A LITTLE BACKGROUND:
this castle is straight up crazy. built on the side of a mountain deep in the german countryside, the 19th century romanesque revival palace was commissioned by king ludwig II of bavaria as a retreat, paid for out of his personal fortune [and other controversial ways]. we actually really enjoyed learning more about the king, they knew very little about him and what they did know can be read in more detail here. after his death in 1886 the castle was immediately opened to the paying public and since then more than 61 million people have visited here.
we rented a car out of munich, as we wanted the flexibility to stop along the way and it was cheaper than 2 train tickets. there are buses and tours running what seems like hourly – but i don't think this is the route you want to take. the tour groups seem very forced and crowded – i get anxiety just thinking about it. [car rental: $40 for the day and $6 for parking]
HOW TO AVOID THE TOURIST GROUPS:
when we read that there are over 1.3 million visitors per year, we were a bit hesitant to spend our time and money getting there to see it. [in the summer time this number gets up to almost 6,000 a day!] luckily, we were there in the winter and technical off season – but what's important to know, is that you can actually avoid 98% of the tourists by just getting a little active. if you take the time to hike up the trail, there are stunning views of the castle with absolutely no tourists. the only other people we encountered was a couple painting the castle with watercolors – my kind of crowd.
we pictured the inside looking like your average stone-y castle and questioned whether paying to enter would be worth it. we often don't pay to go inside places unless it really feels right – because we're on a budget and it can be a waste of time. BUT, the inside of this place is EXTRAVAGANT and crazy and absolutely worth it. if you have time after the short hike, going on the inside tour is pretty nuts. you're not allowed to take photos, but a quick google image search will leave you inspired.
^^ on the way home we stopped to try a local beer and cream cake... another perk to having your own means of transportation!