Looking like it was plucked straight from a fairy tale, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the world’s most visited castles. Located in the southwest of Bavaria, 10 minutes away from the charming little town of Fussen, with the Bavarian Alps in the background, the castle is thought to have been a source of inspiration for Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland, and many other landmarks.
The castle was built for King Ludwig II of Bavaria (who was actually called the “fairytale king”). Following his loss of power after the Austro-Prussian war, he commissioned the construction of this castle as his own retreat from the real world, his imaginary kingdom. The castle was intended to “embody the true spirit of the medieval German castle,” (King Ludwig II wrote in a letter to his friend, the world-renowned composer Richard Wagner). Fond of Wagner’s music, the castle was built in the composer’s honor, and many of its rooms were actually inspired by Wagner’s opera characters. The translation for Neuschwanstein is literally “New Swan Castle” and it refers to one of Wagner’s characters, “the Swan Knight.”
The medieval 13th century Romanesque-style construction began in 1869, and it took more than two decades to finalize the project. It was supposed to be ready in three years, but the “fairytale king” wanted the castle to be over-the-top, so kept adding more and more requests. Dying in 1886, he never saw its creation completely finished. The Gateway Building, (where he stayed for short periods of time while visiting the upcoming castle), was finished in 1872, but the final towers were only completed in 1892 (6 years after his death). Evidence indicates the castle was planned to have at least 200 rooms…but only 14 rooms were finished before Ludiwg II’s death (And to this day, the castle still has 14 rooms).
Sadly, the “fairytale king” didn’t have the happy ending of a fairytale. In the final years of his life the German government declared him publicly insane. He was found dead in 1886 in Lake Starnberg, together with the corpse of his physician. He was only 40 years old when he suddenly passed away. His cause of death was never made clear. But in the end, we can all agree that the fairytale king has created a magical world. More than 1.5 million people per year visit the idyllic castle.
When to visit Neuschwanstein Castle?
Avoid July and August if you can’t deal with long lines and huge crowds. Early fall and late spring months might be ideal to visit, when temperatures are mild. Fall is a great time to see not just the castle, but also the pretty autumn foliage covering the Bavarian Alps and the vicinities. The Neuschwanstein Castle looks most magical during the winter though, covered in snow, but that’s the most challenging times to visit, due to freezing temperatures and large amounts of snow. Mary’s Bridge (Marienbrücke in German) is one of the best view points, but unfortunately is closed during the winter months.
How to get there?
The castle is about two hours from Munich by car. But you’ll need to park at the village of Hohenschwangau. Public transportation offers some pretty reliable options. You can take a train that leaves hourly from Munich’s main train station, Munich Hauptbahnhof, and get off to Füssen. And from there just transfer to a local bus. Trains and buses are also available for visitors coming from Garmisch or from Innsbruck to Neuschwanstein.
Whenever you’re ready to plan your trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, just make sure you do your own research. There are thousands of articles you can read online, and tons of books and documentaries. Just make sure you include the castle’s official website in your research.
ENJOY YOUR TRIP! And travel safely!!!