Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle during last summer's Europe road trip was definitely one of the highlights. I've always wanted to see the fairy tale castle with my own eyes and finally I made that a reality. Germany is a perfect country to travel to be inspired by the old folklore and children's stories we've all grown up with. Boasting majestic forests, spectacular landscapes and beautiful castles. It's no wonder it's inspired so many of our favourite tales of princes and princesses.
I normally try and avoid super touristy locations. But I knew that Neuschwanstein Castle – or Schloss Neuschwanstein as it is known in German – would be super busy. It's one of the most visited castles in Germany. Easily one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Europe, it's a good idea to plan ahead. As with many popular European tourist destinations, the challenge of travelling Europe in the summer is dodging the busloads of tourists. Just a few small, smart decisions can help you actually capture photos and enjoy the view peacefully.
Choose carefully which time of year you wish to visit. The castle looks spectacular all year around but it depends whether you wish to see it in sunshine, snow or even the fall foliage. Once you've planned your trip, make sure that you can get to the castle early in the morning. The tour buses tend to arrive late morning, just before they break for lunch at the bottom. The best way to tackle the trip would be to either be staying very close by the castle the night before you visit. Or to hire a car so you can get an early start on the day.
We actually stayed in Munich the night before and drove there in the morning, arriving at around 9.30-10am. The drive took around 1 hour 40 minutes and the castle was easy to find. This was a perfect time to arrive as many people who wanted to book on to the guided tours were creating huge queues at the bottom, while we started hiking to the viewpoints. I really recommend doing the trip independently instead of with a tour. It's a completely different experience, much cheaper and with a lot more freedom. If you decide to hire a car, you'll find the route from Munich via this link.
Arriving at 9.30am gave us plenty of time to reach the bridge before the crowds and to enjoy plenty of time exploring and taking pics. It also meant we didn't waste an entire day queuing. Instead we could spend a few hours there and still make it to a lake for lunch and an afternoon swim.
You can only visit the inside of the castle by guided tour and with tickets for both Neuschwanstein and nearby Hohenschwangau Castle. These can be purchased in the Ticket Centre on the day of your visit. It costs €13 per person and per castle, or you can book in advance for €16.30 at the Neuschwanstein Castle website. On the day, the size of the queues plus the cost put me off paying to go inside. We had visited a lot of castles on our budget road trip and I didn't feel the inside was the attraction.
Neuschwanstein Castle is known for epic views and amazing nature. And of course, that beautiful fairy tale castle that inspired the Disney castles. For me, I felt the tickets would be a waste when we could spend the time hiking the trails and exploring the different viewpoints. Having spent a few hours there, and seeing the masses of people waiting at the castle for their tours – I'm glad we didn't go inside.
Out of all the viewpoints we visited, I would say Queen Mary Bridge is by far the best. It offers an incredible, undisturbed view of the castle plus stunning lakes and mountains. You'll also find that most of the best photos of the castle you have seen were taken from here. So it's a good place to head if you're keen to the get best views for free.
Arriving at Marienbrucke (Queen Mary Bridge) to find it empty apart from a couple of people was well worth the 30min uphill hike. We chose to take the rough track instead of the road which was great as we were the only people on the path. It was hard work but I managed in a skirt and flip flops.
I found it super easy to get the most amazing photos during my visit, but this was all because we planned well and made sure to get there early. We knew we weren't interested in going inside Neuschwanstein Castle, but would much rather explore the beautiful surroundings and take in the view from a distance. We chose a route that took us up to a bridge where we had spectacular views across the valley and continued to climb up higher to find the perfect spot to take photos without anyone to disturb us.
My best tip – when you reach the bridge, don't stop there. The path continues up through the rocks to a gorgeous and undisturbed outlook where you can take some epic pictures. If you're feeling brave – you can continue to climb up through the rocks and foliage to find amazing views across three lakes, mountains and the castle. This part was still open when I visited, I heard it had been blocked off since so it will totally depend on safety. I don't recommend taking unnecessary or dangerous risks for the sake of a photo – don't be that person.
Have you visited Neuschwanstein Castle – what was your favourite part? What top tips would you share for the perfect pic?
Never did I ever imagine that I would be celebrating my birthday cruising from Milan to Lake Como for a day of pizza, champagne and George Clooney-spotting. It turns out Milan is the perfect place to plan a European city break if you like exploring beyond just a city. With the beautiful Lake Como just a few hours away, it makes a perfect day-trip. Or you could choose to spend time in Venice, Saint Moritz, Bergamo, Lugarno or Genoa. With so much sitting right on your doorstep, it seems almost a crime to stick to exploring the city! It's one thing I've always loved about Europe – having so much so close, just makes it such a pleasure to travel.
The best thing about visiting Lake Como from Milan, is that it's a super easy trip to navigate. No stress, no confusion over trains or ferries. No waiting around or long travel times. It couldn't be easier, which means it leaves you with more time to enjoy yourself and eat pizza. Because we all know that's really why we want to explore Italy. So grab yourself an Aperol Spritz, sit comfortably and let me tell you exactly how to plan a day-trip from Milan to Lake Como...
It couldn't be easier to get to Lake Como which makes it perfect for a day trip. Starting from Milano Centrale Railway Station – the train takes around 40 minutes and is direct to Como. There are nearly 40 trains per day and each one varies in the time it takes to arrive – some take over an hour – so check before you go. Tickets start fro €4.80 one-way for a standard class ticket, but if you book on the day the average price is €7.30 each way.
Watch out in the central station for people who claim to work there. They stand by the ticket machines, insist on helping you then try to force you to tip them for using the ticket machine. We nearly got caught out by a very rude woman who was targeting any tourists who passed through. If in doubt about which train to catch, ask at the proper ticket office or book online. Make sure to get snacks before you arrive at the station – the cafes don't have a great selection.
Como is such a beautiful city, nestled at the base of the pre-alpine mountains and on the very southern tip of Lake Como. The train from Milan will bring you to the city and after a short walk into the heart of the city, you'll find all the classic Italian charm you've been looking for. Think gorgeous architecture, cute little piazzas, boutiques, winding streets and lots of cafes and bars by the water. Here are my top 5 things to do in Como:
There are no end of gorgeous little cafes around the city of Como, hidden in the winding streets. If you arrive by train, I recommend wandering towards the lake which will take you to a series of piazzas with bars and restaurants. We stopped at the Piazza Alessandro Volta, where we found a little bar called Krudo with a few tables outside. A perfect spot for a pizza and an Aperol Spritz – delicious food and drink with a lovely view of the square.
If you take a day trip to Lake Como, you simply can't leave without visiting the famous town of Bellagio. It's one of the most idyllic towns in the area and a perfect way to spend an afternoon by the lake. Getting to the Pearl of Lake Como couldn't be easier, although it is quite expensive. It €29.75 one way for the Como-Bellagio ferry, which starts the route just at the tip of Como where the city meets the water. It is pricey for the 20-30 minute boat ride, but it is a lovely trip and you get to see all around the lake as you cruise across, also passing George Clooney's mansion.
Top things to do in Bellagio:
As we ate in Como, we didn't stop for food in Bellagio but I really recommend Hotel Metrapole Bellagio for drinks overlooking the water. We were really lucky and ended up with the best table in the house with panoramic views of Lake Como. It was also fairly reasonably priced for a bottle of bubbles as we were celebrating. There were also several rooftop bars overlooking the water directly in the area where the ferry docks. Plus don't forget to explore the winding streets of the town centre where you'll find fab little gelato bars.
If you fancy some celeb spotting on the cruise across the water to Bellagio – check out George Clooney's villa. You can spot it on the journey back from Bellagio to Como, this route brings you close to the shore on the correct side of the lake.
Google Maps search for Villa Oleandra (which you will find at Via Vecchia Regina, 20, 22010 Laglio CO, Italy) or even just search for George Clooney's house Lake Como and you will find it.
If you look at the images on Google you can easily spot it from the boat. Check out my Insta story left for the details. We gave him a wave just in case he was at the windows!
There are several other beautiful towns to visit. But these are the most popular and those with key attractions you might want to visit. Be aware that if you are travelling from Milan, you probably will have time to visit only one town other than Como, or two if you rush and get there super early. The ferries take around 30 minutes from one side of the lake to another, and stick to a timetable. Don't plan too much for one day, focus on enjoying less places but spending more time exploring them. For more information on the other towns – read: 15 towns to visit on Lake Como.
Have you been to Lake Como – would you like to take a day trip from Milan to Lake Como? What would you choose - pizza and Aperol Spritz? Or Champagne overlooking the water?