A Fairytale History
Neuschwanstein has a fairytale history to match its design. Bavarian “Mad King” Ludwig II commissioned the castle to fit a Wagner theme. Neuschwanstein castle was meant to be a medieval style retreat, and was built in what is now called the “Romanesque Revival” style, also known as “castle romanticism” or Burgenromantik.
Contrary to popular myth, Ludwig II paid for the castle from his personal funds and went bankrupt in the process, rather than the Versailles method of public taxing by the French royalty. Ludwig II was obsessed with Wagner and with the Middle Ages, and built Neuschwanstein so he could live out his fantasy of life from hundreds of years ago.
It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau near the Pöllat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day […];
– Ludwig II in a letter to Richard Wagner
Neuschwanstein castle was built on the remains of nearby old twin towers Vorderhohenschwangau Castle and Hinterhohenschwangau Castle. The building was designed by contemporary stage designer Christian Jank and executed by architect Eduard Riedel. Neuschwanstein means New Swanstone Castle after the Wagner character the Swan Knight.
The castle features many charming details that eventually bankrupted Ludwig II (he threatened suicide if his debtors seized his castles). Some of the more offbeat additions include the Singer’s Hall (featuring Wagnerian opera characters) and a fake grotto featuring a “rainbow machine”.
Neuschwanstein is about as authentic as a Disney castle, since castles served mainly as defensive fortresses in the medieval times, and this one was built in the mid–1800s as a purely aesthetic creation. The castle featured modern amenities such as running warm water and automatic flushing toilets.
Sadly, Ludwig II died in 1886 before the castle was completed. He only spent 11 nights total in the castle before his death. The design was simplified after his death in order to speed along construction (for example, there is no throne room). Only 14 out of the planned 200 rooms were completed. The castle was open to the public shortly after his death.
Neuschwainstein has been featured in many films as a romantic medieval symbol, such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Great Escape, and several Mad King Ludwig II biopics.
The castle was also the creative inspiration for both the Disney Princess Sleeping Beauty’s castle and Cinderella’s castle (and by extension, the Magic Kingdom castle and Disney logo).
March 19 to October 15, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; October 16 to March 18, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Open daily except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Ticket Office opens and closes one hour earlier.
Neuschwanstein castle has over 6000 visitors per day in the popular summer vacation time, and because of this, you can only visit for 35 minutes with a guided tour.
Save time by buying your tour tickets ahead of your visit, as lines during peak visiting months can be hours long.
Tickets and Fees
Admission: Adults, €12; Children, Free with Adult; Students, €11
Online: €1.80 extra fee for booking online (worth it)
Parking: €4 fee
Bus: Uphill, €1.80; Downhill, €1; Roundtrip, €2.60
Horse drawn carriage: Uphill, €6; Downhill, €3
Neuschwanstein Castle is located on rugged hills outside of the southwestern Bavarian village of Hohenschwangau.
Hohenschwangau is about an hour and forty-five minute drive from Munich. You can also purchase a Bayern train ticket from Munich to the Füssen station, which is about a two-hour ride. Take bus 78 to Neuschwanstein (your Bayern ticket will cover a transfer), about a 10–15 minute ride.
To ensure your spot is saved, plan to arrive at least an hour ahead of time to pick up your tickets. The ticketing center is before your hike (or ride) up the castle trail.
After parking, you need to take a bus or walk up the mountain to the castle (or splurge on a horse-drawn carriage).
The walk up to the castle is about 20 minutes in good weather and mildly strenuous (a semi-steep walk uphill).
Good to know
Photos are not allowed inside the castle, but it’s completely worth it to bring a camera if only for the beautiful Alpine views you will see from the hilltop castle site.
The bridge Ludwig II built nearby to honor his mother, the Marienbrücke, or Marie’s bridge. Suspended between two cliffs over a waterfall, this bridge gives magnificent views of the castle itself.
If you want to see an example of a completed castle constructed under Ludwig II’s vision, check out the nearby Linderhof castle.