Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Saying that Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany’s most famous castle and one of the most popular in all of Europe is a bold statement, that will probably get me into trouble, but it’s true.
Regular readers will know that 99% of what I write is positive, but I also feel an obligation to be honest and not shy away from sharing what I don’t like from time to time. This post is also void of the usual wow photos of the castle that you’re used to seeing. They were all taken before I got into photography and represent a more realistic view of the castle.
The “fairy tale” castle which inspired the Disney castle is visited every year by 1.4 million visitors. In the summer it can receive up to 6,000 visitors a day. The irony being that the castle was not designed for royal representation, but was to be Kind Ludwig II’s retreat – his place to escape to the poetic world of the Middle Ages.
I totally get why people want to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. I insisted on visiting it on my very first trip to Germany, despite J.P. (my now German husband) insisting that there were much more worthwhile castles to visit. I didn’t care, I hadn’t heard of them and wanted to visit the fairy tale castle built by the crazy king.
So here is why I think Neuschwanstein is Germany’s most overrated castle:
Entrance is by guided tour only. I don’t find that a problem in itself, but groups can be up to 60 people in size (way to big for my tastes). Furthermore the tour only lasts about 30 minutes. I literally felt like I was being rushed through each room, with only perfunctory information. There was no time for story telling, done on other castle tours, like Ludwigsburg, my favorite castle tour in Germany and it’s the stories that really bring a castle to life. Photos aren’t allowed inside, hence why only outside photos are featured in this post.
Most of the castle isn’t finished. Only a third of the castle was finished before King Ludwig’s II untimely death a the age of 41 in Lake Starnberg. (See Solving Mysteries in the Starnberger See to see if you can figure out whether his death was accidental or murder). If memory serves correct, we only visited 5 rooms on our tour.
Too crowded/requires advance planning. I like to be more spontaneous in my travels, but you can’t just show up during the summer and expect to get entrance to Neuschwanstein. Chances are it will be sold out unless you’ve bought a ticket in advance. When you’ve bought your ticket you will be given your tour time. It’s imperative that you make it on time, or you may be out of luck. From Munich it’s ~ a 2 hour train journey, then a 10 minute bus ride, then a 30 minute walk up the hill to the castle. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to get there, but if you arrive really early, you’ll find yourself waiting. There’s not much to do at the castle entrance itself. I was there in October and hadn’t bought my ticket in advance. I learned my lesson of the importance of advanced tickets as I waited outside in the freezing cold for 45 minutes.
Little History. Neuschwanstein Castle may look old, but it’s quite young as far as castles go. It was built between 1869 and 1886 and opened to the public weeks after King Ludwig II’s death. It never served as a refuge for Catholics during the 30 Year War like Hohenzollern Castle did. Nor was it burned by the French once, let alone twice as Heidelberg Castle was.
Too modern. I like my castles old and void of all modern amenities. Neuschwanstein Castle was built for comfort with central hitting, running water, toilets, telephones, electric bell system to summon servants and even a food elevator! None of which belong in a castle in my humble opinion.
Me posing in front of Neuschwanstein. Tip the best photos of the castle are taken some distance from the castle, not a the castle itself.
If you really want to see a King Ludwig II Castle, then I would recommend Herrenchiemsee Palace on Lake Chiemsee. It was inspired by the Palace of Versailles. It’s by far the most elaborate palace I’ve ever visited and makes for a nice day outing. You get there by taking a boat ride to get to Herrenchiemsee Island, where the palace is located. It’s also very touristy, but definitely worth checking out. Check back soon for a post with more information.
Despite everything I’ve said, I know that you will still probably want to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. No offence taken, I get it. The castle is beautiful from the outside with dramatic mountains serving as the backdrop. Travel tip: Visit the castle from the outside (the best views are from further away) and then do a hike. If you decide to do the castle tour try to go off-season, buy your tickets in advance and keep your expectations in check.
Here’s What You’ll Need to Know Before You Go to Neuschwanstein Castle:
- Entrance is by guided tour only.
- Buy your ticket in advance at: http://www.hohenschwangau.de.
- Entrance costs €12 per adult.
- Neuschwanstein Castle receives up to 6000 visitors a day, so avoid going on weekends or in the summer if possible.
- It’s a 30 minute uphill walk to the castle so wear comfortable walking shoes. Alternatively you can go by horse and buggy at a cost of €5 person or by shuttle bus (which doesn’t run in snowy conditions e) €1.90 person.
- Check out the official site for Neuschwanstein Castle for further info.
- If you have decided to take my advice and visit another castle instead, then be sure to check out My Favorite Castles in Southern Germany.
- I also highly recommend The Munich Residenz (the royal residence in Munich) which doesn’t look like much as far as palaces go from the outside, but is quite impressive inside.