During a last minute trip that I took to Munich, Germany in August, 2017, I decided to make a quick trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle just to see why people were so fascinated with it. And the moment I got there, I regretted not planning this part of my trip in advance…
The Neuschwanstein Castle is a huge, stunning palace located in a small town in the Alps called Hohenschwangau. The palace was commissioned in the 19th-century by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat but it’s more because it was Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s castle that it became a popular tourist destination.
It’s hard to see the castle in just a few hours as the commute, there and back, from Munich is ~4-5 hours, not including the short hike to the castle and the castle tour. So to actually see it well, you need to plan ahead and make a day of it. I had, however, decided to go last minute, so I was happy just to go and wander around.
The trip to Hohenschwangau was a little complicated based on the research we did the night before, so I woke up early to give myself enough time to get there. The temperature outside was pleasant, but it was to rain on and off throughout the day and would be cooler in the mountains. So I packed a tote with a raincoat, umbrella, kindle (for the train ride) and planned to grab some snacks and water before I boarded my train.
I took a bus from my friend’s place to Munich Hauptbahnhof (Hbf), but found it a little confusing trying to understand which ticket I needed, so I ended up getting one that looked like it could be used for 5 rides.
Lesson 1 – The public bus works on a trust system so they leave it up to you to validate your ticket when you exit. In other words, you don’t really need a ticket to board the bus, but it’s good to have one just in case.
I know this sounds bad, especially because it’s a trust system, but I didn’t see anyone validate their ticket when getting off the bus. I had one so did it anyways, but kept that as a note in case I ended up taking the bus more than 5 times.
As soon as I got to Hbf, I bought a Bayern ticket to Füssen (my stop), grabbed a few pastries, boarded my train and settled into a cozy spot by a window.
Lesson 2 – Make sure you have a pen with you.
I didn’t know this until I saw other people doing it, but each ticket requires you to write your name on it before you give it to the conductor to stamp. The conductor might have a pen on them as well, but it’s best to have one just in case.
Once stamped, I put the ticket away safely as I had to use the same ticket to board the bus that would take me from Füssen to Hohenschwangau. As a side note – the train is full of tourists all probably heading to the castle too so if you need any help (or need someone to talk to), it’s easy to find. And most folks are willing to watch your stuff (I took my wallet and phone anyways) if you need to use the restroom. If you don’t want to talk to anyone, no worries, the train ride is fairly scenic, but I would suggest bringing something to keep you busy,
After about 2 hours, we reached the Füssen station, where I saw queues of people trying to get tickets to tour the castle. I was debating on queuing up even though I hadn’t planned to do the tour, but decided against it since I needed to get back to Munich by 5pm and the remaining tours would have been too late for me.
Lesson 3 – Book in advance because tickets are not always available on the day of. Also, as of 2018, tickets that are booked in advance need to be picked up from the ticket center in Hohenschwangau at least 90 minutes prior to your tour time.
From the Füssen station, I needed to take bus #78 to get to Hohenschwangau. I found the stop located on the opposite side of the station from where we got off the train thanks to the large crowd that was also waiting for it.
The bus ride is about 5-10 min and drops you at the edge of the town. If you had booked a ticket for a tour of the Neuschwanstein Castle, you would pick it up at the ticket center here. I, however, just started following the signs towards the castle.
Hohenschwangau is a cute little tourist town, set up for folks coming to visit both the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. The Hohenschwangau Castle is on one side of the town and fully visible from the town center because it’s on a lower peak, whereas the Neuschwanstein Castle is hard to see as it is located on a much higher one.
It was a bit rainy when I went, which is to be expected when you’re in the mountains, but it makes it a little harder to wander around and see everything through the clouds. That said, most of the quick eateries have umbrellas set up to allow you to eat and drink outside while waiting for the rain to subside, and the clouds seemed to make everything more mystical in the mountains. So regardless of how the weather turns out while you’re there, it’s still worth the trip.
There are 3 ways to get to the Neuschwanstein Castle from the town center: you could walk (30-40 minutes) or pay to take a shuttle bus or horse carriage. That said, the buses and horse carriages will only take you up to a certain point so you still have to walk 10 min. I prefer walking anyways (well when I’m not super pregnant) so I enjoyed my leisurely rainy walk up the mountain to the castle.
The walkway walk up the mountain is surrounded by tall, lanky, beautiful trees, and is completely paved as the bus and horse carriages take the same route. The only thing to remember is that you’re going uphill so be sure to wear good walking shoes, especially if it’s rainy.
The view around the walking path doesn’t change much until you get to the top, but once I got there, my mouth dropped. It’s one thing to see the castle from afar, but seeing it in person is a whole different thing. It was stunning. I thought I didn’t care about doing the indoor tour, but the moment I saw the castle, I regretted it.
At this point, there are three options: 1. line up for the tour you booked, 2. stare at the views of the Alps from the castle, or 3. tour the castle grounds. Obviously doing all three would be the best way to go, but since I couldn’t do Option 1, I stood by the side of the castle, and enjoyed the view of the Alps while wishing that I could go in.
The rain was starting to get colder but I forced myself to walk around the castle and take in as many views of the castle and surrounding Alps as I could.
Lesson 4 – Grab a map of the area from the tourist center before walking around the town and castles.
One thing I found to be annoying was that there were no signs that could help me understand where I was and where I could go. I’m sure this information was available on a tourist map that I didn’t pick up, but trying to figure this out was all the more frustrating in the rain. So I just followed groups of people here and there until I finally found a bridge that offered the best picture of the castle.
It was definitely hard to get a good picture in the rain, but again, the cloudy greyness of the weather somehow amplified the mystical nature of the castle and the mountains around it. I stayed to literally soak it all in until I was too cold and wet to handle it anymore, and headed back to catch my train to Munich.
Despite the weather and lack of tickets to the indoor tour, I’m still so glad I went. For those of you who have been, was the inside tour worth it? For those of you who haven’t been, please book the tour and let me know how it was. Please and thank you.
Blog edited by: Betty Ho