King Ludwig II’s Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau
by Heidi Obermeyer
I’m at Brewing Market in Boulder today, supposedly working on a paper about the eurocrisis but actually blogging away. Hooray! Also, so you know- I’ve been working on city guides for Berlin and Munich, both of which are now posted under my “Links” tab. Today I wanted to talk about Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, also known as mad King Ludwig’s castles, also known as THE thing that people visit when they go to Germany, also known as just another set of Bavarian royal residences that are awesome.
We’ve probably talked about Ludwig before, but these castles are the ones he is best known for. Neuschwanstein (the white one that looks familiar) was his personal project and sadly never completed, while Hohenschwangau (the cozier-looking yellow one) was his family’s summer residence for many years before he decided to build upgraded digs (Neuschwanstein) on a nearby hillside. Hohenschwangau has more stuff and history since the family actually lived there for a while, but Neuschwanstein is the major tourist attraction with millions of visitors each year.
Emily and I did the combo ticket for both castles, which I reserved ahead of time- a marvelous idea to cut down on your stress at this fairly packed place. After the girl we picked up the tickets from had a good chuckle at my name (“Heidi Obermeyer?! Lulz!”) we walked up to Hohenschwangau, did our tour there (only about 20 minutes) and then started the walk up to Neuschwanstein. It took us about 40 minutes, and I was pretty darn impressed that all the people milling about the outside of the castle had actually made their way up the hill somehow. After our tour we went up to the Marienbrücke, where you have great views over Neuschwanstein and the surrounding mountains. There’s actually lots of hiking in the area, and we even saw a few people paragliding!
Our only crowd problem this trip was the train ride home. On our way there there were only a few other people in our car- no problems whatsoever! However, our ride home turned into an insane fight for seats as a huge tour group with a ruthless guide boarded the train right when we did. There’s nothing like other tourists wanting to do the exact same thing to piss off a tourist, and instead of an atmosphere of camaraderie on the platform it ended up being an every-man-for-himself situation. It’s impossible to get to Füssen (where the castles are) without at least one train change, and both of ours on the way home were completely full. Luckily the rest of the day was lovely and we went to my favorite ice cream place, Ballabeni when we got back to Munich, so all’s well that ends well! 🙂
If you go….
Book tickets ahead of time by calling or reserving online. Then all you have to do is pick them up and you won’t be waiting around for hours for your assigned tour time to come up! Don’t be afraid to call about your reservation- everyone answering the phones speaks English.
You can get there from Munich with the Bayern Ticket. The trip takes about 1.5 hours. Keep in mind you can’t get on the train until after 9 a.m. on weekdays.
Other tips- wear comfy shoes, bring water, and do some reading about Bavaria before you go- the tours for both castles are brief and you’ll get a lot more out of it if you know something about Ludwig II and his family before you’re inside the buildings. If you don’t want to spend a good amount of money on mediocre tourist food, packing a picnic is a good idea. Additionally, the town of Füssen is a quaint attraction in and of itself- if you have the time, spending the night there could also be enjoyable. Viel Spaß!