Home » 2017 European Vacation

Fussen, Germany

Monday, June 19, 2017 - 6:45pm by Lolo
180 miles and 3.5 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay


Day 1 - Beaching and bathing in the Forggensee

Camping BrunnenCamping BrunnenWe were back in the Motherland! After an amazing 4 weeks of traveling through Bavaria, Austria, Northern Italy, and Switzerland, we were back to the land of beer gardens and fantasy castles. It felt like we had come home.

What better place to end it than Fussen, a town in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, with a beautiful lake, Old Town with beer gardens, and, of course, “Mad” King Ludwig II’s Schloss Neuschwanstein, a castle so magical that Disney used it as the model for Sleeping Beauty.

Although this castle gets most of the attention, Schloss Hohenschwangau, the castle that Ludwig actually grew up in, is also nearby.

As you can imagine, it’s a very popular tourist destination, so we were fortunate to get the last campsite in Camping Brunnen, on the shores of the Forggensee, about 3 miles north of the castles.

Our campground beach on the ForgenseeOur campground beach on the ForgenseeWhen we asked about visiting Schloss Neuschwanstein tomorrow, the campground host said that there were no longer pre-day ticket reservations, and that if we wanted to tour the inside of the castle, we would have to get up early and wait in a very long line at the Ticket Center. Oh, great. We were actually more interested in photographing it from the outside, so we would just go there anyway and see how long the line was.

In the meantime, we spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach and swimming in the Forggensee, capped off by an evening stroll along its shoreline path.

Being a coast dweller, I always thought it would be hard to live far from the ocean, but there is definitely something to be said for the beauty of a warm freshwater lake surrounded by incredible scenery. I think this was our seventh.

Day 2 - Biking to the Castles, Lechfall, and Fussen Altstadt

On the way to Schloss NeuschwansteinOn the way to Schloss NeuschwansteinToday it was off to the castles! Not wanting to move the camper or deal with parking by the Ticket Center, we decided to rent bikes at the campground and ride there.

The ride was great - only 3.5 miles alongside lovely green pastures. Directions were easy. Just keep heading towards the magnificent castle on the hill.

As we entered the tiny village of Hohenschwangau, we left the peace and serenity of our bike ride behind and entered the land of long lines and tour buses. What a mob scene! The ticket line had to be at least an hour and a half long.

It was a little bit of a tough decision, but we both agreed that we would rather not wait.

Crowds on the Marienbrucke to take the classic Neuschwanstein photoCrowds on the Marienbrucke to take the classic Neuschwanstein photoBesides, the best photographs of the castles are from the exterior anyway; in fact, photography is not even allowed inside. At our age, pictures are the only way we remember where we’ve been.

So, we locked up our bikes, and joined the crowd hiking up the steep mile-long hill to Neuschwanstein. It was a pretty long walk so I’m surprised so many were doing it instead of taking the shuttle or the fancier horse-drawn carriage.

Once at the castle, we continued on past for another 10 minutes to the Marienbrucke, which spans the spectacular Pollat Gorge over a waterfall just above the castle. This is the spot where the classic photos of the castle are taken. This vantage point is no secret, so we practically had to elbow our way to the railing to get a shot. I think the real photo to get here is of the people taking selfies of themselves with the castle in the background.

Schloss Neuschwanstein from the MarienbruckeSchloss Neuschwanstein from the MarienbruckeThis is turn around point for most visitors, but we continued across the bridge and a short distance along the gorge, just to get a breather from the crowds. Legend has it that Ludwig used to love to come to this bridge to enjoy the serenity. Boy, would he be surprised if he were here today.

We walked down a different trail to get to the other castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, Ludwig’s boyhood home. Built by Ludwig’s father, King Maximilian II, this 19th-century, bright yellow, neo-Gothic palace has none of the theatrics of Ludwig’s “fantasy” castle. Still, Ludwig did manage to add a whimsical touch to his bedroom, by having stars, illuminated with hidden oil lamps, painted on the ceiling.

Swan statue in Schloss Hohenschwangau GardenSwan statue in Schloss Hohenschwangau GardenAs with Neuschwanstein, we did not have tickets to enter Hohenschwangau, but we did get to enjoy its gardens. Ludwig must have gotten a little bit of his theatrical flair from his dad, because Maximilian had Domenico Quaglio, a theater architect, design the gardens.

The garden had lots of fountains. The swan (“schwan” in German) was the emblem of the Bavarian royal family - hence, the word schwan in both castle names, and not so surprisingly a swan fountain in the garden.

There is also a beautiful Lion Fountain with four majestic lions supporting a central basin. It was inspired by the Palace of Lions in the Spanish Alhambra.

Also, in the courtyard is a lovely fountain with the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus in her lap.

There was also a relatively austere royal family chapel on the grounds, which we were allowed to go into without tickets. The building was a drinking hall before it was converted into a chapel. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that discussion.

LechfallLechfallWe returned to the Ticket Center to retrieve our bikes and then continued through a park along the Schwansee towards Lechfall, located in a beautiful gorge along the River Lech. We walked out onto the footbridge that spans the falls for a beautiful view of the Lechfall cascading over five man-made tiers on one side and cascading into a rock-studded gorge on the other.

From the bridge, we climbed down a trail and strolled for a while along the river. Rumor has it that King Ludwig II also loved the beauty of these falls and visited here often. I don’t think he could have been that crazy, maybe just a bit too theatrical and romantic. There are worse qualities to have.

We continued on to Fussen’s Historische Altstadt (Historic Old Town) in search of beer and schnitzel. After yelping, we selected the Fussen Brauhaus, both for its good reviews, as well as the fact that it had an accordion player right nearby in the square to add to the ambience. It was great to be back in Germany!

After a very delicious meal and a refreshing beer, we rode the remaining 5 miles back to Camping Brunnen. All in all we had biked / walked 15.6 miles on our castle exploration.

Time to hit the beach back at the campground.


Fussen is a town in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, two hours south of Munich, that is home to “Mad” King Ludwig II’s fantasy castle - Schloss Neuschwanstein, as well as Schloss Hohenschwangau, his boyhood home.

Schloss Neuschwanstein is featured in “1,000 Places to See Before you Die” and is also the model for the Disney castle.

King Ludwig II designed the castle with the help of a stage designer, rather than an architect. He was obsessed with Germanic mythology and the operatic works of Richard Wagner, so he planned his palace to be a giant stage on which to recreate his fantasies.

Today Schloss Neuschwanstein if one of the most popular castles in Europe, hosting about 6,000 visitors per day in the summer. Entrance tickets (13 euro) can only be purchased at the Ticket Center in the village of Hohenschwangau below the castle.

Visitors have three options for getting from the Ticket Center to the castle.

  • Walk - it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to walk up the steep 1 mile hill
  • Horse-drawn carriage - For 6 euros, the carriage brings visitors to an area below the castle, from which it is a 5 to 10 minute walk uphill
  • Shuttle - For 1,80 euros, the bus brings visitors to an area above the castle, from which it is a 10 minute to 15 minute walk downhill

For the best view of the castle, walk another 10 minutes to the Marienbrucke, which spans the spectacular Pollat Gorge over a waterfall just above the castle

Standing more subtly below Neuschwanstein is the Schloss Hohenschwangau, a 19th-century, bright yellow, neo-Gothic palace where Ludwig spent most of his childhood. It is much less showy than Ludwig’s “fantasy castle” and has a distinctly live-in feeling. After Ludwig’s father, King Maximilian II died, Ludwig had stars, illuminated with hidden oil lamps, painted on his bedroom ceiling - always the romanticist.

Admission to the Schloss Hohenschwangau is also 13 euro, or you can buy a combo ticket for the two castles for 24 euro.

Another attraction in Fussen is Lechfallwhere the River Lech cascades into a rock-studded gorge. A footbridge spans the fall, giving a dramatic close-up view. King Ludwig II loved the beauty of the falls, just as visitors still do today.

Fussen location map in "high definition"

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