Neuschwanstein castle Germany as seen from Mary's Bridge

A pair of stunning castles, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, are conveniently located just a stone’s throw from each other. Hohenschwangau Castle was a childhood family retreat of the most tragic of characters, King Ludwig II. Neuschwanstein Castle was his own personal masterpiece. Romanticism, fantasy, tragedy, betrayal, and mystery all come to life on these two castle studded mountains in Bavaria. Add it to your Germany bucket list now!

The castles can be easily visited as one stop on your itinerary. However if you have time for just one, it should be ** Neuschwanstein in WINTER? Consider a magical winter trip to Neuschwanstein!Neuschwanstein.

Neuschwanstein castle Germany as seen from Mary's Bridge
Photo: Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany’s most famous landmark

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touring both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein

When we visited if you planned to tour both castles it was required to tour Hohenschwangau first. That is no longer the case. You can tour either castle first but they recommend a 2.5 hour gap between tour times. This ensures that you have enough time for your tour and to get to the next castle before your scheduled entry time.

pre-booking tickets:

It is highly recommended that you pre-book online BEFORE arriving at the castle in order to avoid long lines and the possibility of tours being sold out. If you are traveling during high season I recommend purchasing your tickets well in advance.

Advance tickets purchased online can be printed or show the QR code issued with your ticket purchase at the castle entrance via smartphone or tablet.

All tickets come with a timed entry. Wait outside the castle until your ticket number lights up on the entry board. YOU MUST ENTER WHEN YOUR TICKET SHOWS ON THE BOARD. If you do not, you will miss your entry window.

Book advance tickets here at the official ticket office.

Didn’t get advance tickets?

If you don’t already have tickets, be sure to stop at the ticket office located in the village of Hohenschwangau before you head up to the castle. Tickets cannot be bought at the castle. There are a limited number sold daily at the ticket center, but they can sell out fast.

castle interiors

Photography is prohibited inside both castles. The opulent interiors of both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein are fit for a king. Many of us have never seen the grandeur of the interior of these castles, so don’t skip the tour!

 

visiting Hohenschwangau Castle

Hohenschwangau Castle started out Schwanstein Castle in the 12th century when it was owned by the knights of Schwangau. In 1832 the badly damaged castle was occupied and rebuilt in neo-gothic style by  King Maximilian II, father of King Ludwig II. They used the castle as a summer residence and hunting lodge.

Hohenschwangau castle germany
Hohenschwangau Castle

touring Hohenschwangau

guided tours only: The only way to see the inside of Hohenschwangau is by guided tour.

tour duration: The guided tour lasts approximately 45 minutes.

steps: be aware that there are a total of 90 steps on the tour

opening dates: the castle is open every day of the year except CLOSED December 24th, 25th and 31st and January 1st.

prices and opening times: see the official castle website for current and up to date information about times and prices.

languages: The tour is offered in both English and German. Audio guides are provided for the following: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Hungarian, Czech, Polish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

how to get UP to Hohenschwangau

It’s a bit of a climb to get up to Hohenschwangau. The path to this beautiful castle, looking lovely in a bright shade of yellow, is a fairly short walk uphill.

Want to save your legs for the other adventures on your itinerary? Keep reading for Follow tips on an easier way to get up! Here are your options for getting up to Hohenschwangau:

  • walk: to Hohenschwangau Castle is about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • horse-drawn carriage:  trip duration: approx. 10 minutes. Departure point: in front of the Ticket Center. Price: Uphill trip € 5.50 / downhill trip € 3.00 (as of 1 August 2022) purchase tickets from the carriage driver. WINTER: the carriage service to Hohenschwangau Castle is discontinued during the castle’s winter schedule.

While you wait for your timed entry, you can explore around the outside of the castle.

Hohenschwangau Castle Collage Germany
Hohenschwangau Caste Courtyard

Don’t miss the view of Neuschwanstein Castle in the distance from Hohenschwangau.

Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles
Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles

Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein is the beautiful fairy-tale castle on the opposing hill. King Ludwig II spend his childhood looking at the spot where the castles stands from his boyhood summer home over at Hohenschwangau Caste. Shy quiet Ludwig II spend his time and talents dreaming up a romantic castle that the imagination of no princess could have bested.

Construction on this iconic German castle began in 1868 but due to Ludwig’s untimely death it was never completed. 

Disney

If ever there was a castle that truly inspired the fairy tale castles of Disney, not once but twice, it is Neuschwanstein. Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for both Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella Castles. 

how to get UP to Neuschwanstein Castle

The climb up to Neuschwanstein is a bit more taxing. You’ll climb approximately 1.5 km up a fairly steep uphill road, motor vehicles forbidden unless prior permission is obtained. You’ll need to give yourself ample opportunity to arrive at the castle prior to your tour time, no admittance for late arrivals.

Here are your options for arriving at the castle:

  • Walk: It’s about a 1.5 km, 30-40 minute walk, at a gradual incline.
  • shuttle bus: shuttle buses depart from parking P4 (below Hohenschwangau Palace). Buses take you above the castle and then you will need to walk back downhill to the castle. Uphill trip 2.50 euros / downhill trip 1.50 euro / return trip 3 euros (as of 1 June 2020) purchase tickets on the bus. NOTE: BUSES DO NOT OPERATE IF THERE IS SNOW OR ICE ON THE ROADS.
  • horse-drawn carriage: The horse carriage only goes part way up; you still have a short walk the remainder of the way uphill to the castle. Departure point: Hotel Müller, Alpseestraße. Price: Uphill trip 8 euros / downhill trip 4 euros (as of 1 August 2022) purchase tickets from the carriage driver. Year round.

(The easiest way: We took the bus up (less wait to be sure we made our time slot!), horse and carriage ride down, sorry not sorry! We do a LOT of walking when we travel, and I take any and all opportunities to save my legs!)

horse carriage ride transportation neuschwanstein castle hohenschwangau castle
horse and carriage ride at Neuschwanstein Castle

Use the horse-drawn carriage rides to save your legs, or to add a little romance to your day

Neuschwanstein Castle as seen from the path to Mary's Bridge Germany
various views of Neuschwanstein (exterior Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle tour

The only way to see the inside of Neuschwanstein is by guided tour.

On our visit they had us wait outside of the castle until our time came up on the electronic board.

Only about 1/3 of the interior of the castle was finished at the time of Ludgwig’s death, and construction ceased at that time. 

Tours are provided in English and German. Audio guide tours in the following languages: Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, Polish, Chinese (Mandarin), Portuguese, Hungarian, Greek, Dutch, Korean, Thai, Arabic and Hebrew.

A tour guide leads a small group of visitors through 14 rooms in the interior of the castle. The tour lasts approximately 30 minutes.

Be sure not to miss:

After the tour you can view a 13-minute informative video. Don’t miss the kitchen downstairs. There is also an upper courtyard, not covered on the tour, where you can see more of the exterior of the castle.

Study Room at Neuschwanstein Castle
Study
Throne Room at Neuschwanstein Castle
Throne Room
Singers Hall Neuschwanstein Castle
Singers Hall

Ludwig had plans for future expansion of the castle. Had he lived, this is what the castle may have eventually morphed into (from the castle website):

Neuschwanstein if it had been completed
Neuschwanstein if it had been completed

Ideal design for Neuschwanstein Castle by Christian Jank, 1869 -wikipedia

Where to eat (

There are places to eat around the souvenir shops/ticket center which is central to both castles.

There are a couple of options at/near Neuschwanstein. for tasty and affordable food. Here’s what we found to eat, just a little ways down from the castle, let your nose be your guide!

  • Cafe-Bistro at Neuschwanstein Castle, inside the castle, 
  • Neuschwanstein Castle Restaurant GmbH & Co. KG, down the hill a little ways (near where you’ll find the horse and carriages waiting to take people down the hill) 
  • Imbiss (snack shack) I love a good Imbiss!

My Imbiss food: a hamburger and pommes mit curry and mayo, The husband’s meal from the restaurant just round the corner: brat with German kraut and potato salad. (places to eat near Neuschwanstein Castle)

food dining options Neuschwanstein Castle Germany
Brats and Kraut from the restaurant, hamburger and pommes from the Imbiss!

Getting there

Here is some helpful information on getting to Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles:

Location

Schloss Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles are located in the small town of Hohenschwangau. If you’re driving, follow the signs to “Koningsschlosser” (the kings castles)

Address (Neuschwanstein Castle): Neuschwansteinstraße 20, Schwangau
Address (ticket center Hohenschwangau): Alpseestraße 12, Schwangau, Germany

car

If you’re driving, follow the signs to “Koningsschlosser” (the kings castles).

Distance from:

  • Munich 109 km (1 hour 43 min)
  • Innsbruck Austria 114 km (1 hour 43 min)
  • Stuttgart 228 km (2 hours 22 min)
  • Lake Constance 131 km (1 hour 49 minutes)
  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen 62 km (56 minutes)
  • Ulm 130 km (1 hour 20 min)

closest airports

  • Memmingen Allgäu Airport (FMM) – 61 km in Memmingen
  • Friedrichshafen Airport (FDH) – 94 km in Friedrichshafen
  • Munich Airport (MUC) – 118 km in Munich

public transportation

Bus
There is a bus stop near the parking lots. To check schedules and get detailed information about your best bus transportation options see the Rome2Rio website.

Train
The closest train station to Neuschwanstein is in Füssen. To find the best option for train ride travel including regional trains and direct trains see the Rome2Rio website.

Bayern Ticket

If you are traveling by train in Bavaria, you may be able to save money with the Bayern TicketWhat does it get you?

-Unlimited number of trips within Bavaria in one day
-Travel with up to 5 persons (small additional fee for additional passengers)
-Children up to 5 years always travel free of charge

Organized tours

Rather take an organized tour? Neuschwanstein is a great day trip from Munich. If driving and train/bus travel aren’t your style you can book tours from Munich (München) to Neuschwanstein with Get Your Guide. Let someone else take care of logistics for you! Group and private tours available. Here are some popular tours that included Neuschwanstein: 

(all tours leave from Munich unless otherwise noted)

arrival at the castle and getting your bearings

parking lot information

There are 4 separate parking lots, noted on the map below. P1, P2, P3, P4

Cost: from €10.00 per day (see the website for information on parking: motorcycles, mobile homes, disabled parking, bicycles)

Here’s a helpful map for getting your bearings. (Marienburcke is Mary’s Bridge.)

map neuschwanstein and hohenschwangau castles
Neuschwanstein Castle Map

tips and things to consider

prices

Current prices as of April 2023:

  • Adults: (Neuschwanstein: 15 €) (Hohenschwangau) (plus 2,50 € extra cost if booking online, applies to free and reduced tickets as well)
  • Discounts available for: children, senior citizens from 65 years old, students, handicapped people, hotel guest card, Königscard, and groups.

restrooms:

inside the castles are free. Everywhere else you pay.

the best place to take photos of Neuschwanstein

Looking to get the best view of the castle for that perfect photograph? There are several good vantage points in the area. Find them on your Google map, look for the little camera icon. Here are a few choices:

  • The Marienbrücke, (Mary’s Bridge) is a popular spot to get iconic views of Neuschwanstein Castle.
  • Pöllat Gorge: You will also find a viewing platform below the castle over the Pöllat Gorge.
  • Tegelberg. There are also numerous good photo opportunities of Neuschwanstein Castle from Tegelberg.
Angie Kunze We're Not in Kansas Anymore Neuschwanstein Castle
Have your photo take in front of Neuschwanstein Castle from Mary’s Bridge
Pollat Gorge as seen from Mary's Bridge Germany
Pöllat Gorge below Mary’s Bridge

View of Hohenschwangau from the path between Neuschwanstein and Mary’s bridge.

Hohenschwangau castle as seen from the path toMary's Bridge Germany
Hohenschwangau castle as seen from the path to Mary’s Bridge

webcam

Can’t travel just yet but can’t wait to get a look of the castle? Check out the webcams around Schwangau!

best time to visit and avoid crowds

1.5 million people visit Neuschwanstein castle each year. However, winter’s blanket of snow brings a calm quietness to the area so you may find fewer crowds this time of year.

The general rule for avoiding the worst crowds at popular tourist attractions are:

  • Visit early morning or late in the day (i.e., the first or last tour of the day)
  • Weekdays are often less crowded than weekends.
  • Travel in the shoulder or off season: Summer months are peak season / high season, spring and fall are considered shoulder seasons, and winter months are off season in Germany (outside of the Christmas market season.)

King Ludwig II ( Mad King Ludwig)

king ludwig bavaria germany
By Ferdinand von Piloty (1828-1895) –wikipedia

I was very taken with the tragic story of King Ludwig, sometimes called the Swan King, or the Fairy-tale King. He is one of Germany’s most famous people and someone that I could really relate to. 

Ludwig was a shy dreamer, a private person who took advantage of his position to do what he may, and lived a reclusive life in a fantasy world of his own. He was disposed to staying up all night, and sleeping all day. 

Unlike many of the narcissistic kings throughout history, Ludwig seemed to have a deep gratitude to God for his fortune in life. He attributed his fortune and his kingship as gracious gifts from the Almighty himself. The throne room in Neuschwanstein is not a shrine to himself, or even sovereigns who came before, but a dedication to God and his grace.

Composer Richard Wagner, a close friend of the king’s, wrote of him after their first meeting. “He is unfortunately so beautiful and wise, soulful and lordly, that I fear his life must fade away like a divine dream in this base world … You cannot imagine the magic of his regard: if he remains alive it will be a great miracle!”

Yes, a beautiful tragic figure, destined for a tragic death.

Take into account the impressive collection of opulent palaces which belonged to the Swan King and it will come as no surprise that the accounts were concerningly low.  With funds running out, the king was at odds with his own ministers, as well as creditors who were threatening to seize his properties. (He paid for his projects out of his own funds, not state funds.)

Ludwig’s own ministers sought to have him declared incompetent, and place his uncle on the throne in his stead. Because he didn’t exhibit the expected amount of concern over his dire financial situation, they were able to convince a doctor to declare him mentally incompetent.

Although there was never any evidence of mental incompetence, outside of the fact that he was spending money like “mad”, those who sought to overthrow him used bribery to elicit false testimony against him. Shockingly, none of the panel of psychiatrists who signed off on the kings insanity, ever even examined him in person.

He was, never-the-less, then removed from his castle, and placed under guard. Ludwig, a very strong swimmer, was found dead in a lake a day later, along with the psychiatrist who had certified him as insane. The water was merely waist deep, and upon examination, no water was found in the king’s lungs. The psychiatrist’s body showed trauma to the head, and signs of strangulation.

King Ludwig II’s death is shrouded in mystery. Was murdered? suicide? The question has never been answered. He was only 40 years old at the time of his death. Neuschwanstein had been under construction for 17 years. Still covered in scaffolding at the time of his death, the king had only lived in his masterpiece castle for a mere 172 days.

What really struck me about his story is that Ludwig created what is probably the most recognizable site in Germany, yet died before having the opportunity to really enjoy it. I find it to be a little heartbreaking, and incredibly sad.

Read here about other palaces commissioned by King Ludwig.

Also of interest in the area

  • Tegelberg Gondola: take it up for the scenery or hang gliding, if that’s your thing, or check out the summer luge course. There is a trail, rated difficult, that you can take back down to the castle.
  • Alpsee Lake Walk There’s a picturesque little lakesurrounded by mountains, at the base of the castles. Alpsee lake has a path that circles the lake and can be done in 1.5 hours (clockwise is less strenuous.)
  • Museums Museums are a great place to get inside and warm up a bit in the winter months. There are two notable ones in the area: The Museum of the Bavarian Kings The Museum of the Bavarian Kings is in the Grand Hotel “Alpenrose” which occupies a picturesque setting at the base of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles. Learn the history of King Ludwig II and one of Europe’s oldest dynasties. Fussen Museum The Fussen heritage museum is located in a former baroque-style Benedictine Abbey. The monastery dates back to 750 and is one of the oldest north of the Alps. The building, containing various art and artifacts, is quite stunning both inside and out.  
  • The treetop walkway High above the treetops is the Baumkronenweg (treetop walkway) wooden walkway with views of the surrounding mountains and the Lech River. The suspension bridge-like walkway is 480 meters long (almost approx ⅓ mile) and 21 meters high (almost 70 feet.)  
  • Tegelberg Luge. At the foot of the Tegelberg Mountain is a fun summer toboggan run. You can also take the Tegelberg Cable Car lift up for paragliding and views of Neuschwanstein castle. There are also Roman archaeological sites around the Tegelberg Mountain.
  • Wintertime activities The area surrounding Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau becomes a virtual winter wonderland in the winter months! Read here to find out all about wintertime activities in the area!

Where to Stay

There are many hotels in the vicinity, you can search them here on booking.com (use the map view!) We had a rental car, so we actually stayed in Fussen, just a 5 minute drive away. Here are some stand out accommodations in the area: (prices based on double occupancy)

AMERON Neuschwanstein Alpsee Resort & Spa

The gorgeous AMERON Neuschwanstein Alpsee Resort & Spa sits on Lake Alpsee in the shadow of Neuschwanstein Castle. Prices start at $193 per night, 8.8 guest rating.

book it here on booking.com

AMERON Neuschwanstein Alpsee Resort & Spa
AMERON Neuschwanstein Alpsee Resort & Spa

 Schlossrestaurant Neuschwanstein

This simply adorable fairytale cottage is just a 2 minute walk from Neuschwanstein Castle and offers views of the Bavarian Alps. Book early, this property is popular! Prices starting at $199 per night, 7.7 guest rating.

book it here on booking.com!

Hotel Müller

This cute hotel is located right in the thick of things, just a 1 minute walk to the castle ticket center. (The Horse and Carriages leave from out front of the hotel.) Prices starting at $189 per night, 8.8 guest rating.

book it here on booking.com!

Hotel Alpenstuben

Yet another option with breathtaking views of Neuschwanstein Castle and also only a 1 minute walk to the ticket center.

book it here on booking.com!

free Germany travel itineraries

The following itineraries all include Neuschwanstein Castle:

Germany Itinerary 10 days: Rhine, Neuschwanstein, Black Forest, Rothenburg

Free Epic Germany Itinerary: 2 weeks plus Austria Switzerland France!

Bavaria USA

Can’t make it to Germany just yet? Check out the ridiculously adorable Bavarian town surrounded my mountains in Leavenworth Washington!

Want to hear more about my travels around Germany and the rest of our amazing planet? Then you might be interested in my Germany Travel Page, and be sure to submit your email address to my subscriber sign up at the end of the page to be the first to know when a new blog publishes!

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