At the age of just 22, King Ludwig II commissioned his first castle, Neuschwanstein. Located just a short distance away from Hohenschwangau, a castle where Ludwig often stayed as a child, Neuschwanstein was originally planned as a “temple” to the operatic master Richard Wagner, who was a close friend of Ludwig’s father, Maximilian II. Ludwig had long been familiar with Wagner’s dramatic operas and their stories of intense tragedy and deliverance. Ludwig decided to center the design of the rooms upon the original medieval legends (Sigurd, Gudrun, Tristan and Isolde, Parsifal, Lohengrin and Tannhäuser) Wagner had used for inspiration and for his newly-found devotion to Christian mythology, in particular, the Holy Grail.
Visitors to Neuschwanstein arrive in the nearby town of Hohenschwangau, approximately a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Munich, and then must either walk up the castle path, or take a horse-drawn carriage (€ 6) or bus (€ 1.80) to reach the castle. From either the bus or the carriage drop-off points, it is a short walk uphill to the Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge), a spectacular steel construction that allows visitors to stand above the impressive Pollätschlucht (Pollät Gorge) and enjoy a good view of the castle. If you choose to walk up to Neuschwanstein, it will take about 30 minutes to reach the bridge. Cafés and restaurants line the path, so if you need to stop to catch your breath, you will certainly find a pleasant place to sit down and enjoy a gentle respite.
Tickets for tours of Neuschwanstein must be bought at the ticket office in Hohenschwangau, and visitors may enter the castle only as part of a tour. Visitors are given a specific tour time, and must be at the castle gates at the appointed time. Those who fail to arrive on time are obliged to buy a new ticket. The tour lasts 35 minutes, is available in English or German and costs € 9. Audio guides are available in 11 different languages. Tours cover 14 different rooms in the castle, the most impressive of which is the Throne Room. With a domed blue ceiling representing the sky and a tiled floor with an animal and plant mosaic representing the earth, it would certainly have been a striking setting in which to have an audience with the king. Perhaps most interesting is that Ludwig never planned on holding court here, but used the design and decoration of the room to express his fantasies of personal greatness, enduring respect and authoritative leadership. In between the salon and study, the tour crosses through the grotto. In this replica of a dripstone cave, Ludwig had a small desk and chair as well as a small waterfall. The tour ends in the Singer’s Hall, a large concert room on the upper floor, which was modeled on a similar space in Wartburg Castle in Thuringia and is home to a magnificent mural depicting the legend of Parsifal. Visitors are then free to continue on through the kitchen on their way to the exit. A plain but large room, it contains all the original fittings (except for the crockery) and, unusual in its day, hot and cold water taps. Please be aware that touring Neuschwanstein for disabled or elderly people can be quite difficult owing to the number of stairs that must be climbed inside the castle.
April-September 9 am-6 pm (Ticket office Hohenschwangau 8 am-5 pm)
October-March 10 am-4 pm (Ticket office Hohenschwangau 9 am-3 pm)
Phone: (0 83 62) 93 08 30