The Neuschwanstein Castle, located in the Bavarian region of Germany is the ultimate when you are thinking of fantasy castles. It is the quintessential 19th century romantic palace. 

Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and homage to Richard Wagner, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the world’s most photographed royal residences. It was built using his personal funds (and through extensive borrowing) and opened to the public shortly after his death in 1886. It is believed to have inspired Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle, with its over-the-top Romanesque Revival architecture. 

It is located just east of Füssen, with its spires and towers soaring high above the Pollat River gorge. The castle is a result of one of Louis II of Bavaria's flights of fancy. This is just one of the three royal palaces built for "mad King Ludwig" as Louis II is called, but it is the most beautiful and popular of the three. 

King Ludwig II’s vision for the castle was inspired by trips he made to the reconstructed Wartburg Castle near Eisenach and the Château de Pierrefonds, both of which he saw as being a romantic interpretation of the Middle Ages. He wanted a retreat that embodied the musical mythology of his friend, Richard Wagner, with the operas Tannhäuser and Lohengrin having made a particularly strong impression on him. In fact, most of the rooms are adorned by carvings and paintings inspired by his operas. The images feature the themes of love and salvation, kings and knights, lovers and poets. The predominant image of the castle is the swan. The palace also served as a retreat for Ludwig II. He stayed there on and off for six months.

Construction of the castle began in 1869, however, it was left unfinished at his death. Ludwig II conceptualized the whole thing and it was designed by Christian Jank, who was more a theatrical set designer than an architect. The technical know-how was provided by Eduard Riedel and Georg Dollmann. Ludwig II actively participated in its design.

Neuschwanstein Castle is composed of a gatehouse, a citadel or palace, a Bower and a Knight's House. Inside the palace, you can see the Throne Hall, the Grotto, the Singer's Hall and the king's suite. You will pass by the main hall which is composed of deep copper red porphyry. You climb up white Carrara marble steps to the Throne Hall. The Hall features a chandelier generously encrusted with gems, a mosaic design depicting animals from various parts of the world, plus a mural of Jesus looking down on his twelve disciples. However, the throne itself was never finished. This was designed by J. Hofmann. As for the King's suite, it houses an ornate four-poster bed, a sink with running water and a flushing toilet. This room is filled with elaborate carvings, works which took over 4 years to finish. These carvings depict stories such as that of Tristan and Isolde, as well as panels that are designed like Gothic windows.

Many reflect a German historicist style and were fitted with some of the 19th century’s latest technical innovations, such as a battery-powered bell system to summon servants, running warm water and flushing toilets. 

The Hall of the Singers is the largest room in the castle and decorated with themes from Lohengrin and Parzival while the Throne Hall is adorned in paintings of Jesus, the Twelve Apostles and the six canonized kings. It is in this large room, at the fourth floor,  where the king watched performances by playwrights and musicians. This hall is designed like the one in Wartburg, with frescoes showing Parsifal as well as marble columns. 

There is also a servants' quarters, a dining room, a study and hot and cold water in the kitchen. There is even a room that is designed to look like a cavern. Although the design of the castle is Medieval, there are modern amenities installed such as running water, automatic flush toilets and a centralized heat system that warms the rooms. There are also some parts of the castle that remain unfinished.

Schloss Neuschwanstein teeters above the village of Füssen and is located around 30 minutes’ walk uphill. Visitors are welcome to wander around the exterior of the castle or explore its lavish rooms and period furnishings. The original plans included more than 200 rooms but only 15 were ever finished, including the Throne Hall, the king’s staterooms and the servants quarters. 

A visit in September would usually offer more performances available for viewing.