Frankfurt ->Bavaria ->Frankfurt

We are a family of 4 flying in and out of Frankfurt in June. This is our itinerary:

Wednesday -
arrive in Frankfurt at 6am;
Train to Mainz/Boppard/St. Goar;
sightseeing by train or boat; stay in Rhine Valley overnight

Thursday -
rent a car in Rhine Valley; drive to Zirndorf for kids' fun
(planning to spend 5 hours or so);
stay overnight at Rothenburg ob der Tauber or nearby (Nördlingen?)

Friday -
sightseeing at Rothenburg or nearby town, leave by noon for 2 hour drive to Fussen area

Schloss Hohenschwangau & Neuschwanstein Castle tours and enjoy the beauty of Bavaria!

leave Fussen area for the drive back to outskirts of Frankfurt; stay overnight near Frankfurt

"See you next time, Germany!"; return car; take morning flight out of Frankfurt

The only two places we must go are Zirndorf and Neuschwanstein castle. We are flying in and out of Frankfurt because this gives us better timing for our drive home from Chicago O'Hare. What would you take out, add, or recommend for us 1st timers in Germany?
Thank you!

Posted by Kenneth
San Diego, CA, USA
115 posts

I would suggest that you go on and rent your car at the Frankfurt airport when you first arrive. Get a good map at any gas station on the autobahn. You will have a better car selection, it will be easier to get around with luggage, and you won't be tied to a train schedule. Get a good map at any gas station on the autobahn. And you could (as I have a few times) spend the last night in Heidelberg- it is about an hour back to the Frankfurt airport. Stay off of A8 if possible- it is still undergoing major reconstruction west of Augsburg. Have a great trip!!!

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2052 posts


I have to agree with Kenneth, pick up the car at the airport. It's about 90 min. to where you want to go from Frankfurt airport. In 2007, we also arrived very early, at 6:30am and drove to Bacharach, St. Goar and then Boppard, where we took the car ferry across the Rhine and then drove to and toured Marksburg Castle.

For Rothenburg, be sure to walk with the Nightwatchman at 8pm. Informative and fun tour.

Neuschwanstein gets CROWDED! If you know the exact day you'll want to visit, reserve tickets in advance and bypass the potentially long lines.

Just a mile or so from Neuschwanstein is the Tegelberg cable car trip and the luge ride (Sommerrodelbahn). The luge ride is a blast!


Posted by Chris
Mahone Bay, Canada
310 posts

I'm not sure how old your kids are but you might want to pick up the rental car when you arrive at the airport. That first day can be a doozy ... you tired from entertaining kids on an overnight flight and kids tired from lack of sleep ... being able to have them fall asleep in the car on that first day has been a huge help for us. We've also found it nice to just be able to load everything into a car and go, rather than dragging bags through train stations on that first day. But then, we like the flexibility a car gives us if we're not staying in city centres. Also, you may find doing too much planned sightseeing on the first day may be more frustrating/exhausting than enjoyable with yourselves and kids being jet lagged. Otherwise, your plan looks great.

I'd highly recommend Heppenheim for the last night. It's close enough to the airport that kids won't feel like they've been sitting for hours before even getting to the airport, yet is quaint and picturesque. The centre is either pedestrianized or very traffic calmed so kids can safely get rid of some energy before they leave for the airport (a priority for us). We felt very fortunate to have stumbled upon it on our last trip to Germany.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
11079 posts

"I'd highly recommend Heppenheim for the last night."

Inevitably, when friends and relatives from the US arrive to visit, as soon as they pull out the Blue Book, I know what they're going to say... "We want to see Rothenburg". I then kindly drive them the 10 minutes distance from my house to Heppenheim. Half of them quickly forget about Rothenburg, the other half still visit anyway, but their response upon returning is usually "Rothenburg looked a lot like Heppenheim, but it was filled with souvenir shops".

If you consider Heppenheim, the kids can spend the last night sleeping in a castle. The castle that overlooks the town, Starkenburg, is a youth hostel.

For the adults, the town runs a wine collective where many of the small producers in the area ferment and bottle their products. You can taste and buy the wine from here (but you can just as easily buy the same wines in a nearby grocery store). The wine from this region tastes not too shabby, and it's extremely cheap. Usually only about €4-10 per bottle.

Posted by Russ
2694 posts

Your plan covers far too many miles and hits too many tourist-heavy destinations at a busy time of year for 5 days. My childhood memories of long back-seat car rides just aren't that great. What would I take out? Anything south of Rothenburg.

This business about Neuschwanstein being a "must" for so many 1st-timers is very puzzling. Yes, it's picture-perfect from outside. And if you were starting out from Munich, the trip there would at least be less arduous, but WHY let a 30-minute, $16-tour of a faux-castle (it's a late 19th-century residential palace mocked up to resemble a castle) drive your itinerary berserk and bloat your ground-travel budget, especially considering you will already have ignored dozens and dozens of REAL castles and palaces on the Rhine and elsewhere (many of them quite fantastic, by the way) ??

On the Rhine, you need some more time. You and your kids will likely be drowsy or asleep that first day. Your kids will probably enjoy a couple of hours crawling around St. Goar's Rheinfels Castle. Marksburg Castle in Braubach is awesome and offers a 1-hour tour. A nice river cruise takes a couple of hours. The old town wall in Oberwesel and the narrow streets of Bacharach and Boppard offer a chance to get a close-up look at old-world Germany, but they can't be seen from a boat or train.

O'wesel wall
Boppard old town

Before Rothenburg you will probably pass through Würzburg - a good place to check out the Residenz (palace.)

Rothenburg is indeed very touristy. Heppenheim is no Rothenburg - thank goodness! I would take Tom's advice and look into places that are more like Heppenheim over Rothenburg. Rothenburg makes sense geographically if you're headed for the Nuremberg area for Zirndorf anyway, but so do some other great towns not far from your route.

Ochsenfurt (walled town) and Marktbreit

These are not towns given completely over to tourism and tour buses but lovely places where real German folks live and work in other enterprises as well.

Iphofen is maybe even more charming:

Iphofen photos

Posted by Gary Mc
Salt Lake City
880 posts

Everyone is different.

Renting a car the first day is okay if you do not suffer significant jet lag. I do. My only accident in driving for 6 years in Germany was due to being too tired to respond to a car suddenly breaking in front of me. I know that I am a zombie and will try to never again drive the first day.

I have visited Ochsenfurt, Marktbreit and Bad Wimpfen in the area of Rothenburg. All nice places worth a bit of time. Still, I like Rothenburg better. Just more to see and do. There is a reason that it is more popular.

Your trip would be too hectic for me. If Neuschwanstein is a must, then skip the Rhine. Lovely area but an unhelpful diversion. Maybe, you should catch first day train to Würzburg or Nürnberg, which are handy to Rothenburg and Zirndorf. Rental cars will be available at either town.

Good luck with your travels. Gary

Thank you for all your travel suggestions.

Our first RS Germany book was 2003 edition and we never made the trip. Fast forward 11 years later with two kids, we would still like to travel to the site of our completed jigsaw puzzle, the Neuschwanstein Castle.
(How's that for travel ideas? visit all the places on your completed jigsaw puzzles).

Revised itinerary:

Wednesday -
upon arrival in Frankfurt airport,
hop on train to Munich train station;
rent a car in Munich, drive to Fussen in afternoon;
overnight in Fussen area

Thursday -
Castles tours and surrounding

Friday -
Leave Fussen and drive 2 hours to Nordlingen, arrive around noon

Drive to Rothenberg ob de Tauber around 5pm; Nightwatchman’s tour

Saturday -
Breakfast and enjoy Rothenburg in early morning;
Drive to Zirndorf, arrive late morning;
Drive to Bamberg by late afternoon and stay overnight

Sunday -
Visit Bamberg and leave for Frankfurt by late afternoon;
A possible stopover at Wiesbaden;
Overnight in Frankfurt surrounding area

Monday -
Early flight out of Frankfurt

1) Can you recommend accommodation in Bamberg or nearby, heading west toward Frankfurt?

2) Has anyone taken the Neroberg Mountain Train in Wiesbaden?

3) Is Bahn Card 25 worthwhile for the Frankfurt ->Munich train ride (3 adults, 2 children on a Wednesday morning for 87EUR)?

Thank you!

Posted by Judy
49 posts

Why not consider staying the last night at one of the hotels in the Frankfurt airport. They are overpriced but sometimes the convenience is worth it. The Hilton chain has two hotels in the airport and I know there are a couple of others from one of the other chains. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn the last night of our Germany trip two years ago and arriving at the airport the night before the flight and just knowing all we had to do the next day was walk over to the security checkpoint was wonderful. We also had an early flight but no worries about making it on time. If you are a member of the hotel's "club" you can use points or you can use most airline miles for hotels now also. Also I think their rates are less for weekend nights so maybe you can arrange it that way. We used miles from United and stayed for free. Can't beat that.

Posted by Kenneth
San Diego, CA, USA
115 posts

Hi TFN- Have you considered taking the train from FRA directly to Fussen (instead of Munich) the first day and renting a car in Fussen the next morning? ICE trains leave FRA Flughofen around 11-12 in the AM - change in Augsburg and get to Fussen about 5 to 7 PM with a total cost of about 150 to 200€ in 2nd class, depending on the age of the children. These are non-refundable specific train tickets. It might save some wear and tear on you instead of going on to Munich and driving from there. We stayed at the Alstadthotel Molitor in Bamberg last September. It had parking and an elevator ( which are important to us) along with all of the other standard amenities and it is in an excellent location. Look at to get other ideas for hotels in all of your cities. I personally would skip Nordlingen and drive directly from Fussen to Rothenburg via the autobahn on the 3rd day. Also, we usually use Heidelberg as a place to spend the last night before flying back to the US from FRA. It is about an hour south of the airport. Tom mentioned Heppenheim for a good last night is also south of the airport.... Have a great trip!!!

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5692 posts

With the city of Frankfurt only 11 min. away by train, why stay at an airport hotel and pay premium prices? There is a train every 15 min. going to the airport, and they start running at 04:15. Decent hotels like the Excelsior, Hotel Monopol, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis, or Hamburger Hof won't break the budget and offer breakfast too.

Thank you all for your suggestions. We left out Rhine Valley this time and took the ICE from Frankfurt to Munich. This way we can sleep a little on the train before picking up our rental car. It worked out great.

The Hohenschwangau tour was much better than the Neuschwanstein one because you get to see more (less visitors) and learn more. The surroundings of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein are not to be missed. i.e. The Alpsee, the view of Neuschwanstein from Marienbrücke (Mary's Bridge), and Tegelberg Luge.

We walked the entire town wall in Nordlingen and it was worth it. But that left us with less time in Rothenburg. Personally
I liked Nordlingen better than Rothenburg because N is quieter and simpler. R is crowded and pedestrians need to watch out constantly for cars.

Bamberg is a charming town and definitely worth visiting! Its smoked beer adds to Bamberg's attractiveness.

Our kids, ages 6 and 8, absolutely loved Playmobil Fun Park in Zirndorf. It's a gem for children.

The drive in Germany is so enjoyable I didn't feel like I was missing out on the views because of driving. Thank you all again for helping with our trip planning. We have enjoyed every place we visited.