Exploring the Bavarian region of Germany should be on everyone’s bucket list and not just for Oktoberfest! This region is full of amazing cities, castles, and palaces and gorgeous natural landscapes like the Bavarian Alps.
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Don’t let the language difference stop you from exploring this unique area!
One week is not enough to see the entirety of Germany, but it is enough to explore a city and its surrounding region.
So how do you explore Bavaria in one week?
Bavaria is the largest of Germany’s 16 states, and Munich is the largest city and capital of Bavaria.
This German state stretches from the borders with Austria and the Czech Republic to just outside of (but not including) Frankfurt. The town of Ulm is actually in the state of Baden-Württemberg, just across the Danube River from Neu-Ulm in Bavaria.
Make Munich your home base for the week and take day trips out to explore Bavaria. Train travel in Germany is affordable, convenient, and reliable. Deutsche Bahn (DB) trains cover the entire region and offer several passes at affordable prices.
Start in Munich
Munich has a lot to see, so reserve 3 or 4 days for exploring the city itself. The international airport is a quick train ride just north of the city, and I recommend staying as central in the city as you can afford.
Don’t worry. Everything from hostels to luxury hotels can be found within a few train stops of the central train station.
With 3 or 4 days in Munich, that leaves 3 or 4 days for day trips around Bavaria. There are so many day trips from Munich to choose from, it can be hard to settle on an itinerary.
Good news! I’ve done the research for you!
Do you want to see all of Mad King Ludwig II’s would-be palaces and castles? Perhaps you’re more into nature and want to spend some time in the Bavarian Alps? Pick an itinerary below, or mix and match to make your own!
Itinerary 1: Salzburg, Austria
Just 2 hours east of Munich by train is Salzburg, Austria. Home of classical composer Mozart and the Sound of Music, this town is well worth spending some time in.
I know, I know. This is not technically a part of Bavaria. But hear me out: it’s a very similar vibe and it’s easier to get to Berchtesgaden, Germany from Salzburg than it is from Munich.
In fact, if you don’t take a bus tour or rent a car, your fastest option is to take the train from Munich to Salzburg, and then catch a Salzburg bus to Berchtesgaden.
You could visit Salzburg in a single day trip, but I recommend sticking around a couple nights to enjoy an evening concert and to see all the sights.
Day 1: Salzburg History
- Free Walking Tour
- Salzburg Museum
- Hohensalzburg Fortress: go in the afternoon for gorgeous sunset views from atop the cliffs
Day 2: Mozart Day
- Café Tomaselli: Mozart’s favorite restaurant
- Mozart’s Birthplace: Family apartment where the musical prodigy was born and raised
- Salzburg Residence and Cathedral: Discover Prince-Archbishop luxury in the Residence and the peacefulness of the cathedral, where Mozart made is musical debut at age 5
Day 3: Sound of Music Day
- Sound of Music bus tour
The same company that shuttled the film crew around Salzburg in the 1950’s is now running tours of filming locations. Bring your camera!
- Salt Mine Tour guided tour
Salzburg is German for ‘Salt Mountain’ after all. Get to know the town’s namesake industry and have fun sliding down the chutes as well! A great tour for children.
The same company that does the Original Sound of Music tour also offers a combo tour of the Salt Mine + Sound of Music for a full day of adventuring!
Day 4: Day Trip to Berchtesgaden
If you took the Salt Mine Tour mentioned on Day 3, you’ve already seen a smidge of the amazing Bavarian Alps. Dive deeper with a full day in Berchtesgaden!
- Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus)
Hitler’s mountain chateau atop the Bavarian Alps; Now a restaurant, with some informative plaques and historical exhibits.
- Documentation Center and underground bunkers
Learn of Berchtesgaden history with Nazism and tour the bunkers that once connected the Nazi high command’s administrative buildings
- Königssee and St Bartholoma’s Cathedral
Beautiful teal-blue mineral water mountain lake with a cathedral tucked away in the mountains, protected by the lake
Itinerary 2: World War II Sites + Mountains
For the history buffs out there, this itinerary includes all the major sites to explore in Bavaria associated with the rise and fall of the Nazi party.
Day 1: Berchtesgaden
This day trip shows up on several itineraries because it’s so versatile. Berchtesgaden has history, salt mine tours, and stunning natural landscapes. It’s a trifecta of awesomeness!
- Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus)
Hitler’s mountain chateau atop the Bavarian Alps, gifted to him by his commanders, it was meant to impress. You’ll take his private elevator up to the chateau.
- Documentation Center and underground bunkers
Documentation Centers are found throughout Germany and describe Nazism and how it affected the region the center is in. This one also has a series of underground bunkers still intact which used to connect several other Nazi buildings on the mountainside.
- Königssee and St Bartholoma’s Cathedral
If you have time, visit the beautiful teal-blue mineral water mountain lake with a cathedral tucked away in the mountains, a short 10 minute bus ride from the town center. The cathedral is accessible via paid ferry.
- Salt Mine Tour: Choose this tour or the Königssee. You won’t have time for both.
Day 2: Dachau
The town of Dachau is a suburb of Munich and a short 20min S-bahn train ride away from the Munich city center. You can easily spend an entire day here if you take your time at the concentration camp memorial.
- Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
This is a place for remembrance and reflection. Dachau was the first work camp and used as a model for the rest.
There is disturbing content in the museum exhibits, so think twice about bringing your children, but I urge you all to go if you have the chance.
If you read all the exhibits in the main museum, you will be here longer than a half day. We arrived at 9:30AM and didn’t leave until 2:30PM, when we finally couldn’t ignore lunch any longer.
There is a small café in the information center outside the camp if you need to take a break during your visit.
- Dachau Palace
To end the afternoon on a lighter note, visit Dachau Palace on the hill above the Old Town.
The original palace was built and renovated various times throughout the centuries. Much of the palace has been demolished now but the west wing remains, used today as an event space.
The wooden ceiling dates back to medieval times and is stunning to behold. Don’t miss the gardens and the views of the Munich skyline in the distance.
Day 3 (&4): Nuremberg
Host of the Nazi party rallies in the 1930’s, Nuremberg saw both the beginning and the end of Nazism. But there is more history in Nuremberg besides the 1930’s and 40’s.
Spend the night in Nuremberg to explore Bavaria further and enjoy a second day exploring the town’s medieval history.
- Documentation Center at the Nazi Rally Grounds
Documentation Centers are found in cities across Germany, but they are not copies of each other. The Nuremberg documentation center focuses on the affect Nazism had in the area, and this one was larger, and much more chilling, than the one in Berchtesgaden.
Take a stroll around the park and you’ll find the concrete steps where Hitler gave his rally speeches.
Tip: Don’t be the idiot that does the Nazi salute or fake re-enacts the scene. It’s illegal.
- Nuremberg Trials and Courthouse
The Nuremburg Trials at the end of World War II were held in Courtroom 600. The courthouse still uses the room today, so you can’t visit it if court is in session.
Check the schedule ahead of time, or visit on a Sunday when court is not in session. The top floor of the courthouse has a small museum chronicling the trials.
- Kaiserburg Imperial Castle
Nuremberg’s castle on the hill above the Old Town has been in use since 1050, by kings and princes and Holy Roman Emperors. It has been renovated several times over the centuries, and portions were badly damaged in bombing raids in World War II.
But the art hidden in the basement throughout the war was successfully protected! Today, the castle has been restored and has some excellent exhibits on the Holy Roman Emperor and the Middle Ages armory.
- See a stunning church or two
St Sebald’s, Lorenzkirche, and Frauenkirche are all beautiful cathedrals in the Old Town.
- Albrecht Durer’s House
Art lovers: See where an influential and Germany’s most well-known artist once lived and worked.
Itinerary 3: Mad King Ludwig II’s Castles and Palaces
King Ludwig II was a dreamer. He wanted to bring culture to Bavaria and was heavily influenced by French architecture. When he took the throne in 1864, he started building, and he didn’t stop until his mysterious death 22 years later.
Day 1: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles
Neuschwanstein Castle, or the model for the Disney castle as some of you know it, is what everyone thinks of when they want to explore Bavaria. A visit to this iconic castle is on almost everyone’s bucket list. Just an hour’s train ride from Munich, this is a must-do day trip!
- See the Castles (yes, plural)
Neuschwanstein Castle is the one everyone recognizes, but Hohenschwangau Castle is right next door and more complete. Get the combo ticket and see them both! Tours are timed entry and guided, so don’t be late!
- Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge)
Chances are you’ve seen the same picture of Neuschwanstein every time; it’s just changed seasons from picture to picture. That iconic shot is taken from the Marienbrücke. It gets crowded in peak season, but the views are absolutely worth the wait!
- Pöllat Gorge Walk
Highly recommend this path for the walk down the mountain. Instead of taking the same paved path with all the other tourists, get some space and some nature and take the Pöllat Gorge Walk back to the bus station in town.
The river the Marienbrücke crosses falls into an awesome waterfall below. The Pöllat Gorge path descends to the base of the waterfall and follows the river through the gorge.
You’re literally walking over the river on portions of the trail. Wonderful shaded path in summer, but be mindful of ice in the winter.
Day 2: Linderhof Palace & Ettal Abbey
A building project that was actually completed during Ludwig II’s lifetime. The gorgeous abbey predates Ludwig but is on the route to Linderhof and shouldn’t be missed when you head out to explore Bavaria!
Bus tours are available but not all arrive at the Abbey in time for entry. Double check if you get to explore the Abbey or just stop for pictures of the exterior.
- Linderhof Palace
Originally his father’s hunting lodge, Ludwig II transformed this simple wood-frame building into an unrecognizable French mini-palace. Check out the not-subtle-at-all tributes to Ludwig’s hero: France’s King Louis XIV. Get lost in the beautiful gardens before you leave.
- Ettal Abbey
Gorgeously detailed Benedictine monastery in the middle of the German countryside. The monks run a brewery, so be sure to stop for a pint!
Day 3: Herrenchiemsee Palace
Not meant to be an exact copy, but this is basically the Palace of Versailles of Bavaria. The palace sits on an island in the middle of the lake and requires a ferry for access.
The gardens and a portion of the palace were completed before Ludwig II’s mysterious death. Imagine what it could have been if he hadn’t died.
Itinerary 4: Mountains
Sometimes you need to get away from the busy city and back to peaceful nature. Bavaria has amazing landscapes throughout, but my favorite were the mountains! This itinerary focuses on great places to see mountains and enjoy nature while exploring Bavaria.
Day 1: Zugspitze
Germany’s highest peak, take the scenic gondola ride up to the top and enjoy the afternoon atop the Austrian/German border.
Day 2: Berchtesgaden
While the historical sites here are definitely worth your time, the Bavarian Alps provide astounding views! Instead of taking the bus and elevator up to Kehlsteinhaus, hike up the mountain for free.
Once at the top there are several other trails for everything from short hikes to viewpoints and several miles to more amazing mountain views.
Head to the Königssee (King’s Lake) in the afternoon to see the amazing teal mineral waters and explore a bit of Berchtesgaden National Park. Take the ferry out to St Bartholoma’s Cathedral and follow the paths into the mountains for more amazing views.
For you adventure seekers out there: want to sit in a natural infinity pool on a mountain cliff? Hike around the north side of the Königssee and find the trail to this spot. It’ll take your breath away!
Day 3: Füssen
Known the world over as the home of Neuschwanstein Castle, this area nestled between mountains and lakes is perfect for nature lovers. You don’t have to go in the castles, but I highly recommend it!
Take a walk or ride a bike around the Forggensee, lake north of Füssen, or the Alpsee, lake adjacent to Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles.
Cross completely over Marienbrücke and hike along the mountains for a bit of peace and quiet with fantastic views of the valley below.
Hike the Pöllat Gorge Walk and enjoy the river and its amazing waterfall below the Marienbrücke.
Itinerary 5: Romantic Road
If you want to explore Bavaria by car and experience the legendary Romantic Road, bus tours have got you covered for the highlights.
One of the most popular day trips on the Romantic Road is the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, one of the last but best preserved medieval walled cities in Germany.
Getting to Rothenburg ob der Tauber from Munich is a 3 hour drive, but only an hour from Nuremberg. I recommend taking the train to Nuremberg and catching a bus out to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Whether or not you choose to stay the night in Nuremberg is up to you.
Alternatively, explore Bavaria on your own! Rent a car and make time for the entire route, from Würzburg to Füssen, including some of the lesser known towns along the route that the bus tours don’t visit.
Driving yourself gives you the freedom to stop in the smaller towns along the way and to stay and take all the pictures you want after the tour buses have left the popular stops.
The best way to get pictures without hundreds of tourists in them is to stay overnight in or near Rothenburg ob der Tauber, or Füssen, or any other popular destination. You’ll beat all the tour buses and the crowds and have the streets mostly to yourself in the mornings and evenings.
So, there you have it: how to explore Bavaria in one week.
Interested in more than one itinerary? Mix and match day trips, or extend your trip if possible. You won’t regret spending more time in this enchanting part of Germany!