Ultimate Guide – Schwangau
When we booked our vacation in Munich, I hadn’t thought it out completely. My family was going to drive up, my parents were flying in, and we would tour together. A little research here and there and I learned about Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau Castle; Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle. These castles are located in Schwangau, Germany. This now became the focus of my vacation after Oktoberfest. There were many options to choose from; Dachau, Royal Residence, BMW museum, but we decided the castles were best for our family.
The tricky part came next; how was I going to get us all from Munich to Fussen for a day trip, was it going to be affordable and would it be worth it? Getting to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich was a challenge we were ready to conquer.
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Arrival | Planning ahead
How to get to Neuschwanstein castle from Munich
The trek to Sleeping beauty’s castle was a day-long excursion from Munich centre that started at 7 am. We purchased the 3-day group pass for the 3-zone local transit, and the Bavaria Group pass for all regional trains for the specific day we wanted. The Bavaria ticket does not take into effect until 9 am but that gave us plenty of time to get to the main terminal.
The train leaves every hour on the 53; 753, 853, 953… they rotate between direct (753/953) and transfer at Bouchlo (853/1053). The transfer has an 8-minute layover but they are the only routes that I could surmise on this track so our train was waiting for us when we pulled in.
Budget tip; Don’t bother with 1st class tickets; the RE train does not hold seat reservations so if everyone has 1st class tickets, it’s a fight to see who gets there first. Also, the 1st class car does not have stroller storage; we ended up sitting in the handi-section with pull down chairs. This was not the worst section to sit; next, to the door, stroller stayed open for sleeping kids and right beside the toilet.
The train is 2 hours from Munich to Fussen station. From there, follow the crowd around the building and catch one of the many buses headed for the castle; #78. Roughly a 20-minute bus ride and we were in town, walking distance to the ticket centre. Between the 4 adults and the double stroller, I sent the hubby to line up for the bus and the rest of us waited patiently at the handi/stroller door. It was a large bus but I didn’t want anyone left behind or worse, all left because we didn’t have room on the bus to accommodate the stroller. We jumped on, people moved out of the handicap space and hubby showed our ticket to the driver. We were the only stroller on the bus and appeared to be the only stroller at either castle later on. A few moms wore their little babies but I do not recall seeing other toddlers/preschool aged kids.
Also a good idea; purchase castle tickets online minimum two days in advance. The line for walk-ups was crazy long and rumour has it they sell out before 11. In the reserved line, I went straight to the front. It is courtesy to only send one member of the group to line up while the rest wait out-of-the-way; this helps reduce the lineup. Just saying.
Neuschwanstein Castle Tickets
It is required that you pick up the tickets one hour before your scheduled castle tour, to give time to actually get up to the castle. I thought this was a bit much but it did take us that long to get to Neuschwanstein. Since we were scheduled to arrive shortly after 11, and one hour makes it 12:30, I asked for the 1 pm tour, just in case we missed our transfer – I have yet to find a Blog review of this journey so I was not sure what to expect. I purchased the King Package, both castles, no museum. They email me back 1 day later and said I had a reservation at 1:15 for Hohenschwangau and 3:25 at Neuschwanstein.
Important to mention; the form used to reserve a tour is a little odd, to say the least. It asks for your “wish” time, thanks to Google Translate. This is the time you want to reserve for the first, smaller castle. They try to give you your time but they can only do so much. The email I received said I can change the time I was given within a specific period of time. Also important; everything is reserved with a credit card, but not charged. You pay when you pick up the tickets at the ticket centre. However, if you fail to appear one hour before the first tour, this cut off time is also mentioned in the email, your ticket will be cancelled and your card will be charged. I would rather wait an hour in a souvenir shop than charged 24 Euro per person and not even see anything.
Preparing for the journey
Before leaving the hotel, I made sure we all had snacks, drinks and entertainment to, in theory, last the whole day. Clearly, this was never an achievable goal since I would have needed access to the gear I left at home, like an insulated lunchbox, but I tried. There are fruit and vegetable stands across the street from the hotel, so I bought us a few things the night before. I had brought loads of Cheerios, Goldfish and Capri-sun for the week, and took a few croissants from the breakfast buffet. Shh, don’t tell them.
Snack containers are very useful on this hilly adventure. Stick some finger-sized snacks in and get going, the kid can only take a few pieces out at a time and this helps alleviate the mess in the stroller. I have 3 and my friends are always asking me to buy them for their kids.
We took the stroll up the hill, following the signs around the Museum of Bavarian kings and up passed the Alpseebad. It was a quick detour but definitely worth it. We found a few detours in the woods and we still managed to get to the top with lots of time to spare.
Sadly, no photos are allowed to be taken from within the castle. Your ticket will have a tour group number assigned to it; the main entrance to the tour has an electronic board with the tour group numbers and times listed; show up, present your ticket and walk up the stairs. Strollers can be left at the guards gate beside the board; folded nicely, no valuables left behind and he does not take responsibility for lost or stolen property.
Because the baby couldn’t be left to walk around the castle with a large group, I wore her in the infant carrier. She refused to be worn on my back and large carriers for toddlers are not allowed. She is heavy and it was a rough tour, I have to say. While it wasn’t easy wearing the baby during the tour, the carrier was a must because it kept her immobilized and out of trouble. I was also able to better enjoy the tour since I wasn’t chasing down a runaway baby the whole time.
The tours last 30 minutes and the tour guides are amazing. They are offered in both German and English, as well as ‘misc languages’ group which are provided with an audio-guide and a tour guide to walk them around the castle. Our guide made several jokes along the tour, mostly regarding weddings/divorce and Oktoberfest related inebriation. Try explaining why we are laughing to a curious 4-year-old. This was definitely a great start to the day.
By the time we finished our first castle, it was already 2 pm. We had 1.5 hours to get down the hill, find food and climb up the epic hill before our next tour. We snacked all morning on the train and expected to find a cafe at Hohenschwangau, which we did not. A bakery was selling sandwiches, pretzels and coffee so we took some food to go and kept walking. The map says 50 minutes from the bottom of the hill to the top, a friend had said 30 minutes, I am more inclined to believe the map; my friend was not pushing a double stroller with two kids – roughly 100 lbs on wheels. While it may not be the best option for the castle, it’s the best double stroller I’ve found for traveling because of the jogging stroller functions and one-hand maneuverability.
There are two rest stops along the way that offer snacks and souvenirs. The second is near the base of the castle and has an electronic display board. We purchased a few last minute snacks and drinks before finishing the climb to the castle courtyard. We dropped our stroller and jackets at the larger coat check area, had a potty break and waited a few minutes for our tour to start.
Also, photos are not allowed inside the castle. There were 2 large stair cases that we had to climb during the tour so that was interesting to have a baby on my chest. Hubby took care of the munchkin. This tour also lasted roughly 30 minutes and the climb down was just as dizzying. There was a break halfway through where we had to cross the souvenir shop to get to the next set of staircases. From here, there was a nice little cafe and a great view of the gorge and suspension bridge. I took one look and decided that was not for me. Hubby and my parents were determined to make it there so this is when we split up.
For the dare-devils in your group, I recommend the suspension bridge. You can see it from inside the castle, and it’s roughly a 15 min walk from the castle exit. I stayed behind with the kids; bought souvenirs and had ice cream. My parents and the hubby went. Apparently, it was amazingly beautiful, but the bridge swayed a little so the kids would not have liked it, and I would have HATED it. Also, strollers are not welcome on the bridge itself.
The view of the castle is to die for, I have to admit. But I don’t regret not joining them, my fear of heights has been tested one too many times on this vacation.
Making our way home
After joining back with the group, we checked our bahn app to see the best train options to get home. We didn’t want to get home too late but also needed to have dinner at some point in the evening. We also didn’t like the idea of taking another transfer route. It was shortly after 4 pm this time and the next direct train was at 5:05 pm. This meant we wouldn’t arrive back into Munich until 7 pm. We made our way quickly to the bottom of the hill, much quicker than climbing, I assure you. We stopped for one or two more souvenirs – we have a problem, I know, I’m not ashamed – then made our way to the bus stop. This had a guard rail between the queue and the main road. We split up again once the bus arrived; we all waited at the handi-door and the hubby stayed in line.
The bus was caught in some traffic leaving the sight and we arrived at the train station with only a few minutes to spare. The platform was packed with people trying to buy tickets at the two lowly ticket machines, and others were frantic because their tour bus had “left them behind” – this only happens when you fail to show up for the tour bus on time; they don’t wait for you, you wait for them.
Once on board, we relaxed and played with the kids on our handi-compartment all by ourselves. Landing at 7 pm wasn’t horrible; though we were too tired to find any real food. The train station had a few options but Burger King seemed like the less-horrible option. Munchkin fell asleep on the train and baby girl had a nap. She woke up when we ordered food, but he didn’t. He actually didn’t wake up until the next morning when we forced him out of bed to get ready for the airport; I guess he had a great time at the castles.
Bavaria pass; 34 euro for 4 adults.
Local transit pass; 3 days for 28 euro, for 4 adults
King’s pass castle tickets; 24 euro per adult
For more information on the gear, we wear during cold-weather vacations, check out a recent post on the Proper Gear to wear in a European Winter.
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