- European Itinerary Part 1 – London, Bath and Stonehenge
- European Itinerary Part 2 – Paris and Versailles
- European Itinerary Part 3 – Munich, Bavarian Alps and the Rhine Valley
- European Itinerary Part 4 – Amsterdam
- European Itinerary Part 5 – Windsor and Trip Reflection
I have always wanted to go to Germany to see Neuschwanstein castle and the Bavarian Alps. This ended up being my favorite part of the whole trip. We decided to stay in Munich and take day trips to see everything we wanted to see.
Day 9 | Munich
We started our time in Munich at Marienplatz. It’s the largest public square in Munich and home of the Glockenspiel which plays everyday at 11am 2pm and 5pm. We took the elevator to the top of the Rathaus for a panoramic view of the city.
Next, we made the short walk to the English Garden. We spent most of the afternoon strolling through the gardens past river surfers, statues, and even a Greek temple. Up to 100 surfers daily hit the waves on a man-made river in the city’s English Garden. There, the icy water flows at a rate of 20 tons per second, and the temperature never gets above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
At the Chinese Beer Garden we had German food and cold beer. A truly international experience, we had German food at the Chinese Beer Garden in the English Garden.
Day 10 | Fairy Tale Castles and the Bavarian Alps
On our 10th day we said goodbye to public transportation and rented a car. It felt amazing to be behind the wheel of a car again. Tip- if you don’t know whether your rental uses gasoline or diesel fuel, it tells you on the gas cap as the nice German man who helped me out explained. We had a nice conversation about his time in the US while he pumped my gas.
Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles
The drive to the Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles was less than two hours from Munich. Neuschwanstein castle is the most photographed castle in Bavaria. The Disney castle in Orlando, Florida was based on its design.
After parking in the village of Hohenschwangau we started up the path the castles. It’s a steep uphill road and took us about 45 minutes. We were so out of breath we could barely talk. There is also a shuttle bus and horse-drawn carriage that can take you up the path. The walk was tough, we took the horse-drawn carriage to come down. The best views of Neuschwanstein are from the Marienbrücke Bridge. The bridge was very crowded so patience is required, but wow, the view was worth every minute of the hard work it took to get there.
Note that access to the grounds to view the castles is free. To tour the castles you must get tickets at the Hohenschwangau Visitor Center. Check out their website before visiting, it’s a great resource.
The drive to Linderhof Palace is only an hour from Neuschwanstein. One of the highlights is the Wagner-inspired Grotto of Venus.
I loved this little church. Could of stayed here all day.
Day 11 | Day Trip to Salzburg
We took a side trip one day to Salzburg to see Hohensalzburg Fortress. One of the largest castles in Europe, the fortress dates back to 1077 and sits on top of a small hill in Salzburg. Note – there is a funicular railway (inclined elevator) that takes you to the fortress. We found this out AFTER a very strenuous hike to the top. Getting there the hard way was becoming a theme for us.
Little known fact, the fortress was used as a prison for Italian prisoners and Nazi activists during WWI, before Austria was annexed into Nazi Germany.
Day 12 and 13 | Rhine Valley
On our 12th day we packed up our trusty rental and began our drive north through the Rhine Valley, along the castle studded Rhine River. On the way we stopped at the Dachau concentration camp. Walking through the barracks was one of the more sobering moments of our trip, but an important part of history thats not to be missed.
We arrived in the medieval city of Bacharach in the afternoon and set off to explore the city on foot. Bacharach has a collection of some of the finest half-timbered medieval houses in Germany, some dating back to the 14th century.
Quite by accident we discovered a hiking trail above the city. We stumbled upon a beautiful relic, Werner Chapel, built from 1289 to 1430. The chapel is a beautiful example of gothic architecture. It was build as a pilgrimage church and was frequently visited until its destruction in 1689. After a wonderful dinner at a charming restaurant in Bacharach, we headed to Sankt Goar and the Rheinfels Castle.
Rheinfels is a medieval (abt 1317) castle that sits on the west bank of the Rhine River near Sankt Goar. We were the first people to go to the castle that morning and it was lightly raining, really set the mood.
Our hotel in Sankt Goar recommended Eltz Castle to us. It was a 45 minute scenic drive from Rheinfels Castle to get to Eltz castle but it was well worth it.
Late in the afternoon we made it to Cologne, our final destination in Germany, with the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. The picture doesn’t do it justice.
Our Top 5 Experiences in Germany
- English Garden and Chinese Beer Garden
- Neuschwanstein Castle
- Bavarian mountains
- Ramsau Church
- Sankt Goar and Bacharach