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Current Germany itinerary - Gut-check?

Hi all
I'm taking my family (me, spouse, two young teens) to Germany and our collective European travel experience is a week my wife spent in Scotland last year (i.e. i have no idea what I'm doing and my head's spinning from travel books / sites)
If it's allowed, I'd love a gut-check take on our current plans for the German portion of our trip. Does this seem like a recipe for disaster for some clueless Americans? Or a good first go?
Day 1 - fly to Berlin. Arrive 11am local. Rent car. swing by berlin wall on way to northern part of Blankenburg in Berlin in Airbnb
day 2 - reichstag, brandenburg gate, other berlin sites
day 3 - up early to drive to cochem and see castle. then to airbnb outside burg eltz.
day 4 - burg eltz first thing, then take castle road to rothenburg ob der rauber. stay there
day 5 - rothenburg in the morning, then dachau on way to munich
day 6 - munich - neuschwanstein in am. BMW something or another in pm
day 7 - day trip to salzburg. dump rental car
day 8 - public transportation to innsbruck

I can't figure out if that reads like a lot, or reasonable enough considering we have just these 7/8 days in Germany.
Thanks so much for any insight you're willing to offer

Posted by
50 posts

Just stay in Berlin for a week, especially with children. There is so much to do in that one city. If you insist on this current itinerary, you will be totally exhausted with all this moving around, and your time will be taken up mostly by commuting from place to place. There will be no enjoyment.

Besides the Brandenburger Tor, you can take a bike tour of the city; go up the TV tower; visit a gazillion cool museums; take a river boat tour; go out to Charlottenburg; take a day trip to Leipzig, go sit in the Tiergarten at a Biergarten and enjoy the park; and these are only a few ideas.

Look on any of the travel sites for tons of ideas. Please don’t drive yourself crazy in one week.

Posted by
3980 posts

Why do you need a rental car in Berlin? Waaaay too much driving and too many locations. For your 7-8 day Germany segment I’d choose Berlin and Munich and travel by train. There are a lot of interesting sites to explore in and near these 2 cities for families. All can be reached with public transportation.

Posted by
1501 posts

Could you tell us a little bit more about your overall trip? Is Berlin your first city from your international flight? What are the family's interests? Why did you choose the sights you did?

Is Berlin a must? Could you fly into Munich which is closer to your other stays?

Posted by
20309 posts

Does this seem like a recipe for disaster

Yep. First, ditch the car and stay in Berlin proper instead of out in the 'burbs. You want to see the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, etc. so stay closer to the sites you want to see. A car in Berlin is a burden, with such great public transport.

At least no more than 2 destinations for an 8-day trip. Take the Sprinter to Munich and stay there 3 nights. You can see all you want from there.

Posted by
2354 posts

This seems like a lot of stops in a short period of time. You are short changing a lot of great places. I think you’ll spend more time in the car, than actually enjoying any of those places. I would eliminate Cochem. Stay 2 nights in Rothenburg. Then stay 3 nights in Munich. Do Dachau as a half day from Munich. Eliminate Neuschwanstein and Salzburg. Salzburg deserves at least 3 nights. Save it for another trip. Or eliminate Munich and stay in Salzburg instead (my choice).

Having rented cars in Europe with a family of 4, I would not plan on stopping for any sights along the way. You’ll be leaving your luggage in the car. Even if you each bring carryon only, it will be visible and subject to theft. You’ll need an estate car to fit everyone’s luggage.

Posted by
4421 posts

Does anyone in your family have a strong desire to see Neuschwanstein Castle? If not, don't waste your time. You already have a couple of castles on your itinerary and Neuschwanstein is really more of a palace. I have not been to either of the castles at Cochem and Burg Eltz but I wonder if you really need to see both. Hopefully someone else on the forum will have a knowledgeable opinion about that.

You're sleeping in a different city almost every night. It takes a lot of time and energy to check in and out of hotels. You do definitely want to spend a night in Rothenburg for the Night Watchman's tour. Your teens would probably also find the Museum of Punishment in Rothenburg interesting.

EDITED: I wasn't a fan of Berlin except the Pergamon Museum and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. If I were you, I would skip Berlin and maybe spend some time on the Rhine if there's a suitable castle there. Honestly the best place for castles by far is the UK. I think one castle(not Neuschwanstein) would be enough on a trip this short.

Posted by
3879 posts

Google Maps says Berlin to Cochem drive is 7 hours. For me, that would be a miserable way to spend a day in Europe... especially, if driving to Rothenburg the next day. I agree with Mona -- Berlin and Munich would be a good use of a week with transportation by train.

Posted by
6735 posts

I can respond with some suggestions for change but not without knowing a couple of things...

What time of year (or travel dates?)

Are your flights bought?

What 2-3 specific things does your family really want to see/do while in Germany? Forget trying to go where Rick Steves has gone - you must narrow down your on-the-ground objectives, or Hollywood'll be making a Chevy Chase sequel about you.

Posted by
6735 posts

Just saw you name... Wierschem? Family history in the town of Wierschem, or does your visit to Burg Eltz have nothing to do with your roots?

Posted by
8 posts

Wow, thanks so much for the collection of replies. Very much appreciated (though the little nagging voice in the back of me head saying "you've made a terrible mistake" has certainly gotten louder).
Bit more context:
1) Germany is the first week of a 16ish day trip that then moves to Innsbruck for 3 nights and Wengen for 5, and then flying out Zurich. So we have to work our way south, but our original plan was to fly in to Frankfurt (then I got a wild hair to make a point of seeing Berlin. Might need to revisit that)
2) Yep, Russ, I made an obstinate claim earlier in life that if I ever made it to Germany I'd visit Wierschem. (no explicit family history that I know of, but it's kind of a must-do in my head). We'll be in Germany late July to early August, and I think our must do's in Germany boil down to Burg Eltz, Neuschwanstein (and/or some other impressive castles), my wife really likes the look of Rothenburg, and we want to visit concentration camp / something that gets at the history of the Holocaust.
3) Re: car rental, yeah, I think I'm just bring Midwest US ignorance to the notion of public transportation. If it's really that much easier to handle public transportation there, I might have to shelve that notion (and good call-out re: theft. Another thing we're just not exposed to as much where we live)
4) Oh, and we have booked flights, but made a point of getting fully refundable / editable ones, as I expected we'd need to do some tweaking. So learn me up, folks, as I'm very open to tweaking things.

And really, thanks for jumping in the mix.

Posted by
556 posts

day 6 - munich - neuschwanstein in am. BMW something or another in pm

Since you are spending almost no time in Munich I would skip either Neuschwanstein or Munich or both.

It is not impossible to visit the castle and BMW at the same day with a car but does not sound like fun.
Munich is a huge city with lots and lots of traffic jam. It would take you (taking the inevitable traffic jam in the morning + the travel time to Neuschwanstein into consideration) about 3 hrs. before you even set foot in the castle.

Posted by
7490 posts

I think you are renting a car because you believe it will give you the Freedom of the American Road to schedule far too many attractions in one day, too far apart. Would you fly to Chicago and then rent a car to see historic skyscrapers downtown? The idea of renting a car to see Berlin is particularly unwise.

I have rented a car in Germany, but it was to see rural places in a tight area, and we stayed in out of town hotels, with their own parking. Have you ever used public transportation in the US?

Do you know the Reichstag needs advance purchase and a passport to enter? Are you skipping a boat ride on the Middle Rhine on purpose? I agree that Berlin is worth a week.

Posted by
8994 posts

If you are in Berlin, you could go to Sachsenhausen or Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, instead of going to Munich and Dachau. There is so much more to see in the Berlin area, than in Munich.
Go on a good walking tour in Berlin and you will see all of those sites on your list in an efficient manner and learn more of the history of what you are seeing.

Your trip is a whirlwind and not one I would want to be on.
If you want to see castles, then spend at least 2 days on the Rhein. Vistit Burg Rheinfels, the Marksburg, ride a ship to see dozens of them in the space of less than 2 hours. Neuschwanstein is a palace built at the very end of the 1800s. It is little more than a 100+ years old!

Posted by
6735 posts

All that background and your priorities were helpful. Here's how I think I'd handle it.

Days 1-4 in Berlin (3 nights)

Day 4: some sightseeing... then leave in the mid-late afternoon on one of the DIRECT trains (4 - 4.5 hrs.) to Cologne Hbf (main station.) 1 night near main station, 4-4.5 hour train ride. Cologne Hbf is a convenient location for rooms and meals.

Days 5&6 in Cologne, Cochem, Burg Eltz, Wierschem (2 nights in Cochem)

Day 5: morning visit to the Cologne Cathedral and/or Nazi Documentation Center, a memorial to victims of the Nazis, not far from the station. (This is a solid alternative to the concentration camp, which isn't recommended for children anyway and would take up a large portion of your day.) Lunch. Early afternoon train to Cochem (12:53 - 14:41, change in Koblenz) -or- catch the DIRECT train, 14:17 - 15:54.) Drop bags and enjoy the town. If you hustle (shuttle, taxi?) there's a 16:30 tour of Reichsburg Castle if you're interested. Cochem feels very old-world, not unlike Rothenburg. Stay in the old-town part and have a good wander there.

Day 6: You are in luck. Wierschem is on the route to Eltz. Morning train from Cochem to Hatzenport (20 min.) where you catch Bus 653 (Castle Bus) which will drop you at Eltz Castle's parking lot after about 25 minutes. The bus stops in Wierschem (Hinter der Hecke bus stop) a few minutes before reaching the Eltz lor. I suggest you visit Eltz first and see Wierschem on the way back. Then return to Cochem as you came (catch an afternoon river cruise?) There are lots of train and buses for this trip all day long from Mon - Sat, though on Sundays there are fewer buses. See bus schedule to Wierschem and Eltz below:

Day 7 - Marksburg Castle, train to the German Alps (1 night in Garmisch-Partenkirchen)

Leave Cochem early on a morning train to Koblenz. Drop bags in locker, train to Braubach (10 minutes) on the Rhine River for a tour Marksburg, outstanding example of a true medieval Castle. Train back to Koblenz for bags. Then you have a big train trip. Koblenz > Garmisch-Partenkirchen (13:48 - 19:54?) I would stay at the Fraundorfer and catch the Bavarian evening fun there.

Day 8: public transport to Innsbruck (as planned) is easy from G-P.

You should book 3 train trips well in advance...

  • Berlin > Cologne
  • Cologne > Cochem
  • Cochem > G-P with stopover in Koblenz

Prices right now for July/August look very cheap now but will be hugely expensive if you wait. Kids under 15 travel free with parents.

Posted by
4981 posts

You mentioned driving from Burg Eltz to Rothenburg along the castle road. A short jog off your route is a place you might want to check out. Just south of Haibach, which is just south of Aschaffenburg on the old road to Wurzburg, is a village named Messpellbrum. It has a small fairy tale castle complete with moat and has been in the same family for five or six hundred years. Google it and see if it holds any interest for you.

Posted by
6735 posts


I'd like to point out that if you're willing to give up Berlin (and Cologne, my suggestion) and instead fly into LUX or FRA, you'd likely have time for Cochem/Wierschem/Eltz/Marksburg/Braubach but also time for the Castle Road, Rothenburg, Dachau before heading to Innsbruck

Alternatively... If you gave up the 3 nights in INNSBRUCK - and I don't see any great reason to keep them, myself, as the Swiss Alps are far more exciting - Then you could maybe keep Berlin + Wierschem/Cochem etc. and make Switzerland your third target.

Posted by
20309 posts

I think Russ took the words out of my mouth. Innsbruck is kinda "Meh". I hope it is not just to tick the "Austria" box.

Posted by
8 posts

Hey Russ, et al:
Sorry to keep taking advantage of the collective goodwill, but I'll ride this particular pony as long as I can. (very helpful, though the number of browser tabs I've opened in the last 24 hours is a bit horrifying)

Couple more nuggets
- I think we're "stuck" with Berlin - checked flight prices to LUX, FRA, Munich, and a few other places, and they'd doubled (at a minimum) since we bought tickets.
- Cologne / Cochem can be tossed. (While Innsbruck isn't hard and fast, we have some family friends with similarly aged kids / interests who touted it, so we'll plan to roll the dice and keep it)
- How/where does one work in a boat tour of the middle rhine? Do they all generally start in Koblenz?
- For the German-challenged, is there a particular site you'd recommend for booking these various excursions? viator and rome2rio are about the extent of what i'm familiar with.
- And because I'm bound to wear out folks' willingness to recraft itineraries, any suggestions on how to get a handle on planning public transportation? (At some point I'm going to need to be able to whip up plans like your Day 6/7 Russ, that include transportation, and I'm in way over my head. Think that might've been some of the impetus for grabbing a rental. Figured if nothing else I know how to drive a car)

Uff da. (and thanks again)

Posted by
8 posts

oh, and getting into Munich proper isn't absolutely necessary. We'd mostly intended to use it as a jumping off point for day trips (to Neuschwanstein, Dachau, and Salzburg, with the expectation that it'd be a hub that offers easy public transportation to Innsbruck

Posted by
6735 posts

- Cologne / Cochem can be tossed.
- How/where does one work in a boat tour of the middle rhine? Do they all generally start in Koblenz?

Your recent posts make no mention of Wierschem and Eltz. Are they still in the running? Cochem is a good base for Eltz and Wierschem, but it's no problem to swap Cochem for a Rhine town if you prefer.

Koblenz does NOT work well for cruising. Boppard is an excellent Rhine choice - handsome old town zone, lots of lodging/dining options, river-view hotels, also good for a cruise. It has a nice, developed waterfront, a chairlift ride to a scenic lookout, nice hikes nearby, and good access to Marksburg castle as well as Rheinfels Castle ruins.

THE train site to use for rail tickets in Germany:

Don't book anything at the rail site until you are fully comfortable with the site and understand the conditions for different ticket types (saver fares, super-saver fares, etc.) Ask questions here - nothing worse than purchase regrets.

Local train trips from Boppard will be free (really.) But if Eltz and Wierschem are still a go, you should think about getting a rental car in Koblenz for 1-2 days to make those visits easier than they'd otherwise be from Boppard. But I would definitely opt for a Berlin > Koblenz/Boppard train trip. And I would still want the train trip for Koblenz/Boppard > Garmisch (or other destination in southern Bavaria on way to Innsbruck.) These two trips will be far more enjoyable without the car.

You do NOT book any of the Rhine cruises or castle tours or the Boppard chairlift ride. Just show up and pay. Best cruise: Bingen > St. Goar, with an extra cruise segment to Boppard from St. Goar, if you wish.