Bavaria is arguably the most beautiful region of Germany. Bavaria is home to the German Alps, the Zugspitze, Neuschwanstein, Garmisch, and the Eibsee. Fortunately, all of Bavaria’s best sites can be combined into just one or two days, depending on how long you want to spend at each place. I prefer to make Bavaria a weekend trip, because the beauty here is just too much for just one day. Below is my guide for making the most of a short time in this region!
First stop, the Zugspitze – the highest peak of the German Alps. If you’re only here for a couple days, take the cable car to the top. If you have more time, have planned this in advance, have booked overnight huts in advance, and want to challenge yourself – hike up! We got there with the plan of hiking and conquering this mountain in a day – and were laughed all the way onto the gondola. Even sans the hike adventure, the Zugspitze was breathtaking. There’s a biergarten at the top where you can enjoy some hot food (because it’s pretty damn cold up there even in the middle of the summer) and just take in the mountains all around you for a while. Don’t rush this experience. You can also rock climb up to the true highest peak of the Zugspitze, marked by the gold cross, but I have to admit that my fear of heights kept me from going up to that.
Once you’ve taken the cable car back down, your second stop should be the Eibsee. I highly recommend renting a paddle boat, and catching the views of the mountains from the middle of the lake. Very few places in Europe will humble you the way looking up at these amazing mountain ranges will. If you’re in the region for a few days, I also recommend booking a room at the Eibsee Hotel or nearby lodging and going for a sunrise walk around the lake.
If you’re lucky, like we were, you might be visiting at the same time that the small town of Garmisch is having a traditional German fest. You may be tempted to go to a city like Berlin to experience a Volksfest, but going to a smaller one such as this one is very rewarding. Smaller fests have the same spirit as the larger ones, and made many local friends that night and didn’t have to fight huge crowds to enter the tent.
If you’re in Bavaria for a weekend, the three activities I just mentioned can take up a whole day themselves! There’s also a fourth activity you can add in if you have time before leaving Garmisch: Highline 179 Suspension Bridge. Another spot for beautiful views! (Photo credit to JTN Imagery) It’s a harrowing venture across if you’re afraid of heights (like my mom and I), but it’s a fun activity that includes a hike up to the bridge and exploring the castle ruins at the top.
If you’re only in the region on a day trip, you’ll probably need to forego the fest, only spend a little time at the height of the Zugspitze and on the Eibsee, and head to Neuschwanstein in the early afternoon.
Neuschwanstein is what many Americans have heard of as Cinderella’s castle. It inspired the castle of Walt Disney’s imagination. The inside of the castle is incredibly unique (sadly no photos were allowed) and is definitely worth the tour. Tickets are required to enter the castle, and unless you’re going in the off-season (I went in January once and there was no wait at all), you should purchase tickets a week or more in advance. This will enable you to fit more into your day in Bavaria when you don’t waste the time standing in line at Neuschwanstein just to find out that most tours are probably sold out.
If you have even MORE time here, head over to the Alpine Slide (Tegelbergbahn) in the fields near Neuschwanstein. It’s a fun and quick activity, especially if you have kids! My friends and I are basically kids in young adult bodies, so we loved it. Following your slide down the hillside, there’s a small restaurant with a view of the castle where you should definitely take some time to enjoy a traditional sampling platter.
These activities are the best in Bavaria! If you’re there for a longer time, you can definitely find charming places of your own too. Practically everywhere in Bavaria will have beautiful scenery, and no matter what you do with your time here, time in Bavaria is time well spent.