10 of the best places to visit in Bavaria
Walt Disney based Cinderella’s castle on Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria — Photo courtesy of BAYERN TOURISMUS
Everyone knows Bavaria for Neuschwanstein Castle, the real-life inspiration for Cinderella’s castle. But did you know the area is home to dozens of other castles – and so much more?
With its picture-book scenery, mountain culture, palaces and beer gardens, Bavaria is a traveler’s dream come true.
Germany’s southernmost state turns 100 in 2018, and it’s a great time to join in the celebration. Whether you follow the Romantic Road, the Castle Road or the German Alpine Road, here are 10 areas where you can experience the best of Bavaria.
The National Theatre Munich is home to the Bavarian State Opera — Photo courtesy of MuenchenTourismus/Felix Loechner
The capital of Bavaria, Munich is a sophisticated and surprising city filled with contradictions. It’s where old mixes with new, museum art mixes with street art, and Michelin-starred restaurants mix with beer, sausages and pretzels.
Fly into award-winning Munich Airport, then check out all there is to see and do in the city, from the historic Olympiapark to the bigger-than-Central-Park English Garden, where surfers hang ten in the middle of the city and everyone gathers to drink at the Chinese Tower beer garden.
Whether you prefer classic opera at the historic National Theatre or classic rock at the Allianz Arena – both of which boast stunning architecture – there is literally something for everyone here.
The thermal waters at Therme Erding are good for whatever ails you — Photo courtesy of Therme Erding
It’s all about the water at Therme Erding, where you can swim, soak or meditate in one of the many therapeutic thermal pools or simply follow the kids down the largest slide complex in Europe.
This is no cheesy water park, though. Therme Erding is the world’s largest thermal spa, and it’s also a tropical paradise, inside and out. Under the huge dome, you can try 27 different sauna experiences in a variety of settings from a Roman bathhouse to Stonehenge.
As you sit in the healing water, sipping a cocktail at the pool bar, surrounded – indoors – by hundreds of real palm trees, you will truly understand the meaning of bliss.
Herrenchiemsee Palace was modeled after Versailles — Photo courtesy of Chiemsee-Alpenland Tourismus
Not to be outdone by Louis XIV, King Ludwig II modeled Herrenchiemsee Palace after Versailles, and it is equally over the top and fascinating for its history, architecture and decor – and the fact that he never finished it. Sign up for a tour to explore the lavish rooms and get the juicy stories behind them.
The palace is located on Herreninsel, an island on Bavaria’s largest lake, Chiemsee. To get there, you take a leisurely ferry ride, which offers picturesque views of the water and mountains.
Plan to make a day of it so you can also make a ferry stop at the Fraueninsel, one of Europe’s oldest artist colonies. Visit the Monastery of the Benedictine nuns, and pick up some of their handmade marzipan to enjoy on your boat trip back to Prien am Chiemsee.
The views from the cable car are gorgeous — Photo courtesy of Chiemsee-Alpenland Tourismus
Just south of Lake Chiemsee, take a relaxing ride up Kampenwand mountain in a charming four-person cable car for breathtaking views of Prien valley and Hohenaschau Castle, one of the largest castles in Bavaria.
When you reach the summit, at about 1,500 meters, you can hike on one of the trails, enjoy some apple cake and sweet plum dumplings, or just take in the fresh air and stunning Alpine scenery. Those cowbells you hear are attached to real cows who call the mountain home – and who help make the whole experience feel like something out of The Sound of Music.
Nuremburg is filled with history — Photo courtesy of BAYERN TOURISMUS
This beautifully preserved medieval city is where the Nuremberg Trials took place, and you can get a real sense of their impact at the Memorium Nuremberg Trials, which takes you into the actual courthouse and gives you access to the information and documentation center.
Above the city, the Imperial Castle is a great spot for a panoramic view of Nuremberg. One of the most important fortresses in Germany, it was the temporary residence for all the Holy Roman Emperors from 1050 to 1571. Today, you can stay in the former Imperial Stables, which have been transformed into one of the largest and most modern youth hostels in the country.
Augsburg is home to the world’s oldest social housing project — Photo courtesy of Friedrich Stettmayer
One of the oldest cities in Germany, Augsburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site candidate because of its unique water management system, which the Maximilian Museum pays tribute to in its must-see exhibit, “Water Art Augsburg.”
The city is also a role model thanks to Jakob Fugger, a.k.a. “Jakob the Rich,” who created the world’s oldest social housing project still in use. Fuggerei was built in the 16th century to provide quality housing – it’s a clean, gated community – for the poorest people, and it works.
It boggles the mind to realize how easily other cities could do this. What’s most amazing is that rent is the same as it’s been for five centuries – 88 euro cents a year plus three daily prayers. Talk about rent control.
Hiking in the vineyards in Volkach — Photo courtesy of Andreas Hub
This gorgeous area in Franconia is wine country, and you can happily spend your days visiting vineyards and tasting the different varieties. You can toast with Volkach’s Councillor in front of the town hall, learn from an expert at the opulent Baroque-style “Schelfenhaus” which dates back to 1719, and hike through vineyards. All of these activities are, of course, accompanied by wine.
A short walk through the vineyards of the Main River Loop leads to Maria im Weingarten (which translates to “Maria in the vineyard”), a pilgrimage church drawing travelers from all over the world, who come to see Tilmann Riemenschneider’s 16th-century sculpture, “Madonna in the Rosary.”
Your own prayers will be answered when you head back out for yet another glass of heavenly wine.
The Residence in Wurzburg is one of Europe’s most impressive Baroque palaces — Photo courtesy of Bayerische Schlosserverwaltung/Anton J. Brandl
A UNESCO World Heritage site and the crown jewel of Würzburg, the Residence is one of Europe’s most impressive Baroque palaces. It’s considered architect Balthasar Neumann’s greatest achievement, and when you see it in person, you’ll understand why.
It took more than half of the 18th century and three generations of artisans to complete the palace, which was the former residence of the Würzburg prince-bishops. One of the highlights of any tour is getting to see the magnificent staircase that leads to the largest ceiling fresco ever painted.
The Residence is a testament to human innovation, craftsmanship and artistic collaboration.
The Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth — Photo courtesy of Bayerische Schlosserverwaltung/Heiko Oehme
With a rich cultural and historical heritage, Bayreuth is best known for its annual Wagner Festival, which the composer himself founded in 1876.
Although the festival takes place at Wagner’s own theater, the Festspielhaus, it was the Margravial Opera House that originally drew his attention to Bayreuth. Considered the most beautiful Baroque theater in Europe, it was built between 1745 and 1750, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Take a tour of Rothenburg with The Night Watchman — Photo courtesy of Rothenburg Tourismus Service, Pfitzinger
Stepping inside this fairy tale-like medieval walled city is like stepping back in time. You can actually walk along the fortress wall itself, where you’ll get a good look at the city’s half-timbered buildings, watchtowers and gateways.
Once you’re back on the ground, visit the Medieval Crime Museum to see how criminals were punished back in the day. Then follow the Night Watchman into the darkness to see how people lived in the Middle Ages. To end your visit on a sweet note, though, be sure to try the Schneeballen – delicious snowball-sized pastries that are a Rothenburg signature.