Ok experts.... if you had 9 full days (excluding travel) and you start and end in Munich what would you suggest? We would like to include Salzburg and Vienna in addition to various areas of Germany east and south of Munich. Would you drive the entire trip or should we rail to Vienna, for example? How about hotel or bed & breakfast recommendations. Thanks everyone. JT
Which east and south of Munich places are you considering? A car is nothing but a two ton weight around your neck in Munich, Salzburg and Vienna. Are you not going over to Fuessen for Neuschwanstein, which is southwest?) For hotel suggestions, you have given no clue as to what level of amenity and how much you are willing to pay nor how large your party is; nor what time of year. Without those it would just be throwing darts at a wall.
I would just see Munich area and Salzburg area in 9 days. There is so much to see and do in these two areas. It depends on what interest you. We enjoyed the World War II history, the Ludwig castles in the area, Zugspitza, Andechs, Rothenburg, Dachau, Salzburg, Zell Am Zee, Berchestgarden, Easgles nest, saltine tour, Sound of music tour, Munich museums, Hiking in various areas of Austria, Mike's bike tour of Munich, small villages of Germany, Octoberfest. I could go on and on... Vienna is beautiful too, I would just save it for another trip. We like having a car to see the sights. I would check out B&B recommendations in Ricks travel books and reviews from his books and trip advisor.com. happy planning.
I'm not too knowledgeable about this area (I've only been to Munich and Vienna themselves), but I do have a few general suggestions for you to narrow the trip. Remember that 9 full days is easy to fill (just look at Darla's list). So, you will have to be very selec-tive, particularly if you want to include Vienna. Munich and Vienna each need 3 days to scratch the surface. If you do want to see both, I would fly into one and out of the other (called open jaw or "multi city" on airline booking websites like Kayak and Orbitz). Even if this costs more (and it may not), you save time and money by not backtracking. Don't book two one-way flights - that's much more expensive. I agree time of year makes a big difference. Outside of Christmastime, winter will mean that many small towns and rural areas will be less than appealing. But Munich and Vienna have lots of indoor attractions and can be enjoyed year-round. As Nigel said, before anyone can help with accommodations, we need specifics. How many people (adults/children) are traveling, what amenities do you require, and what is your budget (in euros - "moderate" means different things to each person).
The best advice I can give is to start by checking out guidebooks on the Munich area and Salzburg. Try to get a rough idea what sights you want to visit (we can help you guess how much time to allow for various sights) and let that drive the amount of time you need to stay in the area. Vienna is great, but a major destination with a ton of sights by itself. You may find you don't have time to see Vienna, Munich, Salzburg plus nearby sights within the available time. If I'm just going from Munich to Salzburg (and/or Vienna), I would choose to do it by rail. Visiting sights around the area may require a car. Remember dropping a rental across a border gets expensive. Drop a German rental in Germany and an Austrian rental in Austria (even if you have to rent two different cars). Austria requires a window sticker (vignette) to drive the Autobahn. You can rent a car in Austria that already has one or pay for one at the border (just don't get caught on the Autobahn without one). You also need an International Driver's Permit (IDP) for Austria. Pick it up at any AAA office in the U.S. before your trip, it's fast and cheap (cheaper and faster if you bring passport photos). Viamichelin.com will estimate driving times (and fuel/toll costs). It's a little optimistic, be sure to allow time for stops and meals when judging travel times.
Drove from Munich to Salzburg with a friend. Spent more time in traffic and looking for place to park, than time sightseeing in Salzburg. Cars are a burden that outweighs their convenience.
Munich is a quite large city, and there are a bunch of travel sights and museums that are great. I would suggest spending 4 days there before picking up a rental car. Salzburg is 90 minutes east of Munich, and worthy of a couple of days. East of Salzburg is the incredibly beautiful lake city of Hallstadt, and would be a good day trip. Then you could go southwest of Salzburg to Innsbruck and experience the incredible Austrian Alps. From Innsbruck, you can go back through Garmisch to get over to Fuessen area to see the Crazy Ludwig's castles. It's an easy drive back into Munich where you can drop off your rental car.
The roads throughout Western Austria and Southern Bavaria are easily driven, and there are many tourist sights to see.
To address some of the questions you all have asked.... There are 4 of us, all adults, timing is early September, we are looking for nice, memorable places to stay, i.e. We aren't concerned about the cost of 4-star but also know there are many fantastic lower cost options too. Thanks for all the input so far, JT
If your general direction of travel is SE from Munich, two biggies that lie between Munich and Salzburg are Chiemsee and Berchtesgaden. If all you want to see around Chiemsee is Ludwig's palace on the Herreninsel, 2-3 hours is enough time on a trip as tight as your's. If you want to check out the Alps around Berchtesgaden, I would budget at least two full days to maximize your chances of good weather (there's not a lot to do in the Alps when it rains). Berchtesgaden and Salzburg are close enough that you could visit one from the other. For typical summer tourism activities, September is just about the best month to visit. The only caveat I would add is that if your time in Munich coincides with Oktoberfest, expect to pay a lot more for lodging.
I always lean heavily towards Rick Steve's guidebook recommendations on where to go and how much time is needed to see a place. I lived in GM for 3 years and spent many weekends south of Munich in Garmisch-Partenkirchen which was good for day tripping to Munich (possible to do group train ticket), drive to castles, do the Zugspitze (3rd in line of great high mountain adventures of Europe in my opinion), etc. Google "berg vista" for the place we stayed at - an apartment with kitchen, great views, but self service check-in and so on (no breakfast there). Munich only merits a long day to me but maybe that is since I've been there so many times. We really enjoyed a bike tour of the city. Salzburg is worth a long day as well. We loved Herrenchiemsee palace which is not on the major american visitors radar. Dipping north to Rothenburg GM is worthwhile, and consider Nuremburg as well. With the exception of the long drive to Vienna, for (4) people I think renting a car is a good idea to explore Bavaria and Austria. Yes, a hassle parking in a few places but nowhere near the problems of bigger cities in Europe. If you want any more details on ideas/locations from my 3 years living in GM, PM me. We travelled a lot!
Forget Vienna and focus on Munich, Salzburg and another area such as Fussen. You want to avoid spending too much time in a car or on a train getting to and from places. Slow it down a bit and take time to relax and enjoy the Bavarian countryside, hospitality, great food and beer : ) !