Traveling to an iconic location in the offseason is a great way to avoid the large tourist crowds. And when it comes to international tourist destinations like Neuschwanstein, this is no exception.
It is still just as beautiful, maybe even more so if you visit after a fresh snowfall, but there are a few differences you’ll want to be aware of.
This article provides helpful tips if you are planning to visit in the winter months.
We were heading back today from our Christmas vacation skiing in Austria and decided to stop by Neuschwanstein since it was on the way.
Walt Disney modeled the Cinderella castle after Neuschwanstein and with good reason, it’s very beautiful and the setting is both dramatic and magical. Even in the winter it’s just as pretty to visit, not only for the castle but also for the views overlooking the valley below and beyond.
How to get there in the winter
The roads are well maintained during Germany’s mild winters. As you can see from my photos, there was no snow when we went in the middle of winter. There is a large parking lot (parkplatz) at the bottom and is marked with signs. There is a short walk to get to the ticket line, then it’s about a 20 minute walk up to the castle.
When Should you Visit?
While winter months are less crowded, lines can still get long if you want to do a guided tour of the castle.
Note: If you do not care for the guided tour, you can simply walk up to the castle. You can still walk to the courtyard and get to the famous bridge. There are panoramic views of the valley and smaller Hohenshwangau castle below.
In December (at around 11am) there was a small queue for tickets with a guided tour. By the time we walked up and I got all my shots of Neuschwanstein, the ticket line grew so much that it was down the street on the sidewalk. It would have taken about two hours just to get through the line, and that was at around 12:30pm.
I’ve heard and read online from many people that the inside isn’t as grand as the outside of the castle. So, we personally didn’t do the tour which saved us the wait.
Tip: If you want to do the tour, be sure to plan ahead and check the start times on their website.
Try going early if you go in the winter, or better yet, purchase your tickets ahead by going online to their website. Be sure to book at least two days prior to your visit. You’ll still need to pick them up once you arrive, but you might be able to skip the really long line! Tickets need to be purchased at the bottom of the hill before you go up.
Can you drive up to the castle?
No you cannot. We walked fifteen minutes up the windy road to Neuschwanstein. There are horse carriage rides available for a fee but they do fill quickly. They do not ride right up to the castle so there is some walking involved. If you have reduced mobility please visit their website for more information on accommodations.
There is also a shuttle bus that starts at parking P4 and stops above the bridge at the Jugend lookout point. From there it’s about a 10-15 minute walk downhill to the castle. The shuttle does not run if there is snow or ice.
Is the Famous Mary’s Bridge Open? Do you need a separate ticket? (Marienbrücke)
Above: viewpoint walking to Marienbrücke bridge. Below you can see Hohenschwangau castle. On the bottom left of the image you can see the icy railings that came in very handy!
If you want to see Marienbrücke bridge (Mary’s bridge), which provides stunning views of the castle and the entire area surrounding it as well, you do not need a ticket. There is a separate trail around the side of the castle that takes you to the bridge.
In winter months, they may close the bridge if there’s bad weather. Even though the walkway was blocked off, we just bypassed it (along with everyone else) and made our way to the bridge.
When we went it was really icy but since it’s a short walk (maybe 10-15 minutes) to get to the actual bridge it was worth it for us. We lucked out in that there wasn’t anyone else on the bridge when we went, which is quite unusual.
Below is another view of the valley and Hohenschwangau
The bridge is really high up and I’ve read from many people that in summer months that little bridge gets crowded and quite scary, as the wooden planks don’t seem too sturdy. It’s so high up that I started getting a bit dizzy from the height.
There is a waterfall on one side of the bridge and has colorful pools of water that form below the bridge. The shining gem is of course the castle and when we walked to it the bridge only had four other people on it so we lucked out! I think I would’ve been nervous if there was a tour group crowding the walkway.
What photography equipment should I bring?
The marienbrücke bridge is where you will get the beautiful shot of the castle. The image below was taken with my 50mm f/1.4, so you don’t need a long lens. In fact, the 85mm couldn’t fit the entire castle in the viewfinder. It’s really a sight to take in and I think is the absolute best part of the trip!
This view shows the castle a bit further away. You can see the rocks and the foothills of the mountains. In Germany the grass stays green even when there’s snow on the ground (coming from Alaska that was never the case).
A Little Bit of History…
Kind Ludwig was an interesting man and built many castles in his lifetime. The Hohenschwangau is another castle that sits at the bottom of the path leading up to Neuschwanstein. This was where King Ludwig was raised as a child. He also had a palace that was built on the Herrenchiemsee lake which mimics Versailles. It is actually nicknamed the Bavarian Versailles. Interestingly, Ludwig never let people into his castles, but since his death over 50 million people have visited them!
Whether visiting in summer or winter, go up earlier in the day, especially if you want a good shot of the castle! Even better, stay overnight in the nearby town of Füssen and go up later to get a sunset shot.
Wear sturdy boots in the winter that have decent traction. That ice is no joke.
If you enjoy hiking check out some of the many great hiking/biking trails.
If you don’t want to drive to Neuschwanstein and happen to be in Munich, there are many tours that run daily to the castle.
Have you ever been to Neuschwanstein? What was your experience like?