History of King Ludwig II, the fairy tale castle and how to get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich!
History of King Ludwig II
Constructed away from the hustle bustle of Munich, the Neuschwanstein Castle was designed to be a retreat for King Ludwig II, who acceded to the throne at the age of 18 and was a king of Bavaria from 1864 to 1886. The fairy tale king who was far removed from politics, lived in a fantasy world since an early age. He was fascinated by the music dramas and writings of Richard Wagner. The king spent more time in his dream world than as a head of state of Bavaria. From 1875 on he lived at night and slept during the day and was deposed insane in 1886 by the ruling the government. The private king occupied the castle for less than a year, before his mysterious death by drowning in Lake Starnberg in 1886.
History of Neuschwanstein Castle
The inspirations for the Neuschwanstein or the “New Castle” were derived from medieval book illustrations, depicting Christian kingship in the Middle Ages. The design imitates the 13th-century Romanesque style, giving it a medieval appearance. King Ludwig II was instrumental in preparing drawings or modifying the designs to ensure the castle turned out as a perfect dream world he identified with. He designed most of the floor plans for the chambers. Built in 1886, the castle contained all the modern amenities of the era including, hot air central heating, running water, electric bell systems, telephones, flushing toilets and a lift!
The castle building was never completed till the death of King Ludwig II in 1886. Seven weeks after his death, the castle was opened to the public and since then it has been visited by millions. Disney’s Cinderella Castle is inspired by this stunning edifice! It was eventually completed in 1892 and remains one of the most beautiful and most visited castles in Europe. Read below Neuschwanstein Castle – A Fairy Tale World Of A Bavarian King Ludwig II. Read below how to get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich.
The Schloss Hohenschwangau is a medieval castle, rebuilt in 1832 in gothic style by Ludwig II’s father Maximilian II. This is where King Ludwig II spent most of his younger days. The young Ludwig was influenced by the romantic mountain scenery and decided to build his own castle in the area after becoming a king. The view from the top of the hill is incredible with Lake Alpsee forming a backdrop for the village of Hohenschwangau on the left and Schloss Hohenschwangau standing tall on a hill on the right.
A day trip from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle
The idyllic setting of the castle is what attracts millions of visitors, including me, to the villages of Füssen and Hohenschwangau. A day trip from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle was worth every effort. Blessed with another sunny day, the two hour train journey was filled with visual delights. It traversed across pristine Bavarian plains, revealing glorious vistas at every turn. Everyone was glued to the windows, with shutters snapping all the while.
The crisp mountain air welcomed us as we disembarked at Füssen. I made way towards Bus 78, which transported all to a higher plain, where the ticket counter was located. Instead of standing in a long queue i decided to walk uphill. The 45 minutes climb was filled with absolute serenity. Breathtaking panorama was a constant companion as i ascended the winding forest path. Other travelers had also chosen to climb instead of taking a shuttle or a horse carriage. The tapping of Alpine horses now and then interrupted the tranquility of the thick forest. I climbed leisurely and from what i could recall, it wasn’t steep.
No photo opportunities were missed along the way. And there i was at the base of the castle, with rock solid foundation blocks next to the path. As i moved towards the Marienbrücke, the sound of a waterfall in the gorge echoed louder. The “Marienbrücke” was built high above the Pöllat Gorge in 1840 primarily to marvel the surrounding vistas comprised of lakes and mountains. King Maximilian II had built the bridge as a birthday present for his mountain-climbing consort Marie.
As expected the bridge was crowded and everyone jostled to find a decent spot to take pictures of the castle, as well as a mandatory selfie. No amount of clicking seemed sufficient. I spent almost 20 minutes on the bridge before walking further up the trail. The trail led to another climb through the forest. As i climbed further, the crowd thinned out and there was a perfect spot in the bush from where i could stare at this marvelous structure at peace while munching on a sandwich. Another 30 minutes in solitude and it was time to head back to Munich.
How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich
I have read few posts on how to get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich, and they were all helpful. I have shared here my version with additional pointers for a hassle free trip. You can also refer to another post for detailed information.
The most important thing is to plan ahead! If you wish to take a tour of the castle interior, reserve a slot in advance on the official website of Neuschwanstein Castle. Book at least 2 weeks in advance during the season, or else be prepared to stand in a long queue at the ticket center. Frankly no tour assistance is needed as everything is well connected. But if you haven’t reserved a ticket and wish to visit the castle from inside, you may want to go with a tour operator who reserves slots in advance. This way you skip the long queue. In case you plan to spend a night in Füssen, then you can purchase a combined ticket which allows to visit the Hohenschwangau castle and the Museum of the Bavarian Kings. The town of Füssen is known for Violin makers and you can wander around to explore them.
Step by step guide on How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich
- Reserve tickets for castle tour on the Neuschwanstein Castle official website two weeks in advance. Ideally you should reserve the tour for 13:55 tour (English language). If you decide not to visit the interior, then skip this step and proceed to the next.
- Note: The access to Mary’s bridge is free, from where you can capture stunning images of the castle. So if you are not planning to visit the inside of the castle, then there is no need to reserve or queue up at the ticket center.
Traveling to Füssen
- On the day of the tour, buy a Bayern Ticket to Fussen. The 9:52am Bayern train from Munich to Füssen is ideal to reach the ticket center by 12:20. The trick is to buy a Tourist Single Day Ticket, which is a single return ticket for Munich – Füssen – Munich for Euro 26!
- Please note regular ticket machine at Munich Hbf doesn’t show that option (they shows regular Bayern Train tickets to Füssen, which costs Euro 26 one way). Look for a machines shown in the pictures below. I have taken screen shots to narrate stepwise ticket selection and buying.
Getting to the Ticket Center
- After getting off at Füssen, you need to take Bus 78 to go uphill where the Ticket Center is located. The Bayern Ticket is also valid for the Bus 78. The bus journey takes 5-7 minute uphill drive from Füssen. There are multiple buses waiting outside Fussen station on the right side of the exit.
- Once you are dropped off the bus, walk uphill towards the signs pointing towards Ticket Counters. You can’t miss the ticket counters as there will be a long queue of people waiting.
- If you have reserved your tickets, walk straight in the queue pointing towards ‘Reserved Tickets’ window.
- If you have to buy tickets, then you have to wait in a long queue. If you do not wish to visit the castle interior, you still have to wait to buy a shuttle ticket (Euro 2.60 for return journey) which takes you to the base of the castle. You can also opt for a horse carriage for Euro 6 to cover the distance. Instead of taking a shuttle or a horse carriage, you can walk uphill if the weather permits. It is a 30-40 minute uphill walk.
Walking uphill to the castle
- I did not wish to visit the interior, so i skipped the queue and started walking uphill instead. It takes usually 30-45 minutes to wait in the queue, depending on the rush. Instead of waiting in the queue, i chose to walk and it was a good decision.
- The path is well covered with thick forest and the climb is not so steep. Be assured that you will have many other visitors walking uphill. In fact i prefer this option more, as you can soak in the breathtaking panorama along the way.
- Even if you take a shuttle or horse carriage, you still need to walk for 10 minutes to get to the base of the castle and Mary’s Bridge.
Heading to Mary’s Bridge
- Once up there, look for signs pointing towards Mary’s Bridge. And this where you will encounter a huge crowd, everyone rubbing elbows to get some space on a narrow bridge. This is when you wish you had a selfie stick to point higher and avoid being photobombed by other tourists. Spend your time to soak in the beauty and take as many pictures you want and then move on.
- Walk towards the other end of Mary’s Bridge, where the trail starts ascending. Climb a bit further, and you will find clean spots overlooking the castle once again. This is a great place to admire the beauty of the castle and surrounding vistas at peace. You can spend half hour here before heading back to the bridge and back on the forest path to reach the ticket center.
Back to Munich
- From the ticket counter you need to catch Bus 78 once again to get to Füssen train station. The same Bayern ticket is valid throughout.
- Ideally at this pace you should be able to catch 16:04 train from Füssen to Munich. The train reaches Munich at 18:05, just in time to head to Hofbräuhaus Beer Hall and savor a lager over a meal of Roasted Pork and potato salad.
I wanted to explore Neuschwanstein Castle for a very long time, not only for its magnificent splendour but also to savour the history and mystery around King Ludwig II who lived in a fantasy world of his own. What an irony it was to witness the castle belonging to a private king, getting overrun by millions of visitors!
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