10 OF THE MOST BREATHTAKING SIGHTS IN BAVARIA, GERMANY: Do you want to see beautiful medieval castles, churches, and villages that are still intact? Are you a fan of spectacular landscapes and views from the top? Or maybe you love German food…and beer!? Then I’ll tell you where you want to go – to Bavaria!
Bavarians are a proud folk for some darn good reasons!
- They make the best beer in the world.
- Bavaria has the lowest unemployment rate in Germany
- They know how to goaßlschalz and schuhplattl.
- The Bavarian dialect sounds really cool. I would describe it as rugged yet extremely laid back.
- They can wear Lederhosen & Dirndls on a daily basis and not get stared at.
- Heck! Even the cows are proud down there. And you know why? Because they get to graze on some of the most beautiful landscapes central Europe has to offer.
Here are a few of the most breathtaking sights in Bavaria, so you can see what I mean.
1. The Bavarian Forest National Park
The Bavarian forest is a low mountain range in eastern Bavaria on the border to the Czech Republic. The region is famous for its glass blowing and you can see it being done practically everywhere. There are tons of shops where you can buy top quality glass products at reasonable prices. We have been known to drive all the way out there just to pick up some new wine glasses!
The beautiful village of Bodenmais is my favorite town. They have lovely hotels, restaurants, cafés, and glass blowing shops – the perfect combination for a wonderful trip!
The town of Neuschonau boasts the world’s longest tree top walk which is an absolute must-see when you’re in the area.
Though it technically belongs to the bohemian forest, I personally love going up to the top of the Großer Arber (known as the Bavarian forest’s highest peak – 1455m) with the ski lift in the summer. Once at the top, you can buy a beer at the mountain lodge and drink it out on their deck. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even hike back down.
It’s the perfect place to enjoy a hike, a brew, and a view!
2. The Berchtesgadener Alps
This mountain range is located in the southeastern part of Bavaria. If you look at in on the map, it looks like it kind of nestles into Austria.
Besides just presenting drop-dead gorgeous views, the highlights of this region include the town of Berchtesgaden, the Königsee (a GORGEOUS mountain lake), The Watzmann Peak (2713m), and Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. It is a skier’s paradise as well. But if you’re like me and like to hike, this is THE place to be!
3. Neuschwanstein Castle
In the main scheme of things, Neuschwanstein Castle is pretty much brand-spankin’-new (1886). That makes it quite the disappointment for an architecture history junkie like myself. Nonetheless, I keep coming back here because I can’t get enough of those steep mountains, long green valleys, the lakes, and I just love the way the castle is dramatically set at the foot of the Alps.
Yes, this place is crawling with tourists even in winter!
4. The City of Nuremberg
Now, Nuremberg does have an old castle in its repertoire. The Imperial Castle of Nuremberg dates back to the year 1000. You really can’t say you’ve been to Nuremberg unless you’ve walked up to it and enjoyed the view of the city below.
This city on the Pegnitz river is mainly known for its well-preserved historical old town, the sites pertaining to the Third Reich, and its bratwurst. The people here are, well, Franconians (never tell them they’re Bavarians – although they are!) Franconia is a region of Bavaria. Franconians have the reputation of being brutally honest and painfully sincere. They have big hearts, though they’d never admit it. Another little fact: Franconians just love Americans! Every Franconian can fondly tell you a story about an American soldier they used to know who was stationed here (his name was usually “Jim.”)
Things to do in Nuremberg
If you’ve never been in a medieval dungeon before, Nuremberg’s is definitely the one you want to see. I’ve been through is several times and I see something new every time. The English-speaking tour guides are excellent at painting a picture of what it was like to be a prisoner back in the day – very gruesome stuff!
After that, be sure to go across the street to the Bratwursthäusle and get yourself a dark beer and at least 6 Nuremberger roasted bratwursts with kraut.
If you want to learn more about monumental architecture and world war history, be sure to check out the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds southeast of downtown.
5. Nymphenburg Palace in Munich
After a long day of sightseeing in Münich (and having a beer and weißwurst at the Hofbräuhaus,) come out to visit Nymphenburg Palace for a breath of fresh air! I personally have never been inside for a tour because I so enjoy walking around the park with its water features and the flowerful splendor.
Speaking of flowerful splendor, Munich’s botanical gardens are adjacent to the palace grounds and well worth seeing. In fact, I try to get down there every May to see their humongous rhododendrons in bloom.
6. The City of Passau
Most tourists come to Passau for one reason, and that’s to either start or end their Danube river cruise. Being at the junction of three rivers, it really sets the scene for a spectacular trip down the river.
Passau is perfect for a short city tour. It’s compact enough to see its entirety within a few hours while offering many places to sit and take it all in. There’s no one thing that makes Passau so special. It’s just one of those places that “feels” good! I love walking around its narrow lanes and taking in its baroque architecture. You can sit at one of the street cafès in the summer and watch the river flow by, or drink a hot glühwein at the Christmas market in winter.
Though I’m an architect and am supposed to love cathedrals, I must confess that I don’t. But Passau’s baroque cathedral is one of the few exceptions. It’s nothing special…again, it just “feels” good! Go inside and take a peek!
Where to stay in Passau
Although it’s a small town, Passau has lots of hotels to choose from. This is due to all of the river cruise passengers spending at least one night there before boarding their ship. An American river tourist usually isn’t shy about spending over 100$ a night for a room as part of his or her river cruise package. But for an individual tourist like myself, 80$ a night is my absolute limit.
That said, I very much recommend the Hotel Weisser Hase. It’s a bit dated but very clean. The breakfast buffet has everything you could ever want and the service is very friendly. Of course, it’s centrally located for sight-seeing and shopping.
We loved drinking the wine in the rustic Heilig-Geist-Stiftsschenke across the street. They also serve food, but we got there too late at night – a truly wonderful place! Next time I will be sure to have dinner there.
Where to eat in Passau
I have one more tip up my sleeve to make your trip to Passau even more memorable. If you do nothing else while you’re there, be sure to reserve yourself a table by the window for lunch at Das Oberhaus. It’s nothing fancy, but the food and service are superb and reasonably priced as well. In addition, you will be rewarded with the best view of the city.
If you still have time, or if it’s raining out, go next door to visit the Veste Oberhaus Museum.
7. The City of Rothenburg o.d. Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is an amazingly well preserved/reconstructed medieval town. It is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region of Franconia. I have been here a countless number of times and still can’t get over its beauty. If you don’t like crowds, do not come here during high season (July – August) it is crazy full of busloads of tourists!
What I love doing most in Rothenburg is walking on top of the city wall. Here you get a stroll in the shade and an excellent overview of the town.
The night watchman tour is an unforgettable way to learn about the town’s history. Be sure to take advantage of it if you’re staying in town!
Die Romantische Straße (Romantic Road)
Not only is Rothenburg beautiful, but the countryside surrounding it is as well. Rothenburg ob der Tauber lies along the Romantic Road, overlooking the Tauber river valley. The Romantic Road stretches from the river Main all the way down to the Alps. It’s lined with medieval villages, castles (Neuschwanstein being one of them!), rivers and beautiful landscapes. In fact, it is one of Germany’s most popular destinations.
8. The Walhalla
The Walhalla is a neo-classical building (1842) dramatically set high above the Danube river valley. It’s “a place of remembrance for German-speaking men and women of outstanding merit.”
I see this building as an architect’s Disneyland. I have always wanted to experience a Greek temple still completely intact. And here I can do just that. The views of the Danube river are spectacular.
Be sure to visit the city of Regensburg while you’re in the area because it’s another one of Bavaria’s most beautiful medieval river cities.
9. Weltenburg Abbey
Here it’s all about the beer garden within the Abbey’s courtyard and its beautiful location on the Danube River Gorge.
What to do in and around Kehlheim, Germany
Here’s how you have the perfect day in Kehlheim and the Weltenburg Abbey:
Drive to the Port (“Hafen”) in the city of Kehlheim.
Board one of the boats going through the Danube Gorge (“Donaudurchbruch”) to the Weltenburg Abbey.
Enjoy the ride along one of the most beautiful pieces of the Danube River (maybe with a beer in hand? hint: you can buy beer on the boat)
Get off at the Weltenburg Abbey port. Note when the last boat goes back to Kehlheim. Then walk along the river up to the Abbey.
Dip your tootsies in the Danube river at the Abbey’s stoney beach.
Walk around the Abbey and check out the church – it’s a good one!
Take the path behind the church to walk up the hill. There you will find a little chapel and the perfect view of the river bend.
Walk back down and seat yourself at a table in the Abbey courtyard’s beer garden – preferably in the shade.
Order “Ein Dunkles Bier” – a dark beer and food of choice (it’s all delicious!) For me, nothing beats a good pair of “weißwurst” (white sausage) with sweet mustard and a soft pretzel. Be sure to remove the sausage skins before eating!
Enjoy the beer, appreciating the fact that it was made in the oldest monastic brewery in the world (1050.) As you may know, beer was invented by monks as a means of nourishment during fasting.
Dip your tootsies back in the Danube. Maybe even go for a swim if it’s hot enough.
Walk back to the port and board a ship back to Kehlheim.
Enjoy the boat ride. The ride is twice as fast going downstream.
Get off at the port in Kehlheim and then board the silly blue and white tourist train “Ludwigsbahn” close to the parking lot. It will take you up to The Hall of Liberation, which you have already seen from below on the boat tour.
Take the never-ending stairway up to the top of The Hall of Liberation (if you’re not afraid of heights) and enjoy the view.
Take the train back down to the city.
Walk around Kehlheim, enjoying the colorful stucco facades.
Stop at an “EisCafè” (a cafè that also serves ice cream) and order yourself an “Eis Kaffee” (coffee poured over vanilla ice cream.) It is the perfect late afternoon picker-upper.
Keep in mind that if it’s a dry summer, the Danube might be too shallow for ship traffic. In which case, you jump back in your car and drive directly to Weltenburg. If you still have time, I absolutely recommend visiting the falconry park at the medieval castle of Rosenburg. It’s a great show – and their museum and restaurant are both excellent.
10. The Zugspitze
The Zugspitze is the highest mountain peak in Germany (2962m). I can’t describe how breathtaking the views are from here! It’s horrendously expensive for a day trip, but I promise it will be an experience you’ll never forget!
Click here to find out how to get up there and have the best day up on the Zugspitze.