And more fun facts about the fairy tale-looking castle

Quick notes

  • King Ludwig II built Neuschwanstein Castle in the late 1800s in Bavaria, Germany 

  • Besides inspiring Disney, the history behind the castle and King Ludwig II is fascinating

  • It’s one of the most visited castles in Europe and is a quick drive or train ride from Munich

Perched upon a Bavarian hilltop sits the picturesque Neuschwanstein Castle, with elegant white turrets and towers – something straight out of a fairy tale, like a Disney castle in Germany. It’s said that Neuschwanstein Castle did inspire Disney’s Cinderella castle. While that remains to be confirmed, Walt Disney’s visit to the castle with his wife did inspire Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle, according to the Orange County Register

While the Neuschwanstein castle was built to be something out of a fantasy, the real story behind is much more complicated. The history of the castle and the man who commissioned it are part of the intrigue for those who visit it. Here are some fun facts about the castle and how to visit it. 

The king who commissioned the extravagant castle died without seeing it completed

King Ludwig II, king of Bavaria, starting in 1864, had grandiose plans for the castle. It was built in the style of German medieval castles, but with the most modern technology of the day. He hoped it would be completed in three years, but with such an ambitious undertaking, it took much longer than expected, according to the Bavarian Palace Administration

Building started in 1869, but it still wasn’t complete when he moved into the castle in 1884. The final towers were finished in 1892, six years after his death. 

Pixabay / ArtTower

Ludwig was thought to have been insane (but recent reports question that)

You don’t get the nickname Mad King Ludwig for no reason. He reportedly displayed peculiar behavior—he sunk his kingdom into debt building Neuschwanstein and his other Bavarian castles. He threatened to kill himself if he wasn’t allowed to finish them and threatened to deport a servant to America, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel

In fact, he was deposed from the throne in 1886 after a psychiatrist pronounced him insane. But this is where the plot thickens: Only days later, Ludwig and the psychiatrist disappeared, and their bodies were eventually found in a lake. 

To be fair to Ludwig, a recent review of evidence says that he may not have been insane after all. However, he was eccentric and consumed by the idea of a fantasy world. In the last decade of his life, he developed a nocturnal lifestyle, sleeping during the day and staying awake at night, according to the Bavarian Palace Administration. Over time, as his debt grew, he became more and more reclusive, furthering the “mad king” reputation.

The castle has a cave—and it’s one of only 14 finished rooms

Technically, it’s a grotto, but that really means it’s just a small cave. It wasn’t part of Ludwig’s original plans for the castle, but it replaced the Writing Room in 1880, so he could have a private retreat. It’s complete with stalactites, a waterfall, and colored lights. It was one of the changes he made to the castle rooms as he grew more reclusive.

Ludiwg was deposed from the throne in 1886 after a psychiatrist pronounced him insane. But this is where the plot thickens: Only days later, Ludwig and the psychiatrist disappeared, and their bodies were eventually found in a lake. 

In reality, the castle’s interior was never finished. Only 14 rooms were completed before Ludwig’s death. Some of these rooms depict scenes from Richard Wagner’s operas because Ludwig was a big fan. Shortly after Ludwig died, the castle was open to the public. 

Now, the castle has about 1.4 million visitors each year 

This makes it one of the most visited in Europe, according to the Bavarian Palace Administration.  If you are planning to visit the castle, you can get from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle by car in about two hours. From Hohenschwangau, the town at the base of the castle, visitors can take a shuttle bus up to the castle. 

Visitors can also take the Deutsche Bahn train from Munich (about a 2.5-hour ride). It will take you as far as the town of Füssen, and then you get on a bus to Hohenschwangau.

Guided tours of Neuschwanstein last about 30 minutes. It is open year-round. Tickets can be reserved online in advance or bought in the village of Hohenschwangau. And if you haven’t had your castle fill after Neuschwanstein, visit some of the other Ludwig’s Bavarian castles:  Linderhof Palace, the King’s House on the Schachen and Herrenchiemsee Palace. 

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

Neuschwanstein was built with medieval castles in mind. Learn more about these buildings

Sure, Neuschwanstein was elaborate, but here are some even more luxurious homes 

Munich makes the list. From there, make a quick trip to Neuschwanstein