I think it’s very important that young girls today understand that they don’t have to like princesses. They can enjoy taking apart computers, playing in the mud, or pulling the wings off of flies just to watch them suffer. (OK, maybe not that last one.) So keep that in mind when I admit that I happen to adore anything princess-related. Be it castle, tiara, or magical talking animal sidekick, I love them all. That is why the number one thing I was dying to do in Germany was the Munich to Neuschwanstein trip.
There’s just something about an isolated castle built by a mad king in the middle of the woods that makes one feel like the world’s most glamorous princess. Head on the Munich to Neuschwanstein Trip with me for the day. I’m sure you’ll agree.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the Munich to Neuschwanstein Trip. If you have another 24 hours in Munich, check out this itinerary!
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24 Hours: Munich to Neuschwanstein Trip
Where to Stay?
Obviously you’ll start your Munich to Neuschwanstein Trip in Munich. As cute as Munich is, remember that it’s also one of the largest cities in Germany and it can be rather spread out. That’s why it’s important to choose your location wisely. When I was in Munich, I stayed in the Olympic Park area, which too far away from anything I wanted to see. (Also, I got trapped in an active crime scene at 3 in the morning, but that’s an entirely different story.)
So I suggest staying somewhere closer to the main attractions of Old Town. You’ll thank me later (especially when you’re not trapped in a crime scene.)
If you’d like to explore over 700 great hotels in Munich, just click here!
24 Hours: Munich to Neuschwanstein Trip
Morning: Sandeman’s Neuschwanstein Castle Tour
I had had a good experience with Sandeman’s paid tour of Amsterdam, so I thought I’d give their tour of Munich to Neuschwanstein a try. The price was quite affordable at 45 Euros, and I was on a strict budget. Also, they handled transportation to and from Neuschwanstein Castle, which made the whole thing quite convenient. Our guide was an enthusiastic American named Heather who was living in Munich because her husband had been transferred there. She shared my love of both history and German gummy candies, so we got along great.
It took us a train and a bus to get from Munich to Neuschwanstein starting in the Hauptbahnhof, and when we arrived we had to cool our heels for a few minutes over a currywurst while Heather got the tickets for the Neuschwanstein Castle interior tour. But soon we were on our way up the hill to the famous fairytale castle, while Heather regaled us with stories of the castle and its creator, the Mad King Ludwig. I am happy to share with you…
Three fun facts about mad king ludwig
1) mad king or fairytale king?
The first thing Heather told us what that it might not be fair to call Ludwig mad. A better nickname for him might be “The Fairytale King”. Ludwig grew up as the very sheltered oldest son of the Crown Prince of Bavaria, Max. In fact, he spent much time in his childhood in the castle pictured above, Hohenschwangau Castle.
He had a hard time relating to others and preferred to spend his time thinking about fairytales than living in the real world. That sounds just like my childhood (minus the whole Crown Prince of Bavaria thing). Am I a long-lost relative of the Fairytale King?
2) His love life was tragic
Ludwig II may have loved fairytales, but none of his love stories had a happy ending. He was engaged once to his cousin, Sophie Charlotte. (It was the 19th century, so I guess that made cousin touching okay.) However, Ludwig only loved Sophie Charlotte in a platonic sort of way. You could say that he loved her like a cousin. Eventually Ludwig broke off the engagement and Sophie Charlotte married someone else.
(Although apparently Sophie Charlotte didn’t love her actual husband either because she’d really fallen in love with the photographer who took her engagement photos back when she was planning to marry Ludwig. But she couldn’t be with the man she really loved because he was just a lowly photographer. Man, 19th century Bavarian court life was full of drama!)
But back to Ludwig. Heather said that his diaries later revealed that he had been secretly in love with men his whole life. But because of the stigma surrounding homosexuality back then, apparently he never acted on these feelings. That’s too sad, Ludwig! I hope you found all the cute Bavarian princes you wanted in the afterlife. Speaking of…
3) He died under mysterious circumstances
The older and lonelier Ludwig got, the more obsessed he got with building intricate fairytale castles. But of course Neuschwanstein Castle was going to be his masterpiece. But fairytale castles don’t come cheap! They come true, not for free. So as you can imagine, Ludwig was spending a lot of his constituents’ money on his champagne wishes and caviar dreams. This didn’t always make him popular.
One day, Ludwig went out for a walk with his doctor…and was never seen again, alive. The bodies of both Ludwig and his doctor were found in the lake, but no water was found in Ludwig’s lungs. This means he could not have been drowned. To this day, no one knows exactly what happened to Ludwig. It’s a history mystery! But at least he left us all his beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle to explore.
24 Hours: Munich to Neuschwanstein Trip
Afternoon: Explore Neuschwanstein Castle Area
Now that Heather had given us the Ludwig Lowdown, we were free to explore for the rest of the afternoon. There are so many things to see and do around the area, so I’ll give you more help than anyone ever gave poor Ludwig with…
Approximately top 5: Neuschwanstein Castle edition
1) Neuschwanstein Castle Interior
I highly recommend taking the tour of the Neuschwanstein Castle interior. The guide will pick up the tickets for you so you can skip the long line to get them. It’s 13 Euros extra, but I think it’s worth it. How often do you get to visit the castle of a-not-actually-mad king?
Photo taking inside the castle is verboten, so I can’t show you my snaps of the gloriousness of Ludwig’s throne room. Fortunately, Neuschwanstein Castle has been around since the 19th century, so some photos of the interior are in the public domain, like this one:
Ludwig also installed an artificial grotto with an artificial waterfall and a rainbow machine inside the castle because that’s just how you roll when you’re The Fairytale King of the BVA.
Now I AM convinced that Ludwig and I are secretly related because when I was 5 years old, I definitely dreamed of building myself a Disney castle with a golden throne room and a mysterious grotto. (The grotto would have been for the days I felt like pretending I was Maleficent and not Sleeping Beauty.)
Our guide for the Neuschwanstein Castle interior tour was a cartoonishly handsome young German. He looked like a good witch turned Prince Philip from Sleeping Beauty into a real boy. At one point he asked us all to come closer saying, “I don’t bite,” and every girl on the tour started to giggle. Was I one of them? I’ll never tell!
2) Neuschwanstein Castle Exterior
As exciting as the interior of Neuschwanstein Castle is, it’s not the best part. After all, Ludwig only got to finish about 15 of the 200 rooms he had planned, so the interior is incomplete. You came to see the outside of this baby. After all, it’s the castle that inspired Disney to create the confection that is the Sleeping Beauty castle. But Neuschwanstein Castle is even better than the Disney castle because it’s in the third dimension.
The only problem with Neuschwanstein Castle is that everyone and their cousin/fiancée is trying to get a good photo of the castle at the same time you are. Here’s my solution to getting a good photo.
Step One: Lure the other tourists to an undisclosed location.
Step Two: Murder them. Or pay someone else to murder them. Tomato, tomah-to
Step Three: Make it look like they accidentally drowned in a lake. Then take a photo of Neuschwanstein Castle that is unobstructed by tourists.
Yay! You did it! And no one will ever know your secret…
3) Views of Hohenschwangau village
Neuschwanstein Castle is located on a hill, and we all know what that means! Amazing view of the surrounding Bavarian countryside and the Hohenschwangau Village. Wander away from the throngs of tourists and pretend you are a simple hiker, trekking through the Southern German mountains all by your lonesome.
Yodelay hee hoo! (Wait, that’s Austria.)
4) Hohenschwangau Castle
Remember that Neuschwanstein Castle is not the only castle game in town. Ludwig strategically placed it nearby his favorite childhood summer home, the Hohenschwangau Castle. Hohenschwangau literally translated to Upper Swan County. I definitely think when they make a miniseries about the teenage years of King Ludwig, it should definitely be titled Upper Swan County. (“Welcome to the USC, bitch!”)
I didn’t have enough time to go visit the interior of the castle on this trip. (Also, just as with Neuschwanstein Castle, pictures are not allowed inside.) Hopefully you’ll be better organized than I was and purchase an admission at the ticket center.
5) Lake Alpsee
Don’t let it get you down if you don’t have time to see the interior of Hohenschwangau castle. Head down to lovely Lake Alpsee and you can get a better surprise!
Yes! It is the Schwans themselves! These swans are wild and wild swans can be dangerous. I think this lady is the corner is making a poor life choice by getting so close to them. If they had attacked her, I would have never stopped laughing.
Also, perhaps my story about Ludwig’s death made you a little squeamish around lakes. Don’t worry, Internet Stranger. This isn’t the lake in which Ludwig was “accidentally” “drowned”.
24 Hours: Munich to Neuschwanstein Trip
Evening: Dinner at Augustiner Keller
When you arrive on the train back from Neuschwanstein Castle, you’re going to want to have something to eat! Perhaps some of your tour mates will want to join you! Heather recommended a traditional Bavarian Beer Hall called Augustiner Keller.
I was accompanied by four others from the tour: a Scottish couple, a young Canadian gentleman, and an American ballerina in training. I don’t remember their actual names, so I’ll just dub them Mr. and Mrs. McGregor, Justin, and Angelina.
24 hour treat: obatzda
My new friends and I all ordered a giant pint of Bavarian lager and pretzels the size of a Hohenschwangau. But I added my most favoritest Bavarian food to my dinner: obatzda, I had eaten this delicacy on a previous trip to Germany, and I was excited for the opportunity to share my love with the world.
Obatzda is the greatest invention any dairy lover could experience. It is made by mixing two parts soft cheese with one part BUTTER. That’s right, fools, I said butter. Then you mix in paprika, salt, pepper, other seasonings as your heart desires, and finally a little bit of beer. I bless the Bavarian who came up with this concoction. Obatzda is actually certified by the EU with the Protected Geographical Indication. I guess that just means the EU knows good food when it eats it.
I had a great time schmoozing with the other guests from the tour in the exhilarating atmosphere of an authentic Bavarian beer garden. The only downside was that the young Canadian had one too many beers and so we all had to group together and put him in an Uber at the end of the evening. (Was the young Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? I’ll never tell…)
That’s 24 Hours: Munich to Neuschwanstein Trip
What would you do with 24 hours with the Neuschwanstein Castle? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Munich? How do you think Ludwig really died? Should we call him Mad King Ludwig? Or is Ludwig really sane…and it is we who are mad? Please leave your thoughts below.