Today a dream for the last 8 years has been realized. 8 years ago, I was traveling with a group of people in Bavaria and we came to understand that we didn’t have time to see Neushwanstein Castle before moving on to our next destination. As Drew and I were trying to decide our route back to Italy from The Netherlands, we tried to think of places we could stop along the way that we haven’t seen yet. Neushwanstein came up, and hubby planned the trip, giving him the Husband of the Year award when we arrived to our hotel room with a view and terrace overlooking the stunning castle. Why, you ask, is Neushwanstein so popular? Well, this is the castle that inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. What die-hard romantic wouldn’t want to see it?
Upon hearing the whole story, however, even non-romantics will enjoy a visit to this attraction, which happens to be one of the most frequently photographed landmarks in the world. First of all, there is no gallant story of medieval Knight slaying a dragon here. Construction on Neuschwanstein was begun in 1868 by the Bavarian King Ludwig II, who was fascinated by the Middle Ages, the Holy Grail, and most significantly, almost all of Richard Wagner’s operas and the folklore associated with them. You can see swans in many motifs throughout the castle, bringing Lohengrin to mind. Almost every finished room has murals painted of scenes from Wagner’s operas. Unfortunately, Ludwig II tore down evidence of a real medieval castle from the 11th century to create this idealized monument to medieval culture. The foundation stone was laid in 1869.
The story surrounding Ludwig II will appeal to anyone who loves mystery and conspiracy theories. Although he was in debt, Ludwig II wanted to keep on building as only a small part of the interior castle was finished by 1884. As banks were threatening to seize property, the government had a psychologist examine him, and certified that he was insane. He was interned at Berg Palace, and died by drowning there at Lake Starnberg on 13 June 1886, along with the psychologist who has certified that he was insane. A little less then 2 months later, the castle was opened to the public for the first time. Unfortunately, Ludwig II died at age 40 with no wife or children to live out his legacy. Our tour guide told us that the Bavarian people loved him because he created jobs and many social programs. What really happened with this mysterious drowning? This is a question I suppose we’ll all never really know the answer to, and the mysterious air of this story ranks up there with Amelia Erhart.
Visiting Neuschwanstein is a must-do for your bucket list and we have a few tips for your time in Hohenschwangau:
- Try to stay 2 nights so that you are not rushed. We only stayed one night and did not make the time to see Hohenschwangau Castle, which is closer than Neuschwanstein to the hotels and tiny town center. We also enjoy hiking and there are a lot of really great hikes in the area that we missed out on. We would actually think about going back for the hiking again someday!
- Getting to the actual castle and being able to take the tour require advanced planning. When we arrived at our hotel the previous evening, we asked our hotel reception to help us book tickets. They were more then happy to help us, and actually added the tickets to the cost of the room. If we had not done that, we would’ve had to have waited in line the next day. Try to book ahead!
- Currently there are only 2 ways to reach the castle from the town center: on foot or by horse-drawn carriage ride. The 1.5km distance is uphill on the way there and downhill on the way back. Wear the appropriate shoes that you’ll need for this trek. If you’re someone who is not able to walk, plan on getting an early start. Lines for the carriage ride were quite long once the afternoon hit.
- Upon arrival at the castle, you will need to check your ticket number, which is displayed on a board above the turnstiles. Tours start every 5 minutes, but you can only go during your assigned number’s tour. Don’t miss the amazing 10-15 minute walk behind the castle, where you can stand on a bridge overlooking the castle.
- If you’re able to, driving and spending the night is a better way to see it then the train-bus day-trip option. It’s better not to feel rushed on your vacation!
- We haven’t had any experience with this since we came in April, but it is easy to imagine that this place gets mobbed in the summer! This would not be the ideal place to come during the hot summer with the rest of the world who also decided to come during the summer.
- Look past the “tourist Von Trapp” that is the entire town with souvenir sellers and abundance of tourists and relax and make your own vacation the way you want it. If you’re not a fan of crowds, will yourself to power through and you will be rewarded with a list-topping experience.
Neuschwanstein Castle is an unforgettable attraction that will leave you enchanted.