Neuschwanstein was started by Ludwig II (or Mad King Ludwig) in 1868, only four years after he became King. It is falsely considered to be the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle. Instead, Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on Neuschwanstein. Though the castle isn’t old, it is one of the most visited and photographed castles in Germany. If you’ve even seen a guide book of Germany, you know what it looks like. Unfortunately, the castle was never finished as Ludwig died before its completion.
Ludwig II has some interesting and controversial history about him. He took the throne at 18 and was immediately popular due to his good looks. However, he was eccentric, and a loner. He preferred to take meals on his own and would set up court in the middle of woods. He also loved to build castles to his idol, Richard Wagner, the German opera composer. Neuschwanstein was intended to be a temple to Richard Wagner. Motifs in the castle are said to be taken from the operas, “Tristan and Isole”, “Lohengrin”, “Tannhäuser”, and “Die Meistersinger”.
Ludwig was a highly Catholic man. Historians can conclude that he fanaticized about resurrecting Mont Salvat, the mythical castle of the Holy Grail, with Neuschwanstein.
In June 1886 Ludwig was declared insane by a doctor that had never seen him. Three days later he and his doctor were found dead in Lake Stranberg, near Munich. Today there is a cross in the lake marking the place where his body was found. He produced no heirs and the family’s assets (and debts) went to Ludwig’s uncle and remain with that family to this day.
Like most castles in Germany, you have to take a tour to get in. It is possible to pre-book tickets. The castle is a bit pricey (9 Euros), but when in Germany… I recommend going to the other castle next door, Hohenschwangau, as well. It is the castle of Ludwig’s parents. Both castles are beautiful and in a beautiful area. You can take a 2 Euro horse drawn carriage to the castle or walk up in the woods. My friend recommends walking up the river. She said is a bit dangerous, but more fun than going to same route as everyone else.
Also check out the Marien Brücke. This is the bridge where you can take the best pictures of the castle.
Neuschwanstein is located close to the town Füssen in Bavaria, close to the Austrian border. It takes about two hours to get to Füssen by train from Munich. Then there are buses from Füssen to the bottom of the castle. By car it is about an hour and a half (the drive is nice!).