Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Photo by Hubert.

Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria: Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee is part of the Tentative list of Germany in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria comprise three palaces built between 1868 and 1886 in picturesque natural surroundings. King Ludwig II had these palaces built to escape the constraints of politics and representation and to live in the artificial world of his fantasy of ideal royalty. The famous Neuschwanstein Castle recreated a medieval knight's castle, Herrenchiemsee Palace was modelled on the Versailles of Louis XIV, and in Linderhof he created a fantasy park inspired by the Bourbon Kings and the operas by Richard Wagner.

Map of Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Nan

Germany - 13-Feb-24 -

Having read Hubert’s fabulous review, I wanted to add a bit of historical context to the proposed sites. Ludwig II’s main constraint as a monarch was not Bavaria’s constitution and people. The much greater constraint was German unification in 1870, which reduced Bavaria from a kingdom to a mere princely state within the larger German Empire governed by the Prussian King, now the German Kaiser.

To make Ludwig II accept his fate as a secondary prince, Bismarck smoothed the deal with substantial payments from the Prussian treasury to Bavaria; payments that went on to fund the construction of these “dreams in stone.” However, it wasn’t enough, as Ludwig spent lavishly, and several projects remain unfinished.

So far, I have only visited Herrenchiemsee during a company event. Herrenchiemsee is a lesser-known site, but the unfinished staircase gives you a very good idea of the shortcuts (such as using concrete) that Ludwig II took. As stated by Hubert, it pales in comparison to Versailles, its inspiration.

Meanwhile, I inadvertently passed by Neuschwanstein. When heading to Wies, I traveled via Füssen, startled by the crowds on the weekend heading to this sleepy town. It only dawned on me at the Füssen train station what the tourists were visiting. The bus I took to Wies actually stopped at Neuschwanstein and emptied.

OUV

There is a reason why these sites have not been nominated earlier by Germany: Their Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) is debatable and unclear. Neo-Romanticism is a broad movement, and the sites in Germany are closely tied to the German nationalism of the 19th century. The Rhine Valley already contains some Neo-Romantic palaces and castles. Schwerin (T) falls into the same category, and Marienburg near Hannover is similar. Looking across the border, there are comparable sites like Sintra in Portugal or Průhonice near Prague.

Thus, the uniqueness and OUV of these sites are questionable. It must also be emphasized that these are 19th-century imitations lacking the artistic intricacies and historical depth found in the originals, such as Versailles or the Wartburg. I fully agree with Hubert’s evaluation in this regard.

Nevertheless, I would probably support a limited inscription that covers only Neuschwanstein. It may be kitsch, but it has had a significant cultural impact. It embodies the quintessential fairy tale castle as imagined by children.

Getting There

You can take a regional train from Ulm to Füssen. In Füssen, there are buses to the palace. The same bus will continue to Wies.


Hubert

Austria - 29-Jan-24 -

Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (T) by Hubert

It seems I'm going to be the party pooper here with my "thumbs down". But now that Palaces of King Ludwig II have been nominated for decision in 2025, one critical view may be appropriate. The nomination was controversial among the local population. In a ballot in the municipality of Schwangau in June 2023, 56% of citizens voted in favour of the nomination (with a turnout of 56%), so not really overwhelming. The residents near Neuschwanstein are mainly concerned about a further increase in visitor numbers. Those in favour of the nomination argue that the number is already 1.5 million per year and that more can hardly be expected.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria is well-known far beyond the Bavarian borders, romanticised as the "Fairytale King", his castles attract visitors from all over the world. He was undoubtedly a fascinating character. His idea of kingship was based on absolutism and the divine rights of kings. But this conflicted with political reality, which saw a change towards a constitutional monarchy. And thus, he dreamed himself back to the past times of Louis XIV and the fictional worlds of Richard Wagner.
In a way, his life reflects this period of political and social change. But does this also mean that his architectural heritage - the Dreams in Stone - is of such outstanding value that it justifies inscription on the World Heritage List?

I have visited three of the four locations twice. First as a child decades ago, then a second time after they appeared on the Tentative List in 2015 (my visits were between 2016 and 2018). As a child, I loved these places, but as an adult who has already visited many castles and palaces on the list, my enthusiasm was much weaker.
Of the three castles, I enjoyed my visit to Linderhof the most. The palace and the park are a quirky mixture of different architectural styles: Baroque and Rococo with Romantic and Alpine motifs, a Moorish pavilion and an Alpine hut and much more. The most famous building is probably the Venus Grotto based on a scene from Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser opera. Linderhof is inspired by Louis XIV and his Maisons de Plaisance (Lustschloss). And it is the only one of the three buildings that was completed during the lifetime of Ludwig II.
I did not visit the Königshaus Schachen. It is a mixture of villa and mountain hut, picturesquely located at almost 1900 metres above sea level. Tourists can only reach it on foot, via what is today known as the "Königsweg", about 3 hours one way.
Herrenchiemsee is a homage to Louis XIV, the front of the palace is a replica of the main façade of Versailles. However, in my opinion the palace with its gardens is only a poor copy of the original. The one near Paris is clearly the better Versailles. The best part was the unfinished north staircase, where you can see the bare brickwork that is otherwise hidden under magnificent decorations.
And finally, the well-known Neuschwanstein Castle, you don't need many words to describe. Even in late November, when I visited it, we had to wait 2 hours for our guided tour to start, which only lasted 45 minutes because only part of the rooms has been completed. My photo shows the view from the castle to the picturesque Alpsee and Hohenschwangau Castle, where Ludwig II spent his childhood.
All of these sites have a wonderful location in common. And that they were built with the most modern technology of the time. There are flush toilets, for example, or "Tischlein deck dich", retractable tables that enabled the king to have his meals without contact with his servants.

But in the end, these palaces are just a strange blend of styles and ideas. This mixture can be entertaining (Linderhof) or rather boring (Herrenchiemsee). The palaces can also be considered the best examples of Historicism, typical of the late 19th century. But I doubt that this architectural style is of such outstanding value beyond the German-speaking area. Or that they are "masterpieces of human creativity" (criterion I), as claimed in the justification on the Tentative list.
However, the justification goes far beyond the architectural value. The T-list entry reads that the palaces "provide a unique insight into an important cultural phenomenon of the 19th century: the spectacular scenic displays at the world exhibitions" (criterion III). Ludwig II was a big fan of the world exhibitions, and two of the buildings in Linderhof, the Moorish Pavilion and the Moroccan House, were originally built for these events. But is that enough?
And it continues that the palaces are "a synthesis of the arts recreating past eras and far-distant places: paradise on earth, a topic that dominated the 19th century" (criterion iv) and "manifestations of European intellectual history from the Middle Ages to the second half of 19th century" (criterion vi). A little overblown, if you ask me. But we'll have to wait and see whether the comparative analysis convinces ICOMOS and the WHC.

Of course, Neuschwanstein Castle is iconic, a part of our pop culture, shaping our idea of castles and knights and the Middle Ages. Maybe that and its worldwide fame is enough. I wouldn't mind if Neuschwanstein Castle ended up on the World Heritage List as a single site. After all, there are much weaker German sites that have made it on the list without any objections (not a good justification, of course). But in its current form as a serial site and with the justification given, it is a "thumbs down" from me.


Zoë Sheng

Chinese-Canadian - 25-Dec-21 -

Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (T) by Zoë Sheng

From the three castles, all built (or let's say, tried to be) by King Ludwig II, I have only visited Neuschwanstein and Linderhof. Herrenchiemsee sounds like a great third site but is just far away from the other three so I couldn't fit it into a trip and unsure if I ever will. There is also an unsung fourth site called the King's House on Schachen which is a hunting lodge in the Alps and not easily visited, but also not that exciting from the looks of it. I would think that whenever inscribed it's probably not included.

Neuschwanstein, on the Romantic Road, is a highlight for many, many tourists. It doesn't need world heritage status and already has packed tours every 5-10 minutes in multiple languages, with hordes of Japanese and Chinese tourists making up many of them. It also gotten so bad that heaps of tax exempt shops have cropped up around the village below catering these crowds. Nonetheless the castle itself is a masterpiece. The exterior seems complete but inside you only get a few rooms and one large hall that have been completed. It's unclear how the builders worked back in the days because when you build a house now you don't decorate it room by room, do you? Anyhow, everything besides those rooms is just grey walls or used by the staff including the souvenir shop. The rooms that are complete are masterpieces though, showing Ludwig's love for Richard Wagner.

Linderhof is much smaller and as you can see in my picture was unfortunately under renovations during my visit but still open for tourists. It's a typical manor though, not as grandiose as Neuschwanstein or the site at Herrenchiemsee. It's main draw is also the park I think rather than small building.

If you are not familiar with the history, King Ludwig II pretty much spent all the money of the state on building these and ran out of money, died young, and left a huge debt behind. He still seems to be highly regarded due the legendary buildings left behind, and maybe actually making the state money with all the tourist dollars/Euros it brings it now. Go Ludwig!


Caspar Dechmann

Switzerland - 13-Apr-20 -

Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (T) by Caspar Dechmann

I think these three castles make a very nice group for a WHT nomination. Of the three I have only visited Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee. I will certainly try to visit Lindenhof too, if only for its camp "Venusgrotte" and its further Wagnerian connections. It seems to have the most interesting park of the three. 

These castles are certainly an oddity and this is part of the reason why they should be inscribed! Neuschwanstein needs the least introduction: Its exterior is iconic and its interior quite unusual in it pseudo Wagnerian pomp. A bit of a killer is the handling of the visitors: You get a time slot and a tour guide and then you get more or less chased through the castle because behind you there is already the next group approaching. You get to see only the parts of the castle where the rooms are decorated and furnished. Supposedly the larger part of the castle is unfinished and empty because Ludwig ran out of money!

While Neuschwanstein is a romanticized medieval castle, Herrenchiemsee is neobaroque and Ludwigs personal (and smaller) copy of Versailles. It is a similar visiting experience then in Neuschwanstein. It is a pity because the interiors are so sumptuous and odd that you would wish for more time to study them. It is at the same time absurd and moving that the whole castle is full of painting of Louis XIV whom Ludwig II admired. It is certainly the only castle in the world were you won't find a single image of the ruling king. There is an interesting museum adjacent and included in the price. The very best part of this visit is perhaps not the castle or the museum but the position on the island in the Chiemsee. There is a historically important, monastery that you can visit, french gardens around the castle, large woods and beautiful old trees. The changing views on the lake and the shores are very nice and you see also the sister island of Frauenchiemsee with a nunnery with an impressive church and a rare Carolingian "Torhalle" (gate hall). This is probably not part of the application but is a nice boat ride from Herrenchiemsee and should not be missed. 


Ilya Burlak

USA - 03-Apr-19 -

Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (T) by Ilya Burlak

I visited two of the three castles in this serial property ages ago. They likely deserve full WH recognition purely on the strength of the world-wide fame of Neuschwanstein. Just type "most famous castles" into Google search - and literally the very first picture on top will be that of Neuschwanstein.

The purported inspiration for Disney does look incredibly fetching from distance, but the closer you get to it the more it feels contrived. An over-the-top concoction of a mad king who never got to enjoy his creation. Neuschwanstein is a pretty damning artifact of the royal excesses of the 19th century, but the lack of any other historic significance makes it all the more a theatrical decoration with little substance.

My friends who resided in Bavaria at the time advised me to skip interior tour of the castle, since none of the spaces inside were considered remarkable. I followed their advice, spent a bit of time in the main castle courtyard, which was accessible without a ticket, and then went to and lingered on the Marienbrücke, taking in the iconic perspective of the castle.

Afterwards I drove to Linderhof. The shortest driving route crosses into Austria and goes through delightful Alpine scenery. Linderhof is a proper royal retreat, with a large park full of impressive features, such as the Venus Grotto, a couple of elaborate fountains, and a few other structures worth checking out. The palace itself has relatively intimate dimensions and just a few rooms, sufficiently opulent to dazzle. The guided tour lasted just about half an hour and then I had free run of the park (visit to the grotto was only allowed with a timed guided group). In mid-May, on a cool weekday, arriving at Linderhof in the early afternoon, I did not encounter a large number of fellow visitors - certainly nowhere near the number of people that I had encountered that same morning at Neuschwanstein.

Even adding a possible interior guided visit of Neuschwanstein, it is entirely possible to see both it and Linderhof on a single day-trip from Munich.

The third palace on the list, Herrenchiemsee, was not on my itinerary when I toured Bavaria back then, and I have not managed to return to the area since. Its distance from the other two - and its location on an island in the middle of a lake (which obviously will require a bit more effort to reach) - suggests that seeing all 3 palaces in one day would be a stretch. Herrenchiemsee would require a separate day-trip from Munich.

Read more from Ilya Burlak here.


Philipp Peterer

Switzerland - 29-Mar-16 -

Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (T) by Philipp Peterer

I finally managed to visit all 3 castles. All of them, especially Neuschwanstein, don’t really need the title for touristic reasons. About 1.5 million visit Neuschwanstein each year. The other 2 castles combined see about the same amount of visitors. Still I personally think need to be on the WH list.

Neuschwanstein

It has the most spectacular location and structure. The castle was inspiration to the Disney Castle. Getting there is pretty easy. Use the highway until Füssen. It’s a short drive from there. The interior of the castle is not too spectacular. You are only allowed to enter by guided tour and no photos are allowed. You can easily visit Hohenschwangau close to the castle (not part of the T-List) and the Wies church.

Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof is the only place where the king actually lived. It’s rather a big house, with nice Baroque and Rococo interior. It has a nice garden and some additional features, like water plays and an artificial cave. Visit in summer. I had my second visit this March (2016) and the cave was closed, all fountains were dry and all statues hidden under massive wooden boxes. Tours only guided and no photos allowed inside. It’s about a 1 hour drive from Neuschwanstein.

Herrenchiemsee

The biggest of King Ludwig’s castles is an unfinished attempt to copy Versailles. Like so many others in Europe. It’s the biggest of the castles with the most impressive interior, but the Versaille-like dull exterior. The castle is built on the Herreninsel, the biggest island of the Chiemsee lake. Drive to Prien am Chiemsee and take the boat there. Prien is 1-1.5 hours by car from Munich. Water plays only work in summer. Tours only guided and no photos allowed inside.


Full Name
Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria: Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee
Country
Germany
Added
2015
Nominated for
2025
Type
Cultural
Categories
Structure - Palace
Link
By ID
2015 Added to Tentative List

The site has 4 locations

Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria: Neuschwanstein (T)
Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria: Herrenchiemsee (T)
Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria: Linderhof (T)
Dreams in Stone - the palaces of King Ludwig II of Bavaria: King's House Schachen (T)

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