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10-12 Days Independent Travel in Central/Southern Germany Using Public Transportation Only

Hello Fellow Travelers,
My husband and I, both retired, have traveled pretty extensively in Europe generally taking a RS tour and following it with a couple weeks of independent travel. August 25-September 6 we will be on RS's Bulgaria tour and are considering following the tour with 10-12 days of independent travel in central/southeastern Germany. We would use only public transportation and spend roughly 2-3 nights in 4-5 places. (We have been in Germany 2x before and have already spent time in Berlin, Dresden, Rothenburg, Rhine Valley, Neuschwenstein/Fussen.) We are interested in culture, history, architecture, museums, nice walking trails etc. We have some historical interest in Martin Luther destinations; and Nuremberg sounds interesting. But, honestly we do not know enough about this area of Germany to know what we should be interested in. We're not sure where to even begin planning this itinerary. We’d really appreciate thoughts from those who are familiar with this area of Germany. Does it make the most sense to fly from Sofia, Bulgaria to Frankfurt or Berlin? As a part of the itinerary, we’d consider joining a 3 day tour of Martin Luther’s destinations.
Thank you!

Posted by
1489 posts

I recommend to use airports Stuttgart (guess no direct connection), Munich or Nuremberg (also not direct) to fly in. Frankfurt also possible but Berlin is really more far away from southeast of Germany. From what I see there is also a direct connection to Memmingen airport.

Airport Basel-Mulhouse is also an option but starts often with an expensive public transport to Freiburg.

Speaking of: you likely know that Deutsche Bahn trains are one of the best options to travel in Germany.

Maybe you spend 3 days in Nuremberg incl. a day trip to Bamberg, and after that you get over by train to Stuttgart and explore that area.

To get started I recommend three websites:
1) Official German Tourism website: Here you can use the map, add interests and filter possible locations. Also the top 100 will give you some inspirations what other tourists liked.
2) The Baden-Württemberg Tourism website includes a lot of inspiration to well known places but also to some destinations which are less famous but not less beautiful. Also a very good overview on castles and palaces.
3) The Bavarian Tourism website is the same for Bavaria.

Posted by
5507 posts

10-12 days of independent travel in central/southeastern Germany. We
would use only public transportation and spend roughly 2-3 nights in
4-5 places... We are interested in culture, history, architecture,
museums, nice walking trails etc. We have some historical interest in
Martin Luther destinations; and Nuremberg sounds interesting.

For independent exploration on public transport, and with your stated interests, you really can't do better than Nuremberg, an excellent train hub for nearby outings to places that have what you're looking for... Bamberg (UNESCO WH site), Bayreuth, Coburg (where Luther spent some time, north of Bamberg), Würzburg, Regensburg (UNESCO WH site), Iphofen (between Würzburg and Nuremberg,) Bad Windsheim, and possibly Munich as well. All these destinations are feasible in a day from Nuremberg (with the understanding that you won't have time to see ALL of a place like Munich, of course) and most can be done using an inexpensive day pass for train travel (Bayern Ticket or VGN Tagesticket Plus.)

Map of all Bavarian train lines: http://www.bayerwald-ticket.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Streckennetz_Bayern_2012.pdf

With 6-7 nights in Nuremberg you would still have to choose from among the options. Additionally you could spend 3-4 nights in "Luther Country" as well... Wittenberg? Erfurt?

Note that Wizz Air flies directly from Sofia to Nuremberg. The Nuremberg subway system serves NUE airport, making transfer fairly easy.

Posted by
43 posts

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge of and thoughts on this area of Germany. You both have given us some needed, valuable direction to begin our planing. Elle

Posted by
20851 posts

I spent several nights in Erfurt (pretty university town, basically undamaged during the war) and took side trips to Eisenach (also pretty; Wartburg Castle, Luther connection) and Weimar (to see Buchenwald concentration camp on the outskirts, but I'm told the city itself is worthwhile). Rick has a 2016 video (accessible on this website) titled, "Hamburg and the Luther Trail".

Quedlinburg and Goerlitz are other drop-dead gorgeous places not well-known to American tourists, but they are probably too far north of your target area.