriously will only take that long. Then find an eatery that suits you and fill your belly. The Altstadt dates back more than 700 years and is the southernmost point on the Romantic Road route. Highlights include The Hohes Schloss, a well-preserved late gothic castle complex, and the 8th-century Benedictine Monastery of St. Mang.