One Day in Bavaria, I Went Here…
Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany can be stressful. It doesn’t need to be.
Neuschwanstein Castle is set high on a hilltop among incredible scenery, but it is a bit of a headache to get to if you don’t plan accordingly in advance. If there is just one lone tip you listen to from this post, it’s this one: Get your ticket to Neuschwanstein Castle in advance and pay extra to reserve a specific time, which you can do up to two days before arriving.
And then don’t be late – which isn’t as easy as you might think. Here’s why.
The line to get tickets onsite is usually incredibly long, and even if you bought your ticket in advance you need to pick it up at the ticket center (though there is a separate, usually shorter line for this). If you don’t already have a designated time, they will assign one when you get there, which could be longer than expected depending how many people arrive ahead of you. That’s why if you’re short on time, it’s wise to upgrade to the online option of securing your time in advance. But then be sure to get there on time. “There” is important, though, as it’s not just to the ticket center, it’s to the actual castle entrance and that takes awhile.
You’ll be Arriving in Hohenschwangau…Not at Neuschwanstein Castle
Once you have your ticket in hand, you may think you’re all set to tour Neuschwanstein Castle, but not quite. When you arrive to Neuschwanstein Castle, you’ll actually be arriving in Hohenschwangau, which is where you must park. Hohenschwangau is basically a little village wholly dedicated to tourists arriving to see the Neuschwanstein Castles and a couple other attractions, namely the Hohenschwangau Castle (skip touring this if short on time). There are also restaurants, shops, and the ticket counter I mentioned in the above paragraph.
Once you arrive in Hohenschwangau, focus on parking as fast as possible. There is only paid parking and I parked in P4, which is relatively close to where you’ll begin the journey to Neuschwanstein Castle…which is quite the journey.
Find a Parking Spot…Then Hurry Up and Wait
After you park, which can take a bit of time getting through the line of cars if it’s the height of busy season, it’s still at least another 20 minutes to get to the castle – and that’s only if you can get on one of the castle buses right away. You can also walk or take a horse-drawn carriage up the hill to the castle, the former of which takes about 40 minutes unless you’re in great shape since it’s a steep hill. The carriage is faster, but still involves a 10-15 minute walk (as does the bus) since it can’t access any roads to drop you right in front of the entrance.
So in order to make sure you aren’t late and don’t miss out on your tour time, I’d recommend arriving in Hohenschwangau about an hour before your ticket time. It might seem like a waste of time if you’re limited in how long of a stay you have in Bavaria, but luckily the scenery around the castle is beautiful and helps make up for the length of time you need pre-tour.
Start that walk up the hill (or bus or carriage ride) straight away, and if you have spare time when you get to the top, while it away on Marienbrücke Bridge.
Marienbrücke Bridge: Cross it for the Views…if You Dare
Marienbrücke Bridge is just a few minutes walk down a sloping trail from the castle entrance and hangs magnificently between two cliffs, but I was a bit terrified to go onto it, for this reason:
But luckily the bridge didn’t collapse and I was able to get some incredible shots of Neuschwanstein Castle with Alpsee Lake glistening in the background. (On a side note, maybe it’s a miracle it didn’t collapse because apparently the bridge is currently closed for renovations until May 2016.)
If you’re there when the bridge has reopened and don’t think you’ll have time to make it to the Marienbrücke Bridge and back before your ticketed time to tour, go to the bridge after. Remember, you don’t want to miss your tour time!
Waiting to Enter Neuschwanstein Castle…No, You’re Not at Disneyland
About five to 10 minutes before the time on your ticket, head to the outdoor waiting area, where you’ll mill around until your slot is shown on the screen. Then you’ll be able to get in line to go in.
Neuschwanstein Castle is nicknamed the Sleeping Beauty castle for good reason. Its majestic towers and turrets stretch up into the sky flanked by white and gray toned walls and elegant fortifications are reminiscent of the famous Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland. Waiting to enter, it may start to feel as if you actually are at a Disney amusement park due to all the hoopla surrounding getting up to and inside the castle, but once inside, the atmosphere will immediately change as the varied play in light and mesmerizing architectural details of the castle envelope newcomers in a stately welcome.
Touring Neuschwanstein Castle…Which King Ludwig II Never Wanted
Neuschwanstein Castle was built by King Ludwig II in 1868 in order to be a place tucked away in the mountains where he could escape to and live a more private life. Toward the end of his life, King Ludwig II was quite a recluse and Neuschwanstein Castle provided a haven for him until his death in 1886, after which the castle was swiftly opened up to the public, who have been touring the rooms of the former king ever since.
Because the castle was never intended to host other royals or guests, I thought it had more of an intimate feel in its setup and décor, despite still being a massive residence that is laid out with typical palace rooms: a hall, oratory, bedroom and dressing room, dining room, grotto and more – all of which are elaborate and intricately detailed. Photos aren’t allowed inside Neuschwanstein Castle so you’ll have to visit it yourself to see the splendor of it.
The second floor of the castle was never completed during Ludwig’s time, though later was converted into a restaurant and gift shop where you can spend some time after your tour.
Back Down to Hohenschwangau…Through the Wilderness
It was a gorgeous day when I visited Neuschwanstein Castle so instead of waiting for the bus to go back down, I decided to walk. I was smack dab in the middle of the Bavarian Alps after all, and though the trail was a bit steep and unpaved, I had on sturdy sandals so it seemed a shame not to take some advantage of the wooded nature surrounding me.
I was glad I did.
Neuschwanstein Castle Quick Tips
Address: Alpseestraße 12, D-87645 Hohenschwangau
Phone: +49 (0) 83 62 – 9 30 83 – 0
Neuschwanstein Castle Open Hours: March 19 to October 15, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; October 16 to March 18, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Open daily except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Ticket Office opens and closes one hour earlier.
Neuschwanstein Castle Cost: Adults, €12; Children, Free with Adult; Students, €11
Online Reservations: Click here (€1.80 surcharge to reserve date and time — WORTH IT)
Bus Cost (to Neuschwanstein Castle): Uphill, €1.80; Downhill, €1; Roundtrip, €2.60
Horsedrawn Carriage Cost (to Neuschwanstein Castle): Uphill, €6; Downhill, €3
Parking Cost: €5
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