Barvaria and Castles

Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles
Train Ride to Füssen

For the vast majority of people, a visit to the two castles of Ludwig II begins as a day trip from Munich. For the train tickets, we purchased a German Rail Pass prior to our trip, and this ticket was valid on the regional train that took us to Füssen. Another option, if you are not taking many day trips from Munich, is the Bayern Ticket, which must be purchased prior to getting on the train, but can be bought at the train station or online. There are hourly trains from Munich’s main train station to Füssen, from where you get a local bus (route 73 or 78) that takes you to the village of Hohenschwangau. You purchase your bus tickets when you get on, but make sure you get a round-trip ticket (in German, hin- und ruckfarht) This will save you money compared to buying 2 one-way tickets. The buses are timed to meet the incoming train from Munich. The day we went, 3 buses met the train.


Tickets for Hohenschwangau Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle are solely controlled by the Ticket Centre in Hohenschwangau. While day-of tickets are available for those without reservations, we would highly recommend reserving tours online before you go. The online ticketing system allows you to pick your date, language, and approximate time for the tour(s). To use this system, you must reserve your tour(s) no later than 2 days prior to visiting. After that, you must get day-of tickets. The ticket office will email you back within 24 hours with a confirmation number and the exact times of your tour(s). You must pick up your tickets at least 1 hour prior to your first tour; otherwise you will lose the reservation. The online system also requires a credit card to guarantee your reservations, but you pay for the tickets upon arrival at the ticket center. There is a discount if you get more than one tour on the same day. Check the ticket center’s website for pricing as it is will be increasing in 2017.

The day we went, people exited the bus and literally ran to the ticket center to get in the day-of ticket line. This stand-by queue gets very long, very quickly, and you can easily wait over an hour just to see if any tours are available that day in your language. The reservation line, on the other hand, had 3 people in it when we arrived. Within 5 minutes, we paid for the tickets and were on our way.


After getting our tickets for the two tours, we had time to kill before any of the village restaurants opened for lunch. So, we walked to the end of the road to Alpsee. This lake in Hohenschwangau is nestled among the mountains and provides for some amazing photographic opportunities. As it was a clear morning, we took full advantage of the sun to take some photos.

Hohenschwangau Castle

The original fortress named Schwanstein dates to 1397, but the name was changed during the 19th century. Maximillian II of Bavaria purchased Schloss Hohenschwangau, which literally translates to “Upper Swan County Palace”, in 1832 and began a 5-year renovation. Additional rooms were added until 1855. It was the childhood home of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Maximillian II’s son, who ascended to the throne after his father’s death in 1864. While Ludwig II’s mother, Marie, continued to live in Schloss Hohenschwangau, Ludwig II, who never married and disliked his mother greatly, began construction on Neuschwanstein Castle in 1869.

The wall paintings in Schloss Hohenschwangau detail the history of Schwangau (Swan District) and of the medieval German romantic stories of Parzival and Lohengrin, both of which served as inspirations for Richard Wagner’s operas Lohengrin (1848) and Parsifal (1882). Ludwig II sponsored both of Wagner’s operas. During the two World Wars, the castle did not receive any damage.

Our tour began at 1pm, which, after having lunch at a local restaurant, gave us plenty of time to hike up to the castle. As there is no other way to get to the castle, visitors must climb many sets of stairs and inclined paths to reach the castle’s courtyard. This is not an easy hike, to say the least; allot at least 20 minutes to get to the top, more if you need extra time. This is not an attraction for those with mobility challenges of any nature. Once you reach the courtyard, there is a small gift shop with various souvenirs and touristy trinkets.

Entrance to the castle itself is controlled by a pair of turnstiles. You must scan your ticket to gain access, and the turnstiles will not allow you to enter until your scheduled tour time. Once you pass through the turnstiles, there are 2 additional flights of stairs to climb before entering the actual castle. The tour, which lasts just under 30 minutes and is limited to around 20 people, is guided; self-guided tours of the castle are not permitted. Tours are available in 9 languages, with the majority in German and English. The tour guide takes you first into the main living rooms of the castle, then into the queen’s quarters. Then you climb another flight of stairs to get to the king’s quarters. After the tour, you descend several flights of stairs that the servants used and exit the castle back in the courtyard. Then comes the hike back down the path you climbed.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Commissioned by King Ludwig II in homage to Richard Wagner, construction on Schloss Neuschwanstein (New Swanstone Castle) began in 1869 on a hill above the village of Hohenschwangau. Ludwig II planned the castle to be a personal refuge away from his mother, Marie, who continued to live in Hohenschwangau Castle. Architecturally, the castle is fashioned in the romantic style, a popular style in the late 1800s that involved making structures more picturesque.

In 1882, enough of the castle had been built so that Ludwig II could provisionally move in so that he could observe first-hand the construction process. Two years later, he moved into the Palas (hall), and two years after that, most of the exterior construction was complete. Dedicated to Richard Wagner, who died in 1883 without having entered the castle, Ludwig II himself only lived in the castle a total of 172 days. Six weeks after Ludwig II’s death, the local regent ordered the castle open to paying visitors. The steady flow of visitors helped to finance the castle’s construction costs. The castle survived both World Wars thanks in no small part due to its remote location. In 1945, the SS contemplated a plan to destroy the castle lest its artwork fall into Nazi enemy hands. The plan, thankfully, never came to fruition.

The journey up to the castle is not easy. Visitors either must hike uphill approximately 1 mile or pay 6 euros to go up via horse-drawn carriage. During busier months, a bus service is also available, but it was not running the day we visited. We opted for the carriage, which is well worth the money. Even after exiting the carriage, you still must hike up another quarter mile before you reach the castle’s entrance. Again, this is not an attraction for those with mobility challenges. If you are in a wheelchair and want to tour the castle, there is an elevator that allows you to partake in the tour once you actually reach the castle itself.

Parallel to the neighboring castle, the entrance into Neuschwanstein is controlled by time-sensitive turnstiles, only allowing visitors to enter at their appointed tour time. All tours are led by a tour guide, and visitors learn about the castle’s history via hand-held audio guides available in manifold languages. On very busy days, around 6,000 people visit the castle daily. While informative, the tour itself could benefit from less people per tour and better spacing. The day we went, tours began every 5 minutes.

Tips for Future Visitors

Since this was our first time to these castles, we have some tips to share that could help alleviate some of the uncertainty about this isolated village. First, make sure you have good walking shoes. This is not the time to break in your new pair of sneakers, nor the place to walk around in high heels. The terrain is too steep, and you’ll end up regretting it.

Second, reserve your tour times in advance on the ticket center’s website. Don’t wait and try for the day-of ticket line. You’ll waste time in a line that is easily avoidable. As mentioned earlier, you just have to guarantee the tickets with a credit card; you can pay however you want at the ticket center. You also must pick up your reserved tickets at least an hour prior to the first tour. The email you get confirming your tour times is very explicit about this. Don’t risk losing your place.

Third, to avoid the risk of not picking up your tickets in time, make sure you get an early train out of Munich. Remember that the trip to Füssen is 2 hours one way. At the time of writing, the first train out of Munich to Füssen leaves at 6:53am, putting you in Füssen at 8:55am. Then you have to get the bus to Hohenschwangau. So, unless you are overnighting in Füssen, don’t schedule your first tour before 11am to accommodate the one hour ticket pick up rule. Also, there is only 1 train per hour to Füssen, so plan accordingly.

Fourth, if you have the extra time and want to discover a small Bavarian town, consider staying in Füssen for a couple of nights. You are much closer to the castles (just a bus ride), and you get to explore the region, which is quite close to Austria. Also, an early tour of the castles would let you avoid the rush that begins around 10am.

Fifth, be ready to take some amazing photographs. Both castles and Alpsee afford fantastic views from which you can capture the surrounding countryside.

Author: TTG Michael