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Need Help - North, South, or East of Munich in May?

Hello everyone! My wife and I are going to Germany in May. We land in Munich May 23 and fly out May 31 (8 nights in Germany). I struggled more with this trip than other ones I've planned because it doesn't feel like we have enough time to do everything we want to.

We would love to visit North of Munich and see the little towns and smaller cities (Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Regensburg, Wurzbug, Bamberg, etc). We would love to visit South of Munich and spend some time in the alps (Neuschwanstein Castle is a must for my wife, Fussen, Mittenwald, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Oberammergau, etc.), and we'd also love to go East of Munich (Konigssee, Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, Hallstatt for the wife). And we would want to spend a little time in Munich as well. I know that this is probably impossible with 8 nights. My guess is we might could do 2 “regions” plus Munich, but I’m not sure.

So my question is which region(s) would you cut, if any? How many days would you spend in each place? And within each area, which places would you consider must-see and which would you consider skippable (you can include places I didn't mention)? Also, I'd love your recommendations on the best towns to stay in for each region you recommend.

We like:
- cute towns, hiking, scenic views, and good food
We're not as big on:
-museums or small, detailed historical sites (we would definitely want to go to the Dachau Concentration camp but not the site of some small WWII battle or something like that)
-We also are planning on renting a car once we leave Munich, and we don't want to be in the car several hours every day, but we don't mind doing a couple hours of driving every 2 or 3 days. And we're fine with changing hotels two or three times as well if needed.

Sorry this is such a long post. My brain is really scattered trying to think through this, so any advice or recommendations you have would be so very appreciated! Thank you!

Posted by
28078 posts

kids in a candy store, huh?

I see a couple of places important to your wife there - Hallstatt and Neuschwanstein, and Dachau concentration camp for both of you but I don't see any of the places you list as those which specifically call out to you....

First time to Europe? First time to Germany, or first time to Bavaria?

So is it land in Munich, a couple of days in Munich including Dachau concentration camp, and then get a car for the rest of the time?

Posted by
1219 posts

In my opinion, it would make more sense to cut out the northern section (Rothenburg o.d.T, etc) and focus on Munich for a couple of nights (with a day trip to Dachau), then drive down to Neuschwanstein and area, and head over to Salzburg. A friend of mine and I did this about 10 years ago and I think it's definitely do-able in your time frame. The drive is not that long and very beautiful for a lot of the way. You could do an overnight or two in lower Bavaria area and then head to Salzburg, which is definitely worth several nights. I did not expect to enjoy Salzburg as much as I did, but I loved it and there is a lot to do. We stayed at a guesthouse outside of town, which was nice and calm and then took the bus into town each day.

So IF it were me, I would probably spend at least 2-3 nights in Munich, 2 nights in the Fussen/lower Bavaria area and 2-3 nights in Salzburg.

Posted by
5602 posts

- museums or small, detailed historical sites (we would definitely want to go to the Dachau Concentration camp but not the site of some small WWII battle or something like that)

I notice you didn't express an interest in big cities of 1.5+ million which were flattened in WW II. Most visitors seem to think they must be anchored to Munich when they visit Bavaria (which includes all of your stated destinations outside Munich except for Hallstatt and Salzburg.) Since you want small towns, hiking, and scenery and you aren't big on museums or historical sites, then maybe Munich is only good for 1-2 nights - or maybe even just a mid-day beer hall stopover - and the rest of your time ought to be spent in the kind of places that suit you.

I'll lay out what I see as a fast-paced but workable itinerary that includes much of what you have on your list...

DAY 1: I would suggest an afternoon and evening in Munich upon arrival. Take the train in from MUC airport, and pick up the car the next morning - no sense in taking on impaired driving (and impaired you might just be after a transatlantic red-eye flight.)

Day 2: Drive to Dachau, then to G-P for 3 nights.

Days 3-4: sightseeing

Day 5: Spend 8 more hrs. in the area? no later than around 16:00, drop the car in G-P and catch the train to Nuremberg from G-P for 2 nights - it's less than 3 hrs. altogether. You'll arrive in time for dinner in Nuremberg, which is NOT so far north of Munich when you take the train (1 hr.)

Nuremberg, in addition to being a charming and walkable city, is the ideal base town for day trips to the places in the area that you mention. You do not have time for all your wish-towns, just accept it. But you can make wise choices. BAMBERG and IPHOFEN (talk about cute towns!) would be at the top of my list. Both are just 45 minutes by DIRECT train - hourly service all day long, terribly easy, and inexpensive as well like €22/couple round trip with this day pass - so you could conceivably have some time in Nuremberg as well on Days 6 & 7 with these outings.

Day 6: sightseeing/day trip

Day 7: sightseeing/day trip until around 18:00; then catch the train from Nuremberg into Munich (1 hr.) for your final night.

Day 8: morning train to airport

Posted by
1219 posts

I just went and looked at the blog I wrote when I did that trip and we actually did it a bit quicker than I said. In fact, we left Munch in a rental car, drove to Rothenburg o.b.T and spend the first night there. Then the second day, we drove down south through lower Bavaria, saw Neuschwanstein Castle, Oberammergau and that area. Then we drove on to Salzburg and spend 2 nights, drove back to Munich, and we saw Dachau after we got back and returned the rental car.

It's tighter than I would recommend, but you have more time than we did (I was there for 2 weeks, but my friend only had 5 days). My point is that you could, if you really wanted to see Rothenburg, add one night there and then head south. I liked Rothenburg - it is a town built on tourism, as many here have said, but that does't mean it's not worth seeing. I especially wanted to see the Tillman Riemenschneider wooden sculptures in the church, and that was worth it for me. But it's extremely beautiful in its own right. And the drive from Rothenburg down is not really that long. You won't have time to see much else around Rothenburg while you're there, but one night in the town is doable if would really like to see it. I know that I did not feel terribly rushed during our trip down there.

Now having said that, the one drive from Rothenburg down to the Fussen area was long - probably 3-4 hours? So that may be more than you would like to do in a day. And in that case, I would recommend skipping Rothenburg and just focusing on Munich, lower Bavaria and Salzburg.

Posted by
34 posts

@Nigel - Yes, definitely kids in a candy store! We’ve been to France, Italy, and Spain, but this will be our first time to Germany. The pictures of Königssee lake I’ve seen look unreal. I’d say that’s another place we’d at least want to stop by for some amount of time.

@Mardee - Thank you for that detailed response and your recommendations as far as days in each place. I was guessing the main response from people might be to cut out the area north of Munich. Are there any cute villages or towns south or east of Munich you’d recommend stopping by or staying in?

Posted by
5602 posts

Actually, I shorted you one night!! So spend 3 nights in Nuremberg and perhaps include a day trip to one of the other places you mention (Würzburg? Rothenburg?) or just spend more time in Nuremberg, which has a lot to see and do.

Day trip to Würzburg: Use the Bayern Ticket day pass (around €30/couple/day)
Day trip to R'burg: Longer trip, but use the same Tagesticket Plus day pass I previously suggested for Bamberg and Iphofen.

Posted by
34 posts

@Mardee - Thanks for the update! Yeah if you did that in 5 days then 8 would definitely be doable for us.

@Russ - Thank you for the detailed itinerary! I had never heard of Iphofen before. I’ll definitely be researching that! And as you said, I’ve heard Bamberg is awesome!

Posted by
2533 posts

I’d you go to Rothenburg you must stay one night to go on the Nightwatchman’s tour. It is a don’t miss. It is every evening at 8 pm starting April 1. The town also has a great Criminal history museum, not at all as gory or depressing as others. Very well done. There are a few other sights worth checking out as well.

Posted by
1219 posts

Will, you could easily get to many places using Salzburg as a base - for example, Königssee and Berchtesgaden are less than an hour away. Hallstatt is a little farther but still doable.

Also, I assume you know that the Passion Play will be going on while you are there, so Oberammergau will be crowded and expensive. It was going on when we were there in 2010, although we decided not to spend $500 for last minute tickets. :) But we did stop for lunch and walked around the town.

Posted by
5602 posts

I had never heard of Iphofen before. I’ll definitely be researching that!

I'm fairly certain that it's a secret that has largely escaped the pages of English-language travel resources. I first came across this place 20+ years ago at a website titled "Travels with Ed and Julie" and casually added it to my bucket list, where it remained for another 10-12 years before I finally showed up there on a day trip from my base town for 5 days, Neustadt-an-der-Aisch (nearby Iphofen and on the same train line as Iphofen, Nuremberg and Würzburg.) Iphofen gets solid attention from German visitors but is mostly off the radar of international travelers despite its accessible location.

Posted by
34 posts

Thanks for all these great suggestions! I really appreciate all the insight!

Posted by
14 posts

Sounds like most of the "must-sees" are south and east of Munich?

Another thing I consider when planning a trip like this: Could I add one "group" of sites to another trip? Perhaps another trip you'll focus on the Rhine/Mosel valleys, or maybe Dresden/Prague area? It might make sense to add the northern Bavarian cities/towns to one of those trips, than to miss out on Salzburg on this trip and then try make a later trip to those other regions and add on Salzburg.

I think you'll enjoy driving in Bavaria. If you hit all the towns you mentioned in the S and E lists, you'll have a great trip. Once you decide on a place to stay near Salzburg, let them know you'll have a car--they should be helpful with parking (even if you have to pay).

Posted by
34 posts

@Bruce - That’s actually exactly what I was thinking! It seemed to me and my wife that the south and east were the best combination of areas to combine for this trip. North of Munich seems easier to combine with other areas on a future trip. Our tentative plan is:

Hallstatt - 1 night
Berchtesgaden - 2 nights
Mittenwald - 3 nights
Munich - 2 nights

Posted by
874 posts

Nationalpark Berchtesgaden is one of my favorite places, but since you have Hallstatt, AT on your itinerary I would consider going to Salzburg, AT instead. Mittenwald is very nice, but you could dip down to Innsbruck for an overnight, or go somewhere like Kitzbuhel, AT (near the Wild Kaiser). Pertisau, AT on the Achensee could be a nice nature rest too. You could sort of tie things together with a drive thru Pinzgau (Austria) along the Salzach. No need for a Vignette on secondary roads. Sorry you have only 8 days. End of May high season should start kicking in.

I'm 1.5-2 hours from the Main River and the Franken Wine Region. We buy Franken Wein direct from Vinzer every year. Late May is great as it is Spargel (white asparagus) time. Spargel, ham and boiled new potatoes with butter or Hollandaise sauce and Franken white wine in May-June. Doesn't get much better. Hopefully the Wine Fests come back once Covid is vorbei. Should probably save that for the next trip.

Posted by
4 posts

I would suggest that you save Munich for another trip.

I would choose Salzburg and Hallstatt in the Lake District. Do the thrilling mountain drive Grossglockner Strasse (a must, imho). Cable car up Dachstein and stop in a mountain cafe for some germknoedel and coffee. Have a beer in Augustiner garten in Salzburg. Find a hike in one of these areas. Hallstatt is a bit overrated, in my opinion.

I am not a big castle person but you should obviously include places your wife is interested in. With that said, equally great and different would be Fussen, Oberammergau, etc…) and you could perhaps slip in Salzburg. Just my opinion.

Posted by
204 posts

I would throw out there that Freising might be your speed. It is not a large town, has a cute town centre, you can walk along the river, and you can visit the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world (Weihenstephan) for a great beer garden and lovely views. With a car it can easily be done after Dachau as a way to quietly process Dachau. But that's just an idea for one day on the the front or back end of your trip. You could easily stay in Freising rather than Munich proper as a base, too--there is a 20 minute train into the city centre pretty regularly.

Munich highlights can be done in a day or two. Make sure to see the devil's footprint in the church.

Beyond that I am no good at helping you narrow things down, but I can reassure you that whatever you choose will be wonderful. There are no "wrong" choices with the ideas you have.