Few places on Earth look more like storybook illustrations that Neuschwanstein Castle. With its towers, turrets, frescoes, and throne hall, Neuschwanstein (or Schloss Neuschwanstein, as it is called in German) looks like it was plucked straight from your favorite fairy tale. But the story behind this over-the-top palace nestled in the Bavarian Alps is less idyllic.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria commissioned the cliffside castle in 1868, just two years after Austria and Bavaria were conquered by Prussia during the Austro-Prussian War (sometimes called the Seven Weeks’ War), effectively stripping Ludwig II of his powers. He quickly retreated into a private fantasy world, surrounding himself with opulent castles where he could live out his dreams of being a true, sovereign king.
Ludwig II never saw the final Neuschwanstein, according to the Bavarian Castle Administration. He died in 1886, and the final towers weren’t completed until 1892. But within weeks of his sudden and mysterious death, the magnificent castle was opened to the public, where it quickly became one of the region’s most visited attractions.
Today, more than 1.5 million visitors come to see Germany’s fairy tale castles, making it one of the most visited castles in the world. Here’s everything you need to know about this charming attraction before you make the trip.