When Katie and I decided to take a mother/daughter trip to the Alsace region of France, she proposed that we tack on a couple of days so that she could visit Neuschwanstein Castle. What I hadn't known was that she had been enchanted by Neuschwanstein since seeing a photo of it in grad school, years ago. We used Munich as our base and as luck would have it, the day we chose to visit the castle was picture perfect.
This is a view of Marienbrüke from the castle.
A Little History
King Ludwig ascended to the throne in 1864 at the young age of 19. Two years after he became king, Prussia conquered Austria and Bavaria and Ludwig had difficulty accepting his new, diminished role. Already enthralled with the works of Richard Wagner and fascinated by the Middle Ages, he embarked upon a project of building Neuschwanstein. He chose a location in the shadow of the Bavarian Alps just above Hohenschwangau, the castle where he spent much of his childhood.
Construction began in 1869 and proceeded until his mysterious death in 1886. The castle was far from complete as of his death and his family promptly ended construction due to financial constraints. Ludwig spent only 172 days in the castle before his death and it was opened to the public a mere six weeks after he died.
The tour inside is relatively short - about 30 minutes - as so much of the interior was unfinished as of Ludwig's death. Nevertheless, it's a good insight into Ludwig's love of Wagner's works which are represented in tapestries throughout the castle.
Photographs aren't allowed inside the castle, but the views of the exterior and the surrounding area are breathtaking.
How to Get to Neuschwanstein
We chose to go on our own which was easy from our Munich base. It's a two-hour train ride from Munich to the town of Füssen. As an aside, in the "live and learn" category, we bought our train tickets from the kiosk at the station in Munich. We repeatedly typed in Fu... and the machine kept giving us only one option which wasn't Füssen. We finally found the information desk where we were patiently told that we had to type the ü (with the umlaut). Success!
Trains leave the Munich hauptbanhof (train station) to Füssen on a regular basis and the cost is about 26€ one way. Depending on the departure time you choose, you may have one transfer, but there are also nonstop options.
Once you arrive at the Füssen station, there will be a city bus waiting to take you the few miles to check in for the tour. You can buy a 4.8€ round-trip ticket when you board the bus.
Take the 73 or the 78 bus to the castle.
Tickets for the Neuschwanstein tour cost 15€; buy your ticket online before your visit. Tours inside the castle are only possible with a guide. Once you arrive at the ticket office in Füssen, check in and pay for your ticket. From there, you can walk the approximately one mile up to the castle or you can take a horse-drawn carriage at a cost of 3.5€. The walk is uphill, but it's beautiful and worth it for anyone who is in relatively good physical condition. Likewise, touring the castle involves climbing up and down steps.
Once you arrive at the castle, look for the number that corresponds to the number on your reservation. This will be your tour time. We arrived early and enjoyed the easy walk to the Marienbrüke to take the iconic photo of the castle. There is a gift shop to buy souvenirs and snacks at the castle.
The lovely path leading to the castle.
The icing on the cake was the view from the castle itself of the autumn foliage in the Bavarian Alps.
Below is Hohenschwangau, Ludwig's boyhood castle, as seen from Neuschwanstein. It's possible to tour it, but we concentrated on Neuschwanstein. You could also make Füssen your base which would allow as many days as you'd like to tour the castles and explore this beautiful part of the country.
Katie was thrilled to finally see the castle she's had her heart set on for so many years. It was a beautiful and memorable day!
➜ Top Tips
Don't be afraid to go on your own, without a guide or an organized tour. The train is easy to figure out.
If you're not in great shape or have any mobility issues, don't walk up the road to the castle; take a horse-drawn carriage or the bus and save your legs for the castle.
Be sure you get there before the time on your ticket.
Be sure to walk over to the Marienbrüke for that iconic view!