I didn’t spread my holidays out very well this year. Mainly as they were planned with different people at different times. So I did end up doing my two week holiday to Croatia + Slovenia, then a month later, my staycation in Christchurch and a week later, a long weekend in Munich and Bavaria in Germany! I now have no holidays for month… But anyway, I wanted a trip away with the fam, so Paul, my sister and her fiance and my Uncle all decided that Munich was the place to go!
I hadn’t been to Germany in years, not since I went to Berlin when I moved to the UK. I really enjoyed it there but I was looking forward to coming back, not only in the sunshine but also outside of the cities and into the countryside. One of the main reasons we decided on Munich was so we could go and visit the castles in nearby Bavaria – Neuschwanstein castle and Hohenschwangau castle. Quite the mouthfuls and still two words I cannot say!
The castles themselves are all on the border with Austria. The other castle (Linderhof) is also down that way but we didn’t have the time to visit. We flew into Munich on a very affordable flight with Easyjet. You can then get a heap of tours which will take you down to the castles. However, the tour we wanted to do was all booked up and as there were 5 of us, it was way more affordable to book and hire a car. We ended up with a very odd Opel car which although looked large, most definitely wasn’t. It was very easy to pick it up from the airport and park near our hotel!
The drive is an easy one out of Munich, about 90 minutes down through the autobahn and then on smaller country roads. It’s a gorgeous drive as the scenery around there is very typically German with lots of rolling fields and farms. It also goes straight to the mountains and with the Alps hovering over, it is very spectacular.
You can easily park when you arrive – only costs around 6 euros for the whole day. But you NEED to book tickets to the castle online beforehand (you then pick them up 1hr in advance). The queue was huge to buy tickets on the day and when we got there at 11 they were already on the 5pm tour! To go in the castles you have to get a guided tour and I think it was around 23 euros for both castles.
The first castle in the area was the one which was built first, small and orange and sat upon the hill. It was HOT the day we went and it did require a quick walk up the hill to get there. Once there, the gardens are rather lovely and I quite enjoyed sitting out in the sunshine and looking over to the alpine lake. The tour itself of the house is timed and they alternate the various languages or offer an audio guide too.
The tour itself was good, the inside of the castle is quite plain and very old – the mad King Ludvig who built them definitely had odd tastes, and was a huge fan of Wagner so there is a lot of old artefacts in there. I definitely recommend doing this castle first, it gives you the right background before going to Neuschwanstein.
Now here is where it gets spectacular. If you look at the castle then it may remind you of something? It is actually the castle which inspired the rather famous Disney castle and you can definitely see that. The castle was made by King Ludvig as a replacement for Hohenschwangau. The castle itself is insane, it is perched high up on the mountains and right near a ravine, I do not understand how they could have built it all those years ago. It almost looks a little like something you would find in a Disney park with the materials they have made it with.
To get up to the castle it is about a 40 minute walk up a pretty steep hill but there is the option of a bus or a horse and carriage if you get tired too. It is similarly timed like the other castle and you need to wait for your slot. Not only is the outside of this castle a little crazy but the inside is totally mad. They have only finished about 20 rooms before the King died, but the rooms he did finish are all a bit weird, especially for the time. There is literally an indoor cave full with stalagmites and stalagtites to link some rooms together. It is full of woodwork and woodland paintings and apparently the King spent most of his time there completely alone (and it is HUGE).
I really recommend getting a tour as I don’t think you can fully understand the castle until you get inside. It is one of those places which will really stick with you after you visit it. Plus, you can only get the epic view of the mountains and the lake from the balcony near the cafe so make sure you get out there and see it!
Nearby the castles is the alpine lake which is bright and blue – it reminded me a lot of the lake I saw in Croatia and Slovenia with the crystal clear water. You can walk all the way around the lake and I saw a few people having a swim too (though I bet it would be freezing!). There are a few little boats you can take out onto it as well.
In the nearby village where you can park and buy tickets, there are also a few places to buy snacks and stop for lunch. We stopped at a German pub where of course we had currywurst and wiener schnitzel – cannot beat all the sausages in Germany!
We were out at the castles for the whole day, only getting back to Munich to drop off the car around 9pm. For the rest of our time in Munich, most of it was spent eating and drinking and wandering through the city streets.
I highly recommend a visit to the castles in Bavaria, they are very impressive and can easily be done in a long weekend away from London.
Have you been to Bavaria?