I grew up watching Disney movies and admiring the beautiful gowns and castles in these movies. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to visit a castle – not the scary, Medieval castles used for war but rather the beautiful castles fit for a princess.
The most famous castle in pop culture is, of course, Cinderella’s castle. Rising high over the lands, gleaming white with beautiful turrets, it’s exactly what a Disney-era child imagines when they think of a fairy-tale castle.
Well, luckily for you, you can actually visit the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s most favorite castle! Neuschwanstein castle is rumored to have been the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle and it isn’t too far from Munich!
Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich may be relatively easy, although it does make for a long day. If you’ve always wanted to visit a fairy-tale castle, Neuschwanstein might be the perfect day trip for you.
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About Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein (pronounced, roughly, nyosh-von-stine) is located in Bavaria, Germany in the city of Schwangau near the Austro-German border.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria began construction on the castle after being defeated by the Prussians. Although he didn’t functionally have much power after the defeat, he wanted to build someplace grand where he could live as a recluse.
His inspiration for the castle was based on Hohenschwangau Castle, his childhood home and the smaller castle just down the hill from Neuschwanstein. He decimated the Bavarian economy by constructing Neuschwanstein and, unfortunately, died before it was completed. Bavarian officials were not pleased by the state of their economy so they halted construction following his death but eventually completed the castle and used it as a tourist attraction in an attempt to recoup some money.
How to Get to the Castle from Munich
The best way to get to Schangau is via public transport. Although it is easy to visit Neuschwanstein castle from Munich, it is long. You can plan on about a 2.5 hour train ride each way PLUS a ~10-minute bus ride to finish your journey.
Start your journey at the Munich Hauptbanhof. If you’re traveling on a weekend or after 9a on a weekday, I recommend you purchase a BayarnKarte also known as a Regional Day Pass for Bavaria. That pass entitles you to unlimited travel within the Bavarian region for one entire day and (as of 2019) is only 25€.
If you’re traveling in a large group, you’ll be eligible for a discount, as well!
Once you’re at the Hauptbanhof, hop aboard the train to Füssen. As always, I recommend you download the region-specific train app as well as the Eurail “Rail Planner” app – so be sure to check the most recent timetables before you depart!
After arriving in Füssen, you’ll need to board a bus to Hohenschwangau. If you have the BayernKarte, your pass will cover this bus ticket; otherwise, you’ll need to purchase a bus pass as well. Don’t worry about having to wait for a bus – this is Germany, after all. There will more than likely be a bus timed for the arrival of the train!
The bus will take you right to Schwangau where you can begin your adventure at both Neuschwanstein Castle & Hohenschwangau Castle!
Attractions in Schwangau
You may tour both Neuschwanstein Castle & Hohenschwangau Castle while visiting the town of Schwangau. Neither castle can be toured without a ticket! There are tickets to just tour Neuschwanstein, but I recommend you tour both – remember, you’re traveling over 5 hours roundtrip for this. Make the most of it.
I recommend you purchase tickets ahead of time because they actually can sell out. I traveled during the low season and didn’t have issues getting in the same day but I did have to wait hours before I could visit Neuschwanstein. If you want to purchase tickets ahead of time, you can buy them here.
There isn’t much else to do in the area besides touring the castles. There is one restaurant and a few food stands, along with some souvenir shops. It may be worthwhile packing some snacks!
Touring the Castles
You’re going to need to book a tour time for both castles, so be sure to do that as soon as you arrive if you didn’t pre-purchase your tickets.
One thing to note: neither castle permits photographs of the castle interior. Don’t be surprised or disappointed when they tell you this – just go on the tours and enjoy! And don’t try to be sneaky and take photos when no one is looking.
Hohenschwangau castle – called Schloss Hohenschwangau in German – is located close to the base of Schwangau. It is easily accessed from the bus stop and is close to the restaurants & shops.
It is much smaller than Neuschwanstein and much less famous, but still worth visiting. King Ludwig II actually grew up here, so it’s the only castle between the two that actually house any royals.
The tour takes about 30 minutes. It’s worth it to explore around the castle either before or after your tour time because the grounds are beautiful!
Getting to Schloss Neuschwanstein from Schwangau is much more difficult than reaching Hohenschwangau. The castle is literally perched on a hilltop. There are three ways to reach the castle: (1) walking approximately 1.5km up a steep mountainous road (30-40 minutes each way), (2) taking a horsedrawn carriage, or (3) taking a shuttle bus.
In the case of the horse-drawn carriage and the shuttle bus, they will not drop you off right at Neuschwanstein. You will have to walk 15 minutes on a relatively steep road to the castle entrance. These options also have a small cost associated with them and reservations are not possible. In addition to that, the shuttle bus will not run if the road is icy – so it is best to consider that when planning your trip.
Factor in the timing to get to the castle before it’s time for your tour! There may be a line for either the carriage or the shuttle bus and you want to arrive with plenty of time. If you’re late to the front of the castle, you’re out of luck – the tour will go on without you.
When I visited, the bridge from which the famous Neuschwanstein castle pictures are often taken was undergoing repairs so it wasn’t possible to go that way. There are two photo points, however, so I still got wonderful photos. If you visit and both viewpoints are open, absolutely take advantage of both of them!
And don’t forget to admire the Bavarian countryside below. It looks straight out of a fairy tale, just like the castle.
When you arrive at the castle for your tour, hang around until your tour time is announced. Please note: anything larger than a standard daypack is not permitted in the castle! There are lockers available at the ticket office if need be.
The total tour time takes about 30 minutes, much like the Hohenschwangau tour.
You’ll find the tour surprising – when I imagined a fairy tale castle, I expected a lot of white with gold ornaments. It was certainly opulent but in a completely different style. I won’t ruin it for you, but let’s just say that King Ludwig II was fascinated with Turkish culture so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of pineapples during your tour.
Returning to Munich
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the castles, head back to Munich. Be mindful of bus and train departure times so that you’re not waiting too long!
As I mentioned, it takes about 2.5 hours to go to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich so you’re going to have a long return trip ahead of you. I distinctly remember returning and being hangry. Not hungry, hangry. I would absolutely recommend you pack snacks so that you can fill up on your way home.
Because this is a long day trip, you’ll likely return to Munich in the mid-evening. Are you really going to want to seek out a quick dinner after a 9-12 hour day? I know I didn’t. I ended up getting Burger King at the train station but wished I had packed something. Learn from my mistake!
Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich is an easy, but long, day trip. If you’ve always dreamed of seeing a classic fairy tale castle, however, it’s completely worth it! With some preparation, you can experience the perfect fairy tale day trip from Munich.