For many Non-Europeans, Neuschwanstein Castle is at the top of their bucket list for their Europe trip. The castle built by Ludwig II of Bavaria is not only famous thanks to its opulent and monumental architecture but also because it is said to have served as inspiration for Walt Disney and his “Cinderella Castle”.
I first went to Neuschwanstein in 2007. I remember it being busy but by far not as busy as I saw it in a recent documentary. Until 2020, about 1.4 million visitors yearly want to experience the magic of this castle, which means that about 6,000 people flock the sight daily. Neuschwanstein always seemed to me like the equivalent of the “Sound of Music Tour” in Austria: while overseas tourists love it, locals stay away from it.
This year, I decided to use the quiet semi-lockdown time in Germany and revisit this famous castle. While tourists fron outside of the EU were still banned from travelling to Germany, I did a day trip from nearby Innsbruck.
How to Get to Neuschwanstein Castle
The easiest way to reach the castle is by car. However, this is from the semi-lockdown perspective when there were only a few visitors. Dduring a normal day in Non-Covid-times, I can imagine that getting a parking spot can be quite a challenge. Hence, I recommend taking the train from Munich – according to Deutsche Bahn there is a direct train from Munich to Füssen which takes about two hours. From Füssen, you can take the bus lines 73 and 78 and 10 minutes later, you arrive in Hohenschwangau at the foot of the castle.
Getting Up to the Castle
It is a bit of a walk up to Neuschwanstein Castle from Hohenschwangau. If you are fit and like to get some exercise in, it takes about 40 minutes (the whole path is uphill). Alternatively, there are two options: the bus and the horse carriage. I took the bus which cost EUR 2.50 (about USD 3) to go up (to go down it is EUR 1.50, a return ticket is EUR 3). The horse carriage is EUR 7 to go up to the castle (EUR 3.50 to go downhill).
The bus takes you to a spot near the Marienbrücke, which is the famous viewpoint of Neuschwanstein. Therefore, I think the bus is a good way to go up the hill, head to the viewpoint and then to the castle. From the bus drop-off it is a 15-minute-walk to the castle.
If you cannot or do not want to walk very far, I would recommend to take the horse carriage, because it drops you off at the closest possible point near the castle.
I would recommend to take either the bus or the horse carriage up to the castle and then walk back down after the visit.
Shall I Go Inside?
“Yes, duh,” you may think now. But you would be surprised how many blogs I read and how much advice I received that entering the castle “is not worth it”. My advice: if you go all the way to Neuschwanstein, do explore the inside as well, of course.
The reason for the “not worth it”-argument is that the interior of the castle is quite minimal. Ludwig II. died before finishing the interior of the castle. Nevertheless, what is there is also quite interesting. And unless you really only go there to take a picture for Instagram, I recommend taking the guided tour, as you will learn about historical facts and personal stories about the king.
The inside of Neuschwanstein Castle can only be visited via a guided tour. Due to Covid-restrictions, we booked the tickets in advance. Even in “normal” times I recommend booking in advance. With 6,000 visitors daily, I would be worried that I may not be able to enter the castle once I travelled there without booking in advance. Tickets are EUR 13 (about USD 15), this price will be increased to EUR 15 in October 2021.
The tour takes about 30 minutes and is meticulously planned. When I visited, it was really quiet due to the semi-lockdown and travel bans. But I can imagine that the management of the castle had to time it precisely to manage the flow of 6,000 visitors daily. You will receive a time slot which will be announced in the courtyard of the castle. Only then, you can enter the inside of the castle.
The tour leads through 14 rooms on the 3rd and 4th floor. This may not sound bad but if you have trouble walking up stairs – and walking them fast – this tour may not be for you. You will have to walk up and down spiral staircases and take many, many steps. This was a challenge for some tour members. In addition, due to the meticulous timing of the tour, we felt we had to rush through the rooms.
I did enjoy the tour and found it interesting to learn about the history of the building. Nevertheless, I felt it was rushed. I would have liked to have more time to look at details or to learn more about the castle and its eccentric king. I do understand that given the high number of visitors, this is not possible logistically. But I do want to say here that 14 rooms in thirty minutes, including a lot of walking up and down stairs, is a bit hectic. Some rooms, like the throne room, were under renovation but the renovation work was incorporated in a way that I did not mind it (even though it did take up most of the throne room).
The Marienbrücke is the spot where the most iconic pictures of the castles are taken. During my visit, it was closed. I guess that this was due to renovation work – the management probably wanted to use this “once in a lifetime”-period with fewer visitors to renovate large parts of the sight. If it had been open, I would have definitely walked there to see the iconic view of the castle.
As I visited during the semi-lockdown, the restaurants in the area were all closed. (I am not sure if it was because of a semi-lockdown or because it was not worth for them to reopen as there are way fewer tourists than in normal times.) Only small kiosks offering snacks were open. Hence, I, unfortunately, cannot share any dining recommendations in this article.
Is Neuschwanstein Castle Worth Visiting?
Probably the most important question: Is the trip worth it? It is quite hard for me to give you a black-and-white answer. Let me answer by using the following visitor categories:
Overseas visitors: I guess if you come from overseas and you have not visited many castles and palaces yet, it is an interesting and impressive site. I do understand why it served as an inspiration for many fairytales and also for Walt Disney.
European visitors: Even if you are from Europe and have been to countless palaces and castles, I do think it is an interesting experience. The architecture is unique and it does look very beautiful in the Alpine landscape. Furthermore, I found the logistics which went into the construction and also Ludwig’s ambitious plans for the castle very interesting to experience. Ludwig II is often referred to as “crazy” or as having been a megalomaniac. I do not want to do the same in this article. I do think he had big dreams – and these dreams still contribute to a large extent to the tourism industry of the whole of Germany.
Another thing which I learned during the visit and through documentaries and reports before my trip, was the immense logistical planning relating to visitors. These visitor crowds leave their trails, especially when it comes to damages to the historic building. To deal with the masses, the castle management had to come up with innovative visitor management systems like the above-mentioned time slots and meticulously timed guided tours. Furthermore, special measures to prevent damage of the castle due to visitor crowds have been implemented: a hot air fan blows at visitors on a rainy day to reduce humidity which harms the frescoes and interior decoration.
Summing up, I would like to conclude that I think Neuschwanstein Castle is worth visiting once. I am not sure if I would like to visit it a third time, but it is a sight which is an experience to visit. I would also recommend to head to the nearby sister castle “Linderhof”, which I visited in 2007 as well. (It is about an hour by car from Neuschwanstein.) In this castle, Ludwig II built an even bigger grotto for opera performances (he especially loved Richard Wagner). I personally found the interior of Linderhof is more interesting than the one in Neuschwanstein Castle.
Furthermore, I would recommend to visit the area around the castle: explore the town of Füssen or Ehrenhof Castle which you will pass, if you come by car from Innsbruck.
I actually discovered one of the most beautiful places in Austria when we went from Innsbruck to Neuschwanstein: We took the Fernpass, a mountain pass, and stopped at its peak which overlooked the Blindsee – a beautiful lake shimmering in blue, green and turquoise.
In the distance, we could see the Zugspitze mountain.
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating and based on the information on the websites (listed above) and the information provided at the location. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended places above.