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Bavaria trip Sept 2023

Hi all. My wife and I are planning a trip to Bavaria for 2023 and I figured I’d put our thoughts here and hopefully get some suggestions. I’ve never been to Europe but my wife has. She attended international high school in Düsseldorf in the 90’s and we want to spend a day there. At first we were thinking we would spend a week in Germany and a week in Northern Italy but on second thought we are now leaning towards spending the 2 weeks focusing on Germany with some trips into Austria instead. We figured doing both Germany and Italy would be too rushed?
So here’s what we have so far. The plan is to take trains as far as it makes sense and at some point rent a car for the second part of our journey where we want to hop around to smaller towns to explore.
Detroit to Amsterdam “museums” - Düsseldorf “school” - Cologne? - Cohhem “castles” - Frankfurt? “get car?” - Wurzberg “start romantic road” - Romantic road through Rothenberg - Fussen “castle” - Berchtesgaden “konigssee” - Salzburg “salzkammergut lakes” - Munich to Detroit
I’m a little worried Munich might be expensive and busy due to Oktoberfest but it seems like the most logical place to fly out of? Or we could reverse the trip and start there? I don’t know which way would be better, I guess we wouldn’t need a room in Munich if we started there.
Does this sound like a good plan? My hobbies and interests include Beer, Motorcycles and Wristwatches if that helps?

Is this too rushed? How many days should we spend at these areas? Any we should skip or substitute?

Posted by
5795 posts

Welcome to the forum, GY.

I see nothing wrong with A'dam at one end and Munich at the other. I'd like to encourage you to keep your base towns open at the point, also to keep on reading (and don't limit your reading to Rick Steves' materials) about both your Bavarian options and your options prior to Würzburg (where for your purposes Bavaria begins.) True beer-lovers will profit from more time in Franconia (northern Bavaria, essentially) which has an unsurpassed concentration of breweries in small towns and in better-known places like Bamberg and Nuremberg (both of which are worthy of your consideration for multiple reasons.)

There is no reason you'd have to rent a car in Bavaria. Railways are extensive and efficient, and day passes make the going exceptionally cheap for couples. If you get trapped by the notion of doing all the Romantic Road towns, a car will make it much simpler, as the tracks don't follow the road. But there is no truly sound reason for following that route exclusively, as the RR bypasses so many other great Bavarian destinations.

Just have a look at the map of Bavarian Railways and you'll see why the train is such a good option:

Posted by
1517 posts

Are you planning to spend a couple days in Amsterdam since you're going through there? Just an idea.
Also, probably no need for a car.

Posted by
7 posts

Yes, most likely spend at least a night possibly 2 in arrival and departure cities. I’d like to see some museums in Amsterdam and it seems like a lively fun town. I haven’t researched Munich but I assume it’s worthwhile. I’m liking the idea of checking out Bamburg or Nuremberg, no smoked beer for me though, had one of those before and didn’t care for it lol.

We definitely want to go to those little lake villages around Berchtesgaden, same with across the border into Austria below Salzburg and the little stops on the romantic road…. which appear to be a pain in the butt to get to by train. Maybe we’re going about it the wrong way and should do day trips from a more central location? Idk

But thanks 😊

Posted by
5795 posts

"...those little lake villages around Berchtesgaden" - like Königssee Lake... Schönau? It's a 7-minute bus ride from the station in Berchtesgaden. Saint Bartholomae? That's a 30-minute boat ride from Schönau.

"...same with across the border into Austria below Salzburg..." ? I can't comment without place names. Try entering whatever place names you have on your list at the DB site if you wish to pull up the public transport options. If you mean Werfen (home of Hohenwerfen Castle and falconry show) then it's a beautiful train ride along the Salzach River to Werfen from Salzburg. On a recent trip we had an apartment in Golling, on the same train line in between Salzburg and Werfen, and did a train ride into Werfen as a day trip.

"...and the little stops on the romantic road…. which appear to be a pain in the butt to get to by train. Maybe we’re going about it the wrong way and should do day trips from a more central location? Idk"

The Romantic Road town of Augsburg can serve as a great alternative to staying in Munich during Oktoberfest. Just ride the direct train into Munich and back and avoid the higher hotel costs. Augsburg is also well located for Romantic Road outings by train to Donauwörth, Harburg (Harburg Castle), Füssen (Neuschwanstein), Nördlingen, Landsberg am Lech, and other RR towns. So yes, you might be onto something with your idea of staying outside Munich. You can use the DB site link above to test out the travel times to all these Romantic Road towns.

OTOH if you just prefer to drive, there's no law against it - it's just a big pita and quite pricey by comparison, IME. I'm not informed on all the details of driving anymore (environmental stickers, "vignettes", etc.) but I'm sure someone else will fill you in.

Posted by
2669 posts

GY, what are your dates? Oktoberfest in Munich is from Sept. 17 through October 3rd - I would strongly advise avoiding Munich during that time unless you have a burning desire to go to Oktoberfest. Starting with Munich might be a good choice and then work your itinerary above backwards.

Another option might be to fly in or out of Vienna, rather than Munich. You could follow your itinerary beginning with Amsterdam but bypass Munich, head to Salzburg, and end in Vienna. Munich is a fun city but will be crowded and expensive when Oktoberfest is in full swing. Vienna is not that much farther from Salzburg than Munich is and easily reached by train. EDIT: Just saw Russ's post about staying in Augsburg - that is also a good option.

By the way, I think you're smart for holding off on Italy. It's a wonderful place to visit but better to go when you can devote more time there.

Posted by
7 posts

At this point there are no exact dates but September is usually a good time for my wife and I to get vacation time. We’re in the process of revising our plan, trying to figure out which places are must sees or just maybe sees.

We’re not opposed to trains when convenient but with all the walking involved with some of these destinations we would like to avoid situations where you’re walking 20-30 minutes in one direction just to get to the start of the destination lol. If we can plan the trip we’re envisioning without a car that would be amazing but I don’t want to push ourselves to the point where we’re spending 4 hrs a day on a train and too exhausted to enjoy ourselves, if that makes sense.

I’ll keep checking the thread and will add more when when have a revised tentative plan :-)

Posted by
1977 posts

I don’t remember ever having to walk 20-30 minutes to a starting destination. There are usually buses and/or taxis

Posted by
30 posts

Your trip from Wurzburg to Salzburg looks a lot like what we did. For the Romantic Road, all you really need is Wurzburg and Rothenberg. We spent slightly more than 24 hours in Rothenberg, and I wish we spent more... it's a relaxing place to be on a rush-rush trip. Consider adding a day trip to Nuremberg.

Between Neuschwanstein Castle, Linderhof Castle, Ehrenberg Castle, the Wieskirche and everything around the Zugspitze, you probably need a couple days. The Chiemsee is worth some time too, although by now you'll be suffering from Mad King Ludwig burnout. The Konigsee was magnificent - we hit perfect weather. We only spent one day in Salzberg, and it wasn't really enough - Hellbrun castle gardens were fun for us.

We had a rental car for all of that part of the trip and it served us well.

One thing I would recommend is that you work out your itinerary so you are not changing hotels every night. If I would change anything, I would get rid of the one-night stays.

Have fun!!!

Posted by
5795 posts

Yes, most likely spend at least a night possibly 2 in arrival and
departure cities. I’d like to see some museums in Amsterdam and it
seems like a lively fun town. I haven’t researched Munich but I assume
it’s worthwhile.

I would also want at least 2 nights in those two cities. But with 4 nights between A'dam and Munich, you'd have just 9 left for Düsseldorf, Cologne, Cochem, Frankfurt, Würzburg, Rothenburg and the Romantic Road, Füssen, Berchtesgaden/Königssee, Salzburg and the Salzkammergut. I don't think it's a stretch at all to say that you will need to slash your destinations by about 50% and reduce your ground travel time if you hope to keep a sensible pace. What to do?...

Cochem is a delightful place, especially at wine harvest time, and Cologne and Frankfurt have their charms as well. However, your thread title and the bulk of your destinations indicate a preference for Bavaria. So after 2 nights in A'dam and 1 in Düsseldorf, I would suggest skipping everything in between Düsseldorf and the Bavarian town of Würzburg. The rail trip from D'dorf to W'burg can be done by direct train in just 3 hours (17:18 - 20:24, for example). With Night 4 spent in W'burg, you'd then have 8 days/nights, nights 5-12, to divvy up between Würzburg, Rothenburg and the Romantic Road, Füssen, Berchtesgaden/Königssee, Salzburg and the Salzkammergut before heading into Munich for nights 13 & 14. That sounds about right to me.

Posted by
5795 posts

Mark writes, "Consider adding a day trip to Nuremberg."

Nuremberg is a good suggestion, a great destination, and home to several interesting sights and museums, including a motorcycle museum within the Museum of Industrial Culture. If you take the advice to stay longer in one place, you cannot do better than making Nuremberg your base town for a few days. It's a major rail hub with direct trains to Bamberg (45 min's) Würzburg (about 1 hr.) and other interesting towns nearby. You may want to substitute Nuremberg for Würzburg... or just make a stop in Würzburg for half a day before proceeding to Nuremberg.

Posted by
78 posts

We just got back from 11 days, first trip to Europe: Flew into Amsterdam 2 nights (loved Amsterdam, very scenic and lively city) took a train to Belgium (2 nights), train to Cologne (1 night, the cathedral was a must for me, English tours 3 PM, check online), rented a car in Cologne and drove to Burg Eltz & stayed on the Middle Rhine River area for 3 nights. Drove through Wurzburg (lunch stop) to Rothenburg odT (1 night). Drove the Romantic Road to Munich (2 nights), turned in the car and toured by foot/bus.
We only came upon one tasty brewery in Amsterdam (visited two of its locations - Brouwerij t'IJ) but plenty of tasty beer to try elsewhere in our travels. We liked the freedom that having a car offered us... taking trains and not knowing logistics of the language or operations is a bit arduous, but DB was slightly more helpful than others (there was actually an information office at the Munich train station, and people helping at our transfer location! Not the case in Belgium at all, or from what we saw in Amsterdam). However, once we got a car, my mother in law was worried we were dead because I no longer had time to send updates... too busy driving or helping to navigate, without the relaxing train rides (the trains were mostly only relaxing once seated, though. And even then, not always, depending on who was seated nearby... maybe some metalheads on their way to a music festival and apparently lacking headphones for their music, or a screaming, inconsolable baby)
I don't have much for suggestions in watches or motorcycles, but there were folks in line in Munich waiting for a SWATCH store to open. The Englischer Garten in Munich was really nice & scenic. We visited two biergartens, one lively with music, one relaxing on the "lake", and a pretty creek running through it. We took the bus to the center of the park. Beer is everywhere in Munich. Quite a number of museums are in Munich that might interest you, too. We stayed in Mercure Altstadt hotel in Munich... a convenient location, and though it was not Oktoberfest, it was still $50/night cheaper than Amsterdam (easily the most expensive hotel stay of our stops). Nice room, no view, good breakfast.

We could've easily added a day or more at each of our stops, besides maybe RodT (I think with not much else around, two nights may have been a bit much). Rothenburg was INCREDIBLY full of tourists, very family-oriented, when we arrived on a weekday at 3PM, through about dusk... it was nice at dusk to go walk the town wall when the families were all tucking into bed, and again to explore early morning, before 11 AM. Much of the town was bombed in WWII and rebuilt, so while the wall walk is cool (do the Night Watchman Tour, it's good) some of it is just a bit too "perfect", especially after visiting a city like Amsterdam that is tipping sideways, or Bacharach and other towns on the Rhine where all the old timber slopes this way or that. We loved the Hotel Goldener Hirsch hotel in RodT, a room with a view over the valley... but the AC was barely sufficient for a 95 degree day).

I didn't find the Wurzburg -> Munich Romantic Road anywhere near as romantic as the Rhine River area and all of the castles and villages (and the Boppard chair lift was cool). It was still nice, but since we were just driving through, it wasn't much. We did stop in Dinkelsbuhl, but it was really not as impressive after everything else we had seen. Our favorite parts of the trip were Amsterdam and the Rhine River (if you have any interest in delicious wine, Rhine Riesling is affordable and delicious... unlike ours). We stayed 1 night in Boppard and 2 nights in Bacharach (because the hotel I wanted in Bacharach was only available those 2 nights). We wished we had more than 2 nights in Amsterdam, for sure. Next time we will try to stay in a more affordable area (?) but our location in the Jordaan neighborhood was super convenient to everything we needed for a quick stay.

Posted by
5795 posts

Hi karina303, glad to see your trip report and to hear you had a good time. Some of your experiences relate to the OP's plans and should definitely remain here, but since others go beyond the OP's question, I suggest you create a new thread within the Germany forum - or use the trip reports forum - to repost your report. It will be seen by more forum users that way.