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Best 8 or 9 nights in Germany to celebrate our 40th birthdays!!!

Since my whirlwind European backpacking trip after college, I've always dreamed of returning to Europe and really concentrating on one or two countries in one trip. Now my husband and I are turning 40 and I really want to take him to enjoy the history, architecture, beer, food, and beautiful scenery. He's never been to Europe. I think he'd like Germany the best. Due to work schedules, we have 8 or 9 nights with 2 days travel planned. I've been reading this forum for a few weeks and have some great ideas. We can fly into Frankfurt, Berlin, or Munich. So far I know I want to stay 1 night in Heidelburg and 3 nights in Munich. Is it worth it to try and get to Berlin or should we concentrate on Bamberg, Nuremberg, Fussen. areas. We want to get a good taste of Germany and am disappointed we can't take RS's GAS tour. We want to travel right after Octoberfest in mid-October. Open to taking train or renting car. Whatever optimizes our time best. Requesting quick 8/9 day itinerary to start. Please help!!! Thanks.

Posted by
2487 posts

I'd say you should optimise the limited time you've got by putting in Nuremberg between Heidelberg and Munich, and save Berlin for another time. Nuremberg is a good base for day trips, such as Würzburg, Regensburg and Bamberg. Trains are frequent and cheap (EUR 28 round trip for the two of you) by using the BayernTicket. See schedules and pricing on

Posted by
6809 posts

I second tonfromleiden's suggestions. Day trips by train from Nuremberg (to Bamberg, Rothenburg, and Bad Wimpfen's excellent open-land museum will actually cost even less - €18.70/day for two - using the VGN day pass.

Heidelberg (with 3 e's) IMO is just OK. I would instead favor a visit to nearby Mainz (just 25 min. from FRA) at the beginning or end of your trip for at least 2 nights. Like Heidelberg, it's a university town with a pleasant old town zone and a large pedestrians-only zone, but there are more sights and things to do in Mainz if you're interested; also you could take a river cruise from Bingen north through Germany's best collection of medieval castles, just north of Mainz (40 of them in 40 miles of river.) Make a stop in one or two of the old world wine towns like Bacharach. Unlike Heidelberg's sort of "messy" hybrid castle-palace, Marksburg Castle is the real thing - "unchanged from medieval times," as their website says.

Sights in Mainz
Mainz' old town zone
Mainz' tangle of pedestrians-only streets (pink)
Rheinstein Castle north of Bingen

So I could see flying into MUC, 3-4 nights in Munich, 3 nights in Nuremberg, 2-3 nights in Mainz, flying out of FRA.

Posted by
5065 posts

Would suggest two things. First, try to spend at least two nights in each place to reduce the amount of time "lost" getting from one place to another. Second, for that length of time stick with trains -- a car for a week or so will probably be more hassle than it's worth.

Posted by
8661 posts

I'll suggest the Rhine/Mosel Valley area - Mainz, Rudesheim, Bacharach, St Goar, Cochem, etc. Very easy from Frankfurt.

Is Füssen included on your list only because of those darn "castles"? There are other more convenient and scenic places to go.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you. I like all your recommendations so far. Russ, I like your itinerary idea. All those cities from Nuremberg ending in erg/urg that are suggested from everyone sound similar. What would be your top picks and why?? Is there any opportunity for day trip to see/small hike in the Alps and from what base city?

Posted by
920 posts

I'll echo what others have said. Just my 2 cents but unless you have a specific reason for 3 nights in Munich, I'd stay elsewhere. The idea of doing day trips out of one of the smaller Bavaria or Franconia cities sounds excellent.

Have fun!

Posted by
16 posts

We want to do a day trip to Salzburg, day trip to concentration camp, and one day in Munich to make 3 nights in Munich. Unless there is another concentration camp out of our base in Nuremberg or Mainz, I think 3 nights would be best. If there is one you would recommend, LMK. Thanks.

Posted by
6809 posts

Russ, I like your itinerary idea. All those cities from Nuremberg
ending in erg/urg that are suggested from everyone sound similar. What
would be your top picks and why?? Is there any opportunity for day
trip to see/small hike in the Alps and from what base city?

Rothenburg: Tourist central. Smallish place. Everything's in English, everyone speaks it. Much reconstructed after WW II DAMAGE.
Bamberg: A real German city with much more than just tourism on its mind. Very nice well-preserved old-world town center, UNESCO World Heritage status, local food and beer specialties. Nice brew pubs.
Nuremberg: Much larger, busier, important German city with a small but nice old town zone. Lots of WW II and other history here, museums, some good churches, good pubs. Cutesy Handwerkerhof is fun.

For me N'berg and Bamberg are tops and tough to choose between - but they are different. Rothenburg is where everyone goes because of the glossy brochures but it's too touristy for my liking. OK if you're in the are and you have the time for a brief visit.

It is possible w/3 days in Munich to day trip to Salzburg one day and then to Garmisch/Mittenwald (or Füssen) on another and then leave one day for Munich. But it will cost you a lot of train time for two such lengthy day trips. I think there are some good things to see and do in Munich over 2 days, including Nymphenburg Palace (excellent alternative to Ludwig's palaces - much more to see, royal horse carriages and more - and right in Munich.) Then one day trip into the Alps. Salzburg isn't in the Alps and while nice enough I think a day trip there requires a very long day and a lot of time on your feet. There are also some possible transport complications with all the migrant traffic. I'd skip it.

With just 8 nights... Munich/Alps/Dachau (4) - Nuremberg/Bamberg (2) - Mainz/Rhine (2) might work alright - snug for sure but doable. But I think very highly of the Bad Windsheim Freilandmuseum and I'd add a ninth night in Nuremberg for a day trip there before anything else.

Posted by
1507 posts

Just for a another view.

I like Bamberg, Rothenburg and Nürnberg.

While it is true that Rothenburg is touristy, it is also very attractively perched over the Tauber Valley. It's history is real and it was far less damaged in WWII than rebuilt Nürnberg. I am going to both in the spring. When I go to Rothenburg, I like the Reichstadt Museum and a walk down to Detwang in the Tauber Valley. Neither attracts many tourist.

I found Bad Windsheim interesting but quickly tired of the museum. I think I would prefer a day trip to Regensburg, a UNESCO World Heritage City on the par with Bamberg.

BTW Bamberg is also pretty saturated with tourists like Rothenburg. It is still worth the visit to me.

Posted by
16 posts

You all have been so helpful. Thank you thank you thank you. I booked our flights the other night. Yeh!! Flying into Munich Oct 12 and out of Frankfurt Oct 22. Here is what my itinerary looks like so far:
Munich 4 nights (day in Munich, day trip to Garmisch-P or Salzburg, day trip to Dachau, day trip to see castles (Neuschwan, I know it's touristy we want to see it though)
Nuremburg 2-3 nights (day in Nuremberg, day trip to Bamberg, day trip to Rothenberg)
Since Rothenberg is so much closer to Mainz, should we just stay there one night before training to Mainz?
Mainz 2 nights (day in Mainz, day trip to Bucharach or river cruise to see 40 castles in 40 miles)
Fly home from FRA

A few questions:
Are we getting a good glimpse and feel of Germany with this itinerary? We are sorry to not make it to Berlin, but it's way up there.
The train tickets confuse me. Is there one pass we can get for all our train trips or should we buy individual tix at stations every morning? Lastly, how far in advance should I be looking at booking lodging. Any suggestions for Munich, Nuremberg/Rothenberg and Mainz? Open to small hotels, airbnb-type apartments, anything really that's affordable but nice and comfortable.

Posted by
635 posts

Lastly, how far in advance should I be looking at booking lodging. Any suggestions for Munich, Nuremberg/Rothenberg and Mainz? Open to small hotels, airbnb-type apartments, anything really that's affordable but nice and comfortable.

My favorite in Munich is Pension Lindner, also recommended in the Rick Steves guidebook. Excellent location, steps from the newly-pedestrianized Sendlingerstraße a five-minute walk from Marienplatz, and across the street from the Munich City Museum.

Posted by
6809 posts

Staying in Rothenburg ("-Urg") ob der Tauber... spell it that way so that you get the right train tickets... requires 30-60 minutes more for the trip to Mainz over Nuremberg. It's at least 3.25 hours from R'burg to Mainz. R'burg is at the end of a trunk railway line and requires slower trains. If you want to be nearer Mainz, then after visiting Rothenburg for the day, don't return to Nuremberg - take the train to Würzburg instead, and when you leave the next morning, you'll have a trip of 2 hours or less, some of them using direct trains, for Würzburg-Mainz.

Is there one pass we can get for all our train trips or should we buy
individual tix at stations every morning?

With your trips I would use separate tickets. If you can pin down the one travel date Würzburg-Mainz (or Nuremberg/Rothenburg-Mainz,) you might want to pre-purchase a saver fare for that trip; you should get a price of about €19 each that way as long as you purchase RIGHT when tickets are first available for your travel date (which is 91 days in advance.) The saver fare makes use of high-speed trains and requires you to use the train schedule you nail down at the time of purchase. (You could pay full price for this the same high-speed train trip if you want to travel at any hour of the day and just buy your ticket at the station; that fare will be around €35-€40 each, not that much more, really, so it's your choice.)

All your other trips IMO are cheap and easy to do using the regional/local trains and buying tickets as you go. Buy them from ticket machines at the station. You can basically use these tickets at any time you like on any day you like, though some of them have a restriction on weekday travel before 9 am.

MUC - Munich: Airport-City day ticket (€23.20 for two)
Day trip to Garmisch or Füssen: Bayern Ticket (€28 for two)
Day trip to Salzburg: Guten-Tag Ticket (€26 for two)
Munich - Nuremberg: Bayern Ticket for two
Nuremberg - Bamberg - Nuremberg and Nuremberg - Rothenburg: VGN Tagesticket Plus (€18 for two)
(The Nuremberg - Rothenburg - Würzburg journey I suggested instead would require a Bayern Ticket for two)
Mainz - Middle Rhine Valley - Mainz: Rheinland-Pfalz ticket (€29 for two)
Mainz - FRA (about €9/2 for two for standard RMV tickets)

That's about €230 total, I believe, for the 9 train trips.

The German Rail pass that most travel agents would suggest for you can be purchased instead to cover 10 trips (it's either 7 days or 10 days.) The cheapest 2nd class flexi pass is the 10-day twin pass for two adults, which sells for €523 (more if you buy from Raileurope, I believe.)

The GR pass has no 9 am restriction on weekdays. However, it does not permit use of inner city transport once you arrive in your destination city like the day passes normally do (Bayern Ticket for the trip to Nuremberg, for example.) The other advantage with the individual tickets is that if you don't do one or more of the day trips, you don't pay; with the rail pass you of course have pre-paid 10 days that are not individually refundable.

Posted by
16 posts

Do you have suggestions on where to stay in Nuremberg for 2 nights, Wurzberg for 1 night and Mainz for 2 nights? Thanks.

Posted by
6809 posts

"Do you have suggestions on where to stay in Nuremberg for 2 nights, Wurzberg for 1 night and Mainz for 2 nights? Thanks."
Depends on what you're looking for. I like a location that makes walking to the station doable.

Würzburg: Hotel Regina is very close. The Barbarossa is a bit further, in the middle of town but walkable, a bit noisy. The Ibis is nice - near the river, but the walk is a little longer yet. Don't book the Jägerruh (if it's even still in operation.)

Mainz: The main station hotels include the Schottenhof, Königshof, and the Intercity. The main station area is a little too busy for my liking - I prefer the Ibis near the Mainz Römisches Theater train station, where you'll have a shorter walk into the old town and the pedestrian zone, to the river, and to the city park. There are direct trains to FRA from this station as well. It's the Mainz station closest to FRA; the S-Bahn trains that leave Mainz' main station for FRA stop here on the way.
THIS MAP shows the location of the MRT station (DB in the lower right corner.) The Ibis is a block away.

Posted by
470 posts

Have you looked at the NEW RS tour that was just announced this weekend?
We have been to Germany many times independently, but if we had done this itinerary for our first foray we would have been well-satisfied. It meets your time frame, and you would have the afternoons/most evenings to plan things on your own.
Enjoy! You will love your time in Germany.

Posted by
1507 posts

In Würzburg I like the Sankt Josef as well as the Barbarossa that Russ already mentioned. Both the St. Josef and & Barbarossa are run by the owners, who are often on site. Seems to keep things working smoothly.

I have also stayed at the Königshof in Mainz. We liked it but ask for a quiet room in the back.

In Nürnberg I have stayed at the Altstadt Ibis and the Hauptbahnhof Ibis. Both were close to the train station and had decent if small rooms. Breakfast is optional and overpriced. Der Beck cafe very near the Altstadt Ibis is a good substitute for breakfast as are several booths in the train station.

Posted by
16 posts

Many on this thread have suggested Bamberg as a day trip from Nurnberg. I can't find anything about Bamberg in my Rick Steves Germany travel book. Why is that? It's not even in the index.

Posted by
4684 posts

There are lots of interesting places that aren't in the Rick Steves books. The books go for in-depth treatment of a few cases rather than broad coverage, and they pick places for various reasons such as existing fame, location, and tourist infrastructure.

Posted by
6809 posts

"Many on this thread have suggested Bamberg as a day trip from Nurnberg. I can't find anything about Bamberg in my Rick Steves Germany travel book."

Rick's audience is largely American, and the places Rick emphasizes often have a USA-connection - they're places with a tradition of American tourism or with a "tie-in" of some sort to American history or culture that will "ring a bell" with his readers. Disney is a common thread... Rothenburg (film set for Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, more recently Harry Potter) and Neuschwanstein (Cinderella's castle) for example. The "Romantic Road" (which we've all heard of as well) gets page space over some truly excellent places nearby that failed to line up properly along said road (like Bamberg.) German stereotypes we Americans maintain get a nod as well (Oktoberfest, Lederhosen, beer halls, and Nazis.) I'm not saying that the things and places he emphasizes are worthless, only that the space they take up in his book means that other equally or more worthwhile places get left out or under-emphasized.

Bamberg has been singled out by UNESCO for World Heritage status. It has a variety of atmospheric old pubs. While it is unknown to many Americans planning a visit to Germany, it does get a lot of visitors - over half a million overnight guests per year (about the same as Rothenburg.) About 3/4 are European, around 10% of them Americans. So not everyone is reading the same guidebooks, it seems.

The number of overnight guests doesn't explain how these towns feel when you're there. Much larger Bamberg (university town, 70,000 population) doesn't feel nearly as tourist-heavy as Rothenburg (11,000 pop.) On top of the mismatch between overnight guests and town size, Rothemburg gets a daily inundation of tour bus visitors which pack the handful of streets even fuller. Bamberg is just more real in every way.

Posted by
14580 posts

"So, not everyone is reading the same guide books...." That's what I call a good piece of news. Admittedly, I've not been to Bamberg , as yet, in all my trips, almost went to a place nearby relatively...Coburg. Bamberg is also one of the towns that survived the war unscathed as did Celle, Heidelberg, Lüneburg, Flensburg, Meißen, Weimar.

Posted by
45 posts

As an American who has both lived in Germany years ago when I was young and more recently visited it as a tourist who tries to avoid touristy areas, my wife and I really enjoyed our recent visit to Rothenburg. Although it gets a lot of tourists and some times gets a wrap as a tourist trap, it is beautiful, has many interesting things to see, many shops, and set in the pretty Tauber Valley. Rick Steve’s walking tour is good; we stayed at a great hotel right in the town, and enjoyed the restaurants. We also enjoyed near by Wertheim and Miltenberg. I have not visited Bamberg but did examine at a lot of on line resources on it. It looks like a nice, pretty town, but does not in my opinion have the depth and breadth of sites and atmosphere as Rothenburg. I understand that many of its visitors are from Viking et al river tours which is not in my opinion a ringing endorsement since such tours base their itinerary primarily on the location to a river. Nearby Coburg looks more interesting to me with a fortress containing many artifacts and a room where Luther stayed.

Posted by
6809 posts

hamiltonpa: "(Bamberg) does not in my opinion have the depth and breadth of sites and atmosphere as Rothenburg."

I think you should make a point of visiting Bamberg sometime. Here are some websites you might have overlooked in your evaluation of Bamberg.

A port doesn't tell much about the sights themselves, IMO. Venice's sights are no less wonderful because its port is full of cruise boats - just more crowded.

There is so much more to Bamberg than to Rothenburg that the places are not comparable, IMO.

Posted by
12040 posts

Russ and I sometimes clash over Germany-related issues, but let me back him up on Bamberg vs. Rothenburg. I tip my hat to his constant drum beat of support for Bamberg, it made me curious to take a long day trip to check it out when I lived in Germany. Very much worth my time. No, there's no wall, but Bamberg's Altstadt is much bigger than Rothenburg's and it's a city that sustains itself economically on far more than tourism. It's full of interesting churches, Schlösser, nooks, crannies and even a few castles, both in the city and in the immediate surroundings. Plus, it has Germany's most unique beer variety (Rauchbier). Despite four years of intermittent searching when I lived in Germany, I only found this sold in Bamberg. It's not just a matter of trying a product in it's natural surroundings, it really is hard to find available elsewhere.

The cruise traffic in Bamberg is miniscule compared to the daily invasion of visitors that the tour buses vomit onto the relatively confined streets of Rothenburg. Don't get me wrong, Rothenburg is a nice town. It just simply isn't as unique as the tourist literature advertises and it's largely devolved into a funhouse that caters to visitors expectations of "medieval German" (despite the fact that almost all the of the oldest remaining structures date from well after the medieval period...). I say, see it you're heading in that direction anyway, but if you have to go more than two hours out of your way, you've probably bypassed at least one far less touristy alternative.

By the way, Coburg is also a gem, particularly it's amazing castle, Veste Coburg. I would much rather combine a long daytrip to Bamberg and Coburg than one to Rothenburg.

Posted by
14580 posts

"Bamberg is just real in every way." How true.