Last updated on November 28th, 2016
I’ve been wanting to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, a nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace, near Munich in the southern Bavaria region of Germany for a very long time. I’ve been to Germany so many times, but never close enough to visit the castle on an easy day trip. So when we were in Munich this year for Oktoberfest, I made sure that we reserved a day to finally visit Neuschwanstein castle.
First, a little about the castle, in case you don’t already know. King Ludwig II was apparently a bit of a recluse. He built the castle in order to escape from the public eye. But just a few days after his death in 1886, his beloved castle was opened to the public, and it has been the most visited castle or palace in Europe. According to the Neuschwanstein vistor website, “every year 1.4 million people visit ‘the castle of the fairy-tale king’. In the summer around 6,000 visitors a day stream through rooms that were intended for a single inhabitant.”
How to Get Tickets
If you want to visit Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich, it pays to plan ahead, since you’ll be competing for the available daily tickets with the other 5,999 visitors that day. It is free to walk around the grounds of the castle and to view it from the bridge. No ticket is required to do that. You will need a ticket if you intend to go inside for a tour.
Tickets for the tour can only be purchased online or at the ticket office in the village below the castle. I highly encourage you to prebook your tickets, so you can avoid the line, and the obvious disappointment you’ll feel when you learn there are no more tickets for the day. Just remember that you must purchase tickets no later than 3pm at least 2 days ahead. I don’t recommend you wait that late to book, especially if you want a specific time slot.
If you show up the day of and are able to get a ticket, there is no guarantee when that will be. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to pick your first choice time slot, unless it’s in the dead of winter when no one else is there.
How to Get to Neuschwanstein Castle From Munich
It’s really quite easy to get to the castle from Munich. You can rent a car and drive, but we found that the easiest method for reaching the castle is to take the train that leaves from the main train station (Haupbaunhof) in Munich. It will take you the entire day to get there, spend time looking around, and get back on the train, but it is both inexpensive and easy to do.
Here are the details:
- Take the train to Füssen from the Munich Haupbaunhof that leaves at 9:53 am. Why this time, exactly? There is a really cheap train ticket option called the Bayern ticket, which allows you to travel on all trains and buses throughout Bavaria Monday – Friday, from 9am to 3am the next day, for just €23. If you’re traveling with other people, it’s even cheaper because it’s only an additional €5 per person, up to 5 people. Note: If you’re planning to go on a weekend, the Bayern ticket is valid from midnight to 3am the next day, so you can take the 8:52am train instead.
You have to buy the ticket from the station AFTER 9am, and you can then use it to travel to the Haupbaunhof (if you’re not starting out from there), on to Füssen and also on the bus to Hohenschwangau, the village where the castle is. The first train leaving Munich after 9am is at 9:53am.
- The train departs from Platform 29. It’s the farthest train to the far right of the train station. It takes about 2 hours to reach Füssen. (Pro Tip: Sit at the front of the train. When you get off in Füssen, this will allow you to beat the rest of the crowds to the bus that will take you up to the castle, saving you quite a bit of time and maybe earning you a seat for the ride.)
- When you get off the train in Füssen, walk around to the other side of the train tracks and you should see the bus waiting there. You want bus 78 to the castles. The bus ride takes about 20 minutes.
What to Do Once You Arrive
Once you’ve gotten off the bus:
- When you arrive in Hohenschwangau, you can follow the crowd up to the visitor center, up the hill to the right, where you’ll stand in line to get tickets, or to pick up your already reserved tickets. You have to pick them up by 12:55pm.
- There are three possible ways to get up to the castle, which is perched high up on the mountain. You can walk up (it’s a long, steep climb – 1.5km – a 20-30 min walk), you can take a bus for just €1.80 or €2.60 RT (which you find just past the ticket office up the hill), or you can ride in a horse-drawn carriage (but think of those poor horses!).
However you arrive at the top, you’ll be dropped off at the entrance to Marienbrücke, the suspension bridge that overlooks the castle, where everyone gets those amazing photos, like this one:
Beware, the bridge can get extremely packed with people, all pushing to get the best view. There are more selfie sticks on the bridge than you’ll ever see again in one place.
Pro Tip: Don’t bother standing at the start of the bridge. Make your way further onto the other side of the bridge and you’ll have way more space.
After you’ve taken all the pictures you can stand, you’ll head back down to where the bus dropped off, and head down the path on the right, which takes you about 600 meters downhill to the castle itself. There are some great photo-taking spots along the way, so leave enough time for gawking.
Around the other side of the castle and up the steps is where the lines form for tours. You’ll see an electronic board displaying the ticket group number (which you’ll find on the face of your ticket). When your number is displayed, you enter the line. The tour lasts for about 30 minutes.
After the tour, you can walk back down or take the return bus. We chose to walk down. You’ll pass by a large area with benches and free wi-fi, presumably so you can send all those selfies out into the world – but there is no free wi-fi anywhere else, so take advantage, if you need to. There are also some pretty amazing views on the walk, like this one of Hohenschwangau Castle.
About halfway down the hill is a restaurant with a nice view and an outdoor patio (for nice days). The menu is pretty much the same as the restaurants at the bottom of the hill, so if you’re hungry and can get a spot, I would recommend staying there to eat. Alternatives can be found in Hohenschwangau, on the same street with the ticket office. We passed up the restaurant on the hill, thinking it would be overpriced, but then wished we hadn’t, because the prices were the same. But we did find a great restaurant, Restaurant Kainz, which had a great view of the castle from the far side of the outdoor patio, plus some really good food!
After lunch, we headed off to have a look at the second castle in Hohenschwangau.
Visiting and touring Hohenschwangau Castle
Remember that Neuschwanstein is t the only castle to visit and tour in town. Another, smaller castle can be found by walking up the hill behind the ticket office.
Hohenschwangau Castle isn’t as magnificent and storybook-looking as it’s bigger cousin, but it’s definitely worth a visit. The same ticket process applies to the tour of this castle. But the only way to get up there is by walking.
Note: You are not permitted to take photos in either castle.
When you’ve finished with your visit, head back down to the Visitor’s center to catch the bus back to the train.
A note about the train. When we were there, there were two trains we could get on – one was a straight shot with no transfer, but the other involved a transfer. Take careful note of which one you’re on. The conductor will alert you that you must transfer at a specific point. When you exit the train, look for the signs to Munich to make sure you’re getting on the proper train.
If you’ve ever wanted to visit the castle, keep in mind how easy it is to visit Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich. It’s a great day trip, and very much worth the time.
Have you been to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich? Tell us about your experience in the comments.