Built between 1870 and 1879 on the spectacular grounds of his father's hunting lodge, the Linderhof Palace was the only one of Ludwig II's royal residences to have been completed during the monarch's short life. It was the smallest of this ill-fated king's castles, but his favorite country retreat among the various palaces at his disposal. If you plan on visiting more of Ludwig's castles, purchase the Kombiticket Königsschlösser. The ticket costs €24 and allows the holder to visit Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, and Herrenchiemsee, one time each, within six months. Set in sylvan seclusion, between a reflecting pool and the green slopes of a gentle mountain, the charming, French-style, rococo confection is said to have been inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. From an architectural standpoint it's a whimsical combination of conflicting styles, lavish on the outside, somewhat overly decorated on the inside. But the main inspiration came from the Sun King of France, Louis XIV, who
is referred to in numerous bas-reliefs, mosaics, paintings, and stucco pieces. Ludwig's bedroom is filled with brilliantly colored and gilded ornaments, the Hall of Mirrors is a shimmering dream world, and the dining room has a clever piece of 19th-century engineering—a table that rises from and descends to the kitchens below.
The formal gardens contain still more whimsical touches. There's a Moorish pavilion—bought wholesale from the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition—and a huge artificial grotto in which Ludwig had scenes from Wagner operas performed, with full lighting effects. It took the BASF chemical company much research to develop the proper glass for the blue lighting Ludwig desired. The gilded Neptune in front of the castle spouts a 100-foot water jet. According to hearsay, while staying at Linderhof the eccentric king would dress up as the legendary knight Lohengrin to be rowed in a swan boat on the grotto pond; in winter he took off on midnight sleigh rides behind six plumed horses and a platoon of outriders holding flaring torches. In winter be prepared for an approach road as snowbound as in Ludwig's day—drive carefully. The palace is only accessible with a guided tour.