If you or your children are fascinated by castles & knights, then you must visit Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany. It is probably the most elaborate of all the German Castles & its beauty inspired Walt Disney to build the Sleeping Beauty Castle in the center of Disneyland. Neuschwantstein Castle was built by King Ludwig II as his fantasy retreat. The inside of the castle is like an elaborate Hollywood set to make the King’s favorite Wagner Operas come to life — complete with gold gilded Throne Room, life sized murals, and even a Venus Grotto (cave). To see the fabulous inside of the castle, you have to take a tour. Tours are short (30 minutes), so they are quite child friendly. And to get the best photos of the castle from the outside, you should go to nearby Marienbrücke (a bridge that was built for King Ludwig’s mother). If you & your family enjoy a walk, then also hike down to the river below. Tourists have made a Steinman (Rock People) Field there. The water is clean & on the riverbanks, there is plenty of room for a picnic.
Logistics: First of all if you wish to see the inside of the castle, reserve your tickets for the tour via internet in advance — we reserved ours 3 weeks in advance. Here is the link: http://www.neuschwanstein.de/englisch/tourist/index.htm. (If you don’t do this, you may be waiting for your tour for about 4+ hours. This castle is very popular.) From Zurich, driving to Neuschwanstein Castle takes about 4 hours (including a short lunch break in between). After you have parked your car at the Castle Parking Lot, you will have to walk another 30 minutes (with children estimate 45 minutes) up the hill to get to the castle. If you don’t want to walk, you can take a bus or a horse drawn carriage up too.
After your visit to Neuschwanstein Castle (which will take only half a day), you can visit the nearby smaller castle of Hohenschwangau (where King Ludwig vacationed as a child) or visit the little town of Füssen (10 minutes away). If you want to get some good food, I would head to Füssen. This cute Bavarian town has a beautifully maintained Old Town with lots of restaurants. Our favorite restaurant was Greek Restaurant Kelari (Address: Lechhalde 1, 87629 Füssen, Bavaria, Germany, Tel: 08362-5058278). Everything, from the fish to the meats & salads, was superb. If your kids don’t like Greek, then Ristorante Pizzeria Il Pescatore (Address: Franziskanergasse 13, 87629 Fussen, Bavaria, Germany, Tel. 49 8362-924343) an Italian restaurant was also very good. Both places were bursting with customers, so a reservation in advance is highly advised. If you don’t manage to reserve in advance, Gasthof Krone (Address: Schrannengasse 17, 87629 Fussen, Bavaria, Germany) serving German food in a Middle Ages setting, also looked good. This restaurant, being a large restaurant, seemed always to have room.
If you wish to overnight in Bavaria, then Hotel Fantasia (Address: Ottostrasse 1, 87629 Fussen, Bavaria, Germany) is FANTASTIC! We stayed in quintuple room #2 for 110 Euros/night & it was like a mini-suite: 2 sleeping rooms, an eating area, huge bathroom, & tiny kitchen (with stove & refrigerator — bring your own pots, utensils, plates, etc. though). On sunny days the large garden area is set up with a really big trampoline, ping pong table, lawn chairs, & tables.
Last, but not least, if you would like to travel back in time to the Middle Ages, then don’t miss “Ritterspiele Ehrenberg.” It is a large Middle Ages Festival in nearby Reutte, Tirol, Austria (about 15-20 minutes by car). Here is their link: http://www.ritterturniere.com/ There is a Knights Jousting Tournament, a HUGE parade with Romans, Celts & Knights, a marketplace with all sorts of crafts people (blacksmiths, weavers, potters, etc.) and of course ancient games for children. It’s a great way to make history come alive for your kids. (Note: This festival only comes once a year. Next one set for July 25-27, 2014.) Almost forgot, if you stay late enough, the festival ends with a big bang (fireworks).