If you’re looking for somewhere exciting to escape to for a weekend or more, few cities pack as much in as Munich. The historic capital of Bavaria carries out a delicate balancing act, offering world-class contemporary attractions like the Allianz Arena and BMW Museum between its medieval streets and grand plazas.
Munich is a blend of the historic and modern. And there may be no better example of the latter than the spectacular Neuschwanstein Castle.
Like something plucked directly from a fairytale, this fortress high on a hill above the village of Hohenschwangau is one of Germany’s most recognisable landmarks. Though it’s around 90 kilometres outside of the city at the foothills of the Alps, there’s nowhere better to escape the hustle and bustle of Munich for a day.
So with some distance to cover, what’s the best way to get to the Neuschwanstein Castle?
How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein can be found to the southwest of Munich, just as the lush green plains of Southern Germany begin to give rise to soaring mountains. The castle is very close to the country’s border with Austria too, helping make the setting of this landmark an attraction in its own right.
Unless you fancy the hike of a lifetime or an expensive round taxi trip, you’re going to need to rely on public transport to get you to Neuschwanstein. But thankfully, this should prove no problem at all.
Which station is nearest to the Neuschwanstein Castle?
While the city of Munich is full of handy transport options like a suburban rail system, underground metro, trams, and buses, none of these will take you as far as Füssen, the closest town to the castle. Instead, you’ll need to look to Germany’s national rail network. Trains across the country are quick and reliable, and don’t cost a huge amount compared with some other corners of Europe.
Trains to Füssen depart from Munich Hauptbahnhof Station all through the day, with a combination of direct and indirect services connecting the Bavarian capital with the town. The journey takes around two and a half hours, with a peak-time return ticket costing around €54.00. However, if you’re travelling on the weekend or after 09:00 on a weekday, you can buy the Bavarian regional day ticket (Bayern-Ticket) for just €25.00. This grants you unlimited travel throughout Bavaria for 24 hours, and you can add up to four other people to the ticket for just €7.00 each.
Once you hop off at Füssen Station, you’ll need to transfer for the 73 or 78 Bus to neighbouring Hohenschwangau. Handily, the stop for these services is located right outside the station, and if you’ve bought the Bayern-Ticket you can use this on the bus too. In just 10 minutes, you’ll be dropped a stone’s throw from the foothills of the castle.
You do have a steep uphill climb before you reach the castle gate, however. This takes around 45 minutes and is incredibly scenic, but there are private buses and horse-drawn carriages if you’d prefer to save your legs. Though be aware neither of these tend to operate if it’s icy.
Exploring the Neuschwanstein Castle
With its idyllic setting and romantic turrets, it doesn’t take long for most people to notice Neuschwanstein Castle’s Disney connection. Having visited the castle himself, Walt Disney based the now-iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle on Neuschwanstein and had it recreated at the company’s theme parks across the globe.
While this no doubt helped put Neuschwanstein on the map for international tourists, Neuschwanstein has long held a special place in the hearts of Germans, and there’s so much to take in when you call by the fairytale castle.
Inside the Neuschwanstein Castle
The Neuschwanstein Castle’s interior is made up of some 15 rooms, though there would have been more than 200 had the project been completed in full. Highlights include the cave-like cellars, beautifully styled King’s bedroom, and main gathering space Singer’s Hall.
Make sure you don’t miss Ludwig’s dressing room, adorned with a spectacular ceiling painting and murals that illustrate the works of famous poets. Meanwhile, the throne room truly captures Ludwig’s obsession with nobility, styled in the image of a Byzantine church with elaborate mosaics, chandeliers, and a delicately painted cupola.
Neuschwanstein Castle History & Facts
Despite its timeless and magical appearance, the spectacular Neuschwanstein is a more recent construction than many people may realise. The fortress is the work of the imagination of King Ludwig II, a renowned eccentric who is often referred to as the ‘Mad King’. He ruled Bavaria from 1864 until his death in 1886, and was said to be a shy man who possessed a childlike imagination.
A fantastical vision
Growing up, Ludwig had spent his favourite time of the year at his family’s summer palace, known as Hohenschwangau. You can spot this earlier castle a short distance from the Neuschwanstein today, and it was Ludwig’s adoration for this corner of the world that led him to have his own ‘new castle’ (that’s Neuschwanstein in German).
From the very off, Ludwig’s ambitions for the castle placed form well before function. The ruler’s vision was a private retreat so whimsical and ostentatious that he would barely ever wish to leave it. Nodding to so many traditionally medieval features and the Romanesque architecture of the 13th century, he promised the building would “embody the true spirit of the medieval German castle”.
The foundation stone was laid on 5th September 1869, however the project soon proved problematic. The king’s demands were simply too fanciful to work with and his deadlines totally unreasonable. Though the castle was worked away at near constantly by day and night, it soon dawned on Ludwig that the Neuschwanstein would not be completed in anything like the timescale he had imagined.
Once the Gateway Building had been completed, Ludwig quickly took up residence at this small section of the complex while work on the remainder of the castle continued. A ‘topping out’ ceremony took place in 1880 to celebrate the Neuschwanstein reaching full height, but the palace still wasn’t complete when Ludwig moved in proper in 1884. The King died just two years later in unexplained circumstances, sleeping just 11 nights in his grand home, and he never did get to realise his fantastical vision in its full form.
The Neuschwanstein after Ludwig
Work stopped soon after and once things had been patched up, and the Neuschwanstein we see today is missing much of what had been planned by King Ludwig II. For example, you can see the foundations of the keep that was never completed in the Upper Courtyard, while the Kemenate section stemming off here is noticeably simplified in its design.
Just six weeks after his untimely death, Bavaria’s Prince-Regent Luitpold ordered the palace gates be opened to the public with immediate effect. This made the castle a healthy source of revenue for Bavarian royalty for some 28 years. The palace fell into the ownership of the state in 1923, while during the Second World War the Nazis hid plundered artwork and artefacts inside the castle’s defences. As the tide turned in 1945 and the Nazis were put on the retreat, they considered blowing up the Neuschwanstein to conceal the artwork hidden within it. Thankfully, they never did, and this extraordinary castle can be enjoyed in its full glory in the present day.
Restaurants, Bars, and Shops at the Neuschwanstein Castle
Set close to the beautiful little town of Füssen and with the snow-capped peaks of the Alps as your backdrop, it’s only natural you’d want to hang around a while when you visit Neuschwanstein Castle. Thankfully, there’s plenty to keep you busy in the area when you’re not spiralling your way up turrets or taking in the views from a veranda.
Popular with tourists and Bavarians alike, the town has everything you need to stay happily fed, watered and indulged. If you’ve only got so long before Munich calls you home, we’ve got some recommendations to get you started.
The best restaurants near the Neuschwanstein Castle
With a quintessentially Alpine atmosphere, dining out takes on a slightly different vibe here to what you may have got used to in Munich. But Füssen is all the richer for it and there are some seriously top choices along the town’s cobbled streets, including:
- Il Pescatore – a charming little Italian spot with a specialism in seafood and seriously good pizza
- Beim Olivenbauer Füssen – it doesn’t get more Bavarian than this wood-built bar and eatery, offering some of the best sausage and schnitzel in town
- La Perla Ristorante Pizzeria Füssen – a stylish and modern Italian restaurant with all the home-cooked favourites
- Restaurant Ritterstuben – a charming little spot with outdoor tables, serving hearty and delicious German fare
- Landbäckerei Sinz – a truly phenomenal deli spot with fresh sandwiches and pastries to go, or local meats and cheeses to be enjoyed in
- KYŌDAI– a chic pan-Asian spot with all your favourite dishes from across the continents, including dim sum, katsu curry and pho
The best bars near the Neuschwanstein Castle
Truth be told, Füssen isn’t exactly a nightlife hotspot. But there are still several great haunts where you can grab a beer before you get the train back, such as:
- Schiffwirtschaft – set among a beautiful heritage building, this rustic bar offers views out over the Lech River
- Tiroler Weinstuben – set along a magical cobbled street, this tiny bar is the perfect place to get chatting with the locals
- SCHRANNEN BAR – with big vaulted ceilings, this no-frills spot serves up some seriously big tankards of beer
The best shops near Neuschwanstein Castle
If shopping is a big part of what brought you to Bavaria, you’ll be better served browsing the allees and alleyways back in Munich’s old town. Nevertheless, there are a few hidden gems to browse if you have some time to spend in Füssen, which is home to lots of independent shops.
For ladies clothing, Gina Laura stocks all the essentials at really great prices. Marrakesh offers a ton of north African inspired goods including handbags, belts and jewellery, while Lila Haus is an excellent deli where you can find local produce to take home with you. Finally, beer lovers simply can’t miss Bier Souvenir, where you can pick up hundreds of different locally brewed bottles and related merchandise.
Opening Times and Prices
Neuschwanstein Castle tickets should be booked in advance of your trip to avoid disappointment, and this can be done online. Prices for 2020 are:
Child (under 18 years) and Student:
Please note that even if members of your group are eligible to enter for free, they will still need to reserve their ticket and this may involve booking fees.
The Neuschwanstein closes for only four days a year: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years’ Eve and New Years’ Day. That means it’s highly likely you can squeeze in a trip to this whimsical castle while you’re staying in the Bavarian capital.
Daily opening times for the castle vary slightly throughout the year, and currently, these are:
1st April - 15th October:
09:00 – 18:00
16th October - 31st March:
10:00 – 16:00
See the castle that inspired Disney and countless others, when you escape to soak up the magic at the spectacular Neuschwanstein Castle.
Getting to Munich by train
It's easy to take the train to Munich from the main destinations across Europe. Travel direct from Prague to Munich in just 4h 56m on a high-speed Deutsche Bahn service, or why not whizz from Berlin to Munich on another direct DB train in about 4h 49m. Frankfurt to Munich is also another well-connected route, taking just 3h 12m.
Ready for your next train journey to Munich? Check out our guide to trains in Germany to learn all about the German trains, timetables and popular routes.