Nestled on the periphery of the mountains south of Munich is the epitome of Europe’s fairytale castles and arguably the finest castle in Germany – Neuschwanstein.
Also known as New Swanstone Castle, Neuschwanstein (pronounced Noy-shvahn-shtine) is of such grandeur that Walt Disney took it as the model for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
From its alpine location with a view of a lake to its timeless design and opulent interior, Neuschwanstein’s charm is immediately apparent, making it not only one of the top castles to visit in Germany but perhaps the ultimate fairytale castle globally.
Despite its medieval appearance, Neuschwanstein, Germany’s premier castle, is the creation of Bavarian King Ludwig II in the mid-1800s. The site, once the stronghold of the Knights of Schwangau from the 1100s until 1535, fell into ruins by the time Ludwig’s father, King Maximilian II, constructed the family home on the hill below. Ludwig, raised in the shadow of the ruins, drew inspiration from his obsession with the works of opera composer Richard Wagner to build his masterpiece.
The castle boasts features ranging from a man-made grotto cave to numerous grand rooms conceived with a theatrical imagination. Interestingly, when Wagner faced financial troubles, Ludwig allowed him to reside in Neuschwanstein, where he produced some of his finest works. A favored activity at Neuschwanstein is exploring Mary’s Bridge (closed in winter), which spans a sizable waterfall behind the castle. For a distinctive elevated perspective of Neuschwanstein, you can extend your hike beyond the bridge.