What do you think about when you first think of Germany? Before I first visited Bavaria in 2015, the stereotypical 1-litre steins of beer, magical castles, and men wearing lederhosen first came to mind (and the history, of course). And while my perception of Bavaria has evolved quite a bit after returning for the second time on my recent Bavaria Germany road trip, these three things – and what they represent in Bavarian tradition and culture – are still some of the things I still love most about Bavaria, Germany.
After spending several weeks in this area over the past five years, I have fallen hard for the deep-rooted culture, traditions, and beauty of this region. If you’re looking for quintessential Germany, Bavaria is where you want to go. And I’m sharing all my favourite things to do in Bavaria, and some of the fun things I learned about this region, in this comprehensive Bavaria Germany road trip itinerary. Let’s go!
recommended bavaria germany road trip itinerary
5-7 days | 5 destinations
Munich: 2-3 days
Neuschwanstein Castle: 1-2 days
Rothenburg ob der Tauber: half day
Nuremberg: 1 day
Bamberg: half day
First up on your Bavaria Germany road trip is Munich, a place with generations-old culture and lots of history. Many people visit Munich for Oktoberfest, but the city is so much more than this iconic festival and is a must-visit for history buffs and fans of unique cultural experiences.
I always assumed that lederhosen-clad men and steins of beer were more of an Oktoberfest tradition, but truthfully, you can find this walking stereotype wandering around Munich on a Monday afternoon. So you can definitely visit outside of Oktoberfest and get to experience true Bavarian culture, which is deeply engrained in Munich.
The best time to visit Munich: Munich is the perfect summer city, when the temperatures are warm and the city is bustling. But, if you’re a fan of Christmas markets, the Bavaria region is also home to some of Germany’s famous Christmas markets, and easily some of best Christmas markets in Europe.
How many days in Munich? For a first time visit, I would recommend three days in Munich. However, if you’re schedule is a bit tight, you can see a lot in two days.
things to do in munich
Take a history tour
Munich is a city filled with history and stories. Many of these stories would be impossible to uncover if you toured the city on your own. Because it was such a history-rich city, we knew it was important to enlist the experts. We signed up for two different tours with Sandeman’s Walking Tours Munich and we were so happy we did. If you’re looking for free things to do in Munich, this is a great option!
Free Munich Walking Tour: This free walking tour of Munich is the best Munich walking tour to get to know the highlights of the city. You’ll spend 2.5 hours learning about different historical buildings, hearing their stories, and learning all about Munich’s history. If you’re only going to do one tour, this one is the one to do. And, it’s a tips-based tour, which means you pay what you think the tour is worth.
Munich Third Reich Tour: If you’re interested in learning about Nazi history in Munich, this is the tour to take. On this 3 hour tour, you will stand directly in some of the most historical spots of this era, hear stories of the rise of National Socialism and Nazi reign, and visit memorial sites. Tour cost is 15 euros.
the best munich beer garden in Munich
Beer halls and beer gardens are synonymous with Munich. Here you’ll find both tourists in locals hanging out, drinking steins, and eating pretzels and bratwurst. You’re sure to see local friend groups visiting in their traditional clothing, and it is truly the best place to immerse yourself in the Bavarian beer culture.
Fun Fact: All local German beers are required to follow the “Bavarian purity law,” which was enacted in 1516. This laws means that you can only use four ingredients – barley, hops, yeast, and water – to brew beer. As a result, all beers are to be brewed to the same standard, so you’re going to find almost identical beers at each beer garden. However, each beer garden or hall has their own history and unique atmosphere that makes them special so I’d definitely visit more than just one!
What kind of beer will you find at a Munich beer garden? At each beer garden or hall, you’ll typically have a choice of two or three types of German beer: Helles (a lager), Radler (also known as a shandy), and maybe a Weissbier (wheat beer). Some will also serve a Dunkel, which is a dark Garman lager.
You’ll find them scattered all over the city, but here’s a few of the best:
- Augustiner-Keller Beer Garden: My personal favourite, this central spot seats over 5000 visitors. Situated in a massive green space lined with picnic tables in the middle of the city, this spot is so much fun in the evenings for a massive German pretzel and Augustiner beer.
- Chinesischer Turm Beer Garden: This beer garden in the English Gardens is a favourite with tourists and students, and is the perfect spot to stop for a beer on a hot summer day which exploring the park. With seats for over 7000, this is Munich’s second-largest beer garden.
- Hofbräuhaus Beer Hall: A traditional beer hall with an outdoor garden space, Hofbräuhaus is the most famous beer hall in Munich – and probably in the entire world. Founded in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, it has a rich history in Bavarian beer culture and has been home to many historical events over many centuries, including hosting Hitler’s first speech (and many subsequent speeches).
In true Bavarian tradition, opt for a 1-litre stein of Helles beer, the most common German beer. If you are looking for something a bit lighter, a Radler blends lemonade and beer.
Take a Dachau Concentration Camp Tour
If you’re looking for a very sobering history experience, a visit to Dachau Concentration Camp is a way to pay your respects to the victims of Nazi Germany. While I think it is very difficult to put this experience into words, because it is something that should be experienced, I can recommend you great tour company to make the most of this experience.
In Their Shoes Dachau Memorial Tours is one of the best historical tours I have ever been on. Tour guide and owner James came to Munich because of his interest in WWII history, and knows so much about Dachau history, the people involved, and many other untold stories. He is truly one of the best tour guides I have ever had.
From my experiences visiting both Dachau and Auschwitz, I can say that while visiting a concentration camp memorial is a difficult experience (and certainly not for everyone), they are best visited with a knowledgeable and respectful tour guide. I can’t recommend James’ tour enough if you are planning to visit Dachau Concentration Camp.
Visit the Englischer Garten (English Gardens Munich)
Located in the centre of Munich, Englischer Garten (or English Gardens) is a great place for a walk or bike ride through the city. The park is huge – 3.75 square kilometres to be exact, which makes it bigger than Central Park! The gardens are beautiful, and here you can also stop at the Chinesischer Turm Beer Garden for an afternoon beer, which I mentioned above.
In the summer months, you can’t miss the Munich surfers who take their boards out for a ride in the Eisbach River. At the spot where the river begins near Haus der Kunst, you can find large crowds admiring and cheering on the surfers of Munich.
Fancy taking a dip on a hot day? You can go for a swim in Munich along the Eisbach River. You’ll notice that the locals who aren’t keen on surfing will often choose to hop in and float down the river – and you can do this too!
Marienplatz is home to Munich’s “New Town Hall,” Neues Rathaus, which is arguably the most iconic building Munich. A stop by this spot is a must to marvel in the stunning neo-Gothic building. The building was spared from destruction during WWII because it was used as a orientation landmark in the centre of the city.
The best time to visit Marienplatz is at 11:00 am or 12:00 pm all year round, or at 5:00 pm between March and October only, when the iconic Glockenspiel loudly chimes while small figurines dance telling a story of Munich’s history. This daily tradition dates back to 1908!
Climb to the top of St. Peter's Church Tower Munich
Looking for the best views of Munich? Climb to the top of St. Peter’s Church and you’ll be greeted by a never-ending sea of orange rooftops.
St. Peter’s Church Munich Cost: The church itself is free to visit, but it costs 2 euros to climb to the top of St. Peter’s Church Tower.
Shop Around at Viktualienmarkt
Located in the old town centre, Viktualienmarkt (Victuals Market) is one of my favourite spots in Munich. Here you’ll find many vendors set up selling food and other local goods. It’s a great place to grab lunch or pick up souvenirs. There’s also a popular beer garden located in the centre of the market.
Viktualienmarkt Hours: Open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm (closed on Sundays).
Marvel at Asam Church
I can’t recommend Asam Church in Munich enough! This over-the-top baroque style church is arguably the most unique church I have ever seen. Built in the mid-18th century the interior of the church is small, but the details and quirks of the design will blow you away.
Visit the Munich Residenz
A former royal palace, the Munich Residenz is a must see. It is home to an impressive museum, and the interior is extravagantly beautiful. If you don’t feel like visiting the interior, it is at least worth stopping by the palace grounds. the courtyard and gardens are stunning.
Where to stay in Munich?
I’ve stayed at two different properties in Munich – both budget-friendly and a bit of a splurge – and would highly recommend both of them. The are both located right around the corner from each other near the Munich central station, and are within close walking and biking distance from most main attractions.
Best Hostel in Munich: Wombat’s City Hostel Munich is honestly one of my favourite hostels, ever. It is modern, has a great onsite bar, and many activities scheduled activities for making friends with other travellers. I really recommend attending their beer hall tour. It was such a highlight of our time in Munich.
Next on this Bavaria Germany road trip, head from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle.
A visit to the famed fairy tale castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is a must. This place is seriously magical and belongs on every Germany itinerary. Neuschwanstein Castle is often typically a day trip from Munich, but I would recommend staying for at least one night if you have the time. Not only is the town of Füssen charming, but the alps region surrounding the castle is stunning.
I wrote all my tips for visiting Neuschwanstein in this Bavarian Alps Guide. Check it out!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
From Neuschwanstein Castle by car, you can head up the famed Romantic Road toward the magical town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Along the Romantic Road, you’re bound to find may stop offs en route. And it is a beautiful drive.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is probably the most popular Bavarian town. Sure, it’s a bit touristy. But even still, you cannot miss this spot in Bavaria. Upon arrival, you’ll probably find it hard to believe that this town with its narrow streets and dozens of Christmas shops is real. Because it truly looks like a movie set.
On the topic of movies, I was SUPER excited to visit this town because this famed town was one of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang locations – which was one of my favourite childhood movies! If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize these iconic narrow streets from the terrifying scene when the kidnapper is searching for the children while they hid in the basement of an old house.
How much time in Rothenburg ob der Tauber? This town is quite small, and can be visited in a half day.
things to do in rothenburg ob der tauber
Truly the best thing to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is just wander. Ideally, early in the day is best. We arrived around 9:00 am and had the streets to ourselves. Here’s a few spots that you shouldn’t miss:
- Plönlein: Want to get that famed Rothenburg Instagram photo where the road forks? This is your spot!
- Town walls: The old town walls cover four kilometres around the town and offer many stunning lookout points.
- Rathaus: Also known as the Rothenburg Town Hall, Rathaus is a stunning Baroque-style building located in Marktplatz.
- Burggarten: The gardens are beautiful and here you’ll find a lookout point with stunning views of the valley that sits below the town.
- Go Christmas shopping: Rothenburg is home to a huge assortment of Christmas stores selling ornaments and other decorations. The most famous is Kathe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Shop.
From Rothenburg ob der Tauber, head to the next stop on your Bavaria Germany road trip: Nuremberg. There are plenty of things to do in Nuremberg, and many hotel options, so I’d recommend spending a night here. Nuremberg is a famous tourism spot for history enthusiasts interested in WWII, but it is also home to a super charming old town, and is filled with history. In fact, the city was once regarded as the unofficial capital of The Holy Roman Empire.
While one day in Nuremberg is typically enough, if you find yourself wanting to day many things on my list, you may want to allocate more than a day to Nuremberg.
things to do in Nuremberg
Nuremberg is so much more than just WWII history. Wondering what to do in Nuremburg? I’ve got you covered:
- Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds: One of the most popular spots in Nuremburg, this is something you shouldn’t miss. Early National Socialist rallies took place in Nuremberg and is a good place to go to learn more about the Nazi’s rise to power in Bavaria.
- Nuremberg Trials Museum: This famous location – specifically Courtroom 600 – was used to convict high-profile Nazi’s in the late 1940s. On the top floor of the building you will find the museum, which details the trials and convictions. Then, you can head down to Courtroom 600. Keep in mind this is an operating courtroom and on some days, it may not be possible to visit the room itself, but you can look through the windows
- Kaiserburg: Nuremberg’s castle sits atop of Nuremberg Altstadt (Old Town) and dates back to the 14th century. While it admittedly wasn’t the most beautiful castle I saw in Germany, it is full of history and offers lovely panoramic views of the city.
- Visit the many Nuremburg churches: I’d recommend St. Sebaldus Church and St. Lorenz Church.
- Albrecht Dürer’s House tour: Take a tour of the half-timbered home previously owned by Germany’s most famous painter, Albrecht Dürer.
- Wander the Nuremberg Altstadt: The old town of Nuremburg is beautiful, so make sure you take some time to just wander the canals and admire the old architecture.
- Visit a beer garden: If you’re looking for a beer garden in Nuremberg, Restauration Kopernikus Biergarten is a great option!
- Orrrr, a wine bar: If you’re feeling a bit tired of beer, Il Disperato Prosciutteria Weinbar was a favourite spot of mine and they served the most delicious charcuterie platters.
where to stay in nuremberg
I’ve stayed at two different properties in Nuremberg that I can recommend and both are fairly budget friendly. Both are located within or near the Altstadt and Central Station, and are within waking distance from many attractions.
Best Hostel in Munich: Five Reasons Hostel is a low key and clean hostel. Don’t expect a party vibe here, but the facilities were practical, the location is great within the old town walls, and it is very affordable.
Best Hotel in Munich: I recently stayed at Park Inn by Radisson Nürnberg and was the perfect spot for a short stay in Nuremberg. It’s located right outside the old town walls, offers parking, and the rooms were spacious and clean.
Let me just start off by saying that out of all the small Bavarian towns, Bamberg just may be my favourite. It’s incredibly charming, full of terraces and patios and canals, and is home to the famous Bamberg smoked beer. If you have to choose one town, I would (perhaps a bit controversially), tell you to visit Bamberg.
If you’re wondering how long to stay in Bamberg, I’d say a half day is enough. Here’s some tips of things to do and some photos to inspire you!
things to do in bamberg
- Try Bamberg’s famous smoked beer: Schlenkerla Smokebeer is a historic smoked beer brewery in Bamberg dating back to the 1400s where the beer is brewed according to centuries old traditions involving open fire that gives it the smokey taste, It is brewed in 600-year-old-cellars and Schlenkerla is one of only two breweries left in the world making beer in this traditional way. While the beer was very smokey and just not really my thing, it was super cool to try.
- Bamberg Cathedral: Founded in the 11th century during The Holy Roman Empire rule, this church is truly stunning. Inside you can visit the tomb of Henry II and his wife, who were buried in a tomb that took 14 years to carve.
- Altes Rathus: Perhaps the most easily recognized building in Bamberg, this fresco-covered “Bamberg town hall” building sits over one of Bamberg’s canals. It dates back to the 1300s and is Bamberg’s most popular building for a reason – it is beautiful!
- Neue Residenz: This palace sits on top of the city, and has beautiful gardens (called Rosengarten). The grounds of the palace also offer the best view of Bamberg’s orange-roofed skyline.
- Try some unique ice cream flavours: We loved the unique ice cream flavours at Cafe Riffelmacher, like rose, orange basil, and cucumber. Just don’t make the mistake we made and take your ice cream to go. They charge a sitting fee and we were shocked when we got the bill.
- And when in doubt, just wander: Similar to other Bavarian towns, you’ll find the most charming gems by just wandering. Try to leave the most touristy streets and head for some of the back alleys.
where to stay in bamberg
If you’re looking for an affordable and central hotel in Bamberg, a great choice is Ibis Styles Bamberg. While the hotel itself is mostly no frills, the rooms are modern and clean room, it offers onsite parking, and it sits in a great location within walking distance of all main attractions. I highly recommend choosing this hotel as home base in Bamberg.
A few more tips for visiting Bavaria
I had a few questions that came up consistently while I was on my Bavaria Germany road trip, and so I thought an extra little Q&A was in order to address them. Here’s a few of the most common questions.
Can you visit Bavaria by train? During my two trips to Bavaria I have travelled by both car and train, and I can confirm that both are very efficient ways of visiting the country. On my first trip, we travelled exclusively by train and in many ways, it was faster than having the car because we didn’t have to worry about finding parking. However, the car gave us a lot of flexibility to make stops, and stumble upon some hidden gems.
What is it like driving in Germany? Well, let me start by saying that I wasn’t the driver. But Sebastian found driving in Germany quite easy. German’s are fantastic drivers, the road conditions were perfect, and the road signage was truly impressive.
How much does it cost to visit Germany? To travel in Bavaria, and Germany in general, I would suggest having a moderate budget. From my personal experience, Germany is a lot cheaper than most western European countries I’ve visited. A decent private hotel room cost us about 70 euros a night, a half-litre of beer ranged from 3-5 euros, and you could typically find a meal for around 10 euros. Of course, there are many ways to save too by choosing cheaper accommodations, grabbing drinks at the grocery store, or eating street food.
Can you use credit cards in Germany? This is one thing that was not guaranteed. Coming from an almost cashless country, I couldn’t believe that Germany is largely cash-based. While we were able to use card at our hotels and some restaurants, there are many restaurants, beer gardens, and tourist attractions that are cash-only. Even the machines to pay for parking were cash-only in many cases. So moral of the story… Make sure you always have some cash on you.