A Real Life Disney Fairytale: Neuschwanstein Castle
location: Schwangau, Bavaria, Germany
My Schwangau Travel Journal
Tucked away on the border of the Bavarian Alps, lies a tiny, little mountain town that is the home of two glorious castles. One is so famous that it even inspired the genius Walt Disney, and it is the one that drew us to this destination: Schloss Neuschwanstein, or Neuschwanstein Castle (schloss is the German word for castle). The other is named Schloss Hohenschwangau, or Hohenschwangau Castle. Both castles were the homes of King Ludwig II, which you can read all about in my blog about both castles, the Swan King, and his mysterious death.
We began our journey in Munich. Since we arrived late, we opted for an airport hotel the first night. We were able to walk directly from the airport to the hotel, then walk straight to the car rental the next morning. Once we had our rental, we were on the road.
It took us over 2 hours to arrive to the village of Hohenschwangau. On our drive, we missed a key exit in the round-a-bout that took us about 20 minutes out of the way. The drive should take about One hour 45 minutes. So be careful about being in the correct lane and taking the correct exit. Other than our goof, the drive was beautiful. Once we got off the main highways, the road was a narrow, two lane curving deep into the Bavarian Alps. The scenery was stunning, and idyllic Bavarian mountain villages dotted along the entire drive. The castle can easily be spotted from miles away, and is flanked by views of the alps. We were fortunate enough to visit during the winter when the mountains were covered in snow, but it is breathtaking year round.
We had missed our tour reservation time slot by a few minutes (due to the wrong exit at the round-a-bout and the fact I am ALWAYS late), so we headed straight to the parking lot. Joe ran ahead to check us in at the ticket center, located about a block away from the parking lot. I was panicking that we had missed our time slot; worried that we wouldn’t be allowed in the castle (the ONLY way inside the castle is with a guided tour) and that the entire trip would be a waste … slight over-reaction, to be sure. Especially because there was no need to stress! The reservation simply allowed us to skip to the front of the line and sign up for the next available tour (in English – there are multiple languages offered). We got a tour scheduled an hour and a half later than we had originally planned, and used this time to plan our next moves. Note: a tour is NOT necessary to walk up to the castle and explore the outside. The best views of the castle are FREE. But, a tour is required in order to see inside the castle.
With our guided tour scheduled, and a map in our pockets, we decided to hit a few shops. We collect Christmas ornaments, magnets, and snow globes wherever we travel. So we knew we had to get those three souvenirs! I always like to get something traditional that represents the culture and also the fashion and style of the place I am visiting. Since we were visiting Bavarian, I knew just the perfect thing to represent the region: a Bavarian hat complete with an authentic Bavarian plume. Joe got the traditional styled Bavarian hat. It is one of my favorite memories, visiting a castle of my dreams wearing Bavarian hats.
After some shopping, and getting our new hats, we decided to move the car to the hotel. Check-in wasn’t for another 5 hours, but we wanted to save the money on parking and freshen up a bit. Plus, the hotel was on a couple of blocks farther than the parking lot. Our hotel was easy enough to find, and was so cute from the outside! We parked around the back and made our way inside the Romantic Pension Albrecht. Since 1901, this quaint inn has been dealing out romance, charm, and great room views. We got pre-checked in, bags stored, and freshened up. Then it was time to explore a bit more before our tour time.
We walked around the small village, noting mainly shops (that all closed around 6 pm), a few other hotels, and a small handful of restaurants and cafes. After a while strolling, it was time to make the decision of how we would get up to the castle. It can be accessed 3 ways: 1. by walking straight uphill for 30-45 minutes, 2. by taking a short 5 minute bus ride, 3. by riding in a horse drawn carriage for 10-15 minutes. My choice was obvious: horse drawn carriage! And I didn’t even have to twist Joe’s arm about it since he was all about the fairytale moment. The carriage runs every 12-15 minutes and meets at the start of the ascent to the castle. There is a spot across the street in front of an outdoor cafe that has a sign saying it is the carriage meeting spot. Joe stood in line for us while I ran to grab us a couple of cappuccinos from a coffee shop a couple of doors down from the carriage line. By the time I made it back, it was almost our turn to ride! Note: it is a shady path and the altitude is climbing. I was very glad I had a warm drink and had packed extra layers. The ride back down was even chillier with the sun dropping and the wind picking up.
The tour was incredible. It was so interesting learning the history of the castle, and of Ludwig II the Swan King. Read more about Neuschwanstein Castle, or Schloss Neuschwanstein. But it was even more incredible seeing the ornate detail inside and the amazing viewpoints of the lower valleys, lakes, and distant mountains. Wow, to wake up there every morning with that view!!! But ultimately, the castle was never fully finished and only slept in for 11 nights! Read more details on Ludwig II, his two castles, and his mysterious death here. No photography is permitted inside the castle.
The castle up close was even more magical than I imagined. All of the windows and turrets. The pure strength, size, and glory of this beautiful building is truly amazing. The best view points are past the castle. Continue walking up towards Marienbrücke – the pedestrian bridge. Remember to keep looking back as you climb, the views get more and more dramatic. Keep walking, and start curving around, almost going back on yourself. There you will see the bridge that offers the best view. Read more about the Marienbrücke and best views.
After exploring the castle and its grounds, we had worked up quite the appetite! Schlossrestaurant Neuschwanstein is the restaurant located at the castle serving traditional Bavarian fare with a traditional Bavarian atmosphere. We sat out on the enclosed patio because it was winter and low season, but still could see views of the castle. They also have an outdoor patio with views of the castle for warmer months. We had a great meal and great service. Here’s our order: two Hofbrauhaus steins, jumbo pretzels with mustards, meats & cheeses, pork knuckle (for Joe), weisswurst (white sausage) and bratwurst (sausage wrapped in bun) with sauerkraut (for me). The beer warmed us up and gave us enough energy to make it back down the mountain and back to our hotel. But between all that food and beer, we got very sleepy and decided to take the carriage (with hot chocolates and some German fried doughnut balls) back down the hill. It was worth it.
We got back to our room being ready, and oh it is so cute! Our room was the Attic Suite with balcony and castle view. It had such a romantic atmosphere, with a skylight above the bed. It also had a relaxing, tiled bath tub. But the best part, is the balcony with a view of Neuschwanstein castle!!! This is definitely the best room in the house.
Evening was approaching, went meant it was time to shower and get dressed for dinner. There are limited dinner restaurant options in Schwangau, and low season meant even more were shut. We found one nice spot, connected to a hotel. We had a couple of beers and talked about how unforgettable our day was. We then ventured across the street to a cute restaurant, in hopes of finding dinner. But to our luck, the restaurant had just quit serving because it was a lunch spot. However, they were so nice about it! The restaurant we had just given our table up in was fully booked for the night, but both restaurants were owned by the same people! So they told us to walk back across and held our table for us. I love meeting kind people like that when I travel!
Since this is more of a family tourist destination, everything closes early. So, we got a bottle of wine to take back to our room. I recommend bringing your own food and drinks if you plan to stay!
We took a moonlight stroll back to our hotel, enjoying the nighttime views of the castle all lit up. I truly felt like I was living in a fairytale. When we got back to the room, I ran a bath, poured the wine, and opened the windows for castle views. I fell asleep watching ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (read about how Neuschwanstein inspired Walt Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’s’ castle). When I awoke the next morning, a light snow had fallen leaving a fresh layer of snow dusting the alps and the castle making my view even more majestical.
The hotel serves a small, but nice, continental breakfast which we enjoyed before check out. It was the perfect one night escape to the mountains and to a fairytale.
Where we Stayed:
or Villa Ludwig | (right next door to ours – luxury suite hotel)
Where we Ate:
Just get out and walk around! You will surely find a place.
What we Did:
How we Got There:
Flight into Munich | Rent a Car