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Germany/Austria/Switzerland - I want more! - Recommendations?

Hi folks,

In the last 5 years, I've been touring these countries for about 10-14 days each summer (I live in the UK, so I'm lucky to have it on my doorstep), and I think I've seen most of the popular destinations, including-
Germany: Rhine valley; Heidelberg; Berlin; Hamburg; Lubeck; Koln; plenty of Bavaria, (Munchen; Rothenburg ODT; Fussen; Garmisch; Landsberg am Lech; Kloster Andechs; Nurnburg; Berchtesgaden)

Austria: Wien; Melk & the Wachau valley; Bad Ischl; Hallstatt; Wolfgangsee; Salzburg.
Switzerland: Berner Oberland, in particular Lauterbrunnen/Grindelwald and surrounding area; Bern; Luzern; Engelberg; Zermatt;
Also nearby: Budapest; Stresa and the Borromean Islands on Lake Maggiore.

Fantastic time I've had on all these trips, but I'd be interested to hear from anyone where else they might recommend for this year. For myself, I've had a few places/things in mind that I wouldn't mind visiting, either in this or future trips, any comments appreciated:

Tirol area around Innsbruck
Black Forest of Germany
Glacier express trip - perhaps with another short stay in Zermatt, but not sure which destinations are worth visiting at the other end, or indeed anywhere in eastern Switzerland/western Austria.
The Italian speaking southern tip of Switzerland
South Tirol/Dolomites (but this seems problematic, as there doesn't seem to be any hostel style accommodation in the Castelrotto/Ortisei areas I'd like to stay in)

Just a few details - I will be travelling with Interrail, staying in hostels/backpacker hotels, I don't fly, but I don't mind zigzagging about from location to location, especially if there's a night train in between - done this plenty before!

I had got the idea of visiting Scandinavia this year, but have ruled it out as it's a lot of train travelling just to get there and back. If I was visiting northern Germany, I'd happily take in Copenhagen, but having already seen Hamburg recently, I can't think of anywhere else.


Posted by
2910 posts

In Switzerland, one of Rick Steves’ European “back doors” is Murren.

Farther east in Switzerland, one of my favorite areas is around Glarus. Trains easily link Innsbruck to Glarus, with an Austrian highlight in-between, at Schladming.

For some Germanic flavour but, technically, a different country, how about the Alsace region in France? Strasbourg is a great base city.

Posted by
1455 posts

I can highly recommend Prague, the Ticino area of Switzerland, and the Dolomites. I have to believe there are hostel type accommodations in the Val Gardena. Go to and send them an email. They have been very helpful to me when I have done so. Also, what about staying in one of the mountain huts? I have to believe those are backpacker style lodgings, and they are numerous. Hopefully, someone who has done so will chime in.

Posted by
103 posts

I too would think mountain huts in the Dolomites would be a good option.

What about Lake Geneva area around Vevey and the surrounding mountains? Doesn’t sound like you’ve been there, but not sure about the lodging side.

Posted by
856 posts

Germany: Rhine valley; Heidelberg; Berlin; Hamburg; Lubeck; Koln;
plenty of Bavaria, (Munchen; Rothenburg ODT; Fussen; Garmisch;
Landsberg am Lech; Kloster Andechs; Nurnburg; Berchtesgaden)

So, basically Rick Steves version of Germany plus Hamburg.
Here is a map of Germanys highlights according to Baedeker, the country's most popular travel guide:

Highlights of Germany

As you can see, you missed Central, Eastern and Northeastern Germany. The latter is actually Germanys most popular holiday region.

Posted by
3950 posts

The Black Forest area, Triberg, Titisee, Friberg and Strasbourg, France (also Colmar).
The Bodensee (Lake Constance) area, also, Tubingen.
Innsbruck, Austria, then into South Tirol and Dolomites.
If you haven't visited Poland, it is interesting. Don't miss Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow.
Further, have you been to Spain, Portugal, Southeast France, Italy (Venice, Florence and Rome)?

Posted by
35 posts

For Switzerland I'd recommend the Engadin, especially around Scuol, Guarda or Muottas Muragl, Piz Nair, Corvatsch, Sils Maria and Soglio.
For Germany you could also consider Stralsund and Rügen.

Posted by
95 posts

Wow, thanks all, so much help so quickly.

Cyn, I have been to Murren and Gimmelwald on a couple of occasions, and stayed in Murren once. Should have added it to the list, but the name escaped me! I would happily go back to that area, but feel I've done a lot there and should explore elsewhere first. Will look into Glarus & Schladming, thanks. Was going to stay overnight in Strasbourg on the way back from my last Swiss visit, but had to skip it, so there's a good chance I could include that area this time.

Janet, Thanks for the recommendations, I will look further into the Val Gardena as you suggest. Mountain lodges sound very backpacker-ish, but i'd rather stay somewhere in a town/village near public transport links and where I can get supplies. Wouldn't mountain lodges involve quite a walk getting to them? My pack would be rather a burden in which case, although I made it up to the Bacharach hostel/castle ok (just!)

Dovetraveller - Thanks, I'll look into Vevey. You're right I haven't been there, although I've been past on the way to/from Montreux and the Golden Pass train.

Martin, yes it's true, Rick Steves has been my guide to Europe since I found this site and his books - although I do realise that there is a lot he doesn't cover. He didn't seem too complimentary on Heidelberg, although I found it charming enough. Thanks for the map, I'll bookmark that for future reference, and look into the North-east - any reasons why it's so popular?

Aniol, wonderful to get so many recommendations, none of which I've heard of before. I've got a lot of research to do!

Geovagriffith, that does look like a good itinerary you've outlined there. Whether I can fit it all in i'm not sure, as I tend to stick to 3 bases , though with day trips it's certainly possible. Poland at the moment is off the table for me, as there has been troubling persecution of LGBTQ folks there recently, though I hope one day...

Further, have you been to Spain, Portugal, Southeast France, Italy (Venice, Florence and Rome)?

Spain and Portugal, very little, just Barcelona and a family holiday in the Algarve when I was about 12 ; not wanting to put those countries down in any way, but I'm not really interested in visiting them for the moment. Also, and this goes for France and Italy too, Interrailing is not so easy in those nations, as you have to book most fast trains, whereas it's free and easy in the Germanic speaking countries. Language is also an issue - I've got a good grip on German, somewhat less French, and barely any Italian/Spanish/Portuguese. I know you can get by without speaking the language, but I don't like to if i can help it.

France I have visited many times (Burgundy and Brittany in particular, Paris a couple of years ago), and I have been to the southeast (Coulliore/Perpignan) for a long weekend. Took the car over for the first time to visit Rouen last October, and I may do a motoring holiday in France some day, but for the moment I'm more interested in backpacking holidays by train.

Italy - Yes I've been to those three destinations on my first Interrail trip in 2000, and one day would like to go back. Also took in Pisa and Pompeii on a family cruise a couple of years later.

Thanks again everyone, certainly got a lot to think about/discover!

Posted by
1649 posts

Another vote for the Engadin, I am just back from a few days there at the end of January and I absolutely loved it (staying at Muottas Muragl was unforgettable). One of the best parts of the Alps I've been to. Certainly preferred it to the Zermatt area.

Posted by
12040 posts

BTW, Mürren is a "back door"? It's an extremely popular ski destination in the winter and hiking base in the summer. Its been a popular, well-known destination for over a century on the European Grand Tour.

A lesser-known Swiss destination that I enjoyed several times was Flumserberg. Think of this as less of an international destination, but more of a weekend getaway for urban residents of Zürich or Luzern. It's not really one distinct village, but a series of interconnected hamlets nestled high on a mountain slope. Beautiful views, but much quieter than the more well-known resorts. Most of the hotels here are accessible by automobile, although you will need tire chains in the winter.

For Austria, three recommendations, one high in the Alps, one urban, one low on the edge of the Hungarian plain. High in the Alps, Obertauern. This isn't a traditional Alpine village, but a purpose-built resort. Great hiking in the summer, and phenomenal skiing in the winter. Urban recommendation is the university city of Graz. This is technically in the Alps too, but the mountains here are much lower than the more familiar snow-capped peaks. Still, its a very pleasant place to walk around. The Schlossberg in the center of town provides a nice little climb, and your reward at the top, of course, is a beer garden. Finally, the towns around the Neusiedler See provide a nice weekend escape from Vienna, especially for kite surfers. The landscape here is completely different from the common perception of Austria.

Germany: The Baltic coast, particularly the island of Rügen and the bathing resort of Binz. Jasmund National Park, with the white cliffs made famous by painter Caspar David Friedrich, is nearby. This region of Germany looks and feels completely different from the more familiar images associated with Bavaria and other states of the south.

Posted by
2910 posts

Rick Steves’ “back doors” are special places for which he developed a deep affinity 20, 30, even 40+ years ago. Since then, many of those places have changed, as the world has changed. Take Italy’s Cinque Terra, for example, which now sees overwhelming throngs of visitors, partly due to the booming Cruise Ship business.

But the places remain special, although it helps even more now to find a way to see them via a “back door” strategy, for a more rewarding experience.