Last year, me and David wanted a European road trip. It had to include picturesque towns, beautiful nature and good food. Always with good food. With Europe being so vast, we couldn’t point our finger on where exactly we wanted to go, but then some ridiculously cheap flights came up to Munich, the capital of Bavaria, and the decision was made for us.
Bavaria is a state in the south-east of Germany and is a picture-perfect destination that has it all; mountains, lakes, cabins and castles, oh the castles. It is also extremely close to the Austrian border, meaning that if you had longer, you could explore two destinations in one trip, but if you only have a weekend, than this is the perfect road-trip itinerary for you.
Day 1 begins at Lake Walchensee, about an hour away from Munich. Lake Walchensee is in the middle of the Bavarian Alps, and is one of the largest lakes in Bavaria. The crystal blue waters are what makes this lake so special, yet it is somewhat of a hidden treasure. This may be due to its location, being tucked away deep within the Bavarian Alps, because Lake Walchensee is relatively untouched by tourists. We arrived in the morning and had the place all to ourselves, a magical experience considering how beautiful it is.
Ride the cable car to the top of the mountain, admire the views and pop in for some warm apple strudel in the cabin at the top. After a gentle walk around the top of the mountain, ride the cable car down to the bottom and walk along the water’s edge.
I’d advise catching an evening flight to Munich the day before, staying overnight in Munich and then driving down to Lake Walchensee at the crack of dawn. We did this and the freshness of the morning meant that the fog was eerily beautiful as we were driving around the mountain landscapes.
Next stop is Ettal and then Oberammergau, two classic Bavarian villages within 5 minutes of each other. Stop at Ettal first, to wander around the magnificent Ettal Abbey, a gorgeous church with the most incredible painted ceiling. Take a walk outside, visit the local shops and hop back in the car to drive 5 minutes down the road towards Oberammergau. This place is exactly what you think of when you picture Bavaria, wooden window boxes, fairytales painted on buildings and cobbled streets. Have a traditional German lunch then head back to the car for your final stop; Linderhof Palace.
Saving Linderhof for last, we arrived late afternoon to avoid the crowds of tourists. Liderhof is the smallest of the three palaces that were built by King Ludwig II. Although it is small, the palace is dripping in gold and is set in the most beautiful green surroundings. Make sure you climb to the top of the stars which sit opposite the palace, to get that picture perfect shot of the fountain. After exploring Linderhof Palace and gardens set out on the scenic journey to Hohenschwangau, where you’ll stay the night ready to visit King Ludwig’s most impressive palace, Neuschwanstein.
Day two will be magical, with a morning of exploring a fairy-tale castle followed by a romantic wander around the picture-perfect town of Memmingen.
Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the most photographed castles in the world, was built by King Lugwid II in the 1800’s and it was where he lived until he died. It is well documented that Walt Disney based the Sleepy Beauty Castle on Neuschwanstein, with it having all the makings of a fairy-tale castle set in the beautiful green hills.
It is best to be as close to Neuschwanstein Castle as possible, so you can get there early, as this place fills up fast. We stayed in the village of Hohenschwangau where Neuschwanstein is, but you could also stay in the nearby town of Fussen and drive to Hohenschwangau; there is a big car park available right in the village. To access the castle you have to book tickets for a guided tour, to which you are given a slotted time of when your tour starts. Booking a tour is the only way to see the inside of the castle. You can either pre-book your tickets online and collect the tickets from the ticket office or just go to the ticket office on the day. I’d advise pre-booking your tickets, it is an additional cost, but it is worth it to have a guaranteed spot. We pre-booked our tour for 10:30, turned up at 8 am to collect our tickets, went back to our hotel and had some breakfast. Even at 8 am, the ticket office was filling up fast!
There are three ways that you can access the castle; walking, horsedrawn carriage or a shuttle bus to Marienbruke Bridge. Whichever you chose, it is suggested you leave 1 hour before your tour time to give you enough time to reach the castle and take your pictures. We opted for Marienbrucke Bridge to get that classic shot of the castle from afar.
After taking far to many selfies, we made our way down to the front of the castle, ready for our tour. It is incredibly efficient, each group having a certain slot and time, and the tours are incredibly informative. We had a wonderfully charismatic tour guide, which really does make all the difference.
By the time we had caught the shuttle bus down to the bottom, we were hungry so we got in the car and drove straight to Memmingen, but you could stop off at the nearby village of Fussen first, for a bite to eat. Memmingen is about 50 minutes away from Fussen and is tiny. We arrived a little after 2 pm, checked in to our hotel and went out straight away on the hunt for some food.
After filling up, we had a slow walk around the town, amongst the colourful houses and cute little canals. There isn’t a lot to do in Memmingen, but that is why I loved it so. Virtually no tourists were there, so it was the perfect place to just be. I’d suggest going back to the hotel to recharge the batteries, then heading out again in the evening to have some dinner and a beer in one of the traditional German restaurants. There seems to be an ice-cream shop on every street too, so grab an ice-cream and enjoy it in the main square with the locals, while watching the sun go down.
Day three will be an early start, as you want to wake up before the rest of Memmingen does! From your hotel, head straight to the main square and nab a spot outside Brommler Bakery. Order your coffee and croissants and watch the world go by.
After you’ve had enough of people watching, check out of the hotel and make your way back towards Munich; about an hour and a half away. You should arrive just before lunchtime, so park up close to the centre and head straight to Marienplatz to start exploring. With hungry bellies, we went straight for the Viktualienmarkt, a large food market full to the brim with fresh fruit, smoothies, pastries, biscuits, cheeses – everything and anything.
From there walk to The English Gardens, have a picnic with your treats and enjoy the parks. The English Gardens are huge, with so many beautiful spots. I’m sure you’ll find a lovely little-secluded spot, hidden from view. Depending on your timing, you could grab a beer in a local beer garden or climb to the top of St Peters Tower for some incredible views over the whole of Munich.It’s only a whistle-stop tour of this gorgeous city, but everything is fairly central and easily accessible by foot.
Drive back to the airport, drop off your hire car and catch your flight back to home, planning when your next trip to Bavaria, will be!
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