Getting to Bavaria’s fantasy castle
Schloss Neuschwanstein, a fairytale castle perched on a hill in the Bavarian Alps, provided the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty palace. The castle, built in the Romantic style, towers over a lake, and multiple spires and towers reach into the sky. More than a million people visit Neuschwanstein every year and, on some days, 6,000 visitors tour its elaborate interior. You can drive to the castle, but lines for its parking lots can be long. Instead, taking a train ride through the Bavarian countryside is worth the price of the ticket.
Mad Ludwig’s castle
Neuschwanstein, the most famous of King Ludwig II’s castles, overlooks the Hohenschwangau valley. The cornerstone was laid in 1869, but the king didn’t move into the castle until 1884. He drowned in a lake south of Munich in 1886 along with the doctor who had recently deemed him insane, dethroning him in the process. An inner garden is the centerpiece of the castle’s courtyard, but only 14 interior rooms were completed before the king’s death. A two-story throne room in the Byzantine style, adorned with angels, never got its throne. Ludwig, a great fan of Richard Wagner, had the fourth floor Singers Hall decorated with characters from the composer’s operas. For a fairy tale beginning to your visit, take a horse-drawn carriage ride to the castle.
Munich to Neuschwanstein by train
It’s about a two-hour train ride from Munich to Fussen, the closest train station to Neuschwanstein castle. Trains run hourly from Munich Hauptbahnhof, the main train station. Some are direct while others require a change in Buchloe or Kaufbeuren. Once in Fussen, you can catch a bus to Schwangau, where the Hohenschwangau ticket center is located. Once you’ve purchased your ticket, take a bus, walk, take a taxi or hire a carriage. Several routes lead to the hilltop castle. The most direct walking route takes about 30 minutes, but other, longer walks are more scenic.
Guided tours from Munich are probably the easiest way to get to Neuschwanstein Castle. Tour groups board buses or the train for the ride to the castle or the station in Fussen. Knowledgeable guides explain the history of the castle and lead groups to the best vantage points for views of the castle, the mountains and the lakes in the distance. Some tour operators add extras like a dip in the castle’s lake or a bike ride through the countryside. Many of the one-day tours allow visitors to skip the line at the castle’s ticket booth.
Other options include private tours with hotel pick-up and drop-off, tours that include other castles in the region, and sightseeing trips with stops in Oberammergau, site of a passion play that’s been performed every 10 years since 1634.
Purchase tickets for the castle tour ahead of time, if possible. Tickets are issued for a specific time on a specific day so there may be none left for your preferred tour at the ticket center in Hohenschwangau. Tickets are not sold at the castle itself. Make reservations online or by phone, but you must stop by the ticket center at least an hour before your scheduled tour time. The Hohenschwangau ticket booth is close to the stop where buses are arriving from Fussen.
The castle is open year-round, with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day. Winter hours from mid-October to March are shorter.
Afternoons are the busiest time at the castle, so reserve tickets for the morning. If you’ll be in Germany for an extended period of time, consider buying Bavarian Palaces and Gardens season tickets, which provide access to more than 40 sites in Bavaria.