The Neuschwanstein Castle in Schengau, Germany, stands out from the many castles throughout Europe for several reasons: it served as a retreat for a very reclusive king, Ludwig II; it was built in part as an homage to the composer Richard Wagner; and it is one of the most popular attractions in the picturesque region of Bavaria in southern Germany.
Then again, if you were growing up in the 50s or had a child growing up in the 50s (or if you were just a child at heart during the 50s), you might recognize it for another reason: this is the castle that inspired the one from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
The castle was designed and built in the 19th century and exemplifies the “romantic” style that was popular in the architecture of this period. King Ludwig was a friend and admirer of Richard Wagner, whose musical compositions and operas were an inspiration for the more dramatic elements of the structure (as if the beautiful German backdrop didn’t add enough drama on its own). King Ludwig also incorporated the mythology and medieval legends of the Wagner operas into the murals and artwork that decorate the interior of the castle. The building lies outside city limits and is surrounded only by hills and trees, making it the perfect escape for the reclusive king who designed it.
The castle is anything but a private retreat now, as it accommodates over one million visitors each year. It is one of the most popular destinations in Bavaria and is easily reachable by bus from the city of Fussen.
The closest you can get to the castle by train is to the Fussen station, and from there you can catch a bus into Schengau. Bus tickets can be purchased locally, and there are departures every few minutes. For those craving some exercise, it is also possible to walk to the castle (about 3 miles), or if you’re not a fan of buses you can take a taxi (less than a ten minute ride). When traveling with a German Rail Pass that includes Germany, the pass will cover the train trip to Fussen, and no reservation is required. If you are traveling with point to point tickets, you are able to purchase them in advance from the Rail Europe website.
If you plan to visit other attractions or cities in Bavaria during your stay in Germany, then Munich is the ideal central location to set up camp. Trains pass through the Munich station to and from all directions, and if it’s your last stop in Germany it’s easy to get to both Austria and the Czech Republic from this busy hub. There are frequent trains between Munich and Fussen and the journey time is only about two hours, making for a very feasible day trip. There are also bus tours that will go directly from Munich to the castle, although those aren’t covered by any rail passes. Check with tourist offices locally for information about bus day tours.
Didn’t get enough of Wagner during your visit to the castle? You should probably take a day trip from Munich over to Vienna, a city where so much of the classical music and opera performances we know today were born. Vienna is only about a four-hour train ride from Munich via the high-speed OBB Railjet train system. If you’re traveling with a pass that includes both Germany and Austria, you’ll just need to purchase the seat reservation supplement, since this is a high-speed train. If you don’t want to use a day on your pass, you can purchase a point to point ticket in advance from our website.
Maybe opera music isn’t your thing, and you’d prefer to get a taste of the culture and architecture of Eastern Europe. The trip from Munich to Prague is a five-hour one, and most people are surprised to hear that the most efficient way to travel between these cities is by bus, not by train. The bus resembles those used for tours rather than those used for inner-city transport, so comfort won’t be an issue. A pass including both Germany and the Czech Republic will cover the ticket price for this bus ride, and so you’ll just need to purchase the reservation supplement. You can also purchase point to point tickets for this bus ride in advance from our website. If you have your heart set on a train, there is one that runs somewhat infrequently, and the journey time is a bit longer than the bus at just under six hours.
Travel Tip: Not enamored of either Vienna or Prague? Your German Rail Pass also covers trains to Basel, Switzerland and Salzburg, Austria, two border cities that are each a short ride away from Munich.
Hopefully we’ve given you several options for your itinerary whether you’re interested in Bavaria, day trips from Munich, cities that focus on musical history, or all of the above. If you have any further questions, feel free to send us an e-mail from the Rail Europe website, ask us a question on Facebook or Twitter, or check out our frequently updated FAQ page. Happy traveling!