fairytale castle with turrets and towers sits on a German cliffside Schloss Neuschwanstein
Castles,  Germany,  Travel

Schloss Neuschwanstein – Plan Your Visit

King Ludwig II’s Schloss Neuschwanstein was the epitome of a fairytale castle. It is a Romanesque Revival style castle with towers and turrets found along Germany’s Romantic Road. It was set precariously upon a hillside atop the ruins of the medieval fortresses Vorderhohenschwangau and Hinterhohenschwangau (vorder meaning “in front” and hinter meaning “behind”).

Ludwig wanted this castle to idealize a German medieval castle. Opened just 7 weeks after the Mad Kings death, over 61 million people (1.3 million per year, up to 6,000 a day during the summer) have journeyed to see his fairytales brought to life in this castle. Walt Disney modeled his own Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty castles after the incredible castle.

Schloss Neuschwanstein sits above the same village as Schloss Hohenschwangau, King Ludwig’s childhood home. It is also just 45 km from Schloss Linderhof, his alpine retreat tucked away in the Bavarian Alps. I would highly recommend planning a visit to these while you’re in the area.

fairytale castle with turrets and towers sits on a German cliffside Schloss Neuschwanstein
About the Castle

The Swan King started construction on Schloss Neuschwanstein, which he called “Neu Hohenschwangau,” in 1869 while living in his childhood home. He hired theater set designers rather than architects to complete the project. The woodwork in his bedchamber alone took more than four years to complete. Depictions of the deeds of kings and saints cover the walls and ceilings of the Throne Room. A white marble staircase stands at one end of the room, meant to lead to a throne that was never installed. King Ludwig included innovative technology not yet available elsewhere, such as running water on every floor, flushing toilets, an electric bell system to summon servants, and even telephones!

King Ludwig II never intended the castle to host state affairs. He built it solely for himself, in which he enjoyed private concerts and operas. King Ludwig was only ever able to complete 14 of the planned 200 rooms. He only ever spent 172 days (even fewer nights – only 11!) in the castle prior to his death. After the king’s untimely death, the state changed the palace’s name to Neuschwanstein.

The palace offers guided tours in German and in English lasting about 35 minutes. No self-guided tours are available. The tour schedule alternates languages so be sure to pay attention this when choosing a time.

Please note: Neuschwanstein is currently undergoing renovations until 2022. The Throne Room will have scaffolding until the fall of 2021 which will reduce visibility. All rooms are still open for public viewing.

Reservations
  • Reservations must be made at least 2 days prior to your visit – this can be done until 3 pm local time
  • For a small processing fee, you are able to reserve a specific time to enter the castle
  • Your ticket will have your entry time listed after the German word “Einlasszeit
  • You must be on-time to your tour, the palace does not allow late entry and you will forfeit your ticket
About the Tour
  • The palace does not allow bulky strollers or large hiking backpacks in the castle
  • The palace does not permit dogs and other pets – dogs are allowed on the grounds on a leash
  • Portable audio guides are available in French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Hungarian, Czech, Slovenian, Polish, Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Arabian, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, and Thai
  • You may not take photos inside the castle
Accessibility
  • There are a total of 350 stairs to climb
  • For those in a wheelchair, there is an elevator available (reservations strongly recommended – a guided tour is available for 1 handicapped person and 1 companion once every hour)
  • There are no wheelchairs or walkers available to rent
  • The palace recommends you take the horse-drawn carriage up to the castle – you will be closer and dropped off at a less risky path
Opening Hours:

April to October 15: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm

October 16 to March: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Closed Christmas Eve/Day and New Year’s Eve/Day

Cost:

€13 general admission

€12 for students with valid ID and those over 65

Children under 18 are free – but they still need a ticket

See below for information on combination tickets

Additional Information

Furthermore, ALL tickets need to be purchased or picked up below the castle in the village of Hohenschwangau. You must pick them up at least 90 minutes prior to your tour or they will be forfeited. For pickup, a receipt on your phone is not sufficient, you will need a paper print out of your reservation confirmation. They do NOT sell tickets at the door.

This is a very important detail as it is a 30- to 40-minute walk up from the village to Schloss Neuschwanstein. The last thing you want is to make that hike to be turned away at the door. If you’d prefer not to hike 40-minutes uphill, private contractors do offer trips either by shuttle bus or horse-drawn carriage. These are on a first-come, first-serve and do not accept reservations.

The busiest time of year here is from July to September. As such, most day-of tickets are sold out by lunchtime. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you reserve tickets in advance. We visited in July and unfortunately did not make tour reservations in advance. Consequently, we were unable to tour the castle. The shuttle bus line was also over 2 hours long (this made no sense to me because a 40-minute hike, albeit uphill but in the shade, would be much preferable over a 2-hour wait in direct July sunshine to me). The carriage line was even longer.

However, the castle courtyard and grounds, as well as Marienbrücke (“Mary’s Bridge”), are free to roam as you please and do not require a ticket. These were well worth seeing even without touring the castles. There are also extensive hiking trails surrounding Alpsee, the lake that sits below the castles.

Winter Visits

If you are planning to visit Schloss Neuschwanstein in the winter, there are a couple of things to be aware of. There is a strong likelihood that Marienbrücke will be closed due to heavy snow and ice. You can check online daily for opening status. You will also want to check online to see which shuttles (bus or horse-drawn carriage) are running that day. The shuttle bus to Neuschwanstein is frequently not available due to the snow and ice.

Parking and Restrooms

Last but not least, parking is available in the village of Hohenschwangau. There are four private lots that charge €7 (cash only) per day. There are restrooms available in the parking lots. Please note: You must have some change (€ 0.50) on hand to get through the turnstiles into the restrooms. (Evidently, this is a common thing in Europe – as Americans, we had never seen anything like this and were unprepared).

Combination Tickets
Königsticket (“Kings Ticket”)
Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau (Visit both on the same day)

€25 general admission

€23 for students with valid ID and those over 65

Königsschlösser (“King’s Palaces”)
Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, and Herrenchiemsee (One visit to each within a 6 month period)

€26 per person

Bavarian Palace Administration Options

Visit over forty sites across Bavaria (includes Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee, and Neuschwanstein – does NOT include Hohenschwangau as it is privately managed)

Annual Season Tickets

€45 per person

€75 for a family or two people

14-day Tickets

€30 per person

€65 for a family or two people

What do you think?