To celebrate finishing university, the boyfriend and I wanted to go on an adventure. A European road trip was the original idea, starting with France and driving all over Europe to explore iconic European cities, yet, as it turns out, that would have included a lot of driving, without spending much time in any one place to really enjoy it.
Researching European destinations intensified, but after spotting some extremely cheap flights to Munich from Gatwick, I soon began plotting out the perfect Bavarian adventure. We had a week, so with Austria being so close, we thought we could kill two birds with one stone and spend a couple of days there too. Due to how much I have to share, part one is going to be focusing on Bavaria, with part two, coming next week, focusing on Austria.
Bavaria, a region of South Germany, is often overlooked as a holiday destination in favour of the Swiss or Austrian Alps, yet Bavaria has exactly what these (much more expensive) countries have and more; beautiful lakes, snow covered mountains, fairy tale castles and picture-perfect towns. We wanted to see as much as possible in the little time we had, yet not fit in too much so we didn’t have time to enjoy it.
There is plenty you can do in Bavaria, you could easily spend a week exploring the region alone, yet with Austria only a two-hour drive from Munich, we sacrificed a few extra days in Bavaria in favour to explore the beautiful towns of Hallstatt and St Wolfgang. Below is the itinerary we stuck to; the perfect combination of seeing plenty of destinations without rushing around or spending too much time on the road.
Day 1: Arrive in Munich
Day 2: Lake Walchensee, Ettal Abbey, Obermmagu, and Linderhof Palace
Day 3: Neuschwanstein Castle and Memmingen
Day 4: Munich
Day 5: Woflgangsee area, Austria
Day 6: Hallstatt and Gosausee, Austria
Day 7: Salzburg, Austria
Day 8: Drive back to Munich to catch flight home
Arrive at Munich airport, pick up the hire car (from the Munich Airport Centre located on the ground floor), and drive to your hotel (we stayed here). We arrived late evening due to a delayed flight so we just grabbed some food from the local supermarket and got an early night.
Day two will be the busiest day, so leave the hotel early (around 8am) and drive 1 hour to Lake Walchensee. Take the cable car and ride to the top of the mountain where you will be awarded the most breathtaking views of the lake.
As we arrived so early, we were fortunate enough to be the only two on the mountain; it was idyllic and so peaceful. We wandered around, marvelling at the views amazed that we had the whole place to ourselves.
The early start meant that it was quite misty and a little chilly, so we stopped off at the restaurant at the top for a cup of warm coffee and a slice of apple strudel.
Our little rest stop meant the sun had time to come out, and the blue sky was peeking through, behind the clouds. It was still a little chilly, but with the mist clearing, we could see the snow-covered mountains in the background that were hidden before.
After spending a few hours admiring Lake Walchensee, the next stop is 40 minutes away; the magnificent Ettal Abbey. Even if churches aren’t your thing (they’re not mine either), you’d be wrong to miss this off of your itinerary.
Just look at that celing.
You can even light a candle for those who are no longer with us, and as we visited the day after the Manchester terror attack, this seemed rather apt. It’s free to enter, so spend some time here and simply be.
After a jam-packed morning, lunch is surely next on the agenda, so drive a quick ten minutes down the road to Oberammergau, a local village that is full to the brim with restaurants serving traditional German delicacies. We visited s’Wirshaus, known for being vegetarian-friendly, yet there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.
As a vegetarian, I opted for the Spaetzle, traditional German dumplings, crispy, tender and full of flavour.
And of course, my meat eating boyfriend absolutely had to have the Bratwurst!
Parking here is cheap, so after lunch go for a walk and admire the beautiful buildings painted with traditional Bavarian fairy-tales, the houses with wooden shutters, and the shops filled with traditional nutcrackers and Christmas trinkets.
After exploring Oberammergau, spend the rest of the afternoon at Linderhof Palace only 15 minutes away. The gardens are free to walk around, but you will need to pay to go inside. Information can be found here.
King Ludwig II famously designed three places around Bavaria, and this sadly was the only one he lived long enough to see complete. Dripping in gold, this Palace is extravagant, but if you don’t have time, or simply want to explore the gardens, then make sure you take your time as there is so much to admire. Mountains and lush greenery surround, a worthy last stop for a jam-packed first day in Bavaria!
To end the day, drive to Hohenschwangau, 45-minutes away, and check into your hotel (we stayed here). You could stay close to Ettal or Obermmagu, but we wanted to make sure we were near Neuschwanstein Castle, ready to start day three!
Day three is another early start as Neuschwanstein Castle gets extremely busy, especially during the summer months. It is best to stay close by like we did, so you can go and collect the tickets as soon as the ticket office opens, but if not, arrive as soon as you possibly can. There is a large car park located near the ticket office, but if you are lucky like we were, your hotel will allow you to park in their grounds, free of charge.
To access the castle you have to do a guided tour, with the tickets either reserved in advance and collected on the day or simply bought on the day. It does cost a little extra to book in advance, but trust me, if you know what day and time you are going to be in the area, it is worth it to not have to wait in the queue. Our hotel was only five minutes away from the ticket office, so we collected our tickets as soon as the ticket office opened at 8am and walked back to our hotel to finish getting ready. Our tour wasn’t until 10:55 but having the tickets saved us queuing later on when it was due to get a lot busier.
There are a few options on how to get to the castle from the ticket office. Walking, which takes approx 45 minutes, a horse-drawn carriage that takes you close to the front of the castle, or a bus that takes you up to Marienbrucke Bridge. Whichever option you take, allow yourself well over an hour before the guided tour starts. This factors in queuing, the journey and taking pictures.
We opted for the shuttle bus to take us to the bridge, a popular option.
Suspended between two cliffs, and overlooking a waterfall it’s quite magnificent.
And with picture perfect views, it’s understandable why so many opt for Marienbrucke.
Once you have got that perfect shot, follow the crowds who are heading back towards the castle, stopping to marvel at the scenery. In the distance, you can spot the less popular Hohenschwangau Castle sat just in front of Alpine lakes and snow covered mountains.
Walk along, spotting the castle peeking through the trees and get giddy that you are about to enter a real life fairy-tale castle! (Walt Disney actually based Sleeping Beauty on Neuschwanstein!).
Make sure you arrive at the front of the castle before the time of your tour, they are every five minutes so if you miss your allocated time, you aren’t allowed through. The tour itself lasts 30 minutes where they tell you interesting facts about the history of the castle and King Ludwig II. Afterwards, you can spend some time having a look around for yourself, and even walk out into the balcony for some magical views.
Can you spot the people taking pictures?
After a hectic morning, it’s time to drive 50 minutes to Memmingen, my favourite destination of the entire holiday. We were fortunate enough to check into our hotel early (we stayed here), but if that isn’t an option ask to park in the hotel grounds and check in later.
By the time we arrived, we were extremely hungry so after admiring the view from the hotel room, we hot tailed it in the search for something to eat.
We found the most spectacular little bakery, so we dined ‘al fresco’ with lots of frothy coffee, pretzels, croissants, and of course, cake.
Fuelled with caffeine and sugar, and armed with a map kindly give to us by the hotel, we wondered around this delightful little town that was virtually untouched by tourists – perfect for anti-social people like ourselves.
Memmingen is tiny, so after exploring the colourful houses, miniature canals and hidden little nooks we opted for a little ‘siesta’ before heading back out for dinner.
Feeling refreshed after our nap, we wandered out to the main square for dinner. Opting to go where the locals were dining, we ate traditional German dishes again (I had the asparagus savoury pancake, David, the Pork Schnitzel) and washed it down with a beer.
Opposite us, we saw a local ice-cream parlour and couldn’t resist. Mr Eis seems popular with locals and rightly so. The cherry flavour is a must, trust me.
Full to bursting, we sat down in the main square and watch the sun dip below the sky. A perfect end to a magical day.
On day four I advise you wake up early and make the short, two-minute, walk to Brommler Bakery located in the main square, for some breakfast. Arriving just after 7:30 am, we watched the sun rise and the world go by over croissants and coffee. Grab a few extra pastries for the journey, today you are driving back to Munich!
When visiting Munich, you’ll most likely be staying on the outskirts to avoid the astronomical prices of hotels close to the city centre. If so, drive to your hotel (we stayed here), park up, check in (if possible!), and use the metro to get to the centre. It’s pretty straight forward; hop off at Marienplatz and start exploring from there.
The day we visited was both extremely hot and extremely busy, so my SLR rarely came out, but here are some suggestions on what you can do if visiting Munich for one day; head to the Viktualienmarkt (close to Marienplatz), a large food market and grab something to eat, walk to the English Garden and have a picnic, have a beer in a beer garden or Hofbrauhaus (beer hall) and climb to the top of Peters Bell Tower.
If you do you’ll be met with views like this.
It may be only a whistle stop top of Munich, but it is definitely possible to do in a day (if you can, avoid weekends – it gets very busy!).
Come back next week, where I’ll be sharing the Austrian part of the road trip. If you have any questions about Bavaria or planning a trip there (and you really should!), let me know, I’d be happy to answer!
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