Historical landmarks, stunning scenery, and some of the best food I’ve had in my life, Neuschwanstein, Germany is not a place to be overlooked or forgotten. This fairytale castle is nestled in the Tyrolean Alps, just off the border of Austria. Getting to it can be a bit complicated, but if you’re able to drive, then renting a car is certainly the most beautiful way to travel. Driving through all the mountains and lakes in this region of the world is unforgettable.
The Castle was built by King Ludwig the Second of Bavaria and planning began in 1867. But the designs for the Castle are based upon architectural ideas of centuries long past. The King had a romanticized idea of where he wanted to rule from and thus created the spiraling columns and tower tops. It’s said that this palace was used as inspiration for the iconic Disney Castle, you could almost expect a prince to come riding down around the bend on a white horse. Tucked in between the forested mountains, the gleaming colors and fantastical structures seem to be something right out of a story book.
Starting in the village of Hohenschwangau, the Castle is perched up on the mountain and is visible through the peaks of trees. It looks like something so grand and far away, but isn’t nearly so. There’s a clear winding pathway up to the castle, but if you’re not up for a bit of a steep hike, then pay to have a horse drawn cart take you up. It’s definitely not as romantic as it seems in the movies, but everyone that I passed that was walking seemed immensely jealous. It’s not exorbitantly expensive and includes the trip down as well. There’s a lot to see inside the Castle and a tour guide will take you around to show you the rooms and also will detail what was part of the original plan and what wasn’t.
Make sure to walk out from the Castle and around the path, another short hike, to Queen Mary’s Bridge, or Marienbruke, spanning a mountain pass. There’s a tumbling waterfall and river running just under the bridge on one side and the other side provides a sweeping view of the Castle. The bridge will be immensely crowded unless you specifically seek out a time when it isn’t, but just be patient and soon you’ll be walking across the slightly terrifying span. All fear was taken away when I saw the palace, though, and the view made it all worth it. If you’re one for hiking, head to the other side of the bridge and follow the path through the beautiful German woods up to a small peak to have another perspective of the Castle and the bridge, now far below.
The Tyrolean Alps are all around and seem like something out of a painting. The greens and peaks fade into the far off distance creating an image rich with color and depth. You can see them framed by the Castle walls by looking out from one side of the Castle when inside or can walk to the edge of town to see them surrounding a crystal clear lake. If it’s not too cold out, step in and get your feet soaked by the sparkling, cool water. There are several restaurants in the village as well, but the hotels and hostels will most likely have the best food. Nearly anything off the menu is worth trying, and you might just find your next favorite dish.
There’s many other sites to see near Neuschwanstein, as well. Hohenschwangau Castle is accessible from the same village, just on the other side and it’s very possible to see both Palaces in the same day. The Castles can be seen from each other which is such a fun thing to do, to see each from the others perspective. Nymphenburg Palace is another famous, sprawling Castle though not nearly as impressive in facade as either of the other two. Linderhof Palace is a gorgeous summer home that should be seen in several hours but is possible just to run through in an hour. The inside is impressive, but it’s the gardens and outsides of the structures that are truly eye catching. Walking along the fountains, through the flowers, and up the pathways was a welcome break from running around traveling.
There’s enough to see and do at Neuschwanstein that this little gem can easily become a trip in and of itself. But don’t let that dissuade you from fitting it in another traveling schedule. It’s worth any time that you can give it. With the picturesque mountains, magical palaces, and mysteriously comforting forest, Neuschwanstein, Germany is a must see for any traveler.