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The Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau

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The trip from Munich to the King’s Castles—Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein—in the municipality of Schwangau in Southern Bavaria takes about two hours, but it takes you back in time over 100 years. It is perhaps fitting that these castles lie at the end of Germany’s famed Romantic Road – they perfectly evoke the romantic period.

The castles, particularly Neuschwanstein, are not old. Hohenschwangau was completed in 1837 and Neuschwanstein was still unfinished when its builder, King Ludwig, died in 1886.

The train dropped us in Fussen and we caught a quick cab up to Schwangau village, where we purchased our tickets. From there, our first stop was Hohenschwangau castle. The tour in English lasts 30 minutes and you learn about King Ludwig II’s early life as well as how the royal family lived. The Hohenschwangau Castle was well appointed, but not over the top and garish.

After Hohenschwangau Castle, we walked down into the town of Schwangau to have a quick bite to eat. Since this was winter and off-season, none of the snack stands were open. We risked a quick bite at the restaurant at the Schlosshotel Lisl. They did accommodate us with a meal of bratwurst, kraut (served cold like coleslaw) and a pretzel. The meal was good. I think it could be aptly described as a “gut bomb.”

However, it meant we were rushed to get the bus and then literally had to run from the bus stop to Neuschwanstein to make our entrance time. (For both Castles, you have a ticket with a time and about a 4-minute window to enter before you are locked out).

Yellow exterior of Hohenschwangau Castle on the hilltop

Neuschwanstein was all we thought it would be. It’s over-the-top and self-absorbed, but all in a good way. King Ludwig II dedicated the castle to the music of Richard Wagner, which means you get all the iconography associated with that.

From the Neuschwanstein Castle, we took the horse-drawn cart back down to the village. This is completely unnecessary, but it was an experience. Normally, we eschew this kind of animal cruelty; however, the horses appeared well cared for and were living up to their purpose. It was a pleasant ride.

The trip back to Munich was uneventful, but we had to changed trains in Buchloe, allowing me to recall a miserable layover here with my parents almost 15 years ago. It’s good that I don’t hold on to things…

Yellow exterior of Hohenschwangau Castle with hot air balloon in the sky
Hohenschwangau Castle (and Lucky Hot Air Balloon Riders)
View of Hohenschwangau Castle from Neuschwanstein
Hohenschwangau Castle Complex
Neuschwanstein Castle on the Hillside
Neuschwanstein Castle on the Hillside
Neuschwanstein Castle and the Rising Moon
Neuschwanstein Castle and the Rising Moon
The Red Front of Neuschwanstein Castle from below
The Iconic Red Front of Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle with moon above it
Neuschwanstein Castle
Back of horses pulling carriage at Neuschwanstein Castle
The Carriage Ride Downhill from Neuschwanstein Castle

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