Germany doesn’t have that romanticized reputation that other European destinations have. Even our bank manager mentioned how Germany seems cold and uninviting.
The beauty of the Bavarian Alps
But after spending 10 days exploring the jaw-dropping region of Bavaria, we can guarantee that a trip to Germany will rival any European vacation you have ever fantasized about.
These are the most beautiful, adventurous, and historic things to do in Bavaria that will change your mind about visiting Germany.
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We only had one day in Munich and it definitely wasn’t enough. But the best way to make the most of it is to take a cycling tour with Radius Tours.
Our guide Tim was born in Germany and grew up in both the United States and Kenya. He shared awesome facts about the history of Munich, showed us all the top attractions and historic sites as well as the downtown area and old town.
And cycling was a fantastic and leisurely way to get around the city.
We highly recommend this tour as we managed to see most of the things to do in Munich that you see on all the lists and we only had 24 hours in the city!
If you don’t’ take a tour, at least make your way to Marienplatz to see the magnificent main square and have a beer at Hofbrau house for a beer. It’s Munich’s largest beer hall and while it is touristy, it’s a must stop for first-time visitors.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn at Munich City West. It is close to the metro and is just two stops from the main square.
It’s the fairytale castle you’ve always dreamed about. Located an hour and forty-five minutes from Munich, it can be seen on a day trip.
But we suggest staying overnight in the area to get an early start. We arrived for sunrise and had the place all to ourselves. This is pretty rare for one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.
We drove right up to the restaurant at the top of the mountain and had a short walk to the castle.
Once everything opens, cars are not allowed to drive up there and you either have to hike or take a horse carriage to the castle.
We were on our way down by the time the first tours came up.
Now, if you want to go inside the castle, you will have to hike, but we were happy to see Neuschwanstein from the Marian Bridge and other viewpoints.
We managed to get a fantastic drone shot, but had to go off the property and fly from a field. No drones are allowed on the premises of Neuschwanstein Castle.
After finishing up at the castle, we got out of dodge. The town at the base of the castle was overrun with tour buses and group tours. It’s not a place we wanted to be, so we hopped in our rental car and drove on to explore the surrounding area.
The nearby village of Hopfensee was a beautiful and peaceful stop after the chaos of Neuschwanstein.
Hopfensee is a lovely place for lunch overlooking the warmest lake in the upper Bavarian Alps.
There is a boardwalk along the waterfront and you can hike around the lake with the gorgeous views of the Bavarian Alps in the background.
We didn’t stay in this area, but we wish we did. I could have spent another full day exploring, hiking and checking out the castles.
I think the Hohenschwangau, the village below the castles of Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle would make for a great base.
After our time at Hopfensee, we drove directly to Garmisch Partenkirchen where we made our base for a couple of days.
There are so many things to do here that it warrants its own post, but here are some of the very best highlights from our time there.
The town was home to the 1936 Winter Olympics and there are still relics of the Olympic village including the renovated ski jump center.
But people come to this town for hiking or skiing and with good reason, the Alps here are stunning.
There are many gondolas that will take you into the mountains, but the Alpspix has them all beat.
The viewing platform consists of two dizzying curved walkways leading out over a 1000 meter drop (3000 feet).
It offers staggering views of the surrounding mountains and an overhead view of Garmisch.
Be sure to take the first gondola up to beat the tour buses. Like most of our trip in Bavaria, we had the place to ourselves because we were willing to get up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds.
If you buy a ticket for the Garmisch Classic, you can decide how you want to get back down.
There are many hiking trails to explore, so you can make a day of it and go hiking high in the Alps. There’s even a café at the Alpspix, so you can fill your bellies with food and drink before you day of hiking.
You can also take another gondola to Hochalmbahn on a different part of the mountain to enjoy a leisurely downhill walk for 30 minutes before you hop on the last gondola that takes you back to the parking lot.
The Alpspix was a highlight of our time in Bavaria and gave us some of the best views.
We had seen many people recommend the Partnach Gorge when in Garmisch, but we didn’t know how truly magnificent it was until we saw it with our own eyes.
This gorge is a powerful display of water crashing through deep caverns. The narrow walkway is an adventure along the rushing water with only a couple of metal cables between you and the gorge.
It is loud, it is wet, it is a bit scary, but it is truly amazing.
I am so glad that we made the time to take this hike.
If you only have a short time, you can walk out and back, but if you have a day, continue on and do a round trip to explore more of the trails.
View from our balcony at Gastehaus Maria
Gastehaus Maria is conveniently located in the old city. It is family run and has the most extraordinary views.
We loved sitting on our balcony marveling at Germany’s highest peak while sipping a beer bought from their honor bar for a very reasonable 2 Euro.
Our full guide to Garmisch Partenkirken is coming soon!
Gastehaus Maria: Zoeppritzstrasse 20
82467 Garmisch Partenkirchen
If you are a fan of the Palace of Versailles, you are going to love Castle Herrenchiemsee.
King Ludwig II was a fan of Versailles and modeled his dream castle after it.
We caught the first boat out at 6:40 am and explored the grounds in complete privacy.
Nobody else was on that boat save for a few staff. The castle and grounds are huge and it’s beautiful to explore.
But be warned, the mosquitoes are tyrants and we wished we brought our bug spray with us.
Nothing opens until 9:00 am, so if you do arrive early, you won’t have anything to do but marvel at the statues and fountains, take photographs and wander the paths.
Make a day of it and explore the nearby islands
It’s worth making a day of it and taking the ferry over to the neighboring island of Fraueninsel to see the monastery that is still inhabited by Benedictine nuns.
Hotel Bayerischer was one of the more chic hotels we stayed in during our time in Bavaria. It’s located right downtown and has two fabulous restaurants.
I wish we had two nights there, but alas, there is so much of Bavaria to see!
Hotel Bayerischer Hof Bernauer Straße 3
83209 Prien am Chiemsee
Berchtesgaden is another popular destination in Bavaria that makes for a great home base.
Located along the Austrian border, it houses some very extraordinary peaks.
Hintersee is a picturesque lake located just 20 minutes from Berchtesgaden.
It’s also one of the most photographed places in Bavaria. We had a lot of early mornings in the region to
Eagle’s Nest is famous because it was the headquarters of Nazi meetings between Hitler and his top brass. It was designed to instill fear and show power with an impressive copper elevator cut through the mountain to take people to the top.
Most of Eagle’s Nest was destroyed and even the stones from the fireplace (a gift from Mussolini to Hitler) were taken by allied forces.
People are intrigued to go because it is said that Hitler spent a lot of time there, but he avoided the place due to his fear of heights and he never did spend the night there.
This is a major stop on all the tour bus routes and if you don’t arrive early, you will be stuck waiting up to two hours to get a spot on the shuttle that takes you to the elevator.
When you get to the top, you’ll be treated to panoramic views, but you can have those views anywhere in the Alps of Germany.
It may have been a Nazi retreat but today it is a restaurant and beer garden and any relic that dates back to the days of Hitler were either destroyed or looted.
We took a reprieve from our road trip and enjoyed our time here at the Alpenhotel where we took advantage of the spa and a tasty restaurant.
But there are a few things to do in the area as well including hiking, exploring the salt mines and lake cruises.
Königseer Straße 51
Bavaria has approximately 1500 breweries, so choosing a brewery tour can be daunting. But if you are looking for something unique, the Kuchlsbauer Brewery in the town of Abensbert is a must!
It is located between Munich or Nuremberg and makes a good day trip from either.
This place reminded us of something Antonio Gaudi would have designed.
Our tour started in Kunst Haus, a display dedicated to the works of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, one of the most important Austrian artists of his time.
Kunst Haus is a unique design by Peter Pelikan, a Viennese architect who worked with Hundertwasser and kept the buildings around the brewery in the vein of Hundertwasser’s style.
The other highlight of the tour is the Kuchlbauer tower that was designed by Hundertwasser himself!
It was originally going to be 70-metres high but was not allowed to be higher than the church steeple.
Following the death of Hundertwasser, Peter Pelikan forged on with his wishes and built the tower that today sits at about 35 meters high.
While the brewery tour itself is interesting, it’s the gallery and the tower that are truly impressive.
When you are done touring, be sure to stick around the beer garden for a bratwurst and beer. A true Bavarian tradition.
A strange stop on our Bavarian tour was Liberation Hall.
This monument was commissioned by King Ludwig I to commemorate the victory over Napolean.
It is a solitary monument sitting high on a hill filled with striking winged statues representing the Goddesses of victory.
We continued on through our Bavaria tour to Weltenburg Abbey located on the Danube River.
The monastery boasts the claim to fame of being the oldest monastery in the world dating back to 620. It also houses the world’s oldest brewery.
It’s busy during the day and the main draw is the boat tours along the river to explore the Danube Gorge, a designated nature reserve that is considered one of the most impressive portions of the Danube River.
If you are looking for something unique, you can stay at Saint George’s monastery right in the Weltenburg Abbey.
Everything closes at 7pm, so it will feel a little strange to be in the square with nobody around. Even the staff of the hotel goes home at night.
But there is an honor bar for food and drink and you can get up early to see the views free from crowds.
We had only seen quick articles about Nuremberg with posts like 24 hours in Nuremberg, or day trips to Nuremberg, but we found the city to be a place that deserves at least two days to visit.
This fascinating walled city packs a punch and there are many things to see and do.
A highlight for us was taking the underground tour to explore the cellars of the city. This underground maze of tunnels once housed the cities beer keeping it cool and ready to drink.
During WWII the cellars were used for safety during the air raids as Nuremberg was heavily hit during the conflict.
Nuremberg was hit so heavily because it was here that Nazi Rallies attracted up to 1 million people at a time.
The city played a huge part in helping Hitler rise to power as he used it for his base of Nazi propaganda.
We didn’t think we’d spend much time at the Documentation Centre but it ended up being a gripping display honoring those where were victimized and murdered by the Nazi regime.
It also demonstrates how Hitler rose to power and discusses what happened to the Nazis after the fall of the party.
It is difficult to experience these types of museums, but it is also important to see to remind us all how fragile freedom is and to never forget how quickly civilized societies can become tyrants.
The Adina Apartment Hotel was a great location in Nuremberg located right beside Germanic National Museum, the City Wall and just a short walk to the old town.
It was modern, had a swimming pool, parking, and a great lounge.
Franconia is Bavaria’s wine country located just a couple of hours outside Nuremberg.
Located in Northern Bavaria, it is a picturesque destination that promotes quiet and romantic getaways for couples searching for delicious food and peaceful retreats.
Volkach is the town we based ourselves in and it is a lovely place that escaped allied bombings. With
Being Canadian, this was definitely a highlight of our time in Franconia. It was the easiest paddling we’ve ever done with the canoe trip being downstream all the way!
Waterwalker Canoe center offers rentals that you can take out for the day to float down the River Main.
The best part is, they offer regular pickups along the route, so you never have to paddle upstream.
The trip takes you through wine country where you will see vineyards, monasteries, and mansions lining the riverbanks.
Pack a picnic and a bottle of wine and make a day of it on the water. It’s one of the most romantic things you will do in Bavaria.