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.
When to visit Neuschwanstein Castle & where to stay
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.
- Check out these Neuschwanstein Castle hotels which will give you a great head-start on beating the crowds.
- For those staying in Munich and taking a day trip, check out these Munich hotels for a place to stay.
How & when to get to the castle
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.
Tickets – is it worth it?
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.
Where to get the best FREE view – Hiking to Queen Mary Bridge
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.
Getting the perfect Instagram photos during your visit
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.
Top tips for getting the perfect pic:
- Get creative! Don't just mimic the pics you've seen before. Capture the castle YOUR way and make it unique to you.
- Dress for the occasion. Whether you shove your clothes in a backpack and change at the top or walk up in a skirt like me. Plus tourists up there loved it and said I looked like Princess Jasmine!
- Get there early and snap all your pics straight away while it's quiet. Then you can enjoy the views without worrying about busloads of tourists arriving.
- Even if it's bright and sunny, make sure to use the flash in shady areas to help pick up the darker sections of the photos for better detail.
Have you visited Neuschwanstein Castle – what was your favourite part? What top tips would you share for the perfect pic?