Since Thomas was based in Frankfurt, we were looking for a nice location for a small winter getaway which we could possibly combine with a skiing day, since I am a bit of a snow lover (which does not necessarily mean I am a good skier). Therefore, the options available for us were either going to Bavaria or Swiss. For money constraints, we decided to go to Bavaria which is a region on the southeast part of Germany, near the Austrian border and its Tyrol region, a beautiful part of the Alps.
Our next top destination: heading to the south of Germany where there lies one of the most beautiful and well-preserved jewels of Germany: the Neuschwanstein Castle. To visit this architectural jewel, we decided to have our base in Füssen (check our post here) We got you covered and prepared all you need to enjoy to the fullest your visit in the Neuschwanstein Castle.
THE CASTLES - WONDERS OF THE BAVARIAN ALPS
On the day of the visit of the castle, we woke up early since we had booked our visit online for the Neuschwanstein for 1 p.m (yes, you must choose a time and you cannot enter the facilities before or even after it). Once booked online, they require you to pick up the tickets at the Tickets Center until one hour and a half before. And besides, we also wanted to walk around the forest and take some nice photos of the castle from the outside before getting in. There are plenty of bus lines (the main ones being 73 and 78) that take you from Füssen bus and train station to the castles. Yes, castles. There are two! The most famous one being Neuschwanstein and the oldest one being Hohenschwangau, the latter was bought and reconstructed by King Maximilian, the father of King Ludwig II - the swan king responsible for building the Neuschwanstein.
For visiting each castle, the price is 13 EUR (reservation fee of 1.80 EUR per ticket when booking online). If you want to visit both, there are some packages available (25 EUR). Apparently, during summer, the number of visitors is very high and reserving online is highly recommended. It can be done up to 2 days before your desired visit to the castle. However, as we visited it on a Friday during winter, we thought maybe it was not that necessary to book online.
HOW TO GET TO THE NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE?
It was finally time to head up to our destiny: the castle! You can go up to the castle by 3 different ways (check here for availability):
- Walking up : for free, if you come by car, the parking costs 6 EUR for the whole day;
- By shuttle bus : 1.80 EUR per person for the way up and 1 EUR for the way down. Round-trip is 2.60 EUR and you may pay either at the cashier which is located at the bus station or directly to the bus driver. (Attention 1 : The bus does not go directly to Neuschwanstein castle but leaves you on a path of 15 minutes to it. Attention 2 : on the day we went, the bus was out of service allegedly due to weather conditions.);
- By horse carriage : 6 EUR per person for the way up and 3 EUR for the way down.
We'd strongly recommend you - especially if you like trekking and have time to do so before the schedule time of your visit - to go up by walk. But don’t make the same mistake as we did...
A NICE WALK ITINERARY TO REACH THE CASTLE
1. First stop: the Alpsee Lake
With your tickets in hand, you can start exploring the surroundings before heading up. Walk down the road to the Alpsee lake which is surrounded by mountains and offers an astounding view. On the way to go to the Alpsee Lake, you can also see the Hohenschwangau castle.
2. Second stop: the Marienbrücke bridge
To reach the Marienbrücke bridge, don't follow the main road (Neuschwansteinstraße - which is a 1.5 km street on a steep uphill road) but rather go through one of the trails throughout the forest to have one of the most stunning views of the castle.
Nonetheless, if you are a bit lazy to walk all the way up, you can still catch the bus up (if it's not out of service), which will drop you nearby the Marienbrücke bridge. This bridge offers the most iconic and beautiful view of the castle.
Unfortunately, the bridge may be closed. However, some trails offer a similar view, though you'll need to get out of the main trail and be very careful due to the cliffs which can be dangerous. When the bridge is open, it is possible to cross it and if you continue the trail up to Tegelberg (the ski mountain nearby), some mesmerizing panoramic views will be offered to you.
3. Take the trail and stop to take photos of the Hohenschwangau Castle
After this, take the trail to the castle and stop by at the turn which provides a breathtaking view of the Hohenschwangau Castle and the mountains on the background. If you go during winter, this trail might be closed to access from the castle since it gets slippery when the snow melts in the morning and refreezes at night, turning to ice and making the descending part very adventurous (we literally went all the way down grabbing ourselves in the handrail).
As the access to the bridge was closed, at the end of the trail up to the castle we faced a closed gate, meaning we would have to go back to the main path and then go up again. We are not glad to admit it but, as we were lazy to do it, we jumped over the gate which we would not advise you to do and, if you do, we are not responsible for the consequences hehe!
4. Stop at the skywalk to check the front of the Neuschwanstein Castle
Before heading in to the castle, stop at the skywalk to observe the front of the castle. Unfortunately, when we went there, they were doing some maintenance on the facade of the entrance, but they forecast to finish the renovation works for mid-2018, so if you are able to go there after this period, your photos will be nicer than the ones we have.
5. Guided tour of the Neuschwanstein Castle
Finally, after all the walking and taking photos, we got through the gates to start the guided tour. It is necessary to enter at the exact time written in your ticket, which you have to scan at a machine. It is not possible to advance or postpone your visit, so pay attention to the time of your visit! Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take photos inside the castle, but if you're really curious, you can get a virtual tour here!
The visit is made in groups with a guide giving some info along the way. In the beginning the guide gives general information about King Ludwig II, a nostalgic monarch who, unsatisfied and uninterested with the current political situation of his realm, preferred to focus on his artistic endeavors for celebrating ancient royalty lines and knights’ legends by building a fantasy world around him in which, little did he know, he would only spent few days.
We were really impressed with how they were able to build such a castle on top of a mountain during the second half of the XIX century, and plus, equipped with modern technology for that time. When you see all this modern technology inside, you notice that King Ludwig was really dedicated to his new castle: sink with a faucet, automatic flushing system in the toilets, hot air central heating in all the rooms, a telephone line and electric bell system to call the servants; what a modern castle at the time!
Our highlights of the whole visit would be: the throne room which occupies two floors with a big cupola and chandelier; the bedroom of the King featuring a washstand with a fountain of spring water; and the unusual grotto and winter garden which was built with carton as an artificial drip-stone cave (with a waterfall) which leads to a glassed room with an uninterrupted view of the Alpine foothills.
At the end of the tour, after the gift shop, there is a multimedia room broadcasting a short movie which explains how the castle was built (from the inspiration until the parts that were planned but not completed after the death of King Ludwig II). The movie starts every quarter and last around 13 minutes, it helps to understand the architectural and engineering process of the construction of this famous building. If you have some time, we advise you to watch it!
It is worth mentioning that we were not completely satisfied with the visit model of the Neuschwanstein. While it is nice to go on a guided tour, as there are a lot of groups scheduled, the visits are rushed to go from one room to another. There is not much time to enjoy and sinking in all the details and beauty of all the rooms. One may say they just want to make money out of the castle more than sharing this cultural heritage with people.
Of course, there's much more to see and to do in the Bavarian Alps. If you want to know more about this enchanted region, read our post about Füssen which contains information about this colorful city and the main attractions to visit in the area (check it here).
And now it's your turn to let us know your impressions, thoughts and also tips to visit this region of Germany. Did you have the chance to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle? Which other attractions would you recommend? We look forward reading your comments in the section below.