Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most visited castles in Europe, receiving about 1.4 million tourists every year. If you are planning to visit it you should know that beyond Neuschwanstein, which is one the most important attraction of Germany, Bavaria has many other amazing things to be seen. In your itinerary you could include for example a visit to other castles, to beautiful towns and gorges and you could also go skiing and hiking.
In this post I will talk about some places that you could visit in a 3 or 4-day stay period. Let’s start with two castles, both in the village of Schwangau (Swan County).
Hohenschwangau Castle (Castle of the High Swan County)
Originally it was called Schwanstein Castle and was a medieval fortress; over the centuries it changed hands several times, until the abandonment. It was purchased in 1829 by King Maximilian II, Ludwig II’s father, who restored it between 1832 and 1837 and turned it into the summer and hunting residence of his family.
Neuschwanstein Castle and King Ludwig II
Probably it is the most fabled castle in the world. It has inspired the castles of Disney parks and some animated films such as Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty.
It is impossible to talk about this castle without talking about its king, Ludwig II.
With the death of Maximilian II in 1864, his eldest son Ludwig II was crowned king. Defeated in the war against Prussia, he lost power and began to isolate himself from public life.
The “New Hohenschwangau Castle” was built with Ludwig’s personal funds between 1869 and 1886 in the place where before lay the ruins of two other castles and opposite the Hohenschwangau Castle. It was conceived as a place for Ludwig’s personal retreat, where he could feel a truly king, as a monument to art and culture and as a tribute to the musician and his good friend Richard Wagner, who he particularly loved. It was inspired by the romances, legends and poems of the Middle Ages (as Lohengrin and Tristan und Isolde) and Wagner’s works.
Once completed, the building measured 6,000 square meters distributed in 4 floors. It has 200 rooms and towers that are 80 meters high, but when Ludwig died only 14 rooms were completely finished. Ludwig II lived in total only 172 days of his life in the castle.
Ludwig II was declared insane by the State Council. He was arrested in his room on June 12, 1886 and transferred to the castle of Berg, south of Monaco. He was found dead the next night, drowned under mysterious circumstances in the Lake of Starnberg.
After his death the works at Neuschwanstein were stopped and the initial projects of the castle have never been completed. The chapel and the throne for example have never been constructed.
Ludwig II built two other castles in Bavaria and had planned other ones, however with his death the works have never started. A painting in the throne room, to the left, portrays one of these never built castles: the Falkenstein fortress, even more fabulous than Neushwanstein, whose construction should have begun in 1886.
Ludwig II has never married and he has left no heirs. A few weeks after his death, the castle was called Neuschwanstein and it was opened to the public, contradicting king’s will.
Near Neuschwanstein lies the Pöllat throat. Ludwig II built a bridge that connects the two mountains as a gift to his mother, Marie of Prussia, who loved to walk through the woods surrounding the two castles. The Mary’s Bridge (Marienbrücke) is 90 meters high and offers a privileged view of Neuschwanstein. You can get there in 15 minutes walk from the castle or 40 minutes from a branch of the main route that leads to the castle.
Tickets – € 13,00 (2017) for each one of these two castles; a discount is provided for combination tickets. Children and young people under the age of 18: free entrance.
Ticket office opening time (2017):
– from January, 01 to March, 31 and from 16, October to December, 31: from 9:00 to 15:00
– From April, 01 to October, 15: from 8:00 to 17:00
It is highly recommended to reserve your tickets online to avoid the long queues at the ticket office. In this case you pay extra € 1.80 per castle per person. The reservation is done by filling in an online form on the website https://www.hohenschwangau.de/543.html, until two days before the desired day for the visit. Changes are allowed according to the availability, before the day of the visit and requested in writing.
You will be sent a confirmation email with the reservation code. Print it out and take it at the ticket office on the day of the visit. Arrive at the ticket office at least 1:30 hours before your visit. Payment is made at the time of ticket collection.
From the ticket office you get to Neuschwanstein by carriage, bus or on foot (40 minutes uphill), and to Hohenschwangau by carriage or on foot (20 minutes with the stairs behind the hotel Müller, next to the ticket office, or 40 minutes uphill with a scenic route that allows you to see the beautiful Alpsee lake).
– Carriages: depart from Müller Hotel. € 6.00 uphill and 3.00 downhill.
– Shuttle bus: € 1.80 uphill and € 1.00 downhill, suspended when there is snow on the street. Departures from the parking lot P4.
For both castles you must pay attention to the turn of your visit, indicated on the ticket. By getting to the castles from the main entrance, you will quickly find the turnstiles which will allow you to enter only at the time displayed on your ticket, not even a minute before. You can not enter if you are late.
The visit to both castles is made exclusively as part of a guided tour. The guide will take you to the first floor, where audio guides will be distributed. Each visit lasts about 40 minutes.
Check the website of the castles for updated info: http://www.neuschwanstein.com/englisch/tourist/index.htm
It is forbidden to take pictures inside the castles. If you wish to have images of their interior, it is better to buy a book in the souvenir shop.
Arriving by car
There are plenty of available parking places in the village of Hohenschwangau. Cost: € 6.00 for six hours or € 7,50 for the entire day.
Getting there with public transport
With the German railways (http://www.bahn.com) up to Füssen, then by bus until the stop of Hohenschwangau Castles-Neuschwanstein, Schwangau.
Check bus schedules at http://www.rvo-bus.de
I wrote a post some weeks ago about the Leutasch Gorge and Mittenwald, that can be visited in 1 day and could be included in your itinerary. Take a look: http://breathingeurope.com/leutasch-gorge/
It is located in one end of the Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse) which connects Würzburg to Füssen through various places of historical interest. It has been inhabited since the times of the Roman Empire. If you go by car: there’s a free parking in Kemptener street in a 10-minute walk from downtown.