There is a place in Southern Bavaria where one of the world’s most famous castles stands surrounded by verdant peaks, turquoise lakes, and even a refreshing waterfall.
That castle has taken the imagination of men to high levels. As a matter of fact, Walt Disney used it as inspiration for the castle who represent his brand. Therefore, this is the real deal, a proof of how reality surpasses fantasy.
Neuschwanstein. That is how it is called.
Maybe you are not familiar with the name and I am sure more than one will have problems pronouncing it. But, you sure have seen it in a picture, movie or bathroom mat (shameful but I have one of those).
Most people visit as a day trip from Munich. They got to see the castle and call it a day. Sounds good but my proposition is a bit different.
The castle is spectacular. Nevertheless, the area surrounding it is as beautiful as it can get. Why not experience a bit of that too?
In this article, we will explore ideas on what to do in the area. In addition, we will discuss several options to reach the place from Munich.
Neuschwanstein (New Swanstone Castle) beginnings are anchored in lots and lots of soap opera style drama. The place was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Ludwig was known for ditching his royal duties to pursue his passions: Richard Wagner’s operas, theater, and architecture (or building extravagant castles in natural stunning locations).
As you can imagine, he wasn’t very popular with his ministers. On top of that, the state became deep in debt during his reign. Opposers were successful in declaring him mentality insane and unable to rule. Things got confusing during the king’s deposition. He was seized and ended up dead in a lake located south of Munich.
The event was ruled as a suicide but many believe he was murdered. According to historians, there was no strong evidence pointing to his insanity. Even though Ludwig was peculiar and eccentric, some believe he had a vision too sophisticated for his contemporaries.
Mad or not, his legacy lives. Oh, and by the way, the three castles he commissioned, including Neuschwanstein, bring millions of dollars to the state every year.
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
What to See in the Area
Are you ready to get captivated by this spot in Southern Bavaria? Alright! Let’s take a look.
The Upper Swan Country Palace was built, in its current style, in the 19th century by King Ludwig’s father, King Maximilian II. Ludwig spent a lot of time during his childhood here. That is why he knew so well the surrounding geographical features.
I visited this area more than 10 years ago but during that time, I did not have the opportunity to take a closer look at Hohenschwangau. I am glad I had a second chance since I loved the towers, swan fountain, and sweeping views.
After Hohenschwangau, we walked down by a different path. That is when we started to spy Alpsee though the branches. We couldn’t resist scrambling around the trees to take a closer look at the emerald and cyan lake. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake. The view was breathtaking!
After our encounter with branches and leaves, we walked part of the shore of the lake. I got more and more lovely views. The water was crystal clear and thoughts of jumping in kept popping up (I didn’t do it, ok).
It is possible to walk the entire shore or rent a paddle or row boat.
Get ready for the main event!
After a bit of rest (and some fortifying sausage), I was ready to walk to the top of Neuschwanstein for the second time in my life. I do not have pleasant memories of that first walk. Plus, I have walked to many castles and I consider this the most difficult walk to get to one.
My husband kept saying: “I am sure it cannot be that difficult.”
So, there I was, twelve years after, way older and with my bad knee aching like a sting. And, let me tell you, it was as bad as I remember it. I was so relieved when the castle started to appear behind the trees.
Once at the top, I felt like twisting and turning. I got to stand between rocky peaks covered with lime colored grass and the pearly white castle that has inspired writers and artists. I got a moment to feel the place and walk every possible inch of it.
There was one more thing left to do and I remember doing it many years ago. We started walking towards Marienbrucke, a pedestrian bridge built over a gorge which affords impressive views of Neuschwanstein. If you visit, please, please, do not miss this view.
On your walk towards the bridge, you will have the opportunity to have a close look at the back of the castle.
Walk a bit more and you will be rewarded with views of Hohenschwangau, Alpsee and other lakes.
Finally, get over that bridge and get that glorious view of the castle!
End a pretty awesome day by taking a short walk around Fussen (the end of the Romantic Road) and maybe having something delicious to eat before heading back to Munich.
Considerations Before Visiting
- The castles are located close to the town of Fussen
- The train ride from Munich to Fussen takes two hours
- Those two hours will fly away since the ride is very pleasant. Most of the journey is through a glacier plateau. The Alps will begin to make an appearance on the last half an hour
- From Fussen’s main train station, bus #78 will take you close to the base of the castles
- From where the bus drops you, it is a 30 to 40 minutes walk to Neuschwanstein. The walk is mostly uphill and extenuating. You can reach the top by horse carriage or (another) bus. Keep in mind the lines can get very long during high season. More walk is involved if you are visiting the other attractions in the area (and some of those walks are uphill too)
- Very important, you can only get inside the castles by guided tour. The tours are timed and your ticket is valid for a particular time. Now, if you want a guaranteed entrance, you have to reserve ONLINE beforehand. There is a ticket office on site (at the base of the castles) but tickets may be sold out for the day when you arrive (at least during high season). And, remember, do not walk to the castles without a ticket if you intend to go in. I saw many people asking where to get tickets once they were at the top (bad, bad news for them)
- You can get a combination (discounted) ticket if you want to visit both castles
- There are plenty of restaurants and food shops at the base of the castles
How to Reach Fussen
There are several ways to arrive:
- Spend the night in or around Fussen
- This is an excellent option since you can have an early start and visit the main attraction before the crowds arrive
- Visit with a rental car
- It is difficult to beat having your own wheels. There are plenty of parking lots in the area. This option presents the opportunity to have an early start too
- Visit from Munich with a Bayern Ticket
- A Bayern Ticket gives you the option of unlimited travel around Bavaria, for a day, on regional, S and U-Bahn trains, buses and trams. It costs 25 euros for the first person and you can add 4 more people for 6 euros each. I paid 31 euros for my husband and me.
- This is a very attractive deal since fare without the ticket would be 80 to 100 euros for two people. Because of the substantial savings, a lot of people (and I mean a lot) use this option.
- Now, there is a little catch. During weekdays, the pass can only be used after 9:00 a.m. The first viable train would depart between 9:50 and 10:00 a.m. Almost everybody wants to take that first train. Because of that, you need to get on that train as early as possible (at least during shoulder and high season). I recommend you arrive at the platform 30 minutes before departure. The train should be open by then.
- I learned this the hard way. We boarded 15 minutes before departure and almost didn’t get a seat (we had to sit separately). People ended up congregating around the stairs and the exit areas.
- The first train after 9:00 gets packed because tour companies use it to move their entire groups. It was a bit shocking to me that they charge people to transport them on the train but it is what it is. They know how to play the game, so, boarding early is the best piece of advice I can give you.
- The Bayern Ticket can be used to get to Salzburg. Same situation with the train. Get there as early as possible.
- Visit from Munich without a Bayern Ticket
- You do not have to get a Bayern Ticket for transportation between Munich and Fussen. Just keep in mind you are going to pay more
- Take a guided tour
- There are plenty of companies that can take you to the castle. Before booking, I will ask for exact details of what is included.
- As I mentioned, some companies transport groups using the train. They arrive to site around 12:00 p.m., get inside Neuschwanstein, give one free hour and take the train back to Munich around 4 something. Make sure this aligns with your expectations.
- Plus, be aware many tour companies quoted price does not include the castle tour (getting inside). You will have to pay more for that.
There you have it. I have provided as much information as possible about how to enjoy to the max your visit to Neuschwanstein. I am sure this would be a day that will live in your memory for a long time.
Have you visited Neuschwanstein? Any other tips for visitors?
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