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Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey

Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com

One of the major focuses of our road trip through Germany was Bavaria, mostly because of the Alps and Neuschwanstein Castle.

As we began to research the exact path that we were going to take through the German countryside, my mom, my sister, and I began to realize that the area had so much more to offer than mountains and one (spectacular) castle. We ended up finding so much to do between Munich and Fussen that we had to make some difficult choices on what to skip. Tegelberg Cable Car, I'm coming back for you one day!

One place that kept cropping up in our research was the tiny town of Ettal, which is about an hour and 15 minutes outside of Munich and in the heart of the German Alps. We spent a day exploring Schloss Linderhof and Ettal Abbey, and I can't recommend the experience enough.

Schloss Linderhof

After not seeing the Abbey and blowing right past it in our rental car (which is nearly impossible since the thing is gigantic), we decided to stay on the course for Linderhof. The first thing that we noticed when we hopped out of the car was the lovely fall weather: it was cool but sunny. I never get to experience an autumn like unless I'm traveling since my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, just don't get cold enough that time of the year!

Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com

We rambled up the hill next to the car park and made our way to the ticket counter. If you're planning to see the inside of the palace, you'll need to purchase a ticket here and not at the building itself. If you're just there to wander the grounds, you're free to do so without any ticket. There are tours in English and German and audio tours in several other languages. You can't wander through the palace on your own, so hop on a tour and see the inside of Linderhof. You won't be disappointed!

Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com
One of the adorable houses on the way to Linderhof
We had an early afternoon tour, so we wandered down to Linderhof, stopping frequently for pictures. There were gorgeous photo opps everywhere I turned!
Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com
My dad, sister, daughter, and I making our way down to the palace
Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com

Since we visited in the low season, we nearly had the grounds to ourselves. I think we would've had even fewer fellow visitors if the weather had been more like it was the rest of our trip (cold and rainy), but this was one of the few days where the sun decided to show itself.

Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com
My daughter and I walking the grounds at Schloss Linderhof
Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com

I was looking forward to the tour since this was another of King Ludwig II's castles; we were seeing Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein later on our road trip, and I was interested in seeing how this compared to the others. My first impression of the building was that it was tiny and not at all what I was expecting. It's called "Schloss" (which is like a manor home or palace), but it didn't look like any palace that I'd ever seen before: there were only two stories and I could easily walk around the entire thing in about 30 seconds.

Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com


At 1:15, we made our way into the building for the tour. The docent gave my toddler, Britton, a pamphlet with King Ludwig's picture on it, and it was love at first sight. All we heard for the rest of the trip was "I love king!"

Clearly, my daughter absorbed something of the local history. Right? (That's what I'm going with, at least.)

Anyway, as Britton mooned over the picture of a guy who died 200 years before she was born, the rest of us enjoyed the tour of the palace.

Through my pre-trip research, I knew that Ludwig had some (how do I put this nicely?) quirks. I loved Linderhof and often retreated here when he was trying to escape public life. He'd come to Linderhof, put his porcelain peacocks out at the end of the road to warn people he was there, and he'd just hang out by himself with just a handful of servants. Towards the end of his life, he took to sleeping all day, waking up at 4 or 5 p.m. and working at night. (And, no, I don't think there's any solid evidence that he turned into a vampire.)

He also enjoyed being by myself so much that he had a special table installed in his dining room here. His living quarters are on the second story of the house, while the kitchen and servants' area is on the ground floor. When it was time for him to eat, he'd ring a bell, and his dining table would be lower through the floor to the kitchen below. The servants would place the food and serving ware on the table and then hoist it back up through the floor. Ludwig would then eat alone without having to see anyone else.

As I mentioned in my earlier post on Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, Ludwig had an incredibly sad life, and I wondered on all three of the tours what exactly led him to be so reclusive. Some scholars think that the king's oddities were exaggerated in order to deem him mentally ill, but there's really no way to know. There's definitely solid evidence (like the moveable table) that Ludwig had his peculiarities.

The palace had just a handful of rooms, none of was large by other castle standards. Even though it was small, it was decorated top to bottom in the ornate Rococo style that is completely over the top. The tour was well worth the cost (7.50 euros for adults). Coupled with the tours at Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, this experience is helpful in understanding the so-called "mad king."

Ettal Abbey

After finishing the tour and walking the grounds of Linderhof a bit more, we backtracked in our car to Ettal Abbey, the largest building in Ettal. 


Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com


The Abbey has a little something for everyone: an incredible sanctuary for the lover of architecture, a deep history for those who can't get enough of the past, and a brewery for those who like sampling new beers. And, if you're thinking of making a permanent move to the area, the Benedictine brothers also run a school here.


Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com

The Abbey's story starts with a king, as so many of these things do. Ludwig the Bavarian (not the same Ludwig as we met at Linderhof) was a very important guy back in the 14th century. He served as Holy Roman Emporer, King of Italy, and (of course) King of Bavaria. After a particularly bad visit to Italy, he pledged to start an abbey once he returned home. According to legend, he came back to Bavaria safe and sound, and discovered where to put the abbey when his horse bowed three times.

Whether you believe in divinely-inspired horses or not, take some time to walk around the property. Visiting the sanctuary is free. Although it's not the original sanctuary, the existing one is an excellent example of the excesses of Baroque architecture. 

Spending a Day in Ettal, Germany: Exploring Schloss Linderhof + Ettal Abbey | CosmosMariners.com

Step over to the gift shop where you can find a variety of religious icons and books. You can purchase the Abbey's brews here: look for both the dunkel (dark) and helle (light) versions.

Even if you're not Catholic (or religious), there's plenty to see here. Bavaria has long been a hold out for Catholicism (even today, there are very few Protestants), so seeing the power and reach of the Church here is more of a look into the culture of the region instead of an endorsement of a particular denomination. 

What to Know Before You Go

  • This would make a great day trip from Munich. While there's plenty to do in Munich (walking tours, Residenz, Dachau tours), it would be a shame to get as far as Munich without seeing the nearby Alps. There are buses that run regularly from Munich to Oberammergau, and you can easily hop on a smaller bus from Oberammergau to Ettal Abbey and/or Schloss Linderhof. 
  • Oberammergau is quite close (about 10 minutes by car), so this would be an excellent addition to your trip if you're there for the Passion Play that's held every decade.
  • Parking is readily available at both the Abbey and Linderhof, but both require payment. The Abbey has a self-pay kiosk (so have cash on hand), while Linderhof has a manned booth at the entrance to its parking lot.
  • Make it a day out at Linderhof. There are plenty of walking trails and scenic spots perfect for lingering on the palace grounds, so bring a picnic if it's nice. There are also a few food options near the parking lot where you can get pretzels, small flatbread pizzas, beer, and pastries. 
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