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Slow Travel in Southern Germany

We will be in Germany for the month of May. We fly in and out of Munich. Our goal is enjoy the cities, towns, countryside and sites of Southern Germany during that time. We like to hike and enjoy natural areas and we like to see sites but don't have to fill every day with wall to wall activities. We're not much into shopping. We like 3 to 4 star accommodations, small locally run establishments are fine. We will be driving. This is my loose framework.
5 nights - Munich
6 nights in Fussen/Garmish area. (Question: If we stay more towards Fussen, is it reasonable to go back to Garmish and the Zugsptize area for day trips or would I need to actually stay over there as well.)
8 - 10 days to travel Romantic Road, staying in Rothenburg for 2 nights, Castle Road, over to Baden-Baden and down through the Black Forest.
3 or 4 nights - Lake Constance
6 night - Salzburg area (need suggestion of town outside of Salzburg to stay)

1. Is a month touring only Southern Germany too long or not long enough? (I know that is a subjective question.)
2. During the time we are driving The Romantic Road, Castle Road and Black Forest High Road...I'd like to play our timing by ear and arrange accommodations along to way, as we need them. Is that a reasonable expectation for May?
3. Our last week will be in the Salzburg area. I'd like to stay close to hiking and interesting towns but not in Salzburg itself...any suggestions? I've thought of Hallstatt but don't know too much about it.

That's a lot of questions and I welcome any input from those more familiar with Southern Germany than I.

Posted by
1402 posts

I wouldn’t stay for a week in Hallstatt. I think 8-10 days for the Romantic Road is too long. I wouldn’t take more than 6 days and would add some time north of Nuremberg. There are plenty of smaller towns ( I spent 5 days in Lichtenfels last fall ) and Nuremberg, Bamberg and other towns/cities are close.

I never stay in 3-4 star places. The inns I stay in are often unrated. Wherever you are staying for several days, consider staying in apartments ( ferienwohnungen ) which are usually cheaper and have much more room. Finding them on the fly is more difficult. I think other accommodations can be found o.k. in May although any holiday can mess you up

Posted by
566 posts

Accommodations: 3-4 Stars, "small locally run establishments," and "arrange accommodations along the way" may be contradictory. But, there are always nice places to stay if you can manage the prices. I suggest you start with your current details and use a website like to see what you can find of interest along your proposed path. Maybe start with planning 4 night stays in each place to give you two days actually in the place, and a day trip to somewhere else in between. You don't have to book any of them now but get a feel for what is available and where.

Destinations: Hiking in the German Alpine foothills (Fussen, Partnachklamm, Mittenwald) is wonderful, but ducking down to Austria, i.e. Innsbruck/ Zillertal/ Stubaital/etc. expands your options for cool hiking opportunities. Berchtesgaden is near Salzburg and is usually a standard destination in the area and there are lots of opportunities in the outdoors there too. Nuremberg, Bamberg, Wurzburg, Bayreuth, etc are all very cool places not far off of your planned trajectory but slightly further north. Nordlingen is a lovely small town with a complete city wall as good as Rothenburg ob der Tauber, but without the crowds and curio shops on every corner. Its church is also made of meteorite breccia (it is the center of the Reis Impact Crater) filled with tiny sparkles - they are diamonds.

Posted by
4684 posts

I suggest you reserve ahead for 4-star accommodations, whether you mean US 4-star or Euro 4-star. At that level, there is a culture of advance booking.

Would you prefer to fly home from Vienna?

Posted by
30 posts

Thank you for the responses! I would like to case there are others who will respond. By 3 or 4 stars I meant that I don't need (or want) resort style accommodations. The accommodations don't even have to be rated but I don't want to stay in old "Motel 6" types of establishments and am concerned that if I don't book ahead that's where we'd be sleeping. I've been combing, VRBO and airbnb for quite some time to get a sense of prices and availability. I'm looking for a level of 'charm' and don't care if a place is a bit out of the way. We do plan on staying in apartments for the longer stays. I will sit down with my map and take a look at all of your recommendations. They are just what I was looking for! I'll be revisiting the thoughts of Nuremberg and Innsbrook areas as well. Thanks so much.

Posted by
605 posts

Rick did a show 10-15 years back. In the video he sat outside of and purportedly stayed in a Fewo near Salzburg. I tracked it down. I've never visited or stayed here. They have two apartments and are about an hour's drive south of Salzburg/Berchtesgaden, and fairly centrally located for Salzburg, Hallstatt, Zell am See. This was before Hallstatt was completely overrun by international tourists. Probably need a car to get around. In Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden I like

From Innsbruck there is good public transportation into the Stubaital in the South for an outside base.

If you are thinking Nurnberg then maybe fit a few days of the Mainfranken Wein region: Prichsenstadt, Iphofen, Volkach etc. May is a great time of year there. Spargel und Frankenwein!

Personally I would split my time/stays between Füssen and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Posted by
4968 posts

Q #1 - With 30 days it could be good to expand your geographic parameters a little. NickB has mentioned Franconia (Nuremberg, Bamberg etc.) which is a treasure trove of interesting towns, cities, towns and landscapes.

Bad Windsheim / Freilandmuseum
Bamberg - UNESCO World Heritage old town and you can hike here too.

Your route: Most everyone on the planet has heard of the "Romantic Road" (most of which is not especially scenic) including Füssen and Rothenburg (both of which Rick Steves emphasizes heavily) and to a lesser extent the other "theme roads" like the Castle Road. This "Stevesian" route you have designed, Füssen > Rothenburg > Baden-Baden > Black Forest, is not a "back-door" approach to exploring Southern Germany, but instead a very well-worn path. You needn't avoid this route entirely. But if it's your preference to visit/stay in places that are less impacted by the forces of international tourism - places where German residents usually outnumber tourists and lead more typical German lives - you would do well to stray. Suggest you have a look into the Altmühl, the Danube, and the Main River valleys for starters (included some places in Franconia.) Some suggestions:

Regensburg (UNESCO World Heritage town)
Weltenburg Abbey

Q #3: We recently stayed in Golling, at the Café Maier apartment. Very nice spot with a great view. Golling has a scenic location on the Salzach River on the way Werfen - not far from Hohenwerfen Castle and the Eisriesenwelt and not far from Salzburg in the other direction. Werfen is also an attractive town in a scenic location.

Posted by
17642 posts

need suggestion of town outside of Salzburg to stay

I would suggest staying in Berchtesgaden and taking the RVO bus (#840 Watzmann Spezial) or trains through Freilassing into Salzburg for a day trip. The rest of the time, there is lots to see in Berchtesgaden (Eagles Nest, Königssee, Wimbachklamm, a Salt mine, a spa (Therme, in German), Berchtesgaden itself). You could also make side trips via Salzburg to Mondsee, St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang, Hallstatt and Werfen.

I would reconsider driving for most of your trip. Lots of places are accessible by rail and bus.

There are multiple routes between Füssen and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. There is a bus via Oberammergau (which is only minutes by bus to Linderhof) or you can take the train of the Außerferbahn from Reutte or Prfonten, both or which are accessible by bus from Füssen. Except for the Passion Play this year, you might actually want to stay in Oberammergau. From Oberammergau, there are buses to Hohenschwangau, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and Linderhof.

I wouldn't bother to go to Baden-Baden. Instead go to Pforzheim and take the rail line via Calw to Freudenstadt, then go via Alpirsbach to Haslach and the Black Forest Outdoor Museum, followed by the Schwarzwaldbahn to Triberg and Donaueschingen, then to Lake Constance (Bodensee).

If it were I, I would avoid 3- and 4-star accommodations. I don't think they are worth the price. Stars in the US generally say how nice the place is, but in German, I have never stayed in a place, no matter how few stars (or none) that wasn't nice. Germans just have a high standard. For the DEHOGA star ratings, everyplace must meet the same standard of cleanliness and maintenance; stars only relate to things like the size of the room and whether they have 24 hour room service. And booking services usually only show the most expensive places in town. There is often 2 - 3 times as many places in a town as there are shown on booking websites. Use the town websites (usually www dot town_name dot de) if you can find them or look on Google Maps.

Posted by
921 posts

“Is a month touring only Southern Germany too long or not long enough?” - Not too long for me but it’s just the way I travel. This September/early October I’m in for 24 nights between two locations - Ruhpolding for sure, Bad Bayersoien or Mittenwald the other. I’ll be driving, most days no more than an hour, some days taking a free bus with my pass, walking a plenty and taking long lunches. Always apartments for me, no hotels.

I’ll suggest renting an apartment in four locations, a week in each. Use the local tourist websites for the best choice and prices.

1a) If you want a fill of city life, then Munich for a week, it’s worth 3 days on its own. Nuremberg, Regensburg, Ulm and Augsburg all about an hour away by train, as are the pretty towns of Landsberg, Bad Tolz and Murnau at the edge of the alps. Dachau too. No car required here.
1b) Rothenburg or close to it. I’m unashamedly in the Rothenburg court, too touristy be damned, it’s a fantastic place. Dinklesbuhl, Nordlingen, Weikersheim Palace, Schwabisch Hall, Wurzburg, Nuremberg are within easy reach and worth a visit. Nice hiking in the Tauber valley, Iphofen a little visited gem.

2) Meersburg (my preference), Uberlingen or Lindau on Bodensee.
Lots to see and going off around the lake and close to it. With a car you can also hit pretty Stein am Rhein and Schaffhausen/the Rheinfalls across the border. Reichenau and Mainau are splendid on a nice day.

3) Oberammergau or thereabouts. Fusssen, Schwangau, Linderhof, Ettal Abbey, Andech Monastery, Garmisch and its gorges, Wieskirche, Murnau, Landsberg, a number of lakes, Zugspitze, Mittenwald (pretty gorge to the south), plenty of hiking. Innsbruck and Schloss Ambras a bit further.

4) Ruhpolding or thereabouts. Berchtesdagen area, Ramsau, Bad Reichenall, beautiful Konigsee and Mount Jenner, the palace and abbey on Chiemsee, Burghausen ( a great castle visit). Across the border, Salzburg and all it has to offer, the castle and ice caves at Werfen, the pretty old centre and castle visit of Kufstein, St Gilgen and Wolfgangsee. A bit further, Halstatt.

See, you are already running out of time.