10 surprising facts you should know about Neuschwanstein Castle

Lucinda Watts
Lucinda Watts - [email protected]
10 surprising facts you should know about Neuschwanstein Castle
Photo: DPA

Neuschwanstein Castle is perhaps Germany's most easily recognisable tourist attraction. Known often as the Disney castle or Germany's fairy tale castle, it has a very interesting history.


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1. Construction took more than seven times longer than expected

When construction of the castle began in 1869, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who initiated the project, estimated that building would take 3 years to complete. But due to the ambitious designs and precarious building site atop a mountain, the project took much longer.

King Ludwig II set practically unachievable deadlines which meant that workers had to work day and night to get the work done in time. The King had to live in the gateway building until the palace was liveable. He finally moved in in 1884, 12 years later than he intended to. But building work was still not complete.

2. The castle was built to compensate for loss of sovereign power
King Ludwig II decided to build his fairytale palace because, after just two years of ruling, he had lost his sovereign power to the Prussian Empire. Bavaria was forced to accept a "defensive and offensive" alliance, which removed the king's control of his army in the event of a war. 
The Bavarian King sought out other ways to reaffirm his royalty by building castles and palaces in which he truly felt like a king, despite the fact that in the 19th century castles offered no strategic advantage. Much of his reasoning for building the castle appears to be purely aesthetic. For example, in 1867 Ludwig II visited Wartburg castle in central Germany, and was particularly impressed by the singer's hall, drawing inspiration from it for the new castle.
3. Ludwig II never lived to see his creation fully completed
Neuschwanstein after its completion. Photo: DPA
Although Ludwig II moved into the castle in 1884, he never saw it completely finished due to the various delays and setbacks which put construction so far behind schedule. The bower and the square tower remained incomplete until 1892, 24 years later. 
Before his death in 1886, the King had racked up substantial debts. In order to pay off these debts, the authorities opened the castle to the public as a museum, just 7 weeks after his death.

4. The castle is featured in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

This one may come as less of a surprise but is well worth a mention. In the 1968 film, the Bavarian castle was the filming location for the shots of the outside of evil Baron Bomburst's castle, which the family fly over in the car in one memorable scene. 

5.  Neuschwanstein is the inspiration for the Disney castle

Walt Disney was so inspired by its fairytale architecture, that he used it to create Cinderella's castle in the 1950 cartoon film. Neuschwanstein is also the basis for the Disney logo, shown before every Disney film, and the Cinderella Castle in Disneyworld Florida and the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Paris. 

6. The decorations were inspired by Wagner’s operas

Many of the pictures in the castle are inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner, or rather the medieval stories which inspired them. The stories depicting love, guilt, penance, and salvation are the themes in the wall paintings of the castle. King Ludwig II was a close personal friend of Wagner and his benefactor; he even dedicated Neuschwanstein to the composer.

7. The castle was on the cutting edge of technology. 

The medieval style inside of the Castle. Photo: DPA

Although the castle takes inspiration from the architecture of the middle ages, Ludwig II ensured that it was fitted with all the latest technology of the time. There was running water throughout, including hot and cold water in the kitchen, an electric bell system for servants, telephones, a hot air central heating system and a lift. What's more, all of this was at a time when such technology was practically unheard of. The castle was also built with steam-powered cranes as the building site was so difficult to reach.

8. The building constantly needs repairs to stop it falling down

Neuschwanstein needs continuous work to remain in its highly preserved state. The limestone façades are damaged by the mountain harsh climate and have to be renovated section by section over the coming years. Movement in the foundation area also has to be continuously monitored, and the sheer rock cliffs of the hill must be repeatedly secured to prevent parts of the structure slipping down the mountain.

9. The castle was supposed to be the King's retreat from the public

Visitors at Neuschwanstein. Photo: DPA
The castle was built deep in the Bavarian countryside not to be a place of royal representation, but rather retreat. The shy king would be surprised, therefore, to learn that nowadays the castle has more than 1.4 million visitors per year, garnering around 6,000 per day in the summer months.

10. Neuschwanstein didn’t get its name until after Ludwig II’s death

Hohenschwangau castle. Photo: DPA

During his lifetime, King Ludwig II called the palace the 'Neue Burg Hohenschwangau' after the nearby Hohenschwangau castle where he had spent much of his childhood. Hohenschwangau was painted with scenes of medieval legends which Ludwig II wanted to emulate in his new castle, for example in the works of art depicting characters of kings, knights, poets and lovers.

Three figures, in particular, were of significance to the king - the poet Tannhäuser, the 'Grail King' Parzival and his son, Lohengrin the 'Swan Knight'. The name Neuschwanstein is a reference to the last character and literally means 'New Swan Stone' which comes from one of Wagner's operas 'The Swan Knight'. 


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