David surprised me with an early birthday gift to Bavaria Germany. Yes, I know I am one lucky girl. If you follow us on Instagram (@dolbytravels) you may have seen the Instagram stories about it. He told me when we were going on an international trip but did not tell me where we were going. Now…I claim to love surprises. However, it drives me crazy not knowing what the surprise is. It was a longgg two weeks worth of guessing and asking lots of questions. But he eventually spilled the beans and told me we were in fact jetting off to Munich, Germany to explore the Bavarian and soak up all its Christmas charm.
How to Plan the Perfect Bavarian Road-Trip
One reason David decided to tell me where we were going was to get my input on how to get around and what we wanted to see during our two week trip. We were flying in and out of Munich which is a great central location for exploring Bavaria. We brainstormed the sights and towns we wanted to see the most and then planned the trip around that. For me, I wanted to return to Neuschwanstein Castle and take an iconic photo on Mary’s Bridge. David wanted to explore the quaint Bavarian towns along romantic road. Perfect, Romantic Road starts about 90 minutes from Munich and ends in Neuschwanstein Castle. I’ll let you in on a special Dolby Travels secret. This is how I plan almost all of my trips. I draw a map of all the places I want and then figure out how far apart they are from one another. This gives me an idea of good central towns and what can be a day trip vs an overnight stay. We also used Lonely Planet’s Munich, Bavaria, and the Black Forest Guide Book to help plan the trip.
This is what our finalized itinerary looked like:
Day 1-4: New York City
Day 4-6: Munich
Day 6-7: Nuremberg
Day 7-8 Würzburg
Day 8-9: Rothenburg
Day 9-10 Augsburg
Day 10-11: Füssen
Day 11-14: Berchtesgaden
Day 14-16: Prien
Day 16: Munich to NYC
How to Get Around
For the first part of our journey we traveled by train. Germany’s train system is arguably the best in all of Europe. Punctual, clean, and far-reaching. It is the best option if traveling between large cities like Munich and Nuremberg. Bus travel is also an option and prices tend to be lower than trains but take longer. I have always gravitated towards trains because of how quick and inexpensive they are.
We chose to rent a car for the second half of our journey. We did this for two reasons: 1) Some of the stops along Romantic Road are difficult to reach via public transportation and 2) I love a good side-of-the-road photo shoot. Some of my favorite travel photos were made possible by having the freedom to safely pull over on the side of the road and snap a photo. For these reasons, we felt like renting a car was the best option for us. Renting a car is not the best option for everyone so I recommend exploring all your options including: car, bus, train, and even biking.
If you rent a car, be prepared to pay for parking in the larger cities and even some smaller towns. Overnight rates were 8 euros and hourly rates ranged from ,50 to 1,50 euros per hour. To save money, try to book accommodations with free parking!
When to Go
This is my second time in Bavaria in the winter months and I adore it. The Alps are snow capped, tourism is much lower than the summer, and Christmas Markets are in full swing. However, visibility in the Alps can be low, it can be rainy, and some attractions may be closed. I do not think there is a bad time to visit Bavaria but it depends on what you want to do. If cold weather, Christmas, and off-peak travel is your thing: November-February. If you are looking to spend time outside drinking beer, biking the country side, and visiting all the attractions wait until April-September. There are pros and cons for both seasons.
One of Germany’s main transportation hubs and a great jumping off point for Bavaria. Flights into Munich can be affordable and you can reach just about any place in Germany from there.
Stay: Euro Youth Hostel- This clean and safe hostel sits right across from Munich’s main train station. Plus they offer a generous 5 euro breakfast every morning.
Do: English Garden- A large garden in the middle of Munich. Spend your day wandering through the beautiful grounds, visiting the Chinese Tower, or watching locals surf the waves.
Marienplatz and New Town Hall- One of my favorite parts of European towns is they all have main town squares. Munich has one of the most beautiful squares I have ever seen. It was full of Christmas Market stalls, carolers, and a festive Christmas tree. The buildings surrounding it are a display of the incredible, European architecture and a true joy to admire.
Hofbrauhaus- No visit to Munich is complete without consuming a pint at a biergaden. Hofbrauhaus is Munich’s most famous and one of the Oktoberfest’s most popular. Every time we popped our head in it was packed with people. I recommend just getting a beer and skipping the food here.
Viktualienmarkt- A fruit and vegetable market right off the main Marienplatz. I always enjoy strolling through these markets, picking up a piece of fruit to snack on, and browsing all the fruits and vegetables we do not normally see at our markets.
BMW Museum- We did not visit the museum but we heard great things about it and would be a perfect rainy day activity.
**Christmas Market- If you are lucky enough to visit Munich during the magical Christmas season, you must visit the Christmas Market. It was the first we visited and it is a true spectical. See my full review of all of Bavaria Christmas Markets HERE.
**Tollwood Winter Festival- During the Christmas season there is also the Tollwood Winter Festival taking place about a 30 minute walk from the main Christmas Market. This was rather close to our hostel so we made two trips here. It is full of delicious food, live music, and homemade gifts.
Eat: To be honest, we took full advantage of all the markets taking place and had the majority of our meals there. From vegan dumplings to currywurst, we were able to find just about anything we were craving. The Christmas and Winter markets also allowed us to stick to our food budget which was 30 euros a day for two people.
Stay: Airbnb. I was shocked how expensive Nuremburg accommodation were (compared to the rest of Germany). Most Nuremberg hostels and hotels were at least 70 euros a night. The Airbnb we stayed in was one of my favorites of all time and worth every penny. It was a 20 minute trip from the central train station and easily access by the underground and walking a short distance. The host was so friendly, spoke perfect English, and provided us with lots of great recommendations. The neighborhood was also the perfect location for walking into Old Town.
Do: Christmas Market- Nuremburg is the Christmas Market capital of Germany and I understand why. It was the largest one we visited and had some of the coolest goodies, but see my post on Germany’s Christmas Markets Ranked for more.
Old Town- We only had an afternoon in Nuremberg which was not nearly enough time to cover the whole city so we focused in on Old Town. The entrance is a stunning stone arch followed by adorable cobble stone streets and quaint shops. We stumbled into several antique shops selling 20th century Germany home goods, photos, and Christmas decorations.
Deutsche Bahn Museum- If you find yourself in Nuremberg on a rainy day, I would visit the Deutsche Bahn museum. The train system in Germany is incredible and has some really cool history to share. It is location near the main train station and worth your time and 5 euros.
Eat: Again, most of our meals were consumed at the Christmas Market but we did manage to find a cafe and Thai food that was top notch.
Cafe Wanderer- Nestled in the Old Town Castle walls is a cozy cafe serving hot and cold beverages. It is the perfect place to stop in for an afternoon pick me up.
Thai Food 1- Yes, this is the actual name. Just a few blocks from our Airbnb we found some of the best Thai food we have ever had. Seriously, it was amazing. The menu was large and had a lot of vegetarian and vegan options. It was also very affordable at 5-7 euros a plate.
Read More: 8 Vegan Foods You Can Find in Germany (Coming Soon)
Stay: Babelfish Hostel- Located directly across from the main train station, this hostel was clean, quiet, and affordable. We switched from a dorm to private room at the last second and they were very accommodating. The center of town is only about a 10 minute walk from the hostel making it a great central location for both transportation and sightseeing.
Festung Marienberg- A giant fortress that sits atop a hill overlooking all of Wurzberg. We didn’t make the trek up the hill but the view from the bottom of the hill is stunning enough.
Dom St. Killian: The main church in Wurtzberg. The architecture reminded me of France or Italy. It is well worth a walk through.
Residence- Ah, the Residence. David and I have a love, hate relationship with paid attractions while traveling. Because we are typically on a tight budget we pick and choose our paid activities carefully. We were told this was a “must-see” so maybe we made the wrong decision, but upon seeing it we just were not that into taking a tour of it. Don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing building with incredible architecture and immaculate grounds (which are free to walk through), but we didn’t feel like we wanted to pay to see the inside.
Christmas Market- This was surprisingly one of my favorite Christmas Markets. Find out why here.
Eat: All the Christmas Market foods!
We had heard many things about Rothenburg before going but the best piece of advice we received is go in the evening after the tour buses have left. This was great advice and I’m glad we listened.
Stay: Airbnb. We stayed in a German family’s home about a 20 minutes drive from the center of town. I wish I filmed the interactions between us and this family. They were the kindest, most generous, and friendly Airbnb hosts ever. However, limited English was spoken making it nearly impossible for us to converse with them. At some points in conversations I would inappropriately burst into laughter because of how comical it was. If you are looking for a true German homestay, stay here.
Wander through town- We reached Rothenburg after dark and spent our evening wandering through the winding Medieval streets. The town lights up at night and makes it that much more romantic. I found this to be the most romantic town on our trip down Romantic Road.
Walk the city wall- I wish we had gotten to town a little earlier so we could have walked the entire 1.5 mile wall but it did not happen. We did walk a short portion. Beware, the wall is not lit at night making the walk a little more treacherous, hence, why we did not walk further.
Christmas Market- This was one of the most festive market we visited on our trip to Germany. The main town square was decked out in Christmas decor, trees, and lights. Read all my thoughts on Rothenburg’s Christmas Market Here.
Eat: All of our meals were consumed at the Christmas Market and a note on Rothenburg’s food choices. In my opinion, they seemed a little touristy and overpriced. That is not to say you cannot find a hidden gem within the town, but that was my overall impression.
We only spent the morning here but boy was it a beautiful morning. We managed to cover almost the entire town in a few hours.
Do: Christmas Market- This was the main reason for visiting Dinkelsbuhl. See our full review of it here.
See all the colorful houses- This was maybe the most colorful town we visited. Every few steps I was asking David to take my photo in from of these colorful houses or streets. This gives the whole town the happiest atmosphere.
I debated even putting Nordlingen on my last. Why? We spent all of an hour here. We were on our way to Augsburg and intended on staying longer. However, it was frigidly cold and pouring rain. It wasn’t quite the ideal day to walk around and explore. We did manage to eat one of my favorite German meals at their Christmas Market so it wasn’t a total fail.
Augsburg is Bavaria’s third largest city ( according to my Lonely Planet travel guide). We were only in Augsburg for a night so we kept our activities to things close to our hostel.
Stay: Ubernacht-HostelHotel- This was the perfect hostel/hotel for one night in Augsburg. The Christmas Market was right across the street. A huge bonus was we booked two beds in a 6 bed dorm and we had the room to ourselves. That’s right, a 6 bed dorm for two people. It was a huge plus!
Do: We had plans on doing a lot more in Augsburg but it didn’t happen. To be honest with you, at this point in the trip we were exhausted from our road trip so we had a pretty chill night wandering through the Christmas Market- which spoiler was our favorite Christmas Market!
It was our second time in Fussen in three years. It is a small town with few activities. The big reason people visit Fussen is the castles in the area.
Stay: Old Kings Fussen- This hostel was fine. Compared to the other hostels we stayed on our trip it was one of our least favorites because: the room was really tiny, no control over heat/AC so we sweat all night long, only one water closet shared between all the women on our floor (not sure about men), and their credit card machine was broken so we had to pay in cash. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine and also happens to be one of the (if not THE) cheapest bed in Fussen. If you can swing spending a little extra money, upgrade to Hotel Fantasia. We stayed here last time and loved it!
Do: Neuschwanstein Castle- The biggest attraction that brings people to Fussen. You do not need a ticket to walk up and see the castle. The ticket is for the guided tour and it is really interesting and worth the money. Tickets do sell out rather quick so make sure to secure a ticket if you want to go inside the castle and hear all about the history of it. Make sure to visit the iconic Mary’s Bridge if it is open. You will get the best view of the castle from this vantage point.
Eat: Brunners- David and I discovered this simple cafe back in 2016. They have the best soups: goulash and chili con carne. It is the perfect lunch after a hike up to Neuschwanstein.
Chinese Place- Yelp sent us this recommendation and we decided to give it a try. It was delicious! The best Chinese food I have found in Europe, hands down!
Christmas Market- We were fortunate enough to catch the tail end of Fussen’s Christmas Market. It was small and quaint but a perfect way to cap on our Romantic road journey.
Bavaria is beautiful and I highly recommend visiting it. The Alps are magical, the Bavarian towns bring you back into time, and the people are very friendly. I would say the “must-sees” are:
If it is the end of November - December 24th consider planning your trip around the Christmas Markets.
The stretch of towns from Wurzberg to Fussen, also known as Romantic Road are so cute and quaint. They can be explored in a matter of hours and can make your trip much more romantic, if that’s what you are going for. My top choices would be Wurzburg, Dinkelsbuhl, and Fussen.
No trip to Bavaria is complete without one glimpse of the famous Bavarian Alps. You can see them from Fussen, Garmisch-Partinkirchen, and along the Austrian Border.