If you've ever wanted to see a fairy tale come to life, visit Neuschwanstein Castle in the lush Bavarian countryside. Built in the late 19th century as a royal retreat for King Ludwig II, Neuschwanstein was opened to the public after the King's death and is now one of the most popular castles/palaces in Europe.
The castle, begun in 1868, remained unfinished at King Ludwig's death in 1888. It was completed in 1892, complete with large window panes, central heating, telephones, an elevator, and indoor plumbing - overall, quite innovative for its day.
For the best views of the exterior of the castle, take a short walk to the Marienbrücke, an iron bridge high above the Pöllat Gorge. The small bridge is so high above the gorge that it made my knees wobbly, but it was worth it for the stunning view of the castle, mountainsides and beautiful Bavarian plains.
WARNING - the castle is extremely touristy and crowded and tickets to enter must be bought in the small village of Hohenschwangau, below the castle. Unless you want to see the interior of the castle, I recommend skipping the tour entirely. Just do the lovely drive to the castle and walk from the town to Marienbrücke. It's free (though you'll need to pay a few Euro for parking in Hohenschwangau). The uphill hike takes about 45 minutes. Then retreat to one of the quiet, nearby Bavarian villages for beer and a hearty meal.
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Evening at Neuschwanstein Castle
I have lived in Germany a long time, and have visited this castle many times but I have never gotten to walk on the Marien Bridge until this past Saturday. I finally got the view I wanted all these years. Best of all, no scaffolding! This castle is in constant maintenance so it's a rare sight to see it in all it's perfection.
Because it's extremely crowded with tourists we did not get close. I was happy to just have this view in sight. At 7pm there are no people around in this area. Love it!
Close to the famous Disney-esque Neufwanstein castle built by the mad king in a mideval style, Hohenschwangau is somewhat overlooked.
I must confess too that although I didn't overlook it when down in Bavaria, I didn't visit it either since time was not on my side and the "Disney" one was just up the hill.
The village and the rest of the area are mega-touristy which I'm not crazy about but what else could be done?! Mind you, I found it somewhat disorganized. To get to Neufwanstein, you have to walk 40 minutes or just take a 10 minute bus ride. First though, you have to go one place to buy your castle entrance ticket, then another one to get your bus ticket. One poor couple were standing in line to get into the castle and asked me where to buy a ticket. They had to go all the way back down into the village!
Getting a perfect postcard picture of Neuschwanstein
Once I had experienced the obligatory tour of Neuschwanstein Castle (located in southwest Bavaria, Germany), I wanted to escape the masses and was particularly keen on taking my own "perfect postcard" photos of the castle. This was not difficult to achieve, but required a bit of extra hiking to Marie's Bridge, where many amateur and professional photographers before me have had the same opportunity. From this vantage point, one can capture panoramic shots of the castle surrounded by a pastoral setting that includes two lakes (the Alpsee and Schwansee), where I later fed eager swans with bread from my lunch sack. The castle is worth a tour although it is overly crowded during the summertime (up to 6,000 tourists per day). The on-site gift shop provides books and pamphlets illustrating the sad life of King Ludwig II, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1886. It was Ludwig's intention to build Neuschwanstein as a private residence for himself and favored guests such as the opera composer Richard Wagner, but immediately after Ludwig died, the castle was opened to the public and has been enormously popular with tourists ever since. I enjoyed taking several photos of the exterior castle, grounds, and surrounding landscape, but photos of the interior are not permitted.
On my third trip to Germany, but my first trip to Bavaria, I took it slow for a few days, just enjoying the beauty of Füssen and the surrounding towns. One of the highlights was catching this beautiful rainbow on the outskirts of Neuschwanstein Castle. May is a beautiful time to visit.
I had always dreamed of visiting Neuschwanstein Castle. The mixture of mad king, striking architecture and prestige made this castle a really interesting piece of history to visit, Despite the crowds and travel time I think it should be included on any trip to Bavaria!