It would make sense, that with my German heritage, my first solo trip to this amazing country would be thoroughly planned, right? Days filled with beautiful countryside, leisurely strolls through villages that look like giant gingerbread houses, and of course the incredible alps.
I mean, that all sounds wonderful and something I will definitely be doing in the future, but with only a weekend getaway in sight, I had one thing and one thing only on my mind. Neuschwanstein Castle. Yes, that’s right, the most famous ‘real life’ fairytale castle in the entire world, and what most people refer to as The Disney Castle.
WHEN TO GO
Munich is beautiful all year round. Thanks to it’s rich history in every inch of the city, there are countless things to see and do. Not to mention all the day trips out you can indulge in.
I happened to be visiting mid-summer and I knew it was going to be busy (not Oktoberfest busy, that time of year becomes so crowded that beer halls make 70% of their annual income within a single month!) but I was prepared to encounter large crowds and long queues.
What I wasn’t prepared for as I stepped out of the underground and onto the historical square of Marienplatz, was the rainbow coloured flags painted on the faces of locals and draped from every building in sight. It was Pride week. I hadn’t done my research prior, to see if any events were scheduled during my visit, but I didn’t mind at all. If anything, with the buzzing atmosphere and general happiness of everyone around me, it added to my trip. Within minutes, I watched the streets transform from quiet walkways, into a full on dance party. It was amazing!
If you’re not a fan of crowds, then I’d say definitely avoid the month of October and when planning your trip, double check any big events scheduled throughout the year.
Neuschwanstein Castle Is one time of year better to visit then another? In my onion, no. It’s 100% magical all year round. All you have to do is google images and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. From clear blue skies during summertime, fields covered in bright coloured flowers during spring, to the earthy colours of autumn and snow covered peaks in winter. If I could, I’d visit every season. Crowd wise, I visited during peak time, but it wasn’t unbearably busy.
During my walk up to the castle, I met a girl who was visiting Neuschwanstein for the second time. She mentioned that her last visit was during winter, and because of the dangerous ice conditions, sections of the pathway had been closed, including Mary’s bridge. For those of you who are unaware, this is the bridge you want to be on. This is where you’ll get the most incredible view of the castle. So anyone planning a visit during the winter, just keep in mind the bridge may be closed.
WHAT TO SEE
With just two days in Munich, and one of those dedicated to visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, I had to make the most of my time. So rather than doing my usual exploration where I spend 70% of my day finding hidden gems and the other 30% getting lost, I opted for a free walking tour of the city.
The tour lasted three hours and took me through the old town. The guide was great, full of knowledge explaining Munich’s history as we went along, and although at times I lost interest in the backstory of some of the places we visited (sorry mum!), overall it was a great experience. The guide was also really helpful at the end of the tour, giving restaurant recommendations and directions to public transport for anyone that inclined.
The only thing to note is that as it’s a free tour, the guides do expect you to give them money at the end of it. Which is fair enough, because at the end of the day, it’s how they make a living. For a single person I found that €5 is minimum standard.
Neuschwanstein Castle Getting to the castle can be done on the cheap if you decide to do it yourself. All you have to do is get to Munich Hbf station and take a train (sometimes two) to Fussen. From Fussen, catch a bus into town and then you can choose to either take a bus up to the castle, a horse and carriage, or walk. Walking is quite easy and takes only 20 minutes.
For me, with my poor sense of direction, I didn’t want to risk getting lost, so I booked a guided tour. The tour cost me €45 which in the grand scheme of things, didn’t seem that much. My entire journey was stress free and I reached the castle relaxed and happy.
As part of the tour, I had the option of paying extra to go inside the castle, but in the end, I chose not to. This was purely a personal choice, based on my brother’s previous experience, who felt it wasn’t worth it. So whilst my group was inside, I took the opportunity to explore the surrounding area, and of course, check out Mary’s bridge.
The bridge was overcrowded and I definitely needed to hold onto my camera tightly so it didn’t drop the hundreds of meters to the ground, but in saying this, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The moment I saw the castle unobstructed by trees, I couldn’t believe the beauty of what I was seeing. The castle I had been dreaming about, ever since my parents got me a toy replica of it for Christmas when I was eight years old, was finally right in front of me. And it literally took my breath away.
The food in Munich is predominantly meat and potatoes. If you find yourself on one of the busier streets, you’ll come across the odd Italian restaurant where you can fill up on pasta and pizza, but for the most part you’ll be dining on traditional Bavarian dishes (which are incredibly delicious). And the best way to end a delicious Bavarian meal, is with dessert!
For sweet tooth’s like me, it’s cake heaven! Every mouthful brought back childhood memories of German cakes and pastries my mum used to bake – especially her famous Gugelhupf. If you ever get the opportunity to try a slice of Gugelhupf then I recommend you do so.
And who can forget the markets. If you’re in the mood for fresh berries, sandwich meats, wild mushrooms, or the all famous bratwurst, then head to the markets located just a few minutes walk from Marienplatz. It won’t disappoint!
Munich is the capital of Bavaria, so what you see in terms of food, beer halls and the way people are dressed is very much influenced by the Bavarian culture. It’s completely different to Berlin and other parts of Germany, so if it’s beer halls you’re after, then Munich is where you want to be. And although my trip was short, I absoloutly loved it. The people are friendly, the countryside is out of this world, and there’s breathtaking castles everywhere you turn. I can’t wait for my next German adventure!