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Germany May 2019, first time traveler

I am traveling to Germany for the first time, with husband and young adult son (age 21) in May 2019. Our thoughts are as early in May as possible. We have not booked anything as of yet, so are open to suggestions. We want to use all public transportation and plan on being on the ground between 8-10 days.

Here is what we have been thinking:
Arrive in Munich, stay 2 nights, continue to Salzburg for 2 nights, continue to Black Forest for 3 nights, fly out of Frankfurt.
Are we using our time the best, or are we putting in too much travel time?

We would be open to changes such as Munich to Salzburg to ???
Or Munich to ? to Black Forest.

We are very much interested in staying in the South.

Posted by
1489 posts

It would be helpful to understand your interests or what you hope to see, visit or experience. For example: Why Black Forest or Salzburg? Without criteria this plan can be excellent or even not :-)

Posted by
782 posts

I think you have a reasonable allocation of the days, but question why you'd travel in that order. Are you planning to fly in and out of Munich? Munich is between the Black Forest region and Salzburg, so you'd be backtracking. But, looked at another way, you can easily travel from Salzburg to the Black Forest by train, so that could work out. It will just take a little longer.

Don't try to do too much! Just pick the one or two things you have to do, and work around them. That part of Europe is beautiful in May and you need to take time to just sit and have a beer. Good luck.

Posted by
5398 posts

Agree with others, need more input from you.

Is this your first time to Germany, or your first time to Europe? If the former, where in Europe have you been before (and what did you like)?

What are your interests/likes/dislikes? Why did you choose these places?

For most travelers, Munich is high on their list for a first trip to Germany. The Black Forest, not so much - most people would have a lot of things higher on their must-see list for Germany (examples: the Rhine and it's castles; Rothenburg; Neuschwanstein, etc.). You should certainly go where you want to go and see what you want to see, but...if you just don't know much about Germany (common for first-time travelers) you need to do a little homework and find out about the relative appeal of various places. Some perfect quick-and-easy starting points for that your be this website (click "Explore Europe, upper left, click Germany from the long list, and then spend some time reading and watching video clips - be sure to check out the "Recommended Itinerary" under the "Plan" section - it has exactly what you should look at as a starting point for your own trip based on your interests).

Posted by
5398 posts

Oh, I hasten to add: STOP - do NOT buy your tickets yet!!! Doing so now will lock you in, and you need to get a better idea of where you really want to go before nailing down flights. Many (most?) first time travelers make this mistake of booking flights and later being sorry. Invest a little of your time figuring out where you want to go and how to, how much you can really accomplish in the time you have, and the best way to do that. Only after you've settled on that plan, then buy your flights.

Posted by
7 posts

First...thanks for the quick replies.

Our interests are more outdoors: small day hikes, beautiful scenery (especially mountains which we have none of), classic churches and/or castles. And any city is low on our list, but thought we needed to start somewhere so picked Munich because wanted southern Germany with the more natural scenerios.

It will be the first time in this area of Europe for all three of us.

We don't need to fly in and out of Munich. Someone I know suggested that if do the Black Forest area to spend one night in Frankfurt and fly home from there. Yes, I do appreciate being reminded to purchase flights last. I have seen several forums where flying in and out of the same airport can be a waste of precious time.

I picked Salzburg because I love the idea of "old world" and had concerns that the Fussen area would be too kitschy and not enough to see. My original itinerary was Munich, Fussen, Black Forest (Ettlinger), and home out of Frankfurt.

And yes, just hanging out occasionally is very appealing. We want experiential, not necessarily touring.

Posted by
1489 posts

Thanks for more information which really helps.

Official Germany Tourist Info has a website which helps you further in filtering German regions by interests such as hiking.
You can also filter your favorite landscape / region.

Roughly I would suggest to fly into Switzerland and grab some nice mountain impressions there and then travel over to Germany, e.g. Lake Constance, Füssen, then Romantic Route with "old villages" and flying out of either Frankfurt or Munich (via Bamberg 1 day).

Since you want to stay on public transport (no rental car) I did not mention German Alpine Road after Füssen.

Posted by
812 posts

If your goal is beautiful mountains, I wouldn’t go north of Munich, I would go south. You may want to consider the Garmisch-Partenkirch area near Munich instead of the Black Forest. I’ve not been to the Black Forest, but it doesn’t usually come up as a top destination for spectacular mountains in this area. We drove the GP area, stopping in Mittenwald this summer, and that area is jaw-dropping gorgeous (I live in the gorgeous Cascade mountains and I was stunned!). The area surrounding Salzburg has spectacular mountains also. Check out Berchtesgaden. You could easily spend 8-10 days exploring Munich, Mittenwald & Salzburg and have spectacular beauty, along with that “old world” feel. Innsbruck is another great option, much closer to Mittenwald than Salzburg, and maybe easier to get to by train.

For ease and relaxation, I would do Munich (3 nts), Salzburg (5 nts), Munich (1 nt).

If you’re more ambitious, you could venture into the Dolomites and do Munich (2 nts), Bolzano (2 nts), Innsbruck (2nts), GP/Mittenwald (2 nts), back to Munich Munich (1 nt).

You’ll want to research the weather in early May. Might be pretty cold in the mountains for hiking, with snow still on the ground.

Posted by
18228 posts

Another mountain experience area would be the Iller valley (Illertal) at the western edge of the German Alps. The largest resort area there is Oberstdorf, a major ski area, where the German ski team trains. From Oberstdorf, it is a short bus ride up into the Austrian alpine valley of the Walsers (Kleinwalsertal).

In addition to Oberstdorf, there are places to stay all up and down the valley from the mouth at Immenstadt im Allgäu. One of the best towns for accommodations is Fischen im Allgäu, 8 minutes by train from Oberstdorf.

The trip from Munich Hbf is just under 2½ hrs either direct on an ALX train or with one change with a Regional Express to Immenstadt .

Posted by
7 posts

Wow! All the feedback has been great in opening up possibilities I would have never thought of on my own.

Here is my current thoughts: Munich - Salzburg- Mittenwald -return to Munich.

I think this may satisfy my need to natural beauty and quintessential Germany/Austria.

My next question is timing. I don't want to wear out myself (group), but Munich holds little appeal. Would I be pushing too hard to spend arriving night in Munich, 3 in Salzburg, 3 in Mittenwald, and 1 in Munich before departing? My concern is being over tired if only giving us 1 night in Munich upon arrival.


Posted by
6513 posts

1st Time, a good guidebook would help with identifying things that you hadn't thought of yet. You asked this

Would I be pushing too hard to spend arriving night in Munich?

What's you're experience with jet lag? Some people seem to be able to push through, but it can be a joy killer for the first couple of days if you've not prepared for it. My answer to your question would be, it depends on what time of day your flight arrives. If morning, you might not be able to check into a hotel until afternoon anyway. So maybe you can keep moving, since you're not interested in Munich itself. Jet lag is pertinent, because of what you plan to do when you first arrive.

Posted by
7205 posts

You really need to spend more days in Europe. You will invest a lot of money and time in buying tickets and flying over and make all of that time and money worthwhile by staying just 7 nights. You'll barely be adjust to the new time after just 7 nights.

You mentioned liking the idea of Salzburg beca use it's "old world"'ll be in Europe most EVERYTHING is old world - not just Salzburg. If it were me I would fly into Munich and home from Zurich. That way you can see the best of the outdoors by visiting the Berner Oberland in Lauterbrunnen and the surrounding alpine villages.

Posted by
4211 posts

I didn't spend a lot of time in the Black Forest (it was part of a river cruise) It was nice but perhaps I'm spoiled but we have lots of nice forests in the U.S. (I want to add a comment about raking our forests, but. . .) I have spent three days in Salzburg and REALLY liked it. The town is lovely and there is a lot to do in and outside of town. Some people like castles, some don't. But the area around and in Fussen is lovely. We did it on a day trip from Munich. I did enjoy my tour of Hohenschwangau. I could have lived with just seeing the exterior of Neuschwanstein. (you didn't ask, but I thought I'd share)

Posted by
1670 posts

I agree with Stan that it depends on when your flight arrives in Munich. However if it is a morning arrival, that is certainly what I would do myself. Like you, with limited time, I would much prefer to head on to the mountains and beautiful scenery. It looks like just a little over 2 hrs by train from the airport to Salzburg. You can always get back to Munich earlier on your last day and spend some time walking around then (since Munich is not high priority).

Posted by
1134 posts

I think you are doing a disservice to Munich and three days in Salzburg seems like a bit too much. Salzburg can be seen in a day. In addition to the cultural aspects, Munich also has the English Garden and should be lovely in May. Not sure of your interests but you could also visit Dachau while there.

Your group might also like going on a brewery tour in Munich as well.

Posted by
4211 posts

I am confused about the number of days you have. I would agree that you don't have enough time in Munich. You say that Munich doesn't appeal to you that much. That's ok, we all have our preferences. I've been to Spain twice and probably have only spent 20 hours including sleeping, in Madrid. But, I still think you may want more than one night in Munich. We enjoyed our walking tour of Munich, tour of the residenz and relaxing and enjoying the beer halls. Nymphenburg is very nice and would be pretty in May (the English Gardens as well) I would disagree that you can see Salzburg in a day, especially if you are the slightest bit interested in the Sound of Music. The setting is beautiful in the mountains and on the river. The cathedral is absolutely stunning. The views at the fort are nice. Even if you are not a big SOM fan, the SOM tours get you out of town to see the area. I'm guessing that you might be a smaller city person given the lack of interest in Munich? If so, Salzburg is a midsize city experience.

Posted by
7 posts

All good points.

I need to now focus on talking this through with my group, without giving them too many choices. My experience is that a choice between "this or that" is more than enough. For example, taking into consideration jet lag, a night in Munich or push on? etc.

Thank you to everyone for helping me get started, which is often the hardest part of any "project" or travel. I'm used to getting around and figuring out itineraries for the US, but Europe is a whole new ball game.

I also need to breathe and realize nothing will ever be perfect, and sometimes the best parts of travel are the unexpected (as long as one keeps a sense of perspective and humor).

I am still open to suggestions, but will probably take a break for a few days to let it all sink in.

Posted by
27428 posts

Where will you be arriving in Germany from? Is it somewhere in North America where you will going west to east and arrival jetlag is worst, or somewhere in Asia where you will be going east to west and jetlag can be a bit less troublesome?

Or from South Africa where you don't change time zones at all.

Did you say that your country has no mountains, or just around where you live?

Does your son have anything that particularly appeals to him on the trip?

Have you viewed any of Rick Steves' videos either on this website or on YouTube?

all good stuff...

Posted by
782 posts

With only seven days, and preferring to hike vs. tour cities, I think you have a pretty good break out between Salzburg and Mittenwald. But the area around Salzburg itself is not mountainous, it's more rolling hills. And most of the hiking is outside of the city. I love Salzburg, it's a really beautiful place to stay, but mainly for the city. Innsbruck would give you more of an outdoors Tyrolean experience. It's right down in the Alps, and about equal distance from Munich as Salzburg.

Likewise, I prefer Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Mittenwald, but that's because I used to ski, and they have the better runs (it was the site of the Olympics back in the '60's) . The fact that it was used as a major recreation area by the US military for decades makes it really well geared towards American visitors. And, if the weather is clear, a trip up the Zugspitz is better than any of the castles around Fussen. You can spend a whole day up on the top or ride up and walk down if you want to do something different.

One other site I highly recommend would be Chiemsee, a beautiful, large, lake between Munich and Salzburg. If you go to Salzburg it would be worth spending a day here. Lot's of easy walking trails around the lake with incredible scenery.

One thing you should not worry about is finding an "Old World" atmosphere. It's everywhere and that's the way the locals like it. Yes, there are many modern buildings and facilities, but part of the charm of Bayern and Tyrol is the way it looks and is maintained. Part of the reason they keep it that way is to encourage the hordes of tourists. If you drive, or even just do some hiking, you're going to find small towns and villages that are exceptionally scenic. Don't hesitate to just stop and spend some time in these smaller places, it's always worth it.

Posted by
2712 posts


Everyone is different. We have been to Germany and Austria 11 times, about 100 nights. Two were spent in Munich. Zero in Vienna. Zero in Salzburg itself. No interest in museums, big towns and cities.

For Salzburg visits, we stay in nearby Berchtesgaden, Germany.
Love Mittenwald. By train and bus, Garmisch is more suitable.
Also love the Innsbruck area. Never stayed in Innsbruck itself, but in nearby Hall in Tirol and once in the plateau village of Hungerburg, above Innsbruck. Spectacular views.


Posted by
1209 posts

With your limited time, two bases are enough. Think about renting apartments, should be easy enough in May. I'd choose Mittenwald followed by the Berchtesgaden area. From Mittenwald, bus or train service to Ettal Abbey, Linderhof, Oberammergau (town and alpine slide just north), GP (two excellent gorge hikes and Schachen House, if you can manage it), Innsbruck (nice old district, Wilten Abbey and Ambras Castle). Mittenwald itself is very pretty and has a relatively easy walk to Leutasch Gorge just south of it.

From the Berchtesgaden area, frequent bus to Salzburg for one or two day trips. Within easy reach there's a decent salt mine tour, Eagle's Nest, Ramsau (famous church with the picture postcard backdrop), Chiemsee (Herrenchiemsee Palace, pleasant walk), the gorgeous Lake Konigssee (Mount Jenner, boat trip and pleasant hiking). Time's up.

Look at the websites of local tourist areas for hiking tips and general information:

I prefer Ruhpolding or Ramsau to the town of Berchtesgaden itself but it may add a little to your daily travel time. I like the Black Forest but save it for another trip.