Sightseeing around Bavaria
When you think about Germany and you are an American, you are probably just thinking about Bavaria. So many things in the American mind about Germany have come from Bavaria.
- Oompah Bands, Lederhosen and Oktoberfest? Yup.
- Castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty? Yup.
- Pretzels? Well, not just Bavaria, but definitely the south of Germany.
To put this in a bit of an American perspective, that is like people only thinking of Texas and stuff there when they think about the US as a whole. Both countries are much richer than that. Even still Bavaria is a place a lot of people come to to experience Germany. So here is a look at a few things to do around Bavaria.
Bavaria is the state of the German republic, but even it has regional differences. Bayern (Bavaria in German) is the southern half of the state while Franken is the northern part. Yes, there are differences. Well I have been told this from friends who are from there. And I believe them. Bavarians from either part are very partial to their specific favorite beer. Think of the fanaticism of sports teams as related to beer.
Munich, the tourist center
Munich is the center of the tourist road in Bavaria. If you have done a whirlwind tour of Europe and have hit Germany at all, it is most likely that you have seen Munich. This is fine as Munich is really pretty cool as a city. The city has a university and several parks in addition to the normal city part to wander around.
- Check out a beer hall or beer garden. I liked Augustiner, but Hofbrauhaus is definitely very famous as well.
- Eat a white sausage with a beer and a pretzel for breakfast.
- Oktoberfest is the most famous beerfest, but there are others. Coming up in March is Starkbierfest, Strong beer Festival.
- Check out the Deutsches Museum on an island in the river. Seriously, if you like science or natural history museums, this place is for you.
- The Dachau concentration camp is nearby for a bit of sobering history.
Neuschwannstein, the Sleeping Beauty Castle
Constructed by Mad King Ludwig II (sheesh, what a mouthful), Neuschwannstein is probably the most famous castle in Germany. We even saw postcards in Heidelberg for it 100s of kilometers away. The castle is indeed very picturesque and worth a visit despite the tourist throng that heads there every day.
- The easiest way is a tour bus, but you are then on their schedule. The town near the castle is called Fussen and is reachable by public transport from Munich.
- There are actually two castles near each other. A yellowish one is called Hohenschwanngau and actually Ludwig’s father’s castle. Ludwig though built his confection further up the hill.
- To get into the castle, you buy a ticket with a time on it. Make sure you go in with your time or you will miss your tour.
Nuremberg, center of Franken
Nuremburg is famous for a few things. The post World War II trials of the head-Nazis were held here. This was once considered one of the most typically “German” towns.
- It is very well known for its Christkindlsmarkt at Christmas.
- Lebkuchen are also from Nuremberg and known as Gingerbread cookies in English, although it tastes different to me.
- Every town in Germany has their own type of sausage, Nuremberger are small and slightly spicy. Think American style breakfast sausages and you get a few on a bun for a couple of Euros in the market for a nice lunch.
- For sights, there is a lot of good wandering to be done in Nuremberg including a castle which looks over the town.
Bamberg, city of Students and Beer
Bamberg is a university town about an hour by train from Nuremburg. It also has a very high concentration of breweries. The famous picture of Bamberg is of the city hall which is built on a small island in the middle of the river. There are several cathedrals to see as well as an old town to wander.
- The local specialty is called Rauchbeer (“Smoke Beer”), which I found pretty awful the one bottle I tried. Though a friend of mine who lived there a few years says it is an acquired taste.
- Speaking of drinking, Sandkerwa is the local drinking festival.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Medieval Cuteness
A few hour complex train journey from Nuremburg and Munich, is Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The city is part of the Romantic Road and indeed is very medieval-cute. The story I was told is that at the point when towns in Germany were modernizing, they had no money, so they didn’t. They had to make do with what was there and keep it up. Fast forward many years and you have a tourist draw. The town is walled and worth a good walk around. You can even scale the tower of city hall for a better view of things.
Other things in Bavaria
Bavaria is definitely a large place and has a lot to offer. Here is a selection of other places in the region.
Nordlingen, the walled City – Nordlingen is one of only a few cities in Germany with an intact city wall. I kind of want to see it, but have never.
Bavarian Hopsland – You know, hops which makes beer good.
Herrenchiemsee – More Mad Ludwig stuff with islands and castles.
Alpine Resorts – There are a number of Alpine towns other than Fussen that are reachable from Munich. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a ski resort. And Zugspitze is the tallest mountain in Germany.
– – –
Is this all of what Bavaria has to offer? Of course not, but it is a list to get you started and should keep you busy for at least a while.
Even if you only have a few weeks in Germany, it is a great place to find a base and take daytrips out from that base city. The public transport is great and you can explore a region more deeply. Also check out my post on daytrips from Freiburg.
Blog Round Up #52 | Military Wife Blog
March 26, 2013 @ 2:22 pm
[…] Sightseeing around Bavaria – Looking for fresh ideas of what to do in Bavaria? The Grounded Traveler has some for you! […]
February 25, 2013 @ 1:31 pm
Hi Andrew! Thanks for sharing photos of Bavaria here. I really love places in Europe. They have this cute and stunning architecture. The last photo is my favorite. It looks like fantasy, like the ones I’m seeing in cartoons and movies… 🙂 I’m sure it’s lovely to live there.
February 21, 2013 @ 8:07 pm
Another thing people in America (and Canada) think of when they think of Germany is BMW = Bavarian Motor Works… just thought I’d add that 😉
February 24, 2013 @ 8:21 pm
Indeed. Though most would note BMW as being German, not too many would know that the B stood for Bavaria, I expect.
The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)
February 21, 2013 @ 12:01 pm
Ah, I love Bayern. All of these places bring back such beautiful, pleasant memories of when I traveled there in high school. You’re so lucky to be an expat in Germany … we’re feeling really run down here in smoggy China. It’s hard to catch our breath — literally!
February 24, 2013 @ 8:20 pm
Eesh. I have heard a fare amount about the smog in China. That sucks. Yeah, Germany is nice, though the winter is pretty cold and dark. The summers are great.
How long were you here in High School?
February 21, 2013 @ 11:15 am
You left out Regensburg! We have a famous cathedral, an ancient stone bridge, and the world’s oldest fast food restaurant.
Bavaria is my stomping grounds- Regensburg is an hour from Nuremberg and a little over an hour from Munich.
If you like the Starkbierfest, there’s also a good one in Adlersberg on Palm Sunday, called Palmator.
February 24, 2013 @ 8:10 pm
I left out a lot of things. Bavaria is really rich in things to do and see. I would like to see Regensburg. A friend from Freiburg mentioned it as well based on this post.
Palm Sunday beer sounds interesting. Shame we won’t be free to go traveling at that point. I definitely need to see more of Germany.
February 17, 2013 @ 11:02 am
It all looks and sounds very appealing, Jeremy. As close as I’ve come is Goerlitz, on the border with Zgorzelec in Poland, and that was very lovely.
February 18, 2013 @ 6:34 pm
That is still a pretty far distance from Bavaria. Have you been anywhere else in Germany?
February 18, 2013 @ 7:51 pm
So sorry, Andrew- got my genial hosts confused!
No, Germany’s been off my radar so far, but the architecture in Rothenburg looks very similar to Goerlitz.
February 24, 2013 @ 8:07 pm
No worries. Rothenburg is very cute. Although there are not many towns that are completely like that, there definitely are pieces of cute in pretty much every town in Germany. A lot of it of course is rebuilt, but still it is there.
February 17, 2013 @ 2:16 am
I love this area. It’s the only place in Germany that I have actually visited. I’ve spent a few hours in Munich, a day in Rothenburg, and visited Neuschwanstein. We actually hiked to the castle and it was awesome. Love the outdoor areas in Bavaria. Makes me want to go back and explore more.
The twin towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria | Fotoeins Fotopress
February 15, 2013 @ 11:07 pm
[…] You can also read about my day trip up to Zugspitze. Andrew Couch from Grounded Traveler provides a summary about fun, scenic, and interesting things to see and do in the German state of Bavaria. […]
February 15, 2013 @ 5:50 am
Good look at some of the great places in Bavaria. Having lived a good deal of time in Rothenburg o.d.T., Bamberg (Rauchbier from the keg is much tastier than from the bottle), and Nürnberg (I agree with Charles on ‘s Bratwursthäusle), I want to mention a few things for the tourist who might have a few extra hours:
Rothenburg o.d.T.: Don’t miss the Meistertrunk clock on the main square. Some of the best Frankenwein comes from this area (it’s so dry that you are still thirsty after you drink a glass). This is a walled city for the upper classes of the Middle Ages. Also, there is a very unique wooden altar upstairs at St. Jacob’s Church (Jakobikirche). Most folks get enamored by the large stained glass window on the main level and never get up to the balcony to see the Veit-Stoß-Altar.
Bamberg: The city hall in the picture is unique because it uses a baroque architectural technique that has the legs and arms of some of the persons on the murals sticking out. The only pope buried north of the Alps is buried in the Cathedral (Bamberger Dom).
Nürnberg: For those familiar with the painter Albrecht Dürer (“the Praying Hands”), you can visit his birth house not far from the castle (also worth a walk around). There is also a large and interesting railroad museum off of Lessingstrasse (near the main railroad station). Also, the Germanisches Nationalmuseum has artifacts dating back to the time of Charlemagne.
Nördlingen used to have the only still functioning town crier who would call out the news from the top of the city hall tower. Nördlingen sits in the middle of the Ries, which is a meteor crater from some 14 million years ago. Astronauts going to the moon did some training here in the mid 1960s.
Some hidden gems in Bavaria worth a trip:
Coburg (north of Bamberg): has (in my opinion) the best Bratwurst in all of Germany — done in the “Thüringer” style (coarse chop) and grilled over pine cones. Best ones are sold on the Market Square near the stature of Prince Albert, whose home castle is here (Ehrenburg Palace). Also, the Hummel factory is not far away (on the highway to Sonnenberg); however, they used to not give tours.
Harburg Castle: On the Romantic Highway between Nördlingen and Donauwörth. The library in the castle is one of the oldest in Germany.
Walhalla Temple (nearDonaustauf): along the Danube between Regensburg and Passau. Built in the 19th Century during the high romantic period in Germany, it has statues of famous people throughout history. It’s visible from 10-15 miles away.
Wolframs Eschenbach: near Ansbach. It is a small town (Dorf) with a wall. It’s claim to fame is the birthplace of the medieval poet Wolfram von Eschenbach. I consider this the walled city of the common man.
February 15, 2013 @ 3:28 am
I wish we could have spent more time in Bavaria on our trip in December. I would love to see Neuschwannstein next time. And since I’m totally addicted to Christmas markets, I’ll have to make a point to visit Nuremburg. Great ideas!
February 17, 2013 @ 12:13 am
Thanks. Surprised you didn’t make it to Neuschwannstein but did hit pup Herrenchiemsee. That would have been reversed for me. In all honesty, I had not known much about Herrenchiemsee (other than maybe the name) outside of your post.
February 15, 2013 @ 3:26 am
Thanks so much for sharing. I enjoy reading your writings.
February 17, 2013 @ 12:12 am
Of course, thanks for the comment.
February 14, 2013 @ 11:45 pm
I haven’t actually spent very much time in Germany. I’ve been to Oktoberfest, but haven’t really seen Munich. I’ve spent some time in Hamburg and Stuttgart and I’m headed to Berlin in a couple of weeks. But I’d like to explore more of southern Germany.
February 17, 2013 @ 12:12 am
Berlin and Hamburg are good ones to visit as a very nice contrast to Munich. The food and the feel of things are very different.
Hope you have some time to see a bit of Berlin while you are there.
Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista
February 14, 2013 @ 11:40 pm
You covered some of my favorites! Rothenburg is one of my favorite villages even if it’s crowded and I just can’t get enough of the area around Garmisch, Fussen and Mittenwald! I tried Rausch beer in Bamberg and was surprised I really liked it!
I’m with you, it is sad that most Americans think of Bavaria when they think of Germany. There is so much more to this wonderful country!
I always get a chuckle when I hear a German say “Oh those Bavarians!”
February 17, 2013 @ 12:11 am
Thanks. I am sure that I missed some stuff, it is a pretty dense area of stuff to see. I actually need to go see Garmisch and back to Fussen at some point.
Wow you are one of the few people I have talked to who liked the Rauch beer on first try.
I want to do more Regional looks at Germany on the blog to show the differences, so this should be just the beginning.
February 14, 2013 @ 11:14 pm
I once got in a discussion with our local contract guards when I was stationed in Mannheim. I mentioned that I was born in Nürnberg, and he called me a Bavarian. My reply: “Doch! Franken!”
Franken is to Bayern, as Bayern is to Deutschland.
Imagine if you will, Texas… believes itself to be special, set apart… now imagine a part of Texas that sees it’s relationship with Texas the same way. Now that is the Franken attitude that I know.
The Nürnberger Lebkuchen are often translated to “gingerbread cookies” but it is more like a ginger-spice-cake (often chocolate covered). I guess the best way to describe them is somewhere between gingerbread cookie and fruitcake. Though that doesn’t do them justice. There are a dozen or more name brands in Nürnberg, with the biggest having storefronts on the Markplatz. Your best bet, as always, is in the very local places.
Also not to be missed is the 800 year old ‘s Bratwursthäusle – though the original two story restaurant burned down and was rebuilt as a single story 500 years ago. Aside from the electric lighting and cash-register, you would almost believe you had stepped into the middle of the 1700s. It is just up the street from the Markplatz towards the fortress, and in the shadow of Sebalduskirche.
Rothenburg o.d.T. is a beautiful town, if a bit overrun by tourists.
Nordlingen, I visited in the depths of a very cold winter in the 80s. I really only remember it being very cold outside. Probably the coldest I can remember outside of a Northern Minnesota Winter. Probably not a fair comparison.
I found the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier to be odd. My folks who lived in Bamberg for several years say it is very much an acquired taste. My father enjoys it, my mother not so much.
Also worth seeing is in the extreme South-East tip of both Germany and Bavaria is Berchtesgaden. Often known in American circles for the Eagle’s Nest and the World War II aspects (there is a Documentation Center for the horrors of the Nazi Era on the Obersalzberg plateau), the Salzbergwerk Mine and Königssee cruise are excellent. Since the American AFRC facilities left (almost 20 years ago), this former tourist trap has reclaimed a more traditional feel. The Nationalpark Berchtesgaden is one of the few sizeable wilderness areas in German, and the first German National Park (1978).
February 17, 2013 @ 12:09 am
Thanks for weighing in Charles. The voice of experience and all that.
Yeah, Lebkuchen are not really crispy like cookies, but more cakey. The more widespread oblat style I don’t like as much. The smaller hearts are good though.
Thanks for the extra tips.
fotoeins | Henry
February 14, 2013 @ 10:48 pm
As much as I dislike how many people think Bavaria represents Germany, Bavaria is a beautiful Bundesland; note I’m not saying Freistaat! I really liked the Rauchbier (smoked beer), especially on a hot summer day, and I definitely understand what is meant by “acquired taste,” as I didn’t much like beer at all many years ago. What gets me is that your post is making me miss the D-land! Thanks also for linking to my posts of the Bamberg, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and Zugspitze! 🙂
February 17, 2013 @ 12:05 am
I find it pretty interesting how much of Germany vs Bavaria there is. Even in my own experienced brain I notice some.
The Rauchbier I tried was in the winter, so maybe that is the issue. It just kind of tasted like someone put a cigarette out in the beer.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post. No problem on the links. I have never been to either place, but I wanted to mention it. Your 4 part of Zugspitze is great.