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Germany - Austria July - Aug 2014 Trip

Hi. Hoping to get some feedback on our trip this summer to Germany. I have a preliminary itinerary and need some input as to how realistic it is to see and do everything and the actual time it should take.

It will be myself, my husband and our two twenty-something children. The first part of our trip (Thursday through Sunday) will be spent with family in Hamburg Germany celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary and 75th birthday. After that we plan on seeing all we can. This will probably be the only time our kids will do something like this.

Itinerary so far:

Chicago to Hamburg, leaving Chicago 7/23 and arriving Hamburg 7/24. This is where we will stay for the family celebrations. They live south-east of Hamburg itself (in a town called Stelle Aushausen ) and we are having difficulty finding a hotel or vacation rental close to them. We were planning on renting a car for our entire 2 weeks but are open to other suggestions.

Days 1 - 4 (Thursday - Sunday) will be in Frankfurt with family. Leaving mid-afternoon on Sunday for next portion of our trip.

Days 4 - 6 (Sunday - Tuesday) travel south to the "Romantic Road" and stop along with way at the small towns. Planning to stop at Rothenburg (medieval town) overnight (1 or 2 nights?) and explore the next day(s). Not sure if we need an entire day or not.

Day 6 or 7 (Tuesday or Wednesday) leave Rothenburg and head further south to see the Neuschwanstein Castle (how much time do you suggest?)

Day 7 - 8 (Wednesday - Thursday) - drive to Cologne to see the Cathedral and ??.

Day 8 - 11 (Thursday - Sunday) - drive to Duesseldorf (we have family there) and spend the weekend.

Obviously we have a few days left (we were planning on leaving from Hamburg again (not sure though if it make a huge difference in airfare if we don't arrive and depart from the same city? but we have air travel award miles to consider and still need to work this out).

We had thoughts of stopping over in Munich at some point and/or down into Austria (for a day). But not sure if that's really feasible or not.

Any advice is welcome as we're not sure what is realistic, but want to get in as much as possible in our time there.

Thanks everyone!


Posted by
11945 posts

I'm confused. Does your family live south east of Frankfurt or Hamburg? You're using the two interchangably in your query. That makes a big difference, because the two cities are located several hours apart. What is the name of the town where they live?

If you meant "Hamburg", I would skip the big dip south into Bavaria and pick substitutes in north and central Germany. Despite what some travel literature seems to imply, Germany is packed with historical towns. The towns of the "Romantic Road" just happen to lie between the two most popular tourist areas of Germany (the Mittelrhein and Munich/Alps), so they get the most attention. But from Hamburg, you have plenty of options much closer.

Now, if you meant "Frankfurt am Main", then the towns of the Romantic Road are a decent choice, although far from the only ones. The road itself is nothing special, so don't think you need to concentrate your driving it. If you're pressed for time, just hit the Autobahn.

Posted by
7446 posts

You are traveling all over Germany in the space of 2 weeks. Like Tom, I am puzzled about the Hamburg reference. Could this possibly be Bad Homburg which is near Frankfurt? What is the name of the town?

If you are in Frankfurt, you could also day trip to Büdingen, rather than the long drive to Rothenburg.

You might want to get out a map and look at the locations of all the places you want to visit, and figure out driving times going between each point. This will help you narrow things down. Flying Open Jaw would make sense, arriving in one city and leaving from another. Research what kind of things you want to see in each location and rate their priority.

Posted by
2 posts

Sorry, I had the wrong city listed. We will be flying into Hamburg and then hoping to stay closer to family who live outside of Hamburg in Stelle Ashausen. We had hoped to see Neuschwanstein Castle at some point.

Posted by
831 posts

So, you fly into Hamburg, your family lives near Hamburg, but you want to spend your holidays on the other end of the country. Looks like you are the latest victim of Rick Steves, who rarely crosses the Main river to visit Non-Bavaria. Believe it or not, there are some really good sights between Hamburg and Frankfurt. Baedeker, Germanys most popular travel guide, actually thinks that many of Germanys highlights are between the two cities and close to Hamburg. Have a look:

Baedekers highlights of Germany

As you can see, Central Germany, the area between Hamburg and Frankfurt, is full of highlights. Most of them are preserved towns full of half-timberes houses (like this one). They are just as beautiful as the towns on the Romantic Road, but without the tourist hordes. And some of them are World Heritage Sites. And while not shown on the map, in this area is also the finest examples of a "French" Gothic cathedral in Germany. Not as big as Cologne, but really built in the Middle Ages (unlike Cologne), much more refined, and with a bigger treasury. Have a look: exterior, interior, part of the treasury (from 1170)

Even near Hamburg you can find preserved towns. Stade and Lüneburg are both less than 30min away from the city: Stade + Lüneburg. The next fairytale castle is just 90min away: Schwerin castle.
If you look at the map again you also see many sights along the coast. This Baltic coast is Germanys most popular summer destination. Again full of preserved towns (4 of them are World Heritage Sites, see one here), posh seaside resorts (like this one), impressive churches (click me), Nazi buildings (click me) and beaches.

Posted by
2778 posts

The town is called Ashausen and is part of the larger town of Stelle. They are between Hamburg and Lüneburg. Lüneburg is really close and is an absolut gem! It's a picturesque, medieval Northern German small city and nobody understands why it's not that appreciated by Rick Steves.

You can search for accommodation in Winsen (Harburg or Luhe) on,, etc.

You will need a car in the Ashausen/Lüneburg area. But don't forget to visit the sights of Germany's most beautiful city, Hamburg. It will take you at least two full days.

The drive from Hamburg or Ashausen to Frankfurt is 4-5 hours and you should actually do it at night - very early/very late in the day.

About rental cars: Domestic one-ways are free of any surcharge. You cannot do your trip if you drive it all the way. From Munich to Cologne you should definitely take a flight (cheap:, but also

Cologne is more worthwhile than Düsseldorf. Actually you can daytrip to Düsseldorf and the surrounding castles and palaces from Cologne.

Skip Austria. As nice as it is - you won't have enough time.

Posted by
11898 posts


I agreed with the recommendation for seeing Lüneburg. Lüneburg is a great place, one of my favourite towns in Germany and literally among the very first places I visited in Germany. It's a town where one can relax or get way from the hectic tempo of big cities like Hamburg. The town survived the war intact, wasn't wrecked by air attack or fought over in 1945. Best is to stay in Lüneburg but if time does not permit, then see it as a day trip r/t from Hamburg.

Posted by
16358 posts

Sounds like you have some good advice for small towns to visit. On the other end of the spectrum, Berlin is only 2 hours by train from Hamburg and is bursting with new things to see.