Fairytale Castles, Gorgeous Gorges, Ruins and More in Beautiful Bavaria
Beautiful Bavaria, Awesome Austria – the Alpine scenery in this part of the world is just a make-your-eyes-hurt kind of pretty. Lucky us to be on a holiday here! This part of our 2 month trip was a 6 night base in Füssen to visit King Ludwig’s famous castles, walk some gorges, see some ruins and more sights within a 1-1.5 hour drive radius from Füssen.
- Herrenchiemsee New Palace
- Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau
- Highline 179
Herrenchiemsee New Palace
About an hour from Salzburg, King Ludwig’s lavish Herrenchiemsee New Palace is great stop on the drive to Füssen. All of King Ludwig’s palaces are terrific to visit, but we enjoyed THIS one the most. Why? The palace was meant to be a copy of Versaille and an homage to the reign of the Sun King Louis IV of France – the finished parts of the palace are just over-the-top unbelievable and covered in gold leaf.
You take a ferry to get there, then walk about 20 minutes through the beautiful wooded grounds and finally past huge fountains to get to the palace. Lucky us – our 45 minute English language tour only had 6 people in it. After the tour you go through a few more rooms on your own. The museum was also interesting for a short visit.
Tip: If you are going to visit 3 or more palaces, get the 14-Day Mehrtagesticket at the first palace you go to. It’s valid for 2 weeks after first use. Note that Hohenschwangau, King Ludwig’s childhood home next to Neuschwanstein, is still privately owned and isn’t on the pass.
Mein lieber Schwan, Lohengrin Apartment #1, 6 nights in a charming and comfortable 1 bedroom apartment with a balcony. The only thing marring the stay in this great apartment was slow WIFI.
Füssen is nice town for a base and a great location for seeing the most famous of King Ludwig’s castles – Neuschwanstein. Our first afternoon we wandered around the pretty town taking in the sights. Later in our stay we used the interesting self-guided walking tour of Füssen in Rick Steve’s Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol guidebook.
A First Run at Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein is famous. And crowded. Knowing that we would save time and hassle by booking a tour time online, we couldn’t figure out how to do so when we already had the 14-day Bavarian Castles pass. So we drove the 10 minutes over to Neuschwanstein, parked and got the scoop from the Hohenschwangau Info Office – not the Ticket Center! The line at the Ticket Center was HUGE and all we wanted was info. The Info Office agent advised us to get to the Ticket Center first thing in the morning to get a tour time with the 14-day pass and to pay for the Hohenschwangau tour, not on the pass. We needed to get there early – it was going to be even busier than ever that week due to Italy’s Republic Day Holiday.
Our plan for Neuschwanstein set for the next day, we set off for another of King Ludwig’s palaces – Linderhof.
Linderhof Palace was a pleasure to visit. About 45 minutes from Füssen past the beautiful Plansee lake, Linderhof was busy but not manic like Neuschwanstein. We showed our 14-day pass and got tickets for the next English language tour. A lavish small palace, one that mad King Ludwig actually completed and lived in. Baroque and Rococo ornamentation all paying homage to the absolute monarchy of France, this time Louis XV. This was the first palace where he had a dining table that descended to the kitchen below to be set for meals, eliminating the need for servants to attend him. He didn’t like having people around, but he sure loved building palaces!
After the tour of the palace you can visit the Venus Grotto, where all you can say is “yep, he was crazy”. A totally created space built as an illustration of the first act of Wagner’s Tannhäuser opera.
You could spend hours looking around the grounds at Linderhof, but we thought a walk through a gorge would be more fun and the famous Partnach Gorge was only 30-40 minutes drive from Linderhof.
The Partnach Gorge has been a national monument since 1912 and a national geotype since 2006. A terrific walk through tunnels and on wooden walkways bolted to the rock, it’s a great way to get out in nature.
Tip: Set your GPS to navigate to the Olympic Ski Stadium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Get a €2.50 ticket at the machine in the parking lot and place on your dashboard.
The walk from the Ski Station to the Gorge entrance takes about 30 minutes. The walk through the gorge and back may take about an hour depending on how long you like to linger at this marvel of nature.
Tip: Take your hooded raincoat – you’re going to get a bit wet! Water streams into the gorge from many places above.
G7 Summit and Massive Amounts of Police
Germany was hosting the G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau south of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on June 7 & 8. Police cars were EVERYWHERE, and it was 7 days before the event! We were happy we had our base in Füssen. Tip: If you are making plans for a holiday in one of the G7 countries, check where the Summit is going to be held and stay away from there.
Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau
The next day we were at the ticket office at 7:00 and I could hardly believe that there were 2 people already there. The Ticket Center opened earlier than their 8:00 scheduled time and in a minute we paid for the first tour of Hohenschwangau at 8:50, followed by a ticket for the Neuschwanstein tour at 10:55 (on the 14-day pass). Painless.
If you’ve been to Disneyland you’ll get the idea of what Neuschwanstein looks like – something out of a fairy tale! Disney modeled the Sleeping Beauty Castle based on this real life inspiration.
With 1.4 million visitors per year, the visit is very organized. If you want to see both castles your first tour is Hohenschwangau and 2 hours later, Neuschwanstein. Hohenschwangau was Ludwig’s childhood home and built by his father King Maximilian II. His style was pictoral scenes of medieval knights and legends painted directly on the walls in the castle.
In Neuschwanstein, King Ludwig wanted a better recreation of an idealized medieval castle than Hohenschwangau, done in the style of the old German knights’ castles. The rooms you can visit are medievally magnificent!
After the Neuschwanstein tour, follow the signs to walk up to Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge) for THE photo op spot.
Brace yourself: The pushy tour groups and selfie-stick obsessed are all over Neuschwanstein. While waiting for your entry time to the castle in the Neuschwanstein courtyard, entertain yourself by watching the preening!
You’ll find more things to do at the base in the little valley – a museum, a walk to the Alpsee, places to eat and relax. Makes a nice full day.
Ehrenberg Ruin and Highline 179
An easy drive from Füssen, if you like hiking and scrambling around ruins, Ehrenberg ruin is for you! There are English signs with descriptions to give some history and meaning to the ruins.
Bonus! Highline 179 is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world, connecting the Ehrenberg ruin with the Fort Claudia ruin on the opposite side. Quite an experience! Forget trying to take a panorama shot with a point-and-shoot from the bridge though, it’s too jiggly especially in the center.
Another Day, Another Gorgeous Gorge – Breitachklamm
An hour drive through beautiful scenery from Füssen to another gorgeous gorge – Breitachklamm. On this gorge walk you can do a circular hike through the gorge, up a path through woods, and then a country road through meadows for a relaxing lunch break at Alpe Dornach restaurant, right in the middle of that jaw-dropping Bavarian alpine scenery.
The Falkenstein ruin is close to Füssen and a great stop for awesome 360° views – we had time on the way back from Breitachklamm to go to the ruin and have a café break at the restaurant just below the ruin.
That mad King Ludwig wanted to build a romantic castle here – he bought the ruin and had several architects working on the design but this location really was crazy, way too small for Ludwig’s vision.
Tip: The road up the mountain to Falkenstein is a one-way road with a stop light at the bottom and the top. Wait for the light to change to green before you drive the road in either direction.
Tip: There’s a road pass kiosk at the bottom. Put in your €2 and put the pass on your dashboard.
Wieskirche, Oberammergau, and Ettal Abbey
Our last day for sightseeing in the area, we drove to see Wieskirche (Pilgrimage Church of the Sourged Savior), and on to pretty Oberammergau with woodcarving shops and a plethora of painted buildings. This day was Corpus Christi, a public holiday in Bavaria, and the only thing open in Oberammergau were restaurants and the church. After a visit and a cafë break, Ettal Abbey was so close we decided to drive over for a look.
The police had a check point at the crossroad before Ettal Abbey. “Garmish is closed” the officer said. We told him we were going to the Abbey so that was OK. G7 security! And we were happy once again that our base was in Füssen.
Our visit to picturesque southern Bavaria was over, our next stop – the famous medieval walled town Rothenberg ob der Tauber for 2 nights.
Travel: Drive from Fussen to Rothenburg ob der Tauber – 2.25 hours.
Handy Resource List
- Merhtagesticket – 14 day pass for palaces and castles. 3 sites pay for it. Valid for 14 days after first visit. Hohenschwangau is not on the pass.
- Herrenchiemsee New Palace – King Ludwig’s palace built to emulate Versaille – on an island in the lake (NW Salzburg on Chiemsee)
- Neuschwanstein – King Ludwig’s fairy tale castle. Reserve time in advance online. Leave plenty of time before reservation to walk up to the castle (20-30 min)
- Hohenschwangau – King Ludwig’s childhood home
- Linderhof Palace – King Ludwig’s final retreat. Daily 9-6pm
- Breitach Klamm – hike in the gorge. 1 hr? from Fussen.
- Partnach Gorge (gapa.de) – Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Park at a lot at the Olympic Ski Stadium.