Visiting Germany’s fairy tale Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein castle

If you have the opportunity to do something, take it. The first time I went to Munich, my best friend and I decided to skip Neuschwanstein Castle because it was too expensive. We got drunk in Munich instead, and life was good. But to be honest, I’ve regretted not going ever since.

So when I came back to Munich for Oktoberfest earlier this year, I knew I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity a second time to see the castle that inspired Disney’s iconic fairy tale castle.

Getting there by car

Neuschwanstein Castle is a little less than two hours by car from Munich. You may be wondering why it would be associated with Munich at all since it’s so far. And that’s because most people don’t visit Fussen when they go to Germany. But if it’s in your plans, then you can go to Munich without worrying about the castle at all. The small town of Fussen is less than 10 minutes away. Might be worth spending a night there anyway, just for the charm of it.

If you are coming from Munich, the drive is beautiful, so it’s worth it. And if you have time, you may want to stop in one of the little towns like Fussen along the way anyway for lunch.

Munich drive

If you drive and you’re arriving at peak time, you’ll probably have to wait in a long row of cars to pay for parking and get inside one of the lots. We parked illegally and walked the rest of the way to skip the line for parking. Not that I’m advocating that, but we were there a couple of hours and didn’t get a ticket. A lot of people park on the grass on the way to castle, so they can get down and take pictures of the castle from a distance.

Getting there by train

If you don’t have a car, the second best option is to take the regional train from Munich which takes about 2 hours from Munich to Fussen. Though train prices may vary, you can probably expect to pay 20 Euro each way. Then you can take a local bus to the castle. Because trains run so frequently, this will offer you a lot of flexibility. You can stay as little or as a long as you like before heading back to Munich. But if this sounds like too much of a hassle, you can take a tour.

Going on a day tour

Hohenschwangau Castle
View of Hohenschwangau Castle from Neuschwanstein Castle (Try saying that sentence three times fast)

Many companies offer guided group tours to the castle, usually in conjunction with a visit to the adjacent castle, Hohenschwangau Castle, or Linderhof Palace. This will be the most expensive option. They’re usually around $40-60 and don’t include entrance to the castles. Many of them will end up taking you by train anyway.

Planning the visit you want

There is a reason most of the tours bundle the castle visits. Neuschwanstein Castle is very close to Hohenschwangau Castle. You can see one from the other. And at the Hohenschwangau Village, which is between the two, you can buy tickets for both.

As of 2016, the price of admission to Neuschwanstein Castle is 12 Euros, but you can check updated prices here. If you want to visit both castles, the combination ticket is 23 Euros. The entrance is for a guided tour at a specific time so availability is limited. If you don’t reserve your tickets in advance, you may have to wait for an available time slot. Or you may be out of luck altogether.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Without a booked tour, you can still walk around parts of the castle including a smaller courtyard as well as the amazing views of the mountains all around the castle. A ticket allows you entrance to the bigger courtyard within as well as the castle’s interior.

And if you are interested in taking the guided tour, it’s worth reserving it in advance. Don’t risk getting all the way out there only to find that you’re not visiting the castle that day. During high season, tours sell out far in advance, so reserving a ticket is basically required. The tour is about 30 minutes long for each castle. Keep in mind that though the castle tours are short, getting from one to the other takes time, so it will definitely take at least several hours altogether.

The steep path to Neuschwanstein

Whether you decided to take the castle tour or not, you’ll need to get up to Neuschwanstein. The hike up to the castle can take 25-40 minutes depending on how fit you are. There are two ways on foot to get to the top. One is a little longer but less steep. Both of them are exhausting. Even on a cold day, by the time you get to the top, you’ll be hot and sweaty.

Neuschwanstein Castle

You can also go up on a shuttle that costs 1.80 Euro going up and 1 Euro coming down. The shuttle stops about 10-15 minutes from the castle, but it’s a downhill walk from there. Or if you’re feeling especially Disney that day, you can take a horse-drawn carriage uphill for 6 Euros or downhill for 3 Euros.

If you’re planning your own trip out to the castle, you should get there an hour before your scheduled tour time to allow you time to pick up your reserved ticket and to get up to it. In general, you should be liberal time with your time estimate, especially if you need to take the train back to Munich. Make sure you’re familiar with the timetables to avoid waiting a long time for the train or missing it altogether.

Was it as magical as Disney made me think it would be?

Totally.