Wait! Don’t start yet! Put some –appropriate- music on first!
Amidst the bavarian Alpine mountains, surrounded by tall trees dressed in the discreet white veil of snow, a majestic castle stands on the hill and looks like it has sprung from the pages of a Disney fairy tale, or was Disney himself who was inspired by the castle?
I thought my imagination was stealing the reins of my vision when I first saw the Neuschwanstein Castle “wrapped” in the fog, from below the hill. There are beautiful castles around the world, but this castle with its special turrets and idyllic alpine surroundings exceeds any fairytale expectation.
The castle was built by King Ludwig II, known as the “Fairytale King”, in honor of the German composer Richard Wagner, whose the king was a great supporter. The decor of many of the castle’s rooms is inspired by the composer’s characters, while the third floor in particular captures Ludwig’s admiration for Wagner’s operas.
The construction of Neuschwanstein Castle began in 1869 and was originally planned to last three years but Ludwig wanted his castle to reach its fullest perfection, so it was not completed even when the king was killed mysteriously in 1886 and remained incomplete.
“Neuschwanstein” literally means “New Swan Castle” and refers to “Swan Knight”, one of Wagner’s characters.
This fairytale view of the castle inspired Walt Disney to create the Magic Kingdom. Today, Neuschwanstein Castle is the most visited castle in Germany and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Every year more than 1,300,000 people cross its impressive portal.
How to get the most postcard photo
All these pictures depicting the castle from a distance usually are shot from the Queen Mary’s Bridge. However, when we visited the castle, the bridge was closed due to bad weather. But the good lad always knows of an another path, as we say in Greece (We didn’t know it, but we searched for it and found it).
Going up the castle uphill, almost at the beginning of the route, you will find on your right some signs informing you of a hiking trail. During winter is usually closed but this was a detail for us. We walked for 40 minutes in almost untouched snow, in a unique landscape of endless white beauty and towering trees that looked like a movie. Then we jumped some “do not pass” signs and a bar, climbed a small sloping hill and reached another hill where you could stand in a small spot and admire the breathtaking view. And if you ask me, I’ll tell you that I wouldn’t change this route for anything.
How to Get there
Neuschwanstein Castle is close to Munich and you can do it as a day trip as it is 2 hours by train and 1 hour and 40 minutes by car. The nearest station is in the town of Füssen, near the Austrian border. From there you take one of the buses to the castle and in 5 minutes you will find yourself in the village of Hohenschwangau, from where the path to the castle begins. Basically it’s an uphill, where you can go by car or a horse-drawn carriage. But I would recommend, if you have the time, to spend one or two nights in Füssen.
Buy a Bayern Pass from Munich that includes your trips to Munich, the train to Füssen and the bus to the castle.
Where to stay
In my opinion it’s totally worth spending a day or two in Füssen. This is a fairytale city! Houses with conical roofs decorated with pastel colors, baroque churches, charming little shops, surrounded by snowy alpine mountains. A city that complements the magic of the castle.
Even if the castle wasn’t so close, I would definitely go to Füssen for a two-day stay. Snowy and picturesque, with little alleyways, a medieval village feel, the Lech River with carefree ducks and hot balloons coloring the sky, the – over 700 years old – Füssen is a fairy tale you can experience in real life.
During our stay in Füssen, it was arranged to stay at the 4-star Luipoldpark Hotel, literally a step from the station and buses going to the castle. I had arranged a photo shoot with them and had searched the hotel rooms and suites quite a bit. But nothing had made me aware of where we would eventually stay. When the receptionist started to drive us up the building, we were sure we would have a great view, but when he told us that our room didn’t even have a name or number and called “The Tower”, we were bursting with impatience! In a matter of minutes we were indoors in a circular suite full of windows all around so that we could not lose sight of the beauty around it, with wood dominating everywhere, an internal staircase leading to a bedroom-terrace, and a free-standing bathtub in a very promising zen bathroom.
It was very difficult to have my fill with this room and especially the view of the snowy roofs and Hohes Schloss (High Castle) castle. In the evening the scene became even more mythical as the snow was falling with its distinctive sound. I wanted to stay there in front of the window watching it all night! And even in the early morning, the images that our eyes saw from the windows around us were unique, from those you remember even several months after, especially when you are from Greece and the snow in the capital is not that common. Several years ago, the truth was that I didn’t care about the hotel I was staying at. I now strongly believe that it adds to the experience. Our stay in Füssen would not be the same if we had not stayed in this magical tower.
Which Tickets do you need?
If you decide to take the train, it is advisable to buy the Bayern Pass (Deutsche Bahns), with which you can travel all over Bavaria for a whole day and apply for one to five people. The cost is 25 € for one person, 32 € for 2 people, 39 € for 3 people, 46 € for 4 people and 53 € for 5 people (2nd class) and applies to S and U-Bahn trains, most buses and trams throughout Bavaria including major cities such as Munich, Nuremberg and Augsburg. Children up to 5 years old travel for free. From 6-14 years old travel free if accompanied by 1 or 2 people (their parents or grandparents) who have paid a regular ticket. You can book your ticket online or buy it from ticket vending machines at all train, subway and tram stations.
Admission to the castle costs 13 € & 2.5 € reservation fee (Children under 18 get in free). However you should book tickets 2 days in advance because usually they are sold out. The guided tour is in a specific time, lasting from 20-35 minutes and you need to be consistent, menaing, already at the castle entrance and not in the village of Hohenschwangau. Here you can book tickets online. Photographs are not allowed inside the castle.
On the opposite mountain from the Neuschwanstein, lies the Hohenschwangau, the castle in which King Ludwig II grew up. Access is very easy and the ticket can be combined for both castles. In my opinion, however, it is by no means as impressive.
Photos by me
The content & photos on this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
You may not republish, copy or modify the content and use the photos without my permission.