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My Very Bavarian Road Trip

Today I’m taking a quick break from my usual mid-Atlantic travel coverage to feature my recent road trip through Bavarian Germany and Salzburg, Austria.

Berchtesgaden- historic downtown square

Downtown Berchtesgaden

 

Bavaria is best known for its abundance of picture-perfect villages with ornately painted wood houses, fairy tale castles, green farmland dotted with friendly tan and white cows, traditional bierhauses with overflowing liters of beer and a close proximity to the towering snowy peaks of the Alps.

To say that this region makes for an ideal road trip is an understatement. Here, driving is easy (even for those of us that don’t speak German…) and is truly the best way to experience the area since everything is located so closely together.

My boyfriend Scott and I visited in mid-October, when the changing colors of the leaves were at peak splendor. With a trip that lasted just 6 days, I did a lot of research to find the absolute best of the best places to visit. I feel confident that we made the most of the time we had without packing too much in.

So, without further ado, here is my very Bavarian road trip!

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

 

And a very special thanks to the Bruised Passports blog, which was a great resource as I researched the best Bavarian places to visit, as well as my colleague Erin and her former-Germany-living dad, who reviewed my itinerary and gave it their informed seal of approval, which I so appreciated!

 

DAY 1: MUNICH

We spent our first day exploring Bavaria’s capital city, Munich. Munich is known for being the hub of all Oktoberfest activities and while the festival had wrapped up prior to our visit, the rowdy spirt of bier halls endures year round. The historic district is very walkable, and it’s easy to spend the day (or two, if you have an extra day to spare) exploring the city.

TIP: For a good overview of the city, we checked out the free —yes, free!— 3 hour walking tours by InMunich, which meets at 10:40 every day in the Marienplatz square. Just be sure to leave your guide a nice tip if you enjoyed your tour as much as we did!

Here are some landmarks that we made a point to see during our visit to Munich.

Munich- Marienplatz New Town Hall 2

Marienplatz’s New Town Hall

 

Munich- Max Joseph Platz

Max Joseph Platz, near the Opera

 

Munich- Maypole

The Munich Maypole, in the heart of the Viktualienmarkt

 

Munich- Viktualienmarkt

Shopping for produce, meats, cheese and more at the Viktualienmarkt

 

Munich- Hofbrauhaus

Can’t miss out on the Hofbrauhaus, originally built in 1589!

 

Munich- Hofbrauhaus selfie

Prost!

 

Munich- Hofbrauhaus band

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to sip your beer to the tune of a 5-piece brass band!

 

DAY 2: GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN AREA EXPLORATION

On Day 2, it was time to say “Auf Wiedersehen!” to Munich, and drive about an hour south to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the gateway to the Alps! We stayed in Garmisch for 2 nights and found it to be incredibly centrally-located for all of the places we wanted to visit in the area. (Another perk: It was located in the shadow of the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany, which provided amazing views.)

Stop 1: Partnach Gorge
Upon arriving in Garmisch, we headed straight to the Partnach Gorge for a hike. Maybe it was the vivid colors of the fall leaves, or the bright blue rushing water of the river, or the cascading waterfalls that seemed to be around every bend of the river, but this beautiful trail was one of my favorite quick-hikes ever.

Partnach Gorge- view 2

The trail at Partnach Gorge follows right alongside the river. But it can get really crowded, so it’s best to get there early in the day.

 

Partnach Gorge- cascade

Be prepared– you may get a little wet! And bring good shoes– you’ll be going through tunnels!

 

Partnach Gorge- fall leaves

There were falling leaves everywhere– so pretty!

 

Stop 2: The Garmisch Classic
The Garmisch-area has a number of gondola/ ski lifts that help day-tripping tourists to get to the top of the area’s peaks. The most famous is the Zugspitze, where a $52 euro ticket gets you on a gondola (or gondola + cogwheel train combo– your choice) to the top of the nearly 10,000 foot-high peak. But arguably the 2nd most popular is the Garmisch Classic, half the price at $26 euro, which is what we opted to do.

I am so happy with our choice– the Garmisch Classic ticket covers 3 invigorating gondola rides up, around and down the 6,725 foot Osterfelderkopf peak. It was amazing how quickly we went from the ground up to pure, snowy iconic Alps scenery. It ended up being one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.

Garmisch Classic- Gondola ride

The gondola fits about 25 people, and the views on the ride up were incredible!

 

Garmisch Classic- View from the top

Scott surveys the scenery

 

Garmisch Classic- brew with a view

At each of the 3 cable car stops, there’s a restaurant where travelers can get beer, wine and Bavarian food. Best food-with-a-view spot in Germany, I’d say!

 

Garmisch Classic- picture

We couldn’t resist such a picturesque photo op!

 

Stop 3: The Hotel Edelweiss
When we were in Munich, we were chatting with our walking tour guide and shared that Garmisch-area was our next stop. He inquired, “Are you staying at the Hotel Edelweiss?” And we responded with a surprised, “Yes!” When we drove to Garmisch and continued our exploration of the area, we found that “Hotel Edelweiss” must be the most common hotel name in Bavaria because they seemed to be everywhere. 

But, regardless if it was our Hotel Edelweiss he was referring to or not, we were so pleased with this little Bavarian gem. From the wooden window boxes overflowing with perky red and pink flowers, to the friendly staff and lovely free breakfast, to our room’s giant balcony that looked towards the Alps, it was a cheerful place to return to after a full day of exploring.

Garmisch- Hotel Edelweiss exterior

The Hotel Edelweiss’ cheery Bavarian exterior

 

Garmisch- Hotel Edelweiss Balcony

Our room had a giant balcony that had a sweeping view of the Alps

 

Stop 4: Mittenwald
The brightly-colored town of Mittenwald is an easy 25-minute drive from Garmisch. Despite a bit of early-evening rain, I loved the colorful houses painted in the traditional Bavarian style along the main Obermarkt street. On Sunday many of the stores were closed, so the town (which I imagine is often packed with people) was fairly quiet. It was a pretty magical sight, and it was worth the little detour.

Mittenwald

Mittenwald

 

DAY 3: CASTLE-MANIA

Stop 1: Linderhof Palace
King Ludwig II ruled Bavaria from the age of 18, from 1864-1886. Today’s, the “Mad King” is known more for his eccentric personality than his regal achievements. He’s known for the castles he built, too, which also happen to be some of the best attractions in Bavaria. (He may have been eccentric, but no one can say he didn’t have great taste!)

First up, was the palace which Ludwig II built to be his residence, Linderhof Palace. It’s nestled in the mountains and while the castle’s interior is surely something to marvel at, in my opinion it’s the grounds that really makes this palace so spectacular.

Linderhof Palace- castle

The ornate facade of Linderhof Palace

 

Linderhof Palace

Looking down on the palace’s grounds from the Temple of Venus

 

Linderhof- swans

We also discovered some incredibly social swans on the Palace’s grounds

 

Stop 2: Ettal Abbey
A quick 10 minute drive down the road lead us to Ettal Abbey, which is home to a distillery and one of the few remaining Bavarian breweries still operated by monks. The brewery offers limited tours, but otherwise isn’t open to the public. But after walking through the gorgeous 10-sided church and exploring the grounds a bit, that didn’t stop us from sampling the brews… right next door at the Edelweiss Restaurant. (Yes, another Edelweiss!)

Ettal- Monastary

Ettal Abbey

 

IMG_2009

The Cafe Edelweiss was like a beacon… of beer!

 

Ettal- Beer

The Weissbier (wheat beer) was some of our favorite beer from the whole trip… Those monks really know what they’re doing!

 

Stop 3: Oberammergau
By now, we were getting pretty hungry, so we drove the quick 7 minutes to the iconically Bavarian town of Oberammergau. I was so glad we stopped because not only was the scenery gorgeous (the town’s ideally situated under a high, snowy peak) but we also had one of the best meals of our entire trip.

Scott has a real talent for finding awesome places, so when I tasked him with picking our lunch spot I should have known that he wouldn’t disappoint! He ended up picking s’Wirtshaus, which seemed to be a local favorite. (We were the only non-German-speaking patrons there!) I got to have pork schnitzel with to-die-for roasted potatoes while he enjoyed a good vegetarian meal of veggie crepes. A round of beer later and we both left happy and full.

Oberammergau- main historic district

We arrived in downtown Oberammergau right after a rain squall– leading to some extra lovely views

 

Oberammergau- 's Wirtshaus

s’Wirtshaus

 

Oberammergau- 's Wirsthaus schnitzel

My schnitzel– YUM!

 

Stop 4: Neuschwanstein Castle
Our last stop of the day was Ludwig II’s legendary Neuschwanstein Castle. I’m a Disney girl at heart, so having the opportunity to see the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle in person was too much to resist. So off we went, into the green Bavarian countryside.

Neuschwanstein Castle- cows

These cows were missing their cow friends, who were in a field across the road

 

The castle lies high above the town of Schwangau, which is also home to the Hohenschwangau Castle (Ludwig II’s childhood home.) The scene was utterly, totally chaotic with so many tourists all trying to figure out how to get up to Neuschwanstein. We found our way onto a shuttle bus, and after a steep, winding ride uphill we disembarked at the entrance to the palace.

Sadly, during our visit the Marienbrucke Bridge was closed, so we were unable to see some of the more iconic views of the palace, but I still loved getting to visit this famous attraction.

Neuschwanstein Castle- lake

Scott’s chasing ducks on the crystal clear lake in Schwangau

 

Neuschwanstein Castle- interior

We didn’t pay to do a tour of the castle, but all are allowed into the main courtyard. That was enough of a peek for us!

 

Neuschwanstein Castle- and me!

Happy to get to check this off my bucket list!

 

DAY 4: HEADING EAST

On Day 4, it was time to leave Garmisch and move on to our next destination: Salzburg, Austria!

The drive was an easy 2 hours and 20 minutes on the Autobahn—which surprisingly wasn’t as terrifying as I expected…—But rather than driving straight to Salzburg, we spent the day exploring towns and attractions along the way.

Stop 1: Chiemsee
After visiting Linderhof and Neuschwanstein castles, when we heard there was a third Ludwig II palace on our way, we thought ‘why not go for the trifecta?!‘ So, off we went to Chiemsee to visit the Mad King’s largest palace, Herrenchiemsee.

Visiting this particular castle is extra awesome because in order to get to it, you’ve got to take a ferry across the Chiemsee lake, which at 9 miles long is the largest lake in Bavaria. Think of it as two attractions for the price of one!

Chiemsee ferry

The ferry ride to the castle’s island, Herreninsel, is only about 15 minutes from the port of Prien am Chiemsee. If you have time, you can also take the ferry to the Fraueninsel island, which has a Benedictine nunnery and a small village.

 

Chiemsee- Herrenchiemsee castle

Ludwig II modeled his royal palace Herrenchiemsee after Versailles, but sadly it was never completed

 

Stop 2: Berchtesgaden
After visiting Chiemsee, we hit the road again and continued east. Shortly before we were about to reach Salzburg, we veered south to visit Berchtesgaden, a town that some consider to be the prettiest in Bavaria.

Berchtesgaden is nestled in the mountains right along the Austrian border. The village’s historic district was utterly charming, with narrow streets lined with brightly-painted buildings, packed cafes with bustling tables and a welcoming atmosphere. It was the perfect place to stop for a late lunch.

Berchtesgaden- historic downtown square

A square in downtown historic Berchtesgaden

 

Berchtesgaden- beer with a view

Brew with a view

 

It’s hard to imagine that a place so cheery has ties to Adolf Hitler, but alas Berchtesgaden is also home to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat. We opted to skip a visit and instead headed to a more upbeat attraction on the outskirts of town.

Stop 3: Salzbergwerk
While this part of Germany is most known for its activities that can be found above ground, under the earth’s surface lies a unique attraction that is equally worth a trip… Berchtesgaden’s Salzbergwerk salt mines.

Salt has been mined in this region since the 12th century. The “white gold” that still is mined today was responsible for much of the area’s wealth and affluence. Today, visitors can take an entertaining 1 hour tour that had us sliding down huge wooden chutes (SO fun!), walking through deep tunnels and riding across an underground lake on a raft. It was a great time, and the best part? You get to don super-stylish mining jump suits! (Ha!)

Berchtesgaden- Salzbergwerk- getting geared up

The aforementioned jump suit

 

Berchtesgaden- Salzbergwerk sign

I don’t have a photo of the slides, but this sign is a good depiction!

 

Berchtesgaden- Salzbergwerk inside

The underground salt lake

 

DAY 5: SALZBURG

We arrived to Salzburg late on day 4 of our trip. After such a busy day, we were pretty tired, so we grabbed a bite to eat near our hotel and hit the sack pretty hard. But day 5 was our only day in Salzburg, so we knew we had to make the most of it.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Salzburg is a really fascinating city. It is incredibly old, with settlements dating back to 15 BC.  The old town is partially protected by high stone walls and a medieval fortress that looms high above the city. It’s clear that the city was originally designed to keep outsiders out, but today the Salzburg’s historic district is full of warmth… and music.

In fact music is probably Salzburg’s most notable draw because not only is it the home of Mozart, but the Sound of Music was famously filmed at locations throughout the city. Whether it’s advertisements promoting classical concerts or Mozart’s face painted on artisanal chocolates, musical touches are everywhere throughout the city.

We definitely made the most of our day in Salzburg. Here are some highlights:

Salzburg- Getreidegasse

Our hotel was on the popular Getreidegasse shopping street

 

Salzburg- view from the Hohensalzburg fortress

A view of Salzburg from atop the Hohensalzburg fortress

 

Salzburg- Hohensalzburg fortress

The Hohensalzburg Fortress was a little like something from Game of Thrones

 

Salzburg-- view along the Salzach River

A view along the Salzach River

 

Salzburg-- lock bridge

Locks of love

 

Salzburg- Me at the Mirabell Palace

Cheesing it up at the Mirabell Palace

 

Salzburg- Mirabell Palace 2

The gorgeous grounds at the Mirabell Palace

 

Salzburg- Mirabell Palace 4

One more shot of the Mirabell Palace… I couldn’t believe my luck when a bride and groom just strolled into the shot!

 

Salzburg-- view along the Salzach River 2

Another view along the Salzach River

 

Salzburg- Augustiner Braustubl- prost!

We ended up at the Augustiner Braustubl just in time for “happy hour”! With an underground market, long communal tables and some super-tasty beer, it was probably our favorite bier hall of the whole trip!

 

DAY 6: HEAD HOME

The next day, we had a nice breakfast in Salzburg then headed back to Munich to fly home. Do I wish we had another 6 days to continue our exploration of Bavaria? Heck yeah! But I really felt like we got to see a lot of the region… and it leaves us with a good reason to come back soon!

 

Did I make it to YOUR favorite places in Bavaria? Let me know in the comments below!

Ultimate Bavarian Road Trip

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17 Responses to My Very Bavarian Road Trip

  1. Tony R November 13, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    Your surely packed a lot in over six days! Seems like advance planning is the key.

    • Marie December 26, 2015 at 5:05 am #

      I too agree but not too much. Advance planning gives you an overly packed sometimes. But it is great too when you rethink of what really is great to pack and can leave other things behind.

  2. Fakhree January 31, 2016 at 6:13 am #

    Its a great trip
    I am trying to do a similar trip this April .We fly into Amsterdam and fly out of Munich .
    We have 14 days of which 5 days will be for visiting Amsterdam ,Bruges and Ghent .
    We then have 9 days for Germany wherein we would like to do Berlin ,Alpine Road and Munich(not necessarily in that order) before we fly back from Munich .
    Pls suggest what we should include/skip in the German section .Do you advise we cut down(eliminate) the time in Belgium if the need be .
    Thanks

  3. Fakhree February 9, 2016 at 4:38 am #

    Hi

    Fantastic trip you have made here .
    I want to plan something similar for my family
    I am travelling to NL Belgium and Germany for 14 days in April with my family of a total of 6 people (3 adults and 3 children aged 11,9 and 3)

    Tentative Plan is as below :
    The arrival city is Amsterdam and the departure city is Munich .
    Our general itinerary is
    3 days Amsterdam
    2 days Bruges
    3 days Berlin
    6 days Munich and Bavaria
    Co-incidentally i have kept 6 days for Munich and Bavaria(Just as in your itinerary)
    I wanted to know if after doing 3 days in Amsterdam ,should we skip the Belgian section(thereby saving 2 days there )and add the same for the german section ?

    Thanks

    • Christina Ricchiuti February 9, 2016 at 9:15 pm #

      Hey- your trip sounds amazing! If I were you, I’d keep Belgium in there. 6 days in Bavaria is really adequate to get a good feel for the area, and why not keep an extra country in your agenda? But whatever you decide, you really can’t go wrong. 🙂

      • Fakhree February 10, 2016 at 5:35 am #

        Thanks for endorsing the itinerary to include Belgium .You have saved me a lot of valuable time in deciding whether TO DO Belgium or NO TO DO Belgium .
        Also since we have only 1 day for Munich ,will skipping Salzburg make sense ?
        An extra country ????Do you mean over and above the already planned countries in the existing itinerary ?
        Thanks

      • mj January 8, 2017 at 10:28 am #

        Thanks so much for sharing your trip. I was wondering what your thoughts would be doing a similar trip/itinerary but in a camper van? We are thinking of doing a 10 day road trip this summer, but really like the idea of being to camp and stay more in the national parks.
        thanks!
        mj

        • Christina Ricchiuti January 31, 2017 at 11:28 am #

          I didn’t see any camper vans while I was traveling around Bavaria, but honestly I think that would be a lovely way to explore the region!! Everything is very drivable and easy to get around, and the roads weren’t too narrow. (Except in places like the Partnach Gorge in Garmish.) Sounds like a fantastic trip– you’ll have to report back and let us know how it went!

  4. Kerry May 9, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    This is so helpful as I’m planning my honeymoon road trip in Bavaria for Sept!! Christina, do you have a recco on a good place to rent a car in Munich for the road trip? Thanks in advance!

  5. Mari June 21, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    Agh, would be amazing to do a roadtrip through Bavaria. If only I could drive or had friends willing ti do the trip with me. :'( Well, I am going to Nurnberg and Heidelberg this August and traveling to them by bus feom Munich. That’s almost as good, right? :’) Mittenwald looks heavenly. They should pay yoy for that picture.

  6. Edward Yang September 9, 2016 at 7:02 am #

    Dear Christina,

    Thanks for sharing and the amazing photos. My wife and I with my son and his wife will be doing a 7 day driving holiday in Bavaria in October. I am tempted to repeat your entire trip with some input from bruised passport site as well.

    Edward

  7. KW March 13, 2017 at 12:07 am #

    Hi its such a lovely and great journey. In fact i plan to austria by end of the year. But now i had 2nd thought after reading your blog. Me and my wife would always fascinating about driving trips across the countries. Could you share estimation cost of this trips include car rental, meal and accommodation?
    Thank you

    • Christina Ricchiuti April 17, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

      Oooh, that’s a tough one. I don’t remember costs offhand, except that it was much more reasonable than I expected– especially to eat and drink. I am sure you could do it pretty affordably!

  8. Candy March 23, 2017 at 8:22 pm #

    A great itinerary which I would definitely consider for our next family trip! Some questions though –

    1) Will a 6 and 9 yr old be able to do a hike in Partnach Gorge? How long is the hike?
    2) Will the snow be all year round in Garmisch as we will be visiting on the month of June
    3) Are kids allowed in the salt mine?

    • Christina Ricchiuti April 17, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

      Hi Candy! Sorry for my delay.

      1.) Yes — absolutely. It’s less of a hike than a nice stroll if I recall correctly. There’s hiking, too, but the main walk along the gorge is pretty accessible for all ages. Less than an hour for adults!
      2.) Down on the ground- no. But up on the mountains, I’m sure! My photos were taken in October when it was fairly warm.
      3.) Yes, definitely! It’s most popular for kids, I think (though we had a blast, too!)

  9. craig johnson April 1, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

    Sounds like a great road trip. We did a similar trip with a neice about 10 years ago in the winter and are going back in early Sept. to see Munich, Bavarian Alps and Salzburg when the weather is warmer and we can hike. We will have 10 days before heading to Amalfi Coast, the heel of Italy and Sicily for 5 weeks, so this itinerary really helps. thanks. Craig

    • Christina Ricchiuti April 17, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

      I’m SO glad– enjoy your trip!! September would be a great time of year to go.

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