Have you seen pictures of a particular castle, which, according to the internet, is the inspiration for Disneyland’s castles?
With my interest piqued, I decided to hop on a day tour to visit the much-touted Neuschwanstein Castle, via Grayline Sightseeing, when I was on holiday to Munich, Germany.
The day tour, in overview, consist of visits to Linderholf Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle, both of which are owned and built by the same person: Ludwig II of Bavaria. In between, there was a stop at Oberammergau as a filler.
Linderholf Castle: Elegant Palace for the Recluse
To be exact, it is a palace, or perhaps even a mansion.
It is a lone building set within a massive grounds of landscaped garden. Although it is set in the mountains, the grounds in which it sat on was a plateau, which therefore allowed an expansive garden (though not as expansive as Neues Schloss that I also visited LINK) before the palace.
In the rear, the garden sloped upwards to another more exclusive space, which was unfortunately closed to visitors.
The palace itself is a small, but quaint place. Although it had none of the grandeur of many palaces I had visited, it was ornately decorated, with details that throws people back to the romantic times of princes and chivalry.
The highlight of the tour was of course, the Hall of Mirrors. Though the room was small, perhaps the size of 2 hotel deluxe rooms, the design of the decorations were such that whichever direction you looked into the mirror, it seemed like you are looking into an endless hall. Coupled with the dimly-lit amber lights, the emptiness echoed as far as into the depths of the onlooker’s heart.
Oberammergau had none of the middle-aged charm, and yet, with its small town setting, it was a great place for one to stroll around and soak in the tranquility of the town.
The region is known for its wooden carvings, and souvenir shops found within the town centre featured that prominently.
In the middle of the town was the theatre where the Passion of the Christ was enacted every 10 years. Being the selling point of the town, the play was said to last over 5 months, attracting tourists from all over the world to watch the re-enactment. The theatre has retractable roofs, so that the open-air play can still continue under inclement weather!
|| Read the wiki page on the play HERE. ||
Neuschwanstein Castle: A Fairytale In The Clouds
The visit to Neuschwanstein Castle is an elaborate affair.
According to the guide, entrance to the castle is limited, so they have to time our arrival to suit the entrance time (the whole bus load of us had to be split into 2 groups). Even then, there was this heavy explanation of how to get up the mountain and into the castle.
One can reach the castle in 3 ways: Shuttle bus, horse-carriage, or walk.
The shuttle bus brings one to Marien Brucke, which was after and above the castle, so one has to back track down to the castle.
The horse carriage brings visitors 2/3 up the mountain, and they have to trek the remainder way up.
Of course, one can always walk up the mountain as a form of exercise.
We took the guide’s recommendation of taking the shuttle bus up the mountain, and then trek down after the visit.
The shuttle bus stops just below Marien Brucke (translated as Mary’s Bridge), which is the famous bridge that offers a superb (albeit classic) view of Neuschwanstein Castle. Being in the mountains, even the short 5-minute hike to the bridge seemed tedious. However, the reward was immeasurable!
The bridge itself, built from wood since the Middle Ages, offers a different experience itself. The plank bends under our weight at every step, which would not be scary had it not for the fact that the bridge spans across a ravine 100m deep!
It was cloudy on the day we visited Neuschwanstein Castle, but the clouds were, well, below the castle! So when we looked at the castle, it seemed like it was floating on a sea of clouds!
However, the view before us (actually, once you are up there, the view is everywhere, at every turn of the corner) was more than breathtaking. The expanse of the clouds and sky seemed to extend beyond the horizon. The colours of the sky changed with the time of the day, making every moment up there an ever-changing onslaught of visual bonanza.
Too much bombastic words? Well, the climb up there was worth it 🙂
The trek down to Neuschwanstein Castle was also tedious, what with the steep, slippery slopes and superb view of endless sea of fluffy goodness!
It was surreal to be standing beneath the fabled castle, looking up at its towers, gaping in awe at the fact that we were actually looking at an unfinished product.
Entry to the castle was highly streamlined, with an electronic entrance to scan the tickets and to inform which group is allowed for entry. Just minutes before each entry, the entrance would be swarmed with a huge crowd!
As with Linderholf Castle, the tour of Neuschwanstein Castle is guided. The latter is more expansive, with more rooms and floors to cover, though, considering that it is an unfinished product, our 1-hour tour did not cover the full interior of the castle.
To be honest, the feeling of touring the castle is like going up the observation deck of Empire State Building: you get more thrill from looking at it from afar, then when you are in it!
For most of the tour, we were indoors; there were few chances of looking out of the windows, since much of the tour was in the depths of the castle, and when we did visit rooms with windows, the windows were veiled to protect the murals in the room. In the rare chances we could look outta window, well, it was a sea of cloud, as though we were on a ship, sailing through the skies!
By the time we trekked down to the base of the hill for our bus, it was nearly sunset and the fog was rolling in. Each time we turned a corner on the shadowy path, the castle would peak through the layers of trees (can’t say foliage when the trees were bare during winter!) and fog. It was an elusive beauty beckoning at us, making it hard to say goodbye!
Do More Than Been There, Done That!
As mentioned just now, the tours of Linderholf Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle were short 30-min plus. That is a glass half empty, or a glass half full if you consider the surrounding sights.
Enroute to Linderholf Castle from the bus park is a beautiful pond frozen in winter. Bathed in the morning sunshine, it glitters in between the fir trees like a hidden jewel.
Similarly, when visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, one must take the short trek up to Marien Brucke! The view is definitely worth that few minutes of working out 😁😁
After the Neuschwanstein Castle tour, stop at the cafe kiosk a few steps from the castle entrance to have a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate, while admiring the beauty of the elegant architecture.
Feed Your Wanderlust, But Also Your Stomach
The guide was kind enough to give us tips on the various meal options in the town, instead of pushing us to eat at a particular place. There were some snack-places along the way, but keep your stomach empty for the restaurant at the foot of Neuschwanstein Castle!
The food choices the guide recommended were both in Hotel Müller Hohenschwangau (which is also the drop-off/meeting point), where there was the cheap, fast food option, and the elaborate, dining option.
N and I opted for the latter. It had a typical restaurant set up (and hence level of service standard and sharing of tables etc), but it also provided a good view of the surroundings. As it overlooked a slope, it felt like we were dining in the clouds!
The food was not bad, considering that it was a in a tourist trap. I ordered Pulled Pork Sandwich while N had the typical Bratwurst.
The pulled pork I had was well marinated, and paired well with the cabbage and saurkraut! The bread it was filled in with, however, was better utilised to absorb the excess juice from the saurkraut than eaten.
The bratwurst was your run of the mill sausage, but neither was it disgusting! What mattered most was that we got to recharge ourselves, before the strenuous activity up to Neuschwanstein Castle, amidst a rather pleasant environment!
Aim for the Stars, But Be Prepared
As a practical travel blogger, I think it’s also my responsibility to tell you beforehand that the trip won’t be lined with roses, literally.
If you are the one who gets enchanted by vibrant colours of green and red, then you will be better off visiting Linderholf Palace in the summer.
I loved the sense of desolation and the grayness of the palace grounds in winter, but I know there are people who prefer to see dancing fountains with flowers swaying in the wind, which according to the guide, will be there in summer. Even better, the garden at the rear of the palace grounds will also be open!
Similarly, for Neuschwanstein Castle, going in winter also mean you run the risk of encountering a foggy day (if not, rainy day). However, I will definitely choose winter visits over any other time of the year, since visiting Neuschwanstein Castle meant quite a fair bit of workout is required.
However, I think the most disheartening downside, which is apparent in this blog post, is the inability to take photos while inside the palace and castle. The interior of the fortresses are only meant to remain in visitors’ memory!
Both places require reservation for entry, and are very strict in the control of entry. So book early and be at the entrance early. Make time for waiting and, in the example of Neuschwanstein Castle, do not under estimate the time to go up the mountain; even the queueing time to get onto the shuttle can drag on for up to 40 minutes!
Last, but not least, when visiting Linderholf Palace, avoid bulky backpacks. The space is quite intimate; even though they restrict entry by controlling the number and time of tour groups, there will still be times when 2 groups coincide and have to manoeuvre through the tight space!
N and I were glad that we made an unwitting, but excellent, choice of taking the day trip via Grayline Sightseeing (as opposed to going on free-and-easy), as they helped iron out many inconveniences I lined out earlier.
For example, when we got to the foot of Neuschwanstein Castle at 1pm plus, there was a looooong queue for the tickets! While we were waiting for the shuttle, we heard a family telling their kids that they could only go up to see the castle from the outside, because the admission tickets were sold out!
In this regard, it was great that GS took care of the ticketing issues for both destinations (even though it meant a lot of herding and reminders to keep to schedules).
Neuschwanstein Castle was also so crowded that I doubt it will be easy to find parking in the small town below the castle!
Because castle touring meant walking around, going on such guided day trips meant we could rest sufficiently in between the stops. No haggling with each other on how to read the maps and beat the traffic!
The guide, Golger, was very friendly and provided much needed tips on navigating the 3 stops we were at. He told us where to look for what stops, the 3 ways to get up to Neuschwanstein Castle, how to get lunch, the simple way or the elaborate way, and he explained them in clear, simple steps (provided you are good in English 😄😄). He also told us local folk tales that made every town we visit come alive!
The booking for Grayline Sightseeing can be done online and I strongly recommend you to do so; even though one can pay on the spot, you run the risk of being rejected due to full house. The website I linked below not only contains the description and booking link, but also provides other information about exploring Munich, so do check out the site if you are planning for a trip down Munich!
|| Link to Munich Grayline Sightseeing ||
The pick up point for the day trip (and most other trips managed by Grayline Sightseeing) is outside Karstadt that is just around the back of Munich Hauptbahnhof (see embedded map below). One can choose to walk along the streets, or if you are taking the U Bahn from other parts of the city, reach the meeting point via the undergound shopping strip (which is a plus, if you are one who would like to stay indoors to avoid the cold outside).
This particular trip lasts 10 hours, and starts at 8.30am. So make sure you have enough rest the day before, and be there early, so that you can choose your seats on the bus! Bring some snacks (you might come across some stores that sell snacks at Oberammergau, but you should also expect the prices to be steep), to tide over the long bus rides, especially on the way back. Bring a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated too!
How to Get There
Meeting Point for Grayline Sightseeing
Bahnhofpl. 7, 80335 München, Germany
+49 89 54907560
Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany
+49 8362 930830
Linderhof 12, 82488 Ettal, Germany
+49 8822 92030
Like My Review
If you find the tips helpful in deciding whether to visit this location, or what to do when you come here, do go to Tripadvisor, search for “Zenov” and like my review.
Or, if you are planning for a trip to Bavaria this coming winter, follow my blog, as I will post more about my adventures in Bavaria, and tips on getting the best out of your vacation!