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Recommendations for two weeks

Hello! We are planning a two week trip to Germany last week of July and first of August with our young adult kids. We usually find that the “official” recommended itineraries from Rick Steves are too fast for us, preferring to see less places and hoping of returning later to see more. We love cities and mountains, hiking, lakes, museums, heard great things about Berlin (wouldn’t want to miss, plus I’m a fan of bands that recorded “historical” albums there) , are interested in visiting the site of a concentration camp, etc. We are adventurous eaters and always want to find good spots. We loved Spain, France, Italy and especially Croatia and Slovenia, and seems like Germany has a good mix of almost everything we loved at the last two. One potential challenge is having one of our children having to meet us midway, not sure how it would work if we are in the middle of the mountains, etc.
Would love to know if car or trains would be best.
Thanks as always, for the great help provided by seasoned travelers at this website.

Posted by
2313 posts

Trains are certainly best for cities. If you need a car to easily access some places, then renting for the day or two is possible.

Look at staying in vacation apartments - ferienwohnung. Usually much cheaper than 2 hotel rooms, much more space, and a fridge for cold drinks, etc. Last trip I stayed in them in 3 of the 4 towns I visited. This next trip it’s 2 of 3.

Posted by
6516 posts

We love cities and mountains, hiking, lakes...

Are you fans of river valleys? These tend to be really interesting focal points for visitors. The Danube River originates in Germany's Black Forest and stretches east and west across the country. The Rhine (great for hikers between Mainz and Bonn!) covers most of Germany from south to north. Both are well known by patrons or European cruise companies, but you don't have to stay onboard to enjoy the riverfront cities and towns along the way. The Main River is a tributary to the Rhine that originates in northeastern Bavaria, in the Fichtelgebirge (mountain range) and meanders westward through some delightful places, including Bamberg and some nice wine regions. Tributaries to the Main like the Regnitz are very productive. Rhine tributaries like the Neckar, the Nahe, the Mosel, and the Lahn are too. The Harz mountains in the former East Germany are a hiking Mecca with wonderful towns to visit including Goslar, Wernigerode and others. That's where the Oder River begins. Which reminds me of Germany's strong river orientation... Rivers are oftne part of the place names... Frankfurt an der Oder / Frankfurt am Main are 2 different cities but the names help identify their locations. Rothenburg ob der Tauber (another River)... Limburg and der Lahn... etc.

The River Valleys are one way to orient yourselves for 4-5 days here, 4-5 days there, and will produce a very different kind of stay than you'd have on a Rick-Race Itinerary.

Posted by
5890 posts

You might enjoy the Quedlinburg area. The town itself has a plethora of half-timbered historic houses (in fact, the town is a UNESCO World Heritage site), and yet remains relatively undiscovered by American tourists. There are plenty of museums and other activities there, but it sits in the Harz Mountains and there is an abundance of hiking and outdoor activities available. There is a steam train you can take that travels up from Wernigerode to the top of the Brocken, the highest peak in northern Germany. There are many other attractive towns in the area that you can visit (or stay in) as well, like Goslar and Wernigerode.

It's not that far from Berlin, either - about 2 hours by car and 3 hours by train. So you could easily fly into Berlin, spend a few days visiting sights there, including Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, then head out to the Harz Mountains. And it would be relatively easy for your child to meet you there.

There are a number of posts here about it, and I have included links to a few so you can see what other members here think.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/quedlinburg-and-the-harz
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/germany/quedlinburg-and-the-brocken
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/germany/harz-mountains

Posted by
7473 posts

If you love hiking and mountains, I strongly recommend southern Bavaria.

I lived in Augsburg for four years and spent a lot of time in Garmish and Berchtesgaden as well as across the border in Austria.

I did a two day hike up to the top of the Zugspitze (highest mountain in Germany) and near Garmisch.
I did the hike twice, once with my 21 year old daughter, then again with my Son, Step-Daughter and Step-Son who were all in their teens.
The hike includes a night in a hutte sleeping on a thin mattress in your clothes. A guide takes you up the mountain. Even in the Summer there is a small glacier near the top.

When we did it the US Military had the Armed Forces Recreation Center there and that is how I booked the hike, but you can probably find a guide these days.

Posted by
1248 posts

If you have not been in and seen the Alps I think that is a must. You are visiting in a good time of the year weather wise. The German Alps do not go far south before Austria (not in the middle of the mountains). Any of the famous and not so famous towns along the border with Austria would be nice. A car will give you more mobility and better options. The distances are not great. From Munich you can drive and be in Innsbruck in 2 hours. Other areas in Bad Wurttemberg and Bavaria would be great too. Achensee in Austria? Berchtesgaden area and Salzburg? Oberstdorf? Reit im Winkl? Can't really go wrong. Bavarian summer school vacation is 31 July -11 September, and Baden Wurttemberg 27 July - 9 September... High season, lots of traffic on the weekends, book now.

Posted by
6516 posts

"Would love to know if car or trains would be best."

Germany's rail network is much more comprehensive than the rail systems in the countries you've visited previously. The dense network gets you just about anywhere and everywhere.

https://www.allianz-pro-schiene.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Netzkarte-by-DB-Systel.png

You should however be careful when booking accommodations - try to book within walking distance of a station, or with short bus/tram connections.

Also, travel by train is more convenient if you pack as Rick Steves advises.

Our family once took some trips to Germany using rental cars, but there are a lot of aggravating variables and conditions that come with renting and driving - traffic, parking, rental industry practices, door dings, insurance matters and legal responsibilities, flat tires, fuel stops, etc. - which get bypassed altogether on train trips. We now use trains exclusively in Germany and are unlikely ever to rent again. For Germany, our answer to your question is trains, without question.

Posted by
1248 posts

I'm not here to quibble. If you want to see the lesser traveled road rent a car. You're on your own timetable and your own route. If you are happy with major cities and tourist destinations (and train travel), then public transportation is a good option. As noted, a hotel near the main train station is recommended for train travel. Taxi is an option in most places too. Many local buses will eventually get you there. Also noted is that a rental has its particular set of issues: Planning, parking, tolls, expense, and fuel expense needs to be taken into account too. A good navigation device is very helpful (car, Navi, Cell etc.) Driving in Europe is not like the USA either, but similar. I live here and drive my own car. Without it and rentals, I would have never been to half my European destinations. I guess it comes down to personnel choice and what you want to do.

Just this weekend we met a local hiking group from München and Nürnberg. They have no cars and limited their destinations based on Bahnhof and walking.

Posted by
71 posts

Thank you all very much for the wonderful information provided. If we’d like a mix of cities and castles/hiking that includes Berlin and Munich, what would a possible itinerary look like for a two week trip? I’m buying Ricks book and studying heavily next week, but would really appreciate a primer. Thanks again!

Posted by
6516 posts

There's a dozen ways to cut up 2 weeks. This would be one way to include the things you've mentioned. All train times are sampled from dates around your travel period and are only examples... you need to look them over on your own, naturally.

  • Fly > Berlin (4 nights including side trip to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.)

  • Half of Day 5 in Berlin; afternoon train to Boppard on the Rhine (15:05 - 20:39) for 4 nights. Take local day trips by train to Rheinfels Castle, Burg Eltz Castle, Marksburg Castle, Bacharach, Cochem (Mosel River) and do part of the Rhine Castle Trail, known in German as the Rheinburgenweg; the segment between St. Goar and Oberwesel is particularly scenic. Catch a train to Bingen for a Rhine cruise back to Boppard. Have a ride on Boppard's chairlift to the top of the cliffs for awesome views. Boppard has a nice waterfront, plenty of accommodations (but book early) and it offers free local train and bus transportation to all guests via the VRM Guest Ticket program.

  • Day 9: Train to Munich (8:23 - 13:26.) afternoon and evening sightseeing in town. Spend 3 nights here.

  • Day 12: Morning train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (8:13 - 9:23) or Mittenwald (a bit further into the mountains) to enjoy the German Alps for 2 nights. Day trip to the Zugspitze and the other town, ride the Karwendelbahn in Mittenwald, visit the Partnach Gorge, more... see page below for basics on Mittenwald and Zugspitze:

https://hastingshouse.typepad.com/hastings_house_us/travel_in_europe/

  • Day 14: train to Munich or MUC airport for final night in Germany prior to flight home.
Posted by
71 posts

Thank you all again! Thoughts between the Rhine or instead adding Salzburg and or more stops in between Munich and Berlin, Rothenburg or Nuremeberg, etc? We will have between 15-16 nights total, and want to follow the days recommended in Berlin and Munich. Not sure that I understand the distances clearly, but seems like flying into Berlin and going to Bacharach, etc is going way west compared to the "Berlin-Munich" line (versus staying towards the eastern side), but perhaps it is doable.

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks! Seems like they are adding other areas, but there's great info here. Just wondering if going west to the romantic route would be too far compared to staying in line with Berlin/Munich and then add Salzburg for two nights, maybe three or four in the Alps after Munich.

Posted by
6516 posts

globulen: It's too difficult to figure out what your "working itinerary" is and what changes you are proposing or asking about in your most recent post. Lay your ideas out using DATES or DAY #'s for each city you are considering for a travel base - then we can provide feedback.

" ...want to follow the days recommended in Berlin and Munich."

Recommendations from whom? Rick Steves? How long you stay in one place or another should probably be decided based on what specific things you want to see/do in that place or nearby that place. Berlin is so huge that most people can figure out at least 3 days of interesting things to do, but others might think a week is better. Others might not go there at all if Berlin doesn't offer what they're looking for. It's just hard to say. Figure that out first, and maybe we can help you calculate how many nights to allocate.

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks Russ. You're right, too vague. Let me clarify now that I've been reading more about it and have made some decisions.
1) The days recommended in Berlin and Munich were recommended....by you.
We have decided to not go to the Rhine, and stay somewhere within the Berlin-Munich line. We are thinking of renting a car.

Here is a potential itinerary, with some gaps that I am asking questions about how best to fill.

7/22 arrive in Berlin and stay for four nights.
7/26 Depart Berlin going "south". Where to stop along the way to break down the drive and where to overnight?
7/26 to 7/27 Is Dresden worth an overnight? Maybe 1 night? Or another place worth stopping for one night before our next day idea of.....
7/27 Driving from Dresden (?) to Wurzburg, do that part of the romantic road to overnight in Rothenburg (Night Watchman's Tour)
Any other way to avoid two 1-nighters from 7/26 to 7/28? Is it too much to drive from Dresden to Wbg, then expect to continue to Rothenburg?

The rest of the trip is likely 3 nights in Munich, 3 nights in Salzburg and 3 in the Alps (Mittenwald as Russ recommended, though Fussen seems closer on the way we're driving?). Not sure what the best order is for that last part of the trip. Open to suggestions. Munich is closer, but unclear if we would drop the car, get another car to Salzburg, then the alps, then back to Munich to depart? Or drive from Rothenburg to Salzburg (another four hour drive after Dresden-Rothenburg), and then do the alps and finish in Munich

So either:
7/28 Drive from Rothenburg to Salzburg (three nights)
8/1 Salzburg to the Alps (three nights)
8/4 Alps to Munich (three or four nights)
8/7 or 8/8 return to the US
or
7/28 Drive from Rothenburg to Munich (three nights)
8/1 Munich to Salzburg (three nights)
8/4 Salzburg to the Alps (three nights)
8/7 or 8/8 return to Munich, overnight and return to the US

I hope this is clearer, and easier to answer. Namely, worthwhile places to stop between Berlin and Rothenburg to break down the drive, and the order of the last part of the trip. We are not set on this itinerary yet, and open to further suggestions.
Thanks very much for all the help!

Posted by
6516 posts

Rhine: My rec was based on your stated interest in castles and hiking. It's an ideal one-stop place to fit in both. I assumed ICE Sprinter train travel covering the trip to Boppard, at speeds of up to 200 mph, in 5.5 hrs. Driving this distance would be arduous at best (nearly 7 hrs if non-stop, longer yet with stops, which is a lot of cramped-up nonsense IMO.) Car travel does not lend itself to such distances, and if I were thinking "CAR", as it seems you are, I'd need an additional stopover night somewhere for sure (like the one you are now seeking for the Berlin > Rothenburg car journey.)

Rothenburg drive over 2 days: (Note that the first half of the most direct driving route from Berlin to Rothenburg is nearly the same as the first half of the train route to Boppard...)

Dresden: There's a lot there. Does it have what you're looking for? It is too big a place for a 1-night stopover / detour, probably. If you weren't trying to squeeze a full week in the Alps into this trip, then staying 2-3 nights might work.

Erfurt: a smaller place, and a small but worthwhile detour off the Berlin > Würzburg > Rothenburg route for one night.

Any other way to avoid two 1-nighters from 7/26 to 7/28?

Sure. Direct Sprinter train from Berlin to Nuremberg (less than 3 hours) for two nights. Or you can make the more taxing 4.5 - 5 hr. road trip. Nuremberg is a wonderful city, and a day trip to Rothenburg, by train or by car, is not difficult.

  • 7/26: see Nuremberg. Besides its other assets, Nuremberg does have a historic castle, unlike the bulk of your destinations.

  • 7/27: morning in Nuremberg... day trip to Rothenburg by train (11:42 - 12:51?) for several hours of sightseeing, dinner, the Nightwatchman tour (adored by many) if you wish. Board train back to N'berg at 20:05 or 22:05. Super-cheap "VGN Day -Ticket Plus" or the Bayern Ticket gets you to R'burg and back.

  • 7/28: Visit Würzburg if you are interested. Personally, I would choose Bamberg over W'burg - more attractive, more interesting, and closer to Nuremberg. Check out of your N'berg hotel in the morning. Visit Würzburg or Bamberg, then head to Munich in the evening. If going by train, both Würzburg and Bamberg have storage lockers for bags.

-7/28: I would begin whatever # days you want for Munich right here.

CAR: It would be my choice to postpone renting entirely until you leave Munich for Salzburg and the Alps, where it may actually come in handy. On final night in Germany, drive not into Munich, but to an MUC airport hotel or Freising.

Posted by
6516 posts

About Berlin: I often pass on to others the "standard" minimum # of days to visit as 3 or 4. It's not my personal recommendation that your family or others spend any specific amount of time there, but for a place that big and full of things to see and do, it's hard to imagine going there at all unless you have two days, and it's probably wise for most people to think in terms of 3-4 days as a starting point - then to make adjustments based on what they actually want to do.

Posted by
2313 posts

Given the choice between the Rhine and Salzburg, it is a tossup. I’ve been 3 times to Salzburg for 14 days ( 20 if you include the surrounding area ) and 6 times ( 7th later this year ) for about 25 days. Take a look at the time you will spend on trains. It might influence the decision.

Posted by
71 posts

Thank you again everyone, very helpful information.Russ, thanks for all those details, they are incredibly helpful!
I'll keep abusing the generosity of this site.....if you will allow ;)
In the Alps, would two nights suffice (home base Mittenwald) for some/all of Russ's recommendations (Zugspitze, ride the Karwendelbahn (or one of the two if similar?), visit the Partnach Gorge) plus visiting Neuschwanstein Castle (and/or) the Hofbräuhaus.
We would likely arrive early after lunch, then have one full day, and the day after that head towards Munich (thinking to stop on the way at perhaps one of the two castles, and maybe other interesting stops)
Train question: How far in advance do you need to get your tickets? Is this something you can do once you get there, or do you need to book early? Does it vary by destination?
Thank you so much!

Posted by
6516 posts

In the Alps, would two nights suffice (home base Mittenwald) for
some/all of Russ's recommendations (Zugspitze, ride the Karwendelbahn
(or one of the two if similar?), visit the Partnach Gorge) plus
visiting Neuschwanstein Castle (and/or) the Hofbräuhaus.

Is there an HBhaus in the Alps somewhere? If so, and if it's HBhaus vs. N'stein, I'd opt for the Schweinshaxe and brew, personally, but it seems an odd pair of alternatives.

Ideally you'd have a central base town and of course the time for ALL these places. I'm not sure that's possible from any single base, although perhaps Reutte would work. For the time you've got that sounds pretty aggressive, especially from Mittenwald. The DB and viamichelin (for driving routes/times) sites will provide more precise travel times than I have in my head, but maybe others who've attempted something similar will pop in.

With a Mittenwald base for 2 nights, you can surely have a very enjoyable visit, I would choose to focus locally first... on the Karwendelbahn - and on one of the easier trails you can take from the top - and the Leutaschklamm gorge, on a self-guided walking tour of Mittenwald,and on nearby Garmisch-Partenkirchen - for a walk along Ludwigstrasse and then a "Bavarian Evening" at the Fraundorfer Inn with traditional Bavarian entertainment, beer, cuisine.

Then after that, I'd squeeze in whatever... Ettal Abbey, Oberammergau and Linderhof Palace might be the most worthwhile and feasible destinations (local bus service from G-P.)

OR... a nice low-energy experience is the scenic train ride from Garmisch-Partenkirchen through Tirolean Austria to Reutte and beyond. It provides a stunning view of the Zugspitze. once you're in Reutte, there's a shuttle bus that in 5 minutes will get you to stop for the Ehrenberg Castle Ruins - Rick's video clip and the Highline 179 attraction (which I haven't seen yet.) Map of the local train routes:

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Au%C3%9Ferfernbahn#/media/Datei:Au%C3%9Ferfernbahn.png

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks Russ. I meant seeing the Neuschwanstein and/or Hohenschwangau castles on the way back to Munich.
Maybe we can add one more day in the alps….

Posted by
3128 posts

We just took our first two week trip to Germany. Heidelberg, Stuttgart (car museums), Munich, Nuremberg and Rothenberg odt. Our first trip all by train, very easy, we loved traveling by train. The trains in Germany are so good, it is one country I would not even consider renting a car and we have rented cars in other European countries.

Posted by
124 posts

I agree with many others that you need to put as much time as you can spare towards Berlin. I’ve only been to Germany twice but I’ve been to Berlin, Munich, Heidelberg, Rothenburg ODT, Stuttgart, Fussen, and Neuschwanstein.

Each place has its charms, but Berlin is my favorite of the stops. Aside from all the amazing things you are seeing and doing, there is plenty to ponder regarding how quickly things can go sideways, how people treat each other, how to stand up for what you believe, how to admit you’re wrong, how to overcome.