Germany appeals to travelers who are interested in European history, old-world architecture, lovely landscapes, and cultural attractions as well as the flavor of German life. The country is made up of multiple regions, each with its own dialect, food, and traditions. While you should sample as many as possible to get a full perspective, the country’s size and diversity mean that you simply can’t do it all in one trip. A tour of southern Germany is a great introduction for first-timers. The alluring Black Forest, the villages along the Romantic Road, Bavaria’s boisterous beer halls, and rococo palaces and churches beginning to your Germany exploration.
Travel Maestro’s Recommended Itinerary for Southern Germany
The city of Frankfurt is a natural place to start your tour because it’s home to one of Europe’s largest airports and one of its busiest train stations, making it easy to get in and get out. The city offers some beautiful half-timbered houses and nearly 40 museums; however, I’ll suggest that you depart immediately for Heidelberg to overnight there.
Heidelberg is one of Germany’s most romantic cities with a baroque-style old town set among lovely tree-covered hills along the Neckar River. Be sure to take the cable car up to Heidelberg Palace to wander the towers, turrets, courtyard, and gardens that overlook the city. Travel Maestro tip: The reason you should spend the night there is so you can explore the city early before crowds of tour buses arrive.
Continue into the fabled Black Forest to Germany’s most famous and luxurious spa town, Baden-Baden. If you have time, spend a night here in one of the fine old-world-style hotels and “take the cure” in the town’s famed mineral waters from the thermal springs. Travel Maestro tip: You may also enjoy the world-famous belle-epoque casino and horse racetrack or exploring one of the Black Forest’s wine-producing villages nearby.
Travel through the Black Forest to Stuttgart, a large industrial center and home to Porsche and Mercedes-Benz automobile museums. Palace lovers will want to see the gardens and building of the Ludwigsburg Palace nearby. Listen for regional Swabian music played from the glockenspiel at the city hall. Travel Maestro tip: Be sure to taste mell, a delicious honeyed wine drunk warm or cold.
Make your way to 12th-century Rothenburg ob der Tauber (pronounced ROE-ten-burg) to spend the night. The fairytale streets are lines with towers, ramparts, and walls. Visit the town hall and its vaults, the Castle Gate and garden. Two churches are fascinating for their famous altars: The Altar of the Holy Blood at St. Jacob’s Church and the three circa 1500 altars at St. Wolfgang’s Church. Travel Maestro tip: Rothenburg is heavily touristed but worth the overnight visit. The town takes on a special ambiance in the evening after the tour buses leave in the late afternoon.
Amble south along the Romantic Road, visiting as many of the charming villages as time permits – Feuchtwangen, Dinkelsbuhl (pictured at top), Nordlingen, Donauworth, Augsburg and Landsberg am Lech. Take a couple of days to see this area, as some of the prettiest towns in Germany are along this route. Travel Maestro tip: Don’t miss sipping a German lager or wheat beer in a Bavarian beer garden. It’s a great informal way to get to know the locals.
At the southern end of the Romantic Road, visit Oberammergau, home of the once-a-decade Passion Play. The village is full of luftlmalerei, Bavarian houses decorated elaborately in trompe l’oeil. An overnight here allows you to also visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a year-round outdoor recreational area near Germany’s highest mountain – think winter skiing and summer hiking. Travel Maestro tip: Even if you don’t tour the inside, be sure to see the fantastical Neuschwanstein Castle nearby. It was “mad” King Ludwig II’s palace that was the model for Disney’s Cinderella’s castle.
End your exploration of southern Germany in Munich, Germany’s third-largest city, high-tech hub, and beer brewing capital of the world. Marienplatz is the heart of the city and where you can view a daily performance of the Neues Rathaus’ glockenspiel. You’ll also find two opulent royal palaces, beer gardens and gourmet restaurants, excellent museums and haute-couture shopping in Munich. Travel Maestro tip: It takes a staff of 12,000 to serve six million revelers about 2.3 million gallons of beer, 520,000 half-chickens, and 140,000 pairs of sausages each year during Oktoberfest. Yes, it’s a BIG party.
There is so much more to see in Germany, from the castles along the Rhine to the unique reunified city of Berlin. Start your Germany discovery with this southern itinerary to get a glimpse of the breadth of diversity that spans this European country. To plan your trip, contact one of our expert vacation advisors.