Greetings from my bedroom in London, where I’m sipping on the most delicious hot chocolate whilst writing this post. I’ve just come back from my trip to Germany and with my German heritage, you’d think that 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
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 draped from every building in sight and painted versions on the faces of locals. I had arrived the weekend of Pride and the city was buzzing! Within minutes of me being there, I watched the streets transform from relatively quiet walkways, to a full on street party. It was amazing! But if being pressed up against strangers in large crowds isn’t your thing, then I’d recommend doing your research and avoid any big events that may be scheduled throughout the year.
When it comes to Neuschwanstein Castle, is it better to visit one time of year than another? In my opinion, no. It’s one hundred percent magical all year round. From clear blue skies, to fields covered in bright flowers, to the earthy colours of autumn and snow covered peaks in winter. All you have to do is search google images and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
During my day trip to the castle, I met a fellow Aussie. I must say, I have met more Australian travellers during the last two years, than any other nationality. I think us Aussies have a huge case of the travel bug. Once we got talking, she mentioned that she had visited the castle once before, but during winter. 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, because it’s where you’ll get the most incredible view of the castle and the picture you see on every Neuschwanstein Castle postcard. So insiders tip, anyone planning a visit during the winter time, just keep in mind that 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 seventy percent of my day finding hidden gems and the other thirty getting lost and trying to find my way back to my accommodation, 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 (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.
Getting to Neuschwanstein 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 experience, who did it, but felt it wasn’t worth the price he paid. 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 itself was small, overcrowded and I definitely needed to hold onto my camera tightly so it didn’t drop 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.
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, consisting of meat and potatoes. But this isn’t a bad thing, it’s all incredibly delicious! And of course, 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 cakes and pastries my mum used to bake at home. Especially her famous Gugelhupf. If you ever get the opportunity to try a slice at one of the many bakeries, then I highly 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!