When talking to my parents about where they might like to go in either Switzerland, Austria, or Germany, my mom’s immediate answer was Neuschwanstein Castle. So, in 2011, we based a 2 week itinerary on the idea that we would like to spend a week in the Swiss Alps, see a bit of Austria, and add in this castle.
Getting to Neuschwanstein
While it is possible to visit Neuschwanstein via public transportation, it is really much more convenient to have a car. If you want more details, read about our experiences with driving internationally.
To follow our itinerary, we had spent the previous night in Rothenburg, used a couple of hours of our morning to further explore that town, then hopped in our car and drove about 2 hours 15 minutes to Füssen, which is the closest town to Neuschwanstein.
We chose to spend the night in Füssen. Another option, 20 minutes away on the Austrian side of the border, is Reutte, where we stayed in our 2005 trip. We found Reutte to be much smaller and quite sleepy, but also made me feel a bit like we are playing a part on the Sound of Music. Oberammergau is another possibility roughly 40 minutes away, and some folks end up doing bus day-trips from Munich about 2 hours away. All that said, Füssen is probably a good default choice.
On arrival in Füssen, we decided to drive straight to Neuschwanstein Castle, arriving about 1:10pm. Not having reserved online tickets, we went to the ticket office and discovered that the earliest available tickets for a tour were at 4:25pm, but that was somewhat expected. If you didn’t purchase ahead of time and don’t want a long wait, time your itinerary to arrive when they open in the morning, preferably before all the tour buses start arriving.
While we were waiting for our timeslot, we used our time to explore the area. While the Neuschwanstein Castle is the most famous, there are several other castles nearby.
You can see and access the Hohenschwangau Castle from the same parking lot as for Neuschwanstein. And you can even visit both castles, although we usually find one per day is plenty.
If you drive down the road a bit, you can also go to the Linderhof Palace, which is the smallest of the three. In 2018, we decided to return and visit it.
Lunch by the Lake
Feeling hungry, we decided to order some bratwurst and enjoy a late lunch by the lake.
Getting to the Castle
It was quite pleasant to wander and enjoy the atmosphere. While we could have taken a bus or a horse carriage up the hill to the castle, we had lots of time before our tickets were valid and decided to walk. Besides, Jeremy had taken the carriage up in 2005 and found it to be much less glamorous than you might think. You are stuffed into a cramped wagon with a bunch of other people, then if you end up in the “lucky” front seat like we did, then you will spend the entire ride watching the horse do its business and hope that none of it lands on your leg. Here is a picture from 2005:
And here is another cool, mysterious picture from 2005. Even if the weather isn’t ideal, you can definitely still have fun!
But, we decided to walk. About halfway up, we realized that it was more effort for my parents and the kids than we expected – we had left the stroller in the car to make the castle tour easier, but fortunately there were benches along the way. In retrospect, the bus would have been a better choice.
And ice cream cones. Can’t forget to stop for those once in a while! Sometimes a small bribe is all it take to teach your kids that they really can walk further than they think they can.
The views were gorgeous!
Make sure that you snap a few pictures on the way up.
Eventually, we made it!
Having made it to the top, we were still a bit early and wandered around a bit more.
Upon going in, we were told to put our cameras away, but it was a nice tour. So, unfortunately there are no indoor pictures to post – part of the reason is probably all the tapestries that they want to preserve from camera flashes.
I think in 2005 the tour was a bit longer and we got to see the kitchens. This time around it felt shorter and there were no kitchen on the tour.
Still, it is a quite impressive castle and when King Ludwig II build it, he wanted something that was actually pleasant to live in, rather than a drafty old building that was more utilitarian and fortified to resist invasion, than pleasant. Having grown up in Hohenschwangau Castle, his idea of a pleasant castle was something comfortable and modern. While he never actually finished it, he definitely got a good start.
This is the castle of fairytales. In fact it is the one that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. If you are nearby, this is definitely the castle you want to tour. And if you have more time, consider also visiting either Hohenschwangau or Linderhof.
An Evening in Füssen
We finished the tour and made our way to Füssen and checked into our apartment. After getting settled, we drove into town and went out to explore the city and find dinner.
We settled on a nice looking place that had outdoor seating. After ordering, our waiter brought us some water in fairly fragile wine glasses. As he handed John one, I had severe misgivings, but not speaking German, set the glass aside and went with it.
As we were talking, I didn’t notice that John had grabbed the glass. Fascinated, he took a sip, then smashed it back on the table like a rattle. Glass went flying everywhere! The waiter came over, cleaned it up, and brushed aside my profuse apologies. Then he came back and gave John an identical wine glass!
International travel with kids is fun, but this was our first time doing it with two of them. I think it was very wise that we brought my parents with us. While we probably could have managed on our own, it was nice having a couple extra sets of hands.
Deciding to head back to the hotel, we went to retrieve the car from the parking garage.
In Europe, manual transmissions are still quite popular, and often the default choice for a rental car. Jeremy drove “stick” through his mid-20’s, so didn’t think too much about it when renting. That said, he ended up stalling out the car on the garage exit ramp, which was winding and uphill. He stalled out right by the ticket machine, and ended up calling for help.
Somebody came and they offered to use their superior manual transmission skills to get the car up the ramp, which was quite nice and helpful. In any case, be realistic about your ability to drive a manual in a different country with unfamiliar surroundings – though we’ve rented manuals plenty times abroad since .
Once again, we were pleasantly surprised by our apartment. We settled the boys on the couch, then each picked out a bedroom. The views of the castle were quite nice.
In the morning, we checked out of our apartment and made our way to Salzburg, Austria, stopping in Innsbruck on the way.