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Help with a logical way to put this together? Germany, Austria and more

Hello- new to this forum-
Just beginning research/planning for a trip to Germany/Austria and hopefully adding Budapest and/or Prague. 2 adults.

We will probably have about 24 nights and can add a few more if necessary.
We prefer to fly direct to Europe from US— our options are Munich or Frankfurt (or Brussels) but not sure which would be best starting point.
Prefer 2 or 3 nights in each location. 4 is even better.

Would like to visit:

Rhine Gorge- St. Goar, Bacharach 2 nights
Rothenburg od der Tauber 2 nights
Munich 3-4 nights
Black Forest- Baden-Baden/Gutach/Frieburg? 2-3 nights (this area could be cut if that helps)
Fussen or Reutte- Ludwig castles, Oberammergau, Zugspitze 2-3 nights
Salzburg/Berchtesgaden 2-3 nights
Vienna 3-4 nights

Then we would love to add Budpaest and Prague 2-3 nights each?

We are not adverse to renting a car and driving but would prefer to keep driving portions minimal and don’t really want to start Day 1 with a rental car. Although we would if it makes most sense.
I don’t need train schedules/costs etc now- just need some help with a logical route.

I can’t seem to figure how/where to start and end- Rothenburg seems to be the most difficult to fit in! Seems easiest to get to/from with a car.

Idea #1-
Fly into Frankfurt- Rhine- Rothenburg- Black Forest- Fussen- Munich- Salzburg- Vienna- Budapest- Prague
Fly home from Prague

Idea #2 Skip Prague and Black Forest
Fly to Budapest via Frankfurt
Budapest-Vienna- Salzburg- Fussen- Munich- Rothenburg- Rhine
Fly home from Frankfurt (or maybe sub Brussels for Prague and fly home from Brussels)

Can anyone give me some advice just to get me started?

Thanks :)

Posted by
2081 posts


where is what i do:

  1. Use google maps. I will zoom into the counties i wish to visit and make several prints of the area I'm looking at visiting.
  2. make several print outs of the area.
  3. start marking up the map with the cities i want to visit. i just circle the cites i want. I dont number them, but i just circle the places so that i have an idea on where i want to go. If there are any day side trips, i dont add those since it will just want to make sure i add the city i will make the side trip from. If I'm going to stay overnight and move from that side trip city to another one, then i will add it.
  4. connect the dots

from there, you may see some path to take. Not that it maybe the best path, but its a start.

then you maybe able to look at where to fly in/out of.

again, this is what i do and it maybe to involved for many. Good luck.

happy trails.

Posted by
4956 posts

Thank you Ray

I do have maps! and can see the dots I need to connect. Sort of.
I guess what I was looking for is advice on where/when train or car.

Would this make sense?
Fly to FRA- train to Rhine 2 nights
*Where to pick up car?
Drive to Rothenburg 2 nights
Drive to Black Forest 2 nights
Drive to Fussen 3 nights
Drive to Munich drop car 3 nights
Train to Salzburg- 3 nights
Train to Vienna (then Budapest then Prague)

Posted by
2081 posts


I hate driving in the USA and anywhere else so i will let others that love to sit behind a wheel say where to and not.

i just got back from some of those places: Munich, Budapest, Prague and Vienna and some others. I allocated 3 days in each city this year and it seemed to work out okay.

But i love using the trains overthere as much as possible. One day i will have to drive, but for the mean time, i will use public transportation as much as i can.

Sounds like a really nice trip.

happy trails.

Posted by
2815 posts

Hi Christine,

I've never used public trans. in Germany or Austria. Also never been to the Black Forest or Vienna. These aside, your trip from Frankfurt to Salzburg looks good to me. We did a trip in 10/07, arrived at Frankfurt at 7am., drove along the Rhine, visited Marksburg Castle and wound up in Cochem on the Mosel around 3 pm. Spent 4 nights here. We then spent 2 nights in Rothenburg before heading to the Berchtesgaden area for another 4 nights. Love the Berchtesgaden area. We stayed on 5 trips for a total of 18 nights and still look forward to visitng again.

You didn't ask, but I'd stay in Fuessen, which is a charming old town, instead of Reutte. We stayed twice and loved both visits. The Zugspitze is easy from Ehrwald, Austria (we did this), not far from Fuessen.

Outside of my lack of knowledge of the logistics of getting to and from the Black Forest, the plan looks fine.


Posted by
18001 posts

Might as well pick the car up at the airport. The Rhine gorge area is just an hour or so from FRA.

Posted by
58 posts

Hi Christine---
My husband and I just spent 5 weeks touring most of the area you are describing plus 2 other countries. We flew into Frankfurt and its a super easy airport to navigate. We spent the first night in Frankfurt because we'd been traveling for 24 hours. We stayed at the Melia Hotel by the Old Opera. We did get a car at the airport and it was all pretty easy.

I was not impressed with the Rhine as we first drove to Mainz for breakfast. I was glad that I booked our first 2 nights in Baden Baden which was perfect for relaxing, getting over the jet lag, going to the awesome spas there (not that expensive and really amazing--not to be missed in my opinion) and walking around shopping and seeing sites. Then we headed down the Black Forest Highway which was simply stunning. It is an amazing road and just enchanting--not a lot of tourist stops, just very beautiful actually breathtaking scenery. We stopped at a Farm Museum which was interesting and then headed on further south. I loved this area of Germany.

Later in our trip we took the train from Salzburg into Munich and picked up a car again, drove south of Munich to my Grandmother's birthplace of Wolfratshausen and then back over to Salzburg, which is only an hour away. We then moved on to stay at Alpenhof in the Berteshgaden area. I love that area! That area is worth at least 3 night especially if you like to walk in the woods, be outdoors or go boating on the Lake. Also the Eagles Nest is there which is an amazing history lesson and worth a half day if you want to learn about Hitler and that time in history.

As for Salzburg and Vienna they are about an hour apart by train--very simple. We stayed 6 nights in Vienna and it was too much for us. It is rather touristy, crowded and kind of snobby. We had fun though while there. I did some great shopping and brought home some lovely linen and cotton blouses for myself. In Vienna I went to the Freud museum, took a boat ride on the Rhine (which was a total waste of time) and walked all around town many times visiting museums and taking in the history of classical music and learning more about the war history.

We also stayed in Budapest for 3 nights. We cut our trip short by 1 night and we did not enjoy Budapest. We didn't get to Prague and we wish we would've skipped Budapest and stayed in Prague. Next time!

Let me know if you have any specific questions. We flew out of Munich which was very easy.

Posted by
15365 posts

Vienna is between Prague and Budapest, so to see them both would probably mean back-tracking. It's about 3.5-4 hours by train to Budapest and about 5 hours to Prague. I visited both in one trip and liked Prague better, but in hindsight, probably just because I had mostly sunshine in Prague and mostly rain in Budapest. Both are great destinations.

Posted by
5055 posts

I would like to correct some misinformation from Carol's post above.

Salzburg to Vienna is 2.5 hours by train and longer by car.

Vienna is on the Danube, not the Rhine.

For you itinerary, I would ditch the car in Munich and use trains from that point forward. You really don't want or need a car in the large cities.

Posted by
2077 posts

We have done most of this by train. I find it more relaxing than driving. one criterium to decide is whether you are visiting things in each destination or you will be making many stops between overnight stays. Most of the places you list are cities where a car is a liability.

Rothenburg is at the end of a spur line, but it is easy to get to - hundreds of people do it each day. The trains are coordinated so you get off one train and a couple of minutes later, you are on your way on the next.

For the Black Forest, unless you are going for a spa experience, I would instead stay in Gengenbach, one of my favorite places, relatively unknown to Enlish speaking tourists. Nearby is the Vogtsbauernhof open air musem and the Gutach summer toboggan.

How many in your group? Couple, family?

Posted by
261 posts

Christine, what a nice planning "problem" to have . So far there are many good points from fellow posters, but much of the advice offered comes down to personal preference. My planning principles: rental car, smaller cities and villages, and, less is more (don't attempt to visit all of your European bucket list destinations in one trip0. Your 3 plus weeks plan sounds do-able but I covered much of the same itinerary via two trips of 2.5 weeks plus each. With a car you could rent bikes in Bachrach one day, and hike to the castle along the Mosel the next day (sorry, but I'm blocking on it's name). Baden-Baden was a nice base, and with a car we drove out of the city to pick up Black Forest trails; and, down the AutoStasse is an amazing Roman site in Triere. While RS guides are the backbone for my planning, many other towns & villages can be fabulous destinations - Bamberg is one of my favorite (but, not a peak from RS). All of the Ludwig castles and small towns were great fun. Assuming that you've already purchased the RS guides, I'd list out the sights and activities that move you, add the driving, and then allocate time accordingly. For example, Melk is a scenic stop; you might only be interested in the abbey, but it's offers on of the most scenic bike rides along the Danube (see Jan's posting from 10/7/14). Prague & Budapest demand least 3 nights each - but don't miss Czeny Krumlov or a one or two small en route.
If you'd like more specific details send me a PM. Have a great trip.

Posted by
4956 posts

Wow--Thanks! lots of great info and advice.
It will be just my husband and myself 60/64 at time of trip- husband is retiring in a few months so we will have unlimited time (but not unlimited funds!)
We just spent 18 nights in Italy and could have easily stayed on longer, so we decided next trip would be as long as we could afford.
After I devour all the above info I am sure I will have a dozen more questions!

Posted by
339 posts

One thing that i do when I am beginning to plan a trip is to make a calendar of the dates that i am thinking about. A big calendar. It helps because some places and some sites can be closed on some days of the week. And then I am always revising it. For me it helps visualize how our time will be spent.

Posted by
4956 posts

What did you not like about the Rhine area? Did you only visit Mainz?
Was thinking it would be a good “get over jet lag” spot and can’t see that we would need a car while there- although I realize it is a short drive from FRA-that’s probably 2 extra days on the rental plus more $$ to pick up at airport.

Where did you drop first car?

What turned you off about Budapest?

Not a fan of backtracking either! but sometimes the map dictates a backtrack. I know both Budapest and Prague are 3-5 hours from Vienna- from Budapest to Prague it’s a 7 hour train- not sure I want to do that! We may need to pick just one of those cities. My thinking is both are doable- not sure if/when we’d be in “train proximity” to either in near future.

Car- absolutely do not want car in cites, of that I am sure! Looks like maybe a 7 day rental to use for Germany countryside locations is our best bet. Just need to figure out where to pick it up.

Stephen- I am looking at Gengenbach- looks lovely.
My great-grandmother was born in Baden-Baden- would like to see the town but don’t necessarily need to stay there- so thanks for that recommendation.

Rothenburg- you make getting there by train sound easy! My great-grandfather was born in Rothenburg- so I did want to keep that in our itinerary.

Bamberg looks intriguing as well and Nuremberg is close by- hmmm… might just need to allot 24 days to Germany!

Craig- we like a mix of villages/little bit of city and I am not crazy about the Vienna-Budpaest-Prague plan -that’s 3 cities in a row! I don't think we would be stopping at small towns in that leg, so train seems best there.

Going to do some reading about Brussels- just to see if that is more logical as our “extra”. But my daughter will be living in Holland for a few months next spring and I am planning to visit her, figured I could see Brussels at that time.

I actually do have RS Germany 2012- but am holding off on purchasing any other books til 2015 editions. I’ve learned to use them along with other resources. We have not been impressed with some of RS recommendations for must dos here and there ;)

Claire- I will do that once I have actual dates- trip is hopefully in late Aug/early Sept 2015 but might get pushed to spring 2016.

Any advice on which would be a better time period to tour this area?

If you spent 24 days in just Germany/Austria only- how would you allot those days?
We'd love to stay in longer term accomodations-apartments, farmhouses, etc but find that really works better for stays of 5-6 days.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ ChristineH,


Here is what i had from my trip. you can take it as you see fit and how you want do things and see things. note that travel times may vary with how many train stops or not there is on the train you select to travel on at that time of day/week/year. This is from my information/itinerary from sept 2014.

These are all approximate train times i pulled from various countries web sites and used as my estimates. I didnt compare to what the actually time was but my feeling is that they were close.

Munich > Prague - 4h.

Prague > Vienna - 4h30m.

Vienna > Budapest - 3h

i would take a wild guess that going the opposite way would be about the same time if the stops were the same.

look at for info. all you need to do is to plug and chug to/from and see whats what. there will also be links to the countries train web site too. You can also use too. but you may not get $$$ on many trains outside of Germany. But you can get an idea on where they go, dont and how many transfers are needed if any.

happy trails.

Posted by
58 posts

I would recommend that you take the train from FRA to Mainz for your overnight or two there. Pick up your car there and head to your next destination. Driving is so easy in Germany.

The area from Baden Baden to Freiburg is full of fun things to see and do. We did not see one castle so I can't be any help with those.

As for your question about the river (which one? Rhine I think) it was just dirty, and a regular river. Sorry to be blunt. We had breakfast at the Hilton along the river in Mainz. The hotel seems nice but the area is not that great (or at least at 7am it didn't seem so great) and the breakfast was about $40 US each.....I was shocked but we were pretty hungry and didn't want to hunt for a place.

I used a great book for our driving portions....its called "Drive Around Bavaria and the Austrian Tyrol" and I also used the Lonely Planet book for Germany. We are really easy going travelers and wanted to have ideas about what most interested us in terms of each location but we wanted to relax each day as well. We had five weeks and five major areas that we wanted to visit. I planned each section of the trip based on the most desirable way to transit from one place to another with the least amount of time and hassle. We went Frankfurt, Baden Baden, Badenweiler, (dropped car off in Loerach, took train to Interlaken), then train to Venice, then flew to Budapest, then train to Vienna, train to Salzburg, the train to Munich to pick up car, Salzburg to Berteshgaden by car, then car to Garmish - Partenkirschen (sp?) the car to Munich to fly home.

I suggest that you use either Frankfurt or Munich for your Prague connection. I could not find a flight from Budapest to Prague (or maybe it was super expensive....but I think I couldn't find one) and we didn't want to be on the train at that point for 7 hours.

Posted by
15365 posts

Christine, this is your second trip - but from what you've written, it's hardly your last. I've learned that you can't see everything so enjoy everything you see. You know what pace you're comfortable with. Don't try to squeeze in more than that. The rest will be there in a year or two when you go back!

If you are flying in or out of Frankfurt, spend at least 2 days there. It's has lots of wonderful sights and I found it to be more like my preconceived image of Germany than any other city. Frankfurt escaped most of the bombing of WWII so there is little post-war building.

Posted by
4956 posts

Thanks Chani- this will actually be our 5th trip and we do have a good idea of how we like to travel.
I will take a look at Frankfurt- had not really thought of spending time in the city- but your comment has me wondering if a short stay there would be an option.

Posted by
1064 posts

I don't share Carol's opinion about the Rhine, but if my frame of reference were Mainz, I probably would not have a favorable opinion of the river, either. Rick takes a lot of heat at times for heaping praise on the Rhine Gorge and dismissing Mainz, among others north and south of the gorge, as the Not-So-Romantic Rhine. Yet he has a point. If you want to experience the best part of the Rhine, stay in one of the towns along the scenic part or just back from it.

Also, although I do agree with Chani about Frankfurt being worth a visit -- as is Mainz, for that matter, if you have the time -- Frankfurt was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during WWII, and much of it was rebuilt in solid but uninspiring style in the 1950s and '60s. Then the skyscraper bug took hold in the '70s. Some important buildings survived the war and some were rebuilt more thoughtfully in recent decades.

Posted by
3319 posts

As you already have Rick Steves' Germany book, I recommend Frommer's "Germany's Best-Loved Driving Tours; 25 Unforgettable Itineraries". Excellent maps and details of some of the locations on your list. It is a small book; about 176 pages; small enough to throw in your backpack, but packed with good information.

Posted by
58 posts

Roy--thanks for the comment about the Rhine. I did factor in that if we'd gotten out on a cruise we would enjoy the river and the small towns along it much more than what we saw in Mainz. Good point!

This is what I love about these forums is that so many of us saw different aspects of each part of the country and we all have interesting perspectives.

I also agree that Frankfurt is worth staying in and enjoying. I definitely would go back and stay there for 2 or 3 nights. We stayed our first night and it was fun.