My husband and I will be traveling to Germany for Christmas. We will start in Munich and explore the Christmas markets before heading to Garmisch to ski. We will then spend a day or two in Fussen. We still have 5 days at the end of trip that we have not yet planned. We will be flying out of Munich and want to travel by train to our destinations. We've thought about Salzburg, but neither of us are overly excited about it and I don't think there's enough for us to do for 5 days in Salzburg. We visited Vienna a few summers ago and really enjoyed exploring the city, checking out the architectural sites and people watching at cafes. Maybe we're thinking that Salzburg will be too similar to Vienna which is why we're hesitant to commit to going there. We're up for traveling anywhere, perhaps even Switzerland or Italy, but are totally lost at where to go. I also wonder about exploring more of the Romanic Road, but I don't know if this is possible via train. Any suggestions would be wonderful!
Travel to Franconia for a few days. It's in northern Bavaria. There are dozens of fine town and cities there.
If I had my choice between Fussen and Salzburg, give me Salzburg any day. That's a completely different Austria than Vienna, and it's a very warm and hospitable city. Though I no longer drink, a night at the Augustiner beer hall in Salzburg is not to be missed. Another option would be to drop a few miles south of Garmisch to the Innsbruck area, as it's only 2 hrs. back to Munich from there via train.
Russ always has great suggestions of places to visit. We particularly loved the little town of Iphofen.
Another good alternative within easy reach of Munich, if you are looking for a more rural/natural setting is Berchtesgaden.
You could also just return to Munich and take a series of day-trips by train, as Munich makes a very convenient hub for exploring the area.
" I also wonder about exploring more of the Romanic Road, but I don't know if this is possible via train."*
Supposedly, Mark Twain said, "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it."
Well, lots of people talk about the Romantic Road, but few have actually experienced it. I have.
In 2007, I spent four days (3 whole days, 2 half days) traveling on the RR from Wieskirche to Würzburg, a stretch most people would burn through in a day by car. I spent most of my time exploring the towns along the Road, only a little time actually traveling between towns. The Road is a letdown; it's the towns.
Some of the towns on the Road can be reached by trains, but you don't get to see as much as by bus. Those sections that are not linked by train are linked by bus. Most noticeable of these are Füssen to Landsberg and Nördlingen to Weikersheim by bus, and Landsberg to Nördlingen and Weikersheim to Würzburg by rail.
In my experience, the most notable towns on the Road are Landsberg and Nördlingen. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is also accessible by rail, but the rail lines don't follow the Romantic Road.
I would add Dinkelsbühl as one of the more worthy destinations along the Romantic Road. I really haven't seen another town that looks similar.
It's also worth pointing out that the Romantic Road is only one of about a hundred officially designated "Ferienstraßen" (roughly, "holiday routes") in Germany. I'm not saying don't explore it, just put it in perspective. The Romantic Road probably receives the most attention in the English-speaking world because it's name translates so enticingly, because it roughly offers an interesting route between two of Germany's most popular tourist destinations (the Mittelrhein and Munich), and because ADAC (the German version of AAA) heavily promoted it in the post-war era.
As for Salzburg, if you're not taking one of those Sound of Music Tours, you can see most of it in a single day. The Altstadt is surprisingly small. I'm sure I'm in the minority, but compared to several other southern Bavarian and Austrian small cities, I found Salzburg rather monochromatic and a bit of a letdown.
One thing to keep in mind with traveling to Germany in the winter. You may get lucky and benefit from clear skies, but more than likely, conditions will be overcast. And because the sun is near it's winter nadir in the sky, the combination of cloudy skies and the low transverse path of the sun usually turns the scenery in the countryside to a dull gray haze. So, don't expect to be blown away by rural site-seeing in the winter. Atmospheric conditions, however, have much less of an impact on cities.
We loved Rothenburg, but it is about 3 1/2 hrs by train. Not good for a day trip, but if you stayed a couple of nights, it is quite fun.
Regensburg Germany could be nice for an overnight or two. A nice old town with gemütlich Christmas decorations and Christmas markets in the old city and Thurn und Taxis too. Regensburg has many cafes and bars and it is a student town too. Then maybe to Prague for a day or two then return to München?
I arrived by train in Nördlingen in late afternoon and spent the night and morning there, then took the bus to Dinkelsbühl at noon. I loved Nördlingen; I hated to leave it. I had planned to spend 4 hours in Dinkelsbühl, but left after 3 hours. I don't know what it was. Maybe because I loved Nördlingen so much, Dinkelsbühl paled by comparison. Maybe if I had seen Dinklesbühl before Nördlingen, it wouldn't have been such a disappointment.
Dinklesbühl is indeed unique. Instead of having a Wehrgang, a platform on the top of the wall from which they can defend the wall, the defense is from a lot of towers built into the wall. The star forts built later in Europe used the same concept. But somehow, I missed being able to walk along the Wehrgang, like you can in Nördlingen and Rothenburg. In defense of Dinkelsbühl, it does still have a moat, at least half of the original moat, along the eastern wall.
Add to that, it's only accessible by bus, and I would not bother to go there.
I second Russ' recommendation to make a journey to Franconia. It's easily reached by train from Füssen and if you wanted to break the trip up you can stop in Augsburg on your way up to Nuremberg or Bamberg.
Don't discount Salzburg either, it's won't be like Vienna at all.
Switzerland and Italy are too far in my opinion to make it worth the five day trip as you will burn a whole day getting there and back.
Salzburg isn't Vienna, that's right, but I found Salzburg somewhat disappointing.
Franconia (Franken), as suggested above, offers a lot. Base yourself in Nürnberg and you've got a choice of destinations for day trips. Bamberg, Würzburg, Regensburg, they're all easily reached by frequent trains, which don't have to take longer than 1 hr (or significantly less). Check at http://www.bahn.de/p_en/view/index.shtml Watch out for »saver fares« by using the regional trains (R or RE) instead of the express (IC or ICE).
We just got back from Germany. Loved the Christmas Markets!!! We stayed in Dinkelsbühl and took day trips to Nördlingen, Rothenburg and Nürnberg.
We used Dinkelsbühl as a home base. Dinkelsbühl is to me a fairy tale town. It was so easy to imagine all the fairy tales there. We walked the walls and it was so beautiful. The houses are all different colors and it was so homey. They have a little Christmas market that doesn't take a lot of time to go through, but it was a nice place to get dessert every night :)
Nördlingen was great to. It is a town that is built in a crater. They also have a Christmas market that was fun to walk through. We also climbed the church steeple there. It is called the Daniel. It was a crazy climb, and I am proud of myself for doing it. There is also a cat who lives at the top. We did the crator museum too. That is a neat little museum. If it isn't busy, the currator will run the two movies in English for you. She also handed us a paper that explained what everything was in English. We didn't have a chance to walk the walls, but it would have been fun.
Nürnberg was also interesting. The most well known Christmas market. It is a hopping city. The Christmas Market there is huge. It was fun to walk through. Make sure to stop in the Churches. There are insane. My favorite is the St Lawrence church. Make sure to eat the Nürnberger sausages, they are really good.
I did not like Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is really touristy. My original thought was how touristy can it be? The answer is VERY. There is a huge parking lot for just busses. It was strange hearing a ton of American voices after only hearing German for 8 days. We did walk around the Christmas Market there and got a picture of the famous yellow house. I think what I liked best was walking part of the wall and being away from the crowd. We also drove down to the Double Bridge at dusk and took some pictures of that and the town. That was cool. Again away from the crowds.
On a previous trip we also did Berchtesgaden. It is near Salzburg. If you do go in the direction, and if it is running, do the Königsee boat trip, and if it is open hike to the Obersee. It is worth it.
Have a great trip!!!