If you are travelling to Munich, I’m pretty sure the Neuschwanstein castle will be part of your itinerary. The castle that inspired Disney logo, looks like a fairy tale and comes with an unbeatable story of its builder – Mad King Ludwig II (no seriously… he was actually called the Mad King Ludwig). Most people take a day trip from Munich to Fussen and head back. But if you have an extra day, may I recommend staying at this gorgeous place called Fussen.
Historically this place has been a strategic stop for crossing the Alps. The river Lech could be followed downstream to the Danube. This town actually marks the beginning or end, depending on how you roll, of the romantic road. In summer, tourists take over completely. This place is also a handy stop if you are cruising down the German Alpine Road, which is pretty as it sounds!
WHY SHOULD YOU GO THERE
The beautiful town of Fussen is not necessarily a mandatory stay, but you invariably end up wishing you did when you pass through it to get to the castle. Imagine a backdrop of the Alps, river Lech flowing through the city and small homes with not a tall building in sight, winding roads and happy people. Also if you stay, you will have time to see the Lechfalls.
HISTORY IN FUSSEN
This little town has its own rich history. If you are staying for a day and a half to two, a city walk will lead you to the Kaiser Maximilian Platz, Medieval Towers, town view from Franciscan Monastery, the Lech Riverbank and the historic cemetery of St. Sebastian. There is a high castle, which is so-so.
NATURE LOVERS IN FUSSEN
If you prefer nature, you should try the Treetop Walkway, which is an elevated wooden path that lets you walk among the top of trees. It’s a suspension bridge with 360-degree views of nature around you.
THE CASTLE VISIT
There are two castles that will be part of your itinerary – Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. They are called the King’s castles. King Ludwig II who ruled Bavaria for 22 years until his mysterious death stayed at the Hohenschwangau as a child. In fact when he began constructing the Neuschwanstein – his dream project, he installed a telescope in one of the rooms by the window to keep watch over the construction as it came alive.
Originally built in the 12th century, it was later ruined by Napolean. But King Ludwig’s father, King Maximilian II rebuilt it in 1830. This castle was actually a summer palace for hunting.
The décor is Neo Gothic and yellow. The paintings are from the Romantic era. There are two floors and a secret passage. This castle from the inside is honestly richer than Neuschwanstein. Gifts received by the ruling family from leaders of other countries are on display. The only way you get to go inside is to follow a very nice and witty 30-minute guided tour in small groups of 35 people.
Ludwig II was crowned king at age 18. Imagine being given the reins to take over an empire at that age. While this castle isn’t remarkable in comparison with Neuschwanstein from the outside, it tells quite a story from within.
The story of its existence dates back to the young prince dreaming about his fairy tale home, much like all of us. But he had the power to make it come alive as soon as he was crowned King. This castle was first designed by a theatre designer and has seen quite a few people reconstruct or expand on top of it.
When King Ludwig died in 1886, only about a third of what you see today was completed in construction. Then came the World War, which took a toll on the castle as Nazis used this space as a secret storage for stolen art.
This castle much like Hohenschwangau cannot be toured as DIY. You have to opt for a 30-minute tour which is part of the ticket and can only enter during the time allotted to you. Once inside, you get a peek into the life of royalty.
After the tour, do not leave without climbing Mary’s Bridge (fitness level: normal as long as you can climb small rocks). This is a suspended bridge, which offers a direct and complete view of the castle in entirety. You will be fighting thousands of people on the bridge and selfie sticks. But everybody gets to see this view.
The bridge itself is quite an accomplishment having been built 100 years ago.
Climb from the road to Neuschwanstein is a 30-minute trek up a winding trail. Children seem to do better on this road than out of shape adults. If you are packing lunch (which I would definitely recommend), there are viewpoints en route up this road that make a wonderful picnic spot.
HOW TO GET THERE:
- Most people take a train from Munich to get to Fussen. Within Fussen, there are buses for easy navigation. The tourist information centre TI is close to the railway station. For information on tickets, bahn.com is the best. There is also a free DB navigator app available.
- You can alternatively drive down to Fussen.
- From Fussen, you can take bus #73 or #78 to Neuschwanstein. Don’t try to walk from the station to this castle, it’s quite a long walk and you need to save up your energy for the climb up to castle.
- Entry to Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein costs 12 Euros each. But a combo ticket for both costs 23 Euros and includes the Museum of Bavarian Kings.
- Children under 18 walk in free.
- Tour Hohenschwangau before Neuschwanstein. It’s interesting to know a bit about the life of King Ludwig II before moving to Neuschwanstein.
- Every ticket comes with an allotted entry time, which has to be strictly followed. Usually, Neuschwanstein entry is about 2 hours after your Hohenschwangau time.
- PREBOOK TICKETS online unless you want to wait in an extremely long queue.
- Your pre-booked reservation needs to be validated and exchanged for a ticket in a much shorter queue at the ticket centre.
- If you are taking a day trip from Munich, pick up something called the Bayern ticket, which is way cheaper and includes bus between Fussen and castle. This ticket costs 23 Euros per person and 5 for every additional person. So if you are not travelling solo, this works great. If you pick up this ticket at any machine in Munich railway station, this is the cost. But if you need assistance and pick it up from a counter, there is an additional 2 Euro charge. It’s very easy to navigate their machines.
- As a vegetarian, food around the castles is tough to find. Managed to find one pasta place after walking into 3 restaurants that had a set menu of only meat.
- It’s going to be a long day, so it’s wise to bring snacks for a quick picnic lunch.
- If you are staying in Fussen, every hotel will give you a Fussen card for free use of public transport including the bus to Neuschwanstein. They also have few discounts for entry. Ask for the card if your hotel doesn’t offer one. You may need to pay a refundable deposit on the card.
For any information on Fussen, travelling to Munich, drop in a mail or comment J Glad to help!
Happy trails J