Munich to Munich: Southern Germany Splendours
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Southern Germany is full of delights. From castles in the sky to cuckoo clocks, hot springs to lakeside charm, this dreamy itinerary is perfect for those who like to wander at their own pace, explore thoroughly and make the most of the freedom a motorhome offers. Read on to be convinced that your next road trip should kick off in Munich and take you to the sights, sounds, sausages and stouts of Germany's southern reaches.
You’ll start and end your trip in Munich. Check out the motorhome rental options through Motorhome Republic here!
Leg 1 Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle
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This leg will get you off to a great start. It might take you a few days to see it all, but no rush - especially when ti comes to leaving behind all that Munich has to offer! The lure of a fairytale castle is likely the only thing that will get you moving from this fascinating city.
Munich (aka München)
Considering the fact that Munich is the capital and the most populated city in the German state of Bavaria, with an estimated population of approximately 1.5 million people, it's pretty amazing that the city centre can remain so quaint and pedestrian-friendly. With churches displaying amazingly intricate architecture and beer gardens rich in history on practically every corner, you’ll never run out of things to see or drink in this darling city.
Start with a morning stroll around the Marienplatz, the central square in the middle of Munich’s city center. Be sure to stop at the Rathaus-Glockenspiel right before 11:00am to witness this large mechanical clock in the middle of Marienplatz, containing 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures, come to life daily in the 260 foot tower. You’ll want to peek your head into all of the churches in the square but be sure not to miss our favorite, Asam Church, which is quite small but will leave you speechless. From there head over to the Munich Residence for a tour of the exquisite museum that served as the seat of government and residence of the Bavarian dukes, electors and kings from 1508 to 1918. It will take you several hours to see all that this gorgeous mansion has to offer!
Finally, end your day with a sunset stroll through the Englischer Garten. This giant park is located centrally in the city and is a hot spot for locals when the sun comes out. Not only is there a bustling beer garden in the center of the park, but also surfers who are taking a shot at the narrow wave caused by a standing wall in the man-made river. If you’re ready for a pint of Germany’s finest ale, stop at the Biergarten am Chinesischen Turm in the center of the park!
One could spend weeks exploring all that Munich has to offer but you’re on the move! Time to drive about 45 minutes to camp on the beautiful Fohn-See Lake. For a campsite right on the lake, check out Zweiter Campingplatz Fohnsee where you can sit on the dock and to watch an amazing sunset and then wake up early in the morning for a relaxing stroll around the lake.
You’ll be visiting two homes of the eccentric King Ludwig II who was crowned king of Bavaria in 1864 during this leg of your journey. The first is the gorgeous Linderhof Palace which was the king’s summer home and was modeled after the Palace of Versailles. The palace exterior is spectacular - as are the gardens - but a tour of the inside of the palace is truly fascinating and worth the small fee. Since he didn’t like to be bothered by his servants during his meals, the dining room table (that was only large enough for one) could be lowered to the floor below so that the servants could set the table and then hoist it back up to the king awaiting his dinner without being seen!
Next you’ll head south to check out the massive ski jump site that was built for the 1936 Olympic Winter Games and for a hike through Partnachklamm Gorge.
As you walk through the Olympic Ski Stadium (Olympia Skistadion Asstellung) you’ll notice a few things; first of all how impressive and intimidating the steep, towering ski jump is and secondly how few people could actually fit in the stands (although allegedly it could originally house up to 40,000 guests and was expanded to fit more). Stop for a bite here before starting your hike. You’ll need to continue walking about a half of a mile to the start of the Partnachklamm Gorge.
The first half of the hike is fairly flat and takes you through several caves that run alongside the Partnach river with waterfalls overhead. Stop frequently to soak in all of your surroundings; you’ll be surprised by just how many waterfalls there are along the way. Once you reach the end of the gorge hike, turn left to head uphill to turn the hike into a loop. The walk up is steep but once at the top you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Alps and even a quaint biergarten where you can rest your weary legs while enjoying a refreshing beer.
Be sure to take a ride on the alpine slide before you leave!
Time to head ~70 kilometers west (with a quick pop through the tip of Austria) to see the famous castle which was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s fairytale castle…
Quickly cross over the border to Ehrwald, Austria for the most amazing mountain views that you’ll see on your entire trip! If it’s getting late, spend the night at Alpencamp-Marienberg to be surrounded by views and for every amenity you could wish for!
This awe-inspiring castle was constructed by King Ludwig II in 1886 as he was a shy king and wanted to withdraw from the public eye. Little did he know that his private castle would be visited by 1.4 million people annually! As you are driving up Neuschwansteinstraße road, the castle will begin to come into view high above you. Stop and take pictures - the views of the castle from the road are some of the best you’ll see during your visit!
Arrive to the village of Hohenschwangau early to purchase your tour tickets as they sell out quickly. You will be given a specific tour time and you’ll need to make your way up the hill to the castle. It’s about a 30 minute uphill walk or you can opt for a shuttle bus ride or a horse drawn carriage ride (but keep in mind that these fill up fast!). Make sure you arrive to the castle about an hour before your tour time so you can continue your walk up to the bridge that overlooks the backside of the castle!
Be sure to have a walk around Hohenschwangau Castle as well, built by King Ludwig II’s father. It’s in the valley below and a short walk from Neuschwanstein. .
After your guided tour of the interior of both castles, head back down for a bite to eat in town before setting off for your next stop!
Leg 2 Neuschwanstein Castle to Lake Constance
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Get ready to gaze upon beautiful southern German scenery in this leg from the castle to the lake! Head west from Neuschwanstein and enjoy.
The Allgau Region is a gorgeous mountain region that makes for a lovely drive and also offers several hiking options for the outdoor enthusiast! Oberstdorf is a small town in the region that is popular with tourists due to its high mountain gondola offering sweeping views of the area in the summertime and awesome ski runs in the winter. You can opt for the ride up for panoramic views and then a fairly easy walk back down, or head to the nearby Moorweiher Lake for a short, fairly flat afternoon stroll.
While in the area, don’t miss Breitachklamm Gorge! This easy out-and-back hike through the deepest gorge in middle Europe follows a path that takes you high above the treacherous and powerful river rushing below you.
Lake Constance (aka Lake Konstanz aka Lake Bodensee)
Lake Constance/Konstanz/Bodensee is a top tourist destination in Southern Germany, and for good reason… it is a large, picturesque lake straddling the borders of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria with stunning views of the alps, the perfect destination for your motorhome adventure!
There are two popular destinations around the lake - the towns of Lindau and Konstanz, sitting right on the Swiss border. Start your lake itinerary in Lindau which is the largest town on Lake Constance and is split between the mainland and an island via a bridge. The island has a harbor offering views of the lake and of Austria from the top of the old lighthouse. It is apparent that the island was an influential and wealthy port town in its heyday and to this day you’ll find it to be incredibly clean and quaint, with delectable eating and drinking options scattered along the waterfront.
Be sure to stop at Basilika Birnau en route to Konstanz for a tour of the lavish church offering views of the lake!
Stop in Konstanz where you should be sure to check out the spectacular 110-acre “flower island” of Mainau. It’s pricey to visit but worth it to stroll through the immaculately manicured parks and gardens. If you haven’t been to Switzerland yet, head to the border so you can put a foot in each country!
Leg 3 Lake Constance to Heidelberg
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This leg of your journey takes you into the depths of Germany's Black Forest. This is not as dark as it sounds - in fact it's a very pretty scenic region with lots of fun fairytale lore. We recommend taking a few days or more to experience it fully.
Freiburg (aka Freiburg im Breisgau)
Sitting on the western edge of the Black Forest, Freiburg is the perfect hub to explore the southern side of the Black Forest. In classic German old town style, you’ll find cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture, and, of course, beer gardens. It is also known as Germany’s warmest city due to the year-round sunshine that it experiences. And it is right in the heart of the Baden wine-growing region so you’ll have no shortage of imbibing options here - just make sure you have a designated driver or wait until the motorhome is safely parked up for the evening! Be sure to check out the English Swabian Gate (Schwabentor) on your way up the hill to the Kanonenplatz panorama lookout point.
Time to leave the city life behind to see all of the beauty the Black Forest has to offer!
Plunging 535 feet into the river below, Triberg Waterfall is is highest waterfall in all of Germany! There is a small fee to enter the hiking area but once inside you can choose a variety of hiking options of varying difficulty. After you’ve had your fill of the waterfall, be sure to have a stroll through this adorable little town and stop for some famous Black Forest cake.
The Black Forest is not only the birthplace of it’s namesake cake, but also of the cuckoo clock. If you are looking to pick one up during your trip, Triberg is the place to do it.
Next you’ll head into Allerheiligen Valley to see the All Saints' Abbey (Kloster Allerheiligen) and the nearby waterfall, Wasserfälle Allerheiligen. The All Saints’ Abbey was a Premonstratensian monastery that dates back to 1192. At its height it was was considered one of the major religious and political centres of the region but sadly, multiple fires over several centuries took their toll. The ruins are still a sight to behold and sit at the start (or the end - depending on where you park) of a lovely hike along several waterfalls on the Lierbach River. The entire hike is only about a mile from the monastery to the parking lot on the other end and it’s well worth doing the walk in its entirety.
No German road trip is complete without a trip to a traditional German bathhouse! You’ve been doing a lot of hiking through the Black Forest so why not end your trip with a relaxing soak in the thermal baths of Baden-Baden? Opt for the 3-hour soak so you have plenty of time to enjoy the indoor/outdoor public baths before heading upstairs for a more traditional (and no clothes allowed) experience. You’ll find a variety of relaxing thermal pools, saunas of varying ambiances, and other spa experiences to suit your fancy. Be sure to check the rules before settling in (for instance, you’ll need a towel in the sauna and you’ll want to situate it so that both your feet and your bum sit on it) and don’t be alarmed - most bathhouses in Germany are co-ed.
Heidelberg is a lovely, quaint town on the on the River Neckar where you’ll find pedestrian cobblestone streets through the Baroque-style old town. The impressive Heidelberg Castle sits high above the city and it’s an easy walk to the top from the centre of town. Marvel at the views from the top and check out the free apothecary museum for an entertaining history lesson. When you head back to the center of town you’ll have a variety of outdoor restaurants and cafes to choose from, as well as boutiques filled with local handmade goods so give yourself time to explore.
Camping Heidelberg-Neckartal is a well-equipped campground right outside of town with a convenient bus stop right at the entrance. You’ll love relaxing outside with your morning coffee while enjoying views of the river running right beside your motorhome!
Leg 4 Heidelberg to Cologne
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This leg takes you up to the fantastic city of Cologne - and many road trippers, once they have left the Black Forest behind, will want to just get there and enjoy. However, there are a few things to see and do along the way.
The 850 year-old Eltz Castle sits high in the hills above the Elzbach River just outside of the town of Münstermaifeld in Western Germany. The castle is referred to as a “Ganerbenburg” which is a castle belonging to a community of joint heirs. It was divided into several parts as it was owned by different families and over 100 members of the owners families occupied the rooms of the castle. It is one of the few European castles that escaped destruction despite an eventful history.
Today, although the castle is still privately owned, it is open to the public from April through the end of October. Visitors can opt for a guided tour of the interior or simply stroll through the grounds and enjoy a cup of coffee at one of the restaurants inside the castle walls. Park in the large lot and take the ~15 minute footpath to the castle. Stop when you get close as the views are spectacular.
Once you’ve explored the castle, head down to the small town of Hatzenport where there is a stunning campground - Campinginsel Sonnenwerth - that sits right on the river. If you arrive before sunset you’ll be rewarded by beautiful views of the surrounding greenery while you sip your German wine and cook yourself a delicious traditional meal.
Across the river you’ll find the spectacular Burg Thurant castle surrounded by vineyards and offering beautiful views of the river below. There’s a small fee to enter but it’s worth it to see the bizarre torture contraptions and the dungeon complete with what appear to be actual human bones!
Cologne (aka Köln)
Cologne is the 4th largest city in Germany and after spending so much time in Bavaria, it may be a bit of a culture shock to see just how diverse Germany really is! While most of the other cities along your road trip have been cute and quaint with cobblestone streets, Cologne feels much more like a thriving metropolis. Park your motorhome outside of the city and take their convenient public transportation into the city center. Plan on spending a few hours here; be sure to check out the Hohenzollern Bridge (Hohenzollernbrücke) which is decorated with thousands of lovelocks and the Cologne Cathedral (and especially the street art around the cathedral square). Another top tourist activity in Cologne? Shopping. And you’ll find anything and everything your heart desires in the center of this city. Grab some fries (pommes) smothered in curry sauce and wander the Hohe Straße in search of your new German fashion accessories!
Leg 5 Cologne to Munich
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This leg is the final one before your return to Munich, and it's a long one - but you can easily break it up into several days to delay the end of the adventure. You'll drive from the west of Germany to the southeast, and there is no end of towns and cities along the way. Here are a few of particular interest.
Cologne to Würzburg is a fairly long drive - if you want to stretch your legs and grab a bite, Wiesbaden is an excellent stop en route!
Between 1626 and 1631 there was one of the biggest mass-trials and mass-executions ever seen in Europe during the Thirty Years War - the Würzburg Witch Trials. 157 men, women, and children were burned alive at the stake in Würzburg, Germany. Thankfully the witches have been replaced by gorgeous architecture and lots of wine.
Start your day with a counter-clockwise hike up to the Marienberg Fortress - the prominent landmark looming over the bank of the river. Loop around the castle so you pass through the grapevines on your trek back to the city center. Head across the Old Bridge (the Alte Mainbrücke) where you can get a glass of wine to-go (with a small deposit on the glass) to enjoy while you marvel at the statues along the picturesque bridge. From there head over to the Würzburg Residence for a stroll through the magnificent gardens before taking a tour of one of the wineries in the area.
There are several wonderful wineries but our favorite is Weingut Am Stein where you can walk through the steep grapevines while getting beautiful views of the city. They offer tastings of their delicious wines while providing you with helpful information on their organic wine-growing operation. Pick up a bottle of the Würzburger Silvaner - perfect for a sunny afternoon!
Nuremberg (aka Nürnberg)
Nuremberg is the quintessential medieval Bavarian town filled with stunning architecture, outdoor markets, museums, and a dark and sordid history. With over a half million residents, Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria. Its history dates way back but it is most often linked to World War II as it was the headquarters for the Nazis and later was nearly destroyed by allied bombing. Finally, it was the site of the famous post-war Nuremberg Trials. There was symbolic value in making it the city of the Nazi demise as they held the party’s rallies here and the laws stripping Jewish people of their citizenship were passed in Nuremberg.
As you stroll through the pedestrian cobblestone streets in the Altstadt old city, you’ll have a plethora of outdoor eating and drinking options among the intricate medieval churches and the high-end shops. Head to the Kaiserburg Nurnberg Castle for sunset where you’ll watch the sky above the city turn from blue to pink.
The Danube runs through the middle of the quaint town of Ulm and creates a natural barrier between Ulm and Neu-Ulm; Ulm being classified as Germany and Neu-Ulm being Bavaria. Thus the river also creates a bit of a friendly rivalry between the two. Check out the main square, Munsterplatz, and climb the 768 stairs to the top of the Ulm Minster (Ulmer Münster) church steeple - the tallest steeple in the world - for amazing views of the city (and a serious cardio workout). Then head over to the Fisherman’s Quarter (Fischerviertel) neighborhood where you’ll find darling Bavarian buildings, cobblestone streets, and beautiful river views.
Now, it's back to Munich to end your road trip - or you could continue on t a different part of Germany or Europe! The highways await.