I went to Hungary, Austria, and Germany with my BFF for 12 days during the summer 2014. Our stop after Salzburg was Bavaria, mostly to see Neuschwanstein castle, with Munich as a base. Here are my tips about everything we did!
- At Haupbahnhof from Salzburg by train. We booked several weeks in advance at http://www.raileurope.com/ so our paper tickets could arrive by mail.
- A 15-minute walk north of HBF at an AirBnb apartment. The host and her family were super nice! The apartment was efficient yet cozy and comfortable, and is surrounded by restaurants.
- Grey Line Linderhof + Neuschwanstein Castle Tour, booked on Viator.com. The fairytale castle was a bucket-list item I was very excited to see with my fellow Disney-loving best friend! Our original tour company of choice was Pure Bavaria, but when the minimum of four total people didn’t book on our chosen day, we made a last-minute switch to Grey Line. Even at 10 hours long, the tour has a very tight schedule to keep, but given the constraints, we were happy with the pacing. NOTE: E-tickets are fine, but don’t forget to bring cash for the actual price of entry to the castles – those costs are not included in the tour price, but the guide collects money en route then buys them for you.We had heard about the beautiful scenery around Neuschwanstein, which is an option on some tours, but we chose the Linderhof Castle combo since the latter is the only one King Ludwig II actually completed in his lifetime. It is a “baroque gem” and like a mini version of French King Louis XIV’s Versailles. During the half-hour tour, you start understanding how the “Fairytale” Bavarian king was truly trying to live a dream. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time to see the Venus Grotto, which you may have heard about, so here are some pictures I Googled.
The tour then makes a quick stop in the idyllic Bavarian town of Oberammergau, the home of the famous once-every-10-years Passion Play. You could spend literally thousands of euros on cuckoo clocks or a single elaborate wooden carving featured in the many stores… or just window shop like we did.
And finally, the pièce de résistance, Neuschwanstein. You get four hours to explore the area and take a tour. Here’s what we did (for mood music as you read this section, click here):
- Skipped the sit-down hotel restaurant.
- Grabbed sandwiches from the hotel cafe.
- Walked up a bit to the bus stop and got tickets.
- Took the bus most the way up to the castle (faster/easier than walking and cheaper/less smelly than the horse-drawn carriage option),
- Ate our sandwiches while hiking the rest of the way to Marienbrücke – the crowded bridge with a worth-it view of the castle.
- Outsmarted all the other tourists by resisting the urge to take a photo right away and fighting our way to the opposite end of the bridge.
- Marveled at how much space we had to ourselves and took photos.
- Scowled at the love locks creeping their way onto the bridge. Seriously, spanning a ravine that deep, this is a bridge you DO NOT want to pull a Pont des Arts. No healthy relationship depends on the Satan spawn that is love locks.
- Hiked up further to a rocky overlook above the bridge with an even less crowded view of the castle. Just don’t, you know, fall off the cliff.
- Climbed down and again marveled at all the space at the far end of the bridge.
- Fought for our lives to get off the bridge back the way we came. Seriously people, it’s not a race and there’s no need to shove.
- Walked to the castle and had plenty of time to enjoy the view before our tour.
- Went on the tour. Though unfinished, the rooms you do get to see are just jaw-dropping.
- Hurried back down to the bus on foot.
- Drank a beer and admired the Bavarian country side on the way back to Munich.
- Olympiapark – Oh, you thought a 10-hour tour was enough for one day? Psych! We went to the home of the 1972 Olympics. My best friend’s dad had been there over 30 years before. Despite the drizzle, we enjoyed the funky architecture and peeking in some of the buildings. Also, since my friend had seen the movie Munich, and because we had read the Wikipedia page on the shocking massacre of Israeli athletes, we found our way to the memorial in front of where it happened.
- Olympic Tower – ascend the highest building in Munich for a 360 degree view. Thanks to it being kind of rainy and late in the evening, we had the place virtually to ourselves, though the guard assured us it is packed on weekends. As a bonus, check out the mini Rock n’ Roll Museum at the top and the Walk of Stars nearby after you descend.
- Schnitzel and beer at Augustiner-Keller. This was our main activity the evening we arrived from Salzburg. Recommended by our Airbnb host, the place serves beer that has been brewed since 1328 in a festive, authentically Bavarian atmosphere. I’m sure the outdoor biergarten is lovely, but in the chilly July weather (yes, you read that right) we enjoyed the Netherlands vs. Argentina World Cup game in the Festsaal, which has an Oktoberfest feel.
- Pizza and pasta at Staro. It’s not very noteworthy other than it’s the only non-sit down restaurant we could find open late when we returned from Olympia Tower and were starving. But hey, it was inexpensive and hit the spot.
- After many embarrassing iterations, I finally learned how to pronounce Neuschwanstein: NOY-shvahn-shtine. And when you think about it, it makes more sense, like how the “eu” in “Deutsche” is pronounced “oy,” and how Ws are pronounced like Vs.
The next morning, my friend headed to Spain to continue her trip, and I headed home to the States. Though I didn’t have enough time to explore the lovely city of Munich, it was a springboard to cross Neuschwanstein off my bucket list. I hope you’ve benefited from reading about my trip, and maybe even enjoyed. Please feel free to ask any questions!