Chiemsee is one of the most beautiful lakes not far from Munich, almost to the very southern tip of Bavaria. It is Bavaria’s largest freshwater lake with stunning views of the Alps. With endless blue skies and white clouds, it is no wonder Bavaria’s color are white and blue. Surrounding this stunning lake are cute villages, including the town of Chiemsee. There are two small islands, Fraueninsel and Herreninsel which can be reached with a short boat ride for some enjoyable exploration.
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What attracts people to Chiemsee the most is one of crazy King Ludwig II’s beautiful palaces, located on Herreninsel. He built this palace in honor of the Sun King in Versailles, whom he deeply admired. Therefore, “the Bavarian Versailles” is almost an exact replica of the Palace of Versailles, found just outside of Paris, although on a much smaller scale as it was never completed before his untimely death in 1886.
Of the Kind Ludwig II’s three castles, Herrenchiemsee Palace was my far the most interesting to visit despite being only partially finished. The journey of getting to Schloss Herrenchiemsee was quite the experience itself. I mean how often can you say you took a boat to a castle?
History of the Palace:
Like several other palaces that King Ludwig II was building at the time of his death, the palace was never finished because he ran out of money (not wonder when you’re building so many palaces at once!) and then his sudden death called for the immediate termination of any further construction on any of his palaces. It was the final palace that the king would begin building and by far one of the most magnificent. The king and his doctor were both mysteriously found drowned at another nearby lake; Starnbergersee.
The palace was built between 1878 and 1885 and King Ludwig II only got the chance to stay in the palace for a few days, just the year before his death. Immediately after his untimely and mysterious death, the palace was finally opened to the public. By the time the King died, only 20 of the 70 rooms in the palace were complete. The sections that were not completed were later demolished.
While Schloss Herrenchiemsee was not built to be an exact replica, it is pretty close to the original, and in some areas even surpasses the wonders of the Palace of Versailles. Plus it helps that this palace was built almost two centuries later than the original, therefore it had the luxury of toilets, running water and heating. At least this palace never smelled like urine unlike the original.
How to Reach Herreninsel:
As you near the island, park in the small town of Prien am Chiemsee at one of the surrounding parking lots. From here, there is a ticket office where you can purchase your boat tickets. Prices vary during the different seasons, but no need to worry as all prices are incredibly reasonable. The boat ride from Prien am Chiemsee to Herreninsel takes about 15 minutes and boats depart every 15-30 minutes depending on the season. You are not restricted to any single boat or time, so you will not feel rushed to enjoy your day visiting the island and palace.
Along the way, you’ll enjoy some of the most stunning views of the surrounding Bavarian Alps as well as an endless amount of white sailboats. You may even catch a glimpse of the historic ship or even the quick peak of the palace through the trees.
How to Get to Herrenchiemsee Palace:
There are two options for reaching the palace. The first is enjoying a leisurely walk down a very easy path. Walking is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. The walk takes through a beautiful, tree covered walk way and takes about 15-20 minutes (without rushing) to reach the palace.
If walking is too much, or you just simply would like to roll up to the palace like a princess, you can hop aboard one of the many horse-drawn carriage bus, but only between April and October. For a one way ride, adults are 3,50€ and children are 1€. Even by carriage, the ride takes about 15 minutes to reach the palace.
It is a surreal feeling to roll right up to the front of the castle in a horse drawn carriage. I almost felt like Cinderella. Almost. I mean the whole experience of taking a boat and then a horse carriage felt like something straight out of a dream! No wonder “Mad” King Ludwig II is often nicknamed the “Fairy Tale King”! Perhaps King Ludwig II wasn’t as crazy as everyone thought he was! The ironic thing is, is that he was declared insane by his ministers in order to remove him because he had practically bankrupted Bavaria in the process of building his romantic castles, yet, today, they are the greatest source of income to the state!
Inside the Palace:
If you are interested in taking a tour of this stunning palace, you will need to buy your tickets BEFORE reaching the palace. The ticket office is located at the boat dock. Children under the age of 18 are free of charge, but adults will pay 8€ (7€ reduced) however, this price does not include your boat ticket. But the bonus is that your ticket not only includes your entrance into the palace but into the King Ludwig II Museum and the galleries inside the Augustinian Monasteries.
Unfortunately, once inside the palace, photography is not allowed. But you can easily find pictures online to remember the magnificent palace.
King Louis XIV was known as the Sun King throughout Europe as well as a man of grandeur. His palace, the Palace of Versailles provided inspiration for dozens of other palaces and castles throughout Europe. Therefore, King Ludwig II’s palace was built as a “Temple of Fame” as a way to show the Sun King his admiration.
During the tour you will be guided through 16 rooms, including the most stunning parts of the palace: The State Staircase, The State Bedchamber, The Great Hall of Mirrors, The Bedroom and much much more!
The famous Hall of Mirrors is almost an exact replica of the original at Versailles. The king demanded that the hall be built to scale. With 44 freestanding lights, 33 glittering chandeliers and mirrors to match the windows, this was the grandest banqueting hall in all of Europe. However, one slight difference between the Palace of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors and this one, is that this hall is longer, at 98m.
Exploring The Gardens:
The palace gardens are just as beautiful as those at the real Palace of Versailles and were considered to be of top priority when planning the building of the palace. Most of the gardens had been completed by the time the King died. Only the Apollo fountain and a boat landing dock were incomplete. For the most part, the gardens had to be copied in exact detail for the perfect view out of the windows from the palace.
The fountains only come on about every 10-15 minutes as the pumps must be filled with water before they release the water and the pressure allows the fountains to spout water.
Exploring The Augustinian Monastery:
It is worth a quick look at the Augustinian Monastery after your exploration of the castle. The monastery is only a 10-15 minute walk from the palace back in the direction of the boat dock where you will eventually catch your return boat back to the mainland or on to Fraueninsel. King Ludwig II converted this monastery into a temporary royal palace as well while he stayed there during the building process of Herrenchiemsee Palace. It would later be turned into a museum in 1998.
This smaller of the two islands is known as Fraueninsel. Here there is a small active Benedictine convert with nuns who still produce Kloster Liquor spirit. We didn’t check out this island because by that point it was too late in the evening.
What else can I do at Chiemsee?:
Take a drive: Back on the mainland, it is definitely worth taking a drive around the lake. It is relatively small and can be easily driven around in a short amount of time. We casually drove around the entire lake and just enjoyed the view. After our drive, we parked in Chiemsee and sat along the edge of the lake to watch the sunset.
Take a ride of the Chiemsee Train: Enjoy a ride on the historic train which dates back to 1887 as it whistles and winds its way from Prien station to the Prien/stock harbor.
Play Miniature Golf: Located near the parking lots, there is a small miniature golf course perfect for families with small children.
Take a stroll down the Lake Promenade: Here there are restaurants and cafes which serve food to hungry tourists looking to soak up the sun on the shores of the lake.
Other castles from King Ludwig II:
If you’re interested in visiting Germany and are looking for more information, I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide! Without these guides, I would be lost! This is my travel Bible!
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