Neuschwanstein – meaning the “new swan stone” castle is a huge tourist draw for Germany. Inspiring artists like Walt Disney, who modeled his “sleeping beauty” and “Cinderella” castles on it, the Neuschwanstein attracts 1.4M tourists every year. This makes it a must visit if you are in Germany, and an absolute must if you are in Munich (or Bavaria).
It was built by in 1884 by the genius of a King – Ludwig II – as his own ambition but also as a tribute to his friend and partner Richard Wagner. Ludwig spent his childhood in another castle, a little below the hill where Neuschwanstein currently stands. He used to look up from his castle and look at the 2 ruined forts on the hill above and would dream of building his own that would surpass the beauty of his existing home, the Hohenschwangau castle.
Neuschwanstein was built in 15 years and Ludwig could only spend 2 years there before he died in mysterious circumstances. During World War II, being deep in Bavaria near the Alps, it was used by the Nazis to store stolen art and antiquities. It didn’t get bombed luckily and survived unscathed, emerging as a poster destination for tourists worldwide.
For restoration reasons, one can only inspect this property in guided tours of 40 odd minutes, but one can marvel at this beauty forever from either the Marienbrucke Bridge or the Hohenschwangau castle.
We spent the first half of our day in visiting these two castles and then took a lazy lunch at an idyllic village in the Austrian side of Tyrol – yes, we are just so close to the border and Tyrol has been on my bucket list (it’s the childhood place of Reinhold Messner, the God of mountaineering, but that story is for another day)
How to reach: It makes sense to do both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein together. Most tourists do so, either on foot or biking rides between the two (there are horse-drawn carriages too, as well as the shuttle bus). Neuschwanstein is a 20 min hike up from Hohenschwangau.
The base village of Hohenschwangau is in the Fussen region of Germany and is a 60 min taxi ride from Munich. There are excellent bus connections as well as a train (trains reach till Fussen, then take the bus to Neuschwanstein). It makes a lot of sense to be part of group tours and book in advance for the ride and tickets rather than spend more time at the ticket counters. Combined tickets are cheaper than piecemeal.
So go ahead and avoid being that traveler who has seen the Neuschwanstein only on google. Add your own footprint!