Travel Review: Neuschwanstein and Hohenscwhangau

5 Oct
Neuschwanstein!

Neuschwanstein!

Schloss Neuschwanstein is probably one of the most recognizable castles in the world. It looks like it belongs in a fairy tale or Disney World–and, indeed, it was inspired by fairy tales and in turn inspired the design of Cinderella’s Castle. But aside from being pretty, Neuschwanstein is entrenched in some strange history, and it’s no wonder that millions of tourists flock here every year.

I’ve been wanting to visit Neuschwanstein for years and years, so when my husband and I were coming up with lists of places we wanted to see on our trip, it was my #1. That said, I had read others’ reviews of the castle and had prepared myself to be disappointed. When you’ve been looking forward to something for so long, sometimes it’s hard for that thing to live up to expectations.

However, I thought Neuschwanstein was fantastic! Perhaps part of it was going in prepared with the idea that it was going to be crowded, and the tour was going to be short, and “it’s not that great on the inside anyway.” But I was pleasantly surprised and did not find any of the above to be true.

Accommodation Review: L.A. City Hostel

Let me start at the beginning. We arrived in Fussen around 7 p.m. by train and walked to our hostel, L.A. City Hostel. The directions we were given were crystal clear and it was only about a 5-10 minute walk from the station, which is great. When we arrived, we were greeted by a very friendly young woman who took our payment and handed us our keys. She gave us a map and directions for how to get to the castles the next day.

Our room–a private double–was downstairs. It was very clean and neat, and everything looked quite new. There was a double bed as well as a single bed, table and chairs, and a sliding door opening up into a courtyard. The bathroom and separate toilet were also quite clean, and we found the hostel to be relatively quiet and the beds pretty comfortable.

For dinner that first night and the night after, we ate at Cafe Relax which is in the town centre just up from the train station. We thought it was pretty good both nights and reasonably priced for portion size–friendly English-speaking staff and English menus available upon request.

At the hostel, free breakfast in the morning was served a bit late due to the delivery of rolls being late. It was just tea/coffee, juice, and rolls with various spreads, but we found it was satisfying enough. Pretty good stay here, and you can’t beat the price!

Attraction Review: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau

The lake at the base of the mountains.

The lake at the base of the mountains.

In the morning, we headed back to the train station early to put our bags in the lockers there. There are quite a few lockers which cost 3 Euro for 24 hours. We grabbed one and were able to stuff both of our big bags in. If you’re going during a busier time, I’d try to get a locker the day before just so you don’t run into difficulties the morning of your visit. Just outside the train station is a bus stop where several buses stop at regular intervals to take you up to the castles. It’s not a long ride, but you almost certainly wouldn’t want to walk.

We heard that you should reserve tickets in advance, so we reserved the “King’s Ticket” online months in advance. The King’s Ticket allows you entrance into both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, plus the museum. There are a couple different packages so you can pick the one that best suits you.

After getting dropped off by the bus, we headed to the ticket centre. With our reservation, we were able to go to the “express” line, but honestly, there was only one person queued in the regular line so this wouldn’t have been an issue. We were there pretty early–around 9:00–so if you make your reservation for later in the day or come at peak season, you’ll definitely want to do express check-in.

Schloss Hohenschwangau

Schloss Hohenschwangau

The first stop on our tour was Hohenschwangau. If you don’t know, Hohenschwangau was the childhood home of King Ludwig II, the mad king who commissioned Neuschwanstein. The two castles are very close–Ludwig actually had a telescope set up in his bedroom at Hohenschwangau pointing at Neuschwanstein so he could keep tabs on the workers. The guided tour was in English and took us through many different rooms in the castle. We were given a lot of history and background about the people who lived there, which is something I really enjoy (in some places, it’s all about the architecture or the paintings–people are much more interesting to me!). Our tour guide spoke excellent English and allowed us to loiter in some of the rooms for as long as we wanted. She was also open to answering any questions we had.

The front of Neuschwanstein.

The front of Neuschwanstein.

After Hohenschwangau, we had a tour scheduled at Neuschwanstein. When you purchase the King’s Ticket, your tours are scheduled for you, giving you enough time to get from one place to the other without rushing around too much–at least, that would be the case if you didn’t encounter a torrential downpour like we did! It had already been a bit rainy, but when we came out of Hohenschwangau it was pouring. A mad dash to cover found us dripping wet, and we didn’t dare keep walking down. We decided to take the horse drawn carriage down the hill because it was covered, but the horses weren’t moving in the rain either. Yikes!

By the time we got down the Hohenschwangau hill, we felt like were were running out of time to get up the Neuschwanstein one. We walked VERY fast, and we did make it, but with only a few minutes to spare. Just be aware of that when you go — get moving right away if you can.

The Neuschwanstein Tour felt much more rushed, and the tour group was much larger than our Hohenschwangau one. But like I said, I had prepared myself for this and I think that helped me stay impressed with the whole thing. I managed to stay up front near the tour guide, who once again regaled us with many stories about the castle. The interior of the castle is hugely impressive, and I was disappointed that we couldn’t take photos of it, but I’m happy to have seen it! There are paintings and ornate furniture and a massive chandelier and a room that was built to look like an artificial cave. I mean, the guy was crazy, but he had some pretty interesting ideas!

Neuschwanstein from Marienbrucke. (You'd never guess it had just been pouring, would you?)

Neuschwanstein from Marienbrucke. (You’d never guess it had just been pouring, would you?)

After our tour–which honestly was lengthier than I thought–we headed over to the Marienbrucke Bridge. This is the bridge from which you can get some of those awesome shots of the castle. Be warned–it isn’t for the faint-hearted! There is no supervision of the structure, which meant it was hugely crowded with the boards moving under our feet and I was made uncomfortable by it. For the people who managed to get down the bridge quite a ways, it was practically impossible for them to get back off. We saw one poor man with his 3 or 4 year old daughter in a small pram struggle for ages. However, the shots are pretty good, so you’ll have to weigh your options. There’s no charge for the bridge.

Hohenschwangau from the path to Marienbrucke.

Hohenschwangau from the path to Marienbrucke.

Eventually we meandered back down to the main area, where there are tons of shops and restaurants, and the museum. At the museum you need to place bags in the lockers provided and there is also a complimentary audio tour. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of museums. I much prefer to see things as they were in history (for instance, walking through a castle) rather than locked up in displays, but the audio tour had some great info that I enjoyed listening to. I know my husband enjoyed it even more than I did! However, I wouldn’t say that the museum is a “must see” or anything, so if you’re debating between including it in your time there, that’s my two cents.

In the Neuschwanstein courtyard.

In the Neuschwanstein courtyard.

All up, we spent a good eight or nine hours in the Neuschwanstein area–a solid day packed full of fun and adventure. I loved it and thought it really did live up to all of my expectations–I count it among my favourite memories of our Europe trip.

Have any questions about Neuschwanstein or Hohenschwangau? Feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll answer if I can! I’d also love to hear about your experiences there.

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