Rick Steves

5 Fairy-Tale Castles Near Munich

Images of Germany's state of Bavaria are like something out of a storybook. With its castles in the Alps, beer gardens, and beautiful churches, it's no wonder Rick Steves calls the region the most scenic, charming, and culturally rich part of the country.

Starting in the lovely city of Munich, the European travel expert gives us a grand tour of Bavaria's most picturesque sites on "Rick Steves' Europe." But what really catches our attention are those incredible fairy-tale castles and palaces surrounding the area. Here are the highlights from the episode.

You can watch the full video here, and get even more insightful travel tips Monday through Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m.

1. The Munich Residenz

This regal estate is the former palace of the Wittelsbach family, who ruled the Bavaria region for nearly seven centuries. Although severely destroyed in World War II, the downtown palace has since been completely rebuilt and is now one of Europe's finest palace museums. Visitors can walk through its apartments, ceremonial rooms and chapels, and get a glimpse at the Wittelsbach's vast collections of paintings, sculptures, and ornate furniture.

2. Hohenschwangau Castle

An hour drive from Munich takes us to the foothills of the Bavarian Alps: the land of fairy-tale castles. This big, yellow castle is the boyhood home of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (a.k.a. "Mad" King Ludwig). Of the two castles he built, this is the most lived in and historic, giving us the best glimpse of his life there. Rooms are lavishly decorated, and many walls have been beautifully painted with murals.

3. Neuschwanstein Castle

Just up the hill from Hohenschwangau is where Ludwig built his dream home -- Neuschwanstein Castle. Constructed in the late 1800s, this majestic hilltop castle is the epitome of the Romantic style popular at that time. Its interior has a sort of medieval style.

For visiting this castle and Hohenschwangau, you'll want to make a reservation, as they are both open by appointment only. If you're unable to call in advance, though, you can buy your tickets at the kiosk located at the valley -- just be prepared to wait in line.

4. Ehrenberg Castle

Venturing off to the Austrian side of the Alps, in Tirol, Steves next shows us a striking contrast with Ludwig's castles. The Ehrenberg Castle is a sort of clutter of four different castle ruins built during different time periods: Middle Ages, Gothic, Baroque, and modern. During the time this episode originally aired, excavation on this "ensemble" of castles had just recently begun. Now, visitors can roam the ruins and bridge, and let their historical imaginations run wild.

5. Schlosskopf Castle

A steep hike up leads to one of Ehrenberg's bigger and more modern castles. This one was strategically built at a high altitude to defend against modern artillery. Because of it's sky-high location, visitors to this part get spectacular views of rolling green mountains and the Ehrenberg Castle beneath -- a scene so beautiful, words simply don't do it justice.

Neuschwanstein_600
Neuschwanstein Castle | Photo: Manuel Núñez Salinas/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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