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Alsace and Southern Germany - 14 Days

Hello!

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip for late March/early April for 14 days (excludes travel days) for his 30th birthday. We are planning to fly into Frankfurt and out of Munich. We want to visit Alsace as well as Germany (would love to see Austria as well, but don't think there is time). We love wine, food, scenic views/hikes and more quaint villages. We have done some research and have these cities/locations in mind:
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber
- Baden-Baden
- Strasbourg
- Ribeauvillé
- Riquewihr
- Colmar
- Freiburg
- Lake Constance
- Füssen
- Ettal
- Mittenwald
- Hallstatt and Salzburg in Austria if possible

Can someone advise on an itinerary? Specifically what city our base should be in Alsace (thinking three days), where to go around Lake Constance, and general insight on the locations above? I would prefer choosing a few cities to base in and make day trips from. Also wondering if you would suggest traveling by train or renting a car.

Thank you in advance!!

Posted by cgrenemeier OP
Nebraska, USA
3 posts

Thanks for the suggestion Susan! I will check that out!

Sam - haven't decided on car or train yet. Do you have suggestions? I have enjoyed traveling by train in the past, but wasn't sure if that was doable with the stops we are interested in.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
11854 posts

Probably doable with a train/bus combination, but I would eliminate Rothenburg odT. It is out of the way with the rest of the logical order of the trip. Maybe Gengenbach, between Baden-Baden and Strasbourg as a substitute. The German experts here know of tons of small walled towns in Germany as cute as Rothenburg and not nearly as touristy.

Colmar is a good place to stay in Alsace. You can reach Ribeauville and Riquewihr by bus from there. Then bus to Breisach connecting to train to Freiburg. Freiburg to Lindau on Lake Constance (Bodensee) is a Baden-Wuerttemberg ticket for 28 EUR for 2. Lindau to Fuessen is a Bayern ticket, 31 EUR for 2. Fuessen to Ettal is a local bus, to Mittenwald a bus and train. Mittenwald to Salzburg is a Bayern Ticket, as is Salzburg to Munich airport,

Halstatt may be a bridge too far for this trip. Maybe as a day trip with a tour bus from Salzburg if you have the time.

Posted by Russ
Paradise
4064 posts

"...planning a trip for late March/early April... We are planning to fly into Frankfurt and out of Munich... We love wine, food, scenic views/hikes and more quaint villages."

Sounds fun. I do think you may encounter some unpleasant weather - maybe nasty weather in those more mountainous destinations (Füssen, Ettal, Mittenwald, Austria) where it can be cold, foggy, yucky and damp much of the time, and these are much better places for visiting in the summer months. I'm a frequent traveler to Germany at that time of year, and even in the warmer regions (around Freiburg and north along the Rhine in the direction Frankfurt and Cologne) I have sometimes seen snow in early April, and hiking trails everywhere tend do be mucky. Spring doesn't spring until about the time you're leaving. Your best chances for getting outdoors in the places you named will be in the Alsace and around Freiburg.

My suggestion is to shed the Alps... keep Frankfurt as a fly-in airport but possibly fly out of there as well, staying within a fairly snug travel radius that includes the Alsace and Freiburg as well as some of the other great old-world towns nearby.

South of Frankfurt, consider two bases - Colmar perhaps for the southern Alsace, and then a German base town for Strasbourg and the Black Forest. Gengenbach was previously mentioned. It is an adorable old walled town at low elevation at the gateway to the central Black Forest. From there you can visit Strasbourg and Freiburg (both 1 hr. away by train) as well as the half-timbered villages of the Black Forest:
Schiltach
Gutach
Triberg

A day trip to Baden-Baden is possible from Gengenbach as well if you're into spas and casinos. But it's not a good base town for the area, especially if you use the trains (station is well outside town.) Gengenbach (unlike Freiburg and Baden-Baden) participates in the KONUS program, which offers free train travel during your stay. Those day trips to Freiburg and the other German towns (and to the French border near Strasbourg) will be free of charge if you stay there.

There are many nice old-world and scenic, historic places near Frankfurt as well. The Middle Rhine Valley just to the northwest is full of castles and half-timbered wine towns. Be sure to look into...
Bacharach
Oberwesel
St. Goar and Rheinfels Castle
Braubach and Marksburg Castle
Boppard
Rüdesheim

One more idea... your profile says you've been to the Netherlands, but have you been there during tulip season? The Keukenhof facility is gorgeous (opens March 22) but you can bike around the region and enjoy them just as much in the surrounding fields... So maybe end your trip there (to ensure full bloom) and fly out of AMS.

Posted by cgrenemeier OP
Nebraska, USA
3 posts

Thanks all for the responses! I definitely will replace Rothenbburg with Gengenbach. My boyfriend was interested in the wine in Baden-Baden but I am wondering with the towns we plan to visit in Alsace, if Baden-Baden is necessary... we aren't that big into spas or casinos. Although I have been to the Netherlands, my boyfriend has not, and seeing the tulips is definitely on my bucket list and his.

Through your comments on weather, I am now considering moving the trip to the end of April - would that make doing the Alps more possible? I am torn because I have heard Easter is really cool to see in Germany (April 1 in 2018), but I know May Day is also a neat holiday too. I have also read about Fruhlingfest and Spargel Festivals. Any insight around these events?

Pending whether or not we keep the Alps, here is what I have come up with based on all your feedback (so greatly appreciated!!). The below keeps the Alps, but maybe we switch it up to include the Netherlands instead. If we did that, do you think we could still keep Munich with a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle? I know there are plenty of amazing castles there, but the Disney fan in me really wants to see this particular one. Last question, I know Frankfurt and Munich are completely different, but which do you think we should spend more time in? I am wondering if I should cut time from one or the other to have more time for the smaller cities.

Day 1 - Travel
Day 2 - Frankfurt (half day)
Day 3 - Frankfurt
Day 4 - Gengenbach

Day 5 - Gengenbach (Visit Strasbourg and Freiburg from here)
Day 6 - Colmar (Ribeauville, Riquewihr)
Day 7 - Colmar (Ribeauville, Riquewihr)
Day 8 - Colmar (Ribeauville, Riquewihr)
Day 9 - Lake Constance (Still need a base city here)
Day 10 - Lake Constance
Day 11 - Fussen, Ettal, Mittenburg and Neuschwanstein Castle (still need a base city here)
Day 12 - Fussen, Ettal, Mittenburg and Neuschwanstein Castle
Day 13 - Fussen, Ettal, Mittenburg and Neuschwanstein Castle
Day 14 - Munich
Day 15 - Munich
Day 16 - Munich
Day 17 - Travel

Thanks again for all the help!

Posted by sla019
in the boondocks of Central Bavaria
935 posts

Day 9 - Lake Constance (Still need a base city here)

My preference would be Lindau, a nice historical town on an island. Überlingen and Meersburg are nice too, but don't give access to the train network.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
11854 posts

As you fine tune your itinerary, which looks pretty good, think in terms of where you spend the night. For instance, you show Day 3 as Frankfurt, but are you going to spend the night there, or move on to Gengenbach in the late afternoon. Most hotels will let you store your luggage for free on your check-out day.

You show visiting Strasbourg and Freiburg from Gengenbach. You could actually hit Strasbourg for a day on the way to Colmar because that is the best way to get from Gengenbach to Colmar. You can store bags for the day in a locker at Strasbourg station, tour the city, and then continue on to Colmar late afternoon.

You could also visit Freiburg by stopping on the way from Colmar to the Bodensee. Again, store the bags at the train station lockers, and pick it up when you leave.

You can also visit Salzburg as a day trip from Munich using a Bayern Ticket or a Gutentag Ticket.

Also, are you referring to Mittenwald?

Finally, you might think of renting a car for a couple of days in Fuessen. that will help getting around to some of these areas, as buses can be a little time consuming with connections.

Posted by Gundersen
363 posts

I'll be flying into Frankfurt this Saturday for the third time, I have never spent one minute in the city itself. Unless staying in a city, I always drive so can't say too much regarding trains. As noted, you will have the advantage of free public transport if you base in the Black Forest for a while. I'd skip Frankfurt and head to Gengenbach, a very attractive town with nice hiking close by. From there you can visit Baden-Baden for a day - I would but it receives mixed reviews here , Strasbourg for a day, some of the spa towns to the east (never been to any but they look pretty enough), Wissembourg if you have a car. I believe you can make a very nice and long day out of scenic train rides to Freiburg and back.

If you have a car, some places worth considering on your way down to the southern part of Alsace are Obernai, Monte St Odile, Andlau, Dambach-la Ville (not a tourist village, has a splendid church), Haut-Koenigsbourg. We based in Riquewihr with a car, from here we visited the other villages by car but took the bus into Colmar. Lots of nice, fairly easy walking. The Alsace villages are flush with flower boxes in season so I doubt you'll see any of that.

On the way to the Lake Constance area, if that's where you decide to go, there are the pretty villages of Staufen and Loffingen. Good hiking n the Leutasch Gorge near Loffingen. Lake Constance may be as dour as the alps that time of year. Meersburg is a great spot, Uberlingen close by, Sigmaringen worth a visit for the castle and the town itself, you can catch Lindau on the way to your alps base (lots of pleasant stops on the way).

I would rate Oberammergau as a practical base for visiting the places you mention ( I believe you mean Mittenwald). If the forecasted weather changes your mind before you leave, give some consideration to Franconia in northern Bavaria - anywhere from Wurzburg to Bamberg up to Coburg. Excellent hiking, lots of interesting sites and attractive villages/towns.

Munich worth three full days. I've only reached 52% of my 'maximum length' but I'm gassed out.

Posted by Wil
IJzendijke, The Netherlands
1129 posts

What I really liked last week was my visit to the Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauerhof in Gutach, some 30km southeast of Gengenbach. It is an open air museum with a collection of mostly typical farmhouses and their artifacts of the Black Forest, worth to spend a few hours. There is a trainstation just at the entrance, so geuss easy to reach with public transport from Gengenbach in case you have no car.

In case you will have a car select one with enough horsepower/torque that can easy go uphill if you want to drive the scenic routes through the mountains there.