Munich is an ideal base for day trips. It is a bustling city with great connections to the rest of the region, like the best nature day trips from Munich. Some of my favorite day trips actually highlight the medieval history of this ever-changing country. Check out these 7 medieval cities to visit in Bavaria.
01 of 07
Millions of visitors can't be wrong - Rothenburg ob der Tauber is worth stopping for. This is one of the best examples of a medieval German village and its long history includes ramparts, sieges, poverty, Nazis and redemption. It is a soap opera of a story.
This is a popular stop on the romantic road and is close to bursting most summer days, weekends and at Christmas. The town empties out in the evenings and a top tip is to stay overnight to see the town at twilight and learn about its past on the Nightwatchman tour.
Note that hotels and restaurants outside of the town walls can drastically drop in price.
Transportation: 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
By train: Change at Steinach or travel via Würzburg. Note that there are several “Rothenburgs” in Germany so confirm you are headed to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (on the Tauber River).
By car: A-8 toward Augsburg-West exit, B-2 north to Donauwörth, then the Romantic Road to Rothenburg. Park outside the walls to find a space and avoid the narrow medieval... streets.
Best Season: Stay overnight after the crowds empty out. The city is especially busy -- and festive -- around Christmas.
02 of 07
The fairy tale is real. This summer castle is straight out of the imagination of (possibly mad) King Ludwig II of Bavaria. To many Americans, it will look familiar as it inspired Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. A fairly modern castle never used for military purposes, this attraction never fails to delight.
Fussen, the town below the castle, is often viewed as just a stepping stone to the legendary castle. But there is plenty of Bavarian Gemütlichkeit (charm) to enjoy at this ideal base below the castle.
Transportation: 2 hours
By train: Departures hourly with some routes requiring a change in Buchloe.
By car: A-7 towards Ulm-Füssen-Kempten, then follow the signs to Füssen. To continue to the castle, take the B-17 towards Schwangau, and then on to Hohenschwangau. Note that the hike to the top is manageable for most people, but there are horse-drawn carriages.
Best Season: Best in summer or topped with snow, remember that the castle can be crowded at peak times... (summer, weekends, around Christmas).
03 of 07
Nürnberg (or Nuremberg for English-speakers) is straight out of a German picture book. Medieval architecture, a castle and a golden fountain that provides good luck all offer a picturesque background. Playful elements like sculptures by Albrecht Dürer and the Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum) add to the joy of the city.
On the other side, the town has hidden depths as the site of infamous Nazi rally grounds.
And don't miss the Christmas markets if you are there in late November to December. Buy a hand-crafted wooden toy and warm-up from the inside out with Drei im Weggla.
Transportation: 1 1/2 hours
By train: Departures hourly by ICE or regional trains.
By car: A-9 north.
Best Season: Any time of year, whatever the weather. Note that many attractions are closed on Mondays.
04 of 07
Located over seven hills like another famous city, this Bavarian town is nicknamed the "Franconian Rome". Picture perfect around every corner, Bamberg has one of Europe’s largest intact old town centers and is officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its early medieval plan, winding narrow streets and half-timbered architecture are the holy grails of fairy tale Germany.
And what could be more enchanting than Bamberg’s cathedrals, castles and rose garden? For some visitors, its beer. Bamberg’s historic breweries craft over 50 types of beer. Be sure to sample the regional specialty of Rauchbier (smoke beer). An acquired taste, you might not like it but you should at least try it.
Transportation: 2 1/2 hours
By train: Departures almost every hour, may require a change at Nürnberg.
By car: A-9 to Nürnberg, A-73 to Bamberg.
Best Season: Explore this city any time of the year.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Founded by the Romans in 15 BC, this city is best known for its Renaissance architecture. Once home to the richest dynasty of merchants in Europe, the Fuggers, it still holds cultural splendors for its visitors.
Start at the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) which was built in 1846 and is the oldest in Europe. Wander down Maximilianstrasse which was once the Roman road Via Claudia Augusta and now part of the Romantic Road. Venture into the many museums which cover every aspect of the town's history and art like the Römisches Museum, Schaezlerpalais and the Fuggerei.
Transportation: 30 minutes
By train: Departures almost every hour.
By car: A-8 northwest, take Augsburg-Ost exit.
Best Season: Any time of year, whatever the weather. Note that many of its attractions are closed on Mondays.
06 of 07
Dating back to AD 179, Regensburg was a base for Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is at an advantageous point on the Danube that has allowed it to prosper throughout the centuries. This town was actually the capital of Bavaria until the 13th century, but more recently it has been neglected by travelers. Those that do venture here are rewarded with a well-preserved medieval city.
Visitors can't miss Regensburger Dom (St. Peter's Cathedral), one of the finest Gothic structures in Bavaria. Many people also take the time to cruise the river whenever the sun is shining. For a meal, go to Historische Wurstkuchl which is one of the oldest restaurants in all of Germany, believed to have been opened in the 12th century to feed the workers building Steinerne Brücke.
Transportation: 1 hour
By train: Departures almost hourly.
By car: A-9 and A-93 northeast.
Best Season: Any time of year, whatever the weather. Note that some of its attractions are closed on Mondays.
07 of 07
Located at the end of the Romantic Road, many travelers run out of time for the "Town of the Madonnas". That is a mistake for lovers of Baroque style.
The prime attraction is the simply named Residenz. The work of Balthazar Neumann, it was built between 1720 - 1744. The years were put to good use as the opulence is wildly impressive. Finish off your day with fine Franconian wine, ideally in the traditional Bocksbeutal flask.
Transportation: 2 1/2 hours
By train: Departures hourly.
By car: A-9 northwest toward Nuremberg, then A-3 to Würzburg.
Best Season: Any time of year. Note many attractions are closed on Mondays.