If you’re traveling to Bavaria, visiting Neuschwanstein Castle has got to be on your Germany bucket list. Visitors flock to get a glimpse of this fairytale castle– and, with architecture that inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and a location nestled in the German Alps, it’s not hard to see why!
If you want to see this jaw-dropping site for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about visiting Neuschwanstein Castle to make your Bavarian adventure as epic as possible.
History of Neuschwanstein Castle
Schloss Neuschwanstein (pronounced Noy-schvaan-stine) was dreamed up by King Ludwig II, who ruled Bavaria from 1864 to 1886. Ludwig was referred to as the “Swan King”, “Fairytale King” and the not-as-nice “Mad King”, due to his reclusive and, at times, odd behavior, like exiting the castle through windows instead of doors and his preoccupation with extravagant castles.
This obsession is believed to be linked to Ludwig’s unhappy and lonely childhood. He lived out his days in the Gothic– style Hohenschwangau Castle his father had constructed and was comforted only by fables and his fantastical imagination, full of knights, dragons, and yes, fairytale castles.
When the 18-year old Ludwig unexpectedly ascended to the throne after his father’s sudden death, he swiftly decided to build his very own elaborate castle, complete with a whopping 200 rooms and with intricate murals of Biblical fables and Bavarian legends painted on every wall.
Construction for this over-the-top castle started in 1869 and by 1886, Ludwig officially moved into the Neuschwanstein when 15 of its rooms were completed.
Unfortunately, Ludwig died just a few weeks later, with his body being found, alongside the body of his psychiatrist, in a lake. It’s debated to this day whether his death was a murder, suicide, or perhaps, even an accident..
After his passing, the funding and construction of Neuschwanstein was immediately terminated and the very unfinished Neuschwanstein was opened to the public just seven weeks after (and ever since!).
How to Get to Neuschwanstein Castle
Getting from Munich or Innsbruck to Hohenschwangau
Neuschwanstein is located in the tiny town of Hohenschwangau, tucked away in the Alps along Germany’s southern border. The closest major airports are either Munich, Germany or Innsbruck, Austria.
The easiest way to get here is to rent a car and drive (just under two hours from Munich or about an hour and a half from Innsbruck). Driving in Germany is pretty approachable, with well-maintained roads and cautious, respectful drivers– I’d highly recommend getting a rental car here, due to the flexibility it provides.
If you can’t swing a rental car with your budget or don’t wanna mess around with driving abroad, you can instead take a tour, like this one or this one from Munich, or this one from Innsbruck.
Alternatively, from Munich, you can take public transit to get to the castle. Start at the main train station, Hauptbahnhof, and take the “Munich to Fussen” train. At Fussen, you’ll depart and follow the crowd (who, at this point, are almost all certainly headed to the castle as well) down the platform and to the right, where the bus stops are. Grab a #73 or #78, which will take you to the Hohenschwangau stop in about 10 minutes. And ta da, you’re there!
There isn’t such a straightforward public transit option for Innsbruck, so I’d recommend taking this tour instead.
Getting from Hohenschwangau to Neuschwanstein Castle
Once you arrive in the teeny town of Hohenschwangau, you’ll need to make your way up to the castle itself, perched atop a tall hill. You’re not allowed to drive or bicycle here but you do have a couple ways of getting there:
- Good ol’ walking! If you’re driving to Neuschwanstein, you can park in town and start walking to the castle from here.
The walk is around 1.5 km (or about 30-40 minutes) uphill. There’s a LOT of talk online about how tough and steep the climb is, but so long as you’re in reasonably good shape or otherwise do not have mobility issues, you should be just fine!
Plus, you’ll be hiking through a dense pine-tree forest, with small waterfalls sprinkled throughout the path– it’s so beautiful, you won’t even notice your booty burning!
- Alternatively, there’s a shuttle departing from the town’s Parking Lot 4– it costs €2.50 for an uphill trip, €1.50 for a downhill one, and €3 for a roundtrip ticket. Given how narrowly the roads were built, the shuttles will not take you directly to the castle itself, but instead, to Mary’s Bridge, which is uphill from, and overlooking the castle. You’ll need to walk about 500 m down a fairly steep gradient to reach the castle from here.
Note that the buses do not run on a fixed timetable and, while they run all year round, they don’t operate when it’s snowy or icy.
There’s also horse-drawn carriages that transport visitors to the summit, but I would strongly recommend against this option– horses used in this manner are often not treated very well. So get those glutes fired up and let’s hike up that hill!
Tickets for Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle
It’s free to tour the exterior of the castle and explore the surrounding hiking trails, but if you want to see inside the unfinished fantasy palace that Ludwig dreamed up, where he spent the last weeks of his life, you’ll need to purchase a ticket for a guided tour.
You can either purchase your tickets (for €17.50) at the ticket office or online ahead of time.
When you purchase tickets in person, you’ll need to head to the ticket office, which is near the base of Neuschwanstein’s hill; they’re not sold at the castle itself. It would be a very un-fairytale start to your day to climb up the steep hill to the castle, only to find out you need to swiftly head back down to get your ticket!
I’d strongly recommend purchasing your ticket ahead of time. Not only will you skip the lines at the ticket office, but only a limited number of guided tours, at allotted times, are provided each day. Most tours are conducted in German, a handful available via audio tour, and usually just a couple provided in English. They frequently sell out online ahead of time, so if you head to the castle when all the tours are sold out (or are only available in German), you’re kind of out of luck!
Note that if you do purchase your tickets ahead of time, tours leave promptly at the allotted time– there’s no refunds, exchanges, or take-backsies if you accidentally spent too long at the bierhall earlier in the day. So, be sure to bake in plenty of time to stand in line at the ticket office, get up the hill to the doors of the castle (if you’re shuttling, shuttle lines can get REALLY long in the summertime), and be ready to go at least 10 minutes before your tour is scheduled to depart.
What to Expect While Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle
You may have heard rumblings on the internet about how visiting Neuschwanstein Castle is overly touristy and that the tour sucks and isn’t worth it. So what gives?
My honest opinion is that, yes, lots of people will be visiting Neuschwanstein Castle at the same time as you, as they should– it’s one of the most stunning buildings I’ve ever seen!
And with respect to the tour itself, it’s definitely worth it (unless you’re an ultra budget traveler, it’s only €17.50), but it is also very much worth going in with realistic expectations.
If you choose to go inside Neuschwanstein, you’re not going to see Sleeping Beauty or a singing teapot or anything that quite lives up to the “Fairytale King” moniker. Instead, you’ll be shuffled, over the course of a half hour, from stunning room to stunning room, learning a quick overview of Ludwig and the castle.
Is it the best tour ever? Not really. Do they show you the entirety of the castle? No, definitely not. Is it cool to climb the spiral staircases in the towers of the castle, examine the exquisite murals painted on the walls, and stand inside the most famous castle on the planet? Totally!
Tips for Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle
- Come early and, if you can, on a weekday. More than 1.3 million people visit Neuschwanstein each year, with crowds swelling up to 6,000 per day in the busy summer months.
Even though tour group sizes are restricted within the castle’s walls, you’ll still encounter the masses while you’re outside the castle and trying to enjoy its surroundings. By staying the night in town and hitting the castle bright and early (or alternatively, after 3 PM), you’ll miss the majority of crowds, who flock here on day tours from Munich and will avoid having to go straight-up battle royale with another tourist to get the best shot of the castle.
- Hit Marienbrücke and the hiking trails. Exploring the inside of the Neuschwanstein isn’t the end of your fairytale castle adventures.
Hike uphill from the castle approximately 700 meters to Marienbrücke (or “Mary’s Bridge”), which spans over the Pollat river, to get that iconic view, with the jaw-dropping castle set against a landscape of the towering Alps, turquoise lakes, and pine trees forests. The bridge is narrow and, thus, can get quite crowded– so be prepared to share the bridge with new friends!
Most travelers just stop at the bridge and immediately head back downhill– but not my savvy traveler friends! For you, you can actually cross over Marienbrücke and continue along the hiking trails on the other side that head off into the woods. Here, you’ll find dense forests, virtually no other tourists, and unparalleled views of the castle. Definitely recommend!
Best Time for Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle
The most popular time to visit Neuschwanstein is in the summer season, when the skies are clear and the surrounding mountains and rolling hills are green. Given how crowded it can get, though, I’d recommend avoiding this time if you can– instead, coming during the shoulder season of April through June or mid-September to October gives you a solid chance at fabulous weather and lower crowds.
You can certainly visit Neuschwanstein in the winter– it can actually be quite magical, given you’ll likely have the place largely to yourself (short of around Christmas and New Years) and the castle will be covered with a powdery blanket of snow. On the other hand, the shuttle system, bridge, and hiking trails all close when it’s snowy or icy, so your trip may be quite a bit more limited than if you choose another time of year.
Where to Stay Near Neuschwanstein Castle
As mentioned above, I’d recommend staying in Hohenschwangau so you can wake up bright and early to see the castle. This is what my husband, Justin, and I did when we visited Neuschwanstein and I’m so glad we went with this option– plus we had fun exploring this tiny town the night before.
Consider staying at:
- Hotel Villa Ludwig: This hotel, which sits directly below the hill the castle is perched on, is where Justin and I stayed and I LOVED it. The rooms were cozy and romantic, PLUS, there were so many ways to see the castle from the hotel– from our private balcony in our room, the patio behind the hotel, the freakin’ hot tub?! Case closed.
- Hotel Müller: Conveniently located next to the ticket office, clean and modern rooms, and surprisingly affordable rates, this hotel is a great option. Sitting in the shadow of the Hohenschwangau Castle, this would be an especially excellent choice for visitors planning on exploring both castles while they’re in town.
- Schlossrestaurant Neuschwanstein: If you’re on a tighter budget or are, like, REALLY not into climbing steep hills in the early morning, consider a stay at this inn, which is literally just a two minute walk downhill from the castle’s doors.
This feels more like an upscale hostel than a swanky inn (mostly due to the shared bathrooms), but it more than makes up for it with its fantastic free breakfast spread and the fact that you get to feel like a VIP by driving your car up the aforementioned hill to the castle where cars are generally not allowed (with free parking!).
The town of Hohenschwangau is teeny and largely revolves around Neuschwanstein tourism. If you’re looking for a slightly more authentic experience, consider, instead, staying in Fussen, a small town, just a 10 minute bus ride from the castle.
- Hotel Sonne: This hotel perfectly balances being family friendly, while still being a four star hotel, with a sun terrace, sauna, and incredibly helpful staff to make you feel at home.
- Hotel Hirsch: While this historic hotel looks straight out of a Wes Anderson movie, you can still expect modern rooms, a spectacular (free!) breakfast, and an excellent location near Fussen’s Old Town.
- Hotel Christine: In this modern hotel, you’ll have a private balcony, many of which overlook the Alps and even, off in the distance, Neuschwanstein and will be served a gourmet breakfast each morning, lovingly cooked up by the hosts. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better value around Neuschwanstein for the price point!
What to Do Around Neuschwanstein Castle
So you spent 4-5 hours at Neuschwanstein— what else is there to do in this part of Bavaria? Turns out, a ton, but here are a few suggestions:
- Hohenschwangau Castle: Remember where our boy, Ludwig, hung out as a kid? Hohenschwangau, located within walking distance from Neuschwanstein, was Ludwig’s boyhood home and jump-started his obsession with elaborate fairytale castles. While the building’s exterior is not quite as impressive as Neuschwanstein, its interior definitely takes the cake!
- Linderhof Palace: If you just can’t get enough of Ludwig’s castles, he also built this palace, which is a smaller, yet just as exquisite example of the king’s taste. You’ll also get a bit of a feel for that odd behavior Ludwig was known for– due to his bad teeth, Ludwig could only eat soft food and wanted to hide this fact from his staff. Accordingly, he invented a “disappearing table”, where his food could be swapped out for the softer variety.
I hope you enjoy visiting Neuschwanstein Castle– it’s one of the most stunning buildings I’ve ever laid eyes on. Do you have any questions about visiting Neuschwanstein Castle? Let me know in the comments below!