Palazzo di Neuschwanstein - Intervista di viaggio in Germania

Neuschwanstein Palace – Travel Germany Interview


Our interview is with Mr. Prost, director of the tourist part of the palace.

Neuschwanstein is now more than a tourist attraction. It is a myth, a place that is on almost every list of „places to visit”. Where does this fascination with Neuschwanstein come from? Is it a phenomenon of recent decades? It is even said that he inspired Disney's Cinderella castle.

Neuschwanstein Palace has always been relatively well visited since its opening in 1886. In the first year, there were 1000 visitors, as people came to find out how King Ludwig II had lived. They were people who lived during the period of Ludwig II's regency or perhaps even saw or met him and who wanted to see how he lived. That was what initially motivated people to come to Neuschwanstein in its first year. Neuschwanstein increasingly became a magnet for visitors, since 1886 the number of visitors had been rising. There were already travel guides, pamphlets in the 19th century that mentioned “whoever goes to Bavaria, or the Alps, must see the famous Neuschwanstein Palace” which was then already part of these lists of “places to visit”. There is always the phenomenon that in each country, there is a consolidated attraction. If you go to Berlin, you have to see the Brandenburg Gate, if you go to India, you have to see the Taj Mahal, if visitors don't have time to see everything.

There are also other palaces in Bavaria that are beautiful, but if you don't have time to see everything, you will see what is most famous and Neuschwanstein is number one, the most famous.

The monumental Neuschwanstein Palace in the middle of the Alps, in Bavaria.
Photo: © Bavarian Palace Administration / Herpich Verlag

In 1935, after Walt Disney was here, he built this Cinderella castle that was inspired by Neuschwanstein. He was here, he designed a very similar palace, which to this day is the symbol of the Walt Disney Company, which has many similarities with Neuschwanstein. This has never been denied, but Disney hasn't admitted it either.

Upper courtyard of Neuschwanstein Palace.
Photo: © Bavarian Palace Administration / Irma Mayr

How many visitors does Neuschwanstein Palace receive per year?

There are 1.5 million visitors per year. We are not the most visited tourist attraction in Germany, there are attractions that receive more visitors, but which generally have free entry. Cologne Cathedral has the most visitors, as does the German Parliament building in Berlin, but it has to be differentiated whether the attraction is free or entry must be paid. And of the attractions with paid entry, we are the most important tourist attraction in Germany.

How many people work in the palace Neuschwanstein?

It's hard to say, as it depends on the month. In the summer months, we have sixty employees in the palace administration, in addition to temporary employees, security, cleaning, souvenir shops, and the bistro. They are different companies and it varies from month to month, whether you consider the months of July and August, or winter.

Dusk at Neuschwanstein – a rare view of the palace, silent and empty.
Photo: © Bavarian Palace Administration / Photo Studio Samer

For you, what is the best time of year to visit Neuschwanstein?

This will depend on what the visitor wants to see in particular. Neuschwanstein Palace in summer, of course, is beautiful, if you want to go on a mountain hike, it's enchanting; otherwise everything will be snowy, the Marienbrucke as if covered in powdered sugar. Some like to take advantage and then take a skiing holiday in Austria which is nearby, depending on your interest. Children like to come here in summer, skiers prefer it in winter, some combine it with cultural events, with a visit to the Christmas markets in Bavaria, it's hard to say. In winter, we are also open and there are only 4 days when we are closed: December 24th and 25th, December 31st and January 1st.

Neuschwanstein palace
Neuschwanstein Castle, facade in winter with snow

On the outskirts of the palace Neuschwanstein there is no Christmas market, correct? The closest is in Füssen.

Here in the surrounding area, there is none. But many visitors prefer to come by car and travel onwards to visit the Christmas markets in other cities.

Is there anything interesting about Neuschwanstein Palace or the region that you would like to tell us about?

Curious…ah, sometimes I find visitors curious (laughs). We have a souvenir shop on Zimmermannplatz, and on the side wall we have posters of the palace. Many visitors take photos of the poster – they don't take a photo of the palace, but of the poster. They take a photo of the Neuschwanstein on the poster and not the real palace. This is something I find curious, when people take a photo of a poster while the real palace is right there in front.

Neuschwanstein palace
Hall of the Singers
Photo: © Bavarian Palace Administration

There are many things that can be said about Neuschwanstein. For example, I always find it interesting that Lake Forggensee, this huge lake that you see from the Singers' Room. Many say and I've seen people saying that there are old images of King Ludwig II, that he would have swum in this lake and this is totally wrong, because the lake only came into existence in the middle of the 20th century. It is an artificial dam lake. I find it very curious that many don't want to know this.

What is your favorite room in the palace?

There are of course many interesting rooms and rooms in the palaces. You can tell a lot about the bedroom, you can talk about the religious aspects of King Ludwig II, you can also observe the many Gothic elements, the medieval sagas. You can spend half an hour in this room and still not see everything. It is certainly the room richest in details.

Neuschwanstein palace interior
Neuschwanstein Castle, bedroom (R.5) with bed (inv. M271 Neus), 1881-84 and washstand (inv. M59 Neus), 1883

The king knew the region since his childhood. He spent a lot of time with his parents at Hohenschwangau Palace, went hiking here and knew that there were ruins of a medieval castle up there on the cliff. He certainly knew this from a young age. And then he had the idea of ​​one day building a castle there with medieval impressions. When he became king, he had the opportunity and the financial means to accomplish this.

When King Ludwig II built the palace, he did not want to be visited, but rather to retreat there in solitude.

Exactly. The palaces were monuments to himself. He built other palaces that kind of follow this theme. At Herrenchiemsee Palace, we go back to the times of King Louis XIV of France, of French Absolutism. It's a palace to think you're in France. It's almost a reproduction of Versailles. Here, at Neuschwanstein, he wanted to stage the theme of the Middle Ages for himself: the knights, the 10th and 11th centuries, the daring heroes. This was his vision of a medieval castle. He had more ideas for palaces, such as a Chinese-style palace, as the Chinese emperor was an impressive personality. He had the themes and wanted to represent them for himself. It was never thought that millions of people would come here. He wanted the place for himself, perhaps to guide Richard Wagner, as he was Wagner's great patron and was proud to show him the palace, but he didn't want to receive visitors here, that's not it.

Neuschwanstein palace interior
Neuschwanstein Castle, throne room (R.2), view to the south (second exposure available)

The restoration work is a very important effort to preserve the palace, both inside and out. What is, or was, the most difficult restoration work done on the palace? Which piece of art or room takes the most work to restore or modernize?

Yes of course. We are currently completely restoring the internal rooms. It is the largest restoration measure that has been taken since the construction of the palace. And the hardest thing is to do this at the same time as the palace is open to visitors. Other palaces simply close when restoration work must be done. In Berlin, for example, in Charlottenburg, they closed for one or two years, and no one could enter. This is not possible with us, as visitors are traveling, they want to see Neuschwanstein Palace and this is a major challenge for our restorers, who work during activity hours. The big problem is things like the floors, which must be restored while visitors walk, for example. Individually, the pieces and objects are no problem, like gilding a chandelier at night, or restoring a painting. The problem is doing this during opening hours.

The cave was artificially lit, a great feat at the time of the palace's inauguration, at the end of the 19th century.
Photo: © Bavarian Palace Administration

Some parts of the palace were finished after the death of King Ludwig II, meaning the palace was not ready when he passed away.

Exactly. Only part of the palace was ready when he passed away and the rest was heavily simplified and finished, or not built at all. Some things have not been done to this day.

Do you believe that, after the Covid-19 pandemic, new measures will be adopted for visits to Neuschwanstein?

This will still happen. We estimate that after the palace opens to the public again, it will be with great security measures, like what all museums in Germany must do, with mandatory distancing, etc. Certainly, in the coming months, we will have very restricted operations. This will still be fine-tuned with Munich and in two or three weeks we will be able to say what exactly will be implemented. This is still in the decision phase.

This is a question we ask all of our guests in our interviews. Which museum, city or attraction in Germany would you recommend to travelers?

If you want to continue with the King Ludwig II theme and are in Bavaria, there is a palace and museum that is often not talked about much, which is the Herrenchiemsee palace. It is a giant palace, whose construction was inspired by Versailles, and the Hall of Mirrors in the Herrenchiemsee palace is even larger than the original in Versailles. Many don't know this. It's a very impressive room and what's really beautiful is that you have to get to the palace by boat, as it's on an island. It's an experience. You arrive by boat at this island and there is this giant palace, you take a guided tour, then visit other museums that are on the island. It's a beautiful place for a walk, also here in Bavaria, and if you want to keep busy with the life of King Ludwig II, you can complete this trip by getting to know other facets of his life.

Herrenchiemsee Palace – another palace of King Ludwig II in Bavaria, less known to the public, but also beautiful.
Photo: © Bavarian Palace Administration

Instagram Questions

How long did the construction of the palace take?

Until the death of King Ludwig II, 17 years, from 1869 until 1886 and even a little longer after that, because when Ludwig II died, the palace had not been finished. In total, it took around 20 years of construction.

Why is photography not allowed inside the palace?

Oh yes, there are different reasons. In many museums, photography is not allowed, as it interferes with the course of a guided tour and in Germany we have very strict data protection rules and not everyone wants to be photographed. If there is a visitor in the room who is taking photos and I appear in their photo, I don't want that as a visitor. We also want to protect our other visitors so that they do not appear in another tourist's photos somewhere in the world, or that in the end they may be published somewhere and they appear in Neuschwanstein. This is not very correct.

PS Our phone conversation took place in May 2020 and was translated and transcribed by me (Rafaella). The photo captions are our own. We kindly thank Mr. Prost for the interview and the Bavarian palace administration body (Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung) for the images provided.