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Neuschwanstein: a real life fairytale castle

29 January 2015

image from Neuschwanstein: a real life fairytale castle

Neuschwanstein Castle has always been high on my list of places I wanted to visit, right up there with the likes of Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum. It’s one of the world’s most famous castles and was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle. It’s location is quite remote though (about 2 hours out of Munich in southwest Bavaria) so you really need to make a special trip to see it, but it’s definitely worth going out of the way for.

We booked a day tour to Neuschwanstein Castle through Viator, departing from Munich train station at 9:30am. Our guide for the day escorted us to the platform and we boarded a train to Füssen.

Before the train departed our guide brought us up to speed on the history of the castle. It was built between 1869 and 1886 under King Ludwig II of Bavaria, primarily as a personal retreat. King Ludwig was a great admirer of Richard Wagner, the world-renowned composer, and many of the rooms inside the castle were inspired by Wagner’s characters.

While Neuschwanstein looks very much like a fairytale castle, it was equipped with state of the art technology at the time, including running water and central heating. Ludwig moved into Neuschwanstein’s finished rooms for the first time in 1884 but the castle remained unfinished at the time of his mysterious death in 1886.

After 2 hours on the train we arrived in Füssen and hopped on a bus to Hohenschwangau, a tiny village where the Neuschwanstein ticket office is located. The bus dropped us off outside a small cafe where we stopped for lunch before embarking on the uphill walk to the castle.

Along the way our guide took us past Alpsee Lake and Hohenschwangau Castle. I definitely would have liked to see the inside of Hohenschwangau Castle if we’d had more time.

In the summer months there is a bus service that will take you up to Neuschwanstein Castle. Unfortunately, the bus doesn’t run in winter. You have the option of taking a horse and cart but there is always a queue for this. The walk takes about 20-30 minutes and is uphill all the way but it wasn’t too strenuous. Plus it was probably good for burning off the apple strudel I had eaten the night before and we were rewarded with some nice views at the top.

To see the inside of the castle you need to take a guided tour which lasts for 30 minutes and allows you to see all the completed rooms. Tours are offered in German and English, with audio guides available for other languages. Unfortunately I found the guided tour to be quite dull, the commentary was obviously rehearsed and sounded as if it were being read from a book. It would be nice to have some guides with a bit more personality and enthusiasm. The interior was stunning though, and in pristine condition given that the castle had barely been lived in. There is even a small grotto between the salon and the study which I thought was pretty cool. Sadly, they don’t allow photography inside the castle.

The best views of the castle are from Marienbrüke, a bridge that crosses a large gorge. The path to the bridge is often closed in wintery condtions and it was the day we were there. But this did little to deter us and other visitors from accessing the bridge, you just have to climb around a couple of gates. It was definitely worth it for the views.

After snapping some photos on Marienbrüke it was time to make our way back to Munich. Our train departed around 4pm, getting us back to Munich a little after 6pm. This is easily a trip you could do independently but I enjoyed going with a tour, we only had a small group and our guide gave us a lot more information on Neuschwanstein and King Ludwig than we got on the castle tour (and I found the whole story of his life quite fascinating). Having grown up in Munich our guide was very knowledgeable about the city and even gave us some tips on other things we could do on the rest of our trip.

I had such a fantastic day visiting Neuschwanstein, I can’t believe it has taken me this long to see it!

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