Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle, is a gorgeous castle in the Bavarian Alps. I stumbled onto the option to visit it during my three days in Munich in 2017.
Everyone raved about the castle online. The photos of it, perched in the greenery of the alps, were gorgeous.
But no one talked about visiting it in winter.
I was in Munich at the beginning of December, right after two snow falls had hit the city. Part of me thought the castle wouldn’t be worth visiting. Another part of me worried it would be too cold.
But the third part of me won out: the part that wanted to see a castle.
Honestly, after seeing the castle in the prime of winter, I believe that is the best time to visit.
This “typical medieval castle” was oddly not built in the medieval period. It was actually built in the 19thcentury by Ludwig II, king of Bavaria.
After an alliance with Austria, Ludwig’s throne lost its power. He decided to build Neuschwanstein as a refuge from society and a representation of the king of kingdom he desired: a medieval one. The palace was styled after the operas of his friend, Richard Wagner. Ludwig chose to have the palace built the ruins of a medieval castle near his family’s summer home.
The building details were first made by set designed Christian Jank, before an architect constructed the project. Neuschwanstein is a marvel of medieval construction melded with 19thcentury technology. The palace sits atop a mountain. It is made of brick and clad in limestone.
Repairs are constantly being done to maintain this beautiful castle.
Within the palace, only 15 of the planned 200 rooms are complete. These rooms feature medieval legends and ideals of chivalry, knightly valour, divine kingship and courtly love. In the Throne Room, Ludwig would have sat amongst the six canonized kings. In his bedroom, he would have slept amongst the Grail scenes. Ludwig even commissioned a carved oak bed for his new home that took four years to complete.
Unfortunately, Ludwig never got to see the completion of the palace. Seven weeks after his death, the palace became open to the public – a fact that must irk the reclusive leader.
The Attraction of Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein is one of the most visited castles in Europe and is considered one of the most beautiful. It has a unique beauty, sitting high in the Bavarian Alps, looking over the forests and lakes. There is a certain fairy-tale quality of the castle.
That’s probably why Walt Disney used Neuschwanstein as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle. (This is debated. Some people claim it is the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle. Either way, it’s beautiful!)
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Tourists flock to see this example of medieval architecture and marvel at its beauty. The castle sees 1.4 million visitors a year, with nearly 6,000 visitors a day in the summer.
While the palace looks beautiful amongst the green trees, there is something unique about viewing it in winter.
Why You Should Visit Neuschwanstein in Winter
I went to Neuschwanstein on a day trip from Munich in December 2017. I hadn’t considered the season when I booked a tour to see the castle: it was just the time of year I was there.
I can’t tell you how glad I am that I went in winter.
The pale limestone of the castle mirrors the white snow on the tree tops. Rather than looking icy and harsh, it somehow looks warm and welcoming amongst the alps.
Walking up to Neuschwanstein becomes an adventure through a snowy forest, with frozen waterfalls and horse drawn carriages marking your route.
It didn’t even matter that my fingers were going numb inside my mittens.
Since I’m not a fan of lines or crowds (is anybody??), visiting Neuschwanstein in winter means less people. I booked a tour, so I didn’t have to worry about getting my ticket to the castle. But in the summer that can be an issue.
In the winter, there is less of a risk of tickets to enter the castle selling out.
Getting to go inside and see the castle is wonderful in the winter. The cold is kept at bay, so you can unzip your jacket and enjoy the guided tour.
Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside, so I can’t share any images with you. You can see some on the Neuschwanstein Castle website.
Visiting in summer must be incredibly hot. You have to stay with your group, which can mean a lot of body heat in one room.
Visiting Neuschwanstein in the winter offers views of snowy fields and icy lakes beneath the alps. The small village beneath the alp becomes a winter haven, with gluwein and sausages to warm you after your trip. Something about drinking gluwein while looking up at a beautiful castle, nestled in the snowy landscape, really fit with the visit.
The only negative I found about visiting in winter is that the famous bridge beside the castle, Marienbrucke, is closed. The bridge is supposed to be the best spot to get a photo of the castle and the surrounding view.
Some people still risk going to the bridge in winter, regardless of the ice and snow. I didn’t bother trying. My balance is poor on dry land; ice is a battle not worth facing. Besides, you get great views of the castle as you walk up.
Safety is more important than a good photo! (Or a great photo.)
Getting to Neuschwanstein
There are a number of options to get to Neuschwanstein.
The castle is located in southwest Bavaria, 1 hour and 45 minutes from Munich by car.
If you don’t want to drive, you can take a train and a bus. Take the train from Munich Hbf to Fussen. The two-hour train ride goes by quickly with the gorgeous scenery you pass. At Fussen, take the 78 bus to the castle. The bus and train are common for tourists, so follow the wave of people and you should be alright.
The ticket costs 26 euros per person for a day ticket. For an extra 5 euros per person, you can add up to five people on the one ticket.
Your train ticket covers the bus as well, so hold onto it!
The last option is to take a tour.
I went to Neuschwanstein with Sandeman’s New Europe. For 45 euros, they guided us through the train and bus, led us up the alps and told us some stories. The price of the castle tour was not included. The tour was too expensive for what it was worth. Had I known that it was basically 45 euros to be led through the German public transport system, I wouldn’t have done it.
That being said, if you’re not confident about public transportation and have 45 euros to spare, take the tour. They do make sure you get on the right train/bus. My guide also had some interesting photos and information (however, it was all repeated inside the castle).
The castle is open daily from 10am-4pm from October to March. The ticket office is open from 8:30am-3pm during these months.
Buy your tickets in advance and pick them up at the ticket centre. That way, you avoid the disappointment of going all the way there and it being sold out.
Pick up your ticket at least 90 minutes before your tour so you have enough time to get up to the castle.
Tickets can be picked up at the ticket centre in the village below the castle.
Going inside the castle for a 30 minute tour costs 13 euros per person. You get a headset to listen to the guide as you explore the medieval halls.
Each tour starts at a specific time. They are very strict about this. Make sure you are on time or they will not hesitate to leave without you.
I really recommend going on the tour inside Neuschwanstein. Getting to see the inside of the castle is so impactful and the guides share the stories incredibly well.
I studied medieval literature in uni, so seeing the tales I love on this 19thcentury castle was awe-inspiring. Even if you’re not into medieval literature, the halls are gorgeous and the story of the Swan King, Ludwig II, are fascinating. He’s a figure not often known in the world, but worth exploring.
Climbing the Hill to Neuschwanstein
I chose the cheapest, but longest method to get up the hill: I walked. The walk takes about 30-40 minutes. Even in snow, it was an easy uphill climb.
The other option in winter is taking a horse drawn carriage. It costs 6 euros to go uphill or 3 euros to go downhill. The ride doesn’t go all the way up. You’ll still have to walk about 10 minutes to the castle.
In the winter, the shuttle bus doesn’t run. This would be the best option if you have a mobility issue. It costs 3 euros for a return trip, but runs infrequently.
Most people choose to walk up the hill since the incline isn’t very steep.
What to Wear to Visit Neuschwanstein
Wear hiking shoes or sneakers. The uphill walk isn’t very long, but your tour in the castle will keep you on your feet.
Make sure you’re comfortable so you can enjoy your visit!
If you’re visiting in the winter, dress warmly! It can get windy as you climb the mountain.
Visiting places in the off season can lead to some awesome discoveries. I chose to go to Germany in December for the Christmas markets. I hadn’t considered how that would affect any other things I wanted to see.
Getting to see the winter wonderland surrounding Neuschwanstein was a lovely accident. I got some beautiful photos, had a lovely walk and drank enough gluwein to make my belly warm.
Take a risk and visit a destination in the off season.
Have you ever visited somewhere in the off season? How did it go?