King Ludwig II of Bavaria ranks high on the list of the most enigmatic and intriguing historical figures. Visiting such a castle is just one of the many things to do in Germany. There are so many questions about Ludwig that have never been answered. Read more about his castles – Neuschwanstein, Herrenchiemsee, Linderhof and Nymphenburg Palace.
His death alone draws the fascination of people. Whether he took his own life or someone killed him is a never-ending debate. What was his relationship with opera composer Richard Wagner? Why was he fascinated with fairy tales? Was his eccentricity bordering on insane? And, of course, what led him to build a long line of castles?
The Life and Death of Ludwig II
Ludwig was the king of Bavaria and ruled from 1864 to 1886. As a monarch, he was mainly known as a fairy-tale king. He was never very interested in politics and was more concerned with decorating his castles, which almost bankrupted the treasury. He was a dreamer, nearly detached from reality, who lived in his own world. All castles were built using money the Swan King earned as royalty. It all started with a visit to France where he stepped inside several grandiose castles. To bring positive impressions to Bavaria, he thought of building castles in impoverished areas of the state. This act brought a steady flow of income to local inhabitants, especially labourers.
Ludwig was a real weirdo from his youth, an introvert by nature, and spent most of his time alone. He never married, and sources say he was probably a homosexual. His greatest platonic love was Richard Wagner, who he financially supported wherever possible. Although Ludwig lived above the standards and spent a lot of money, people liked their strange king.
In 1886, his ministers ran out of patience and decided to get rid of the prodigal king. Ludwig was at the Neuschwanstein Castle when he was declared improper by doctors and should be removed from office. Under the castle, a crowd was gathered, wanting to protest against the King’s internment. After a few days, Ludwig was transported to Berg Castle, where he died three days later. At night, he was found dead with his doctor on the shore of the lake. No one knows exactly what happened there, and so the king’s death has been the subject of many conspiracy theories. Among the most popular are those in which the king allegedly tried to escape by trying to swim the lake. He first disabled his doctor, and when he tried to swim across the lake, he suffered a stroke or heart attack in the cold water.
Castles of Ludwig II travelling tips
- All the castles below (Nymphenburg Palace, Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee and Neuschwanstein) are easily accessible from Munich. So we recommend staying in Munich. Check the hotels in Munich or use our travel credit for your first stay with Airbnb.
- You can visit the castles easily by car, use a combination of bus/train or buy some day tours from Munich. Read more about booking tour online in advance.
- It is not possible to take photos inside the castles itself; you cannot even buy a photo permit. The only exception is the Nymphenburg Palace.
- If you want to visit all the castles, you can save money when you buy a 14-day Bavarian Castle Ticket (for 40 castles in Bavaria) or “Königsschlösser” combination ticket (valid for six months). Here you can find more info about the combination tickets.
Constructed in 1664, Nymphenburg Palace was formerly the summer residence of the Bavarian Elector Ferdinand Maria and Henriette Adelaide of Savoy. They stayed here after the birth of their long-awaited son, Max Emanuel, whom they had after ten years of marriage.
This is among the most beautiful palaces in Germany, and it owes its beauty to its perfect amalgam of manicured gardens and supreme architecture. It displays an amazing marriage of several art forms that visitors come back to every year. The man responsible for this beautiful and regal place is architect Agostino Barelli, a close ally of Maria.
Tips on exploring Nymphenburg Palace & Park:
- Holders of the Munich City Pass can get a free admission entrance ticket to the palace by showing the pass at the ticketing office. Alternatively, you can buy a cheaper Munich Card to get a 1 EUR discout to entry.
- There are no regular guided tours, but you can rent an audio guide.
- It is very easy to reach the palace as all you have to do is take Tram 17.
- Take the time to explore the park next to the palace as it’s a great place to relax and enjoy some nature in Munich. You can download the mobile app Nymphenburg Park.
Linderhof Palace and Park
1878 saw the completion of King Ludwig’s Linderhof Palace. The design is inspired by the neo-French style characterized by formal gardens and interiors done with Rococo design. One of the main features of the castle grounds is the electricity-run Venus grotto, which has become a photo-op spot for visitors. Called ‘The Royal Villa,’ Linderhof is the only castle King Ludwig was able to complete before his untimely death. The structure is small in stature but is surrounded by vast gardens and parks.
Inside, Rococo-designed ornaments fill every nook and cranny. The king’s very own creation is in full display. It has a strong South German influence. This added a unique character to the interiors of the castle.
The ornaments which he worked on drew strong influence from his ancestors. These are not imitations but are inspired by their works. Some of the rooms where his works are located surpass the grandeur and beauty of the ones that inspired these. The craftsmanship is unparalleled!
Tips on exploring Linderhof:
- Do not miss out on the gardens and parks. Take the time to explore these areas as this will complete the experience.
- Wear something comfortable. The walk from the ticket gates to the castle takes about 15 minutes. You will walk on gravel, so expect it to be a little rough. The Moroccan House and Moorish Kiosk are some distance away from here. You must wear something light. Sneakers are ideal for these walks.
- Bring water as these walks can leave you thirsty. While are there are stores and restaurants near the gates where you can buy water; there is none inside the castle grounds.
- To avoid knocking and damaging antiques displayed inside the castle, huge bags and items are not permitted inside. There is a depository for such items near the gates.
- Free Wi-Fi is available between the gardens and the castle, the beer garden, and the ticket gate area.
Eight years before the King’s death, construction began on the Herrenchiemsee New Palace. The main inspiration for this structure is the Palace of Versailles. The name is derived from the two places it was built upon, Herreninsel and Chiemsee.
The king had great admiration for France’s Louis XIV, the so-called ‘Sun King.’ Herenchiemsee was his tribute to him. The king commissioned architect Georg von Dollman to facilitate the design and construction of the castle. Dollman spent a lot of time analysing the architecture and design of the Palace of Versailles. Check out incredible photos of the interiors.
Just like the other castles, this was meant to be a private residence of the king. He was only able to spend ten days in this abode one year before his death. At that time, only the central part of the edifice was finished. Some of the interesting features visitors will find is the private dining area, the marble staircase, and the Halls of Mirror.
Tips on exploring Herrenchiemsee:
- Check the official website for ferry schedules to the island.
- Ride a train or bus to the boat dock. Check the internet for the schedules of buses and trains.
- Combine a visit to Herrenchiemsee with other island on the Chiemsee. Frauenchiemsee is much smaller but also worth seeing.
- The whole island is quite big, and there are only one restaurant and one caffé. So we recommend bringing some drinks and snacks.
Schloss Neuschwanstein is designed in the Romanesque tradition with high towers characterizing its architecture. The castle is on a family property that the king’s parents bought. When he was a boy, Ludwig saw the property and immediately envisioned building a castle on it.
In 1869, he turned his vision into a reality as the foundations of the castle were laid. The mountain top property provided scenic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. All the walls were fitted with artworks depicting scenes from operas composed and created by Richard Wagner.
The castle is composed of fourteen rooms and vast gardens outside of it. Unfortunately, the king died before the castle was completed. However, every plan Ludwig made for the castle was followed exactly.
Tips on exploring Schloss Neuschwanstein:
- The guided tour lasts about thirty minutes.
- The tours are given in English and German. Please check their website for availability or rent an audio guide in 10+ languages.
- You can have a picnic in designated areas. Food is served in a café inside the castle and restaurants located in the village nearby.
- The castle is open every day of the year.
- The most famous / most common photo spot is from Marienbrücke. It is just 20 minutes walk from Neuschwanstein castle.
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