Neuschwanstein castle is one of the most visited and photographed tourist sites anywhere. And with good reason; perched on an intentionally picturesque Bavarian mountain, the castle perfectly captures the romance of old Europe.
Indeed, it’s almost too perfect.
The reality is that Neuschwanstein doesn’t have much historical significance — it’s only about as old as the Eiffel Tower — and was designed by “Mad King” Ludwig II to be a sort of romantic, fairytale version of medieval Europe. It’s a simulacrum of a castle.
For me, that means it’s a great place to cut some budget corners and enjoy the obvious, visceral pleasures, while skipping the stuff that costs money. So here are three suggestions for doing Neuschwanstein on a budget:
1. Don’t pay to go inside
Entering Neuschwanstein costs 12 euros plus fees (that does not include visiting the other nearby sites). That’s not a fortune, but it is the equivalent of another meal or in some cases even a hostel bed — aka one more day on the road.
Visitors who choose not to pay also can access the interior courtyards (just walk through the gates and go up the stairs). These areas don’t offer a view of the interior, but they do provide a thorough view of the exterior, which is the most impressive part.
There’s no doubt Neuschwanstein’s interior is fanciful and impressive, but the truth is there are older, more amazing interiors in Europe. I’d rather spend my money on those.
2. Spend your time hiking around the outside
The greatest thing about Neuschwanstein is its romantic setting — not the relatively inconsequential history. The setting is so pretty that even though I was sick during my visit last fall I still completely loved walking through the forest and watching the castle emerge from the mist.
The best thing about wandering is that it’s free. If you have a couple of hours planned for Neuschwanstein, I say spend them hiking (and, sure, taking pictures) from the valley and the various paths.
3. Ask around for buses going up the mountain. There are cheap options.
Cars are required to park below Neuschwanstein, and visitors can either walk, bus, or take a horse carriage up. If you want to get to the castle quickly and cheaply, ask the drivers of buses and vans if they’re heading up and how much they cost.
We found what seemed to be a semi-official (or unofficial?) driver with a small bus who drove us up to the top for a fraction of the price of the bigger buses. The bus didn’t have any advertising and was just parked on the side of the street, but was safe, clean, and convenient.
— Jim Dalrymple II