Hike from Füssen to Schwangau Castles

Walking to Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles from Füssen Old Town is a much nicer route than taking the bus. There is a variety of scenery along the approximately 4.7km long trail, including hilltop views of Füssen, Alpsee Lake, and a slow reveal of both castles on the mountain.

Distance and Difficulty

The walk took us 3.5 hours, but it will be quicker if you don’t spend as much time at the points of interest.

The hike from Füssen to the Castles is of easy to moderate difficulty. It was mostly flat along the trail. There are steep uphills at the start and again between Schwansee and Alpsee Lakes. However, it was manageable enough for the seniors and schoolchildren I saw doing the walk during the first half.

Hike Starting Point

Take the bridge in Füssen Old Town, the Lechbrücke. It’s the bridge past St. Mang’s Monastery. Cross the river, and turn right when you get to the other bank. Cross so that you’re on the left side of the street.

Soon you should see a route sign and a small church on the hill. This building is Kirche Unserer Lieben Frau am Berg (Blessed Virgin’s Church on Mount) on Google Maps. Take this path leading to the church. The route sign says Hohenschwangau Castle is just over an hour away, but I’ve found that the walking times were always much longer in Germany than what was estimated. Apparently, Bavarians walk crazy fast.

The Stations of the Cross

There are a lot of stairs at this point. Keep following the signs pointing to Hohenschwangau. In less than five minutes, you will arrive at another tiny chapel, which is the first of fourteen stations of the cross.

For those of us unfamiliar with bible stories, the stations of the cross depict the journey of Jesus Christ from his condemnation to his crucifixion and burial. On this walk, there will usually be a small chapel and an image of Jesus during his agonizing trial at each station. It looks like the same image over and over again to those of us who don’t know anything about Christianity, but there is a difference and each scene is very meaningful for believers.

After some walking, there will be a stone obelisk on your left. The info board is, unfortunately, only in German, but you can get your first overlook of Füssen if you stand at the obelisk.

After this, you will arrive at an open field with a yellow church. The path you want is the one that goes off to the left of this church. You’ll pass by more tiny white chapels along the hike.

The last station of the cross is prominent. A large hill with three crosses at the top will loom overhead. A winding path will take you past that structure in the middle, which has a natural stone tunnel to a chapel. Inside the chapel is a sculpture depicting Jesus’ burial, but a barred gate prevents anyone from getting too close.

There is a short hallway behind the stairs to the three crosses with paintings of Jesus and Jerusalem, but the text is in German again. Once you climb the stairs to the three crosses, there is a sweeping 360-degree panorama of the area. You can see Füssen, the mountains and even the two castles you’re hiking towards.

Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle in the distance above the lake

Schwansee Lake

The path down is pretty straightforward. You can keep following the signs to Hohenschwangau, but we took the left trail at this fork. Both routes will join up with each other before Schwansee Lake. If you take our way, look for the red-white-red stripe route marker if you’re ever unsure if you’re going the right way. After about ten minutes, there’s a sign pointing to “Hohenschwangau (50 minutes)” that you should take.

You’ll know you’re close to the lake when the dirt trail turns into a wider pebbly road. Stay on this path, and in ten minutes you’ll get to Schwansee. There is a clear trail that circumnavigates the water, but we stayed on the north side of the lake. Taking the other way seemed like a longer journey that would bypass the nearby cafe.

Continue following the signs that point to Hohenschwangau and keeps the lake on your right side. In a couple of minutes, you’ll spot a cute outdoor cafe a little off the road, the Schwansee Kiosk. They mostly have drinks on offer, but there are a few basic food options. Even if you don’t stop here for refreshments, you can still use the toilets. They are on the right side of the building. The facilities were clean and well-stocked despite how secluded this cafe is. There isn’t another toilet until you get to the end of this walk, so you should definitely go.

Click on menu pictures to enlarge

Once you’ve finished at the cafe, head back to the path you were originally on and continue on your way. The signs should say that Hohenschwangau is now 20 minutes away. After crossing over a small bridge, turn left so you begin a zigzagging ascent up a large hill.

This climb was tiring and sweaty. It had been two hours of walking by this point, and it was that awkward season where we had to wear heavy winter clothes while damp with sweat. Thankfully, there’s a place to sit at the top of the hill. After resting, take the path to the left of the bench.

The trail briefly becomes a dirt path through a logging area before joining up at a paved road. Within five minutes, you should see blue signs pointing to specific Schwangau locales, like Parkplatz and the ticket centre. Since we were going to Neuschwanstein, we followed the route on the right.

Do note that the way to Hohenschwangau from this point does not pass by Alpsee Lake. If you’re heading to Hohenschwangau but still want a quick peek at the lake, then take the Neuschwanstein path. There’s a viewpoint within a minute from this junction, and you can backtrack and head onwards to Hohenschwangau.

Alpsee Lake

After heading down the Neuschwanstein route, you’ll see a somewhat cleared space on your right shortly. Head in here to get a view of Alpsee Lake. There are three benches at varying distances from the safety fence, great for a short break or to eat a packed lunch. It is possible to climb over the lower fence to explore the blocked-off area, but it’s honestly not worth it. The slope is a little dangerous, and the view is better from the official zone anyway.

The path onward will have advertisements for the Museum of Bavarian Kings. It’s only a couple minutes from Alpsee to the tourist area where all the restaurants and Schwangau attractions are.

Once you arrive, the museum will be the first thing you see. There is a public toilet here, but it costs money to enter. It has a turnstile too, so you can’t scam it. If you need to use a washroom, it’s best to wait until you get to whatever attraction you’re here to see.

You made it! Now you can relax with a much-needed meal and beer, make the small climb to Hohenschwangau Castle, or take a shuttle or horse ride to Neuschwanstein Castle. Remember that tickets to both castles are only sold online or at the ticket centre up the road. The entrances for both attractions have an electronic turnstile that requires you to have a ticket.

Saturday Worthy?

If you have the fitness capability and the time, I highly recommend doing this walk instead of taking the boring bus. Take the bus back to Füssen so you don’t tire yourself out too much. The long hike is never dull with such a variety of scenery and multiple overlooks. If you are not seeing the lakes on another day, this walk will be your only chance.

We also liked the slow tease of the castles gradually revealing themselves and getting closer. It really hyped us up for our castle visit and was much better than the anticlimactic situation of arriving at a boring bus station and hordes of people. The entire trail didn’t have many people, but it might have also been the time of year (late April). It was a peaceful journey before the chaotic swarms of tourists once we got to the Schwangau area.

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