I'm hoping someone can help with our itinerary for an upcoming trip. My daughter and son-in-law are in Mannheim for the fall semester where he is teaching at the university. They are wanting us to visit and do a road trip with them. We are arriving in Frankfurt on Nov. 5th and depart from Munich on the 19th. We'll pick up a rental car either in Mannheim or Frankfurt and drop off in Munich. So far all I know is my daughter would like to go to Heidelberg for a day and we'll spend at least a few days in Munich before we leave. I thought I had an itinerary down traveling mostly on what is known as the Romantic Road, going from Heidelberg to Wurtzburg, and from there stopping along in various places until arriving at the three castle/palaces between Fussen and Munich. Unfortunately, I've just discovered several of the castles we hoped to visit en route are closed this time of year and probably more places as well. So I need to start over, rethink, and see if we can fit in Nuremberg and come up with a new itinerary. My priority list is castles and palaces, scenery, beautiful old villages, art museums and WWII sites, and just about anything that is different from the USA. Can anyone offer an itinerary with these attributes so I don't have to check into every single site in every small or midsize town between these cities to see if it's open in November. We prefer small towns but recognize that there might not be much open this time of year. I don't want our trip just to be one long drive through pretty countryside and quaint small towns (although some of that is fine!) because it would drive me crazy to only pass place after place that I cannot actually go see. The pace needs to be somewhat slow and easy as I have an autoimmune disease that can get out of control if I physically overdo, and to be blunt we're not as young as we once were. ;) In other words, no hiking in the alps or trying to cover more than two castles in one day if there's much climbing involved! So far I think Wurtzburg, Rothenburg and Fussen (or any town between Fussen and Munich as a base for visiting the castle and palaces) are all keepers, but I don't know about all the in between towns or if we can incorporated Nuremberg without backtracking now that we may do a different route. I keep going round in circles and would also appreciate any advice on any aspect of the trip! For instance, should we keep the rental car in Munich or turn it in when we get there and use public transport. Any favorite must-see towns that don't necessarily have tourist sites? I have the RS book on Germany, but it seems focused on other months of the year and many places I'm interested in aren't covered. Help!
OK, Let's start out with a couple things up front; first it's going to be cool and wet in November, and second that's a lousy time to do the Fussen/Neuschwanstein castle thing. Unless you really want to spend a lot of time crisscrossing the country you need to plan a point to point trip. What I recommend is pick three things you absolutely have to see/do and focus on getting those done. Everything else is gravy...
Mannheim and Heidelberg are really close to each other. You daughter can easy do those on a weekend by train. Likewise those cities have a large American population due to the military having a long presence there (Mannheim was the Military Police HQ and Heidelberg has the major hospital for all of EUCOM.) Everybody for miles speaks English.
There are two good castles right in the area around Heidelberg; Heidelberg Castle is a picturesque ruin, and Schweitzegen Place is known for it's gardens (not at the best in NOV.).
If you take Autobahn 6 east it's only about three hours to Nuremberg. But, since you want to see some country and have a couple weeks, I'd turn north on 81 out of Heilbron and head to Wurzburg. The castle there is worth seeing, and it will be open.
From there you can take the Romantic Road to Rothenberg od Tauber, and since you want nice, scenic, smaller towns Dinklesbuhl and Nordlingen. If you want to stay in a castle Schloss Colmberg is just a 15 minute drive from RodT. South of Nordlingen (on the same route) is Harberg Castle, and it's one that really still looks like a castle in the fairy tales should.
From there you can take Hwy 2 to Nuremberg, or take the scenic route along the Donau to Ingolstadt, a city worth visiting. Then you can easy take the Autobahn back up to Nuremberg, and then wither over to Regensburg or just go to Munich.
That route is easy driving, and you cross the center of what most Americans think of when Germany is mentioned. You can easily get from main points to the next in less than 2 hours driving. There are over a dozen other castles along the way (you can Google them), and the scenery is small towns and rolling hills. Most of the major battles were over by the time this part of the country was overrun, but there's still some WWII stuff around. Nuremberg has the stadium and parade grounds, and if you can find Darby Kasarne (near the stadium) you can still see the shell holes in the walls from where the SS held out. (If you go to the stadium stand up on the party platform and then look over towards the far left corner; that's where the tanks came in back in '45.)
For art you want to visit the Residence in Wurzburg, Albrect Durer Haus in Nuremberg, the Bavarian Cultural Museum in Nuremberg, The Pinakotheks (Alte & Neue) in Munich.
Now it's true some of the main tourist stuff may be closed, but not as much as you think. Still, Sundays and Mondays are the most common closure days. Just plan accordingly, and sleep in late, wander around whatever town you're in, and enjoy. The best times are when you actually can explore. All of the places I've mentioned have their own stories and pace. For example Rothenberg gets the tourists, but Dinkelbuhl is just as pretty and nowhere near as crowded. Nordlingen sits in the center of a meteor crater (and has the museum to prove it). Regensburg has it's bridge, Wurzburg it's castle, Ingolstadt the Bavarian Army Museum and a great river walk, and all of this is an area smaller than the drive from L.A. to San Francisco.
Last, turn in the rental in Munich. You could even turn it in before that if you want to try travel by train, but I wouldn't. You'd miss the chance to take some pretty little back roads. And don't worry about getting lost, navigate by cities and towns and people do speak English. As Dr Suess said, "think of the stories you'll tell..."
Upon arrival at FRA 11/5: Suggest you just take the local train to Rüdesheim (takes 1 hr.) and settle in on the Rhine River for a couple of nights to get your bearings and see some real medieval castles. The train is direct from the airport and easy to ride. More important: you aren't driving jet-lagged or drowsy after a red-eye transatlantic flight. The kids can meet you in R'heim or at FRA and ride with you.
Rüdesheim is smallish but with all the tourist amenities you probably appreciate, and a bit livelier than all the other Rhine towns in the off season, as well as a springboard for two important Rhine Castles - Rheinfels in St. Goar and Marksburg in Braubach. Both are open on your dates. Marksburg is a must-see.
Here's a helpful map for the Rhine: http://www.loreley-info.com/eng/rhein-rhine/walking-hiking.php
On your 2nd day you can catch a direct train to Marksburg at any hour from Rüdesheim. The train takes you along the Rhine the whole way and you'll see other castles from the window.
But if you want a car, it might be best to take the train first to KOBLENZ (also a direct train) and pick up your car there. Then you drive to Braubach for your Marksburg tour, which is on your way back to Rüdesheim. For a detour after the tour, drive south to St. Goarshausen, cross over to St. Goar (Rheinfels Castle, if you wish, the drive south to visit Bacharach and or Oberwesel (nice old-world towns.) Then drive south to Bingen and use the ferry crossing to Rüdesheim. (This same detour is possible by train if you are just vising Marksburg /Braubach - you skip the trip into Koblenz, take the train south to St. Goarshausen, and use the ferry crossings as pedestrians.)
11/7: Drive (or take the train to Wiesbaden to pick u car and then drive) to Heidelberg for a couple of nights.
11/9: The drive to Rothenburg is via the "Castle Road", not the Romantic Road. A night there is adequate.
11/10: The Residenz Palace in Würzburg is a top-notch attraction. I would drive to W'burg (also a Romantic Road town) and spend the day there - then arrive in the evening in Nuremberg for a stay of perhaps 4 nights. A fairly large city that feels much smaller in the old town. You are right to think that there's a lot to see and do there. And it's an excellent travel base for daytrip visits to other towns including BAMBERG, COBURG, BAYREUTH, REGENSBURG and others.
Nuremberg is not a place where a car is helpful in town. And the day trips by train to Bamberg and the other places tend to be easy and cheap. I would drop the car upon arrival in Nuremberg. But you may wish to keep it a day or two for some other specific day trip before heading to Munich. Definitely drop it prior to Munich.
10/14: Munich: easy and cheap to reach by train from Nuremberg in a couple of hours (Bayern Ticket, which covers your Munich public transport as well on that day.) You probably want just 2 nights here if you are trying to avoid big cities, right? Nymphenburg Palace is a good choice.
10/16: Füssen for 2 nights. Take the train (Bayern Ticket): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7ckkP_nUR0
10/18: Sightsee, then train to MUC airport or Freising for your final night prior to departure.
It is impossible to plan a decent driving trip in Germany without a Michelin Green Guide.
there is so much to see in Germany that any palace or castle not open in Nov. isn't worth visiting until you are in your 10th week of German travel. (the Michelin Guide lists open hours for all sights).
Palaces and castles are architecture. The finest German architecture are the Baroque churches and churches don't close for the season.
The palace in Mannheim is worth a visit, as is the baroque church. As suggested by others, lots of castles in the Rhine Gorge, but if you are heading toward the Romantic Road, the Rhine Gorge is out of the way, and if you want to go out of the way, the Mosel Valley is better..
The good towns and villages require a walk through, not just a drive through.
We have spent more than 500 days as tourists in Europe, and we put Munich near the bottom of the list of places to see. The only justification for Munich is to visit Dachau. No more than 1.5 days for Munich, and zero is better.
Do not go to Rudesheim. If your daughter won't pick you up at the airport and take you to Mannheim, disown her. You will start on the western edge of Germany where the #1 sight is Alsace, in France (although it used to be part of Germany). You can use Mannheim as a base to visit Heidelberg, Alsace (3 days. Get a Michelin Green Guide to Alsace), Mainz, Worms, and the Rhine Gorge.
The Unterlingen Museum is Colmar is the best museum in Europe because it is small but has a collection of first rate stuff-- 2-3 hours does it all.
Take Rt 6 from Mannheim to Wurzburg (note: both a palace and a castle) with a short detour to Schwabisch Hall via Nurnburg & Regenesburg.
Weather: History says November is a dank and dismal time in the EU, but global warming may be changing that. We have gone to EU for the last 10 Novembers and generally had outstanding weather for the EU-- one 16 day trip had zero rain days. The worst 2 weeks had one rain storm that lasted for 3 days).
The Royal Castles (Fussen), which are really palaces, are best seen in good weather, but the view of Neuschawnstein from parking lot says it all. The tour isn't really worth it because only a couple rooms are finished. The second best thing to see is the view from Marienbrucke bridge, which requires a moderately strenuous hike. If you head for Fussen and ether goes bad, there are 3 options: 1) there are 3 -4 excellent baroque churches between Fussen and Munich. or 2] head for the north shore of Lake Constance, or 3] Herrenchiemsee, Mad King Ludwig's grandest place. It takes a whole day to see it because you haves to travel by boat, horse carriage, and walking once you get to the lake..
If you think you can visit Linderhoff and cut across Austria to Fussen, think again. Austria's highway rules in winter are really weird. Do not attempt this without checking the rules out.
Lots of strong opinions.
We also liked the Michelin Guides for driving tours during our military tours there. I think they provide enough information that you can set your own priorities. ADAC makes great road atlases. They identify scenic routes and places worth stopping - too many to be included in any guide.
If you stick to your plan of a moderate pace, I think you will not be disappointed. Germany is not a place of a few "must sees" but many enjoyable experiences. November is gray but quietly appealing and I will be traveling from Munich to Frankfurt by train over much of the time that you will be there. Towns do not close down. My itinerary includes Regensburg, Rothenburg, Würzburg, Marburg and Frankfurt.
Good luck with your planning as it is part of the fun.
Wow, you have given me so much information on alternate towns, sites, and routes that I may be online for the next few weeks checking out all your great suggestions! Thank you all for the time and effort put in to answering my questions. I definitely want to check out the castles, museums and church locations mentioned. I have noted a few I’ve seen online, but obviously need to do more research. I think we will end up renting a car in Mannheim, and taking a train there. We are always exhausted after an overnight flight. The kids are broke grad students, don’t have a vehicle, and the SIL will be teaching the same morning we arrive so we’ll have to manage on our own. ;) I just ordered the recommended Michelin Green Guide, and I’m anxious to check it out. I like the idea of a car because of the freedom to pop here and there as things catch our eyes, but we will follow the advice on taking trains at certain times after I nail down the route. I love train travel, and it gives the driver (SIL) a chance to look at the scenery more.
We’ll definitely visit Dachau. I’ve been to Auschwitz-Birkenau, but none of the others have seen anything like it.
I’m amazed at the amount of helpful information you all have given me and I truly appreciate it! I do have another question now: Does anyone know much about the many museums in Munich? Any comparison to those in NYC or London— not necessarily quantity but rather quality. I was thinking we’d see the Palace one day, go to Dachau another and also allow plenty of time for several of the museums in the city center before leaving. Any holocaust exhibits? I’m just wondering how much time we will need for my art and history museum fix.
Back to planning! I was getting frustrated but you all have gotten me excited to get back to it! First task—print out all your suggestions.... 😁
I always wonder about those who can't figure out how to spend more than a day or two in Munich. If you like museums you can't possibly see them all in 2 weeks. The old and new art museums (Alte und Neue Pinokothek) are a 10-15 minute walk (or a 5 minute train ride) north from the Marinplatz. These are two of the best art museums in the world, and draw a fair number of tourists. What most don't know, or care to discover, are the other museums within a couple blocks; the Bavarian State Painting Collection, the Brandhorst, the Architectural Museum, the Modern Art Museum (two buildings), the Egyptian, the Geologic and Palaeontology Museum, the Glyptothek (a collection of statuary), the Documentation Center (WWII History), and the State Antique Collection are all right there. The only other place I've encountered with this type of centralization is the Smithsonian. And that's not even half the museums in central Munich. There's a museum of illustrations, a State Library, the University collections, the Technical Museum, etc. But what's left unsaid is that there's so much art in places like the Residence, Schloss Nymphenberg, and the other historic buildings that you can easily get overwhelmed.
I like the old stuff for it's historical values, so the Alte Pinokothek is high on my list. And because I prefer to work upwards in history when presented with the opportunity, I usually do the old, new, and then the modern museums in that order. Which usually shorts out the modern ones, because even just taking in a small portion of each is time consuming. I usually plan my breaks between collections, and that means sitting outside in the park with whatever I picked up on the walk for lunch. There's lot's of cheap places to eat nearby, due to the close association with the University.
You can Google the various collections and figure out what interests you, but what you may want to look into it the non-permanent shows that will be running when you're there; those can be once in a lifetime events.
KGC, the Munich museums sound phenomenal! I saw many on my map and was hoping someone would recommend and elaborate! I know where I’ll be for several days! Thank you!
When I travel for business I usually stay by the main train station in Munich, but when I'm on my own I prefer to stay up north of the old town around the University. You can find good pensions and boutique hotels at very reasonable prices and there's a great variety of fairly inexpensive places to eat. Plus there's some nightlife if you want that and it's easy to get around by subway or tram. Don't forget to stick your head into local art galleries and see what they have.
Also, if anyone in your party is interested in Astronomy, Heidelberg has to be a major destination. They have a good observatory, but even better, it's the home of the Max Plank Center for Astronomy, which is one of the best in the world. You should check to see if they have a open to the public day and go!
Thank you again! My husband is definitely interested in astronomy. I wish I had your advice before booking our hotel. I was trying to get close to the museums and booked one that wasn’t far from the train station and old town. It went to non-cancellation status on the 4th, but hopefully we’ll be back for my Western European dream trip of two months in early autumn 2020 or spring 2021. If I could bring my small dogs along I’d make it longer! I’ll definitely keep your advice on hand for the Germany leg. I don’t mind cold or wet weather terribly, but I would like to see the gardens in better weather. I can’t imagine there will be much to see this time of year. As always, budget determines much of what we do, particularly with a longer stay, so advice on where to find cheaper options is always appreciated. ;)
KGC, I just looked back at time allotted for Heidelberg as our first stop, and I probably would have just moved right to the castle and then on to Wurzburg. My husband will be very happy!
You'll be fine with the hotel you booked, Munich's transportation grid makes getting around easy. (Don't forget American/International chains offer senior discounts and use points.) If you're near the train station it's a quick walk into the old town too, just head east. Remember Sunday mornings everything is closed, you can walk around and see empty streets.
If you're going to be able to make another trip never go in August. That's vacation time in Europe and on top of all the tourists, all the locals take off too, so it gets crowded and services are limited. Late April/May for spring flowers (picture entire hills covered in yellow mustard flowers around Rothenberg) or mid-September/October for the beerfest season (most towns have one, not just Munich) and fall colors.
Basing out of Mannheim you should also consider going East; great cities and country; Trier, Saarbrucken, Nancy, Strasbourg, and of course the Bodensee down south.
Rothenburg is pretty economical in November, a low season. You can easily visit both Würzburg and Nürnberg from there by car or train. We like the Gasthof Goldener Greifen. The room sizes are moderate. Breakfast is decent. There is parking directly behind the hotel. I also like the restaurant.
KGC , great post above about the surfeit of museums in Munich . Two other polnts to add - The Schack collection , and the extensive collection of Jugendstill architecture in Schwabing and Bogenhausen . I also can't grasp those who find little or nothing to see there , but in both a literal and figurative sense , I quote George Bernard Shaw , " A picture gallery is a dull place for a blind man " . On my way back to Munich next week for ten days , my fifth such visit .
A couple others that are less commonly recommended: the Hunting and Fishing Museum, the Bavarian Public Observatory, and the Spork Museum.
The Hunting and Fishing one is easy to find, just look for the large fish and boar statues on the way to Marinplatz.
Spork ??? As in Runcible Spoon from " The Owl and the Pussycat " ?
Plus there's the Octoberfest Museum, the Toy Train Museum (in the old Rathaus), the other BMW museum (the one at CO. HQ), and the Porcelain museum.
Castles and Palaces = mostly 1700's and 1800's renovations but amazing anyway:
WW II Sites = Nuremberg :
In my opinion I prefer Bamberg over Wurzburg, but that may simply be me:
I also particularly like Nordlingen - a half-timbered old town with an intact wall - which also has an astronomical connection being in the center of the Ries Meteorite Crater:
Have a great time!