What’s so special about Neuschwanstein Castle?Schloss Neuschwanstein is the quintessential castle which people think of when they imagine a German castle - romantically placed on top of a mountain, with tall gray walls and turrets stretching into the sky. It wouldn’t look out of place as an illustration of the Grimm Fairytales, but the castle is actually far more modern, only being completed in 1886, and the king who commissioned it, Ludwig II of Bavaria, died mysteriously before the interior was completed. Its rooms were opened to the public shortly after his death, and since then its become one of the most visited tourist destinations in Europe, drawing over 1.3 million visitors annually.
What happened to King Ludwig II?The creative mind behind Neuschwanstein Castle, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, was a complex man who struggled with the duties of the monarch. He hated large gatherings, preferring to live in seclusion and design fantastical castles and palaces. Having grown up in the nearby castle of Hohenschwangau, he knew the region extremely well, and he first sketched the ruins which stood on the site of Neuschwanstein Castle in 1859, when he was 14 years old. King Ludwig II was widely considered to be mad, and on June 10, 1886, a government commission arrived at Neuschwanstein Castle with orders to depose the king and take him into custody. He resisted, but he and the local people who rallied to his aid were eventually quieted down by the police. He was taken to Berg Castle at Lake Starnberg. On June 13, 1886, King Ludwig II and a psychiatrist from the Munich asylum, Dr. Bernhard von Gudden, went for a walk in the grounds of the castle and went missing. After a search that took over 2 hours, their bodies were found in the shallows of the lake, and King Ludwig was deemed to have committed suicide by drowning. Many have considered this to be an obvious lie since the autopsy showed there was no water in Ludwig II’s lungs, and von Gudden’s body showed signs of violence. Over the years, many individuals have claimed to know the truth, from the king’s personal fisherman to Countess Josephine von Wrba-Kaunitz, but what really transpired that evening remains a mystery.
What has the castle got to do with Wagner?King Ludwig II was deeply interested in the operas of Richard Wagner and became one of the composer’s most important patrons after Wagner ran into problems with creditors. Wagner, however, also faced criticism from the more conservative Bavarian government and was asked to leave Munich in 1865, a fact which so upset the king that he seriously considered abdicating in order to follow the composer. Wagner himself persuaded Ludwig to stay, and he and the king maintained a special relationship throughout the following years. Ludwig lent Wagner money to complete his opera house in Bayreuth. The mythology featured in Wagner’s operas were an inspiration for Neuschwanstein Castle, and Ludwig II even hired a stage designer, Christian Jank, to help with the initial designs. Many of the rooms inside the palace feature borders or paintings based on the stories of Wagner operas, including the grail legend, Tannhäuser, and Lohengrin. Although the castle was intended as a tribute to Wagner, he died in 1883 and never saw the castle completed.
What will we see on a guided tour?Due to King Ludwig II’s early death, the interior at the castle was never completed. Guided tours visit the staterooms, which are on the upper floors of the castle, and include some intriguing examples of German historicism. The rooms are often designed to appear medieval, but the castle still had the latest 19th Century technology, including telephone lines, running warm water, and a central heating system. Visitors will see the Hall of the Singers, the Throne Hall, the Drawing Room, study, and dining room. Tours are available in English and German and take about 30 minutes. An audio guide is available in Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, Polish, Chinese (Mandarin), Portuguese, Hungarian, Greek, Dutch, Korean, Thai, Arabic, and Hebrew.
Did it really inspire the castle at Disneyland?Yes! It inspired the original Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at the first Disney theme park, Disneyland in Anaheim California, plus the versions at Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. Elements also feature in the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World in Florida and at Tokyo Disney.
Are there food options or do we have to go back down to the village to eat?Café and Bistro is the name of the café on the second floor of the castle, which offers drinks and small bites to eat to visitors. Alternatively, slightly down the road from the castle’s entrance is the castle’s affiliated restaurant, the Schlossrestaurant Neuschwanstein, which offers Bavarian specialties. It was originally the canteen for the workers building the castle, and today it often hosts tour groups and other visitors to the castle. On days with good weather, you can enjoy the views from the restaurant’s terrace.