Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go to Beat the Crowds

Neuschwanstein Castle is mobbed by tourists, especially during the summer months. Follow my suggestions about how and when to go to make your visit stress free.

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: Most Important Things to Know

 

  1. The most important thing to know about how and when to visit Neuschwanstein is to arrive when the site opens at 8:00AM (summer) or 9:00AM (winter). By 10:00, hordes of tourists and dozens of tour buses begin to Neuschwansteinarrive on site. You do not want to be there then.  It’s work getting out of bed early, trust me!

 

  1. The second most important thing to know about how and when to visit Neuschwanstein is to reserve your tickets online at least a month or two (preferably earlier) in advance.   The reservation process asks you which date and time that you’d like to visit, but that date and time may not be the one that you actually receive. So the earlier you reserve, the more likely you’ll get the date and time you want.  You must reserve tickets at least 2 days ahead of time online, but if you wait that long, tickets may not be available, especially during the summer.  So book as far in advance as possible! To make reservations, visit the reservations page by clicking here.

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: Picking Up Your Tickets

Neuschwanstein

 

  1. You must pick up your tickets at the Ticket Center on the day of your tour no later than one hour before the entry time that you have reserved. If you don’t pick-up the tickets on time, you’ve given up your reserved time. In that case, they might give you a later entrance time, if there is one available.

 

  1. In the ticket center, go to the line for reserved tickets.

 

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: Going Up to the Castles

 

  1. From the Ticket Center, Hohenschwangau is an easy 10 minute walk.

 

  1. To get to Neuschwanstein, you have several options:
  • Hike 30 minutes
  • Take the shuttle bus, which departs every few minutes from the shuttle bus stop, located near the Ticket NeuschwansteinCenter. The shuttle bus will drop you off at Mary’s Bridge. From there, it’s a 10 minute walk downhill to the castle.
  • Take a much slower horse-drawn carriage ride up to the castle
  • Be aware that if you arrive at 10:00AM or later, the shuttle bus and carriages rides may have long lines. If there’s a long line and it’s less than one hour until your entry time, you should probably do the 30 minute hike.

 

  1. Once you’re at Neuschwanstein, go into the courtyard. When your entrance time comes up on the board, push (nicely) through the crowd and go to the turnstile.

 

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: What to See

 

  1. If you want to take pictures of Neuschwanstein, the best view is from Mary’s Bridge.

 

  1. The tour of Neuschwanstein is approximately 30 minutes, and the tour group is made up of approximately 60 people. If you’re only going to tour one castle, this is the most memorable choice.

 

  1. The tour of Hohenschwangau is also 30 minutes, but the group is made up of approximately 40 people.

 

  1. If you want to tour both castles, you should do Hohenschwangau first, as it gives you a better overview of King Ludwig II’s life and his family background. You’ll be given an entry time for Hohenschwangau, and then, two hours later, another entry time for Neuschwanstein. Reserve (online) the earliest tour of the day.
Hohenschwangau

Hohenschwangau Castle

  1. If you only want to tour Neuschwanstein, reserve (online) the first tour of the day, so you can be in and out of the site before the hordes of tourists arrive.

 

  1. Alternatively, visit Neuschwanstein and/or Hohenschwangau to take pictures only. Arrive at 8:00AM (summer), when the site opens, take the shuttle bus to Mary’s Bridge, and take your photos. When I was there at 8:00AM, we were one of the first few people on Mary’s Bridge.  If you don’t have tickets, don’t bother walk up into the castle courtyard, as there’s little there to photograph.

 

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: Parking and Getting There

Neuschwanstein

  1. Be aware that signs along the local roads refer to the castle as Konigsschlosser, not Neuschwanstein.

 

  1. Consider staying overnight in the nearby town of Fussen so that you can arrive at the castles early. Fussen is located only 10-15 minutes from the castles. See my guide “Fussen: A Guide to Your Home Base for Exploring Southern Bavaria” for more information.

 

  1. For detailed driving directions, click on the map below.

Neuschwanstein

  1. The most convenient parking lot is located past the Ticket Center on your right.

 

  1. After parking, go to the Ticket Center immediately to pick up your tickets. See the section above.

 

Nearby Attractions

Here are my guides to attractions that you can add to your itinerary in southern Bavaria:

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Wieskirche: A Little Piece of Heaven in Bavaria

WieskircheThe Swabian poet Peter Dörfler described the Wieskirche as “a bit of heaven”, and a visit to the church will make surely make you wholeheartedly agree.  Upon entering the Wieskirche (Pilgrimage Church of Weis), I was astonished by its beauty and opulence. Everywhere you look from the ornate altar to the frescoed ceiling is dripping with Rococo decoration. What’s the reason for this elaborate church in what seems like the middle of nowhere? Let me tell you.

 

In 1738, a local family brought a wooden statue of the Scourged Christ Wieskirchefrom a Germany abbey, which was no longer using it, to their farm in the village of Wies. They placed the statue in their bedroom as an object to which they could make their daily devotions. On July 14, 1738, the statue supposedly shed tears during the family’s prayers.  As word of the miracle spread, pilgrims Wieskirchebegan journeying to Wies to see the statue, and in 1740, the family built a small chapel (which you can still look into) to house it. In 1748, the Bishop of Augsburg set up a commission to investigate the supposed miracle, but it came to no conclusions about the supernatural event. To accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims and to house the statue, between 1745 and 1754, the current Wieskirche was constructed, and it remains today as a place of religious devotion and artistic splendor.

 

The decoration of the Wieskirche tells the story of Christ from death to Wieskircheresurrection to his triumphant return in the last of days.  On the altar, a baby Jesus is poised, as if on a cross, and looking up above the altar on the ceiling, Christ is shown whipped, chained, and crucified. The highest part of the ceiling shows a resurrected Jesus riding a rainbow, a symbol of forgiveness, and presiding over the Last Judgment.  Finally, in the rear of the church, above the organ, the door to heaven has been Wieskircheclosed, as all those who are worthy of entrance have been admitted. All of this religious artwork would have  originally designed to help pilgrims and worshipers to understand and be inspired by the story of Christ and his teachings. Even if you’re not religious, the grandeur of the Wieskirche will surely inspire your imagination and be a marvelous treat for your senses. “It is left to the opinion and assessment of each individual whether a miracle is seen more in the drops on the face of the scourged, in the consolation and the benefaction for the pilgrims, or in the grandeur of the church’s art” (1).

Location of the Wieskirche

Before going, be sure to check the church’s website, as the building is closed to tourists during worship services.

The Wieskirche (Pilgrimage Church of Weis) is located at Wies 12, 86989 in Steingaden, Germany.  Signs directing you to the church are clearly posted on roads leading to it, but you can click on the map below to obtain specific driving directions. The church lays in a scenic valley of the Bavarian Alps, making the outside of the building and its surroundings splendid and photo-worthy in themselves.

Wieskirche directions

A visit to the Wieskirche fits conveniently into any sightseeing itinerary in Southern Bavaria. The church is only a 30 minute drive from Fussen/Neuschwanstein or from Oberammergau. If you’re driving from either of those locations to Oberammegau, the Wieskirche is an easy stop.

 

 

 

 

For more information about nearby attractions, see my other guides to southern Bavaria:

 

 

 

(1) “Miracle of Tears” http://wieskirche.de/the-miracle-of-tears.en.html

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Zugspitze: How to Get to Germany’s Tallest Peak and What to See There

The Zugspitze is Germany’s tallest peak and, in my opinion, a must to include in your itinerary for Bavaria.  Figuring out how to get to the summit can be a daunting task because there are many options.  I’ve done all the research for you!  Zugspitze How to Get to Germany’s Highest Peak is your definitive guide to visiting this natural wonder.

 

Zugspitze How to Get There: Germany or Austria?

There are two options for getting to the top of the Zugspitze: from Austria or from Germany.  The Austrian ascent (10 minutes) to the Zugspitze is far quicker than the German one (45 minutes). However, if you have rented a car in Germany, most companies will not allow you to drive into Austria. Check with your rental car company before you do so.

 

Zugspitze How to Get There from Germany

By Car

If you’re driving, head towards the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  From there, continue on to the village of Grainau. Follow the Eibseestrasse to the Eibsee Station.  Click here for driving directions to the Eibsee Station.  At the station, you’ll need to purchase tickets for the cogwheel train.  Ride the train to the Summit Station.  The train ride is approximately 45 minutes and departs every hour.  Note: the cable car from the Eibsee Station to the Summit Station is under construction (to be completed in December 2017), so visitors have to ride the cogwheel train.

By Train

Take a train to Garmisch. Purchase a combination ticket to ride to the Eibsee Station and to ride the cogwheel train to the Zugspitze.  Board the train and ride to the Eibsee Station. There, you’ll change to the cogwheel train, which you’ll ride the train to the Summit Station. The train ride to the summit is approximately 45 minutes and departs every hour.   Note: the cable car from the Eibsee Station to the Summit Station is under construction (to be completed in December 2017), so visitors have to ride the cogwheel train.

From the Summit Station To the Summit Terrace

From the Summit Station, you take a cable car to the Summit Terrace. This applies only to those taking the approach from Germany.

 

 

Zugspitze How to Get There from Austria

By Car

If you’re driving, head to the village of Obermoos.  There you’ll find the Tyrolean Zugspitze Cable Car, which will take you directly to the Summit Terrace in about 10 minutes.  Click here for driving directions to the Tyrolean Zugspitze Cable Car.

By Train

Take the train to Ehrwald and then a bus from the Ehrwald train station to the cable car lift. You could also take a taxi instead. You’ll then take a cable car directly to the Summit Terrace in about 10 minutes.

 

 

Zugspitze What to See

At the Summit Terrace

Take in the incredible views!   If you’ve ascended from Austria, you’re on the Tirolean Terrace, and if you’ve come up from Germany, you’re on the Bavarian Terrace. You can pass freely from one to the other, and each side offers different views.

On the Bavarian Terrace, you have some unique options.   First, you can see (and take pictures of) the golden cross that marks the highest point in Germany.  If you’re brave enough (I wasn’t) you can also climb up to it. There’s also a beer garden, which claims to be highest beer garden in Germany.  My guess is that it’s true!  Finally, you can descend in the cable car (free, unless you came up from Austria) to the Summit Station where there are other activities.

At the Summit Station

There are a few additional and fun activities available at the Summit Station. The station is located on a plateau, so you can wander around freely and take pictures. In the winter, skiers abound here.  However, even in summer, you can still take part in a winter activity! Grab a sled and slide down the small glacier.  It’s free and a memorable experience.  You can also visit the small wedding chapel, consecrated by a former Pope.  Finally, at the Summit Station, there’s a much larger restaurant.  Part of the restaurant is cafeteria style, where you sit indoors. The other option is outdoor seating with table service, or you can pull a stool up to the nice bar. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a meal or a drink at 8,690 feet (2,650 meters)!

 

Looking for Other Destinations in Bavaria?

I have guides to attractions nearby the Zugspitze.  Let me be your guide in Bavaria.

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Alpine Coaster Oberammergau: Thrills for the Entire Family!

Alpine Coaster OberammergauThe Alpine coaster Oberammergau is a thrill ride (with a view!) for the entire family.   You ride the coaster in a cart on the world’s longest weatherproof toboggan run with a magnet system. How would I know? I’ve done it myself, and I don’t even like roller coasters!

 

What You Need to Know about the Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

 

Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

chair lift to the coaster

 

First, purchase a ticket for both the chair lift and the alpine coaster.   Then, you’ll take the chair lift (like the ones at a ski resort) for a ride up the mountain, where you’ll board the coaster at the top. The chair lift ride is incredibly scenic.  Looking forward, you’ll get lovely views of the forest and mountain, and looking behind you, you’ll see the gorgeous Bavarian countryside and Alps.

 

Once at the top, you’ll transfer over to a cart to ride the Alpine coaster.   Here are the details:

  • The coaster features a modern, magnetic break system. You control the brakes, which are levers that are located on both sides of the cart.

 

  • Seat belts are required for safety.

 

  • The fastest that you can go is 25 miles per hours, and believe me, that’s fast enough!

    Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

    rear view from the chair left

 

  • Each cart seats either a single user, an adult and a child, or a taller adult and a smaller adult. If two people are going in one cart, one person sits inside the legs of the other. Be aware that the smaller person must sit in the front.  My fiancée and I went in one cart, but one of us is much taller than the other.

 

  • Children ages 3 and up can only ride with an adult.
Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

where you board the coaster

 

 

  • Children age 8 and taller than 4 feet 7 inches (1,40m) can ride alone.

 

 

  • The track is an 8,530 foot (2,600 m) slide, with many twists and turns, that goes down the side of the mountain. There are not any huge rises and falls, like on a roller coaster; it’s more like a toboggan run.

 

Are You Hesitant to Ride?

I definitely was too! I don’t enjoy roller coasters, and I’m afraid of heights. I went on the Alpine coaster because my Alpine Coaster Oberammergaufiancée really wanted to.   We rode in one cart because I was too scared to go on my own. I would highly recommend riding together if you’re scared. Let the other person control the breaks and tell them you don’t want to go very fast. I made it through just fine, although I did close my eyes around many of the turns!   My fiancée absolutely loved it, and took another ride by himself.  You can check out the video below that my fiancée took of a portion of his ride.  It will give you a sense of what to expect.  My advice to you . . . Do it!  If I did it, so can you.  It’s a vacation experience you won’t forget and will regret not doing, if you don’t go.

 

Location of the Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

***Be sure to check the park’s website before you go. Hours can very from month to month and are weather dependent.

The Alpine Coaster Oberammergau is located at Kreislainenweg, 82487 in Oberammergau. The park is right off highway B23 but can be a bit tricky to find if you don’t have a GPS or a cell phone with the internet. If you have internet access on your cell phone, click on the map below to get driving directions.   If not, print the directions and a map of the turns near the park before you leave. There is one tricky turn in which you’ll have to go under the highway to enter the park.

Alpine Coaster oberammergau

Other Activities at the Park

From June to early November, the park also features a ropes course, playground, and hiking trails. In the winter, a ski facility operates on site.

 

Other Activities in the Area

Here are my guides for other destinations near the Alpine coaster:

Video of Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

Here’s the video that my fiancée took of a portion of his solo ride.  It will let you know what to expect in your ride.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Fussen: A Guide to Your Home Base for Exploring Southern Bavaria

Fussen GermanyFussen is a town in southern Bavaria that makes an excellent home base for travelers who want to explore Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles or the Bavarian Alps, in general. The area around Fussen is gorgeous with the Alps all around you and the German countryside at your doorstep.  Fussen has only a few attractions in its own right, but its convenient location and many services make it an attractive place to spend one or more nights. Tourists have many hotels, b&bs, and apartments to choose from, and the plethora of restaurants, cafes, shops, and gelato stands make for relaxing evenings after long days of sightseeing.  Here are my recommendations for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what day trips to take.

 

Where to Stay in Fussen

Fussen Germany

Mein lieber Schwan

While in Fussen, we stayed at Mein lieber Schwan, an Art Noveau home that’s now divided into a series of four apartments rented by a local family, who also lives in the house. They also own another building in town that contains two other apartments. We spent three nights in the Leda apartment, which was exceptionally large for European standards, nicely decorated with German antiques, and very comfortable. Our apartment had a bedroom, living room, eat in kitchen (with all of the appliances and amenities that you would ever need!), bathroom, and balcony with Alpine views. The apartment was exceptionally quiet and very reasonably priced. There is one free, but tight, parking space available, but instead, we chose to park (for a fee) at the nearby garage, located under the Theresienhof Shopping Mall. The apartment is located on a small side street in the middle of town, with less than a 5 minute walk to restaurants, cafes, and shops.

 

Sites in Fussen

Early evening is a nice time to walk around town to take in the sites. You’ll see everything in less than an hour. Here are the highlights.  For a map of these locations, see the “locations” section below.

 

  • In the center of town are Hotel Hirsch, a pleasant garden, and interesting water sculptures. Across the main street is one of only two stone towers from Fussen’s medieval town walls.

    Fussen Germany

    Church of the Holy Spirit

Fussen Germany

medieval tower

  • Head down to the Lech Riverbank for a lovely walk, along Flosser and Stadtbleiche Streets.

 

  • Stop at the Church of the Holy Spirit to take a look at its painted façade.

 

  • Step inside the gates of a former monastery to see what’s now the Fussen Heritage Museum. Even if you won’t want to go inside the museum, step into the courtyard for a look.

 

  • Climb up the hill to see the best sites in Fussen: St. Magnus Basilica and the High Castle. The former home and church of the Bishop of Augsburg dominate the landscape and provide amazing views of town. Be sure to walk into the castle’s courtyard to see how it’s painted to make flat walls look 3D.

 

Eating in Fussen

 

Dinner

Fussen Germany

Fussen Heritage Museum

For dinner, I highly recommend the following reasonably priced restaurants in Fussen. We ate at both and enjoyed our food and experience tremendously!  Both also have menus available in English and other languages.

  • Restauarant Ritterstub’n – excellent authentic German food – if the weather is nice, sit in the cozy courtyard in the back

 

  • Schenke & Wirtshaus – delicious traditional Bavarian dishes in very German setting

 

Dessert

Eiscafe Hohes Scholoss (Gelato/Italian Ice Cream) – serves the best gelato in town. We went there all three nights that we were in Fussen!  And if you’re dairy free, like me, they offer a large variety of delicious sorbets (sorbettos).

 

Breakfast

Fussen Germany

Clock Tower of the High Castle

For breakfast, we choose to eat on the go.   Each day, we stopped into the local REWE supermarket (located in the Theresienhof Shopping Mall) and bought freshly baked bread (they have a whole counter of bread and pastries baked in store!), German sandwich meats, fruits, and snacks to have a delicious meal to take with us. The market also sells pre-made sandwiches at the bread counter in the front of the store.

 

Day Trips from Fussen

Fussen is a less than 10 minute drive to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. This is extremely convenient because you’ll want to arrive at the castles when they open to avoid the hordes of tourists and tour buses that descend on the site by 9/10:00AM.

 

Driving distance from Fussen to other destinations:

  • Oberammergau & Ettal Monastery – 1 hour
  • Zugspitze – 1 hour

    Fussen Germany

    statue of St. Magnus in Fussen

  • Mittenwald – 90 minutes

 

Please see my other guides to destinations nearby Fussen:

 

Locations in Fussen

I have placed all of the locations listed above on a Google My Map that you can access by clicking here.

Alternatively, click on the names of any of the locations below to be taken to specific walking directions.

Mien lieber Schwan is located Augustenstrasse 3 .

Hotel Hirsch and the medieval tower are located at .

The Fussen Heritage Museum is located at .

The Church of the Holy Spirit is located at

St. Magnus Basilica and the High Castle are located at

Restauarant Ritterstub’n is located at

Schenke & Wirtshaus is located at

Eiscafé Hohes Schloss is located at Reichenstrasse 14.

The REWE supermarket is located at .

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Ettal Monastery: Stop to Stare and Stay to Shop

Ettal MonasteryI’d read about Ettal Monastery in a guidebook, but didn’t really put it on our itineary. However, as we were driving to the town of Oberammergau, we turned the bend, and there was the monastery in the middle of the road. We both looked at each other and said, “We have to see that!”.

 

Ettal Monastery was first constructed in 1331, by Ludwig the Bavarian, on his way back from his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor in Rome.   The newly crowned leader was bringing back a Madonna and child statue, Ettal Monasterywhen his horses supposedly stopped and genuflected on the monastery’s current site. The king took it as an omen and ordered the construction of a Benedictine abbey, where he installed the statue. In 1744, Ettal Monastery was destroyed in a fire, and a new Baroque abbey and minor basilica were built. Luckily, the statue survived, Ettal Monasteryand you can still see it in the church today. The basilica is absolutely breathtaking, and free to enter. The double-shelled dome is the work of Swiss architect Enrico Zuccalli, who was a student of Bernini, and the ornate decoration was completed by the stuccoist Josef Schmultzer and the sculptor Johan Baptist Straub. Ettal Monastery became the most important pilgrimage site in all of the Alps.

Today, the monks at Ettal Monastery carry out their religious duties as well as operating a brewery, distillery, dairy, publishing operation, and hotel.   They’re very Ettal Monasteryindustrious men! A visit to the gift shops (there are two across the street from each other) is an absolute must. There, you can purchase the fruits of the monks’ labors including their famous herbal liquor, beer, chocolate, tea, and fragrances. They also offer a wide variety of religious items and books. Any of these items would be incredibly thoughtful gifts or ways to remember your trip to Germany.

Don’t be like us; make Ettal Monastery a must on your itinerary. Ettal makes an easy stop on the way to Oberammergau, Mittenwald, Linderhof, or the Zugspitze. For more information on those locations, visit my guides:

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Oberammergau: A Fairy Tale of a Bavarian Town

OberammergauIn 1633, the residents of Oberammergau feared that their Alpine town would be destroyed by either the plague or the devastation of the Thirty Years War. Townspeople made a promise to their god that if he spared Oberammergau from destruction, they would put on and perform in a play about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ every decade thereafter. Today, the residents of the town are still living up to their end of the bargain by staging an elaborate passion play every ten years. However, a visit to Oberammergau is an event in itself at any time of year.

 

Oberammergau

Pilatus House, named for painted scenes of Jesus and Pontius Pilate

The major attraction in Oberammergau is the dozens of painted houses. As a demonstration of their piety and affluence, wealthy residents had their homes painted, with scenes of religious imagery and fairy tale stories, in a fresco technique known as Luftlmalerei. While these picturesque abodes are located all throughout Oberammergau, the most amusing are the “Little Red Riding House” and the “Hansel and Gretel House”. They’re located on Ettaler Strausse, a short walk out of town, past the blinking traffic light.

 

Oberammergau

A visit to Oberammergau isn’t complete, with a stop in the famous Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas stores! There are two right in the center of town.

As you make you way through the idyllic streets and local shops, you’ll find that Oberammergau is dominated by woodworkers. The region has no industry and little farming, but it does have an abundance of trees, making woodcarving a profitable handicraft. While you can purchase anything from nutcrackers, to gnomes, to salt and pepper shakers, carvings of a religious nature are most common. In the past, pilgrims, destined for nearby Ettal Monastery, were eager to purchase spiritual items, and the locals were happy to oblige. If you’d like to see woodcarvers at work, head over to Pilatus House, at Ludwig-Thoma-Starsse 10, where in addition to browsing through the shop, you can watch the artisans and painters demonstrating their craft.

 

If you’re not in Oberammergau at the time of the passion play, consider yourself lucky because you probably wouldn’t have been able to find a room or obtain tickets, since the former are scarce and extravagantly priced at that time and the latter sell out years in advance. However, you can still get a sense of the spectacle with a visit to the Oberammergau Musuem, which shows a ten minute film about the play, in addition to housing exhibits on regional woodworking and on local Roman history. Included in your Oberammergaucost of admission to the museum is a ticket to enter the actual Passion Play Theater (Festspielhaus), which features displays about the play and gives you am opportunity to see the combination indoor/outdoor auditorium with its dramatic alpine backdrop.

 

Oberammergau makes an ideal home base for exploring the Bavarian Alps. The dreamy village of Mittenwald, the Zugspitze, an Alpine coaster, Linderhof, and Ettal Monastery are all easy day trips from town. On the other hand, if you’re based in Fussen, Oberammergau is a worthwhile stop on a day trip to any of the previously mentioned destinations.

See my other guides to other nearby destinations:

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

« Older Entries Recent Entries »