Welcome to the last part of the fairytale updates from Bavarian castles! I saved Neuschwanstein for last as it’s one of the most popular and probably photographed castles on Instagram.
I too had high expectations which were very quickly crashed when I realized the amount of people who come to see it even in off-season. I took the unusual step to board an organized bus tour because the convenience and cost outweighed the hassle of driving across two countries to see it.
The castle sits on top of the Hohenswangau village which in addition to a Museum of Bavarian Kings offer the splendid views of an older castle – the Hohenswangau Castle.
First things first – if you want to ensure you get to see the castle, you need to arrive early. Tickets for the same day tour are usually sold out by early afternoon and after that your best bet is to come back next day. This year is the first time they are testing online ticket sales to manage the crowds a little better.
We arrived around 10-11am and secured a spot for the noon viewing with English audio guide (there’s options for other languages or for live guide, these are allocated to different time slots). If you come with a tour guide or part of larger group, there is a special office where they pick up the tickets (which might be faster than queuing up on your own).
To get to the castle, you need to locate the path pictured below. There’s two ways to get there – on foot (leaflet said about 40mins) or using the horse carriage – for the horse carriage you wait in a line in front of the building below (it’s a hotel).
We’re short on time so ended up walking up the hill to take the walking path. It did not take 40 mins. 20 at max and normal walking speed.
Along the way you try your best to avoid the horse poop and slippery road. I can imagine in the summer, the climb uphill must be absolutely stunning as you get to admire the nature in full bloom.
Even from bottom of the hill, the castle is truly impressive.
As we got there early, we wanted to quickly check what’s the procedure of getting in and snap a tourist picture at the entrance.
Right from the entrance you can see the viewing platform pictured below in the left side. That’s a great spot to get a gorgeous picture of the castle with it’s famous red entrance.
Upon entering the main courtyard, you become a part of massive crowd of people, all waiting for their designated slot to enter the castle.
We entered the castle with a small group of tourists and our English audio guide. The groups move very fast so be sure to arrive early so you don’t miss your spot. It felt like being in a huge concerts and the crowds gathered to see the invisible rock star – Ludwig II of Bavaria. While he couldn’t attend in person for obvious reasons, his memory lives on thanks to the gorgeous art piece known as Neuschwanstein Castle.
The biggest let down for me was the fact that you cannot use camera inside the castle, even without flash.
If you want to see the breathtaking interiors, you can check them out here.
Another huge let down was that the tour move so swiftly that you barely get a chance to explore the rooms properly and it felt like we only saw a very small fraction of the castle. I think the whole tour was approximately 20 minutes and you are moved around very quickly with no chance to stop and ask questions.
The only time you get a chance to take our your camera is when you enter the balcony – if you happen to be there when it’s open.
Views are absolutely stunning and as one of the few places on the castle the balcony didn’t actually feel crowded.
Below – view from the castle cafe.
After our very quick tour of the castle we headed towards Maria Brucke (Maria’s Bridge) to see the best spot to photograph the castle.
The sign said that the bridge is closed, but we saw from inside the castle that there were people standing on it.
The climb up to the bridge also offers beautiful views towards the back of the castle and the surrounding countryside.
And below you see a result of my 10 seconds on the bridge.
I did not remember to take a picture of the bridge, but to paint you a picture – it was crowded and people were pushing through to get to the middle of the bridge to get to the best spot. The picture below was taken by sticking my hand holding a camera between heads of two tourists as it was impossible to pass.
The bridge is very old and there was some sort of digital counter at the start of it, but nobody monitoring it so I’m not sure how effective this crowd control is. It hangs on top of the valley and as someone who is not a huge fan of heights, it didn’t seem like somewhere I wanted to hang out too long, squashed between 60 other people on the bridge.
After my legs stopped shaking, we descended quickly back down to take one last photo from the viewing platform near the entrance to the castle.
Viewing platform below – way less scary and crowded than the bridge =)
If you’re planning a trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, here are some of my recommendations to get the most out of it:
- Adjust your expectations – you’re visiting a highly frequented tourist attraction so there will be crowds and waiting involved. Also bear in mind that the tour of the castle itself is rather swift, so leave some time to explore the surroundings so you don’t feel dissapointed
- Arrive early AM – if you want to enjoy the castle in a more relaxed atmosphere, it’s best to get there early AM to be on the first few tours before the crowds hit the village
- Opt for a tour guide – avoid audio guides, they don’t feel personal and you can’t ask them a question. Keep in mind that tour guides in English are only available in certain time slots
- Get 2 tickets at the same time – buy tickets to Neuschwanstein and Hohenswangau at the same time and leave sufficient time for each visit. I personally liked the visit of Hohenswangau a lot more, but Neuschwanstein interiors were far more impressive
- Plan around for food – the village is very small and has a few restaurants available. In season, these get crowded around lunch time so when planning your trip, it’s worth planning your castle entry times and coordinate them with booking a table at a restaurant
- For a better vantage point of the castle and better photos, you can drive around the valley to stop in the woods to get an unspoiled view. In the village itself, its nearly impossible to get a shot of the castle without people in it
- Read up on the history of Ludwig II of Bavaria and the designs of the castle a little bit before you head there. The tour guides will give you some interesting facts and history bits, but you will enjoy it more once you’ve already researched a little in advance
- The walking times on the maps for the two castles are only a guide, in reality if you walk a decent speed you need perhaps half the time they suggest (Neuswanstein 20mins instead of 40 and Hohenswangau 10 mins instead of 20mins)