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Poor Change to content of Munich, Salzburg, Vienna Tour

I was very excited to see the new 2020 tours are now posted. As a prior RS tour member I was really looking forward to going on the Munich, Salzburg, Vienna tour. But I have to say that I am very disappointed to see that Neuschwanstein castle has been taken out of the tour and replaced with a brewery tour. Not a comparable replacement in my opinion. While a very old brewery can be nice, I think that most of us in the U.S and Canada have ample opportunities to visit a brewery. But a castle like Neuschwanstein is something we could only see in Europe. I sincerely hope you reconsider this change.
I guess I will explore some other options for a tour to that area.

Posted by
8009 posts

A few years ago RS had to change some of the Rome tour itineraries because they couldn't get group bookings into the Vatican. It's possible there has been some kind of change for the timed entries at Neuschwanstein that caused this or maybe the change was from feedback from previous tour members.

I've been twice on different RS tours and TBH, to me in was only interesting because it's what Disney modeled Cindarella's castle on. It's a fake "castle" - a Romanesque Revival palace started in 1869 for a King who never lived there. You can only tour on a timed entry guided tour and there is not much to see inside, in my opinion. On my second visit I skipped the castle and walked around the lake which was a better use of my time.

In any event, if you want to see Neuschwanstein you could consider arriving a couple of days early and taking a day tour from Munich.

editing to add: It also looks like this change cuts the bus time in about half for this day which is something to consider if your focus is also Christmas Markets. To go to Neuschwanstein on the "way" from Munich to Salzburg you head in the wrong direction for 60+ miles then have to back track to head toward Salzburg. On both of the tours where I visited this site the routing was more convenient. 21 Best of Europe - we overnighted in Reutte between Bacharach and Venice. GAS - we picked it up on the transit day from Muerren to Munich.

Posted by
2773 posts

Agree with Pam. It may simply have been a logistical problem; but in any event, it's really not all that. There are better castles and palaces all over Europe, including Munich and Vienna. North Americans have this picture of an idealized fairytale castle. The truth is it isn't a real castle and can barely qualify as a palace. I don't know how many times I had to drive guests there when we lived in Bavaria. Most of the time I waited for them down in the village.

If it means that much to you, fly to Munich a day early and do a day trip to Neuschwenstein

Posted by
943 posts

I just looked at a few of the reviews of the tour, and didn't see Neuschwanstein mentioned as a "wow" on any of the ones I looked at--that should tell you something.

It wasn't the highlight for me on this tour either. I agree with most of the reviews that Hallstatt was. It was the highlight for me because it snowed while we were there. Gorgeous!

It might be tour feedback that caused it to be dropped, or maybe changing logistics, but I agree with others to go early and see it before the tour if you must see it.

Posted by
6243 posts

If Neuschwanstein is important to you, just go to Munich a couple of days before the tour starts and do it on your own. It's not difficult to do.

Posted by
12107 posts

I'll agree with Pam as well: very likely a logistical issue. If it makes you feel better, Neuschwanstein wasn't built as a proper defensive castle, never functioned as one, and isn't very old at all ( 19th-century). It's nearly as much fairy-tale construction as those at Disney. If you want to see real castles, there are better places to do that.

If you like what's offered on the rest of the tour, I wouldn't pass on it just because of this omission. Honestly, it's not something we felt any desire to spend the time/money to do (and we are independent travelers) but you certainly can by doing as others suggest and adding days before your tour to do independently.

Posted by
4454 posts

We've seen Neuschwanstein, and frankly, I'd pick the brewery. I don't mind that it isn't a "real" castle - it is, of course, but it isn't very old. But the guided tour is rushed, and there's not much, if any, time to ask questions. There's certainly no opportunity to explore on your own.

And at the brewery, you'll get beer!

Posted by
6202 posts

We went to visit Neuschwanstein,one of those travel planning mistakes everyone makes. We were upset that we had wasted time to go out of our way to visit it. It is bizarre inside, recreations of the sets from Wagnerian Operas. The King had serious problems.

Posted by
5652 posts

Some people prefer the Disney version which is only about one hundred years newer. there are probably as many people who don't want to see Neuschwanstein as those that do. I think one of the things RS has to consider is the time it takes to see some popular sights, versus the value of the sight. It certainly wasn't worth it to us, for the 20-30 minutes they let you inside on the canned tour. Just as they don't include a trip up the Eiffel tower or to Versailles on the Paris & Heart of France tour, it is perfectly do-able on your own ahead of time.

Posted by
877 posts

The setting is beautiful, there’s the iconic photo opportunity from the bridge, and the climb up the road to get there. I remember all of that. I remember next to nothing about the interior. As others have mentioned, the inside is a bit of unfinished fantasy, and I agree that there are much better castles in Europe. Interesting how so many “must sees” lead to our least memorable moments in Europe. For me, Versailles, St. Peter’s, and Ludwig’s Castle are among those. Not disappointing but just not as moving as some other sites.

Posted by
2773 posts

Doug Spindler
"Though it is called a castle really a Burg or a castle. Its not old and isn't it more of a Schloss?"

The difference between a Burg and a Schloss is equivalent to the difference between a castle and a palace. A Burg or castle is a fortress whose primary purpose is/was defence. While a Scloss or palace is primarily a residence. Many North Americans wrongly use the terms interchangeably. You can call Neuschwanstein a castle all you want, but it technically never was one.

Posted by
10344 posts

Yes, as the first post mentioned, make sure to send your input to the Rick Steves organization, they solicit comments on their tours but will see this faster and with more impact if you direct your suggestions to them and not us, we're just RS customers.

Posted by
3501 posts

Neuschwanstein is easily done on your own as a day trip from Munich. The exterior is pretty and the setting is lovely. We were there on a fairy tale like day--lots of sticky snow stuck to trees and branches. I enjoyed Hohenschwangau, across the street, more than Neuschwanstein. It was actually lived in, its furnished and the tour provides context of the family. If you do go, I'd recommend doing both castles and do Hohenschwangau first. Having visited the castles, once, I feel no need to go back and I would place them quite low on a list of my experiences in Europe. I usually travel independently, either with my husband or with my adult kids. My thought on tours is to use them for places where the logistics might be complicated or where a guide really enhances the experience. IMO, Neuschwanstein does not need a guide. You can even take advantage of the super inexpensive Bayern train. You might look at arriving to Munich a few days prior to your tour to recover from the jet lag and to enjoy parts of Munich your tour doesn't cover and take your day trip to the castles.

Posted by
14227 posts

I spent most of a day in Hohenschwangau on the RS MyWay Alpine tour. I toured both castles and didn't think either very interesting. One problem was that the acoustics are very bad in the rooms (large and small) and any chatter, whether from others on the tour or another tour (in the larger rooms), it was very hard to hear the guides. Perhaps my only really good memory of the visit was on the walk up from Neuschwanstein Castle to the shuttle bus. Here's what I wrote in my diary:

Along the way there was a bench with a lone musician in medieval dress. Luckily a group of American students had stopped and their guide was telling them about the musician and his instrument, so I stopped to listen. Otherwise, I would probably have just kept going. He was playing a hurdy-gurdy that he had made. By the time the kids had left a group of 6 had stopped. They were Israeli, with French accents. Looked like a couple in their 30's with 2 sets of parents. One of the older men was very interested in musical instruments. Then the 4 older folks started singing a French folk song and the musician picked up the melody and accompanied them. They went for about 6 verses!! It was really quite lovely.

Posted by
174 posts

The castle was fun, and pretty, but it wasn't a "wow" for me. You could skip the brewery and see it on your own, if the tour allows for that logistically. Given that it's Christmas, I'd take the cut bus time and enjoy the markets and brewery, and try to see the castle pre-tour if it's important. The weather may be iffy so that's something to consider getting there and then hiking up.

Posted by
12107 posts

On the subject of castles, you can visit one with a very long history (1077) in Salzburg during your free time, if so inclined. Hohensalzburg - which overlooks the city - was built for defensive purposes, with imposing medieval curtain walls and crenellated towers, and is one of the largest, most well preserved extant castles in the world.

It has been many years since I've seen it but I remember that the views from up there were wonderful.

Posted by
4454 posts

CJean is right; we do tend to use castle and palace interchangeably, and incorrectly. So I rescind my earlier statement that Neuschwanstein is a castle.

I will add, after reading Chani's description of a lovely moment on the path up to the castle (sic), I bought a lovely little watercolor sketch from a fellow who was set up on the path, painting and selling his wares. One of my favorite souvenirs.

Posted by
671 posts

I personally think, unless you have an aversion to traveling on your own. you might be better off skipping the tour altogether. Munich, Salzburg, Hallstatt and Vienna are extremely accessible by train and you can create your own itinerary. I agree the interior of Neuschwanstein is skimpy because the place was never finished because the king died. However, the view from Mary's bridge of the castle is outstanding and the view from inside the castle to the area below is equally nice. I happen to agree with others, this visit on a tour was out of the way. I also agree with you that a visit to a brewery is just as underwhelming. If you do decide to do this on your own there are plenty of day trips to Neuschwanstein from Munich.

Posted by
1529 posts

Neuschwanstein did not become a tourist attraction after Disney. It was a tourist attraction within weeks of Ludwig’s death.

If you want to visit it, fly into Munich a day or more early. It is easy enough to go to on your own or with an organized tour ( if you do a tour, get one that also visits Linderhof )

Posted by
6539 posts

Whether you like Neuschweinstein or not, it's hard to argue that a brewery would have a similar value. That's the point of the OP's post. It's a valid point and I'm sure it lessens the value of the trip somewhat compared to its cost. Personally, I would do this trip as a DYI because these are very easy cities to tour and the tourist infrastructure is excellent.

Posted by
287 posts

I have to agree with Agnes. A brewery visit is not appealing to me and definitely lessens the worth of the tour.

Posted by
7204 posts

Honestly - Neuschwanstein has been touristed to death, and that could be the reason it was dropped. We've taken our little group of high schoolers there most every year for the last 10-15 years. In the last 2 or 3 years it has just been inundated with the large tour groups who just turn the whole place into a frenetic frenzy. They push and shove and crowd and one time they actually jumped off the train when we arrived into Fussen and climbed down the concrete station walls to clamor across the tracks and through the hedge bushes just because they spotted the connecting buses waiting for us all. It was a spectacle...not to mention dangerous.

Gates and guards have been installed at the entrance of Mary's Bridge to attempt to lessen the burden of those tourists pushing and shoving their way onto the bridge. Yes, I can definitely see why this place has been removed.

Posted by
1131 posts

I agree a brewery is not a good substitute. However, Linderhof, another Ludwig castle, is just over an hour from Munich and I enjoyed it much more than Neuschwanstein. Although I love castles, so I really liked them both. I see there are day tours from Munich that hit both castles in one day, but that might be a bit much.

Posted by
3501 posts

Unless the brewery has a lot of history and is extremely atmospheric, I do agree that it is a poor replacement. In terms of what is a castle, what is a palace, etc., I also agree. But, it comes down to what a traveler wants. I love the castles along the Rhine. The views from the Salzburg castle are incredible tho I didn't find the interior of the castle all that interesting, but being a "view" person, the trip up was worthwhile. It also has a long and interesting history. If one wants more of a palace, then there are plenty other options all over Europe. In Munich, we really enjoyed Nymphenburg. The gardens were pretty and the scale of the palace was just right for an enjoyable visit. In terms of the tour, I've done that area in varying itineraries a few times. In fact, I visited that area on my first trip to Europe. Logistically, it couldn't be easier. I would think that particular tour would be good for travelers looking for company and that don't mind or even like have someone else dictate the itinerary. For, me, I think I'd be a bit frustrated and would want to head out on my own.

Posted by
12107 posts

Logistics again? This tour proceeds to Salzburg from Munich and the brewery is along the way. Neuschwanstein is in the opposite direction so would make the trip to Salzburg much longer. There's something to be said about spending less of the day sitting on a bus? If the tour went to Innsbruck from Munich instead, then Neuschwanstein might make more sense to me as a stop along the way.

Also take into account the length of this tour? As Day 1 and Day 8 are not what I'd call sightseeing days, it's really only 6 days in which to cover all but the Day 1 evening walking tour so adding MORE would rush things even further. I'll agree that the locations on this tour could easily be done independently so there's that option. If still intent upon the tour, I'd plan on arriving in Munich earlier anyway as the itinerary only covers 1 full day and there's more to the city which can be explored, if interested, and you could arrange a day trip to Neuschwanstein.

Posted by
3110 posts

If you can find a tour where every item in the itinerary matches your interests, grab it fast. Otherwise, you need to weigh if the places it goes that you find value in, far outnumber those you don’t.

There are two results possible for those you don’t think are valuable. One, you stretch yourself a little and discover you enjoyed it anyway. Two, you called it absolutely correct and that your stop was a dud.

Wineries, breweries are on my “dud” list. I’ve tried to be positive and stretch a bit, but it just doesn’t happen for me. However, I recognize that I am on a group tour and my “dud” may be someone else’s highlight. I either just put my best foot forward and do my best to enjoy or I “opt out” and do an alternative activity.

Interestingly, this particular castle is also on my “dud” list so it would be an even trade for me.

I would do this as a day trip before the start of your tour if important to you.

Posted by
1178 posts

I will always take the castle over the brewery.

That said, Neuschwanstein castle is a poorly managed and operated tourist trap.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful inside. The setting is gorgeous. The interpretation was horrible. Our groups were so large you couldn’t see the things that the guide was pointing out. The guide was a Chinese person that learned English from a Dutch person (I kid you not). She was not at all understandable, and I’m pretty good with understanding accents. The guide was only for the inside of the castle, which isn’t furnished. I could go on. I can see why Rick cut it out. It’s a poor value for time and money spent.

That said, many people see this as a place to check on their bucket list.

Posted by
5652 posts

The brewery wasn't the Andech's monastery, was it? That's a bit more than just a brewery, and would be a fair trade.

Posted by
11450 posts

Sorry ,but I too find a brewery tour a poor substitute.
It’s not that Neuschwenstein is so great ( but my child and I liked it ok when we saw it in a Rs tour )but I think it’s better than a brewery tour - we’ve done a few wineries and brewery tours near where I live and they tend to be similar and boring till you get to the sample hall lol

Posted by
8009 posts

Tim! My word, what a scene that must have been. My last visit was 2016 so I didn't know about the guards and gates on Mary's bridge.

Sorry to add another comment but I am also not big on winery/brewery/distillery visits. I know many enjoy them but the last tour I was one (Scotland/Dewar's Distillery in Aberfeldy) I just sat on a bench outside and read a book. To me these are pretty much seen one/seen them all. I don't drink much and while I'll drink wine I don't care for beer or whisky. I will also say I have been in the minority on the tours as most seemed to enjoy the visits.

I WOULD however, like getting in to Salzburg a couple of hours earlier! The time there is short and there is a lot to see.

Posted by
1131 posts

Ha Ha, Pam. That is exactly what I did on last year's Ireland tour, too. For me it was the smell of whiskey being made, ick. I sat outside and caught up on all the places we had already seen and were to see in my Rick Steves' guide. It was a very nice, relaxing break. I am going to Scotland this year and will do the same at the whiskey tour unless there is somewhere nearby I can walk to. I wish these tours were optional somehow with another choice if you didn't want to go. If you have been to one winery, beer or liquor tour that is usually enough unless you particularly like that brand and are just going for the tasting.

Posted by
1178 posts

With all the small breweries and wineries popping up in the US, it’s not as unique and interesting as it used to be.

Honestly, the best thing from the GAS trip was when we went to a local festival for the Queen Cow. Very serious competition. Loads of fun. We had a rancher on our tour that could point out all the pluses and minuses of each cow. He actually managed to pick the winner before she was announced.

Posted by
8009 posts

LaurieBeth - I suspect they always go to the same distillery in Scotland so no, nothing is really close enough to walk to. At the Bushmill's one in Ireland one of the tour members walked in to town. That was early on in my RS tour "career", hahaha, and I just didn't think about opting out. The Dewars distillery has some nice benches outside. It did start to sprinkle at the end of the visit so I went inside but otherwise, take your Kindle/iPad/guide book and entertain yourself! The town of Aberfeldy is about a mile away and we had already been thru there for the lunch stop. It is near the River Tay so not sure if there is a walking path along there or not. I also didn't think about asking the guide if there was a good place to walk.

Posted by
4454 posts

In general, things the group does on a RS tour are always optional. The exception would be if it was during a point-to-point bus day. On our BOE last year, several people opted out of Neuschwanstein. One went hiking, others just enjoyed the grounds.

I don't like whiskey, but I would still enjoy seeing how it was made. (Wine, beer, and cider? I'm first in line!) I can't eat chocolate, but I loved the visit to the chocolatier in Belgium. I just love learning things.

Posted by
8009 posts

Agree Jane, but this is on a transit day from Munich to Salzburg. The other ones I've been on have been on a day when there were other interesting sights (Giants Causeway on the Ireland tour and I think the Scotland tour was on the day we went to the Crannog so would not have wanted to miss that!).

Posted by
826 posts

Hello. I took this tour in Dec 2017 and will take it again Dec 2019.

2017 was, I believe, the second year for this tour. It seems as if it is still transitioning, perhaps due to logistics or tour feedback? In 2017, we went to Neuschwanstein the afternoon of the second day, taking away from Munich time. So if you were into Munich, you had to stay behind or have arrived early. I chose to go with the tour, not for a burning desire to see the castle, but to participate. It was, after all, the 2nd day. We got there late in the day and it was a bit icy. I power-walked up to the castle, but it was dark when we exited and with my poor eyesight and the ice, this was not a comfortable endeavor for me. I have seen the castle twice - once in 1973 ant then in 2017. I do not feel I want to do it again so will choose something else in 2019. There is a nice restaurant down by the lake near by. Maybe I can stroll there rather than hike up to the castle.

In 2019, the castle visit is the morning of the 3rd day. Looks better to me even if I choose not to climb the hill. Plus there is supposed to be a stop at the Wieskirche. Great, I have never been there.

In 2017, the third day had instead a stop at Oberndorf to learn about Silent Night. That appealed to me. In reality, it was a mixed bag. I found myself thinking about it after - I always learn a lot on the tours. The museum was great as it gave some context hitherto unknown to me regarding the early 1800s. Having to stand in line for the fake (?) chapel and then be encouraged to sing Silent Night did not work with our group.

On the third day, 2017, prior to Salzburg, we did indeed visit the brewery which was not listed as a stop - I don't recall it, at any rate. This turned out to be a delightful surprise not because we got to walk around the brewery which could be same old, same old for some of us, but because of the woman presenting and then the fabulous meal served in the restaurant which was closed that day so it was only us! The beer was very good indeed - as was the meal - so do not despair.

Now, since Munich and Salzburg are quite close, did we need this filler? Perhaps not or perhaps it was the logistics of hotel preparedness.

In 2017, we bypassed Melk. I was disappointed, but I do not recall this was actually scheduled. The guide said as it was December, we could not go. I have checked and tours are welcome in December - now, at any rate. This is definitely called out in the itinerary, so I hope we stop. The tour office tells me (months ago) that all tours stop. I will check again.

So, I agree the stop at the brewery as the main stop of the day is kind of weird, what with the two cities being so close. I prefer the 2019 list to that of 2017 and hope it transpires. I will post back after the tour.