Bavaria is a region of Germany, in the southern part of the country, and is one of the most scenic and popular places to travel in Germany. Bavaria comes synonymous with Oktoberfest, bratwurst, and lederhosen. When traveling through Bavaria, we would suggest that you pick a home base and make shorter day trips from there. Our home base was Munich, which is the capital of Bavaria, and one of the more well known cities in the area. Do be aware that because of that, hotel prices are exceptionally high here all year round. So depending on which stops are on your Bavaria itinerary, it may be cost effective to look into making a home base in north Bavaria in Nürnberg or southern Bavaria in Rosenheim with easy access to Austria. Our stops in Bavaria included a stop in Nürnberg on our way to Austria, and a few days in Munich and Füssen as we made our way back to Köln.
Things to do:
Marienplatz has been the central square in Munich, Germany since 1158. Towering over the square you will find the New Town Hall building with the famous Glockenspeil. The Glockenspiel in the tower of the New Town Hall was inspired by tournaments that used to occur in this city square in the middle ages. These figurines original created in 1908 dances daily at 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. (the 5:00 p.m. show is cancelled from November through February).
This baroque-style palace is located in the west part of Munich and was a casual summer residence of Bavarian monarchs. Whether you want to walk around the beautiful gardens and see the swans in the fountain out front, or tour the inside of the palace for Ludwig I’s Gallery of Beauties and the chamber where King Ludwig II was born, Nymphenburg Palace is a nice relaxing retreat for a slow afternoon.
During the warmer spring and summer months, this is a great open air food market to grab anything from flowers and plants, fruits and vegetables, honey, fish, meat, sausages, herbs, spices, delicatessens, wine and teas. Most stalls open on Monday to Friday from 10am – 6pm and on Saturdays from 10am – 3pm.
Dachau Concentration Camp Museum
If you don’t have time to make it to Poland to visit Auschwitz, but you still want some of the same history, the original Dachau Concentration Camp is only about 30 minutes outside of Munich and the museum is completely free for entrance. We signed up for a group tour which was 3 euros and if you would like to rent an audio headset, that will also be an additional 3 euros at the visitor center. There are only 2 two guided tours in English a day, so check time ahead if that’s what you’re interested in. Dachau is more of a museum, with lots of reading, which is a much different experience from Auschwitz, but we enjoy this tour as we essentially walked through the camp following the normal day of a prisoner. Although we drove by car from Munich, there is and easily accessible train from Munich, then a short bus ride to get you out to the museum.
Places to eat:
Hofbräuhaus,– German Brewhouse
The most famous beer hall in Munich dating back almost 500 years. You don’t need to make a reservation and you can sit downstairs wherever you can find room. This is probably the typical beer hall experience, but it can be rather loud and congested. Tourists will walk through the beer hall just to take pictures and not stop to eat, so the front door is a constant flow of people in and out. If you want a little quieter experience I would make a reservation and you can sit upstairs where you know the waiter will come around more often.
Augustiner am Platz,-German Brewhouse
This beer hall is on the smaller side as compared to Hofbräuhaus, but it was still rather crowded when we showed up for lunch at 2pm. I would make a reservation here if you know you want to stop in and when you want to eat ahead of time!
Views not to miss:
Tower of Peterskirche
Peter’s Church near Marienplatz is Munich’s oldest church and it has one of Munich’s best open air views of the New Town Hall and other sweeping city views. Admission is a few euros and it is not possible to buy tickets in advance. The line for a view at sunset was long and the tower was packed, so try to go early in the morning.
Things to do:
This is the famous castle that Cinderella Castle at Disney World is modeled after and is now one of the most popular castles in Europe. King Ludwig II designed this castle as his private retreat. Seeing the inside of the castle is only allowed with a 13 EUR guided tour available in German or English. It is best to purchase your tickets in advance, 3 days prior to your visit, due to the large amount of people coming to visit during ALL times of the year. If you decide last minute, like us, to make the trip out to Füssen to visit the famous castle, do yourself a favor and get there early. By the time we got through the ticket line around 9am, we snagged one of the last available 11am tours and the next available English tour was at 3pm. There are no photos allowed inside the castle, so put your cameras away and take in the opulence. There are a few different ways to reach the castle from the ticket center. First is to walk up the Neuschwanstein strasse with most other people. Second, you can pay to have a horse carriage ride up the same street that you could walk. This route takes a lot of time since you have to queue for a ride near the ticket center and the horse carriage is rather slow up the hill. Third, there is a bus shuttle that sometimes does not run in the winter months. Fourth way, and my personal suggestion, if you are visiting in the summer months, there is a hiking trail through the gorge Pöllatschlucht along a stream up to the castle. Ask the person at the ticket counter to show you this route on the map!
Less talked about, but definitely worth a visit is the Hohenshwangau Castle which is steps from the Neuschwanstein Castle. The existence of the Hohenschwangau castle was first documented in the 12th century. It was in the possession of the Knights of Schwangau until successive wars over the centuries left the castle in ruins. The ruins were then bought by Prince Maximilian in 1832 who restored the castle according to the original plans at which time this castle became a summer residence for King Maximilian, King Ludwig II and his mother.
Places to eat:
We spent about 6 hours in total in Füssen waiting in line for tickets, touring the Neuschwanstein Castle, and hiking up to the observation bridge, so by the time we were ready to leave and head back to Munich we were starving. There is a cute restaurant at the base of the hill near the ticketing office which is serving typical German cuisine and appropriately Konig Ludwig (King Ludwig) beer.
Views not to miss:
The Marienbrücke is about 15 minutes walking distance from Neuschwanstein Castle and was originally built by King Maximilian II in 1845 an named for his wife, Queen Marie. The bridge was built over the Pöllatschlucht, an area below the castle with a flowing mountain stream and many rock formations. Today this bridge gives you the postcard view of Neuschwanstein Castle. The bridge is completely free, but can get quite crowded, so plan to come an hour or so before your ticketed-tour to have enough time to enjoy the view.
Things to do:
The museum is housed in the unfinished congress hall originally built by the Nazi party to conduct party rallies. The permanent exhibit at the museum, called “Fascination and Terror” looks at the causes, the context and the consequences of the National Socialist regime of terror. If you are interested in the history, put this museum on your itinerary.
The Christmas market in Nürnberg dates back to the 16th century and is thought to be one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets based on city documents. True or not true, we are a sucker for Christmas markets and knew we had to make a stop for lunch while driving through Germany. The Christmas market is located in the Hauptmarkt where you can also find the “Beautiful Fountain” and the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). The Christmas market runs from the end of November to Christmas Eve, December 24th.