Germany is filled with castles, whether they be castle ruins or fully-preserved. However, in southern Germany you can find two of the greatest castles in Europe. Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle lie right on the border of Germany and Austria, and when Walt Disney visited he saw Neuschwanstein and was inspired to create Cinderella’s castle.
So yeah, it’s pretty cool.
History of the Castles
These two castles are very close together. You can see Neuschwanstein from a window in the staircase of Hohenschwangau, and you can see Hohenschwangau from the balcony of Neuschwanstein.
This is probably because they were built by the same royal family. King Ludwig II of Bavaria lived in Hohenschwangau as a child, and as he grew up he had a fascination with building castles and ordered the construction of Neuschwanstein. King Ludwig II built many castles, but these are arguably his most famous.
After visiting these castles it’s easy to see why. They are positioned in the German Alps. On foggy days the clouds hang around the castles, enclosing them in secrecy. A lake, called Alpsee is positioned right next to Hohenschwangau and because the water is run-off from the mountains it is a gorgeous teal color. It is clearer than any water I’ve ever seen, and standing in Hohenschwangau and looking out at the lake, it’s easy to see why the royal families came back every summer to live here.
This castle was originally built in the 13th century but was destroyed over time due to war, but it was re-built in the 19th century by King Ludwig II’s father. It became the family’s summer home, which is very lucky for us today because the castle is so well preserved.
Because the castle was closed for the winter it did not face many of the structural problems. It did not have smoke and soot from fireplaces or as many candles lit because the sun shines later in the summer. All of the murals on the wall are original because they haven’t needed to be restored.
While you can’t take photos inside the castle, you certainly can outside of the castle. To get to it, walk around the Alpsee through the forest. When I went it was early in the morning and foggy so it felt like an enchanted forest! There are light posts, stone walls and lush overgrowth.
There are gardens outside of the castle you can explore and you can look off into the distance to try and find Neuschwanstein. I really enjoyed this castle because it wasn’t as crowded, and it had so many windows and natural light. It was so beautiful! I could see myself spending the summers here. (You know, if I were ever royalty).
This is the castle everyone comes to see. It’s situated at the top of a hill and you can walk up to it, take a horse and carriage ride or catch a shuttle bus. I say make the walk if you’re able to. It doesn’t take very long and it’s a nice location, just watch out for the horses!
When you get to the top, the first thing you’ll want to do is follow the signs (and the masses of people) heading over to the bridge. A few hundred feet away from the castle is a hanging bridge that expands over a gorge. It sounds scary (and it kind of it!) but it is so worth it to gather up the courage to cross it.
Even though there are so many people here, it’s worth it to be patient and get a view of the castle. The way it appears on top of the mountain with the hills in the distance and the clouds is breath-taking. If the wind rocking the bridge didn’t scare the living daylights out of me, I could have stayed there forever.
Just like with Hohenschwangau castle, you can’t take any photos on the inside.
Once you’re in, you’ll notice something odd about this castle. It’s not finished! King Ludwig II died while this castle was still under construction, and the kingdom halted work on the project. It was never completed and to this day you can see signs of that.
What I found most interesting was in the cafe, if you look on the walls, you can see the pencil marks from where they had started the murals but didn’t have a chance to fill them in.
You won’t want to miss going to the cafe because it gives you the prettiest views from the balcony.
There are plenty of tour companies that offer trips to go visit these castles, so if you’re in Germany definitely make them a priority! Besides touring the castle you can walk around the lake, swim, have lunch at the Biergartens in the village and visit the museum here as well.