No visit to Munich is complete without taking a day trip to see the most spectacular castles in Bavaria: Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace
Do a google search for "what to do in Munich" and countless pictures of Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace will start to fill your screen. I'm talking pictures of fairytale Castles perched in the middle of majestic forests, pictures that seem almost too impossible to be real.
With once glance at Neuschwanstein Castle , it's easy to see why this castle inspired Walt Disney to build his own castle -- Cinderella's Castle -- in Disney World. So of course, we knew that while we were in Munich, we simply had to take a day trip and go see it for ourselves.
Hidden about 2 hours outside of Munich in the seclusion of the Bavarian mountains, both Castles are striking in architecture and landscape. You can tell that each step, each plant and each room was carefully curated and planned. So whether you have dreams of being a fairy princess, revel in history or appreciate great architecture, visiting King Ludwig's homes, is very well worth it.
A Day Trip With Viator
Usually when we hear "tour bus", we immediately turn and run the other way. Visions of over crowded buses, packed with tourists all competing for views kept popping up in my head. But we really wanted to see Neuschwanstein Castle and after doing a lot of research, it looked like the most convenient way to get there would be to take a tour. We decided to take this trip from Viator as it would take us to Linderhof Palace, Oberammergau, and finally to Neuschwanstein Castle.
When we arrived on the bus, we were completely shocked. This was not like any bus we had ever seen. Everyone had enough room to stretch out, the interior was very clean and comfortable, and best of all - they served hot wine! It was definitely a comfortable way to get around.
The Castles were located a few hours outside of Munich and the drive to get there is incredibly scenic. We had always heard that this area of Bavaria was beautiful, but we couldn't get over the dense forests, rolling hills, snow capped mountain tops and charming villages throughout our ride. Additionally, our tour guide was absolutely fantastic -- as we drove through the different areas she shared many stories and pointed out various aspects of the countryside, that on our own we would have overlooked. In all she was funny, informative and really helpful - the trip would not have been the same without her!
Our first stop of the day was the smallest of King Ludwig II Castles and probably my favorite. After walking around the grounds, taking in beautiful views of lakes, forests, and the Bavarian Alps, we entered the Palace for a tour. Our guide was exceptionally knowledgable about all aspects of the Palace, from it's history to architecture, and especially about King Ludwig II. While inside we were able to see all of the rooms of the Palace, and learn interesting facts about his reign and life; like how he would stay up all night and sleep during the day and never married or had any mistresses, as he was homosexual.
Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures once inside, but trust me when I say I never thought so much opulence and extravagance could be packed in to such a small space.
After Linderhof Palace, we stopped at the small German town of Oberammergau, home of the famous Passion Play which is only performed every ten years. Before getting off the bus, our guide told us this was the best area to get souvenirs and go shopping -- however rather than buying trinkets and bobbles, we opted to skip the shopping and stroll through the town. Not only did we see lots of traditional German buildings covered with beautiful murals, but we also came upon a delicious bakery where we had some of the most delicious pie we ever tried!
Finally, towards the early afternoon we arrived in the town of Hohenschwangau, which is located at the foot of Neuschwanstein Castle. There is not really much to see or do in the town itself, which is fine because we were there to see the famous Castle not the town! Neuschwanstein Castle itself is about a 30 minute walk up a not-too-steep hill. However, there is a bus that you can catch which takes you up to the top of the hill in about 5 minutes, which we highly recommend.
During our research for this trip, we read many reviews that said you can get the most breathtaking views of the Castle from Marien Brucke (Mary's Bridge). Unfortunately for us, it was a really foggy afternoon, so our view from the bridge was... well, less than impressive. Even though we could only see a few feet in front of us, it was somewhat exhilarating to walk across the wobbly bridge.
After Marien Brucke, we walked about 10 minutes further to reach the Castle. Once we got inside we were a little disappointed to learn that we weren't allowed to just wander around at out own pace -- that we had to be part of a controlled group, which was a bit of a bummer. You also aren't allowed to take pictures while inside the Castle however, me being me, I still managed to snag a few pictures here and there!
As fascinating as it was to be standing in one of the most beautiful Castles in the world, the tour itself was conventional and lacked the excitement I was hoping for. As soon as your group is allowed entrance you are given an audio guide and ushered from room to room with someone from the staff. We couldn't ask questions and interact with the guides like we did and Linderhof, so the tour went by pretty quickly. I wanted to know where the secret doors where and hear the gossip that may or may not be true.
Tip & Notes
Make sure to bring cash with you as you have to pay for your entrance tickets to the castles on the bus. Its also good to have smaller bills for tipping.
The ride is about two hours each way from Munich, so pack snacks if you want.
Once you arrive to Hohenschwangau (the small town at the base of Neuschwanstein Castle), it's totally worth the 2 Euro to take the bus to Marien Brucke (Mary's Bridge).
Make sure to wear good walking shoes. It's about a mile walk up to the Castle but if you take the bus to Marien Brucke, it's not a bad at all.
Really the only time to eat, is in the town of Hohenschwangau which has very very very few options. We ate at the Hotel Muller and it was just okay - you can tell it only caters to tourists. I wish I would have packed a fabulous picnic instead.
The tour guide on the bus is not the tour guide in the Castles. Once you get to each destination you will be handed tickets and taken with a large group and a tour guide or audio guide.
The individual tours of the Castles are extremely crowded and there is no way around it. Private tours aren't an option and the only way to get inside the Castles is with a tour group. Be prepared to be in large crowded groups for the tours.
For more information on this tour make sure to check out viator