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advice on tweaking 13 day mostly German itinerary

Hi -we are flying into and out of Zurich and making a 13 day loop by car (flights and car are definite, so no need to suggest train or open jaws flying) appreciate advice on which places I may be spending too much or too little time (or could we move faster and fit in some Switzerland at end??) fly overnite arrive Zurich, spend first tired afternoon and nite - Stein Am Rhine. Drive to Bavaria (??stop on way in Lindau) for 2 nights (castles, obergammau, zugspitse) to Salzburg for 2 nights (including daytrip to Halstatt) to Munich for 3 nights (Munich, Dachau) To Nuremburg 1 night (visiting old friend) to Rothenburg 2 nights (Rothenburg, Romantic Rd) to Bacharach 2nights (Rhine valley, castles) to ??Baden Baden, or ??Luzern for final night before return flt from Zurich
many thanks for comments!

Posted by
26 posts

Hi Anthony,
Without knowing for sure what sites you want to see in each area, I can only say that at first glance, it feels a little crowded. 1. What all do you want to see on the way to/from Salzburg besides the day trip to Halstatt? May need more time here for all the other possibilities. 2. Do you need 3 nights in Munich? For myself, I would be willing to catch Dachau on the way to Nuremburg and skip Munich, just to have more time in the other areas. But of course I don't know what your wish list includes. 3. One of the cool things about you having a car in the Rhine valley is you could drive over to Burg Eltz. We wanted to include it on our trip, but with public transportation, it would have been too time consuming. (Okay, the real reason is that it was pouring down rain that day and we would have had to walk a couple hours in it) Plus, you could maybe pop down the Mosel a bit. I would add a day here. All great places and of course, that is why it is hard to decide the combination of stops. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
12040 posts

Looks good to me. Personally, I would spend more time in Nuremburg and less in Rothenburg, but yours is a reasonable choice. Baden-Baden is one of my least favorite of Germany's many spa towns, and I usually advise against going out of one's way to visit it. However, it does fit very well in the overall flow of your trip, so you may as well stop there. But I would ask, how early is your flight out of Zurich? The driving time between Baden-Baden and Zurich is significant, and that section of the A5 is very Stau-prone. You may want to move your last night's stay further south, perhaps maybe Freiburg area?

Posted by
8852 posts

You have at least 6 places to stay in 13 days. That is a lot of moving around. It is easier to do that with a car for sure. I like to keep in mind that 2 nights in a location is only one full day. You have Salzburg for 2 nights with a daytrip to Halstatt. Are you planning the daytrip for your only full day in Salzburg? For your Bavaria time you have a lot planned for your one day. I certainly wouldn't suggest you add another location to what you already have.

Posted by
32 posts

All i've got to go on are the tourbooks, so from those of you who've been there - are the sights in and about Rhine, Bacharach, St Goar, Rheinfels Castle and Berg Eltz (yes...I know...that's even farther!) worth the extra distance traveled north? We really wouldn't mind spending our last day working our way back to Zurich airport and making some fun stops along the way - thanks!

Posted by
2994 posts

If you're willing to go all the way to Baden-Baden and aren't super sold on it, you might as well go on to Strasbourg which is just across the border and is really cool. Alternatively Heidelberg could work too. I don't think 3 nights is too much in Munich if you're visiting Dachau.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks for your input here's some of my follow up to your questions: Why and what in Salzburg? - I'm afraid my wife & daughter are going to want to do the Sound of Music tour (wish there was a way we could do it 'on our own'!). Hallstatt and surrounding area sounds pretty and interesting (ice caves,salt mine) Why Munich? - there's a lot of small touristed towns on this trip, so time spent in a real city (we're orig from NYC) would provide a little variety. Maybe we could cut this to 2 nights? Baden-Baden? - not really interested in this except for it's geographic location in our 'loop'! I never even thought of Strasbourg!. Perhaps Stras or Freiburg as our final night? - we fly out of Zurich at 1pm. Bavaria? - we've never been, so want to see the highlights (castles, towns). It doesn't seem possible to add Berner Oberland to this trip, so I'm hoping Zugspitze will be a reasonable Alpine substitute.

Posted by
5602 posts

I would pay attention to Andrea's post. You don't have adequate time for the things you plan to see in "Bavaria" (which I think means the Füssen/Garmisch area - in actuality, Lindau, Oberammergau, the Zugspitze, Munich, Nuremberg, the Romantic Road and Rothenburg are all in Bavaria.) You don't have time for much at all in Salzburg. Baden-Baden seems way too far from Zürich for a pre-flight stop, and you won't have time to see much in Switzerland at all if you're only sleeping in Stein and in Luzern. I think the main problem is that you're attempting to squeeze in too many Rick Steves locations that are too spread out. There are too many car hours. I would drop the Rhine and Baden-Baden, creating a tighter travel loop so that you can take this all a little more slowly. On your first day, you might head from ZRH to the Appenzell area in Switzerland (instead of Stein) and do the Säntis peak the next morning on prior to Lindau: Map: http://www.saentisbahn.ch/fileadmin/webContent/dokumente/Panokarte_Ost-Saentis-Schwaegalp.pdf Video: http://www.saentisbahn.ch/fileadmin/webContent/dokumente/Panokarte_Ost-Saentis-Schwaegalp.pdf

Posted by
32 posts

I have no problem dropping Baden-Baden. I realize the Rhine region is a bit 'out of the loop' (at 2.5 to 3 hr from Rothenburg) but it seems to be placed so high on 'sightseeing priority lists' especially in the RS series of books,that I thought we should make the effort to get up there.

Posted by
1792 posts

I don't think you have enough time to do all you want in Salzburg (salt mines, SOM, ice caves) unless you get there early on the first day and leave late on the last, but that would be short changing Munich. I would skip Hallstatt. It is very scenic (the best picture I ever took was from there). but you will have many scenic views on your trip and the trip will be either a short day or long half day.

Posted by
32 posts

isn't Hallstatt, in addition to it's scenic appeal, where the salt mines and ice caves are?

Posted by
813 posts

Berchtesgaden Salt Mine is closer to Salzburg and an easier day trip than Hallstatt, then you can also hit Eagle's Nest if you're going in summer. Definitely stay in Strasbourg rather than Baden-Baden. Also agree that going from Rothenburg OdT to Bacharach is out of the way and your time is better spent heading west to Heidelberg, then down to Strasbourg, a couple wine route towns perhaps, then to Zurich. You should stay closer to Zurich the night before your flight, it's a great town, and the traffic can tend to be horrific if you hit it just right in the whole area of SW Germany.

Posted by
5602 posts

"All i've got to go on are the tourbooks, so from those of you who've been there - are the sights in and about Rhine, Bacharach, St Goar, Rheinfels Castle and Berg Eltz (yes...I know...that's even farther!) worth the extra distance traveled north?" Of course they're worth the trip. The Rhine/Mosel region is my favorite part of Germany! But you're starting and ending in Switzerland and have a ton of stuff on your plate already in extreme southern Bavaria and Austria, stuff that you don't really have much time for if you do the Rhine as well. It makes sense to me to cut the Rhine/Mosel to reduce the road miles. But if you want to spend that extra time on the road and want to cut something else, that could work too. Cut Hallstatt and Oberammergau. You'll still have a very nice trip. Cut Neuschwanstein. Cut Rothenburg. N'stein and Rothenburg are overrun with tourists; the intense number of visitors has resulted in lots of souvenir and shopping opportunities but also impacted the old-world authenticity of the place in a serious way - you hear as much English on the streets and in the shops as German. (You might just stop there for a couple hours on the way from Nuremberg to the Rhine.) N'stein, which I've toured twice, offers up a rather dull 30 min.- tour of a late 19th-century private home - not a castle. You can see castles in Salzburg, nearby Werfen, and on the Rhine, and in Burghausen on the way north from Salzburg. If you go for the Rhine, check out Ben's accommodations pages, which give you not just good places to stay but a good feel for the area: http://www.bensbauernhof.com/accommodationsrhinemosel.html

Posted by
26 posts

Hi Anthony, You are right, it is always hard to pick when just looking at the tour guides. I recommend going to the library and getting a couple of the DK Eyewitness books on Germany. You and your family can take a look at the wonderful photos of some of the sights and decide which area/towns gets the most votes. Next, pick 3 absolute, have-to-see towns/sites and make your 'loop' off of that. I am guessing Nurenburg is on that list because of the old friend. Next, I am guessing Neuschwanstein is on the list. Then, decide if Salzburg area/sites are more important or if the Rhine valley castles get everyone the most excited. Pick one, not both, and you will have a very manageable triangle. You don't say how old your daughter is, but last summer my 15 year old daughter and I were in this area. She really wanted to see Neuschwanstein,(so we based our days off that 'for sure' stop) but she was willing to give up the Sound of Music tour. (I had seen both before)
We went to the Rhine valley instead of Salzburg. Would I tell you one is 'better' than the other? No, they are, however, different. The Rhine valley castles are much more rustic and natural than Ludwig's, so they make a nice contrast. In our case, we were flying home from Frankfurt so the Rhine valley also made logistical sense. What in Munich specifically will be special to your family? There may be more interesting attractions elsewhere. I hope this helps and doesn't confuse you more!

Posted by
3696 posts

I have visited all the places you want to go and if it were my itinerary I would add a night to Salzburg, cut one from Rothenburg (I would not cut it out, but I would visit one of the other towns on the road as well..perhaps Dinkelsbuhl) and I would take one night away from Munich... especially if the only reason is to visit a big city. There is so much beautiful countryside to explore. I enjoyed the castles and would have had regrets if I had missed them. I also love Heidelberg and it's castle as well as love the idea of popping over to Strousburg. Enjoy the river boat trip there. I would stay as close to the airport as possible for the last night and enjoy where ever that puts you. Too much traffic and stress to worry about on the way home.

Posted by
760 posts

A few thoughts. First, in Rothenburg do not miss the Nightwatchman's tour, it is the most enjoyable history lesson you will ever have. Second, I would definitely pick Luzern over Baden Baden. Third, on the drive from Salzburg to Munich a couple hour stop at the Chiemsee to go out to the Castle Herrenchiemsee would be time well spent.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks everyone -- My daughter is 15. Loves Disneyworld.. Neuschwanstein hopefully will have an impact on her. Wife and daughter have very special connections to Sound of Music, so the best I can hope for in Salzburg is Maria's bicycle tour! I want to stay at least one night in Rothenburg because I'm suspecting it will be like Mt St Michelle we visited in France - I was glad to have spent night there to enjoy it before and after the day time crowds. I may be able to cancel the one night in Nuremberg, as our 'old' friend there is ill and we can only see him for a few hours in the daytime between staying in Munich n Rothenburg ( I'm aware Nuremberg has merits of its own). Perhaps could shave one night off Munich. Then I could add a nite to Salzburg or another spot.
My wife's a 'foodie' - great cook adventurous eater so any food/fresh market recommendations are appreciated too.

Posted by
1792 posts

Yes there are ice caves and salt mines in Hallstatt. I did the salt mine there many years ago. There is also a salt mine in Hallein, just outside Salzburg (did it last Christmas as well as twice before that) and ice cages in Werfen, also not too far from Salzburg.

Posted by
8852 posts

I don't know if anyone mentioned this, but if you are spending the night in Rothenburg be sure to do the Night Watchman's tour. It is a lot of fun, yet informative. Yes, Rothenburg is very different when the tour buses are gone. We walked the wall one evening and there were few people around. It did get dark and we wished we had a flashlight! I am a big SOM fan too. We did Salzburg as a daytrip from Munich, so it had not been on our radar before we spontaneously decided to go. I was so excited to see the SOM sites, but I wished I had rewatched the movie first. I did watch it after returning home. A couple of years ago we did another spontaneous daytrip to Salzburg. I would have loved to do a SOM tour, but we were with German relatives who weren't interested. In Germany they don't know the movie!

Posted by
1631 posts

Are you stopping in Lindau or staying in Lindau? Where in Bavaria are you staying so that you can see the castles, etc.?

Posted by
30 posts

I haven't scrolled through all of the other posts, so sorry if I repeat or refute other posts, it's not intentional. Anthony, we just got back from a 12 day trip to Germany/Austria. This is quite a packed trip, as you will be driving alot. I think you should spend some time in Switzerland, either at beginning or end of your trip. Also, pick your TOP areas and plan a route that will not have you back-pedaling or driving way out of your way to see one or two things. My personal recommendations would be to skip the Rhine Valley. You could probably shave a night or two off of Munich, or skip it altogether and just do a day trip or pass through on your way to somewhere else. Rothenburg almost is a little out of the way on your plan, but it's the one place I wouldn't take out because it's really that awesome. I have a 15 and 18 year old, Rothenburg was a highlight for us. Plus you have 2 women-folk to contend with and hey, we like the shops! I also think you could cut out Hallstatt. The Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves are in Werfen, about 1/2 an hour south of Hallein. (easy daytrip from Salzburg) Hallstatt would be an additional hour East of there, so do it if you have the time. But DON'T miss the ice cave in Werfen! If you had to skip an activity, skip the salt mines. They were just so-so, esp if you do the ice caves which are phenomenal. Consider the Garmisch area if you're doing the castles (but stay in Fussen or other cute town, skip Reutte, we drove through and didn't get RS's attraction, too many other great towns near the castles). Berchtesgaden (or surrounding towns) is an option for a place to stay instead of Salzburg, they're close enough to each other to do daytrips to either. Plot all your places on mapquest, and move around until you get a workable plan.
Angela