Probably everything that can be written about Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle has been written. The castle is famously young — it reached its final-but-incomplete state in 1892 — and was inspired by both romantic ideas about the medieval past and the operas of Richard Wagner.
And of course it provided inspiration for Disney’s fantasy castles.
As a result, despite the building’s lack of deep historical significance and functionality as an actual fortification, it’s one of the most famous castles anywhere. Ironically, when many people think “castle,” some version of Neuschwanstein is probably what they’re imagining.
To be honest, I never had an overwhelming desired to visit Neuschwanstein. Europe is filled with so many legitimately old and picturesque sites that there didn’t seem to be much point to seeing a place that was a simulacrum from the get go. Many of those sites — such as Segovia’s castle — even rival Neuschwanstein for fairytale beauty.
But then this week we were in Bavaria and it seemed like a shame to not even check out Neuschwanstein. So we headed over and, to my surprise, it was actually pretty great.
Part of what makes Neuschwanstein great is that it really is a pretty castle. It might have been a fantasy all along, but it is a well built and fully invested fantasy.
However, what really made the visit incredible was the surrounding beauty. Arriving in the area, the castle appeared perched on a distant hill over a wide, fertile valley. From a distance it’s a small element in a vast panorama that, in October, is awash in the golds and oranges of autumn. When we stopped briefly at a small church, we could hear cow bells ringing in the distance.
The closer we got to the castle itself, the more brilliant the fall colors became. On the nearby hills, low clouds shrouded the forests in mist and high above snow was already sticking to the peaks.
Inside the castle grounds, brilliant red ivy slithered over the rain-slicked stone.
It’s no surprise that the area around Neuschwanstein is beautiful; indeed the view is a big part of why the castle is there in the first place. But in autumn it’s particularly eye catching thanks to the natural beauty of its surroundings.
If you’re on a budget, you can also skip the interior and just check out the courtyards, which are free.
— Jim Dalrymple II