While Neuschwanstein Castle is a fantasy castle, based on Wagner’s operas, Schloss Hohenschwangau is more down to earth, more homey, and more sensible. It was the childhood home of King Ludwig II when he was a prince and his father, Maximilian II was king of Bavaria. The interior is very much romanticized and most likely had a heavy influence in Ludwig’s imagination. He later lived in this castle as Neuschwanstein Castle was being built.
The interior can only be seen on the guided tour and takes visitors to many rooms in the castle. The rooms tends to be smaller so the size of the tour groups is smaller, although they still manage to pack a lot of people in the tour. I felt that the tour guides of Hohenschwangau were better than Neuschwanstein tour guides. The one we had seemed to have a real knowledge of what he was talking about and didn’t merely recite a memorized script. While I like Neuschwanstein Castle better than Hohenschwangau, I prefer the tour guides of Hohenschwangau much more.
As a reminder, no photography is allowed inside the castle.
Within the walls of Schloss Hohenschwangau, guests visit many rooms, including the following:
Hall of the Swan Knight: This former dining room has some magnificent wall paintings that depict the story of the swan knight, Lohengrin. While Wagner did create on opera based on this saga, these paintings were done before Wagner’s opera; however, one can begin to get an idea of how this castle was an influence on young Ludwig. The centerpiece on the table is gilded silver that was a gift to Prince Regent Luitpold on his 70th birthday. The leather chairs in the room are also gilded in places.
Queen Mary’s Dressing Room: There are some early portraits in this room of the future King Ludwig II and his brother Otto, and their parents, King Maximilian II and Mary. The wall paintings depicts parts of the Wittelsbach family history.
Queen’s Writing Room: This room has wall paintings that show scenes from Charlemagne’s life. There is a very large brass cup on the table which was a present to Prince Regent Luitpold on his 50th anniversary of membership in the Goergi-Knights.
Queen’s Living Room: I like the chandelier in this room – it is silver and decorated with swans. It is very beautiful. The wall paintings depict the life of a medieval lady in a castle, specifically representing the life of Agnes of Wasserburg who was consort to the first duke of the Wittelsbach family, Otto I.
There are similar rooms for the king (most of the above seem to focus on the queen), both Maximilian and his son, Ludwig II. There are music rooms and dressing rooms, chapels, halls, and a billiards room.
Upon exiting the castle, the tour group goes through the secret exit used by the servants.
After you have climbed the hill to Hohenschwangau, you will arrive in the courtyard. It is here that the tours begin and you will find the electronic display telling you when your tour will queue up. In the meantime, walk around the grounds and see some of the interesting things that Hohenschwangau has to look at.
There are several fountains on the grounds. The first one you will find is a swan that spits water from its mouth. It is in a unique display of a circular set of low hedges and makes a eye pleasing visit. Farther down the pathway that leads around the front of the castle is a lion fountain. Here there are a few benches that you can sit on and relax while waiting for your tour.
The castle exterior also has some sculptures and decorative elements are interesting to look at. Knight sculptures and the family coat of arms adorn one side of the castle. In the courtyard near the ticket lines is a well with a painting of the Virgin Mary on it.
Be sure to take some time to look at the view from both sides of the castle grounds. One side overlooks the village of Schwangau while the othe side will give you some nice views of Neuschwanstein Castle. On a clear day, the grounds of Hohenschwangau are a nice place for photography.
You do not need a ticket to wander the grounds of Hohenschwangau; but you do need a ticket to enter the castle (and you need to purchase that ticket BEFORE you get to the castle). If you are not interested in seeing the interior of Hohenschwangau, you can still venture up to the building and walk around the outside.
At the end of the road from the ticket office, Schloss Hohenschwangau and the parking lot is the Alpsee, a lake that is in a marvelous setting in the mountains. This is the lake that you see from the top of the hill at Neuschwanstein Castle. On a clear sunny day, the mountains reflect in the calm water of the lake. Ducks and swans gracefully glide over the lake. It can be a relaxing diversion from the crowds (unless, of course, the crowds find their way to the Alpsee too). Many people do stop by for a photo of the lake, so I recommend that you walk around to a lesser visited spot. You can walk along the pathway to the left which will lead you to a small beach away from the crowds. From here you can get away from it all and still have a wonderful view to enjoy. Alternately, you can head up the road towards Schloss Hohenschwangau and stop at the lake overlooks.
On my last visit to Hohenschwangau, I chose to enjoy the view with my young grandson. We walked to the small beach on the left side of the lake and were completely alone from the crowds. From there he could enjoy playing in the rocks and I had no fear of him drowning as the water was extremely shallow at this point (of course, I really didn’t want him to get wet at all!). There are rocks nearby that you can sit on and just relax.
I recommend you allow some time to just enjoy the scenery – and the Alpsee is a great place to do this. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of tickets and tours, buses and carriages, parking and shopping, that we fail to simply relax and enjoy our surroundings. Perhaps plan to have a picnic lunch near the lake (be sure to take all your trash with you when you leave). Or just sit and take a break from it all. You’ll be glad you did!
There are two primary ways visitors get to the top of the hill for their Hohenschwangau tour – walk or ride in a horse-drawn carriage. While walking is the cheapest (free!), some are not able or willing to make the 20 minute walk up hill. Riding in a horse-drawn carriage is certainly the most romantic and fun, but there are typically long lines to wait for a spot on the carriage.
For me, I have always walked to the top. Thankful that I still am able to make the climb, I also appreciate the opportunity to walk off some of the Schnitzel and Spätzle that I’ve been eating while traveling! If you are going to walk, wear sturdy shoes. Be mindful that the road can be slippery when it is wet. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the castle for your timed tour. This means you must know your fitness level and realistically know if you are going to need frequent rest stops. Allow at least 20 minutes to get there. While walking up the road, watch out for cars, which occasionally come by on the road; and watch out for the horses and their droppings.
Hohenschwangau also has a steps option that may seem closer and easier for some people rather than walking up the road. The steps are located next to the parking lot (P4) just past the ticket office. Note: you can take these steps up to the castle, but it is one way – you can’t take the steps down from the castle and will need to walk down the road (the turnstile at the top is blocked from exiting the castle by way of the steps).
The horse-drawn carriages are slow going up the hill (well – you have to feel sorry for the horses making that trek all day long pulling 10 tourists each time!). But know this – the horse-drawn carriage option does not drop you off in front of the castle as if you are arriving for a ball. The carriages drop off their passengers below the castle; so you will have a 5 minute climb to the top. If you really just want to ride in a carriage but want to save some money, then take the return option - to take the carriage uphill is €6/per person but to go downhill is half-price (€3/per person)!
No matter how you get there, allow plenty of time and just enjoy the journey.
On a good day, the area around Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein is a photographer’s delight! The beauty of the landscape and the interesting details of the castles make it fun for anyone to take photos.
First things first – NO photos are allowed inside either of the castles. Don’t even try it. Just put the camera away and enjoy the tour. Take all the photos you want of the exterior of both castles and the surrounding area and be happy with that. If you want to have photos of the interior, buy a book (the shops sell a small guide book for around €3 that has some nice photos of the rooms of both castles along with written details of the castles).
So where are the best photo locations? Of course it all depends on the lighting, but these are the places I’ve had good success with taking photos from:
1. To get that classic photo of Neuschwanstein, you must hike up to the Marienbrücke, the bridge above the castle. It is a good climb from the parking area, although the buses from ticket office area will drop you off closer to the bridge than the castle. On most days the bridge is very, very crowded! Do not expect to set up a tripod. Do expect to exercise extreme patience as people keep walking in front of you or bumping you. Be sure to look down at the waterfalls too!
2. From the courtyard of Neuschwanstein Castle you can take some nice photos of the bridge which is in a beautiful setting between two large parts of the surrounding hills. Again, this is a very crowded area since it is where everyone is waiting for their tour to begin. Exercise patience as you wait for an opening along the wall that faces the bridge.
3. On the walk between Neuschwanstein Castle and the Marienbrücke is an overlook with a wonderful view looking down upon Schloss Hohenschwangau and the Alpsee (the lake near Schloss Hohenschwangau). Beautiful! While this area can be crowded, you can probably set up a tripod and spend more time in this spot.
4. For photos of Hohenschwangau, there are several places near the parking lot above the ticket office (P4) that will give you some good photos. It is hard to not get a good photo from this location.
5. From Hohenschwangau’s courtyard, look over at Neuschwanstein Castle for a photo of it set up in the hills. It is rather far away but you can get a nice photo with a zoom lens. My photo above is not a good example of a great photo – rainy days and fog do not make good photos, unless that is the affect you are going for – but I am posting this photo so you can see the potential for great photos!
6. Finally, from the roads near the village of Schwangau you can get some lovely photos of Neuschwanstein set in the beautiful mountainous setting. This area would not be crowded and you could pull off on the roads, take your time with a tripod, etc. However, during 2012, this is not a preferred location because the side of the castle that you would be photographing is completely covered in scaffolding. (Unfortunately my photo above from this area was taken on a rainy day in 2012 with the scaffolding. Hopefully I’ll return to retake this photo on a clear day in the future when the renovations are completed.)
7. The Alpsee – the lake near the ticket office. On sunny days, this is a beautiful place to take photos of the reflections in the lake of the mountains that surround it. Of course, you can also get nice photos of the lake from Neuschwanstein Castle’s overlooks.
8. Of course, there are ample opportunities for photos of the exterior details of both castles from their courtyards – you do not need a ticket to view either of the courtyards or the areas surrounding the castles.
On my next trip to Neuschwanstein, I hope to hike up to Tegelberg (the old hunting lodge up in the hills above Neuschwanstein) to get some photos looking down upon Neuschwanstein Castle and Schloss Hohenschwangau. If you are interested in this vantage point, the trail can begin (or end) at the Marienbrücke – you will see the signs. Allow at least three hours; although an alternative way up is to take the cable car from the village of Schwangau and then walk down to the bridge. I have not done this yet so I cannot vouch for how it works. We did walk a bit on the trail from the bridge, but then had to get back for our tour.
Remember as you pack your photography gear that it is a good hearty walk up to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau! Also remember that you cannot take photos inside the castles and large backpacks are not allowed inside either.
First things first – be sure to get your tickets BEFORE you head up the hill to the castle because they don’t sell tickets at the top of the hill.
There is a building dedicated to ticket sales and, in the busy times, the lines can be long. However, I have found that the lines do move quickly. There seems to be an efficient system in place and the ticket clerks are extremely capable at quick service.
As you stand in the lines, you will see monitors that list the upcoming tours for both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. Be sure you are looking at the right monitor for the right tour! These list the upcoming tours and what language they are given in (German, English, or audio guide). You’ll need to know which tour you want before you purchase your ticket.
Remember that the climb to the castle can be 15-30 minutes, depending on your fitness level. Those in good shape can make it quicker than those that may need to stop and rest a bit. Also, there is a horse-drawn carriage option to get to the top, but as you can imagine, on busy days there are lines for these as well. Moral of the story: consider the fitness level of the group you are with and how you plan to get to the top – then select a tour that gives you plenty of time to get to the top.
Your tickets will have a number and a time – be sure to be ready to get in line 5-10 minutes before your tour begins. You will see the queues and the number of your ticket will be displayed when it is time to get in line.
If you are coming on the busier days (summer and holidays), then you may want to play it safe and reserve your tickets online .
Current (2012) ticket costs are €12/adult, children under 18 free. There is a combination ticket that includes both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau.
The ticket office is open April 1 – October 7 from 0800-1730 every day. From October 8 to March 31, it is open every day from 0900-1530.
It is the first thing you come upon after parking the vehicle. Lines will form for sure to get a place for either of the castles, and after getting a slot in line, they issue a time to show up for the 24 minute tours. Prices for one castle is 12 Euro, and with museum about 19,50, or both castles for 22, 50 Euro, of all for 28,50. You decide if it is worth the show. Times are generally 8-5 daily, but lesser in winter
There are rides to the castle, even though the walk is not too much stress for an average in shape person. They charge 4 Euro to get up there and 2 Euro to go down; or nothing for the 50 stairs to climb for free
The courtyard has a lot of good angles for pictures and crisp and clear. This is also the waiting area to enter the castle for the 25 minute tour, when your time comes on the marquee in digital display.
The rooms are notable, but not as ostentatious as in the other castle. It was a living residence for the family and guests. First built by knights in the 12th century, it was rebuilt and expanded by Ludwig's father, Maximilian in 1832-36. Ludwig lived here with his mother-no doubt influencing his favor for the same sex, and he met Richard WAgner here to boot; so to speak.
The largest room is the festival hall, called Hall of Heroes and Knights, and takes up the length of the castle. The ceiling has Neo Gothic ornaments and pink background. The Swan Knight Room served as a dining room. The second floor has the grand hall and roomd for Maximilian and the princes.
Tours are only 35 minutes for 12 Euro cost, or a combo ticket with the museum for 19,50, or combo with Neuschwanstein included for 28,50
The castle is situated on the Alpsee and was the residence for the Ludwig children. Maximilian of Bavaria had a ruin rebuilt with this castle to live in in Neo Gothic style. The crenulated top is unique and looks like a fortress, but only decorative for the most part. It sits on the hill overlooking the old town of Schwangau-not many people lived here, though. Today it is hotels and restaurants.
I think that Hohenschwangau castle is much better than the Neuschwanstein castle. It is the real castle where the king was living and it is so easy to get a ticket for the tour in the castle. It is also easy to walk from the parking to the castle, just 15 minutes.
After the tour of Hohenschwangau take a photo from Neuschwanstein from outside, it looks nice, but getting a tour-ticket for it is very hard, except when you reserve early in the morning.
When crowds of tourists leave Hohenschwangau, and there are only few inhabitants of several small hotels and not numerous inhabitants in the village, it is possible to take pleasure in true spirit and silence of local places as it was in days of Ludwig. The illuminated castles bewitch.
I heard that Ludwig highlighted the castles too though in his time the electricity was not so is widespread yet. He used torches and candles...
The best view at the castle opens from a viewing platform which is hardly above Neuschwanstein Castle.
It is considered, what exactly this place was chosen by Ludwig for construction of the new castle which at his life referred Neus Hohenschwangau schloss.
Certainly, the view at the Old castle is even better from the tower of the New castle. However tourists while do not start up there.
One more sight of the park which surrounds the castle is the small swimming bath.
It's considered, that in this swimming bath Wittelsbach family spent time, simultaneously admiring beauty of adjoining mountains.