To visit Neuschwanstein Castle is at the top of many a Germany wish list. Neuschwanstein Castle (pronounced Noy-schvaan-stine) is the magical, yet very real, fairytale castle you’ve seen a hundred times.
It’s the one that sits high on a hill at the base of the Alps, the one with a mysterious past, and the one that inspired the design for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland (not Cinderella’s at Disney World, just to be clear).
Even better that all that: You can visit Neuschwanstein Castle easily from Munich—either as a day trip from Munich or, even better, spend the night near Neuschwanstein Castle and make a whole day of it.
Regardless of how you visit Neuschwanstein Castle, here are some need-to-know tips for doing so when you do!
This post was originally published in 2015 but has since been completely rewritten and updated for 2021.
1. Don’t jump to conclusions about it
There will be many an ugly old troll who will tell you not to visit Neuschwanstein Castle because it’s “overrated” and “touristy.” But who cares! Yes, there are tourists here but rightfully so—this place is gorgeous!
And… “overrated?” I’m not quite sure what it is these haters were expecting? Fairy godmothers with mouse-driven carriages? Dishes that wash themselves? A sassy French-speaking candelabra? In case you weren’t yet aware, this is not an actual fairytale castle. Managing your expectations is key here.
Is it worth visiting Neuschwanstein Castle?
As far as the castle goes, it’s beautiful, world famous, and absolutely worth seeing. The locale is, dare I say it, breathtaking and your visit to Neuschwanstein Castle will surely be an unforgettable one. Also, I’m personally of the mindset that I’d rather “see something once than hear about it a thousand times.”
The tour itself isn’t exactly the stuff minstrels write songs about but it’s only €13 and, if you have done any amount of research, you already know what to expect. The castle is not too remote for a quick stop and visiting won’t take up too much of your day. You lose nothing when you visit Neuschwanstein Castle.
2. Reserve your tickets ahead of time
Let me be clear, anyone can visit Neuschwanstein Castle. You can walk up to and around the castle up close and walk the famous bridge and trails, all without paying a dime. However, if you wish to go inside Neuschwanstein Castle that is only possible on a guided tour.
Neuschwanstein Castle tour tickets
There are two ways to purchase Neuschwanstein Castle tour tickets:
- On the same day, at the ticket center in Hohenschwangau (the village below the castle)
- Online ahead of time < recommended
Tours are kept at limited capacity and sell out every day. So, if you show up at the ticket center on the day you wish to tour, you might be waiting a dreadfully long time, if there are any tickets available in the first place. (But it is possible!)
I reserved mine online a week in advance and still didn’t get the time I requested. I recommend reserving them as early as you know you’re going to visit Neuschwanstein Castle so you have more control over your schedule.
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3. Double check your assigned tour time
Don’t assume the tour time you requested is your actual tour time. After reserving my group’s 1:00 PM tour tickets, I promptly received the following email confirming them:
“Thank you very much for your request. Attached you find your confirmation in PDF-format.”
So, we busted our asses to get from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle ahead of your 1 PM tour. (Someone stole our rental car… it was a whole morning.)
Once at will call to pick up our tickets we were told our tour wasn’t actually until 4:25. I explained that we reserved tickets for 1:00 and that I even received an email confirming this which, of course, I was unable to show her because technology is often a son of a bitch.
Open all correspondences
Another staff member overheard our plight and was able to fit all five of us into the “completely full” tour at 1:15 so all crises were averted. However, that night I opened the attached PDF to find the following message at the bottom of my “confirmation:”
“You need to pick up your tickets at least one hour before your admission time, at 15:25, in the Ticket-Center.”
In the time since my visit to Neuschwanstein Castle I have learned many lessons, one of them is to thoroughly read every single piece of information that comes my way when it comes to planning trips.
However, there are so many reasons this message was overlooked. Even though it’s ultimately my fault for missing this, I also imagine this must happen every. single. day. here in the land of Much-Too-Subtle-Ville.
Never was I told outright that my 1:00 request could not be fulfilled. Never was I given the option to select a different time. I requested 1:00, they gave me 4:25, and that was the end of it.
Get clarity if you need it
Also, this confirmation can be interpreted a number of ways. Am I to pick the tickets up at 3:25, which is an hour before my tour? Or do I need to pick up my tickets one hour before my tour… which is at 3:25? Literally nowhere does my “confirmation email” actually confirm what time my tour is at.
To clarify, they meant: Your tour is at 4:25 but you must pick up your tickets at the Ticket Center one hour before your tour (3:25).
Be sure to double check all your documents when planning your trip to Neuschwanstein Castle and don’t be afraid to reach out them in you have questions. Which you probably will.
4. Arrive plenty early
Your assigned tour time will be the time you are to congregate at the castle to enter for your tour. Keep in mind that it takes a good 45 minutes to an hour to get from the ticket center to the castle, depending on which mode of transportation you take—which I’ll cover in a minute.
As you just saw, in the confirmation email they recommend you pick up your tickets at least an hour before your tour. However, I recommend more if, for nothing else, the sake of “better safe than sorry.”
So, you’ll need to park (if you drove), wait in line at the ticket center, then either walk uphill to the castle (45 minutes) or take either the shuttle bus or a horse-drawn carriage. The shuttle bus takes about 10 minutes and the carriage takes 20, but both have lines you’ll need to wait in to board.
Then, you’ll be crazy distracted trying to take all the photos of this majestic palace while you wait for your tour time. The key point to take away here is: if you miss your allotted tour time, you miss your tour, plain and simple. Because of how popular Neuschwanstein Castle is, they show zero leniency here.
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If you’re looking for another great day trips from Munich, check out my guide to squeezing in a day trip to Salzburg, Austria from Munich. It’s easy to do and there’s tons to see!
5. Read King Ludwig II’s biography before you go
The Swan King, Ludwig II of Bavaria by Christopher McIntosh is a great biography of the man who built Neuschwanstein Castle. Everyone knows about this guy, or at least thinks they do. “He was crazy!” or “He was a closet homosexual!” and “He killed himself… maybe!” Well, yes pretty much, but the story is so much more interesting those tiny tidbits. (And it’s also nice to be able to separate fact from stuff your know-it-all friend tells you on trivia night.)
King Ludwig’s life was the ultimate fancy-rich-people soap opera, bursting at the well-tailored seams with drama and intrigue. For instance, King Ludwig II suffered an intense phobia of ugly people—this is real, I kid you not—that affected not only his daily life but also his political affairs.
Oh, and then there was that time he tried to kill his brother when they were little—the brother that then spent most of his life locked up in an asylum. And that’s just chapter one.
Eventually he would become known as the king who went mad and the details surrounding his death remain a mystery to this day. Was he murdered? Did he die of natural causes? Was it suicide? A freak accident? You decide!
I highly recommend reading Ludwig’s life story before your visit to Neuschwanstein Castle to better understand the circumstances that brought this castle to life—the culmination of a lifetime of eccentricities.
6. Take the shuttle bus to the castle
To get up to Neuschwanstein Castle from the ticket center you have three transportation options:
- A horse-drawn carriage
- Your own two feet
- A small shuttle bus
But the best part is that you don’t have to hold a Neuschwanstein Castle tour ticket in order to use them. If you want to visit Neuschwanstein Castle and just walk around the exterior and get the great views, you can still use these transportation methods as you wish.
Taking a horse-drawn carriage to Neuschwanstein Castle
Taking a horse-drawn carriage up to the castle will cost you around 7 euros (3.5 euros on the way down) and it’s way less romantic than it sounds. This is not the plush gold and velvet situation of yore pulled by noble steeds; this is an onion pulled by an annoyingly chatty donkey that you’ll share with other kid-toting families.
You’ll weave in and out of crowds of college students and tourists taking photos with their iPads every twelve steps. Not to mention you are downwind from a horse’s ass all the live-long day. Take a look at the Neuschwanstein Castle horse carriage situation. It’s actually very, very sad. 0/10 do not recommend.
The carriage ride to the castle takes 20 minutes but they drop you off below the castle. From there you still have to walk uphill another 15 minutes to actually reach the castle. Hi-ho, hi-no.
Walking up to Neuschwanstein Castle
I can’t tell you how fast your own two feet will take you, but the trip up the mountain averages about 45 minutes. And it can get fairly crowded and steep.
However, this method is free and if you’ve got time to kill and calories to burn, you can never go wrong with walking!
Important note: If you plan on walking up to Neuschwanstein Castle, remember to wear good, solid shoes. Sneakers, hiking boots, Chacos, or similar are your best bet. The path up to the castle is paved but quite steep. Neuschwanstein Castle is also surrounded by trails (and what I assume is an enchanted forest) you may want to check out afterwards.
Taking the shuttle bus to Neuschwanstein Castle
Taking the shuttle bus up to the castle costs 2.5 euros per person (1.5 on the way down, or 3 euros roundtrip) and the line to board is fast-moving. The trip from the ticket center to the castle takes just 10 minutes. I should warn you though, that’s ten harrowing minutes driving along the edge of a steep cliff. Just don’t look down maybe.
The shuttle bus drops you off at the Marienbrücke, the famous bridge from where you get all the great photos, which is located above the castle. There is still some additional walking to get to the castle, but at least it’s downhill.
Important note: the shuttle bus to Neuschwanstein Castle has limited hours during the winter months, and only runs in ideal weather conditions (no ice or snow).
Neuschwanstein Castle Accessibility
Unfortunately, none of the transportation options offered at Neuschwanstein Castle are marked as wheelchair accessible and the paths are rated as much-too-steep for wheelchair users.
However, this 2014 article from Wheelchair Traveling details how he was able to visit Neuschwanstein Castle in a wheelchair. Upon further investigation I was able to find multiple accounts of people visiting in wheelchairs as long as they had help getting up and down the steep paths.
The castle itself is mostly accessible and you will have to enter through a separate entrance and miss out on certain areas inside, but the staff is able and willing to help. The Marienbrücke bridge is also wheelchair accessible.
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Neuschwanstein Castle is exactly halfway between Munich, Germany and the little country of Liechtenstein. If you’re looking for more awesome side trips to take, definitely consider spending a couple of days in Liechtenstein. It’s pure alpine bliss!
7. Bring your own headphones for the tour
Why, what big ears you have! All the better to hear the tour information through this archaic listening device, my dear!
For your Neuschwanstein Castle tour you’ll be given an audio set so you can clearly hear your tour guide even from a distance. If you’ve been on any kind of sheep-herding tour throughout Europe, you’re familiar with the “whisper” technology.
If not, you can expect to receive some very outdated technology in the form of a small listening box you have to hold to your ear for the duration of the tour. This gets old, fast.
Luckily I had some earbuds with me and was able to plug in for the rest of the tour, leaving my hands free to fake-conduct an orchestra throughout the castle. Ashley – 1, 19th-century technology – 0.
If you don’t already have a set of earbuds in your purse or pocket, be sure to bring them on your tour.
8. Manage your expectations
I’ve already mentioned this, but I’m going to do so again for the trolls in the back. Neuschwanstein Castle is amazing. It’s the most stunning piece of architecture in the most picturesque surroundings. But the tour is mediocre.
The castle is enormous and has such a fascinating history but because the castle was mostly unfinished at the time of Ludwig’s mysterious death, the tour only covers a handful of rooms. They’re lavish rooms, but still.
How awesome the rest of this place must be! So empty and cavernous. I would just run around in circles all day, open arms, like, “Do you wanna build a snowmannn?” Well, there would at least be cartwheels and roller blading.
A minimalist tour
At any rate, the information presented on the tour is fairly minimal. I was hoping to learn more information that I hadn’t previously read prior to my trip. (Are there any secret passageways? How’d he die? HOW’D HE DIE?!) Unfortunately, that was pretty lacking.
If you really want to learn about the castle’s history and King Ludwig II, do your research and read The Swan King before you visit Neuschwanstein Castle. That way you can spend the half-hour tour simply taking in the detail of this man’s obsession with Wagner (classical composer)… and swans. So many swans.
All that being said, I’m still glad I took the Neuschwanstein Castle tour. At worst, it’s just a mediocre 30 minutes. At best, you get to tour the inside of probably the most famous fairytale castle on Earth, and not everyone can say that.
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If you want more of a taste of the Alps after visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, keep driving and head towards Gimmelwald, Switzerland. This car-free village is up high on a mountainside and provides all the Swiss comforts you could ask for.
9. Don’t miss the Marienbrücke
The Marienbrücke, German for “Mary’s Bridge,” is the footbridge from which you get the most enchanting views of Neuschwanstein Castle. It was commissioned by King Maximilian II in 1845 and named for his wife and Queen of Bavaria, Marie of Prussia. She was also King Ludwig II’s mother.
The view from the Marienbrücke is the main reason I campaigned to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. To see a castle as massive and mythical as this in such a beautiful natural environment is surreal. Forests and mountains, waterfalls and turquoise alpine lakes, and trails of bread crumbs and a wolf dressed like an old woman! I’ve gone too far.
Getting to the Marienbrücke is easy by following the signs and can be visited by anyone, not just tour ticket holders. It spans a gorge over a waterfall and may not be for those with a fear of heights.
To get to the Marienbrücke you’ll take the same modes of transportation as to the castle: feet, horse, bus. You can visit whenever you like, before or after your tour, and the walking distance between Neuschwanstein Castle and the Marienbrücke is just 15 minutes.
Important note: In the winter months when there is snow and ice on the ground, the Marienbrücke is completely closed for, what I like to call, obvious safety reasons.
10. Don’t stop at the beginning of the bridge
This might be my biggest tip for visiting Neuschwanstein Castle and probably the reason haters hate on Neuschwanstein so much.
When you get to the Marienbrücke, everyone will be crowding onto the bridge to take their amazing photos. They’ll be elbowing for their spots, pushing and shoving to claim some space to take their pictures, etc. But there is no one on the other side.
Tons of tourists are on this bridge to take their photos and they are all stopped at the bridge’s entrance, quite literally tourist-trapped. Meanwhile, the far side of the bridge—with the exact same views—is totally empty. Do you wanna take a selfieeee?
I believe this is just panic? Like they’re afraid if they don’t stop and take photos right away they’re going to miss out? I don’t know. But the bridge is pretty long and there’s room for everyone here.
When you get to the bridge, don’t stop where everyone else is even though it looks like that’s your only option. This is just because you can’t see past the crowd. Instead, shove your way through them and come out the other side where you’ll have that half of the bridge all to yourself.
I hope I’ve convinced you to visit Neuschwanstein Castle and given you some helpful tips for when you do! Have a great time in fairytale land.
Where will you visit Neuschwanstein Castle from?
Let me know in the comments!
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