Cinderella’s castle, the Beast’s castle, Sleeping Beauty’s castle–all places I wished I lived in as a Disney-obsessed little girl. But nestled in the hills in southwest Bavaria near the Austrian border, you can actually visit the real castle that the ones in all of those movies are based on–Neuschwanstein Castle.
Although it looks medieval, Neuschwanstein Castle was actually built from 1869-1886 by Kind Ludwig II. Construction abruptly stopped upon his death, so only a small fraction of the many, many rooms were actually completed. You can see a few of them on the tour inside.
We journeyed to Neuschwanstein via Mike’s Bike Tours. You meet at their HQ–conveniently right by Hofbrauhaus–and board a bus for the 2.5-hour ride to Schwangau. The tour leaves at 8:45 am and costs 69 euros per person, not including lunch, the castle tickets, and tip. The tickets into the castle cost 13 euros, which you must pay in cash (see my post on Munich for a note about cash in Bavaria). You have the option of also seeing Hohenschwangau castle as well, but you miss the bike tour. You can also skip both castles and just enjoy the bike ride and climb to Neuschwanstein.
When we were within about 30 minutes of the castle, the guide provided us with background on the Wittelsbach family (Munich’s royal family) leading up to Ludwig II and his untimely demise. Out the window we began to see the charming countryside with adorable Bavarian homes sprinkled throughout. Hohenschwangau–the namesake of the town and the original castle–sits atop a hill.
Upon reaching Schwangau, we changed our mode of transportation to bikes to ride around the little town and countryside.
Right up to a field with amazing views of Neuschwanstein–it almost looked like a toy.
You’ll see many hikers and bikers in the town, either passing through or also trekking to the castle. We rode along the paths and through a nature preserve to Schwansee lake.
We stepped in–giving in to the experience of dipping our toes into an alpine lake. No surprises–it was freezing.
We headed back to the town for lunch at the aptly named Schlossbrauhaus. Even though it seems like mainly a hub for tour groups, the food and beer were surprisingly good. We got one of the most traditional fest items–pork knuckle with potato dumplings.
After lunch it was time to work off the heavy meal. To get up to Neuschwanstein you can either take a bus to the top or climb. We opted to climb. It’s a steep, strenuous hike up, but you’re rewarded with amazing views.
The first stop on the way up is Mary’s Bridge, a narrow bridge suspended between two peaks. It is crammed with tourists, so be ready to take a photo as soon as someone is out of the way–or you may miss your chance.
The bridge feels a little wobbly with everyone on it but don’t worry, it was recently reinforced. There’s a lovely view looking down as well.
Once up to the castle you can wander the square until your block of numbers is called.
Once inside, a tour guide will give you a rather monotone spiel about the throne room, bedroom, study, and a few other rooms in the castle. Not too much detail is given as they shuffle groups quickly through.
I highly recommend going to Neuschwanstein, but you don’t necessarily need to see inside the castle Go to Schwangau, walk or ride around the town, and hike up to the castle and bridge to take in the gorgeous views. Skip the tour unless you’re dying to go inside. If you do want to go in, go with a tour group. Buying individual tickets is apparently a mob scene, and they routinely sell out the whole day early in the morning. Even if you do manage to get tickets, it may be for several hours later. Mike’s Bike Tours is an excellent option–we didn’t need to worry about any transportation and the guides were funny and informative.
One of the best things about it–after all the riding, hiking, and eating–we were able to doze off on the bus on the way back.