Bavarian King Ludwig’s fantasy Schloss Neuschwanstein castle, Schloss Linderhof, and Herrenchiemsee Palace are top sights to visit in Bavaria, Germany. All are top day trips from Munich.
Bavarian King Ludwig II (ruled 1864 to 1886) enthusiastically joined in the spirit of his time by erecting or restoring romantic palaces and castles in the historicist style. His best-known work is the neo-Romanesque, Disney-like Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle but his other two follies – the small Renaissance-Baroque Schloss Linderhof and the Versailles-inspired Herrenchiemsee Palace – are also popular day trip destinations from Munich (München).
Note: all the palaces are open as usual from mid-January 2020 but the number of tickets is greatly reduced. Advance time-slot reservations are essential for Schloss Neuschwanstein and highly advisable for Schloss Linderhof — reserve well in advance or book guided day-trips, which often have tickets at short notice.
Visit King Ludwig’s Castles and Palaces Near Munich
Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle, Linderhof Palace, and Park, and Schloss Herrenchiemsee are owned by the state of Bavaria. The interiors may only be seen on compulsory guided tours (available in English) – reservations are only possible (and highly advisable) for Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Linderhof. In contrast to many other top sights in Germany, all three castles are open on Mondays and only closed on around five public holidays per year.
King Ludwig’s building activities led to his bankruptcy and contributed in part to his removal from power. In 1886, he was declared mad and died under mysterious and never completely explained circumstances. He is often referred to as Mad King Ludwig although in German his fantasy castles and romantic disposition made the term Fairy Tale King (Märchenkönig) more popular.
Schloss Linderhof Palace and Park in Bavaria
Schloss Linderhof was the first of Bavarian King Ludwig’s building projects. It was originally a hunting lodge and never intended to be a representative palace with space for the full Bavarian royal court. As a result, Linderhof is much smaller than his other palaces and was mostly completed during the king’s lifetime.
Linderhof Palace has a beautiful location inside a park in the narrow Ammer Valley near Oberammergau just north of the popular German ski resort Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The Alps form a constant backdrop in the gardens with lovely water features and other romantic structures including a grotto and Moorish pavilion.
The small Linderhof Palace itself is a mixture of Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo with the styles mixing surprisingly harmoniously. The palace is in the middle of the park, a few minutes stroll from the main entrance and ticket windows.
Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany
Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle is by far the most famous of King Ludwig’s fantasy projects. This white, neo-Romanesque castle absolutely looks the part – it is Disney-like and it is often speculated that it inspired Walt Disney himself. The castle is perched on a rocky hill – Neuschwanstein literally means New Swan Rock – with the Alps in the background while wonderful views from the mountains include lakes, forests, and the rolling green hills of the Allgäu.
King Ludwig was a big fan and sponsor of the German composer Richard Wagner and used romantic scenes from Wagner’s operas to decorate the interior of his fantasy castle. The king was actively involved in the designing of the castle and frequently changed his mind – many staircases dead-end straight into solid walls.
Schloss Neuschwanstein was never completed – although construction continued until King Ludwig’s death, in later years he concentrated on the building of Herrenchiemsee Palace. The king spent only a few nights in the castle although he spent much of his youth in the nearby Schloss Hohenschwangau.
Schloss Neuschwanstein opened to the public days after the death of the king. The castle remains hugely popular making reservations highly advisable even during the low season. Day-trips from Munich often have tickets available at short notice even when standard tickets are no longer available.
Schloss Herrenchiemsee Palace in the Chiemsee Lake, Bavaria
Although not as instantly awe-inspiring as Neuschwanstein Castle, Schloss Herrenchiemsee on a small island in the Chiemsee Lake is in many ways the most impressive of King Ludwig’s follies. Schloss Herrenchiemsee was inspired by no lesser a palace than Versailles and King Ludwig went to extremes while copying elements from the original built by his French namesake. The Hall of Mirrors at Herrenchiemsee Palace is marginally longer than the more famous one at Versailles.
The decorations in other rooms are no less opulent – the king even had the original molds of the Meissen porcelain used in the making of the elaborate candelabras destroyed to prevent further copies from ever being made. Only twenty rooms at Herrenchiemsee were completed by the time of the king’s death but these twenty alone cost more than Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Linderhof combined.
Day trips to Herrenchiemsee are seasonal and much more limited than to Schloss Neuschwanstein.
Visit King Ludwig’s Royal Palaces and Castles in Bavaria
Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle, Linderhof Palace, and Park, and Schloss Herrenchiemsee are very popular sightseeing destinations. Numerous train and bus connections bring the castles within easy day-trip reach from Munich. Neuschwanstein and Linderhof can be combined in a single day trip from the Bavarian capital when traveling by car or on bus trips but cannot be seen on the same day when using public transportation only. Schloss Herrenchiemsee is in between Munich and Salzburg and a good stop when traveling by car or train between these two cities.
Day-trip tours are common from Munich to Schloss Neuschwanstein and Linderhof but less common to Herrenchiemsee. Note that advertised prices often do not include admission to the palaces. Indicate at the time of reservation any intention to visit the castles and the tour company will arrange the tickets if necessary.
A Royal Palaces (Königsschlösser) combination ticket (€26 valid for six months) gives admission to all three castles (but paying the small charge for time-slot reservations is a very sensible investment). The Bavarian castles ticket gives entry to even more sights is a top savings tip and excellent value for money — it is €24 for two weeks (€45 for a year) with further options and excellent savings deals available for families. The Bayern Ticket is also a wonderful savings transportation ticket for travelers using local trains and buses in Bavaria.