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Germany: Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau Castles

There are only a few movies that really stuck in my memories when I was a child. One of these was “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, the Disney movie in which the magical car flew over the most amazing castle. This was pre-CGI (the movie was made in 1958) so I knew the castle had to be real. It was many years later, as an adult, I discovered the name of the castle was Neuschwanstein and that it was located in Germany’s Bavaria region.

NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE

Neuschwanstein, which literally translates to “New Swan”, is located near the village Hohenschwangau, which has its own castle that is also open to the public. This castle was the ancestral home of King Ludwig II and growing up he dreamed of building a second castle just up the hill to act as his personal retreat. He commissioned the castle in 1868, just two years after Austria and Bavaria were conquered by the Prussians in the Austro-Prussian war. Sadly, Ludwig never got to see the work completed as he died in 1886 and the final towers were not completed until 1992. The castle was originally known as New Hohenschwangau Castle and did not take the name of Neuschwanstein until after Ludwig’s death. Originally, the castle was intended to have 200 rooms, but funds ran out and only a dozen or so rooms were completed. Today, you can visit the fourteen completed rooms.

Unfortunately, they don’t like you taking pictures during the tours. Below are some stock shot images of the beautiful interiors of Neuschwanstein. The advantage of these shots is that they are free of the tourist hoard.

Neuschwanstein Castle is elaborately decorated with romantic images from the Middle Ages, along with religious depictions. Despite its medieval appearance, it had all the modern conveniences of the time. This included running warm water, a bell system, flushing toilets, and even large window panes (which were very uncommon at the time.) Ludwig had great attention to detail, which accounts for the interesting features throughout the castle. For instance, a large ceramic swan is in almost every chamber. These served to help heat the rooms with hot water, and as decorative vases in the summer. Other fascinating aspects of the castle include a grotto between the drawing-room and the study. You read that right- an indoor grotto! It opens up into a conservatory with the most spectacular view of the valley. It even had its own fountain and rainbow machine!

Much of the castle’s details were inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner (whom Ludwig greatly admired.) For example, the grotto was representative of Wagner’s opera, Tannhäuser.

In addition to the fascinating architecture, Ludwig also had the interior painted with beautiful murals. Some of the most stunning is in the Throne Hall, with depictions of Jesus, the twelve apostles, and canonized kings. This room also has a massive chandelier modelled after a Byzantine crown, which weighs more than a car! Another beautiful mural was painted in the Singers’ Hall (one of Ludwig’s favourite rooms.)

THE REAL-LIFE DISNEY CASTLE

As well as a scenic backdrop in the Disney movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” the castle had a more lasting influence on the Disney empire. While on vacation in Europe, Walt Disney and his wife visited the Neuschwanstein Castle. Disney was so inspired by the fairy tale architecture and surrounding landscape, that he modelled his Sleeping Beauty Castle after it. He returned home and constructed Disneyland with the castle as its centrepiece.

The Disney Castle

There are no self-guided tours around Neuschwanstein but there are plenty of tours that leave regularly throughout the day. The tours of the castle take around 45 minutes but you can spend as much time as you like wandering around the courtyards of the castle. There are several trails that lead from the castle into the surrounding woodlands, which are very enjoyable in their own right, offering fabulous views of the castle with great photo opportunities.

HOHENSCHWANGAU CASTLE

Whilst you are here you should also visit Hohenschwangau Castle, King Ludwig II’s childhood home.

Planning your visit to Neuschwanstein Castle

TICKETS:

As one of the most popular destinations in Europe, lines to get your tickets for the castle can get to be long. As in, hours and hours long. For that reason, you should get your tickets ahead of time (at least 2 days) if you want to avoid wasting precious vacation time at the ticket counter.

PARKING:

Because there is no parking at the castle itself, you’ll need to park down the hill near the Ticket Center. There’s a large parking lot on the corner of Parkstraße and Schwangauer Str. Helpful hint – you need to pay at the kiosk before you can exit (not at the exit itself.) 

GETTING TO THE CASTLE:

By Train / Bus:

The Neuschwanstein Castle is a perfect day trip from Munich, Germany. Trains leave hourly from Munich’s main train station, Munich Hauptbahnhof. While the castle is in a tiny village called Hohenschwangau, you’ll need to book your ticket to Füssen, a charming little town just a 10-minute bus ride away.

Tickets for the train can be purchased through the GoEuro website. Choose between a first-class ticket, which gives you an assigned seat in a comfy leather chair, or a second-class ticket. The latter does not guarantee a seat. If you purchase a second-class fare, make sure to arrive at the train station early to snag a seat before they’re all occupied.

Another option is the Bayern ticket, which may be available depending on the time you’re travelling to Hohenschwangau. Bayern tickets offer huge savings on transportation within the state of Bavaria and to the first stop across the border (such as Salzburg, Austria — another great day trip from Munich).

By Car:

Take the A7 motorway (direction Ulm-Kempten-Füssen) until the end. From Füssen first follow the road B17 to Schwangau, then the signs to Hohenschwangau
or
take the A7 motorway until the exit Kempten and then the road B12 to Marktoberdorf. Follow the road B16 to Roßhaupten – OAL I to Buching – and then take the road B17 to Schwangau and Hohenschwangau.

Neuschwanstein is about a mile up the road from the Ticket Center. If you don’t feel like walking, you can take a shuttle or horse-drawn carriage, for a fee.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Castle tours last about 35-45 minutes and are offered in several different languages. The entrance can be crowded and confusing, so I’d recommend getting there at least 10 minutes early to find your group. Also, photography is not allowed inside the castle. They are very serious about that. If you wish to take pictures, you must apply for a permit here at least 10 business days prior to your visit.

Address:Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany
Website:neuschwanstein.de
Telephone:T:+49 8362 930830
Hours:

April to 15 October: 9 am-6 pm
16 October to March: 10 am-4 pm
open daily except for 1 January and 24 / 25 / 31 December

Admission Fees

15 euros regular · 14 euros reduced

Children and young people under 18 are free.

Best time to visit Neuschwanstein Castle

The months from November through April have the lowest crowds (except during the holiday seasons of Christmas and Easter). The weather may not be ideal but during winter months you may be able to see Neuschwanstein covered in snow. Shoulder season (May, June, and October) is another great time to visit Neuschwanstein

Where to stay near Neuschwanstein Castle

1. SEEHOTEL UND APPARTEMENT SCHNÖLLER

This Hotel is located directly next to the scenic Forggensee Lake, just 8.7 mi from Neuschwanstein Castle. Seehotel und Appartements Schnöller offers a sauna with lake views and a garden.

You can also relax on the terrace on the beach, where panoramic views of the surrounding mountains can be enjoyed.

Seehotel und Appartements Schnöller has a children’s play area with a trampoline, and Rieden Sailing Club is just 800 feet away. Füssen Train Station is 5.3 mi away.

2. LANDHOTEL SEEBLICK

Set directly at the shore of Lake Nassereith, Landhotel Seeblick enjoys an beautiful location against a scenic mountain backdrop, a 5-minute walk from the center of Nassereith. The restaurant offers Austrian and international dishes. During summer, meals are also served on the terrace.

The Seeblick Landhotel is surrounded by a garden with a sunbathing terrace and a lawn. It further features a bar. A garage for mountain bikes and motorbikes is available.

3. HOTEL FANTASIA

Set in an Art Nouveau villa, this Superior hotel offers design rooms, free WiFi, and a garden with mountain views. Füssen Train Station is 500 feet away.

All of the rooms at Hotel Fantasia feature cable TV and a private bathroom. Many have a balcony or terrace.

A large breakfast buffet is served each morning at Hotel Fantasia. The large garden of the Fantasia Füssen provides panoramic views of the Bavarian Alps and the historic Hohes Schloss Castle.

Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle are a 5-minute drive from Hotel Fantasia. Private parking is available at the hotel.

 

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