In 1878, King Ludwig II began construction on a palace to match Versailles on Herreninsel island in Chiemsee lake. Schloss Herrenchiemsee (Herrenchiemsee Palace) was the Fairytale King’s final and most luxurious construction project.
From the pier, the palace is around a 15-minute walk away or – if you would prefer to travel in the style of the fairytale king and his guests – you can take a horse and carriage instead. If you opt for the pleasant carriage ride through the island’s shady forest to Schloss Herrenchiemsee and its park with ornate water features, you may genuinely feel as though you have been transported back to a bygone era.
Ludwig II was a great admirer of the Sun King Louis XIV and wanted to model Herrenchiemsee after the Palace of Versailles, paying homage to the absolute monarchy. The majority of the drafts for the building were created by the architect Georg von Dollman, who had to carefully study the palace’s French role model.
Just like all of the other palaces belonging to Ludwig II, Schloss Herrenchiemsee was not designed to become a seat of government, nor would it be home to the royal court. The palace was built solely as a private residence for the reclusive king, who wanted to use it as a retreat from public life. When visiting his fairytale palaces, the king would travel with a very small contingent of staff to look after his needs.
However, the Bavarian king ended up spending just ten or so days at Schloss Herrenchiemsee in the summer of 1885. Furthermore, the building project was never fully completed as the king then died under tragic circumstances in the summer of 1886.
The suites designed under Ludwig II are open to visitors as part of the palace’s regular guided tours. The grand interior is marked by its exceptional quality and unmatched splendour. Highlights include the vast Hall of Mirrors, the breathtaking marble staircase and the “Wishing Table”, a concealed dining table inspired by the Grimm fairytale and designed to allow the king to dine alone without serving staff.
The magnificence of the palace is matched by the park and its spectacular water features, which were designed by Carl von Effner, the Director of the Royal Gardens. Versailles also provided the inspiration for the design here. Work began in 1882, four years after groundwork on the palace started, but was brought to a close before the park could be completed due to Ludwig’s death in 1886.
Schloss Herrenchiemsee also houses a museum, which incorporates twelve rooms on the ground floor of the southern wing. The museum reveals the interesting history behind Ludwig II’s life, from his birth to his tragic death, using portraits, busts, historical photographs, furniture and original examples of his grand dress.
The king has even gone down in musical history as the patron of composer Richard Wagner. The museum sheds light on this topic with portraits, original documents, model theatres and set designs. The exhibition also focuses on the king’s other palaces Schloss Neuschwanstein and Linderhof as well as some of his other construction projects.
Visit the palace straightforward on a guided trip or travel from Munich by car: you can reach Schloss Herrenchiemsee on the A8 motorway (between Salzburg and Munich). Take the Bernau exit and follow the signs for Prien am Chiemsee. If you are travelling by train, the trip from Munich Hauptbahnhof (central station) to Prien am Chiemsee takes around one hour. During the summer season, the Chiemsee railway runs a service from Prien station to Prien/Stock harbour. Otherwise, the harbour is around 30 minutes away on foot. The harbour at Prien/Stock runs regular boat services to Herreninsel.
Tip: Island hopping! Why not combine your visit to Schloss Herrenchiemsee with a stroll on the picturesque Fraueninsel, where the island’s fishermen sell their freshly smoked Chiemsee whitefish and other specialities? The island is a truly idyllic spot with winding paths that take you past romantic fishermen’s cottages and artists’ houses. Fraueninsel is also home to the 1200-year-old Frauenwörth convent. The boat company Chiemsee-Schifffahrt offers various combination tickets.