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itinerary 2 weeks driving Germany Austria Switzerland

Hello Friends! - my wife and 16 year old daughter have 13 full days on the ground - we fly into and out of zurich - will pick up car upon arrival and drop off at end. Bavaria, Munich, Salzburg, Rothenburg among many other spots (Hallstat, 2 0r 3 castles) sound wonderful. Would appreciate your suggestions on how to do the Zurich back to Zurich loop with a car. One constraintWe may have to visit some old friends that are in Nurnberg (should be easy near Rothenburg). BIG QUESTIONBerner Oberland sounds great but we visit the US Rockies every Winter to ski and lots of US Natl parks so I'm not sure it's worth the trouble and distance, extra clothes packing (and those train/lift fares!); I'm thinking Vienna is too far out of the 'loop') We've used other 'Rick' itinerary 'priorities' in past 2+ week trips to single countries of Europe (our first time to this area) in so I'd appreciate anything from your full trip suggestion to just fine tuning many thanks!!

Posted by
7209 posts

I've not seen ANY US National Parks to rival the Berner Oberland. Also all of the places you plan to visit are very easy by train. The Zurich Airport has a train station right underneath so you land and begin your journey straight away in relaxation. The beautiful alpine villages where you'll definitely want to go are only accessible by train. Petrol, parking, tolls, insurance - trains are much more user friendly.

Posted by
12040 posts

My opinion on the Berner Oberland is somewhat in the minority on this website, but here goes... Yes, it is a very attractive area, but I don't find it so much more amazing than the rest of the Alps to be worth the extra effort a lot of travelers exert to fit it in their itineraries. Especially when they'll bypass countless other Alpine resort areas (not mentioned by Mr. Steves) in transit. You may see some replies noting that "You haven't seen the Alps until you've been to the Berner Oberland" to which I would ask that person "Where else in the Alps have you been (beside Füssen) to make that comparison?" That being said, the Berner Oberland isn't that far from Zurich, so it wouldn't take much effort to get there. But if you choose not to go, don't worry, you will still have some great Alpine scenery at other parts of your trip. In my opinion, you really can't go wrong in the Alps- I'd even rather stay in Reutte than not visit the Alps at all. I'm of the same opinion on Rothenburg. Attractive, no doubt, but not unique enough to be the singular focus of all the attention it gets. But, once again... if you're visiting Nürnberg, Rothenburg is an easy side trip. You may as well visit. Don't miss nearby Swäbische Hall, though. It's a great example (among many) to compare what Rotheburg would look like if you removed all the souvenir shops and tour buses. Although admittedly, it doesn't have a wall.

Posted by
813 posts

Okay, here goes my loop suggestion......
Fly into Zurich (morning?), spend the rest of the day having a look around Zurich. Next morning get the rental car, head to Meersburg for lunch, see the castle, or stop in Lindau, then drive through Ulm (stop at the cathedral) to Rothenburg odT or Nuremberg for a few nights (or however many nights you need there). Then head down to Munich, Salzburg, to Hallstatt. From Hallstatt, head west past Zell Am See (nice lake area, mtns, beautiful!) and pick up the A12 going west. If you have to go to Fuessen for castles, stay in Garmisch-Part. Continue heading west on the E60. I suggest stopping in Lech for a night, such a cute resort town. Then perhaps through (don't blink!) Liechtenstein to Lucerne for a night before making it back into Zurich. Or just finish with a few nights in Zurich to see more there.

Posted by
33 posts

thanks. I am considering Ruette ('better for drivers' per RS) as a place to begin our trip after landing. Another post suggests starting in Meersburg/Lake Constance.

Posted by
12040 posts

Well, I said you can't go wrong in the Alps... but Reutte would be one of my last choices in the Allgäu-Nord Tyrol area. It sits in a scenic location, but the town itself just isn't that attractive. My preferences would be Oberstdorf, Neselwang, Lermoos, Ehrwald, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, or Mittenwald. The Bodensee is stunningly beautiful on a clear day, particularly if you're in Germany looking towards Austria and Switzerland. The nicest towns I have seen here are Lindau and Friedrichshafen.

Posted by
425 posts

I'll help "fine tuning" Munich. Although I own 5 RS books, I find that the Frommer's Walking Tour #1 is about the best self guided walking tour out there if you have never been to Munich. Google it and print if for free. It puts together just about every major sight in downtown-ish Munich in a couple hour walk. Oh, BTW, I'm a car guy too, so don't let the obvious "pro-train" comments get to you!

Posted by
1503 posts

Anthony, I grew up in Denver - so am quite familiar with the Rockies, and have been to many National Parks - Yosemite being my favorite. I would say that the Berner Oberland totally outdoes even Yosemite! My husband calls it Yosemite on steroids. It's like a much larger way more awesome version of Yosemite, but with pristine swiss chocolate box villages half way up the peaks. It shouldn't really require any extra packing unless you plan to spend time at the top of the Jungfrau or Schilthorn (assuming you are going in summer). The train / lifts are definitely expensive, but in my opinion sooooo worth it!

Posted by
33339 posts

Between myself and my wife we have seen much of both the Canadian and US Rockies, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and RMNP, Colorado to Alberta. Until we were on the top of Allmendhubel nearly touching the Monch, Eiger, and the Jungfrau (or so it seemed) we thought nothing would touch them - especially Alberta - but you know, the Alps take the biscuit. Austrian, German, Italian, French and Swiss Alps. There's nothing like 'em. Not to us, anyway.

Posted by
33 posts

Tom - which of those nice spots might be the easiest for an overnight flight tired driver to reach from Zurich to begin our trip?

Posted by
12040 posts

Of the places I mentioned, Lindau and Oberstdorf would be the easiest for a post-flight drive (something, by the way, that I wouldn't particularly recommend). They're not the closest, but the driving to these places from Zurich involves a minimum of twisting, climbing roads. As I said before, the Berner Oberland isn't that far from Zurich, but it probably isn't the safest route to drive while jet lagged. Another resort town I like in the Swiss Alps that's super convenient to Zurich is Flumserberg. The route is mostly along a relatively straight autobahn with some amazing scenery. However, the last stretch of the trip involves a sharp ascent up a steep, winding road.

Posted by
12040 posts

"I suggest stopping in Lech for a night, such a cute resort town." I love Lech! It's so isolated and peaceful, you almost think you're reached the end of the earth. Be prepared to dish out the €€€€€'s, though.

Posted by
33 posts

Do folks think it worthwhile to head as far north as the Rhine region and the towns of Bacharach and St Goar? Would this be preferable to going somewhat out of the way to Halstatt? Tough choices! Many thanks to everyone for your useful input!

Posted by
12040 posts

To attempt an answer at your last question, can you lay out your proposed itinerary as it stands? Particularly, if you visit the Rhine, where would you come from and where to next? I tend to go somewhat against the tide on this website on certain destinations. Mainly, the ideas that there's no substitutes for Rothenburg, Baden-Baden or the Berner Oberland. But I trully have not found an alternative to the justifiably famous Mittelrhein. Parts of the Neckar, Main, Mosel and Maas have similar scenery, but nowhere else will you find such a high density of easily visible castles and other scenic features. So, if you can fit the Rhine into your plan, go for it. If not, consider a drive along the Neckar between Heilbron and Heidelberg as the next best option. I would not, however, consider a daytrip to the Rhine from the Nürnberg area. This would involve a long drive along A3, passing by Frankfurt. This is a particularly Stau-prone stretch of Autobahn. Twice in the past 6 months, I've been stuck in a Stau around Offenbach where traffic has come to a stand-still for hours at a time. So, if you want to see the Mittelrhein, stay the night locally.

Posted by
33 posts

Working off of the loop suggested by Kathy (above - thanks Kathy!) It appears we could visit Bacharach after Rothenburg then head back to Nurnberg (stop at Nurnberg still not definite...depends on old neighbors...). it looks like Halstatt is adding a lot of driving time after Salzburg so I might have to sacrifice Halstatt in favor of Bacharach, if this tradeoff is worthwhile - both seem very highly recommended. I don't plan to spend any time in Zurich and if there's a reasonable "berner oberland substitute" in Germany or Austria we would have a pretty effecient driving loop.

Posted by
12040 posts

OK, how about this driving loop for a suggestion? Zurich to Lech am Arlberg (for your Berner Oberland substitute... and I would NOT recommend driving to Lech without first getting a full night of sleep. You may as well drive through the mountain pass drunk). Or Flumserberg. Lech/Flumserberg to Salzburg via Innsbruck. Salzburg to Munich. Munich to Nürnberg/Rothenburg. Nürnberg to the Rhine. Rhine to the Bodensee. Bodensee to Zurich. Admittedly, though, that's kind of tight for 13 days. I didn't include the well-known castles near Füssen that most visitors place high on their wish list. You could conceivably add that on the way to Salzburg, but it would be even more of a tight fit.

Posted by
33 posts

I've finally had some time to work on our itinerary focusing on first and second days of trip flight arriving in Zurich 10am -we pick up car I'd appreciate opinions on these choices: (A) flt arrives, get car, drive under 1hour from zurich - stop at Stein am Rhein have a look around, bite to eat, maybe visit the Rheinfalls then..
back in the car drive 1.5 hours to Appenzell or Ebenalp for our first night (??tourist trap town but is not too far) spend first part of day there then head to Reutte, Garmisch area for the next couple of nights for castles etc (B) choose between Appenzell area vs. Stein Am Rhein are for our entire first day AND NIGHT? (C) make a daytime stop at one of these two places then head on to Reutte for first night? (D)Lech, Lindau, Friedrichshafen were suggested here and also of interest for the first day and night (or two) before moving on to Reutte/Garmisch Many thanks!