Driving around Munich, Bavaria, Salzburg, to Zurich -- Vienna or not?

Trying to figure out a plan for 10 days in southern Germany, Salzburg.... We have to depart on our last day from Zurich but still have not decided where we'll fly into (coming from Italy): Vienna, Munich or Zurich.
Although train travel might be more direct, we really want to drive and explore small towns. Option 1: Fly into Vienna, rent a car after being there 2-3 days, and drive to Salzburg, neighboring Austrian towns, make our way through Bavaria, Munich, maybe Lucerne on our way back to Zurich Option 2: Fly into Munich, explore German towns north and south, go east to Salzburg, but not as far as Vienna, before making our way back to Zurich via Lucerne Option 3: .... your suggestions are appreciated!

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2663 posts

My vote would be for Option 2 - fly into Munich. We did something similar in October. We took the train from Munich to Salzburg (easy and inexpensive.) Spent 3 nights in Salzburg at Bloberger Hof Hotel. We picked up our rental car on the 3rd day. Drove to Hallstatt with a stop at Berchtesgaden. One night in Hallstatt. One night in Melk. Drove to Vienna for a 2 night stay and dropped off rental. Flew to Paris (or Zurich in your case.) You wouldn't have to go as far as Vienna but it would be an option. There are many great small towns between Munich and Vienna!

Posted by Russ
Paradise
1749 posts

Plan 1 will involve heavy foreign drop-off fees. With plan 2, if you pick up at MUC and drop at a German border town (then take the train into CH), you'll avoid such fees. Drop the car in CH, and you'll pay dearly. A train ride from Singen or Radolfzell - if you can drop there - to Luzern would cost 30-35€ each at www.bahn.de .

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Vienna might be my second-favorite city in Europe, although a lot of people on this board tend to write it off. Personal preference, I guess. I would include it. But I still see no reason for renting a car. Option 3: Fly from Zurich to Vienna, spend at least 2 nights there, train to Salzburg for 1-2 nights, then train to Munich for 2-3 nights. If you want to rent a car at that point to see smaller Bavarian towns you could do so, although Salzburg is actually close to a lot of the quaint Bavarian towns than Munich is. But there's no reason to drive a car inbetween or into these major cities, and having a car in the cities will just be added headache and expense.

Posted by Francine
Seattle, WA, USA
8 posts

All, Thanks for the input so far. Flying into Vienna (from Italy) is the option we've thinking about most; spending 3 days there. Then drive or train to Salzburg (2 days there), then on to either Munich/Bavaria for the remainder of our trip. The the other thought was waiting to rent the car until we got to Munich. As I look at train fees, they aren't cheap (there will be 3 of us), whereas there are very good deals now renting a car (in Germany) for ~$400/week-not counting parking fees. Any suggestions about where can we drop off the car in Germany that would be an inexpensive train ride in Zurich? I see the town of Konstanz come up for Avis (that will be our rental company) Regarding: "A train ride from Singen or Radolfzell - if you can drop there - to Luzern would cost 30-35€ each at www.bahn.de"
Where is Singen and Radolfzell? in Germany? We would still have to train from Luzern to Zurich Airport (only an hour though I think).

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Are you considering though that gas prices in Europe are the equivalent of about $10/gallon? Singen is a city in Germany near the Swiss border. Where are you looking for train tickets? For Germany use bahn.com and for Austria use the OBB website (they have English options.) If you buy your tickets in advance the prices shouldn't be that high.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

I like Option One. After visiting all the major European cities, Vienna is one of my favorites. (Checkout K&T Boarding House as an inexpensive, centrally located place to stay.) Just pickup your rental car as you leave town. Mapquest.com Directions also includes Western Europe. You can expand + and - to get as much detail as you need. It's 185 miles from Vienna to Salzburg. (The scenery along the way is breathtaking, especially if you'll drive by the lakes.) It's 117 miles to Innsbruck. (The Innsbruck and Tirolean scenery is even better.) Innsbruck to Zurich is 179 miles. This route is true eye candy. At 30 mpg, you're talking about $150 in gasoline split 3 ways.
It's doable. Zurich is not in the mountains, and they roll the sidewalks up early. Your time would be better spent along the way. Have a great trip!

Posted by Denise
Lake Forest, CA, USA
1391 posts

I agree with Option 1. It is a beautiful drive from Vienna to Salzburg. Maybe stop at Melk Abbey, Mauthausen (if you want to see a concentration camp), or St. Gilgen in Salzgammergut and then on to Salzburg. In Salzburg, I like to stay at Haus Ballwein on the outskirts of the city. You can take a 15 min. bus ride into the city from there. Then head west to Munich. You could stay on the outskirts of the city or stay in Bavaria and take a day trip into Munich. I prefer the latter especially after my last trip this past December. I love the countryside more than the city and there are lots of lovely places to stay. PM me if you want some recs. On the way to Munich, you could stop at Lake Chiemsee, the Schielersee area or the town of Mittenwald. You could then drop the car off in Singen which is a small town that is easily walkable to the train station. We used Europcar which we arranged for through AutoEurope, a car broker. There may also be an Avis location there. We took the train to Zurich airport with one connection. Took about an hour and it was very easy. Have a great trip!

Posted by Francine
Seattle, WA, USA
8 posts

Everyone, Thanks for all your suggestions. I so appreciate your experience and perspective. If I still have your attention, can I get your opinion on one more option that I was investigating over the weekend: Option 4: Fly into Stuttgart (from Catania, Italy where I'll be finishing up work and the non-stop flight is cheap!), rent a car and begin our trip with a couple nights in Rothenburg.
Then drive south to Munich, couple days there, couple days in Salzburg, through Innsbruk to Feusssen for 2 days, and finally drive toward Zurich, dropping the car in Konstanz. That would mean: no Vienna. So here is the question: Rothenburg and "Roman Road" (more time in Bavaria) vs. Vienna. What are your thoughts?

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2663 posts

Your Option 4 sounds good to me! You can save Vienna for another trip.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

I like the new option as well, but I prefer the smaller towns and would take driving around exploring small villages vs. time in Vienna. It is a great place to have a car as you can stop whenever you please, have a nice car picnic with a mountain view, or just stop and breathe in the mountain air. Have a great trip.