Neuschwanstein Castle

Fairy tale residence

Address

Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany

GPS: 47.558130122708, 10.750571261713

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Perched on a hilltop in the Bavarian Alps, Neuschwanstein Castle (“new swan stone castle” in German), embodies the true spirit of the medieval German fortress. Its construction near the Austrian border took place in the second half of the 19th century, at a time when castles were no longer used for strategic and defensive purposes. In the mind of its founder, Neuschwanstein Castle was to surpass the neighbouring Hohenschwangau Castle in both its architectural quality and its level of comfort.

This is how its builder, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, described it in a letter to the famous composer Richard Wagner, whose friend, patron, and great admirer he was. The relationship between the two men was so strong that the interior of Neuschwanstein Castle depicts various scenes from great operas such as Tannhäuser, Parsifal and Lohengrin in honour of the Austrian composer. A symbol of romantic and eclectic architecture, the castle was still not completed in 1886 when the king died suddenly at the age of 40. Declared insane and unable to reign, Ludwig II of Bavaria had just enough time to sleep in the castle a few nights before being interned at Berg Palace in Upper Bavaria. The king had not chosen the location of his new home by chance, as he had already built other flamboyant castles in the region. It was directly across the street from Hohenschwangau Castle, where Ludwig II of Bavaria had spent a large part of his childhood (this castle had been built a few years earlier by his father Maximilian II of Bavaria). Several weeks after the death of Ludwig II, when the monarch dreamed of making it his refuge from the crowds, Neuschwanstein Castle was opened to the public. It was visited by increasing numbers of tourists throughout the 20th century and is now one of the most visited sites in Germany.

A marvel of architectural engineering, built in part with the king’s personal funds on five levels, Neuschwanstein Castle was equipped with very modern technical amenities for its time: running water and toilets on all floors equipped with automatic flushing, central heating system with forced air in the entire building, electric intercoms, meals delivered by a freight elevator, hot water system for the kitchen and bathroom… Its fairy-tale, late Romanesque appearance is enhanced by a magnificent view of the Bavarian region.

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  • The tragic and mysterious history of King Ludwig II (also known as “Mad King Ludwig”) for his whimsical, music-loving, eccentric, dreamy, solitary, and romantic nature
  • The unique architecture of the castle, unlike any other in the world
  • The 14 beautifully decorated rooms which are open to the visit
  • The exuberantly decorated Singers’ Hall; the Byzantine-style Throne Room with its royal crown chandelier
  • The neo-Gothic Royal Chamber and the sumptuous bed of the monarch on the 4th floor
  • The quality of the wood carvings and wall paintings; the many artistic works designed by craftsmen under the aegis of the king
  • The masterly view from the balcony of the Throne Room of the Alpsee lake, the wooded hills and the Tannheim Mountains; the view of the castle from the Marienbrücke (pedestrian bridge built over a cliff in 1845); the panorama of the Bavarian Alps and the Karwendel mountain range
  • The beautiful landscape surrounding the estate; the changing colours of the seasons (the site is enchanting in the middle of winter); the nearby Alpsee and Schwansee lakes; the walks in the forest surrounding Neuschwanstein Castle; the Pöllat Gorge (a small river below the castle)
  • Hiking to the Tegelberg Alpine peak; the 2,000-metre-long Tegelbergbahn (cable car with a breathtaking view of the region); spectacular trails to various Bavarian castles; the Romantic Road (Romantische Straße), a 350-kilometre stretch of road between the cities of Würzburg and Füssen
  • Duke of Upper Bavaria and Count Palatine, Ludwig II of Bavaria belonged to the House of Wittelsbach of the Holy Roman Empire. He came to the throne at the age of 18 after the death of his father Maximilian II of Bavaria in 1864. He was a great admirer of Wagner, the Austrian composer, who he met five weeks after being crowned king. They shared a fiery relationship. Beyond his role as a patron of the arts, the young monarch did not hesitate to advise Wagner on his musical compositions and artistic creations.
  • Rather than employing an architect to draw up the plans for his future castle, which he considered a sacred possession, Ludwig II of Bavaria called upon the services of Christian Jank, the set designer for Wagner’s operas (he was also the architect and decorator of the court theatres). Before construction could begin, a whole mountain slope of the Allgäu region had to be dynamited.
  • King Ludwig II of Bavaria was inspired by the Wartburg Castle (in Thuringia) to draw the plans for Neuschwanstein Castle. This was a tribute to Richard Wagner and his opera “Tannhäuser and the Minnesängers’ Contest at Wartburg”. The swan is the emblem of Neuschwanstein Castle and the historical heraldic animal of the Lords of Schwangau.
  • Neuschwanstein is built on the site of two former castles: Vorderhohenschwangau and Hinterhohenschwangau. This unfinished castle, owned by the Bavarian state government, was used as a model for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in the various Disneyland parks.
  • Before his death, King Ludwig II of Bavaria requested that the castles he had built during his reign (Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee, Schachen…) be destroyed. By opening Neuschwanstein Castle to visitors against the wishes of the former monarch, the Bavarian government was able to pay off the enormous debts incurred by the king over 36 years. The work continued until 1891, more than five years after the death of Ludwig II of Bavaria.
  • Some say that several of the king’s ministers cleverly plotted against him by declaring him insane and unfit to rule because of his propensity to squander the kingdom’s funds on his building desires. Several of his creditors, including banks, threatened him with seizure. Only the day after he arrived at Berg Palace, where he was interned, King Ludwig II was found drowned in the shallow waters of Lake Starnberg.
  • As Neuschwanstein is the most visited castle in Germany with almost 1.5 million visitors per year, it is strongly recommended that you book your ticket online in advance.
  • If possible, avoid visiting between July and September because the castle receives an average of 6,000 visitors per day during this period and is forced to refuse visitor requests during the high season.
  • The charming town of Füssen (population 15,000) or the small municipality of Schwangau (population 3,500) can be a good base for a stay in the vicinity of Neuschwanstein Castle. There are many places to visit (historical centres, old fortifications, castles, museums, ski resorts, spas, and lakes) at the foot of the Alps.
  • The Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge), which spans the Pöllat Gorge by about 100 meters, offers one of the most beautiful views of Neuschwanstein Castle.
  • The view of the Allgäu region from the Kalvarienberg peak is also worth a visit (a 2-hour hike through the woods).

Where to eat

  • Nietmann's Restaurant
    (romantic atmosphere)
  • Pizzeria Da Pietro
    (the pizzas are delicious)
  • Ruebezahl
    (generous portions and great meat)

Where to go

  • Hohenschwangau Castle
    (in the footsteps of Ludwig II)
  • The Pilgrimage Church of Wies
    (beautiful rococo style)
  • Paraworth Tandem Paragliding
    (magic tandem flight)

Where to stay

  • Hotel Helmerhof
    (great location)
  • Landhotel Guglhupf
    (cosy and well-located)
  • Hotel Sonne
    (royal breakfast)