Sunday, 9 February 2014

Schloss Neuschwanstein: The original fairytale castle and one of the most beautiful places EVER.

Yesterday I experienced beauty more breathtaking than anything I’ve ever seen. And no, I’m not talking about a handbag this time. I’m talking about the top sight in Germany, the original fairytale palace, the inspiration behind the iconic Disney castle and the former home of the famously batty Bavarian King Ludwig II, Schloss Neuschwanstein. Or, to translate literally, New-Swan-Stone Castle. (I know which version I prefer!)

In an attempt to convey the sheer beauty of this castle and its surroundings, this is going to be a photo-heavy post (despite whittling down from about five times as many pictures actually taken!), but even my photos really don’t do it justice. Oooh I just can’t wait to share this with you all!

Neuschwanstein is one of the most iconic images of Germany. Nestled amongst the Bavarian Alps, right at the bottom of the country, it’s unsurprisingly a massive tourist attraction. Apparently the castle receives over 1.3 million visitors per year, with more than 6,000 daily in the summer! Let me tell you, I’m glad we went in the low-season. A visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein was, naturally, a key-player on my ‘to-visit-while-in-Germany’ list, and with less than three weeks to go, I am SO RIDICULOUSLY BEYOND HAPPY that I’ve been.

Along with my super-like-minded-travel-buddy, Emily, (y’all know Emily well now), on Friday I journeyed down from the top of Bavaria to the very bottom – for an extremely bargainous price thanks to the Bayern Ticket – stopping off en route for a few hours in Augsburg to break up the long train journey.

We arrived in the adorable town of Füssen on Friday evening, checked into our absolutely gorgeous hostel (a review of which is here) grabbed a quick dinner and got tucked up in bed for a good night’s sleep filled with dreams of fairytale palaces.

The next morning we awoke to beautiful blue sky and sunshine and I could not have been happier.

MORNING! The view from our hostel room.
After grabbing a pastry, smoothie and some fruit as breakfast fuel for the morning ahead, Emily and I had a lovely little wander round Füssen while waiting for the bus to Neuschwanstein (the walk there would’ve taken over an hour and the bus was free with our Bayern Ticket: WIN!)

Füssen is the town where most people stay on a pilgrimage to Neuschwanstein – it’s small, too quaint for words and unsurprisingly full of hotels, restaurants and a lot of Asian eateries. With views up to the surrounding mountains, cobbled streets and colourful buildings oozing with charm, it was a treat to explore. I noticed a distinctly Alpine feel, which reminded me of going skiing with my family in beautiful French Megève.

Germany has a ridiculous amount of Schlösser (castles/palaces) – usually at least one per town – and I’ve made it my duty to visit as many as possible. Despite knowing we’d be visiting the mother of all Schlösser later on, Emily and I still wanted to see the local Füssen Schloss, and very lovely it was too. I tell ya, the novelty of all these incredible German palaces and castles will never wear off on me.

We then took a stroll down to the river, and OH MA DAYS, it was just ridiculously, amazingly and unbelievably BLUE! Not even normal river blue, but more of a tropical sea blue. I’m not sure if it was reflecting the sky or what, but it was beyond gorgeous.

This isn't even Instagrammed, you guys!
Sunny Saturday morning stroll round Füssen complete, it was time for the real reason we were there. Time to whack out the big boys. Time to finally see first-hand what I’d seen in so many postcards, pictures and posters: Schloss Neuschwanstein (oh, and her neighbour, Schloss Hohenschwangau.) EEEEEEP!

So, along with all the other foreigners (and even a few Germans), we travelled by bus the short journey to the base of Hohenschwangau. From here, we got our first glimpse of Neuschwanstein, peeking out over the treetops. Oh ma gaaaad, I was so excited.

To reach the castle from here, you can either make the 25 minute walk up the tourist-friendly road for free, or pay six Euros for a horse-drawn carriage ride, for which you’ll have to queue and which then go even slower than walking pace. No question really, is there? (Apparently there are buses too but only in the summer.)

I thought it was lovely to walk up through the fir trees with the fresh mountain air and beautiful views. The adrenaline and excitement pumping through us meant that Emily and I powed out the climb in no time at all, and before we knew it, we’d reached the castle of dreams.

It’s just incredible. As a girl who loves all things medieval and has an extremely prominent inner princess, I was just mesmerised. To think of the real kings, queens, princes and princesses who used to live there (even though King Ludwig II died before it was completed, awks) is so amazing to me.

Emily and I knew where we wanted to get to, and that was the Marienbrücke (Marien Bridge) which provides the most amazing views of Neuschwanstein. However, we were briefly faced with something of a hindrance upon finding the path to said Marienbrücke was closed off. No entry. Nada.

PAH! As if we were going to come all that way and let something so measly as a big ole metal fence thing get in our way! Around it we climbed (along with a few other equally determined tourists) and carried on our (barely icy and most definitely unnecessarily cordoned off) mountainous walk.

En route to the bridge, we were treated to the most sensational viewpoint over Schloss Hohenschwangau, the mountains and both Schwansee and Alpsee lakes. It. Was. Stunning.

Snaps taken and view admired, we excitedly carried on, climbing over all sorts of barriers trying to stop us. Nothing was going to stop us.

And then, there it was: the Marienbrücke. On to it we went, and HOLY MOLY! OMG! Actual woweazels.

My breath was actually taken away as I looked out to Neuschwanstein.

The mountains, the trees, the blue sky, the sunshine, it was all too perfect (we were very lucky with the weather.) I mean, the Romantic architecture is just incredible! Is it any wonder Neuschwanstein was the model for the Sleeping Beauty Castle of Disneyland? Trivia for you: the Schloss has also featured in lots of big films, including one of my childhood faves, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Naturally, we took millions of pictures, and I also accidentally sent the same Snapchat to everyone in my contact list five times. Oops. At least now they all should know I was there. Be jel.

Ooh let's do some without coats!
And we need some on each side!

Considering it was February and the bridge was technically cordoned off from visitors, Emily and I had the time and space for a veritable photoshoot. Well, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime photo op, so wouldn’t you? Prime location for a new Facebook cover photo, am I right?

Don't look down!
Photos taken, I made sure to put my camera away and actually just absorb, admire and appreciate the view for a while. I’m a bit snap-happy, and too often these days we see life through a camera-lense. Don’t forget to make memories in your mind too, people.

Breathtaking Bavarian beauty at its best. I kept thinking, 'Oh, I bet it looks gorgeous in autumn. And also summer. Spring too, actually. Oh, and when it's covered in snow! Ooooh and I bet it's amazing at sunset. And do you think it's lit-up at night?' Basically, Neuschwanstein must look beautiful ALL THE TIME!

Can I live here, please?
Eventually, Emily dragged me away from the bridge and we walked back down to the front of the castle.

You can go into the entrance courtyard for free, and I just loved the traditional Romantic style of the towers and turrets. Should you want to spend 12 Euros for a half hour tour of the interior, you can. Or, you could use the free loos (FREE LOOS IN GERMANY WHAAAAT? If Neuschwanstein wasn't already my fave castle, the free loos certainly were the tipping point), buy a postcard with the original Neuschwanstein stamp and leave it at that. Y'all know what these thrifty students did. 

So, after having imagined my regal medieval life as Princess Rachel living in the tallest tower of Schloss Neuschwanstein, it was time to stroll back down the hill. I must say, I was just SO. HAPPY! Gimme a pretty palace and some sunshine and I'm good. Easily pleased, this gal.

Down at the bottom of the hill we strolled over to the edge of the Alpsee.

Again, too pretty for words. Can't you just imagine swimming in there in the summer? Oh, how I'd love to.

We then moseyed on over to Neuschwanstein's slightly smaller and less famous but still blimmin' impressive neighbour, Schloss Hohenschwangau. This is where King Ludwig II lived while growing up, and if I'm honest, I'm a little jealous (not that my childhood home wasn't lovely too, of course.)

We walked up the winding steps (by this point, slightly achey and exhausted from all our mountain climbing of sorts) to the most classic of castles, and turned round to see that ole beauty, Neuschwanstein, over the way.

In the sunshine, it was absolutely stunning, and sheltered from the wind, felt like a fresh spring day. Emily and I had a walk round the grounds, admiring the impressive architecture as well as the view over the mountains and lakes. Obvs we didn't pay the 12 Euros entry fee for here either, but between you and me, I'm much more interested in the exterior anyway. I can't even express how much I loved it. 

The windows all have striped canopies in the colours of the Bavarian flag, and I love this little rhyme on the wall:

It's in Old German and doesn't rhyme in English so totally loses its charm, but translated it means "By drinking and eating you shouldn't forget God." OK that's totally literal so doesn't sound great but just trust me. Anyone know where this quote is from? I'd be interested to find out.

Just look at this architecture. It's sensational, don't you think?! I'm a sucker for all things royal, medieval and castley (yes, that's an adjective), so was absolutely in my element.

Castled-out (pah, as IF I could ever be), it was time for Emily and I to head back to Füssen for a spot of well-earned lunch before a long, relaxing train journey back to Bayreuth.

Visiting Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau and Füssen was without a doubt one of the most amazing (overused adjective, I know, but I'm running out of superlatives, sorry) trips I've ever made, and a real highlight of my time in Germany. It was so special and something I'll always remember. 

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to visit these incredible places, and also to have lovely friends with which to share these experiences. I love castles, I love Bavaria and I just love Germany. Year abroad, you da best.


  1. Woweazels? I take it you enjoyed yourself then? :P

  2. It looks amazing there! I literally love Germany so enjoyed this post very much! Beautiful pictures too! :)

    1. Oh thank you so much, I'm really pleased you enjoyed it :)

  3. Wow this looks incredible and so does the town of Fussen, love those colourful buildings.

    1. Thanks Sara! It really was, and I love the buildings too. X

  4. Stunning photos here - looks like you went in the summer? I must admit, when we went, we did take the horse carriage to the castle but mainly because it was absolutely freezing in December and the icy conditions meant it was quicker than walking. Beautiful castle isn't it and I fell completely in love with Bavaria!

  5. Stunning photos here - looks like you went in the summer? I must admit, when we went, we did take the horse carriage to the castle but mainly because it was absolutely freezing in December and the icy conditions meant it was quicker than walking. Beautiful castle isn't it and I fell completely in love with Bavaria!

    1. I know, we were SO lucky with the weather! Couldn't have asked for better conditions. Ahh that's definitely understandable (and I totally would've loved a princess-style horse-drawn carriage ride!) Who can resist falling in love with Bavaria, eh? :)

  6. Oh my goodness, I just found your blog and I am in love! So envious of you haha but I am so happy that you are sharing your experiences!

    1. Thanks, Amber! That's so kind of you to say :)


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