A visit to real life fairy tale castle and beautiful Bavaria

Don’t believe in fairy tales? If you’re headed to Neuschwanstein Castle, you might find yourself rethinking that notion. Schloss Neuschwanstein, which served as inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, looks like it’s been plucked right out of a story by the Brothers Grimm. This marvel of Romanesque Revival architecture is where I set my sights to on my second day in Germany.

Neuschwanstein Castle in all of its glory!

Borrowing a Füssen Card from the front desk of Hotel Sonne, where I was staying, I headed to the train/bus station and took a ride to the town of Hohenschwangau. With the Füssen card, the bus ride was free and only took around 10-15 minutes.

TIP: If you need to buy a ticket, you can pick one up from the driver or use your Bayern ticket, if you’re only there for the day. You’ll know when you’re there when literally everyone else gets off the bus.

A sign indicating that we are in a nature preserve.

Once off the bus, it was time to do some walking! There are no buses or cars to take you up to the castle, but you can pay for a horse-drawn carriage ride, especially if you have mobility issues. I chose to walk, and while the hike up to the castle is pretty steep, it’s also pretty beautiful. Even when you can’t see the castle, you can feel its presence.

Horses pulling a carriage up to the castle
The castle amidst fall foliage

Marienbrücke, or Mary’s Bridge, which was closed at the time of visit

I spent some time photographing the area surrounding the castle and enjoying the scenic overlooks over nearby towns. Marienbrücke, the pedestrian bridge overlooking the castle (basically, where everyone takes those iconic shots of the castle) was closed, but there are still countless places to take interesting or creative angles of the castle.

A view from the scenic overlook
Those views 😍

TIP: The area around the exterior of the castle is free and open to visitors, as is the inner courtyard, but if you want to view the interiors, it’s recommended that you reserve your tickets at least a week ahead of time. Allow for more time if you’re planning on going during the busy season. You can find out more at Hohenschwangau.de.

Because I was on not only a tighter budget, but also a very limited time crunch, I opted not to tour the interiors. Looking back, this was one of the best decisions I made. While I love learning about the history of places, touring the interiors would have left significantly less time to explore and photograph the natural beauty of the area, which ended up being my favorite part!

A peek inside the courtyard
Another view of the courtyard

So after snapping hundred of pics of Neuschwanstein, I headed over to the slightly less photogenic Hohenschwangau Castle, where King Ludwg II grew up. Like Neuschwanstein, only the exteriors of the castle are available without a ticket, and to be honest, I didn’t spend very much time wandering around its relatively small inner courtyard.

Hohenschwangau Castle

From Hohenschwangau, I took the trail down to the nearby lake, Alpsee, and was greeted with one of the most memorable sights of my trip: a gorgeous, clear blue lake, surrounded by green mountains, colorful fall foliage, and a bright sun. This, I thought to myself, is what Bavaria is about. I spent some time sitting in the sun, taking in the view, and enjoying a surprisingly beautiful fall day as I imagined what it would be like to visit the area in the summer.

Alpsee in the early afternoon

Conscious of the time, I decided to following a tip from the hotel receptionist and hike around Schwansee a little bit.

Schwansee is a smaller lake (or a larger pond?) more off the beaten trail. From what I could see, it’s more of a spot for the locals. There were significantly less people around, but it still allowed for gorgeous views of the mountains.

Schwansee
Reflections on Schwansee

Getting to Schwansee was easy enough, but I was a bit unsure of where to go to get the bus home from there. So I decided I’d just walk back to Füssen instead.

That could have been a huge mistake, but ended up being one of the best experiences ever.

Signs and trail markers

Using my phone as a supplementary map, and relying heavily on sign posts to find my way, I took the trail from Schwansee all the way back to my hotel. Thankfully, the trails are well-maintained, and there were just enough people around that I never felt lost.

Along the way, I saw some fantastic views of the castles that I might not have seen otherwise, and also saw some more gorgeous mountain views, cute cabins, and stopped to admire Lechfall.

Just one of many breathtaking sights
Quiet trails
Overlooking fall foliage at Lechfall

Seeing the castle was cool– it really does look like Sleeping Beauty’s castle come-to-life– but enjoying the quiet beauty of the forest and mountains while hiking on a beautiful day was far more memorable and enriching experience.

That evening, as I sat on the train back to Munich, I couldn’t help but regret that I didn’t schedule more time to spend in the area. Later on, my German friend, who I met up with in Munich, asked my why I went to a small town like Füssen. The short answer was Neuschwanstein Castle. But if she had asked my why I would love to go back? The answer would probably be everything else.

Last light on the way back into town

For more about my trip, check out these posts:

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