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Need Advice on Germany, Switzerland, Austria Itinerary

My husband and I are planning a 3 week trip to Germany, Switzerland and Austria in Oct. 2019. We’ve been to a few areas in Germany (Munich, Oberammergau area) and Interlachen, Switzerland on prior trips. We fly in to Frankfurt and depart from Vienna. We will have a car in both Germany and Switzerland, and then will be traveling to Salzburg and Vienna via train. I have the following itinerary loosely planned:

  1. Arrive Frankfurt late afternoon for 2 nights. Planning on a cruise on the Middle Rhine (St. Goarshausen to Rudesheim) for our only day in the city.
  2. Drive to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for 2 nights. Explore areas around Wurzburg (Residence Palace, Wertheim am Main) in route. Visit Dinkelsbuhl and Schloss Harburg.
  3. Drive to Stuttgart for 1 night. Visit: MB museum and possibly Porsche.
  4. Drive through the Black Forrest to Lake Constance for 3 nights. Considering the towns of Konstanz, Meersburg or Lindau as a base. Visit: Lake Dwellings, Mainau Island.
  5. Drive to Lake Lucerne for 3 nights. Visit: Mt. Pilatus and/or Mt. Titlis, old town, Chapel Bridge; cruise on Lake Lucerne.
  6. Drive to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for 2 nights. Visit: Linderhoff castle, Mittenwald, Zugspitze.
  7. Train to Salzburg for 4 nights. Visit: Hallstatt, Mirabelle Palace, Eagle’s Nest.
  8. Train to Vienna for 4 nights. Visit: Museums, Schonbrunn, possibly visit the Wachau Valley.

I have 1 remaining night to spend either tacked on somewhere in the current plan, or in a new location; considering Colmar or Strausbourg, Fr. as options. I would appreciate any input regarding the number of days we have allocated for the various locations (too much/too little), other interesting sites (especially around the Black Forest region) or things that shouldn’t be missed! We’ve done a fair amount of driving through Europe and look forward to scenic roads through the Alps etc. I know this is a huge list; I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point.

Posted by
5552 posts

"Arrive Frankfurt late afternoon for 2 nights. Planning on a cruise on the Middle Rhine (St. Goarshausen to Rudesheim) for our only day in the city."

I assume you don't mean "city" but instead mean "for our only day in this area" as you will in fact not have much time to speak of in the city of Frankfurt.

As for the cruise, you have a choice - either your planned cruise from St. Goarshausen to R'heim (3 hours) or a cruise from R'hem to St. Goarshausen (1 hr. 50 minutes.) Since you will see the same scenery either way, I suggest you go with the shorter cruise - so it's train to R'heim, cruise to St. Goarshausen, then later back to Frankfurt by train.

The KD cruise schedule ends on October 20, just FYI.

You should have time to do something else on this day. It's not clear whether you plan time in R'heim. You could do that. You might tour Rheinfels Castle in St. Goar. With a cruise ticket to St. Goarshausen, you can stop off in St. Goar for Rheinfels and continue on the same cruise ticket to St. Goarshausen afterward.

Marksburg Castle in Braubach is a fully intact medieval castle. I suggest looking into that option as an alternative to Rheinfels, and if interested, you'll need to make a change in your train plans, but that shouldn't be hard to work out. Marksburg is in Braubach, only about 20 minutes north of St. Goarshausen.

It would be a shame not to visit one castle or the other, I think.

Posted by
3618 posts

Since you mentioned exploring the area around Wurzburg consider this option. If you have the time, consider starting the Romantic Road portion of your trip in Aschaffenburg. It has a neat castle and a replica of a Pompeiian (sp?) estate house. Just south of there on the old road to Wurzburg is the town of Haibach and just south of there is the village of Mespelbrun which has been in the same family for four or five centuries. It's still lived in and is surrounded by a moat. A real fairy tale place and tours are usually available. Then it's an easy drive to Wurzburg and the Rothenburg. Do a google search for Aschaffenburg, Mespelbrun, and Wurzburg and see what you think.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you Russ for your valuable input regarding the castles. I’ve been doing more reading, and am now sold on spending 3 nights in the Rhineland, rather than the original 2 nights in Frankfurt. We arrive in Frankfurt at 4:30 pm, and after picking up luggage and clearing customs, will drive to Bacharach, as this seems to be a good base for exploring either by car or by boat.

Posted by
5552 posts

Bacharach's main draw is its collection of attractive old half-timbered buildings.

When you cruise, you can use BINGEN as your boarding town instead of Rüdesheim - it's on the same side of the river as Bacharach and Rheinfels Castle (in St. Goar) and just across the river fron Rüdesheim. You'll get to see all the same scenery from Bingen.

As a base for river cruising - and without going into a lot of logistical details - I'll just advise you that two other towns to the north, St. Goar and Boppard, make cruising a bit simpler. And for a 3-night stay, I think one of these last two would be more suitable on other grounds as well. St. Goar has an especially attractive setting, and several hotels there are well-positioned to take full advantage of it (Rheinhotel St. Goar and the Hotel Rheinfels among them.) Like St. Goar, Boppard also has a very nice waterfront area which includes an even greater number of river-view hotels and a river promenade. Bacharach has nothing like this since the town sits well back from the river and the railway separates the town from the riverfront. The in-town hotels there can only snuggle up to the tracks, (with possibly harsh consequences for your 3 nights there.)

Boppard is not large (15,000 residents) but it's about 7 times larger than Bacharach, an advantage in October when the tourist season has already passed and you're looking for an open restaurant or wine bar or something to do in town. There are numerous dining and hotel choices there. And it's a very attractive town too. I'm not sure how you plan to spend your 2 full days in the area, but a Boppard location makes it a little easier to visit places north of Koblenz (like Remagen and the WW II museum there) as well as Marksburg Castle (just ferry across from Boppard and drive a few minutes to Braubach.) And of course Rheinfels and St. Goar are just as close to Boppard as they are from Bacharach.

If you stay in Boppard or St. Goar, be sure to make a stop in Bacharach at some point for a short while. It's a handsome place.

If in the end you end up in Bacharach, be careful about location and check for noise complaints in the reviews. Some folks choose to stay slightly out of town in the quieter Steeg Valley, where a small stream passes on its way to the Rhine.

As for the car, I advise against picking it up after a long overnight international flight when you are very likely to be tired, jet-lagged, sleepy - and an impaired driver. One solution would be just to take the train to your Rhine town. Direct trains from FRA airport to Boppard depart typically at 17:23 and 18:23 and take about 75 minutes. It's hard to say what time your plane will actually land, and how long it will take you to get through baggage and security - and how long to reach the rental outlet and do your pick-up. But the FRA airport station is right in the terminal, and trains run at :23 and :37 after every hour on a normal day.

I believe Autoeurope / Europcar offers car pick-up at the Koblenz Hbf station (a 15-min. train ride from Boppard.) You could pick up a car there sometime during your stay. I picked up there once several years ago.

Posted by
8 posts

I appreciate the wisdom of staying in Frankfurt for the night after retrieving our luggage and car, and then starting off the following morning for the drive to the Rhineland for a 2 night stay. This plan would allow for the leisurely exploration of sites on our way to lodging in Boppard, which looks very inviting. Do you have any suggestions for an overnight stay relatively close to FRA and toward the Rhineland?

Posted by
5552 posts

Mainz is 25 minutes from FRA by direct train - several hotel options near the station there - and you must pass through Mainz anyway on your way to Boppard, so it's a smart choice in that regard. The Regionalbahnhof at FRA airport (one of two stations there) sends off local trains to Mainz every few minutes. A one-way "RMV" ticket bought from a ticket machine there costs €4.95/each.

This photo of the station building was taken from the plaza out front:
https://www.eisenbahn-kurier.de/images/stories/2b-dierk-bilder/41995162.jpg

This photo shows the view in the opposite direction across the plaza. You can see the Königshof, the Hammer, and the Eden, all hotels just across from the main station, in the background behind the station tram stop:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ingolfbln/6577102401

Whether picking up a car in Mainz is easy or not, I cannot say from experience. Europcar does list "Mainz Railway Station" as a pick-up location, so "on paper" it looks feasible. Mainz has been a sort of travel base for me for decades, but I've never wanted or needed to rent a car there because of the excellent train system that serves the region. Trains run up and down the Rhine on both sides of the river, north to Koblenz and beyond to Remagen, Bonn and Cologne, stopping in every town every hour (or better) and starting well before dawn and continuing until around midnight.

"Left" side, where you'd be staying on nights 2 and 3:
https://www.mittelrheinbahn.de/assets/images/6/MRB_Karte_Streckennetz_2018-66058e06.svg
"Right" side train route:
http://www.vias-online.de/data/9_netzplan_rhg.jpg

Posted by
16719 posts

As you will be driving in Switzerland, be sure to purchase a vignette for the car and attach it properly on the wind shield. Buy at the border or at a gas station near the border.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you Russ for the follow up. I’ve secured lodging in both Mainz and Boppard per your recommendation. We’re looking forward to our first morning visiting a few sites in Mainz, followed by stops at Burg Rheinstein and Bacharach, on our way to Boppard. We can cover Burg Rheinfels, the Marksburg, and WWII sites during our stay in Boppard.

Posted by
8 posts

TC/Russ/Anyone – Heading south from Boppard to the Romantic Road portion of our trip, I’m wondering if the following will be too much for one day: Drive from Boppard to Aschaffenburg for tour of Johannisburg Palace, then drive to Wurzburg for 1:30 (English speaking) tour of the Würzburg Residence. On the way to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, detour to Iphofen for wine tasting/wandering. I’m thinking we’ll get in to Rothenburg late afternoon and can tour the city early the following day. I’m planning on spending 2 nights in Rothenburg and then driving to Stuttgart to the Mercedes Benz museum. We could possibly tour Dinkelsbuhl prior to our drive to Stuttgart, and then spend the night in Stuttgart. There is so much we’d like to see and do, but I don’t want to feel like I’m rushing from spot to spot. I appreciate having time to wander the streets, sit in a café, have a coffee and a treat, and soak up the surroundings.

Posted by
3618 posts

Drive from Boppard to Aschaffenburg for tour of Johannisburg Palace, then drive to Wurzburg for 1:30 (English speaking) tour of the Würzburg Residence.

It can be done if you get an early start that morning. But you will be rushed to do justice to Johannisburg and the replica of Pompeii in Aschaffenburg, not to mention Mespelbrun. If possible, you might consider devoting the whole day to Aschaffenburg, Mespelbrun, and part of Wurzburg during the late afternoon. Then stay overnight in W'burg, tour the Residence the next morning, and then take the fairly short drive to Rothenburg. That way you can really soak up the places rather than just having a once over lightly. Just a suggestion if you can arrange it.

Posted by
5552 posts

"On the way to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, detour to Iphofen for wine tasting/wandering."

I am not familiar with Aschaffenburg - no comment there.

Iphofen is lovely but the detour may be too much, so have a look instead at Sommerhausen, which is a Main River wine town closer to your route:

https://www.sommerhausen.de/en/

Posted by
613 posts

Wurzburg (Residence Palace

I've been there twice & don't recall ever taking a tour. Usually there are 3 options at such sights: DIY, English tour, German Tour which usually has an English, French etc booklet for you to borrow (these translations are often hilarious).

I prefer DIY tours. Do you really want to hear the history of 47 dukes of this or that?

Posted by
613 posts

If there is a nonstop flight from Portland to FRA, consider treating yourself to business class.

A United desk agent once thanked us for good behavior in the line by bumping us to business for a flight from FPA to SLC. Now my wife refuses to fly anywhere if it's more than 2 hours unless its business.

Posted by
613 posts

5 The 3 Passes road trip if good weather.
Plan itineraries for both good (see the Alps) and bad weather (see museums,, churches, and quaint villages

8 Abbey at Melk (Wachau Valley.)- one of the top sights in Europe.
The State Library at the Hofburg.
Diner in Grinzing
Drink dunkle beer.

Eat Wienerschnitzel & Backhendle

4 Base: Meersburg or Reichenau Island (not many international tourists. lots of vacationing natives).

Posted by
613 posts

I've driven all or part of the Black Forest 3-4 times and I'd advise you to skip it. Same for Stuttgart. Consider using the time saved to drive to Vienna. Austria is prime country for a road trip.

The last time we drove in Switzerland, had to pay $25 at the border for a widow sticker allowing a German car to drive in Switzerland. check it out.

Posted by
2982 posts

but I don’t want to feel like I’m rushing from spot to spot. I appreciate having time to wander the streets, sit in a café, have a coffee and a treat, and soak up the surroundings.

You're definately rushing the Romantic Road-Stuttgart-Black Forest-Lake Constance part of the trip.

It kills me to say this because hey, I live here, but skip Stuttgart unless seeing the Mercedes Museum is some lifelong dream, in which case, skip something else and stay longer in the region. Sure, it's "only" a little over 2 hours from RodT to Stuttgart, but that doesn't take into account construction and massive traffic that you will inevitably experience multiple times on the road here.

There's no sense in driving "through" the Black Forest to get to Lake Constance, it's not on the way (it's to the west) and compared to the places you're going, it's not particularly scenic or interesting.

My suggestion would be to go directly to Lake Constance from RodT, possibly staying overnight along the way. There are a ton of great sites to visit here: In addition to doing the Romantic Road itself you could divert to Swabisch Hall or Schwabish Gmund, which are both lovely, you could stop in Ulm to see the Cathedral, the monastery and pool at Blaubeuren, Ravensburg, and I would base in Lindau or Meersburg but the Zepplin Museum in Fredrichshafen is well worth a visit.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks Sarah for your input and ultimately getting me back on track touring the areas along the Romantic Road. Leaving Rothenburg, I’d like to visit Dinkelsbuhl and Nördlingen, and then either Schwäbisch Hall or Schwäbisch Gmünd. Correct me if I am wrong, but between the two, Schwäbisch Hall seems to offer more sightseeing options (museums and the market place). If we stay the night in Ulm, we can visit Blaubeuren the following morning before driving to Lake Constance for 2-3 nights (either Meersburg or Lindau). The Zeppelin Museum is on my list of places to visit.

Posted by
2982 posts

I'd say Swabisch Hall has more to see, yes, and if you're choosing between the two, I'd go with that one. This plan sounds great! Ulm gets a bad rap because it was mostly rebuilt in a modern way, but the Munster and the Fisherman's Quarter are really quite lovely, and there's a great biergarten on the banks of Danube if the weather is still nice enough.

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8 posts

Continuing on from Ulm, I have 3 nights booked in Meersburg and another 3 nights outside of Lake Lucerne. From Lucerne, my plan was to drive back to Germany and connect with the German Alpine Road in Lindau, and continue to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for 3 nights. I plan on returning the rental car in Garmisch, and then taking a train to Salzburg (4 nights) and then Vienna (4 nights). After doing some reading about the German Alpine Road, I’m wondering about driving the entire stretch of the Alpine Road (over the course of 4 days/3 nights) ending at Lake Konigssee. Would this timeframe allow for visits to various sites (Zugspitze, Linderhoff Palace, Ettal Abbey, etc.) along the way? Or, would we be spending our time more wisely staying based in Garmisch and exploring the surrounding areas as originally planned? I’ve read mixed reviews about certain sections of the Alpine road.