When the itinerary of our trip to Germany solidified, and I knew we were headed to Munich, I added an additional day to our time there because I wanted to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s a dream of every Disney fan to see the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. While that was part of the appeal, I just wanted to see it.
While the castle is “near” Munich, it’s by no means close to the city. I did my homework and found the best ways to get there was to either go on a group tour or to do the planning yourself and take the train. Going on a tour wasn’t necessary to see everything, so I made all of the plans myself.
Things didn’t actually work out as I planned, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great time. Here’s what went right and what didn’t work exactly as I thought it would.
The trip to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich was uneventful. The train left the station and arrived precisely on schedule. We weren’t expecting the train to be so packed. If ever doing this again, I’d come earlier to make sure we had better seats.
Once we got outside of town, we were treated to some great views of the countryside.
Once finished with the train ride, we had to catch a bus to the town located at the base of the castle. It wasn’t hard to find the buses, as they were where everyone on the train headed. There were no less than five public buses there to transport all of the passengers.
Once off the bus, you still have to get to the castle. But first, you need to get your tickets for the castle tour, if that’s in your plans. The tour center is located in the village of Hohenschwangau. There are signs, but all you really need to do is follow the people from the bus stop.
I knew from the Neuschwanstein Castle website that you can make a tour reservation up until two days in advance of your trip (but it’s advised to make them much earlier if you’re going during a popular time). I booked our tour tickets in advance, so we were able to skip the massive line at the tour center. Don’t feel bad about going through the door to get inside, passing the rest of the line.
Once getting our tickets, we had a choice on how to get to the castle. But before that, we got a great view of where we were headed.
You still have to get all the way up there. There are three choices.
- Walk the 1.5 km up the steep uphill road
- Take a horse-drawn carriage which lets you off 450m below the castle – you’ll have to walk up the rest of the way
- Take a bus which lets you off 500m above the castle from where you’ll have to walk 10-15 minutes on a path with a gradient of 12-19% to the castle entrance
Before heading up the castle, take advantage of your last chance to use a bathroom until you get to the castle. Just make sure you have some cash with you because these machines didn’t take credit cards.
To take the horses or bus, you have to pay an additional fee, but I couldn’t imagine walking to the top. We decided to take the bus.
An additional advantage of the bus is that the drop off point is near the path to Marienbrücke. If you’re not familiar, that’s the bridge that allows you to get the great pictures of the castle.
We weren’t there during a busy time and the bridge was crowded. I can only imagine how packed it can get during a more popular time of the year. No matter how crowded, the views are worth it.
I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of heights (like here, and here). I’ll go to these places, but I’m not thrilled with them. While Marienbrücke is a sturdy metal structure, some of the boards had a bit of bounce to them and the occasional creak. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time holding on the railing.
To get an idea of how high up you are, here’s a view of the bridge from above.
If you cross the bridge, you get a different view of the castle from up the mountain with much fewer people (since most of them don’t even bother to cross the bridge once they get their selfie).
Understand that none of this has anything to do with the tour tickets. You’ll need to walk to the castle for that.
It’s a 500m walk that’s mostly downhill but there are also uphill sections.
You’ll get some great views from the castle along the path but the surrounding scenery is really the star.
It took us over 20 minutes to walk to the castle from the bus stop. If you have any sort of breathing problems, the altitude and the hills will exacerbate those issues. Make sure to adjust the time it will take to do all of this walking accordingly.
We did eventually make it to the castle.
We had about 30-40 minutes until our scheduled tour time. There’s no getting on an earlier tour, and you can’t be late either. If you miss your time, too bad.
So after looking around the outside of the castle, we sat to wait for our tour. We also did some calculations about our trip back to Munich.
We’d need to:
- Walk back to the bus stop
- Take the bus from the castle back to the village of Hohenschwangau
- Walkthrough Hohenschwangau to the second bus
- Take that bus to the train station
It was approximately 2 hours before the next train left. If we missed that one, it was another two hours before the final train of the night.
If we left right away, we could make the earlier train. That would mean we’d miss out on our tour for which I’d already paid $35. If we took the tour, there’s no way we could make the earlier train.
We decided to ditch the tour. I’ve heard mixed things about it. Some people love it while others aren’t that impressed. The castle was never lived in so it’s not finished inside. They have some ways to show what it was supposed to look like but it’s not like you’re walking through a royal palace.
Currently, the castle is under renovations so there’s scaffolding all around the exterior and some of the interiors. Finally, there are no photos allowed inside the castle. Not as that’s a deal-breaker for us, but it was one more reason we could let the tour of the inside go.
The main reason we were able to skip the tour is that we’d already seen all that we came there for. The castle is famous for its fantastic exterior and stunning backdrop. No one raves about how amazing the inside of it is.
We traveled all the way to Neuschwanstein Castle and missed the tour, the one thing we bought tickets for in advance. During our trip, I found out that paying for the tour in advance (or waiting on the very long line on the same day for tickets) is really unnecessary to enjoy your trip. You can get to the village, walk over the bridge and even walk right to the base of the castle with no reservations. If you’re not taking the tour, you’ll miss the longest line of the day at the tour center.
We also discovered that there was more walking than we had anticipated and it was up and down steep paths. It took us longer to walk from place to place than we expected and that put a crimp into our plans.
Don’t use this article as a critique of the tour and whether it’s good or not. I’m just trying to say that don’t let the fact that you can’t get tickets to the tour keep you from visiting Neuschwanstein Castle. You can do almost everything there with no reservations at all. Not being tied to a tour time will let you take as much time as you want to see the other things there and is that such a bad thing?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary