We were heading back today from our Christmas vacation in Sölden, Austria and decided to stop by Neuschwanstein since it was on the way.
Neuschwanstein castle has a funny name, but you know it once you see it.
It is, quite possibly, the most famous castle in all the world.
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 time it's just as pretty to visit, not only for the castle but also for the views overlooking the valley below and beyond.
When Should you Visit?
If you want to visit Neuschwanstein and avoid the crowds there isn’t a perfect answer to this question. When we went in May the weather was great and while there were tourists, we didn't have to wait in line for anything. When we went today (in the bitter cold) at around 11am there was a small queue if you wanted to purchase tickets to do the guided tour of the castle. We would've had to wait for about two hours for the next English tour to start and we didn't want to do that.
I've heard and read online from many people that the inside isn't as grand as the outside of the castle. I've already visited my fair share of castles since I've been in Germany so I'll just take their word for it. So, we didn't do the tour which saved us the wait.
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've taken about two hours just to get through that line, and that was at around 12:30pm.
Try going early if you go in the winter, or better yet, purchase your tickets ahead by going online to their website. 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 to the castle?
No you cannot. We walked fifteen minutes up the windy road to Neuschwanstein. There are horse carriage rides available and we would've taken one but none were available when we started our ascent so we decided to just walk it with most everyone else.
Do you need to buy a ticket to walk on the bridge/Get the ‘Insta’ photo?
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. Even though the walkway was blocked off, we just bypassed it (along with everyone else) and made our way to the bridge.
If you do go in the winter be warned that it is slick on that path. As in it was completely icy and took much longer than I thought it would, but wow is it worth it once you see the views.
One of the beautiful views walking up to the Marienbrücke Bridge. You can see Hohenschwangau castle in the center of the image.
Below is a bit closer view of the valley and Hohenschwangau
The bridge is very 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.
Finally made it to the bridge to get this shot. This 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. Amazingly 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.