King Ludwig II, ruler of Bavaria from 1864 until 1886, is one of Germany’s more colorful characters. His reign coincided with huge political changes in Germany, including the push for unification of the German territories led by Prussia. However, Ludwig preferred designing and building elaborate castles to political maneuvering, and had a special fondness for the composer Richard Wagner and for his operatic works, which were a major influence on his construction projects.
- Schloss Nymphenburg: Built in the 17th century by Ferdinand Maria, the Elector of Bavaria, Schloss (“castle”) Nymphenburg is now a popular tourist site in Munich. Ludwig was born in the castle in 1845.
- Schloss Hohenschwangau: This castle was built by Ludwig’s father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria, from 1833 to 1837. Located near the town of Füssen in southwestern Bavaria, Schloss Hohenschwangau (“castle of the High Swan County”) was the childhood home of Ludwig II.
- The King’s House on the Schachen: Technically not a castle, this mountain chalet built by Ludwig from 1869 to 1872, features a large room, the “Turkish Hall,” that incorporates design elements from the Orient, such as colored glass windows and richly embroidered textiles.
- Schloss Neuschwanstein: Perhaps the most famous of Ludwig’s castles, Neuschwanstein (“new swan stone”) is located near Ludwig’s childhood home, Hohenschwangau. Although construction began in 1869, the castle was not completed in Ludwig’s lifetime. The design of the castle was heavily influenced by the 13th century Romanesque style, as well as the Wagner operas Tannhäuser and Lohengrin. Neuschwanstein is the model for the Sleeping Beauty castle in the Disney parks.
- Linderhof: This castle began as a hunting lodge, but was remodeled extensively in the neo-Rococo style. Eventually the old hunting lodge was dismantled and rebuilt in the park surrounding the castle. This park also featured an underground grotto designed for opera performances.
- Neues Schloss/Herrenchiemsee: The Neues Schloss (“new castle”), part of the Herrenchiemsee complex of buildings created on an island in Bavaria’s largest lake (the Chiemsee), is an homage to France’s Louis XIV. Inspired by Versailles, the castle was meant to be a full-size replica of that French castle, including the world-famous Hall of Mirrors. Ludwig only managed to stay in the castle for 10 days before his untimely death in 1886.
- Falkenstein: Falkenstein (“falcon stone”) was planned, down to the interior design and frescoes, but was never built because Ludwig died before construction began. It was originally intended to be a castle in the Gothic style, but was later re-imagined as a robber baron’s castle, referring to the rulers who built castles built along the Rhine river in the 12th and 13th centuries.