Castle Neuschwanstein is probably the most famous german castle and one of the country’s most notable landmarks. Located just a few kilometers away from the Austrian border, in a small Bavarian town of Hohenschwangau, this fairy tale castle attracts millions of visitors every year and is on every tourist’s “to see” list. Obviously, this means it has been photographed thousands of times before. So is it even worth going to for photographers? Is it still possible to come up with a unique image of such an iconic location? This article summarizes my own experience photographing castle Neuschwanstein and will hopefully provide some useful advice on the matter.
I first learned about the castle Neuschwanstein years ago, long before I moved to Germany. I knew I definitely wanted to visit it someday, but I never found myself close enough to justify the travel. Then, as I moved to Stuttgart, I realized that the infamous romantic castle is now only a couple of hours’ drive away. Photographing castle Neuschwanstein suddenly became a very real possibility. And why not? Even if I end up getting the same image as everybody else, it would still be totally worth it. So late September we decided to spend a weekend in the area and to see what the fuzz was all about.
Before you read any further, I should probably mention that as much as I am fascinated by castles, ruins, and all things medieval, I’m not a huge fan of castle and palace interiors. Sure, these can be very fancy, but to me, it just feels that once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. It’s the external beauty and the surrounding landscape that attract me the most. So if you’re wondering how the castle looks inside or whether the tickets are worth their price, there won’t be any of that info in this article, sorry. I never went inside and didn’t really want to either. However, if you’re a photographer looking for the details of where to shoot the castle from, you’ve come to the right place, read right on!
There are three places that I found that offer a great view of Neuschwanstein. The first one is right from the parking lot in Hohenschwangau. Just park your car, grab the long lens, and spend five or ten minutes framing the shot. Sounds very easy but beware that if you arrive early in the day, even step one may prove troublesome. With the number of tourists that visit Neuschwanstein daily finding parking space might be a fun endeavor. One way to avoid this in summer is to come in the evening. The visitor hours are only until 6 pm, and most of the crowds will quickly dissipate after that. In summer, that’s also a good three hours away from sunset. As a photographer that’s when you want to be there anyway, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore.
Anyway, back to that parking lot photo. Surprisingly, I don’t see a whole lot of images from that point on the web. Could be that most people don’t have long lenses on their iPhones or just rush straight to the castle. Or perhaps the reason is that compositionally it looks rather dull most of the time. It’s really the combination of the time of year and the weather conditions on-site at the time of my visit that made it work for me. Bright autumn colors below and the mist swirling behind and above the castle created what is likely my favorite image from the trip. I guess the takeaway here is that there is always a photo opportunity, even at the locations as popular and as iconic as this. And hey, I didn’t even have to hike for it!
The second vantage point with a great view of the Neuschwanstein is from the bridge Marienbrücke. There are two ways to reach it. You can either hop onto a shuttle bus from Füssen or go on a 20-minute hike uphill. It is a rather steep climb that’ll quickly get you puffing, but totally manageable if you’re in decent shape. There is also a longer route that follows the paved road and is less difficult. That one will take 40 minutes to complete. When aiming for sunset, hiking will be the only option since buses won’t be running that late (make sure to check the schedule here).
Marienbrücke bridge is where you get that classical postcard photo of Neuschwanstein from. From the bridge, you have a great view of the castle in all its glory. Absolutely gorgeous, but there are two things to keep in mind here. First, this place can get extremely crowded, up to a point where setting up a tripod might be a hassle. Again, come later in the day for a less stressful experience. And two, there’s not much room for experimenting. You’re pretty much limited by the length of the bridge and will be getting the exact same perspective as everyone else, so the chances of it being unique are somewhat slim. After all, that’s where everyone and their mother take photographs from.
When photographing castle Neuschwanstein from the Marienbrücke bridge, pretty much your only chance for an original image is rare or unusual weather. The photo that I got above is in no way unique, but what sets it apart somewhat is once again the fog that was there that day. It does create a certain mood and that makes it stand out a bit. However, this might have easily worked against me. The fog only cleared right before sunset, barely allowing me to get the image. Below is how the view looked like when we got to the bridge. The mood is certainly there, but it wouldn’t have been a very interesting image, had the weather not changed.
The last viewpoint I want to mention is probably the most beneficial and lends itself best to that epic sunset photo. I never got to it on my first visit, so you won’t see it in my YouTube video. Most likely, it wouldn’t have been any good that day due to all the mist. But when I came back to Füssen in summer, I made certain to check it out. To get to it, continue past the bridge on a hiking route that goes steadily uphill. This is not an easy trail, so bring your hiking shoes. Luckily, you only need to follow the path for an additional 20 minutes or so. Soon you’ll reach an opening with a marvelous view of the castle below and its surrounding landscape. Be here for sunset and that beautiful photo is yours. Just don’t forget to take the flashlight for the return trip.
A note on drones. The official website states that drones aren’t allowed since Neuschwanstein is located at the border of the protected natural reserve. There is also a no-drone sign as you reach the bridge. So, all in all, you shouldn’t be flying from anywhere right next to the castle. That would’ve been a bad idea anyway, but I’ve also read reports of guards being less than appreciative of it. However, based on my go-to site for no-fly zones in Germany, there is a space between the castle and the last viewpoint that is not a reserve and has no restrictions. If you launch from there in the direction of the castle, you might be in the clear. Whether or not to trust that judgment is for you to decide. My feeling is that if you fly responsibly, you’ll probably be ok, there are not many people in that area.
So there you have it. When photographing castle Neuschwanstein it really isn’t easy to come up with something super unique. However, I still believe that in every place, no matter how many people visit or photograph it, you can make some beautiful images. Just look for the opportunities and they will undoubtedly present themselves. I hope these tips were useful. Be sure to have a look at my YouTube video about photographing castle Neuschwanstein and its surroundings for more details. And of course, let me know in the comments below what’s your experience been in Neuschwanstein. Are you content with getting an image that looks like everyone else’s? Do you wait for unusual weather conditions? Do you avoid coming to such iconic places altogether? Let me know!