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Neuschwanstein Castle: Everything you didn’t know about this famous, fairy-tale castle

Sep 05, 2023 by Adam Amundson

Throughout the German countryside are abundant examples of royal palaces and grand architecture, but none is more famous than Neuschwanstein Castle. The fairy-tale castle of a "mad" king, perched on the edge of a mountain in the Alps, has inspired dreamers and artists for generations. Nearly impossible to visit without soaking up the story and being inspired by the history of Neuschwanstein Castle, the location has become a living fairy tale. Whether you’re looking for the perfect vantage point for an iconic photo or imagining yourself as the main character in a larger-than-life story like castle creator King Ludwig II, Neuschwanstein is an essential stop on our Germany tours.

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Where is Neuschwanstein Castle?

What is it known for?

Facts about the castle

Know before you go

Photo spots

Things to do around the castle

Trips to Neuschwanstein Castle

Where is Neuschwanstein Castle?

The village of Hohenschwangau, located at the southern tip of the Bavaria state, is home to Neuschwanstein Castle. The castle is perched on a rugged hill above the town, which is a 90-minute drive from Munich. Hohenschwangau is near the Austrian border and lies at the foothills of the Alps, offering panoramic views of the surrounding lakes and forests of the Pöllat Gorge. 

The stunning, 19th-century castle is near King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s childhood home, Hohenschwangau Castle. He built the castle of Neuschwanstein with the aim to create a retreat nestled in the mountains that would reflect his ideal place to rest and rejuvenate as a member of the royal class. This location is a key factor to Neuschwanstein being widely regarded as one of the most beautiful castles in the world.

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What is Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany known for?

King Ludwig II commissioned Neuschwanstein Castle to be built as an ode to his favorite composer, Richard Wagner. The design of the castle was based on sketches by Christian Jank, a stage painter who worked with Wagner, and her work depicted scenes from several of Wagner’s operas. The castle combines elements from several different architectural styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine, to reflect the idealized vision of royalty and art held by King Ludwig II.

However, Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany may be best known as the inspiration behind Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. The theme park’s iconic centerpiece was based on sketches done by Walt Disney when he visited Neuschwanstein Castle with his wife.

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Neuschwanstein Castle facts you may not know

The castle is more than just your average tourist site. Here are a few reasons its a must-stop location on any of our tours of Germany.

  • Neuschwanstein Castle isn’t the name King Ludwig II gave it. Originally known as New Hohenschwangau Castle, the name was changed after King Ludwig II’s death to reflect the king’s heraldic animal, the swan. Neuschwanstein literally means “New Swan Stone.”
  • Construction of the castle was not easy. The site of the castle was selected because it was both scenic and isolated, away from the prying eyes of the public. Access roads had to be built to get construction materials to the site, and extensive engineering work had to be done to guarantee a stable foundation for the castle.
  • King Ludwig II personally oversaw the castle of Neuschwanstein’s construction. The king visited the site regularly, and his visits often sparked revisions and changes to the construction plans. He hired photographers to document the progress, and on more than one occasion the king sent photographs of the construction site to Richard Wagner as a sign of the king’s devotion. King Ludwig II regularly said that he wanted to create a castle that could serve as the stage for Wagner’s operas.
  • King Ludwig II never got to see the castle completed. Construction was very expensive, and King Ludwig II refused to use public funds for the building. He accumulated a massive debt that threatened to not only bankrupt him, but the state of Bavaria. The debt was so big that his ministers and relatives declared him insane and incapable of governing. He was arrested and taken to Berg Castle on Lake Starnberg, where he died under mysterious circumstances only a few days later. His castles were seized and opened to the public as museums. Neuschwanstein opened just seven weeks after his death, with only 14 of the more than 200 planned rooms complete.
  • Allied forces helped liberate the castle in World War II. Among the unique and dark facts about the castle is the history of Neuschwanstein as a storage depot during the Second World War. The German government used the secluded castle of Neuschwanstein to store and catalog the art it had stolen and seized throughout the war. In 1945, the Monuments Men recovered numerous art pieces from the castle and returned the palace to the state government.
  • Today, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany. More than 1.4 million people per year visit the castle. That’s about 4,000 visitors per day. During the summer, upwards of 6,000 people walk the halls of the castle each day.
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What should you know before visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany?

There are many interesting things to know about the history of Neuschwanstein Castle, the unique features of the palace, and the legacy of its creator, King Ludwig II, before you visit on any trip to Germany.

  • When was Neuschwanstein Castle built? Clearance and reinforcement of the site began in 1868, when massive amounts of stone were removed to allow for the foundation to be laid. The construction of the castle began in 1869 with the laying of the foundation stone. The Gateway Building was completed in 1872 and King Ludwig II began residing in the building in 1873. The topping out ceremony, when the last beam is placed atop the structure, occurred in 1880.
  • Neuschwanstein blends modern amenities and ancient design. Castle construction involved many technological innovations, including steam engines. The castle also has running water, electricity, automatic doors, and central heat. At the same time, the frescoes, mosaics, paintings, and sculptures around the castle bring an air of royal excess and luxury.
  • There are also some very weird features in the castle Neuschwanstein. Inspired by Wagner’s opera, Tannhäuser, King Ludwig II designed a replica of Venus’ grotto to be placed in the castle. The artificial cave connects two large rooms on the third floor of the castle and features stalactites, a waterfall, and a full lake. Inside the grotto is a shell-shaped boat, which King Ludwig II used to relax in and escape.
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Where is the best spot to take a photo of Neuschwanstein Castle?

Neuschwanstein is known for its fairy-tale good looks and idyllic surroundings. The castle has been the inspiration for painters, artists, and photographers over the last 150 years, and no trip would be complete without getting your own perfect photo of the castle. Here are a few of the best spots to snap a picture of the castle when you visit on our Germany tours.

  • Mary’s Bridge. Marienbrücke is a metal bridge that spans the Pöllat Gorge and provides a picture-perfect view of Neuschwanstein Castle. The bridge was first built in 1845 and has been updated and renovated over the years, most recently in 2015. You can walk from the castle parking lot through the forest to the bridge.

  • The Neuschwanstein Castle courtyard. Admire the architectural detail of the castle up close for that perfect shot.

  • The Throne Hall. Step out onto the balcony to gaze at the Alps and the mountain lakes in the distance.

  • The Tegelberg Cable Car. The cable car takes you to the top of a nearby mountain, providing those sought after bird’s-eye view photo opportunities of the castle and the valley below.

  • The walking path from Hohenschwangau to Neuschwanstein Castle. The path passes the Alpsee lake and offers opportunities to take photos of both castles.

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What are some of the best things to do around Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany?

The entire area around Neuschwanstein Castle becomes a bustling mix of languages and license plates during peak season, but there are plenty of local sights that make the destination worth the journey on any of our Germany tours.

  • Visit Hohenschwangau Castle. If one castle simply isn’t enough, you can visit the childhood home of King Ludwig II on a trip to Hohenschwangau Castle. This neo-Gothic palace contains Ludwig’s childhood room, the numerous hunting trophies of his father, Maximilian II, and the swan fountain in the center of a circular bush within the castle gardens.
  • Explore the Museum of the Bavarian Kings. Located near the Alpsee lake in Schwangau, the Museum of the Bavarian Kings contains artifacts of the Wittelsbach family, especially King Ludwig II and his father, King Maximilian II.
  • Have a beer at Schloss Bräustüberl. Settle down at a table and enjoy a pretzel and a fresh beer from König Ludwig Schlossbrauerei, whose current owner is the great-grandson of Ludwig III.
  • Take a dip. Don’t forget your suit. In the heat of summer, the crisp waters of the Alpsee are refreshing and provide an incredible vantage point of the valley.
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9 tours you can book to see Neuschwanstein Castle

Whether you’re looking for a weeklong exploration of one of Europe’s most fascinating regions, a deep dive into the history and culture of Alpine Europe, or a celebration of delight on an Oktoberfest Tour or Christmas Market Tour, these nine trips to Germany will allow you to experience Neuschwanstein Castle and the surrounding area any way you like.

1. A Week in Switzerland, Germany & Austria →

Why you should book this tour: This nine-day tour is one of the best ways to get to know the heart of Central Europe. After spending your days traveling through the Swiss Alps and exploring some of Europe’s most historic cities, we can guarantee that the sight of Neuschwanstein Castle is going to be a highlight of your tour.

2. Germany, Switzerland & Austria →

Why you should book this tour: Discover the delightful styles of three distinct nations that share one language. This 14-day tour delivers the Art Nouveau elegance of Vienna, the stunning peaks of Switzerland, and the fairy-tale castle of a "mad" king in Bavarian Germany.

3. Jewels of Alpine Europe →

Why you should book this tour: This 13-day tour is all about the Alps. From mountain-ringed Lake Lucerne and extravagant Lake Como to the picturesque castle in the clouds at Neuschwanstein, you’ll be struck by the beauty of every stop.

4. Switzerland, Germany & Italy →

Why you should book this tour: This 10-day European tour makes the most of every moment. Pass through five countries as you hop from fairy-tale castles to gondola-laden canals. Unforgettable moments and lifelong memories will make it difficult to leave this incredible tour.

5. Central Europe for Solo Travelers→

Why you should book this tour: Journey from the Austrian sites featured in The Sound of Music to the Alpine castles of Bavarian royalty on this nine-day tour through Central Europe. Broaden your perspective and make new travel friends on this Solo Tour across Central Europe.

6. Oktoberfest: Jewels of Alpine Europe →

 Why you should book this tour: Is there anything better than traveling through the Alps and ending your 15-day tour with thousands of new best friends at Oktoberfest? If there is, we can’t think of it. Travel from idyllic Lucerne, past the fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein, to the thriving heart of Bavarian beer country on this incredible adventure.

7. Oktoberfest: Germany, Switzerland & Austria →

Why you should book this tour: You’ll embark on a voyage from small mountain villages to thriving cosmopolitan capital cities, complete with a few pints to celebrate Oktoberfest. This 15-day tour has everything, so pack your lederhosen and get ready to prost!

8. Christmas Markets of Germany, Switzerland & Austria →

Why you should book this tour: Feel the glow of the twinkling lights as you explore Alpine holiday markets on this 14-day tour. With stops in major cities and small towns along the way, you’ll experience winter views of fairy-tale castles and bustling squares filled with local artisans as you explore the seasonal traditions of German-speaking nations.

9. New Year’s Eve in Lucerne: Germany, Switzerland & Austria →

Why you should book this tour: Celebrate the new year in the Swiss Alps on this memorable 14-day tour. Fireworks and midnight toasts are just the beginning as you traverse the region, exploring fairy-tale castles, historic Old Towns, and cosmopolitan capital cities.

Choose your favorite tour and become the main character in your own fairy-tale adventure when you visit Neuschwanstein Castle.

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About the author | Adam Amundson
Adam believes that we learn about ourselves when we experience new cultures—whether that’s a riverside stroll in Portugal, dinner in a Sicilian cave, or popping a bottle of Champagne with his wife on the Garden of the Eiffel Tower. When he’s not writing about all the amazing places to visit across the globe, he’s likely out for a run, grabbing cocktails with friends, or going for walks along the docks with his rescue pup, Fenway.

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