You can spend a little or a lot to see Neuschwanstein Castle. I spent nothing.
And I saw everything I wanted to see.
How can that be? After all, some people will get nicked up to a hundred euro or more to see King Ludwig II‘s architectural masterpiece (yes, this was the inspiration that Walt Disney had for Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland/Disney World).
All it takes is a little initiative, and a determination not to follow the herd, to keep your money in your pocket.
I drove there. I realize not everyone has a car at their disposal to do this. But it’s not that hard. Munich is barely 90 minutes away – even for slow drivers; 60 minutes from Innsbruck. Bus tours are available, but these have to rank as the most expensive way to see anything. Not recommended, unless you have some mobility problems (which may prevent you from seeing the castle anyway – no matter how much you pay).
I found free parking. Normally this is 5€ in the lot, and that isn’t a bad deal – because the lot attendants are friendly, helpful, and can (and will) give you change to use the adjacent pay toilets. (Clean and functional, btw.) But I stopped about 250 meters south of the touristy area, along a forest road, and found free parking there.
The castle is up on a steep hill. Most everyone buys a ticket at the bottom of the hill (don’t go up, expecting to buy a ticket at the castle – turn back! – you can’t). As of this writing, the tickets cost 12€ pp for adults (seniors save one euro) and kids (with a paying adult) under 18 are free. There’s another castle, as you’ll see, which belonged to Ludwig’s father, and you can see that, but you need another ticket. There’s yet another ticket you can buy to see the small museum at the bottom of the hill.
The price for the whole thing is 29,50€ pp.
The tours go inside the castle, and can include multi-lingual guides, or audio cassettes.
I didn’t buy a ticket.
The tours are brisk, brusque and sorta boring. You’re in and out in 30 minutes or less, and there’s not all that much to see at Neuschwanstein because the place was a work-in-progress that was never finished. Many rooms are unfurnished. Many are unfinished. Refurbishing work on what was completed is ongoing, inside and out. The tour only goes to some of the rooms.
The outside of the castle is more important visually than the inside, anyway. (The other castle, Hohenschwangau, is at least finished and fully furnished – and you can walk up to it much more easily – and it provides a good photo op to snap Neuschwanstein.)
Besides, the tickets only get you an interior tour of the castle. The ticket doesn’t get you up the mountain to the castle. To get there, you have three options: 1) Take a horse-drawn carriage (6€ pp, each way); 2) Take a bus (2€ pp, each way), or 3) Walk (free pp, each way).
I walked up. It wasn’t easy, but it is easily do-able for a reasonably fit person. Do NOT be discouraged by the misleading signs, which tell you it takes 40 minutes to hike up there. It actually takes about 20 minutes; I think it’s about a mile.
Don’t try this if you’re out of shape. (On the other hand, if you want to get in shape, challenge yourself.) You will sweat (even in winter), but you will be proud of yourself for doing it.
It’s steep, but a beautiful forest walk with a cute little waterfall (about 2/3rds of the way up).
Warning: If you do buy a ticket, you will be assigned a time for your tour. Whatever method you take for getting up to the castle, make sure you are at the castle on time, or your tour will leave without you and your ticket will be a worthless wad of paper.
Also be advised that even if you take the bus or carriage, you still have to walk about 300 meters down to the castle – and then back up that steep hill after your tour.
If you walk up, go all the way to Marienbrucke (Mary’s Bridge). It’s wooden bridge over a breathtaking river gorge. And it has THE view of the castle. The view that is in all the photos you see of the place. The walk up to Mary’s Bridge is only another 300 meters or so (if that), past the place where the buses and carriages stop for the castle tours. But this last little bit you must walk – and it is all uphill. (I got there just as 300 Chinese tourists arrived, and decided to all go out and stand on the wobbly little bridge at the same. Yikes.)
When done, walk back down. It’s free – which is like how my whole trip was.
The payoff for walking up (besides gloating at other folks who look fit enough that they should have walked) is that at Mary’s Bridge there is a view that only your eyes can appreciate.
No photo can do it justice. This is the money shot. Savor it.
Neuschwanstein is one of Bavaria’s Crown Jewels.
Sad to think what happened, at the hands of fellow Bavarians, to the genius who dreamed it up.
(Editor’s Note: A less gung-ho itinerary, if you’re less physically fit, but just as determined not to needlessly blow money, is to pay 5€ to park, 2€ for the bus ride up to Neuschwanstein, walk back down and take the easy stairs to Hohenschwangau – two castles for 7€ total.)
June 11, 2013