The New Palace Herrenchiemsee: Ludwig’s Versailles

Germany is a land filled with historical buildings and German castles and forts are among the most renowned in the world. Each week I publish a post about a German castle or fort and tell you – my readers – about its history, important things to see there and much more.


Last time, before my computer fiasco, I explored the Linderhof Palace. If you have not read that post, I suggest you read it before continuing with this one. Our story starts in 1878 when the Linderhof Palace was nearing completion. King Ludwig II of Bavaria was now in search of a new project to play out his fantasies of fairy tale castles in perfect splendor. He felt justice had not been done by the Linderhof Palace to King Louis XIV ‘the Sun King’ of France and the Versailles Palace. Therefore, Louis – spendthrift that he was – embarked on the creation of a new palace on the island of Herrenchimesee*. This island is present in the beautiful Chiemsee Lake about an hour’s drive from Munich. The palace was unimaginatively named the New Palace.

The palace is located on an island on the Chiemsee Lake.

The palace is located on an island on the Chiemsee Lake.

Before construction started on the New Palace, it went through 13 planning stages in which Ludwig is said to have taken an avid and personal interest. Work finally started in 1878. The original plans for the palace were grand; there was to be a huge complex with a main alley of sorts with gardens and a main building and many buildings were to be built around it. Unfortunately, Ludwig died in 1886 due to mysterious circumstances by drowning in the Starnberg Lake near the Neuschwanstein Castle and the New Palace was never completed. Only the main alley with its gardens and the main castle building were completed. Sections of the castle, specially those left incomplete due to the king’s death were later demolished and Ludwig’s dream of a Bavarian Versailles never came to fruition.

The Hall of Mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors

Do not, however, expect the New Palace to be any less grand than Ludwig’s other masterpieces / financial gambles. The castle building is full of wonderful things like the Great Hall of Mirrors, the Halls of Peace and War, galleries, antechambers, guard rooms and whatnot.

The State Bedroom

The State Bedroom

There is no dearth of wonders in the New Palace. Since 1987, the King Ludwig II Museum is housed in the castle’s South Wing as well. The museum contains many paintings and busts of Ludwig as well as personal drawings and compositions by him. The grounds of the castle are full of amazing fountains with detailed statues.

The grounds are dotted with intricately designed fountains reminiscent of Versailles.

The grounds are dotted with intricately designed fountains reminiscent of Versailles.

The New Palace at Herrenchiemsee is truly worth a visit. The island is not connected to the mainland by land, so a ferry ride on the picturesque Chiemsee Lake is necessary. The price for the ferry ride can be found here in German. The opening hours of the castle are different according to the seasons and can be viewed here, while the price list for admission can be seen here. Please keep in mind that the palace administration does not allow photography and they enforce this rule rigorously. So put those cameras and smart phones away and enjoy King Ludwig II’s unfinished dream. I think it’s needless to say this, but do visit the Chiemsee Lake which is Bavaria’s largest and one of its most beautiful. While in the region, check out the German city of Rosenheim known for the hit TV show Rosenheim Cops and Salzburg in Austria.

The main castle building in all its splendor.

The main castle building in all its splendor.

*The island goes by two names: Herreninsel or Herrenchiemsee. There’s also a smaller island called Fraueninsel or Frauenchiemsee. Apparently, people were a bit sexist in the olden days.

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