Visiting Sleeping Beauty’s Castle: a day at Neuschwanstein

One of the highlights from my recent trip to Germany was visiting the place that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle- Schloss Neuschwanstein.

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Two things struck me when I visited the area. Firstly, it’s crazy busy with tourists, so much so that it almost detracts from the charm of the castle. Secondly, the natural beauty of the region is so incredibly stunning that I’d list it in the top 5 most scenic places I’ve visited in the world. The mountains are rugged, thick with snow and pine trees and the rivers and lakes are the most intense green-blue colour I’ve ever seen.

Visiting the area is possible as a full day trip from Munich, but as there’a a lot to see in the surrounds I’d recommend staying a few days and exploring at a relaxed pace. Things to see include: two other castles- Hohenschwangau and Hohes, museums and galleries, beautiful hiking tracks, a ski resort at nearby Tegelberg and the charming town of Füssen.

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Below are some photos from my visit, info on the key sites and tips on how to make the most of your trip to the area.

 

 

Neuschwanstein Castle

Construction of the castle began in 1869, after King Ludwig II of Bavaria enlisted a stage designer instead of an architect to draw up the plans. The castle was to be his fairytale palace and was built in honor of Richard Wagner, whom Ludwig had been patron to since 1864. Sadly, the castle was still not complete in 1886 when Ludwig died.

Neuschwantein would go on to become Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s castles and the company’s logo. The castle now attracts over 6 million visitors a year, ironic as Ludwig intended that none of his castes ought to be visited by a stranger.

 

 

Hohenschwangau Castle

Located just across the valley from Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau is the castle that Ludwig and his family actually lived in. The 19th century Gothic castle was built upon 12th century ruins and has an authentic, well lived in feel, due to the presence of all the original furniture. The paintings, decor and ornaments inside the castle provide an interesting insight into aristocratic Bavarian life during the 19th century.

Füssen

This 2000+ year old town was founded by the Romans and is the perfect place to stroll around, taking a walk along the river or through the old streets. Whichever way you turn a scenic view will greet you. My only regret during my Germany trip was that I didn’t stay a few nights in the town- it was my favorite place in the whole country.

There are also a few notable sites, including the Hohes Schloss (High Castle) which houses a gallery that’s part of the Bavarian State Collection of Paintings. Most of the artwork in the gallery is late Gothic and Renaissance works.

Then there’s St Mang’s Basilica which houses Germany’s oldest fresco (dating back to 980) in its crypt and plays a central role in St Mang’s Feast Day (September 6th) where a holy mass is followed by a torch-lit procession through the old town. For the week of the feast special ‘Magnus Wine’ is sold- with only 500 bottles produced.

 

Walking from Füssen to the Castles

The highlight of my day was waking from Füssen along the river to the castles, and then back by lakes and the forest. This beautiful walk is roughly 4km in each direction, and the best bit was that I saw less than a handful of people- welcome solitude compared to the hundreds of tourists milling around the castle area. Walking also means you can appreciate different views of the castle from afar.

If you prefer not to walk then you can take the local bus for a few euro. It leaves from the train station and arrives in the castle precinct, but is very busy during peak times, so be prepared to wait.

 

Practicalities

Getting to Füssen from Munich: A return train ticket cost me 50€ in peak season, for a 2hr (each way) trip. I booked my ticket from the Deutsche Bahn website.

Castle Tickets: The only way to go inside the castles is on a tour, which you can book online up to two days prior to your tour date. There are various combinations of tickets available. You need to fill in a form and enter credit card details, but pay when collecting the ticket on the day. A 35 minute tour is 13€ for one castle or 25€ for both.

If it’s a last minute decision, you can still get tickets at the site until they sell out for the day. To have the best chance of getting last minute tickets, arrive early (the ticket center opens at 7.30am from April-October, otherwise at 8.30am) and if there are long queues head straight to the museum rather than waiting at the ticket center. When I visited there were at least 100 people queuing at the ticket center. I walked past them all to the very end of the road near the lake, where there wasn’t a single person at the museum counter and I was able to purchase one of the last 4 tickets for a castle tour. I’m very grateful to the friendly local who advised me on this little trick!

Map of the Castle area:

Further Tips

  • The Marianne Bridge (where the iconic photos are taken) is often closed in the colder months as ice makes the path dangerous
  • No photos are allowed inside any of the castle buildings
  • It can be very busy during peak seasons (summer and around Christmas) so be prepared for long wait times and many other tourists trying to get photos with the castle in the background. I coped with this by walking to the castles from Fussen- the solitude allowed me to recharge my introverted batteries!

 

 

Have you visited Füssen or one of these castles?

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