Neuschwanstein — The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Disney Castle Original

Fairytale vacation or nightmare? This guide will help you.

Neuschwanstein. A fairy tale castle hidden away in the Bavarian Alps. Built by King Ludvig II of Bavaria, nicknamed the Mad King. Placed on a cliff, some hundred meters above the small village of Hohenschwangau in southern Germany.

The castle is world-famous and high up on many photographers' bucket lists. Visiting the castle and the fairytale-like surrounding areas is quite an experience if done right. This guide will help you avoid some mistakes and get a pleasant visit.

Where is it? How to get there?

The castle is remotely placed at the foot of the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany, close to the Austrian border. The closest major city is Munich, about two hours away from the castle and is a great place to stay if you want to spend a few days in the area.

There are multiple ways of getting to Munich, but if you’re interested in a different way of traveling there I’ve written another article on how to take the car on the train through Germany.

Munich airport is the second largest airport in Germany in terms of travelers, so there’s a good chance that you can fly to Munich from pretty much anywhere in the world. Check the official website of the airport to see if you can reach Munich from where you live.

If you prefer going by train, Munich is a big hub in the Bavarian rail system with its three long-distance stations. From the main station, you can reach all the big cities in Germany. Some international lines are also available, mainly from Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, and Croatia to mention a few. Check bahn.de for timetables and routes.

Getting to the castle by car from Munich

If you have the possibility of renting a car (or travel in your own car) from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle, that is highly recommended! It will give you the freedom to make stops along the journey, as the landscape and villages are truly amazing in this area. The flat farm-like area in contrast to the mountains gives many great photo opportunities for landscape photographers. The road goes along the rolling hills and it is an awesome drive!

The drive from Munich to Hohenschwangau takes about two hours one way. If you do a day trip to the castle be aware that you will be tired and the two-hour drive back to Munich can feel tiresome. As an alternative, you can spend a night or two in the area of the castle instead, for instance in Hohenschwangau or in the larger town of Füssen.

If you do a day trip to the castle be aware that you will be tired…

You would probably take road 96 going west from Munich. When arriving in Landsberg am Lech you switch to the southbound road 17 that will take you all the way to Neuschwanstein castle. That trip is about 120 kilometers one way and goes through small villages in the Bavarian rural area. There are alternative routes, which are about the same in length and travel time.

Just before entering the small village of Hohenschwangau and the castles you will see a small church placed in the middle of the field. This is the St. Coloman Church. Make sure to stop here and take some photos as this is an amazing photo spot and not crowded in any way.

Parking

Arriving in Hohenschwangau you would find three different parking areas. You need to pay in cash to stay at any of them. All the parking lots are often quite crowded, so if you see a spot, take it, don’t drive around to try to find a better spot.

The major parking areas are on the outskirts of the village, but there is one that can be reached by driving through the village. Be careful though, because the narrow village street will be filled with walking tourists and horse carriages, at least during high season.

Getting there by train and bus

Trains leave every hour from Munich Central Station and arrive in Füssen two hours later. From there you would have to take a bus to reach Hohenschwangau and the castles. The bus leaves from the train station in Füssen approximately ten minutes after the train arrives. It takes about 20 minutes to reach Neuschwanstein, but during peak season the buses can be very crowded. The Deutsche Bahn travel planner is really good for planning and booking your trip.

Book tickets in advance

Guided tour or not?

To be able to see the inside of the castle you need a guided tour ticket. You are not allowed to venture the castle by yourself and you are not allowed to take photographs inside. The tour itself takes about 20 minutes and will only show you a small number of rooms.

The guides are good, but nothing special, at least for the English tours. You will hear the story of the mad king, King Ludvig II of Bavaria, why the castle was built and why it looks like it does. You might have a more stressful visit if going for the guided tour, as you will need to be at certain places at specific times, more on that later.

How to get the tickets?

Tickets are bought at the ticket center in the village of Hohenschwangau, not at the castle itself. You can buy tickets upon arriving, but you might have to stand in line for a long time to get to the counter. If there still are tickets left, you can buy some and will be assigned a time slot. Which time that is depends on what slots are left. If you’re unlucky you have to wait for hours for your slot.

Therefore it’s recommended to book your tickets online in advance. That way you can make a wish for a certain time slot and once you get the confirmation from the ticket center you will see exactly what time you should be there and can plan your trip accordingly. You will still have to fetch your tickets at the ticket center but can grab them from a fast lane. Be aware that you have to check out your tickets at least two hours before your castle tour time slot. You can only check them out the same day as your visit!

Time slot system

The castle uses a time slot system for people to enter the castle. This means that you buy a ticket for a certain time slot. You have to be at the castle entrance exactly at that time. If you miss the slot, your ticket is no longer valid and you will have to buy a new ticket (down at the village ticket center) to get in.

At the castle courtyard, there will be a turnstile and when your slot number shows up on the wall, the turnstile will be open for people with that slot number for five minutes. Once the group is gathered the tour guide appears and the tour starts.

Getting to the castle from the village

There are a number of ways to get up to the castle from the village: walking, horse carriage or bus. If you choose horse carriage or bus you will still have to walk 10–15 minutes before you reach the castle once you get off the vehicle. You cannot drive your own car or ride a bicycle to the castle.

By foot

This is the option that requires the least amount of pre-planning to get to the castle. It takes about 40 minutes to walk from the ticket center in Hohenschwangau up to the castle. The path is steep so it might take even longer if you need to take a break on your way up.

When choosing this option, you won’t automatically pass some of the nice viewpoints of Hohenschwangau and Alpsee. So after your visit to Neuschwanstein Castle, instead of walking down to the village again, make sure you take the detour to Marienbrücke first. That bridge is behind the castle and will give you that classic view of the castle with the open fields in the background. Halfway there you will also find a nice panorama spot with a great view over Hohenschwangau and the Alpsee lake.

By horse carriage

The horse carriages will take you up to the castle the same way as by walking. It costs 7 euros uphill and 3.50 euros downhill. You cannot reserve a ride beforehand, you just buy a ticket from any of the available carriage drivers and they bring you up on demand. The carriages cannot go all the way up to the entrance of the castle, so you will still have to do a 10-minute walk to reach the castle.

By bus

A shuttle bus drives frequently between parking P4 in Hohenschwangau and a bus stop close to Marienbrücke. It costs 2.50 uphill and 1.50 downhill. Round trip tickets are also available. There can be long queues at the bus stop in the village, so plan accordingly. There is only one bus and it takes some time for it to drive up the hill, drop off and pick up people and drive down again. If you are unlucky you will have to wait for 2–3 rounds before it’s your turn to go on the bus. Once you get off the bus you have two choices: Go for Marienbrücke and look at the castle from that viewpoint or go directly to the castle which takes about 10 minutes, unless you stop at the panorama point halfway to the castle to take some photos.

Photo-spots

Hohenschwangau village main street

When walking through the village of Hohenschwangau, don’t forget to look up towards the castles. You will have Neuschwanstein castle on one side and Hohenschwangau castle on the other. You can get some really interesting shots from this angle. You will most likely see the south-west facade of the Neuschwanstein castle with the high tower from anywhere in the village. Depending on your angle you will have the forest and mountain behind it, which can create a pretty cool composition. You might need a zoom lens to get some decent pictures as the distance is quite long between the village and the castle.

Marienbrücke

Marienbrücke (Mary’s bridge) lies behind the castle. It takes about 10–15 minutes to get there on foot from the castle itself.

The bridge spans the river Pöllat gorge and is nothing for people afraid of heights and/or crowds. The steel bridge has a wooden floor with big cracks in it and is often completely full of tourists taking photos. If you dare to enter the bridge you will be rewarded with that classic view of the castle that you’ve most likely seen in postcards, on puzzles, and on Instagram. You will have the mountains in your back, the castle in all its glory in the foreground and the green, flat fields and the Forggensee lake in the background.

If you look to the right, close to the mountains, you might get a glimpse of a cable car going up the mountain. This is Tegelbergbahn climbing the 1720 meter high Tegelberg. If the weather allows, you will most likely see paragliders hanging in the air close to the top of the mountain.

As a bonus, don’t forget to turn around so you have the castle on your back, to see the beautiful waterfall!

Go past Marienbrücke

If you are used to hiking in mountain areas, continue across Marienbrücke. This area is not made for the common tourist, so you will find fewer people here. As you climb up the mountain you will get a slightly different view of the castle. This might give you an opportunity to create a more original composition of the Neuschwanstein castle.

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