But compared to other castles in the country, Neuschwanstein is neither old nor was it ever built for defense. Ludwig II of Bavaria constructed this fairy tale castle in 1869 for pure pleasure. Ludwig, who was allegedly mad and draining the public coffers for his pet project, never enjoyed his dream castle — before Neuschwanstein was completely finished he mysteriously drowned in a nearby lake. Whether this was an accident, suicide, or a deliberate act by one of his subjects may never be known.
Ludwig II built it as a fantastic summer retreat with the help of a stage designer. He admired Richard Wagner, and Neuschwanstein is a homage to the German composer. Many scenes of Wagner's operas are depicted in the interior of the castle. In fact, Neuschwanstein shares the same name as the castle in Wagner's opera Lohengrin.
And despite the castle's medieval appearance, Ludwig built in modern technologies of the day, such as flush toilets, running hot and cold water and heating. But what set people's imagination truly on fire is the elegant spires jutting up from the spectacular setting and the decadent interior design. Neuschwanstein was Walt Disney's inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland and its image has come to symbolize the quintessential castle.
Tours take crowds of visitors through the apartments and staterooms of the king on the third and fourth floors. The second floor was never finished and houses a shop, a cafeteria, and a multimedia room.
- Address: Alpseestrasse 12, 87645 Hohenschwangau, 73 miles southwest of Munich
- Website: www.neuschwanstein.de
- By Car: Take the Autobahn A7 towards Ulm-Füssen-Kempten; when the Autobahn ends, just follow the signs to Füssen. From Füssen, drive the B17 into the direction of Schwangau, and then continue to Hohenschwangau.
- By Train: Take the train to Füssen, then hop on the bus Nr. RVA/OVG 78 into the direction of Schwangau. Get off at the Hohenschwangau/Alpseestraße stop and walk up the hill to the castle.
- For a fee, a horse-drawn carriage is available to avoid the climb.
- You can only visit the lavish interior of the castle as part of a guided tour. Tours last approximately 30 minutes.
- German and English tours are available. For visitors who speak another language, there is an audio tour available in Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, Polish, Chinese (Mandarin), Portuguese, Hungarian, Greek, Dutch, Korean, Thai, and Arabic.
- Tours for wheelchairs are available.
- Entrance tickets for Neuschwanstein Castle can only be bought at the ticket center in the village of Hohenschwangau below the castle.
- Combination tickets for all of King Ludwig II's palaces (Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, and Herrenchiemsee) are available They are valid for six months and you can visit each of the palaces once.
- No photographing or filming is allowed inside the castle.
- For the best panoramic pictures, take a walk up to the recently restored Marienbrücke which crosses a spectacular waterfall (Pollät Gorge) and gives you a breathtaking view of Neuschwanstein and the plains beyond. Note that this walk may be closed in icy conditions.
- Neuschwanstein is a very popular attraction most crowded in summer (around 6,000 visitors a day or more than 1.4 million people annually). The best time to visit is spring or fall mid-week.
- This popularity also means that entrance tickets may sell out. To ensure entrance, reserve tickets in advance.
- Large backpacks, strollers, and other bulky objects may not be taken into the palace.
- Combine Neuschwanstein with a visit to the Castle Hohenschwangau, where Ludwig spent most of his life. It is lesser known but no less spectacular.
- Neuschwanstein is the highlight of the scenic drive Romantic Road.