A literal fairy tale castle that inspired the likes of Disney, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most famous and iconic castles in the world. With millions of tourists flocking to this place each year, visiting the castle is very fussy. You cannot simply buy entry and wander around the grounds. A visit to Neuschwanstein Castle is only possible with a tour which needs to be booked weeks in advance.
You cannot buy tickets at the castle gates! There is no kiosk, cashiers or third-party sellers on the castle grounds. Don’t make the long hike up there only to be turned away for not having a ticket.
The admission fee to Neuschwanstein Castle is €15 for adults plus a €2.50 booking fee if you purchase tickets online. Children get in for free, except for the processing fee of €2.50. The castle’s definition of “child” is generous and extends to anyone under 18.
The ticket office is on Alpseestraße, not far from where the bus drops you off. If you’re unsure where to go, follow the crowds of tourists. You cannot reserve or buy for a future day, even with a group. The tickets at the office are only for the same day and are subject to availability. Be prepared to wait hours for the next available tour or find out that they’re completely sold out for the day.
To avoid disappointment, buy your Neuschwanstein Castle tickets online. Do not underestimate how busy this attraction is, even during off-peak season. Tickets sell out weeks, even months in advance. When checking the tickets while writing this post, the next available tour date was a month away and only at 5:30 pm. Buy your tickets to Neuschwanstein Castle long before you get to Germany. Ideally, when you’re back in your home country with your trip confirmed with flights and hotels booked.
The Marienbrücke is an attraction in its own right and should not be missed if you’re visiting Neuschwanstein Castle. This pedestrian bridge spans the Pöllat Gorge and is where you can capture that iconic photograph of the castle. During peak times, there can be long queues to get on there. It’s not very wide either, so you’ll constantly have people walking through your pictures. With so many visitors each day, the bridge is closed more often than not for maintenance. It also closes during poor weather, so don’t get your hopes up if it’s a rainy or windy day.
If you walk to the other side of the Marienbrücke, there is a winding dirt path up the hill to a second viewpoint. This spot is arguably better than the bridge. There are much less tourists here, and the view is the same but at a slightly different angle. If you’re patient, you could probably get this area to yourself for a few minutes. Mark actually proposed at this spot, and it was so much more special without random tourists around spoiling the moment. There’s even another scenic lookout further up the hill, but it requires a hike on a slightly precarious path.
Getting to the Castle
It’s still a fair walk once you’ve gotten your tickets. You can be hardcore and hike up from Alpseestraße to the castle. The 1.5km journey is on a steep winding road and takes thirty to forty-five minutes, depending on how many breaks you need. Near the end, you’ll get to a path fork where the left goes to the castle and the right heads to Marienbrücke.
There is a shuttle bus you can take to make the journey easier, but it is not free! It departs from the parking lot below Hohenschwangau Palace at regular intervals. It won’t take guests right to the castle gates due to space limitations, so there’s still some walking involved. It will drop you off near Marienbrücke, and then it’s just a 500m downhill walk to the castle gates. The price for the Neuschwanstein shuttle is €3 for an uphill trip, €2 for a downhill and €3.50 for a round-trip.
Horse Drawn Carriage
You can arrive in style via a horse-drawn carriage. The carriages pick up guests at the Hotel Müller, next to the ticket office on Alpseestraße. The price is €8 for uphill and €4 for downhill. On the way up, it will drop you off in a small “parking lot” for the horses. It is a ten-minute uphill walk from here to the castle.
There’s no schedule with this option. The driver will leave once he has a full coach. We took one of these on the way down from Neuschwanstein. It’s nothing special and only mildly romantic. The driver crams you in with as many people as can fit on the carriage, so you’ll be rubbing elbows and knees with about ten other tourists.
There is a security guard checking tickets at the main gate. Once you’re through, there is a toilet you can use before your tour starts.
The waiting area inside the castle walls is spacious. There are a few turnstiles with screens above them that display the upcoming tour times. You can go up to the ramparts and look around while you wait for your time to be ready. A chime and an automated voice will call out the “code” for each tour when it’s time.
There’s no staff around to hold your hand and make sure you get to your tour. They could care less – they’ve already got your money. It’s entirely your responsibility to be vigilant about when it’s your turn to enter. Don’t risk being even five minutes late – the electronic turnstile might refuse entry.
Once the tour begins, you’re given a little speaker that will help to hear the guide clearly no matter where you’re standing. It’s a clever setup and I wish more tours did this. We could wander around the room while getting our information, and there was no need to stay close to the guide. We could easily hear him through the gadget even if we were at the back of the group.
The tour is only about twenty minutes and goes up and down stairs a few times. The throne room, dining room and the grand singer’s hall are some of the stops. Regarding photographs, the Neuschwanstein website gives conflicting information. First, they expressly state no pictures or filming. However, on the site’s permits page, it says that photos for private use are okay.
In our experience, photos are not allowed inside the castle during a guided tour. Our guide was very clear about this. Dealing with a group of tourists snapping pictures and wasting time when the tour is on a strict schedule is an organisational nightmare that the guides don’t want to deal with. If you try to take pictures inside Neuschwanstein Castle, you’ll likely be publicly scolded in that harsh German way, so try it at the risk of your own shame.
There are two different souvenir shops in the castle itself, but the tour ends at the bigger store. It might have the largest selection but also the highest prices due to its convenience. We bought a mousepad, but I saw the same item at the other shops for slightly cheaper.
Once you leave the gift shop, there are still some things you can do before you leave the castle. The balcony at the end of the hallway has a gorgeous view of the alpine lakes and the valley below. It’s not a big balcony so it will be crowded with tourists. There is also a theatre that plays a short looping movie about the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle. The second, smaller gift shop will be on the way to the exit near the castle kitchens.
Outside, there’s a small tourist area in the shadow of the castle where the lockers are. There’s yet another souvenir kiosk but this one is a little more interesting. It sells food, drinks, and most importantly, beer! There’s only one kind, Hofbrauhaus Helles for about €4. If you return the empty bottle afterwards, you get a few cents back for the bottle deposit. There are benches and views of the castle on one side and the flat plains on the other. If you’ve got the time, this is a pleasant spot to enjoy a drink.
I don’t think anyone needs convincing to come to Neuschwanstein Castle. This is one of the most touristy castles in Bavaria, if not the world. Getting here is made so easy with uncomplicated buses and clear walking paths. The ticket price is very affordable, considering this landmark is legendary.
I do think that it’s worth going inside just to see it with your own eyes since so few photographs of the interior exist online. The tour is well organised, if not long. I don’t know if the castle’s rooms are the most lavish ones in the region, but they’re still stunning and so well-preserved for such a heavily visited attraction. Schloss Linderhof is supposed to be even more beautiful. We didn’t visit it ourselves, but it might be worth considering a day trip if you want to see the trifecta of Ludwig’s castles.
As nice as the interior is, it’s all about the exterior when it comes to Neuschwanstein Castle. It is perfectly framed by the forest, mountains and the lake. I don’t think an ugly angle of the castle exists, and this castle will look good in any season. This is one of the few attractions whose beauty is not overhyped. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a clear day, the look of Neuschwanstein Castle is, quite simply, magical.