Close your eyes for a moment, and imagine: a striking white castle nestled into mountains covered with evergreen trees. Streams, waterfalls, and farms dot the ascending trails and the wide open valley below. Swans swim on a placid lake in the distance. A few kilometers away lies a town known for its beautiful pastel buildings. Sound like a fairytale? That’s because it is! And while many people know this place as Germany’s “Disney Castle,” it goes by a much more — well, German — name: Neuschwanstein (roughly pronounced New-SHWAN-stine). And if this sounds like a place you want to visit, then girl, have I got your back with this Neuschwanstein Castle Excursion Guide!
Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in all of Germany, with over 6000 visitors walking through its gates each day! And all you need to do is take a look at the pictures to see why. Just two hours outside of Munich, this striking castle atop a mountain is what inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty castles (yes both) and looks like it’s straight out of German fairytale! For tourists from around the globe it’s a true bucket-list destination, and it absolutely was for me. So when Fred surprised me on Valentine’s day with tickets, I was over the moon! Hiking trails and fairytale scenery? Sign me up!!
While it looks like it’s straight out of the 1500s, Neuschwanstein (which translates to New Swan Stone) Castle was actually built in the 1800s by King Ludwig II, with all the modern trappings inside from that timeframe to make his life comfortable. Each room is like stepping back in time: to Byzantium, to the adventures of Sir Lancelot, and more! Unfortunately, he did before it was ever completed. Neuschwanstein Castle is now the most visited castle in all of Germany, and the money raised through tours and donations goes towards restoring it as well as other regional castles throughout the country!
Ready to get out there and explore everything that this fairytale land has to offer? Then look no further and read on!!
Your Ultimate Neuschwanstein Castle Excursion Guide
Things to Keep in Mind when Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle:
You can definitely do it in one day.
Fred and I spent a total of maybe five hours in Füssen, Neuschwanstein, and Schwangau, and we felt like we had seen all that we needed to see! It didn’t help, of course, that it was raining for about 50% of that time, so we weren’t super keen on staying out in the open.
This is part of the reason why I called this post a Neuschwanstein Castle excursion guide instead of a travel guide. How much time you spend there will be up to you, however!
You must book your tickets in advance!
Neuschwanstein Castle has become such a popular tourist destination that you can’t just walk up to the counter to get tickets. Well, you can, but then you’re not guaranteed to get a tour at your preferred time or in your preferred language. In fact, if you arrive to the ticket counter after 12pm, you’re most likely not going to get tickets at all.
I recommend booking your tickets at least one month in advance to ensure you can go on the day and time that best fits your travel schedule! This, unfortunately, means that you have to rely on far-out weather forecasting, but it’s better than arriving only to find out that you can’t tour the castle at all!
The weather is highly unpredictable.
I’m sure you’ve heard this about most places in Germany, but it’s especially applicable when visiting Neuschwanstein Castle (and it’s why I’ve included it in my Neuschwanstein Castle excursion guide!). One of the best things you can remember is this: the closer you get to the Alps, the more unpredictable the weather will be.
Ready for a brief science lesson? Füssen and Neuschwanstein Castle are located within the foothills of the Alps, and because of their proximity to these mountains, they get a ton of rain. In order for clouds to rise above the mountains, they have to become lighter, meaning they drop whatever excess water they’re carrying right on top of the castle and surrounding area!
Pro-Neuschwanstein Castle Excursion Guide Tip: Make sure you’re bringing a raincoat and an umbrella with you, as well as shoes you wouldn’t mind getting wet. You never know when the rain will fall!
The easiest way to get there is from Munich.
If you’re flying into Germany through Munich, I highly recommend staying the night in the city and then travelling to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich the next day! It’s easy, convenient, and the most popular way to get there as well.
This is exactly what Fred and I did when we first flew to Germany: on Monday we landed and checked into our AirBnB, and on Tuesday we hopped on the train to the castle! So, as I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve based this Neuschwanstein Castle excursion guide off of travel from Munich.
Make sure to pack sandwiches or snacks in your bag!
Bakery items like pastries, sandwiches, and, of course, pretzels, are incredibly inexpensive in Germany, especially at the Hauptbanhofs. If you’re ballin’ on a budget, make sure to take advantage of this and buy your lunch before you leave! I paid a total of 5€ for a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch and an iced currant pastry with a small cup of coffee for breakfast. Literally a steal.
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Remember, though: water is clean and plentiful in the German countryside, which means they never give it away for free at restaurants. It also means that at tourist traps, water bottles are expensive. Do yourself a favor and buy a 1.5L bottle of water before you leave and sip on it all day!
Pro-Neuschwanstein Castle Excursion Guide Tip: Pack a pair of normal headphones along with your snacks. Trust me, you’ll need them for your tour!
Getting to Neuschwanstein (via Füssen)
Like I said, Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Germany, so you can bet that there will be plenty of tour companies vying for your money! Almost all hostels in the city will have plenty of brochures advertising competitive rates, and they’ll be able to recommend you a company that they work with as well.
Almost all of these packages will include transportation, a group tour guide, and tickets into the castle, so if you’re looking for an easy, all-inclusive option, this is it!
While you may feel tempted to plan out your entire trip, travel included, long before you ever touch down on German soil, I’m here to tell you: don’t do it. Not only will you (most likely) confuse yourself using the German websites, but it’s also completely unnecessary. Public transportation is incredibly accessible in Germany and also incredibly inexpensive. If you buy it when you’re there, that is!
When Fred and I arrived to Munich Hauptbanhof (abbreviated Hbf, it means central station!) we immediately walked over to one of the bright red kiosks to book our train tickets for the next day. But here’s the catch: You’re traveling to Füssen, not Schwangau or Neuschwanstein, so look for those tickets! It’s the closest town with a train station to the castle! But don’t worry, once you arrive at the train station, it’s a quick bus or taxi ride to Schwangau!
The first departing train of the day to any location is almost always a regional express (ICE) train, meaning it goes faster and has limited stops. It also means that it’s way more expensive than the next train out! As in, 25€ more expensive. Fred and I each purchased a normal regional train ticket for the grand total of 28€. If we had purchased the 8am train ticket? It would have cost us 80€. The regional train tickets were also round trip, and we could take any regional train we wanted back to Munich!
Pro-Neuschwanstein Castle Excursion Guide Tip: Don’t buy the 8am train ticket! Opt to leave an hour or two later and save yourself 25€.
Things to Remember: The Neuchwanstein Castle Ticket Office
Once you arrive in Füssen, you will need to take either a bus or a taxi to Hohenschwangau to pick up your tickets from the ticket office. Both are located right outside of the train station so you can’t miss them! Both rides should take a max of 15 minutes.
For the buses, you’ll need to take either bus 73 (direction Steingaden / Garmisch-Partenkirchen) or bus 78 (direction Schwangau) and get off at the Hohenschwangau stop. The bus costs about 2,30€ one-way, so it’s incredibly economical! But in my experience on a weekday, it only ran once every half-hour to an hour.
My recommendation would be to take a taxi, if possible. It cost us around 12€ total to get from the train station directly to the ticket office, and if you’re a group of two or more, it’s definitely worth the extra euros!
Once you arrive at the ticket office, immediately get in line! Especially if you haven’t reserved your tickets in advance.
Pro-Neuschwanstein Castle Excursion Guide Tip: You’ll have to pick up your tickets before the ascent to the castle because there isn’t a ticket office up there, so make sure it’s the first thing you do!
Getting up to the castle
There are a number of ways that you can actually get up to the top of the mountain for your castle tour!
If you seriously want to fulfill your Disney Princess Dream of ascending to your castle via horse drawn carriage, then boy, do I have news for you. You can actually do that!! And no, this is not a joke.
Right outside the ticket office, carriages will be lined up, waiting to take tourists to the top of the mountain and drop them off at the castle. They’re covered can fit up to 10 people, so be ready to squeeze! The cost is 6€ uphill and 3€ downhill.
Tour buses as well as public transportation buses will regularly take tourists up to the top of the mountain! The good news? You’ll actually be dropped off right next to the Marienbrücke, the must-see bridge between two cliffs that gives you the perfect shot with the castle! It costs 1,80€ uphill, 1,00€ downhill, or 2,60€ round trip.
Good ol’Fashioned Hiking
As a self-proclaimed outdoorsy gal, I will always opt anything that allows me to get some hiking done! So needless to say, Fred and I braved the not-so-terrible 30 minute hike up the mountain.
You have two options when it comes to hiking: you can either walk along the road the horse-drawn carriages use (a less-steep route with a paved path) that takes you right up to the castle or you can veer to the right and hike up a steeper gravel path that lets you out right next to the Marienbrücke!
I personally recommend the more difficult route. It was fun to get our blood pumping as we ascended, and we happened across a natural waterfall right along the path where we could refill out water bottles!
Pro-Neuschwanstein Castle Excursion Guide Tip: Make sure you’re wearing the right shoes for the hike! It can get steep and slippery. Sneakers are good but hiking shoes will always be best!
What to do at Neuschwanstein Castle
Yay, we’ve made it to the top of the mountain! That a feat in and of itself! Here’s your best bet of how to do things:
Head to the Marienbrücke first and scope it out.
Because most buses let tourists off right next to here, you want to try to time it so that you’re on the bridge in between bus arrivals! The bridge is stable, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The railings are solid but the floorboards do jiggle, which isn’t helpful when crowds of tourists are pushing past you! (Believe me, I practically had to drag Fred out there kicking and screaming). But if you can get out there with fewer people on the bridge? The view is absolutely breathtaking. Absolutely worth it! If it’s crowded, no worries, you can always come back after your castle tour.
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Pro-Neuschwanstein Castle Excursion Guide Tip: If it starts to rain, head to the Marienbrücke immediately! Rain tends to be intermittent and ends quickly, but most tourists will rush off the bridge to get cover, leaving you with all the space in the world and a picture-perfect moment! (My photos were taking in the rain).
Have a picnic in view of Neuschwanstein.
Once you’re done scoping out the Marienbrücke (or taking photos), wander around the hiking paths on either side of the bridge until you find a spot to park yourself with a view of the castle. Remember that lunch I told you to pack? Now is the time to eat it! Or just re-up with a good snack. It’s a great way to relax and take in the views before you head to your tour!
Head to the castle to take your tour.
At your designated time you’ll get in line, insert your ticket into the turnstile, and then walk inside the castle to wait for your tour guide! You’ll be handed an audio-guide with a speaker attached to it so that you can hear your tour guide regardless of how far away from them you are. This is where those headphones come in! All of the audio-guides have headphone jack, so plug yours in and stick the guide in your pocket for easy, hands-free use!
The tour will last about 35 minutes and will only cover the completed rooms in the castle, but you’ll actually get to walk through a ton more to get out of the castle, so don’t rush it! There’s also a cute cafe where you can grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the view of the valley below you.
What to do when you finish your Neuschwanstein Castle Tour
Altogether, your time getting up to the top of the mountain, taking pictures, and touring Neuschwanstein will take you a little more than three hours total. That’s really not a whole lot of time at all! But no worries, there’s plenty more that you can do in Schwangau, Fussen, and the surrounding areas to keep you occupied until you’re ready to head home.
As you’re walking around Schwangau and up to Neuschwanstein I’m sure you’ll notice, there’s actually another castle in the same town! This is Hohenschwangau, the original castle in the area before Neuschwanstein was built. It overlooks the Alpsee and it quite beautiful, if not as striking as the castle you’ll have just toured. But if castles are your thing, this is a great opportunity to tour another!
Take a stroll around the Alpsee.
The Alpsee is the lake nestled into the mountains below Neuschwanstein castle and is maybe a five-minute walk from the ticket center! During the high summer months you can actually go swimming in it too! But whether or not you’re looking to get wet, a stroll around this placid lake is a great way to pass the time while taking in the truly fairy-tale-like scenery.
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Pro-Neuschwanstein Castle Excursion Guide Tip: Never been to Austria? The Alpsee actually cuts across the Austrian border! Take a half a loop around and you’ll be able to check another country off your list!
Go for a hike.
As you’re wandering around the Alpsee you’ll start to see signs for hiking trails in the surrounding mountains. If you’re wearing the right shoes I highly encourage you to go for a hike! The nature is absolutely beautiful (seriously, the entire town is a fairytale) and the views of the surrounding area are well worth it. All of the paths are clearly marked and signs are easily readable, so you’ll always know where you are and how far you are from Schwangau!
Explore the pastel town of Füssen.
Once you’ve seen all that you feel like you need to see in Schwangau, hop on the bus or call a taxi to take you back to Füssen. Trust me, there’s even more to do here! The pastel town has absolutely beautiful buildings to take in, art installments on practically every street, handy shops if you’d like to browse, and, even more importantly, plenty of cafes. Take a seat, order yourself a cup of coffee and a slice of German cake, and relax!
Have you ever visited Neuschwanstein? Let me know in the comments below, and make sure to share this Neuschwanstein Castle excursion guide with an adventurous friend!