Schloss Neuschwanstein, or Neuschwanstein Castle (as it is known to the million+ of foreign visitors each year), is one of the most fully documented of Germany's historic buildings.
Far be it then for us on Romantic Road Germany to add yet another web page giving a quick overview of the history and the life of Ludwig. And anyway, if you are visiting Schwangau, you are going to see it from internally or externally and are probably going to read enough about it during your stay.
So what's left to say about the castle? We nabbed a local tour guide who's got many years of experience in taking people to the area and asked her to answer some useful questions about it? Such as, for example:
I've lived in a cave for the last 60 years - what is this Neuschwanstein Castle?
Neuschwanstein is the fairytale castle of Mad Kind Ludwig of Bavaria. It's the castle they flew over in the children's film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It's the motif on thousands of pieces of Bavarian tourist tat and the destination for hundreds of tour coaches every day. It's a romantic idea of a castle built during the 19th century in a beautiful mountain setting.
Should I actually take a tour of the castle?
A better question than you might think. In high season, the castle is jammed full of tour groups and individual travellers from early until late (if you want to choose a less busy time she thought that later in the afternoon might be a better option as many of the tour groups have to be on their way to their overnight stop).
The interior of the castle is interesting - but not astounding - and it can require a goodly wait to buy tickets and then another wait for your alloted time to tour to arrive (see lower). And many people's most vivid memory of the spectacular castle and history is of the exterior of it - either looking at it in its setting in front of the mountains or else alternatively from behind it (or above it) and out onto the River Lech and the Forggensee.
But if you are there and have the time, by all means...
How long does a tour last?
Just over half an hour.
What should I do if I don't visit the inside?
Or, of course, if you have some more time once you have visited the castle.
Definitely take the time to walk up to the Marienbrücke (the suspension footbridge behind the castle) where some of the lovely shots of Neuschwanstein with Schwangau in the background have been taken. This bridge (which is older than the castle) spans the gap over a waterfall nearly 100 metres below. It is not named after the Virgin Mary but after King Ludwig's mother.
Or visit the less-famous (and thus less-frequented) neighbouring castle of Hohenschwangau. As you may tire of hearing, King Ludwig only lived in Neuschwanstein for less than six months and Hohenschwangau Castle, the residence of his parents, was where he grew up.
Or walk down towards the Alpsee, the small lake to the south of the two castles. There is a pleasant walk around the shore of the lake with some lovely views back across the water to the historic buildings.
Or walk up into the hills or mountains on one of the clearly-marked trails (pick up a walking map at the local tourist office or one of the shops) and catch some amazing views of the castles and the surrounding mountain scenery from above.
Finally, we asked our tame guide for some of her top tips for visiting the castle:
- get your ticket for the castle tour before you do anything else - there can be a wait at the ticket windows (located at the bottom of the hill before Neuschwanstein)
- remember that you can't anticipate the time of the tour that you will be allocated - thus plan the rest of the time around the tour
- don't underestimate the trip up to the castle - there is a bus but it can be very busy in high season and the walk may be further than you think
- remember that there are hundreds of steps inside the castle and no lifts - disabled visitors should arrange tours beforehand with the ticket office
If you'd like some more information from the official source, details such as opening times, prices, etc., are available from the Bavarian Palace Department's website: www.neuschwanstein.de