Travel bleg: Southern Germany & Northern Austria

by Eszter Hargittai on March 5, 2015

In a few weeks, I will be heading to Southern Germany to explore some small towns in that region and parts of Austria. I am skipping bigger cities like Stuttgart and Munich, opting for visiting castles and villages in the countryside. The following towns are currently on my itinerary after having done some reading on the area: Baden-Baden, Alpirsbach, Tubingen, Hohenzollern Castle, Lichtenstein Castle then Schongau, Hohenschwangau Castle, Linderhof Palace then into Austria to Innsbruck, Salzburg, Hallstatt and Mauthausen. I welcome recommendations on where else to go especially en route from one cluster to the next or within the clusters I have highlighted on the map.

I would also appreciate suggestions on whether train, bus or car would be best for the various sections. I know there are great train systems in Germany and Austria, but from the reading I’ve done so far, it sounds like trains are not always convenient for what’s of interest here.

What are your favorite places in this region? What are the must-see attractions, the good places to stay, the not-to-miss restaurants? I am going through several books and diving deep into TripAdvisor, but CT readers often have unique angles on things so I thought it was worth an ask.


Clicking on the map will take you to the corresponding Google Map where you can zoom in and move around.



Kuaikuai 03.05.15 at 12:18 pm

Don’t forget to take along Jerome K Jerome’s book “Three Men on the Bummel”


Patrick Theiner 03.05.15 at 12:20 pm

Lovely itinerary – I’m especially familiar with the parts south of Stuttgart, and it can be quite gorgeous. Lichtenstein, Tübingen, and Hohenzollern are favorites of mine. Don’t be disaapointed about the size of those two castles, by the way. They’re quite small and their main attraction is their location and the views.
That said, having a car for that part of the trip would be a big plus. Yes, there are trains, but once you move away from the main ICE lines, travel can get slow and might take a lot of time. The same probably goes for the Schongau – Hohenschwangau part.

Ob the other hand Insbruck-Salzburg-Linz sounds like it’s made for train travel, and you’ll have some really nice landscape to meander through.

The one suggestion I would have is that while you’re already so close, why not pay a brief visit to Lake Constance? The area is beautiful, and you could check out Mainau Island, the “garden island”, where they grow roses, oranges, and palm trees. It’s barely two hours in the car from Lichtenstein all the way to Constance.


William U. 03.05.15 at 1:08 pm

I’ve been living in Stuttgart for over a year, and wasn’t even aware that Schloss Lichtenstein was so close, so… thanks?

You must have been to Heidelberg already if it’s not on your list.

I’ve been meaning to visit Maulbronn Monastery.. well as a Baroque palace in Ludwigsburg

..and the Ritter Sport factory

(I suspect that the latter two aren’t as interesting as the other B.W. destinations on your list, but they’re included for completeness)


Will 03.05.15 at 1:13 pm

Strong encouragement to swing through Freiburg and see / enjoy the Bächle, the little brooks that run through many of the streets in the old town. Unique in the world as far as I know, and wonderful. It won’t be warm enough yet for you to really get the full benefit, but still worth seeing. And aside from that, Freiburg has a gorgeous old core, and one of the finest small town transit systems in the world. And it’s the perfect place from which to start your crossing of the Schwarzwald.


Marcellina 03.05.15 at 1:37 pm

I am a train lover and can recommend taking rail from Schongau via Weilheim to Innsbruck on the scenic (and relatively cheap) Mittenwaldbahn, which takes you through the mountains over the same passes as the old Roman Via Raetia.
However: with all that on your itinerary, I can’t help but think that a rental car may be most convenient for you in the end, especially if you a little pressed for time as far as opening hours and so, for at least part of the trip. Also, March isn’t known for the best weather. Still, I have found the DB and ÖBB train systems very good, even they don’t go everywhere.
Would you like to meet for a coffee in Innsbruck?


christian_h 03.05.15 at 2:31 pm

I would strongly suggest swinging by the Bodensee ( = Lake Constance) and see Meersburg or Ueberlingen (on the German side), or Bregenz (on the Austrian side).


EH 03.05.15 at 2:36 pm

When I was living there (Bonn and Berlin), I never spent much time in the south, but I did rent a car once and do a pretty similar loop (except for Innsbruck–I went via Salzburg to Linz). I don’t think your itinerary is impossible by train/local bus/occasional taxi, but it’s pretty complicated. Basically, you’d have to take IC trains from big city to big city, then regional slow trains to the villages, and then hope that there’s a bus to the castle leaving within the next hour or so–after which you’d take the bus back to the village, slow train back to the city, then slow train to the next village. The best part about that is just being able to watch the scenery go by, and getting to unexpectedly wander through small villages while you’re waiting for a bus to arrive or depart. You lose that by renting a car and driving yourself–but I can tell you from experience that, if you enjoy *driving*, the foothills of the Alps, in decent weather, are incredibly fun to drive around.

I concur with William U.–Maulbronn is excellent. Also, if it’s not too far out of your way, I would recommend a visit to Konstanz; the old town is right on the lake, they’ve preserved the building that held the Council, and I believe that there are even some Roman ruins.


hix 03.05.15 at 2:54 pm

Schaffhausen and the Rhine fall are probably halfway on route between Hohenzollern castle and Schongau. I like the latter one in particular. Schaffhausen is beautifull but for me generic. That works well by train, albeit overall a car is probably best. As a train itary Stuttgart works very well without big city fealing. One can do a nice 2 hour walk directly from the central train station arround old buildings and parks. Karlsruhe has one of the more beautifull palaces. That one is a bit furter off the central train station, should work as a car itary.

A bit further off, according to my personal taste, idd add the Europapark (theme park, so probably dull for long term US inhabitants, albeit i do also like the aspect that its pretty much the biggest park that is not quite designed according to Universal/Disney standard design, e.g. the buildings are not plastic mock ups, there is more natural landscape integration) and the Donauschlinge. Ive done a bycicle trip from Paussau down to Vienna. The Donauschlinge is the most beautifull part of that cycle route. I think that could work as a car itary and then with a walk+ferry, about 1 hour from Mauthausen by car.


Eszter Hargittai 03.05.15 at 3:03 pm

These are really terrific recommendations, I’m thrilled by all your input. I have not been to Heidelberg and should perhaps add it. (My starting point is Cologne, so could stop there on my way farther south.) Freiburg seemed a bit out of the way, but I appreciate that it has things to offer.

I had no idea there is a Ritter Sport Factory to visit! It is one of my favorite chocolate brands so that sounds great. I’ll have to see how I can make that work.

Lake Constance wasn’t on the itinerary, because I go to Switzerland relatively often and so figured I could work it into one of those trips. (Indeed, I walked around the southern part of it for a bit a few years ago when I was teaching at the Univ. St. Gallen nearby.) That said, it does seem to be a potentially good way to link the two clusters on the map.

Marcellina, thank you for pointing me to the Mittenwaldbahn, that sounds wonderful. And yes, meeting up in Innsbruck would be great, thank you for offering. I can send you a note when I have a better sense of when I’ll be there. (The pictures of the area on your blog are gorgeous!)

With two recommendations already for Maulbronn, I’ll definitely have to look into it.

It sounds like car is the way to go for at least parts of this (perhaps the Southwest nook of Germany). That is very helpful. I don’t think there will be time with this itinerary for lots of standing around in train stations as much fun as that can be (I actually do enjoy that and did some of that while traveling around the northern parts of Germany last summer).


Marcellina 03.05.15 at 3:13 pm

Great. E-Mail me before you leave, though, so that I can check whether I will be around at that time, I’m traveling myself in late March. Either the address I use here which you (as admin?) can see, or contact me via the blog with a general time frame.


RSA 03.05.15 at 3:35 pm

I used to live in a small town northeast of Munich. This might be too far afield, but two regular stops we made with visitors were to Burg Trausnitz in Landshut and Weihenstephan in Freising. The Landshut castle isn’t as grand or historic as many others, but the grounds are nice to wander through and inside you get a good view of the town, including of St. Martin’s church, which (iirc) is the second-tallest brick building in the world. Weihenstephan is the oldest continuously running brewery in the world.

Will you be stopping in at the Cologne cathedral? It’s one of my favorites. You can (or could, at one time at least) climb the stairs almost to the top of one of the towers.


Dan 03.05.15 at 5:23 pm

I lived in Tübingen for a year, it was a wonderful experience.

One thing you definitely must do if you find yourself in Tübingen on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday night in March is visit the Tübinger Altstadt-Besenwirtschaft (broom pub) for dinner and wine. There’s a loophole in German law that allows proprietors of wineries to serve their wares seasonally without going through the typical bureaucratic process for opening a restaurant. This particular Besenwirtschaft serves local wine and traditional local food at ridiculously reasonable prices in a charming old-town cellar. There’s usually a line outside the door before the opening time at 5:00pm, and the cellar is quite small so tables are often communal.

The address is Haaggasse 22
Tübingen, Germany.

Also, just north of town, situated in the Schönbuch forest, there’s a small, charming village called Bebenhausen, built around a Cistercian monastery that opened in the late 1100’s. The grounds were later used as a hunting palace for the kings of Württemberg. It’s now historically preserved and open to the public. It’s beautiful and quite interesting, and there’s a self-guided tour available for a nominal price.


TM 03.05.15 at 6:58 pm

Something weird going on.


TM 03.05.15 at 7:03 pm

In general I recommend that you take more advantage of the scenic beauty and cutlural richness of the Voralpenland. Lakes Starnberg and Ammersee are close by your itinerary. If you are interested in expressionism, the Buchheim museum at Lake Starnberg has one of the best collections. The Franz Marc Museum at Lake Kochel, has lovely collection if you like the Blauer Reiter. Kloster Andechs close to Ammersee I would highly recommend both for the Baroque architecture and the brewery, and the culture of mixing the sacred and the worldly.


marcel 03.05.15 at 7:12 pm

About three years ago, my wife and I cycled the round-trip between Munich and Salzburg: she had business in Munich, and our son was in Vienna for a few weeks at the same time, so this seemed like an interesting way to get back and forth. Counting the weekend in Salzburg, we took about a week for the trip, and likely saw the countryside at a level of granularity that won’t appeal to you, given the travel options you mention and the amount of mileage you plan to cover. Also, our route looks like it was to the north of your planned route, but you asked for suggestions so, here goes.

Salzburg was nice enough, but I don’t recall being overwhelmed by anything there. The weekend we had certainly seemed like plenty to see the city itself.

Mad Ludwig built a : a replica of Versailles on an island in the middle of a lake between the 2 cities, the Chiemsee. I imagine if you’ve seen the real thing, this would likely hold few charms, but it’s worth knowing about as you plan. This is likely about an hour’s drive from Salzburg: perhaps a train to either Chieming or Prien am
Chiemsee. A bit further north is Wasserburg am Inn, which I recall as a very attractive medieval town; I don’t recall any one thing in particular there, but the whole town appealed to me.

Of course, southern Bohemia, just a bit north of Linz has some real gems. On a later trip, from Linz to Karlstejn, we found ourselves in the 2 Ceske/ys, Ceske Budejovice & Cesky Krumlow. The former is attractive, with its own special attractions, and the latter is especially beautiful. I’d like to return someday to Cesky Krumlow and spend more than just the single night that we had.


Baron von Burner 03.05.15 at 7:19 pm

It is out of your way, but every mile of the Rhine from Koblenz to Mainz is beautiful. There are vineyards, castles, youth hostels, castles that are youth hostels, cliffs topped with mythical naked people, etc. You can take a boat, train, bike, or car the whole way.


TM 03.05.15 at 7:20 pm

The Franz Marc Museum at Lake Kochel, has lovely collection if you like the Blauer Reiter. Kloster Andechs close to Ammersee I would highly recommend both for the Baroque architecture and the brewery, and the culture of mixing the sacred and the worldly.


TM 03.05.15 at 7:20 pm

In general I recommend that you take more advantage of the scenic beauty and cultural richness of the Voralpenland.


MPAVictoria 03.05.15 at 8:21 pm

Sounds like a lovely trip. Enjoy yourself.


Loviatar 03.05.15 at 8:27 pm

My 3 suggestions for that area.

The Romantic Road
Back road Germany with beautiful painted homes in the black forest region.


Oberammergau Passion Play
Story of the black plague and a town spared by it. The town has celebrated by putting on a play for the past 400 years. Off year for the play, but again a beautiful area in the black forest region.


Stuttgart spring festival
Canstatter spring festival. The fall festival is the largest after the Munich Oktober fest. The spring festival is not as large, but more fun and less drunken and boisterous.


Ben Alpers 03.05.15 at 9:41 pm

If you have any interest at all in Baroque architecture, Ottobeuren Abbey (near Memmingen, west of Munich) is well worth a trip.


Harald K 03.05.15 at 9:51 pm

Many years ago I went by train to Friedrichshafen with my mother and son, to catch a flight with the Zeppelin NT. That was cancelled due to a thunderstorm, but I found the place lovely. I haven’t really traveled much, so I can’t say how it compares to other places, but at least flying by airship you can’t do very many other places.


Doug 03.05.15 at 10:08 pm

The key thing is that you can’t really go wrong in this region. There is all kinds of cute, all kinds of historic, and all kinds of natural beauty.

Driving will be much more efficient for getting to the small places, meaning that you can get to more than one in a day if you are so inclined.

Do you read German? If so, the Marco Polo guides are really good for this kind of trip. They focus on a smallish region, give a light overview and don’t take up much space. Here’s the one for the Black Forest area:ührer-Schwarzwald-Reiseatlas/dp/3829726031

Accommodation may be trickier than you think, if you haven’t got everything nailed down yet. You’re colliding with Easter vacations, and ski seasons, so places in smaller towns may be booked up way in advance (this German stereotype holds true) or require a week’s stay in ski areas.

Except for Lindau, the Swiss side of Lake Constance is, as you said above, the more interesting side.

Schloss Sigmaringen is worth a visit. For Ludwig’s castles, including Herrenchiemsee (as marcel mentioned above), book a tour time online to the extent that that’s possible. Near Schloss Linderhof, Kloster Ettal is very interesting. I would second TM’s recommendation of Kloster Andechs.

You can take a cable car to the top of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain.

The drive to Innsbruck via either Grainau/Leermoos or Mittenwald is gorgeous. Bear in mind that especially on weekends a great many people will be using these routes. Mittenwald in particular was prone to long back-ups on Saturdays from people leaving from/arriving at their week-long ski destinations, and on Sundays from daytrippers.

The historic salt mines near Berchtesgaden are surprisingly interesting.


TM 03.05.15 at 10:18 pm

You haven’t said much about your preferences and how much time you have?

In general I recommend that you take more advantage of the scenic beauty and cutlural richness of the Voralpenland. Lakes Starnberg and Ammersee are close by your itinerary. If you are interested in espressionism, the Buchheim museum at Lake Starnberg has one of the best collections. The Franz Marc Museum at Lake Kochel, has lovely collection if you like the Blauer Reiter. Kloster Andechs close to Ammersee I would highly recommend both for the Baroque architecture and the brewery, and the culture of mixing the sacred and the worldly. [Trying again]


TM 03.05.15 at 10:18 pm

You haven’t said much about your preferences and how much time you have?

In general I recommend that you take more advantage of the scenic beauty and cultural richness of the Voralpenland. Lakes Starnberg and Ammersee are close by your itinerary. [Trying again]


TM 03.05.15 at 10:19 pm

Kloster Andechs close to Ammersee I would highly recommend both for the Baroque architecture and the brewery, and the culture of mixing the sacred and the worldly.


TM 03.05.15 at 10:20 pm

If you are interested in (art …), the Buchheim museum at Lake Starnberg has one of the best collections. The Franz Marc Museum at Lake Kochel has a lovely collection if you like the Blauer Reiter.


TM 03.05.15 at 10:20 pm

If you are interested in expressionism, the Buchheim museum at Lake Starnberg has one of the best collections. The Franz Marc Museum at Lake Kochel has a wonderful collection if you like the Blauer Reiter.


TM 03.05.15 at 10:24 pm

If you are interested in expressionism, the Buchheim museum at Lake Starnberg has one of the best collections.


TM 03.05.15 at 10:26 pm

The Franz Marc Museum at Lake Kochel has a lovely collection if you like the Blauer Reiter.


Marcellina 03.05.15 at 10:27 pm

I think that at this time of year, the scenic beauty really depends on the weather. The Ammersee (we live there!) is lovely but not particularly so in the winter; the boats are not running, the biergartens are closed. Unless you are lucky and the Föhn is blowing, it will be cold and overcast. So indoor and small-town culture may be preferable. Bring warm, water-resistant outerwear!


TM 03.05.15 at 10:28 pm

If you are interested in expressionism, the Buch-heim museum at Lake Starnberg has one of the best collections.


TM 03.05.15 at 10:29 pm

I feel terrible about these multiple postings but I think I just got closer to solving the mystery of life, the universe and everything: apparently, the CT filter triggers a moderation alert when the name Buchheim is mentioned. There must be a deeper meaning to that!


TM 03.05.15 at 10:31 pm

I feel terrible about these multiple postings but I think I just got closer to solving the mystery of life, the universe and everything: apparently, the CT filter triggers a moderation alert when the name Buch-heim is mentioned. There must be a deeper meaning to that!!!


B 03.05.15 at 10:37 pm

Yes, Maulbronn Monastery, where Johannes Kepler, Friedrich Hölderlin and Hermann Hesse went to school.


Shining Raven 03.05.15 at 10:57 pm

While I live in the region, I really don’t have any additional recommendations to add regarding destinations. I would like to offer a purely practical hint: if you should go by train, and if you have a smartphone, do get the DB Navigator App. It’s a very convenient way to find the nearest train station or bus stop (for overland/regional buses) and the best connections, and you can directly book mobile phone tickets (if you supply credit card information) and don’t have to bother with the ticket vending machines.

For Bavaria, there is also a “Bayernfahrplan” app which has timetable and connection information for local buses and trains in Bavaria and adjacent counties.
If you should go by public transport (which is generally pretty good), these are all very useful, in particular for re-arraging plans while already en route.

I hope you have a great trip and enjoy Germany.


provisorisch 03.05.15 at 11:00 pm

Someone mentioned Kochel and Blau Reiter.
Coming from Linderhof by car, going to Innsbruck, you can go throughit with a very scenic intinerary very easy. More or less following : Ettal (Monastery), Kochel (Franz Marc) Walchensee, Wallgau, Mittenwald, Innsbruck.
If you have time, from Wallgau instead to Tegernsee then slightly back to Achenkirch and Innsbruck. In that case check the small and/or private roads, like the pike Isartal road. Beautiful, but may be closed in winter.

Don´t stop in Oberammergau I was there last week and was not impressed. Neither go up the Zugspitze. Swiss Mountains with cable car are higher, and have Chinese tourists too.
Instead get your Mountain Experience at the Walchensee, up the Herzogstand. Cable car or halfday hiking. Not so high, but beautiful with one lake from every side.


Shining Raven 03.05.15 at 11:02 pm

I forgot to add, that is the official Deutsche Bahn app, and it is free. Bayernfahrplan is commissioned by the state of Bavaria and also free.


TM 03.05.15 at 11:09 pm

In addition to that, if you take the train to several destinations in Bavaria, buy the Bayernticket ( If you travel during the weekend, you might find the Schoenes Wochenende ticket useful:


provisorisch 03.05.15 at 11:12 pm

forgot: Tegernsee is the millionaires and billionaire area, so nice place ;-). One of the very very best restaurant of Germany in Rottach-egern , and cheaper but interesting the big Tegernsee Bräuhaus – getting the Bierkultur without having to go in the general direction of Munich to Andechs or Weihenstephan in Freising.

The pike road is, and will be definitely closed when you will be there.


Eli Rabett 03.06.15 at 12:29 am

From Heidelberg down, the other side of the Rhein is more interesting, Strasbourg, Riquewihr, Colmar and a lot of small towns with good wine. Then into Germany at Freiberg, Tubingen, Ulm. From Ulm north you can go up the Romantischestrasse. Lots of great kitsch, including Rotenberg (but IEHO Riquewihr is better) , Wurzberg, Nurenberg and Munich (more for the museums than the city, it was flattened during WWII).

In Austria, for sure Salzberg Linz and Wien.

Of course you have a few months?


thehersch 03.06.15 at 1:50 am

Just a few remarks:

Most of the cities and towns of Germany as they exist today are either newly built or replicas of the old towns; almost everything was obliterated in the bombing during the Second World War. There are certainly pockets of genuinely old buildings here and there in Germany, but the only major town you’ll find that escaped major destruction during the war is Heidelberg, which wasn’t bombed for reasons unknown to me. So you might really want to visit Heidelberg.

Someone up above referred to “mad” King Ludwig II. There’s no reason to suppose that he was mad, outside of his devotion to Wagner’s music. The accusation of madness was a convenient calumny used to depose him.


provisorisch 03.06.15 at 7:25 am

“almost everything was obliterated” is an exageration. Some were. others not. The more northern and industrial, the worse.
But I am writing right now from a building built in 1890, quite central, in a big city which was damaged but only partly- Nothing to compare with north Korea or Laos.

In any case, the place Eszter has on its bucket list were little and mostly not at all bombed. Tübingen not more than Heidelberg: about the same size and pure university towns. Only that Heidelberg is closer to the big Frankfurt airport and thus was chosen as the tipycal old German town in the turistic world. Location, location, location.


Marcellina 03.06.15 at 8:17 am

No, Ludwig was most likely not mad at all. He was most likely gay, and was definitely eccentric, and most probably murdered. Think Michael Jackson.

To be honest, Heidelberg is quite beautiful but whenever I’ve been there I’ve felt like I was at the Oktoberfest section of Busch Gardens. It was always chock full of Americans, either tourists or residents of the local military base, and much of what is there is geared to their visit. The Buchheim Museum was somewhat interesting but not, in my opinion, worth going out of ones way for (it would be a perfect stop on a ride around the Starnberger See in the summertime, along with Ludwig’s cross in the water at Berg, the Roseninsel, the Roman villa at Leutstetten.) I’ll second the Franz Marc Museum, however.
Hallstatt is lovely. Be sure you see the ossuary at the graveyard. If you are looking for something unusual, ask about the Tauchmuseum Zauner, which has lots of old Nazi treasure pulled out of the lakes over the years by divers.


novakant 03.06.15 at 9:20 am

When you’re in Tuebingen spare a thought for the three boy geniuses who shared a room in the Stift and kicked off German Idealism: Hegel, Hoelderlin and Schelling.

Hoelderlin stayed in Tuebingen and went mad later on, spending his remaining years in a beautiful tower overlooking the river which now hosts the Hoelderlin museum.


William U. 03.06.15 at 10:03 am

“where […] Hermann Hesse went to school.”

Something to read, perhaps, before visiting:


Alan 03.06.15 at 10:18 am

Augsburg. The Fuggerei is the oldest welfare housing in the world and nearby are the Fugger palaces, built by the family who established the Fuggerei. The cathedral is interesting and impressive as is the abbey of Saint Ulrich and Saint Afra


stostosto 03.06.15 at 2:03 pm

Excellent itinerary and suggestions. I’ve just been to Salzburg and enjoyed it very much, even if it’s exceedingly touristic.

If it were me, I’d see if I could make Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It seems it’s very close to your route and it’s a pretty town in its own right while also having a special historical status to do with the Nazi years. Apparently it was considered and promoted by the Nazi regime as the quintessential German town.

Now there is this ongoing internet project, Rothenburg unterm Hakenkreuz, attempting to uncover and examine Rothenburg’s Nazi past – an interesting case of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, I think it looks like.


Neville Morley 03.06.15 at 5:49 pm

Passau: gorgeous little baroque city, previously an independent prince-bishopric, at the confluence of the Donau, Inn and Ilz. And if you can afford either the time (to cycle) or the money (to take the boat), the Donau down to Linz is lovely.


Trader Joe 03.06.15 at 9:51 pm

I would second above positive comments on Rothenburg and Augsburg. Enjoyed both a great deal and plenty of awesome cuisine both ‘native’ and not so.

Would also strongly second TM’s comment on the Bayernticket…just a good deal and convenient.

Mixed on Heidleburg, interesting but in my view not as much a “must see.” You may find by the end as well that you’ve been “castled-out,” for me, I’d skip Hohenschwangau Castle, but I would expect a diverse opinion as they all have some merits.

I envy you the trip, its been some years since I last was able to make a similar one.


joel hanes 03.07.15 at 2:02 am

Neglect not the ancient monasteries at which German bier was perfected, and where it is still made.
google for “Klosterbrauerei ”
The one at Andechs makes a killer dunkels. Go for the 1-liter “maas” stein.

Nurnburg has some wonderful museums, and they rebuilt their cathedrals and city walls after WWII.
(the archetype for Tolkein’s city of Dale at Erebor, Nurnburg was for a millenium a center of musical instrument and toy manufacture and other forms of fine craftsmanship. )


John Street 03.07.15 at 10:07 am

Ride a bike. If you are weak, ride an e-bike. You can rent one when you get there. If you are tired or have a long distance to go, take the bike on a train.


Eszter Hargittai 03.07.15 at 4:14 pm

I would like everyone to know that I’m very grateful for this amazing list of recommendations! I’m working my way through it. I am adding markers on the map for things people have recommended, on occasion annotated by people’s comments. (This is not yet comprehensive, there’s a lot to go through.) The link is here, in case in the future you would like to refer back to it yourself: .

I am very interested in both natural beauty and art so all of those recommendations have been very helpful. I have never liked beer in my life so I’m afraid those don’t really speak to me, but hopefully others can benefit from those suggestions. It sounds like, realistically speaking, given that I don’t have unlimited time for this adventure, a car will likely be helpful, especially for parts of Germany, although I love the idea of small trains winding their way through mountain paths and may incorporate some of that.


gbbalto 03.07.15 at 4:29 pm

Heidelberg is worth at least few hours for walking around the old town. When I was there for a few days in 1996, we stayed comfortably at the Hotel Traube in Leimen (a short drive/trolley ride from H’berg). Nice people, nice breakfast. It is still in operation: In Innsbruck back a few years ago, I stayed at the Hotel Grauer Baer, which is short walk from the small but interesting old town. I also second the suggestion of Rothenburg ob der Tauer – well worth a day. It is a walled town from the 1600s.


hix 03.07.15 at 8:35 pm

If that Schaffhausen is based on my post, its the wrong one. I meant the Suiss one next to the Rhinefall. Fun thing, no one mentioned Neuschwanstein, guess everybody just asumed by default that its already on the list (at least thats what i did). That one is by far the most famouse one of all the castle and palaces for good reason.

Regarding trains winding through mountain path, if you have not done it already, the Glacier express is a definitive must see for the next stay in Switzerland (the price for a regular ticket is insane however – so better to ride if one has a Generalabonnement or Suiss Pass anyway).


Blue Stater 03.08.15 at 2:16 am

I’m surprised no one has mentioned Regensburg. A 90-minute drive NE of Munich, at the northernmost point of the Danube. Intact medieval quarter, connected to a beautiful island, Stadtamhof, in the Danube by the oldest standing bridge in Germany, the Steinenerbruecke, built during the Crusades. Stadtamhof has a beer garden that has been in business without a break since 1215. Off the beaten path, English isn’t spoken much (though more than it was when I lived there). But a gorgeous city with a rich history dating back to before the Romans; during the Holy Roman Empire it was a Freie Reichsstadt, a Free Imperial City. Worth a weekend. Hell, it’s worth a year or two.


Eszter Hargittai 03.08.15 at 3:49 am

I had also meant to mention that I speak German so books or other material in German is fine. (I actually studied German formally before English, alas, my English knowledge now far surpasses my German skills.)

hix – I wondered about Schaffhausen, thanks for the clarification. Not really hitting Switzerland this time, but I’ll keep it in mind for future visits (I’m going later in the Spring, actually, but rather briefly and mainly to Bern this time). I took a long mini rail to St. Moritz a few years ago when I was teaching in St. Gallen briefly. I did have the “Abonnement demi-tarif” (which is how it will always be known to me since I lived in Geneva when I first had it) and so it was either included or very reasonable. Although I put the Hohenschwangau castle on the map, Neuschwanstein is definitely on the list already indeed (I’ve updated the map).

gbbalto – I just spoke with someone today who has lived in Heidelberg and have gotten a nice little itinerary. I’m not sure overnighting there will be part of the plan, but I appreciate the specific recommendation!

Blue Stater – I’ll keep that in mind for the future. But for this trip, Regensburg is way out of the way.


Joost 03.08.15 at 4:00 am

I was in Tuebingen for a short work visit last year, and it’s a lovely little town. Very pretty indeed. It’s also very small; a longish afternoon would pretty much seem to cover it.

I fondly remember a hidden little coffee & cake place, cozy and friendly without being traditional, with a bench outside where it’s very relaxed, and lovely service – it was on the Ammergasse (which is a nice little street). Some googling suggests it’s called the Tübinger Zuckerbäcker.

One thing I had trouble with was finding a place with free wi-fi. Not for the first time – it still seems to be considered a decadent luxury in much of provincial Germany.

Tuebingen also has a great little community radio station, called Wueste Welle – that’s what I was there for!

Earlier on I was in Salzburg a couple of times (for the CivilMedia conference), and the city is of course beautiful, almost fairytale like, and quite romantic — if a little all too proper and neat and bourgeois. There are two places there I really like: Cafe Bazar, a classic Austrian coffee house with an old worldy intellectual feel which should be easy enough to find, but also a smaller place that’s a bit further out of the way: Cafe Am Kai. Located in a pink kind of villa a shortish walk downriver from the old town, just across the river from the Mirabellgarten yet out of the way enough to not feel too touristy, it has a spacious terrace with a great view over the river and the castle in the distance, and cute cupcakes. (I have no idea if you’re into cakes, but I am. :)


Joost 03.08.15 at 4:05 am

As for means of transportation, the German rail system is great of course (and features enough different kinds of special, cheap tickets to avoid the expensive normal rates), but the Black Forest area is tricky. To get from Freiburg to Tuebingen was a bit of a pain, you either have to chain together some local trains and even the less time-consuming option routes you around via Karlsruhe and Stuttgart. Though that’s okay I guess if you want to stop in both those cities anyway!


LeeAnn 03.08.15 at 4:06 am

I researched Bavaria for a travel guide 20+ years ago and had a week at the end of my itinerary before flying home, and the newly-discovered place I went back to spend that week was Burghausen, a little town on the German-Austrian border with a very large castle (you used to be able to stay overnight in the castle — there was a youth hostel, as well as other rooms for rent) with a beautiful view of the town and the Salzach river. I rented a bicycle and cycled around the area everyday, returning to the castle at night to sleep. Despite the amazing castle and picturesque town, it was a sleepy place with few tourists even in August.

Also Nördlingen or Dinkelsbühl are good alternatives to Rothenburg–they are the only other two towns in Germany with completely intact city walls, but they are not as insanely overwhelmed by tourism as Rothenburg.

Otherwise, lots of good suggestions from everyone, esp. Passau, Heidelberg, also Bamberg has a very nice Altstadt and cathedral.


provisorisch 03.08.15 at 10:38 am

Ezter, just a comment about Beer: I don’t like it so much either, Apfelschöre is fine too, but I would go there for he sheer bigness of some Bräuereiwirthaus and the exotic feel it gives you. Andechs and Weihenstephan are good suggestion in this aspect (Freising has a nice old Bishop-city to pay ou off too), but as well as the big ones in Munich, I understand it would lead you out of your itinerary and cost you time. I suggested Tegernseer Brauhaus, but I see you didn’t take it up ;-)
Think again if you can make there for the Starkbierfest I guarantee you authentic bavarian “Tracht”, and high quality too (the millionaires…).
I second Joel Hanes, look for a Klosterbrauerei, maybe in Schwabenland around the castles you visit there, that is the only part of your intenerary I am not so familiar with. This page may help you too (it mentions Ettal for instance)

And for the mountain part, think about Garmisch. Nothing against it (I hiked it up a couple of times, skied there, took the cable car…) but you have the same or better in Swiss, and it is a small “Umweg” which brings not much you can not get at other places on the way.
Herzogstand at Walchensee/Kochelsee I suggested alreay, but you have also a cable car in Mittenwald, the Karwendelbahn, which is smack on the road to Innsbruck and much time and money sparing compared to Zugspitze in Garmisch. If you are a good skier, you can try the unprepared slope there, mucch more fun than Garmisch – if it is not too late when you come.

Nobody told anything about Baden-Baden in the thread I believe. I am not really informed, I was only shortly there and not as a tourist, but I would say if you go to Freiburg, skip Baden-Baden and visit Colmar; the museum unter den Linden has a MUST-See artwork, the retable d’Issenheim. It knocked me over. Plus as someone said upthread, Elsass is nicer (Strassbour cathedral, Obernai, the vineyards country) than Bade country north of Freiburg.

The Puchheim Museum has a beautiful location on the lake, especally if the sight to th mountains is good, and the collection has interesting expressionists, but I was ot overwhelmed. Your time.


Eszter Hargittai 03.08.15 at 10:44 pm

Provisorisch, thanks for the additional info. To clarify, I’m still not done copying info from this thread to the map. Also, only the red markers (and the Ps) on the map signal places on the itinerary. The brown markers are places people mentioned, some of them completely out of the way so not even under consideration.

Baden-Baden came recommended in a Back Roads Germany book, it was on my original list. Freiburg sounds wonderful, but just far enough out of the way not to make it, it looks like. This certainly won’t be my last trip to the region so I’m taking notes long term.

I appreciate your points about Zugspitze. I’ve seen my share of Swiss mountain tops so perhaps it’s not a priority here.


Craig 03.09.15 at 3:43 am

Baden-baden is my very favorite place on the planet; I hope you won’t miss it, but you need to embrace German bathing culture. That is to say: very naked, and very public. You’ll get over it in about five minutes. Trust me. The Friedrichsbad offers you the opportunity to take a three-hour bath in a Roman temple dedicated to the worship of you. You leave your clothes in a locker and move from room to room: dry sauna, steambath, warm pool, cool pool, as the numbered signs indicate. It’s all domes and statues and romanesque mosaics, just beautiful. You finish with a nice nap in the quiet room. Spring for the soap brush massage at least once. There is nothing like it on Earth. Mark Twain bathed there, and you can look up his thoughts on the subject. I think you want to stay three days, and go to the Friedrichsbad once a day, but then I’m kind of an addict.

Stay, if you can get a room, at the Hotel am Markt, in the center of the old town. The Rathausgloekel is a good backup. The other public bath is the Caracalla Therme, which is the sort of bathing experience you can (and should!) have in lots of places around Germany: downstairs is a series of swimming pools and whirlpools and so forth, clothing required, and upstairs are about a dozen different saunas, clothing prohibited. You don’t need anything but your skin at the Friedrichsbad, but at the Caracalla, as at most German baths, you will need to bring one or more large towels with you. German sauna etiquette is that there should be a towel between any part of your body and the bench (feet included), and it’s really nice to lie down and stretch out if it’s not crowded. I bring a six foot long bath towel with me from home when I visit Germany. Anyway, plenty of places, trip advisor included, will tell you all about it. Sauna culture is one of the hidden treasures of Germany, and Baden-Baden is ground zero for sauna culture.

By the way, if you want the medieval walled town experience but not the kitsch factor, the sleepy town of Nördlingen im Ries is very nice. You can walk the entire circumference of the wall–some bits of it are admittedly better maintained than others–and enjoy a nice bit of coffee and cake after your walk in the old town. One or two of the towers have little museums, but the opening times are somewhat spotty if I recall correctly.


James Wimberley 03.09.15 at 2:28 pm

The area is stuffed with fine baroque churches, some in idyllic rural settings. Check out Ottobeuren and Wies. On an entirely different note, the dinosaur museum at Holzmaden, just off the main Stuttgart-Ulm autobahn, is easy to get to and fun. Most of the exhibits are ichthyosaurs, with a beautiful streamlined design close to dolphins – convergent evolution in action.


Vanya 03.09.15 at 3:40 pm

#56. Yes to Regensburg. A real gem and surprisingly untouristed by Americans, same is true for Passau. And between the two you can see Walhalla, which is a crazy 19th century German monument to Great Dead Germans built back when nationalism was still seen as a force for progress. In that vein, you should consider getting a copy of Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History by Simon Winder. I would also add that if you get that close to Cesky Krumlov and don’t go, you are missing out. I don’t think any town in Austria compares to it. Southern Bohemia and Moravia in general is full of amazing baroque era towns.


TM 03.10.15 at 2:42 pm

LeeAnn at 60 mentions Burghausen but not the Jazzfestival for which the town now is somewhat famous (it’s in March).

Re sauna and bathing culture, I second that, you haven’t experienced Germany without having been in a Sauna- and Badelandschaft. Baden-Baden is probably great (never been there) but also check out Therme Meersburg ( or Ueberlingen ( They are gorgeously located at the shore of Bodensee. Close by, in Unteruhldingen, is the Pfahlbautenmuseum with reconstructions of neolithic lake dwellings. (


Jochen 03.10.15 at 3:35 pm

If you start your trip from Cologne, you should maybe also visit Eltz Castle (Burg Eltz), which is close to Koblenz. It has been built in the 12th century and is quite remarkable.

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