Hohenschwangau is a small village in the south of Bavaria, little more than a stones throw away from the Austrian border. Seated under the Alps, it plays host to over a million tourists each year, all here to visit the famous fairy-tale castle of King Ludwig II.
Having been in Bavaria for just over a year, visiting Neuschwanstein Castle had remained on our “to do” list. We’d anticipated it being a tourist hot-spot but when family members came to visit, it seemed like the perfect excuse to go for a day out.
A word of warning though: don’t come to Hohenschwangau expecting to get the feel of being in a proper Bavarian village. This is as far from Bavarian as it could possibly be, whilst still being in the region. Make no mistake – this is tourist country. Even street signs appear in languages other than German! If you’re visiting during peak times, do expect everything here to be busy.
We visited during the last week of May 2017.
Planning Your Visit
There are three attractions in Hohenschwangau:
- The Museum of Bavarian Kings
- Hohenschwangau Castle – the yellow building pictured above
- Neuschwanstein Castle
Tickets are available from the Ticket Centre on the day of your visit, however all tickets can also be reserved in advance. This is actually more important than you’d think…
Access to both castles is via a Guided Tour only and each tour has a capacity limit. This means there’s only so many tickets that can be sold per day – so if you turn up unprepared at peak season, it’s entirely possible that you won’t be able to visit the attraction you’ve traveled so far to see. Never mind the long, long queue you’re likely to encounter at the Ticket Centre.
So, book in advance at least two days prior to visiting. You’ll be asked to choose the time of your first guided tour – and this is important: You need to make sure you can get to the Ticket Centre and pick up your reserved tickets with an hour to spare before the start of your tour.
If you choose to visit both castles, you’ll start with Hohenschwangau and then have around an hour to make your way up to Schloss Neuschwanstein in time for your next guided tour. If you miss these time slots, you’ve lost out as the tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable.
We chose the Swan Ticket which covers all three attractions.
Hohenschwangau Castle (Schloss Hohenschwangau)
First mentioned in historical records from the 12th century, Hohenschwangau had been owned by the knights of Schwangau up until the 16th century. After changing owners a few times and suffering some war related damage, King Maximilian II acquired the property in 1832 and had it rebuilt in line with the original plans. This beautiful building was then used as a summer and hunting residence.
Hohenschwangau is still owned by the Wittelsbachs, though the property is now used for tourists rather than as a hunting retreat.
Swan imagery appears throughout Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein. As you might have guessed, ‘schwan’ is the German word for the bird, with Schwangau literally meaning ‘Swan County’ or ‘Swan Land’. In turn, Hohenschwangau means ‘High’ or ‘Upper’ Swan County.
The swan was also the historic heraldic animal of the knights of Schwangau. Maximilian saw himself as their successor and adopted their coat of arms. His son followed suit, and the swan thus also features as a heraldic animal in Neuschwanstein | Neuschwanstein.de
Hohenschwangau was actually my favourite of the two castles, being less of a palace and more of a summer home. The castle layout means tour groups frequently cross each other, so as you can imagine, the property is quite compact! It feels almost cosy and far more modest in contrast to Neuschwanstein, despite being richly decorated.
Walls are covered with skillfully executed paintings depicting famous stories and characters, such as the medieval legend of the swan knight Lohengrin – a tale which captivated King Ludwig II and influenced his plans for Neuschwanstein.
Hohenschwangau Castle really is an unexpected delight… One of the more memorable rooms here has a starry sky ceiling, complete with illuminating moon and stars! Another surprise was finding a Turkish themed room in a Bavarian stately home.
One of the things you won’t find in Hohenschwangau’s main building is a kitchen. Apparently, the owners found the smell to be unappealing and so the kitchen was located in the external building which now houses the gift shop. Pop in for a look at the kitchen on display!
Lastly, don’t leave without taking a wander to the little paved garden. It’s home to several fountains and offers unsurprisingly good views, with Neuschwanstein Castle standing proudly in the distance.
Now then, you might be wondering where the coverage of Neuschwanstein Castle is… But rather than attempt to force everything into one post, I’m splitting it into two parts. There’s just so much to see at Hohenschwangau… with one museum, one lake and two castles, that it felt a bit overwhelming to have it all in one place. Believe me, I gave myself a headache trying to make it work! Instead, drop by next Saturday to read Part Two!
Location | Ticket-Center Hohenschwangau, Alpseestrasse 12, 87645 Hohenschwangau
Opening Times | Ticket Centre | Summer 2017: Daily 8am – 5 pm | Winter 2017: Daily – 9am – 3pm
Admission | Castles start at €13, with €1.80 service charge when booking in advance. Multiple ticket options are available. | Ticket Prices
Find Out More | Hohenschwangau Website | Romantic Road Germany | Schwangau.de
Make sure to confirm any details important to you before you go! Note that all information provided here is subject to change.