One of the top bucket-list destinations in Europe is Bavaria, and in particular, the impressive number of stunning castles you can visit in and around Munich.
The spotlight of these castle tours is on those built by King Ludwig II. His palaces get a lot of the hype due to his own eccentric persona, the attention to detail in their construction, and just how over-the-top they were.
Ludwig II died at age 40, so he didn’t have much time to build more than the 3 castles that still exist today: Neuschwanstein, Herrenchiemsee, and Linderhof. In fact, the first two were not even finished.
There are a lot more castles and palaces to discover than those of Ludwig II (which you should anyway visit, because, wow).
Every year, we visit 9 of these fabulous castles, each one unique and full of unbelievable historical facts.
Here’s an overview of these incredible castles.
This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the first designs of the then-unknown architect Balthazar Neumann. It took nearly 60 years to complete.
The highlight of Wurzburg Residence is the very prominent ceiling fresco above the grand staircase. The fresco, painted by Giovanni Tiepolo, is the largest in the world!
Like many Bavarian Castles, you can have a guided tour of its interiors, but no photos allowed. You can take pictures of the stunning gardens.
Also located in the town of Wurzburg, this fortress was the mean residence of the Prince-Bishops of Wurzburg until the 18th century.
Swedish forces under the rule of King Gustav II Adolph stormed the castle and occupied it. After that, the fortress saw additional improvements to its fortification in the form of massive bastions.
The fortress is surrounded by vineyards and spectacular scenery. Given its location, it’s the best spot for amazing views of the city. Today you can walk through most of the fortress, which required several renovations to restore it to its former glory.
This Baroque palace was built to commemorate the birth of the future Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria. Nymphenburg was the birthplace of the future King Ludwig II.
The palace was the official summer residence of the House of Wittelsbach, rules of Bavaria. The interiors are simply spectacular, notably the Marble Hall and the Gallery of Beauties, a collection of portraits commissioned by King Ludwig I.
One of the few locations where photos are allowed inside the palace.
The largest city palace in Germany, located in the centre of Munich and another site linked to the House of Wittelsbach. This was their main royal palace.
The palace is massive, and you can really spend hours exploring the beautiful interiors. The most notable spots at Munich Residence include the Antiquarium, the Baroque Ancestral Gallery, the Cuvilliés Theatre, and the Treasury.
This large complex includes 10 different courtyards, including the Grotto Courtyard, which takes its name from the fountain and shell-decorated grotto. This is another palace that allows photos inside.
Herrenchiemsee was the last of Ludwig II’s vanity projects. A lot of money went into the construction of this “homage” to King Louis XIV of France. And it was never finished; Ludwig died before he could see complete.
The palace was supposed to be a replica of Versailles. It had all the splendour of the French palace, but it was never meant to be a location that would host a large household. Ludwig spent a few days there only.
Inside, you can experience many similar rooms as in Versailles, including the famous Hall of Mirrors. It’s even better preserved than the original! Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed on site.
A small, yet incredibly opulent palace, Linderhof is the smallest of all Ludwig II’s palaces and the only one he was able to complete in his lifetime.
You could say that Linderhof was his prototype for the much larger Herrenchiemsee project. The palace is definitely influenced by the style of Versailles, and it includes plenty of tributes to King Louis XIV. But interestingly enough, a lot of the decor is mainly Louis XV’s Rococo style.
The park and gardens surrounding the palace are stunningly beautiful. Aside from the formal gardens, there are a few other notable spots on the property, including the Venus Grotto, the Moorish Kiosk and the Moroccan House. Pictures are allowed in the gardens, but not inside the palace.
Directly across from one of Ludwig II’s designs (the famous Neuschwanstein), this medieval castle was rebuilt by his father, Maximilian I, and was Ludwig’s childhood home.
The castle dates as far back as the 12th century, although the construction that bears the same name dates back from the 14th century, and it sits below the present-day fortress. After the reconstruction of the castle, it became Maximilian’s official summer and hunting residence.
Visiting Hohenschwangau will give you a glimpse of one of the inspirations for Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein. Wall decorations display the tales of Parzival and Lohengrin, the Swan Knight. Sadly, you are not allowed to take pictures inside the castle.
No other castle symbolises the castles of Bavaria as much as Neuschwanstein Castle. Millions of tourists visit this place every year, inspiring many around the world. So much so that Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for the castle at Disney World and Disneyland parks.
The castle was meant to be Ludwig II home, but he never got to see its completion. And where Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee were a tribute to King Louis XIV, Neuschwanstein pays homage to composer Richard Wagner and his music. Wagner’s opera’s already tapped some of the fairy tales of his childhood (those stories he got to experience in his home, Hohenschwangau).
And fairy tale is what you get when you visit this castle! The Throne Hall and the Hall of Singers, in particular, embody the medieval fantasy he wished to convey. Sadly he never saw his dream completed. And unfortunately for us, no pictures are allowed inside.
This medieval castle in the city of Nuremberg is considered one of the most impressive in the region. The first fortified building on this site dates from the year 1000.
It was a significant site for German kings until the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. After that, there were several efforts to refurbish and rebuilt the castle (including during the Nazi regime). However, it was only after the Second World War that the castle was restored to his traditional form.
Pictures are allowed inside the castle (which again, is a very rare allowance!)
Bavarian Castles can undoubtedly capture the imagination of people of all ages (for children, this can be a particularly exciting trip!)
What’s your favourite or which one gets a spot on your wishlist? Tell us in the comments below!
Expat Club goes to Bavaria again this year! Book your spot on the latest instalment of our Bavarian Castles trip!
Cover image: © cge_2010 – Shutterstock