Is Neuschwanstein Castle Worth It?

Sometimes, as a traveler, I struggle with taking the road less traveled and getting off the beaten path. I also struggle with not using idioms because I not-so-secretly love them.

Anyway, I am the first to admit that I love what everyone else does. Duh, that’s how they get popular in the first place.

Munich has always been a city in the back of my mind to see, just as Spain was since I first learned to say, “Me llamo Cat.” After attending Oktoberfest, I was hooked. Taking advantage of having my family’s arrival to the Munich Airport for our Viking cruise, I planned three nights in Bavaria.

I knew I could see Munich in a day, exploring its Christmas markets and beer halls with my cousin, which left me a full day for going elsewhere. Top contenders were Dachau, Nuremburg and Neuschwanstein Castle.

By the time I boarded my flight, I was still undecided and started considering whatever was cheaper. 

I arrived to my hostel after midnight, falling asleep with the internal wrestle of to do what was popular and what was probably better for the history nerd in me. The following morning, as I set off to meet Christyn, a group of Brazilians introduced themselves and revealed they’d be renting a car to drive to Neuschwanstein the following morning, in case I felt like joining. I politely turned the invitation down, imagining I’d choose to go to Dachau.

An hour later, as we sipped our first glühwein in front of the Rathaus, I announced my plight: visit a castle, pay respects at Dachau, or nerd out in Nuremburg. Christyn revealed Neuschwanstein was one of her favorite sites in all of Germany (this, from the girl with just as much adventure and curiosity as me, just types “schloss” into her GPS and follows the highway to a different castle on free weekends). Without so much as a second thought, I resolved to follow her advice.

The following morning, I boarded the first train out to Füssen, the end of the line. The train was chock-full of tourists, and I cursed the 44€ train ticket and the two-hour trip and the two girls seated opposite me who talked on their phones the entire time. I was moderately hung over from all of the wine and beer yesterday, and my stomach churned from overdoing it on the sausages, too. 

The landscape went from industrial to flat and without so much as a trace of a village for hours. By the time we got to Füssen, a small town near the foothills of the Alps, I’d gotten over myself. Like cattle, everyone emptied out of the carriages and directly onto the bus bound for Hohenschwangan. I kept my nose pressed to the glass to see the fairytale castle that inspired a hundred, um, fairytale castles, but the swarm of fellow tourists gasped as it came into sight. 

Built as a retreat for Ludwig II in the 1870s and 1880s, the castle is visited by more than 1.4 million people each year. On a crisp day just before Christmas, the whole place was alive with activity, and I felt like there were 1.4million people there with me. I chose to walk on foot to the nearby Hohenschwangau castle first.

I overheard two other tourists claim that the best, unconstructive view of Neuschwanstein could be seen from the chapel built right into the mountain. I eagerly climbed, Camarón ready, but it was hard to see the celebrated castle. 

Already feeling a bit disappointed with German Disneyland, I decided to forgo entering the castle, as I already felt overwhelmed by the number of tourists, the wait time (nearly two hours!) and the cost of the guided tour (12€ or 23€ to go into Hohenschwangau, too). The train ticket had already cleaned me out of cash, so I grabbed a grabbed a glühwein at a small cafe in town before starting the trek up the hill.

The thing about traveling alone is that you have no one to pull you one way or another and no one to take pictures of you. I grumbled as I looked for someone who spoke English or Spanish to take my picture (see above). In the two hours I’d spent at Neuschwanstein, I didn’t feel inspired or awed or even able to find a reason why it was worth making the trip.

In the end, I didn’t think visiting Neuschwanstein was worth the day or the money. The train trip was long, the cost to visit the castle itself was steep, and I worried I’d have to photoshop the hell out of my photos to remove the other baseball caps and elbows that surely snuck into my shots.

Don’t get me wrong – I will go to the Eiffel Tower every time I am in Paris, and I will enjoy it. I gleefully step into Plaza Mayor in Madrid and marvel at the fact that it was once a bull ring. Seeing the Taj Mahal was an intense experience between the heat, the people and the sheer beauty of the place.

But Neuschwanstein didn’t do it for me, even after I’d braced myself for the tourists, the prices and the cold.

Turning on my data to search GoEuro for busses back to the train station, I found I had enough time to walk down the hill, grab a few postcards and stand in line for the bus back to Füssen, where I would kill nearly two hours before the train back to Munich (and I ran into the Brazilians there, after an all night binge).

Füssen, as it turned out, was a lovely surprise to end the day. The Christmarket on the main shopping street was small but lively, and the morning bustled with shoppers and partygoers. I camped out on a bench with a beer and a bratwurst and listened to Tyrolean horns toot out Christmas carols.

Later that night, after wandering in the Christmas markets, I called the Novio in the hostel’s atrium before saddling up to the bar for another weisserbier. The bartender addressed me in Spanish, confessing to having overheard me on the phone. Inquiring about my time in Munich, I recounted my day and my disappointment with the castle.

My heart sunk when he told me that I could have bought a youth pass or even used my Carnet Joven to get a hefty discount on the train at 10am, something I would have known if I had actually done more research, as I intended to. I gulped down my beer and ordered another, sharing travel tales with the worldly bartender. Like many travel fiascos, a drink and a laugh do me wonders.

I’d consider going back for half the cost, and perhaps during the warmer months. I feel at home in the mountains, despite being from the Prairie State, and find Neuschwanstein more breathtaking in the summer. 

Love Germany? Been to the-Castle-with-the-Impossible-Name? Or have destinations that didn’t live up to your expectations? Check out my other posts that you’ll liebe:

A Guiri Guide to Oktoberfest // Passau, the City on Three Rivers // Karnevals of Cologne

 

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

Comments

  1. Neuschwanstein is a pretty awesome castle as are its brother castles Hohenschwangau and Linderhof. They are a bit touristy, but they do deliver as well.
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  2. Hmmmm. I actually *do* think it’s worth it. But, it all depends on how much time you have when you’re in the region. If not much, then it might not be. I seem to remember a day (or two, plus nights) for drinking in Munich, a day for Dachau, and a day for Neuschwanstein.

    But, I’ve actually been there three times. Ha. First, with some friends on Easter Break in college (when it snowed, because of course it did), then twice more on other trips with other groups of friends/family who also wanted to see it.

    I never waited no stinking two hours to get in though, that’s for damn sure. I’d never do that haha. And if I had one day in Munich, I definitely wouldn’t go. Especially if there were Weihnachtsmärkte to be attended with all their glorious food and drink. :)
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    • Cat Gaa says:

      I do think that the castle would be different under other circumstances. Since I didn’t think too much ahead about it, I didn’t get a ticket online or look to see if I could get the train tickets Germany. Everything seems overpriced when compared to Spain! I didn’t realize the trip out there would be so long, and that definitely had me grumpy!

      In hindsight, I did feel more pulled towards Dachau, and I probably should have gone there.

  3. Great pics Cat. Brings me back to all the times I spent in Germany sipping on Gluhwein. And yes, the castles there are worth it:)
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    • Cat Gaa says:

      I’m still disappointed we never made it to Heidelberg castle in the wake of Oktoberfest…looks so pretty!

  4. Well this makes me feel better about forgoing Neuschwanstein! My two friends did make the trip while I spent the day in Munich. My reasoning was that I had only a few days in Munich so it would be better for me to stay in Munich and walk around then running away for the city I had just arrived in. My friends definitely enjoyed their trip and said it was worth it but it was an all-day day trip and they didn’t arrive until late that night (and I was starving since I was waiting for them to go get dinner!). If I ever go back to Munich, I will visit Neuschwanstein but not in the winter and not around the peak of the holidays! Lesson learned from your post.

    (I did visit Dachau though which was only a half-day trip and much cheaper since the memorial is free, though we did pay for a guided tour.)
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  5. Oh, music to my ears! I can’t stand Neuschwanstein – we used to have to stop there on our tours heading into Munich, so I have been there a dozen times and just have no patience for the place. There are so many wonderful castles in Germany and I just find that the whole fairytale image has just been lost here, disappointingly enough. I do love the lake behind the castle, though – lovely and uncrowded and in the summer, it’s full of families picnicking and paddling in the water.
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  6. We had four days, or we wouldn’t have gone. We visited Dachau, the castle, and had time to drink a lot of beer too! I wouldn’t suggest going if you have one or two or even three days, but I liked the trip with four. I do recommend hiking up behind the bridge for more solitude and great views.

  7. Melanie says:

    First I’ll say I began reading your blog because I too lived in Sevilla, but only for 4 months for a study abroad. In those months, the city and Spain stole my heart and I love your stories about life there.

    I had similar feelings at the beginning of our trip. Fortunately we were offered a ride from friends with a car, and the spring day during the week left us amongst less tourists than I anticipated. We didn’t pay to enter either… And while the view was majestic, I was beginning to wonder whether the near 2 hr drive was worth it for us, or for our friends who had already been there twice. But, on our way back from the castle we decided to take the stairs leading to the bottom of the waterfall and trail winding along the river. The best part was the 40m catwalk along the side of a cliff over the gorge, it was amazing! All the while being able to look up at the castle from a less conventional view. Definitely made the trip worth it for me! Sorry your experience was less than exciting!

  8. First mistake, a 44 Euro train ticket? You should have been able to get a Bavaria Ticket and taken a train with up to 5 people all on the same one for a day. No tourists know about those which is unfortunate because you can even go to Salzburg on it.

    Incase this helps anyone: http://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/prices/germany-regional/bavaria-ticket.shtml

    Anyways, I’d say it’s only worth it if you hike over to the bridge with the views on a day when it’s snow covered or beautiful, warm, and sunny. But there are really os many castles to see in Germany that can show it up. I hate how you have to walk through Neuschwanstein on a guided tour and can’t just explore.
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  9. My mom and I have dreamed of seeing this castle for ages and are hoping to make those dreams reality this year. But I will be sure to do some advance planning and hopefully score some discounts!
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  10. Sounds like an expensive day…sorry you had to waste so much money on something you weren’t happy about. I did the same at Edinburgh Castle…
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  11. Oh no! I’m sorry it wasn’t worth all the hype for you. I went in the beginning of May, and for me it was a dream come true… but granted I’d been wanting to go since I was ~7 years old, and the weather was pretty decent when I went ;) Big tourist spots can really be hit or miss though! Especially in the cold – I could have never survived Munich in December!
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  12. Hi! I was just wondering what camera you’re using in these blog posts? The pictures look great! I’m studying abroad in Germany this Spring and I want to invest in a camera that will capture my adventures better than an iTouch camera!

    Thanks,
    Jess

    • Hi Jessica! Germany is amazing – you’ll have a great time! I got a Canon Rebel T3, which is a great introductory camera and pretty easy to use. My dad got it on Black Friday for about 600, which included the body, two lenses and the battery. It’s been an awesome investment, and I’d suggest Canon brands to anyone.

      Check out a few blogs, too, like Gutenblog Y’all and Speaking Denglish – they’re great for learning about Germany. Have a great time and all the best!

      • Thank you so much! I will look into that camera/Canon brand, and I’ve already started looking at the blogs — they look great!

        Thanks again,
        Jess

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