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On my last trip to Germany, I disappointed myself by not making time to visit King Ludwig II’s famous Neuschwanstein Castle. On my second trip to the city, this trip was number one on my to-do list. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again! Since we were scheduled to be in Munich over the weekend, we strategically schedule the tour on a Sunday so we would have something to do when everything was closed in the city.
Not wanting to drive, we booked a group tour which included a visit to Linderhof Palace, Neuschwanstein Castle and a brief stop in Oberammergau.
This version of the tour was a large group option didn’t include the entrance fees to the castles (about 33€), so for those with a little more spending money, I’d recommend selecting this small group option with the tickets already included. Plus, you get snacks! It pretty much pays for itself.
Since we were on a relatively tight budget, we chose the less expensive option and still had a lovely time, though I could definitely see the benefits of traveling with a smaller group.
Our journey at a central meeting point in Munich, where our tickets were checked and we were guided on to a huge double-decker bus. I’d estimate that there were about 80 people on our tour. Our guide was a lovely woman with the most relaxing voice. She gave us a brief history of the area and King Ludwig II as she came around to collect money for our castle entrance fees. Be warned- this is card only.
The first stop on our trip was Linderhof Palace. Upon exiting the bus, we were given timed entry tickets to the Palace and a stern warning not to be late. For our visit in late November of 2022, it was mandatory that visitors wear N95 masks inside the palace- no other masks were accepted. Don’t worry- the gift shop sells two packs of the masks for 5€. Of course, the shop also has a 5€ minimum for credit cards, so try to have a few coins handy.
We had a little bit of free time before our tour, so we explored the grounds a bit as we waited. Unfortunately the water features were turned off and boarded up for the season, but the landscaping was still pretty and the surrounding area is really gorgeous with its snowy mountains.
At the time of our tour, groups were limited to 30 people rather than the usual 50, which I very much appreciated. I felt cramped enough in the rooms as it was- I can’t imaging squeezing an extra 20 people in there! Small backpacks were allowed if held in front, and coat checks were available if necessary.
Photos are not allowed inside the palace, but trust me when I say that this was one of the most luxurious buildings I’ve ever stepped foot in. Clearly inspired by Versailles, our guide explained that Ludwig idolized Louis XIV, and built the Palace in its image. He even referred to himself as the “Moon King” or “Night King” compared to Louis XIV’s Sun King moniker.
The castle is opulent and almost entirely useless- our guides explained that Ludwig disliked large groups and social functions, spending as much time in Linderhof as possible and shirking his responsibilities in Munich to the contempt of his subjects. The gorgeous guest rooms went unclaimed, the audience room unused, and the dining room used only by Ludwig (though the staff would be compelled to prepare food for the man’s imaginary guests- Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, etc.). My favorite room was the incredible “Hall of Mirrors”. At a certain angle, the room looks like it continues infinitely.
When we finished our tour, we headed back to the bus and made our way over to our next stop- Oberammagau. This village is known for its woodworking, Lüftlmalerei (frescos), and its Passion Play. The Oberammagau Passion Play has famously been performed (nearly) every decade since the 1600s. As legend goes, the villagers vowed to perform the play every ten years if they would be spared from the bubonic plague that was raging in the area. While the legend claims that this miracle was provided, history reports that there was a typical epidemic curve drop off for deaths in the area. Ironically, the play was due to be performed in 2020 and was postponed for health and safety reasons. History repeats.
Since it was Sunday, most of the shops in town were closed, but it was nice to explore the area and see some of the gorgeous frescos- if a bit cold.
Our last stop of the day was the most anticipated one. Neuschwanstein Castle was built in the stylistic fashion of Romanesque architecture, and intended to represent a romantic version of the Middle Ages. This castle is said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella castle! We had some free time in the area, so I’d recommend grabbing a bite to eat before heading up to the castle. There are several tourist shops, sit down restaurants, and snack cafes so choose from at the foot of the mountain. Visitors can hike up the mountain for free, or pay for a bus or horse drawn carriage to take them up the mountain.
There are a few good view points of the castle from the top of the mountain. The easiest viewing platform is just before the base of the castles. There are lockers available in this area if needed. The most famous view point is from Marienbrüke, which is just a short walk away from the castle entrance. Follow the signs around the back of the castle to the bridge.
The pedestrian bridge is very popular and can be fairly crowded. Most visitors stayed on one end of the bridge, since it shifted alarmingly as people walked, but the other side was both less crowded and felt most stable- a reward for your bravery.
We once again had timed entry to the castle, and photos were not allowed inside the rooms. We were provided with an audio guide and herded from room to room as the audio guide went through the history of the castle. The whole castle was designed and based off of fairy tales, with beautiful architecture and murals throughout the buildings. Some rooms were based on the Knights of the Round Table, others on classic German mythology. There was even a room that was designed to look like we were walking through a cave- which was extremely disorienting a the top of a tall tower.
The rooms were beautiful, but it felt overwhelmingly like walking through a movie set, particularly with the unexpected anachronisms of battery-powered bells and telephone lines.
Ludwig’s obsessive fascination with times of absolutist government lead him to retreat into his sanctuaries of imagined power, earning him the nickname of “Fairy Tale King” or, less kindly, “Mad King”. The poor guy just wanted to disappear from the world. He was eventually deposed in this very castle and died mysteriously the following day, with only Linderhof Palace being completed at the time of his death.
We were lucky enough to be able to watch the sun set over the nearby mountains lakes from the top of the castle- though of course, it made our walk back down the mountain a little dark. By the time we were leaving the parking lot, the sun had set completely and the castle was shrouded in shadow. It would typically be lit at night, the lights were turned off to save power at this time.
It was a long drive back to Munich for us, but we were mostly given the time to nap in the bus after our long day. As we drew closer to the city, our guide peppered us with a list of suggestions for things to do in Munich, which was a nice bonus.
This tour is definitely a must for visitors to Munich! Don’t be like me and forget to schedule time for the trip. It’s a long day, but the castles are incredible capsules of such an interesting monarch and definitely worth the journey.
Know before you go:
- Bring some cash- or a N95 mask (may or may not be relevant by your visit)
- Make sure to have a viable credit card handy
- Be ready to do a little hiking at Neuschwanstein
- Food is available for purchase at Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle, but bring a snack