When you take into consideration the number of tourists and cameras, Schloss Neuschwanstein must be one of the most photographed castles in the world. King Ludwig II situated his castle up on high and rugged hill, high above the village of Hohenschwangeu, in the Bavarian state of Germany. With its white walls, tall towers and turrets, it looks just as you would imagine the perfect Fairy Tale Castle would look. The History of Neuschwanstein Castle is as fascinating as the building itself. King Ludwig II planned this magnificent building as an homage to the Operatic works of Richard Wagner... but sadly, neither were able to see the castle completed. Today, the castle is one of the most visited tourist sites in Germany.
But before you go, I find that learning a little history about Neuschwanstein Castle will make your visit just that much more special. (Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz!!!)
History of Neuschwanstein Castle
There is no denying that Neuschwanstein Castle fits most people’s stereotypical views of how a castle should look, and this is no accident. The castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who stated in a letter to his dear friend Richard Wagner that he wanted it to be “in the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles,” and that he also wished it to be “holy and unapproachable.”
Wagner himself was actually also a large part of Ludwig II’s inspiration for Neuschwanstein. Wagner was a composer and theater director whose operas Ludwig II had fallen in love with. In fact, Neuschwanstein was intended to be a direct homage to Wagner and his works. In the same letter as mentioned above, Ludwig II wrote that the castle was to be “a worthy temple for the divine friend” (“divine friend” meaning Wagner). Many paintings and frescos inside the castle depict scenes from Wagner’s operas.
Inner courtyard of Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein, which means “New Swan on a Rock”, got its name from Ludwig II’s childhood home, the Castle Hohenschwangau. It was built in a Romanesque Revival style, a type of 19th century building style which was inspired by architecture from the 12th and 13th centuries. The 19th century saw many castles being built and reconstructed in this style. Neuschwanstein itself was built in a place previously occupied by two medieval castles. The twin castles were demolished, and Ludwig oversaw the laying of the foundation stone of Neuschwanstein in 1869.
Construction of Neuschwanstein
For the next 20 years the construction site provided work for many people in the area. Ludwig II did not use any public money to build the castle, but rather his own fortune and borrowed funds. He intended to live in Neuschwanstein one day, but, unfortunately, once he did finally get a chance to move in, he died mysteriously of drowning, less than 200 days later in 1886. Wagner, who had died in 1883, was never able to step inside the castle which was constructed in homage to him. The walls of Neuschwanstein are decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from the legends used in Wagner’s operas, including Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, Parsifal, and the somewhat less than mystic Die Meistersinger.
Because of Ludwig II’s grand and expensive construction plans, deep loan debt, and because of his disinterest in the day to day matters of state, a power struggle broke out between the King and his ministers. He wanted them dismissed and replaced, but they responded by having him declared insane, and planned to replace him with his uncle, Prince Lutipold.
When Ludwig II mysteriously died of “drowning“ while on a walk around Lake Starnberg near Schloß Berg accompanied by his physician, Dr Gudden, Neuschwanstein was still unfinished. However, it was opened up to the public shortly afterwards. Although the King paid for his pet project out of his own pockets, he had run up high debts in the construction of Neuschwanstein, that deeply affected the state of Bavaria. The State made the decision to open the doors for tours, so that people could see where all their money went. The plan didn’t work as intended. Instead of being angry at the waste, people were enamored by the beauty. And ironically, these debts were balanced out by 1899 with revenues from paying visitors.
The skyward-reaching walls and towers of Neuschwanstein have attracted and inspired millions of people throughout the years. One of Neuschwanstein’s most well-known inspirations just happens to be Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland, Anaheim. From the day it opened to the public until now, Neuschwanstein has steadily remained one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe. It sees 1.3 million visits annually, and has had a total of 60 million since its opening. You should definitely plan to see this stunning castle for yourself. (But be forewarned, you may NOT take photos inside!)
The only way to visit Castle Neuschwanstein is with a guided tour. Learn more about that HERE-> Visit Castle Neuschwanstein in Germany