Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria is Germany's premiere fairy tale castle. It is a dreamy blend of the best of Roman, Gothic, and Byzantine style architecture, a concept known as Burgenromantik in German. A fairly modern castle from the 19th-century, it pays homage to the German composer Richard Wagner and was designed by the (possibly mad) King Ludwig II of Bavaria at an astronomical cost of 14 million Deutschmark—roughly $8 million.
Today, it is one of the country's top destinations. It inspired Walt Disney's theme park castles and has legions of fans—about 1.3 million people visit it every year looking for that picture perfect moment.
However, capturing that fantasy image may be more difficult that it appears. Depending on the time of year you visit, the weather changes access to the best viewpoints, and it looks entirely different from summer to winter. And since there are no private pictures allowed inside (rest assured that the website offers plenty of castle beauty and souvenir books full of pictures), getting that dream shot of the exterior can be the highlight of your visit. So prepare to find the best light to photograph Neuschwanstein Castle.
How to Plan Your Visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein From Munich
Neuschwanstein Castle is located in the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen, about one hour 45 from Munich.
If you need help organizing your journey, there are many tour companies that help arrange transport and offer further information on the surrounding area and castle.
Note that entrance tickets can only be bought at the Ticketcenter Hohenschwangau in the village of Hohenschwangau below the castle. Buy your tickets (13 euros) before making the trek up. They are only valid on the day of your visit, and the number of tickets available each day is limited so they may sell out by the afternoon.
Deutsche Bahn trains run from München Hauptbahnhof to Neuschwanstein regularly. The train trip takes around two hours. The journey consists of a train from Munich to Füssen, then a 30-minute ride on bus 78 from Füssen to Hohenschwangau.
To reach the castle itself, it is a 25- to 30-minute light uphill walk of about a mile. Or give yourself a break by taking one of the charming horse-drawn carriages for about 6 euros per person, or a less-charming (but still effective) bus ride for 2 euros per person (note that with both options there is still a short 300-meter walk). If you prefer, you can take a taxi from the train station for about 10 euros.
The cheapest way to get here on public transport is the Bayern Ticket. It costs 25 euros for the first person and 6 euros extra for each additional person traveling with that first person. A maximum of five people can travel on one ticket. The ticket is valid for one day (starting at 9 a.m. and running until 3 a.m. the next day), so you can return on this ticket.
If you are traveling by car, it is just short of a two-hour drive from Munich (or just an hour from Innsbruck). Take the A7 motorway toward Ulm-Kempten-Füssen, then follow B17 to Schwangau with signs to Hohenschwangau.
Public parking will be limited during high times. It usually costs around 5 euros.
Once you spot the castle from this pedestrian bridge, you will recognize this iconic view. This is Schloss Neuschwanstein at its most impressive.
Marienbrucke (or Mary’s Bridge) is suspended over Pöllatschlucht (Pollät gorge) and looks back at the castle and far-off lakes of Forggensee and Bannwaldsee. When the mist rolls in, it appears as if the castle sits on a cloud. Behind you, looking at the castle, an impressive waterfall rains down below your feet. The original bridge was constructed in 1845 by King Maximilian II and has been renovated many times throughout the years.
The bridge is reachable by an easy uphill path which takes about 15 minutes from the castle or 25 to 30 minutes to reach from Hohenschwangau. If you choose to walk, know that it is not wheelchair- or stroller-friendly, and proper footwear is necessary. Or visitors can take a shuttle up for about 2 euros per person.
As this is the undoubtedly one of the best places to photograph Neuschwanstein Castle, the downside is that it can be quite crowded. You might need to patiently wait your turn for the best spot or do some careful editing to remove unwanted elbows. To avoid crowds, the shoulder season of May, June, September, and October are best; or go early or late to avoid the midday crowds. But the castle is magical in all types of weather from stunning fall leaves to snow-capped peaks to gleaming sunshine.
Also, beware that this is a fairly wobbly bridge, and visitors afraid of heights might find the trip not worth the picture.
Another note of caution is that the path and bridge are often closed in winter months because of dangerous icy conditions. Other issues, like rock slides, also may close the bridge. Consult the website for up-to-date conditions.
Location: Wanderweg Zur Bleckenau, Schwangau, 87645
Most visitors make it to Marienbrück, take their picture, and walk back down. However, they're missing the opportunity to find unique angles of this legendary castle on the paths surrounding it.
The Allgäu is a destination in itself and provides everything from leisurely walks to challenging mountain climbs. Simply cross the bridge and poke through a little well-worn underbrush for a slightly different view of the castle. Continue on 120 kilometers of hiking trails that extend in both directions and are well-marked, leading all over the surrounding hills to nearby towns and destinations.
For example, the Königliche Waldwanderung (Royal Forest Walk) traverses three castles (including Neuschwanstein), three museums, and even several waterfalls.
Be aware that the hiking paths are often off-limits due to weather whenever the bridge is closed. They are also not as well-monitored so traverse the paths at your own risk.
Location: Throughout the Allgäu
While photos aren't allowed within the castle, it is really something to see the castle up close.
Walk between the matching gatehouses with the Bavarian coat of arms and examine the many details dreamed up by stage designer Christian Jank and King Ludwig himself. It is covered in fanciful towers, ornamental turrets, ornate gables, and romantic balconies. Sculptures and paintings brighten the facade, and its towers topping out at 213 feet appear downright quaint when standing right next to it. And if you do choose to enter the castle, there are incredible views of the surrounding countryside from every room.
One of the tragedies of Neuschwanstein is that the king never got to see the castle finished. It was opened to the public in 1886, just seven weeks after the king's mysterious death.
Location: Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau
From the Valley
Most people spend their visit looking at the castle the whole time, but a stop in the lowlands allows you to admire the open fields and farmland at the base of the hills and truly respect the magnificence of the mountains. Neuschwanstein appears swaddled in Alpine greenery. From this perspective, you get the true scale of the mountains and the jewel of the castle.
Location: Valley below Neuschwanstein Castle
Hohenschwangau is the village closest to the castle at the base of the mountains. This is a popular place to stay, as well as the nearby larger city of Füssen. From here, visitors get their first glimpses of the castle.
Peeking out of the treetops, Neuschwanstein is a promise of glamour but Schloss Hohenschwangau is also right there. Hohenschwangau Castle was King Ludwig II's childhood home. Most people walk right past it on their way to the fairy tale castle up the hill, but it is well worth a stop.
Its foundation dates back to fortress Schwangau from the 12th Century and it was miraculously undamaged during WWII. Unlike Neuschwanstein, this is a castle that was finished and lived in. Its rooms are elaborately decorated and it is much less crowded than Neuschwanstein.
Location: Alpseestraße 30, 87645 Schwangau
A unique way to see the castle is in a cable car. The Tegelbergbahn soars through the sky at heights of up to 1,700 meters in altitude. The ride takes about 10 minutes and offers incredible views of both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles as well as the surrounding mountains. Want to share pictures to your Instagram immediately? Utilize the free wifi in the cable cars.
If you would like to hike back down from the top, there are peekaboo views of the entire region. Note that trails may be closed in inclement conditions.
Location: Tegelbergstraße 33, 87645 Schwangau
In summer a cruise runs on Forggensee, Bavaria's fifth largest lake. It provides picturesque views back at the mountain with peekaboo sightings of the castles.
Explore the sparkling lake every summer on a quick 55-minute jaunt around the southern end, or a full two-hour tour.
Location: Boats depart from Füssen Harbour (Weidachstraße 74, 87629 Füssen)
From the Air
For a truly one-of-a-kind look at the castle, take to the sky. Visitors can look down at the entire Allgäu region with a ride on a hot air balloon, or by helicopter, or even by parasailing.
If you are traveling on a budget, the ride by helicopter is one way to beat the traffic. You can book a flight straight from Munich which lasts for about 90 minutes and shows you all the sights of the region.