Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany

To the admirer of architectural romanticism, and perhaps even the lover of fantasy, King Ludwig II’s castle, Neuschwanstein, took an entirely new approach in its design. The Fairy Tale King took his inspiration from the operas of Richard Wagner, including Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, and Lohengrin. Ludwig was so captivated by these dramas, every room was constructed and decorated with painstaking detail to pay homage to Wagner’s operas, right down to a theater built inside the castle, where Ludwig had planned to view private showings of his favorite of Wagner’s works.

Towering over the surrounding landscape, Neuschwanstein Castle appears to be miles above Schwangau. However, it is only about a 1.5km walk up a winding road (about 40 minutes for the average hiker), or a horse-drawn carriage ride (a quicker option, but still requires 10-15 minutes of walking//Cost: ~7 euros uphill, ~3.5 downhill). If you are considering making the trip out to the castle’s grounds, we highly recommend planning to take a tour of the inside. The tickets can be tough to get, so be sure and prepare in advance. [Pro-Tip: Each tour time is based on the language being spoken by the guide, which could mean that you decide to arrive either earlier or later in the day, depending on how much time you wish to spend exploring.] One thing to keep in mind is that the Neuschwanstein staff asks that you book your time slot well before you plan on arriving. They recommend reserving your tickets about 2 weeks prior to your visit, but no later than 3pm (Bavarian Time) two days before. On the off chance that you decide to make the stop with very little notice, it is possible that you can purchase the entrance tickets in the small white building. But, be aware that the line is often very long, so you could be standing in hopeful anticipation for over an hour. Here you can find a link to the page with both ticket reservation options, or the little white house’s address depending on your circumstances. Also, be sure to confirm that your tour tickets are specifically for Neuschwanstein, and not Ludwig’s childhood castle Hohenschwangau castle. While this is a beautiful place, it is also on a separate peak.

Another option, either in addition to or instead of, is to stay on the outside of the castle, and adventure off into the surrounding nature. This requires the same basic step of making the trek/ride up, but does not require any ticket purchasing. On your way up, you will notice a small cafe, which is a decent place for lunch if you did not get a chance to grab something at the base of the mountain. Then, you will continue up for another 10 minutes by foot, only to be rewarded by the incredible view of the castle. If you need to hydrate, there is a gift shop off to the right side, also equipped with a restroom if needed. While we were making our own memories, we decided to find the stereotypical picture spot. Traveler be warned, getting this picture is no joke. In order to get there, you will want to follow the castle’s path to that veers off to the right. You will see signs suggesting that you are headed in the correct direction. After arriving at what looks like a shuttle stop, you will find that the trail continues to the left, which, if taken, will lead you to “Mary’s Bridge.” Mary’s Bridge, or as the Germans call it “Marienbürke,” connects the two sides of the Pöllat gorge in order to provide the best possible place to take a postcard worthy photo. This opportunity does not require a cost, but it does require bravery. In its busiest seasons (typically mid-summer time), Mary’s Bridge can be quite crowded, which is logically followed by some uneasiness among the visitors. So, we would recommend being patient with the process, but also remember that the view is totally worth it.

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