FUSSEN, GERMANY: Our main purpose of going to Fussen was to visit the two castles on the mountains of Bavarian Alps here. It’s a shame that we left this magnificent little town unexplored. A small village of Fussen, Hohenschwangau, is situated at the foothills of Alps in southern Germany very close to Austrian border. This is where the two castles, Hohenschwangau Castle and King Ludwig II’s fairy-tale looking Neuschwanstein Castle are located. It’s a beautiful lake district with breathtaking views at every corner. You can get glimpses of those blue water bodies from here and there as you walk up the mountains to visit these castles.
Other than the castles, there is also a museum, Museum of the Bavarian Kings, where we did not go. Also look around the visitor’s center while enjoying a hot drink (if you are there during winter), go to the city center of Schwangau (couple minutes of drive from here), or if you have time drive to the surrounding lakes or mountains, I am sure they offer tons of activities there too. Also to mention that this is the southernmost spot of the “Romantic Road” which run through Germany.
Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles stand on two separate small hills. There are total of 3 castles in this area, but only these two are accessible to the publics. We walked for about half an hour from Hohenschwangau Castle to go to Neuschwanstein Castle. Honestly, it was a bit hard for me to climb the long stretch of hill to go the 2nd one. If you have time and can wait for a horse-carriage, maybe it’s better and more enjoyable, but you still have to walk another 15 minutes towards the entrance after they drop you off on the top. But we didn’t have much time in between the tours of these castle, so we couldn’t stand in the long line for horse-carriage and had to rush to the other castle.
There is a big parking lot for the visitors of these two castles. There is also a beautiful lake, think it’s called Alpsee, by this lot where you can get a stunning view of portion of Bavarian Alps with its beautiful reflection on the water.
TIME of TRAVEL: During Christmas break of 2013, we took 2 weeks long road trip thru the Bavarian region of Germany and Austria, then to Czech Republic, and finally driving up north to end up in the eastern part of Germany. My uncle-in-law from Chicago was here with us for this wonderful trip. Visiting these two castles in Fussen, Germany was the first spot in our itinerary. It is a winter wonderland near the Alps in December. You can see snow on the ground, snow-capped mountains in the far distance, and skeletons of trees in the forests. It is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. But don’t think you will find less crowded just because you are coming in winter. Everyone was bundled up and ready to enjoy the nature and history of this place.
EATING and SHOPPING: There are plenty of snack bars and restaurants near the tourist center of the castles. We actually picked up some sandwiches while going up the mountain towards Neuschwanstein Castle. But there were plenty sit-down and formal restaurants if you prefer that.
There were some souvenir stores in Hohenschwangau visitor center where you can get local t-shirts and etc. with some typical Bavarian items like beer mugs, wooly hats and gloves, sweet treat, and many more.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We reached Fussen around 10 in the morning and by the time we were done with both the castles and lunch in between, it was about 5pm. It was almost dark outside by then. But if the kids weren’t tired, maybe we could have spent some time in the surrounding areas before driving to our next destination…Innsbruck.
Please keep in mind that tickets for these below castles are not sold at the individual castles, rather in the visitor center. My husband actually booked them online way before our trip there. It is advisable to book tickets online else you run the risk of either standing in a long queue in the visitor’s center or missing out completely due to heavy crowd. You can visit either only one of the castles or both or a combo of both castles and the museum. Visit to these royal castles are only possible with guided tours and there are many different language tours available. Tours to both of this castles last about 30 to 45 minutes each.
1) HOHENSCHWANGAU CASTLE (SCHLOSS HOHENSCHWANGAU): This castle in the Southern Germany was built by King Ludwig II’s father King Maximilian II in the 19th century where Ludwig II spent his childhood with his family. The castle was constructed on an early fortress from the 12th century that was built by the knights. It served as their summer residence during the reign of King Maximilian II.
The castle is worth visiting for its new Gothic style façade, artistic ceilings, wall paintings, decorative pieces and furniture, portraits and wall frescoes from the mid-19th century, and the royal Banquet Hall. You can see the original billiard board in the Dining Hall from the early 19th century. Visitors can still see the antique items here since it didn’t suffer any damage during WWI or WWII.
The castle is located in the village of Hohenschwangau in Fussen. The guided tour was for about 45 minutes and we were not allowed to take any pictures inside. But as I mentioned above, do plan to buy your tickets online or early to save a space for you.
2) NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE (SCHLOSS NEUSCHWANSTEIN): This is the mother of all German castles and is the most photogenic castle of this country. Beautifully situated on the south Bavarian Alps surrounded by green forests, blue lakes, and snowy mountains, this is known to be the most visited castle in Germany. It is one of the most famous buildings in the world and a central symbol of German idealism. By the way, this castle was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Directly opposite of Hohenschwangau Castle, King Ludwig II of Bavaria commenced this new castle in 1869 after his father Maximilian II died in 1864. The castle was built in Late Romanesque design in the style of late 11th or 12th century high above Ludwig II’s father’s Hohenschwangau Castle. Only one-third of it was completed and is still unfinished. Built and furnished in medieval styles, this castle was equipped with the latest technology of that time. Some of the halls and sections were inspired by Byzantine and early Christian churches.
The history goes something like this, Ludwig II became king in 1864. Two years later he was forced to accept the defeat and domination of his country by Prussia. No longer a sovereign ruler, he was unable to cope with the role of a constitutional monarch. He created his own alternative world, in which as the reigning king of Bavaria he could live like a king of the Middle Ages or the Baroque age of absolutism. This is the idea behind his castles. On a ridge in a magnificent setting high above the Pollat Gorge with the mountains as a backdrop he built his new castle over the remains of two small medieval castles. It’s a pity that the king lived less than 200 days in this castle (I think, 176 days to be exact) before he was declared mentally ill and was sent to Munich for treatment where he eventually died (drowned) or was murdered; his death is still a mystery.
Neuschwanstein Castle is definitely more gorgeous than Hohenschwangau Castle. We saw couple chandeliers with precious stones, Moorish style ceilings, luxurious upholstery, detailed wood-curved doors and wall, and Gothic style King’s bedroom along with castle’s kitchen and other areas.
The walk from Hohenschwangau Castle to here is about 30-45 minutes (as I mentioned horse-carriage is also available). Make sure to buy your tickets ahead of time, doesn’t matter what time of the year you are visiting it. It’s only accessible by guided-tour and it lasts about 15-20 minutes, then you can roam around on your own for another 10/15 minutes.