Hi! I'm new to the travel forum, but love the feedback I'm reading so hopefully you can help plan my trip. My husband and I are turning 40 next year and I want to take him to Germany, Switzerland and maybe Austria. LOVE Munich so have to go there. He's never been to Europe so I want him to see as much as he can in our short trip. We both tend to get a little stressed if nothing is planned, so I was considering bus tour with RS, but sounds like we can save and see and learn on our own. Must dos: Munich, castle or 2, concentration camp tour/memorial, bike tour, beautiful Switzerland (need town ideas) and maybe Salzburg for sound of music region. We love beer, are very active, and love to eat and learn. Day trips sound good, just don't know where to start on this. Where to fly in/out of? Thinking Oct 5-16? Help!!
agarrett, if you haven't looked already, the RS guidebooks are a tremendous resource that will help you plan things immensely. If you go on your own, you can find answers to most questions there.
But don't underestimate the value of the tour. I have been to Germany-Austria-Switzerland on my own several times. The last time was on the RS tour. I must say that the tour was well worth it. It gives you the opportunity to see all the highlights w/o the stress and time demands of planning and handling your own logistics. What you can't see if you just compare the costs of lodging, food and transportation, is that the tour saves you precious time, that you otherwise spend on getting from one place to another on your own, and getting to sights you want to see. The guides don't just show you the front door, they make it a learning experience as well, and they know all the ins and outs of each place you visit. Traveling with a group makes it more enjoyable (even if not a people-person), yet you have enough free time to do some things on your own agenda. To me, time is money, and with only 10-12 days, the RS tour is pretty efficient way to see all the places you mention.
Plus if you time it right, you can be with the tour in Munich and hit Oktoberfest.
Zurich and Munich both have excellent flight service from North America. Maybe fly into one and out the other. Switzerland might be the best place to start, as winter is coming soon in the Alps by mid October. Go to Luzern directly from Zurich Airport. Berner Oberland is worth staying at for a few days, perhaps Muerren.
Staying in Munich you could cover the rest of your wish list, or spend a couple of nights in Salzburg before going on to Munich.
In 2013 we did a river boat trip down the Rhine which ended in Basel Switzerland. (That part you don't care about, but that's how we got to Basel.) Took a taxi to Lorrach, Germany where we rented a car. You don't want to rent in one country and drop off in another country -- more expensive. From there we drove to Ehbenichl, Austria. Stayed there 3 nights and did day trips to Hohenschwangau Castle, Neuschwanstein Castle (1st day), Linderhof Palace, Oberammergau (2nd day), next day drove to Salzburg and stopped at Ettal Monastery on the way. In Salzburg we visited the Mirabell Palace (concert in evening). Next day we had made reservations from home for the Eagle's Nest Historical Tour. So drove to Berchtesgaden to meet tour. Nice tour takes you to the Nazi Documentation Center and then up to the Eagle's Nest. This is close to Salzburg and we were back in time to meet friends for dinner and the Augustiner Braustubl (beer garden). They picked us up the next day (they are locals and we asked that they just show us "their" Salzburg. First a tour of old town (cool little street), then up the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Then they drove us about 4 miles south to the Hellbrunn Castle. It's a lovely setting with fun trick fountains. This is also where they have located the actual gazebo from the Sound of Music. By the way, Austrians do not understand Americans' fascination with the Sound of Music. Our host had never seen the movie. Our hostess was a friend of our daughter's so she was American and certainly had seen it. Bernard then wanted to take us to the top of a mountain. We drove up there and were all surprised to find men paragliding off the top of it over the city down below. The next day we drove to Munich where we stayed for several days. In addition to the Marienplatz we also visited the Residenz, the home of the Wittelsbach family (awesome), Hofbrauhaus, Alois Dallmayr Delicatessen (for tea and dessert). The next day we went to Dachau trough Radius Tours. The next day we did our art stroll through the Neue Pinakothek and the Alte Pinakothek. We had dropped off our car when we first got to Munich and planned to train to Rothenburg today, but decided we were tired of running around and opted to just stay in Munich. (Rothenburg is I hear wonderful, but it's another trip for us). So today we went to the Deutsches Museum. This is Germany's equivalent to our Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. It was quite worth our time. Our last day we went to the BMW showroom (fun, to dream), and the Olympic Park. The next day we took a train to Frankfort where we got our plane home. This amounts to about the same number of days you are thinking of. Where to fly in and out?? Don't know where you live, but we flew out of Chicago to Amsterdam (the first part of our trip before the river boat trip) and then flew home Frankfort to Chicago. Both flights were non-stop.
Feel free to ask any other questions you might have.
If you are interested in the role of Munich during the Third Reich (fascinating, frightening and thought-provoking), be sure to visit the new NS Doku-Zentrum, which just opened last May. It is on Briennerstraße, just east of Königsplatz, on the site of the old Nazi party headquarters. The DZ's website also offers free downloadable guides for self-guided "thematic walks" of historic sites in Munich. Suggested reading before your trip: Where Ghosts Walked - Munich's Road to The Third Reich by David Clay Large, available on Amazon.
So today we went to the Deutsches Museum. This is Germany's equivalent to our Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. It was quite worth our time.
There are indeed some excellent displays of historic aircraft in the main Deutsches Museum campus on Museuminsel in the Isar. But serious aviation history buffs must not miss Deutsches Museum's dedicated aviation branch, Flugwerft Schleißheim, just north of town. It is located on Germany's oldest operating airfield, in buildings which date back to WW1. It's a quick trip from the city center on S1 to the Oberschleißheim stop, then a ten-minute walk. Next to Flugwerft is the spectacular (and relatively tourist-free) Schleißheim palace complex, summer home of the Wittlesbachs.
Take a look at some trip reports at Bavaria Ben's website - www.bensbauernhof.com
Good detail in lots of them.
This sounds very familiar to my situation with our honeymoon six years ago. My husband had never been to Europe (and wasn't so sure he wanted to go if you can believe that!) but I have lived in both Munich and Switzerland which were a MUST, etc. What we did worked like a charm ... he fell in love just as much as I did and we've been back about 10 times since then. We had a little more time than you do but I'll tell you what we did and maybe it will help as a basis for planning your trip. We rented a car because he loves to drive but you could just as easily do everything by public transportation.
We flew into Munich, where we spent 3 nights just acclimatizing and exploring one of my favourite cities (in your case I'd give yourself time to visit Salzburg as a day trip from here, I don't really think you have time to fit in a few nights in Salzburg and still do everything you list). We then rented our car and headed south to Reutte for 3 nights (we stayed here and loved it) - visiting Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau & Linderhof Palaces, Oberammergau, Garmisch, Ettal, Wieskirche, etc (on two subsequent trips we have based ourselves in Oberammergau, which works well by car but not as much by train). We then drove through the Appenzell to spend 3 nights just outside Lucerne - again day trips, a drive through a high mountain pass, exploring the city, boat trip, etc. Next we spent 4 nights in the Berner Oberland - exploring the mountains, day trip to Bern, etc. From here we headed north to Alsace for a few nights and then the Rhine for our last 3 nights, but I don't think those are places you are planning to see on this trip.
If you decide to follow this route, I would plan to fly home from Zurich. Depending on what time your flight home leaves and how you are traveling, you may even be able to just depart straight from the Berner Oberland (it's roughly 2 - 2.5 hrs to Zurich depending on how you travel).
I'm just taking a practical look at what you're thinking of doing.
October 5-16. The last RS Alpine tour of the year is in the Swiss Alps Oct 3-4. The last Switzerland tour ends in mid-September. The last Best of Germany, Austria, Switzerland tour goes to the Swiss Alps on Oct. 5-7. My inference from that is October is probably quite late for the Swiss Alps. If you can't go before October, consider skipping Switzerland.
10-12 day trip. As you say, it's a short trip. You leave home on the 5th, your first day on the ground is the 6th, landing in the morning after little sleep on the plane and jetlagged. You have 9 more days, then fly home on the 16th, probably a morning flight. Theoretically, you could rent a car at the Zurich airport and drop it in Munich. But driving jetlagged and sleep-deprived is as dangerous as driving drunk. Add that you're in a foreign country with different traffic signs and signals in foreign languages (in Switzerland most of the signs are in 4 languages - none of them English), and driving hours on mountain roads, possibly in poor weather conditions.
Lauterbrunnen Valley is one of the most popular places for the Swiss Alps. From the Zurich airport, it's about 3 hours by train (according to rome2rio.com). You'll need 3 nights there to have 2 days to see the alps and hopefully the weather will be favorable on at least one of them. You would then go back to Zurich (the least interesting tourist city in Switzerland) to continue on to Germany (4+ hours train to Munich), using up another day. That leaves 6 days for Germany and Austria.
Can you manage a longer trip? If you could go in September, even with 10 days you might see more if you start in Munich, train to Salzburg and back, then rent a car and end with Lauterbrunnen Valley and return the car at the Zurich airport for your flight home. It doesn't look like you'll have drop-off charges between Switzerland and Germany.
Our favorite surprise in Switzerland was Appenzell not far from Zurich. Also, we loved Lucerne and the Berner Oberland area. In Munich we went to Daachau very powerful and if he is into cars the BMW factory tour was great! You have to sign up several months before.