In August, Patrick’s parents came to visit us in Germany for ten days! We showed them around Munich for a few days, then moved on to Salzburg for a Sound of Music tour, and then spent a week road tripping through Germany. We drove up the Romantic Road with a stop in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Heidelberg, the Rhine River valley with a stop in Bacharach and a boat ride up the river, the Mosel Valley with a stop in Cochem and Burg Eltz Castle, Cologne, stopped to see Patrick’s mom’s relatives who live outside of Hannover, moved onto Wittenberg, Leipzig, Nuremberg, and back to Munich.
This was actually the longest vacation that Patrick and I took in 2018. It took a lot of planning, but in the end it was totally worth it because we got to see parts of Germany that we probably wouldn’t have made it to and Patrick got to meet some of his relatives here in Germany! One of the nice things about Germany is that food and hotels are relatively inexpensive compared to some of the other places in Europe. So we were able to keep our budget pretty low cost while staying in some great places, even during August which is high tourism season. We did get super lucky with the weather during most of this trip. August is typically super warm, but it was pretty mild when Patrick’s parents visited. This was perfect because most of the places we stayed did not have air conditioning, which is pretty standard for hotels in Europe. We also took Lola with us on this trip, and it couldn’t have been easier! Everywhere we went was extremely dog friendly. In fact, she usually got a huge bowl of free water before any of us got our drinks (including tap water which costs $$$ for humans to drink)!
10 Day Germany and Austria Itinerary
Day 1: Munich
Highlight: Patrick’s parents’ flight landed late morning Munich time, so we met them at the airport, dropped their luggage off at our place, and then headed out to get lunch. I had the day off already but Patrick had only taken a half day off, so we picked a traditional beer garden close to his office. After lunch, we walked around the major sights in Munich: Viktualienmarkt, Marienplatz, and the English Garden. Patrick joined us for dinner at Hofbräuhaus where we enjoyed pretzels, sausage, beer, live music, and German beer hall atmosphere. After dinner, it was still so nice out so we went to another beer garden near our place.
Stay: Munich, at our place
Day 2: Munich
Highlight: More touring around Munich! We had brunch at one of our favorite cafes, Alleecafé7, which is right next to Nymphenburg palace. We had dinner at Hirshgarten, the largest beer garden in the world.
Stay: Munich, at our place
Day 3: Salzburg, Austria
Highlight: We took the train to Salzburg using the Bayern ticket. The Bayern ticket is 25 euros for the first person, then 6 euros additional for every extra person with you, which means huge savings if you get up to 5 (the maximum) on the same ticket. It’s also valid for unlimited train travel within the region. We had scheduled a Sound of Music tour that departed at 2pm so we had a few hours to explore downtown Salzburg. Unfortunately it was raining all day, but we still had a great time! The Sound of Music tour was a lot of fun, and it was actually perfect for the rainy day since they drive you around in a huge tour bus. We saw the original shooting locations from The Sound of Music in Salzburg and the Lake District including the wedding church in Mondsee. Salzburg is only about an hour and a half from Munich, so we went back to Munich that night.
Stay: Munich, at our place
Day 4: Romantic Road
Highlight: We woke up early, took a train out to the airport, rented our car, and we were off on the Romantic Road! The Romantic Road is a route that takes you through Bavaria’s medieval heartland, We knew our ultimate destination for the day was Rothenburg ob der Tauber and that it would take two and a half hours to drive there from Munich. There were a ton of charming little towns a long the way, so we stopped in a few (my favorite was Dinkelsbühl). Rothenburg is Germany’s best preserved medieval walled town, and you can actually walk along the wall! We arrived in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in the afternoon and explored the city using a Rick Steves podcast walking tour that we downloaded on our phones. After we ate dinner, we made our way back to the main square for the Nightwatchman Tour. He takes you on a walk through and around the town while he talks about the history of the town, the buildings, and the area. It lasted a little over an hour, and the suggested tip is 8 euros. We loved it!
Drive time: 2.5 hours from Munich to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Stay: Rothenburg ob der Tauber at Hotel Rothenburger Hof.
Day 5: Heidelberg + Bacharach
Highlight: After enjoying the traditional German breakfast at our hotel, we walked around Rothenburg ob der Tauber one more time before packing up the car and heading out. Patrick and I had visited Heidelberg the month before to see his cousin (she was visiting and used to live there). You can read about that visit here. We loved it so much and we thought his parents would too so we decided to stop there before we got to Bacharach. It was the perfect stop on our 3 hour drive from Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Bacharach. We saw the castle, walked around the old town, and had lunch before continuing on our road trip. We arrived in Bacharach late afternoon with enough time to explore the small town and have dinner. Bacharach is SO CUTE. It’s a charming, small town situated on one of the most scenic stretches of the Rhine river. The area is also know for its white wines which are harvested from the vineyards that line the hills along the river. We had dinner that night at Weingut Fritz Bastian, and I think this was my favorite meal of the entire trip. We sat on their gorgeous patio and did a wine tasting along with our dinner. A lot of this food in the area is influenced by the wine in the area. I had potato riesling soup that was amazing. I want to go back here so badly!
Drive time: 3 hours from Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Bacharach
Stay: Bacharach at Pension Am Markttor
Day 6: Rhine Valley + River Tour
Highlight: This was my favorite day! The KD Rhine Ferry stops in Bacharach and is the perfect way to see all the sights. You can find the ferry schedule here. We did the roundtrip ride from Bacharach to St. Goar which is 16.80/person, 1 hour each way. Bacharach to St. Goar is supposedly the most scenic stretch of the Rhine and is dotted with castles and small towns that historically made their money from the tolls extracted from vessels passing down the river. We got out for a few hours in St. Goar to explore the town and its castle, Rheinfels. We had lunch at the castle’s restaurant which had a beautiful view of the river and surrounding vineyards. We rode back on the ferry and ordered a few drinks from the bar on the ferry. Back in Bacharach, we got some riesling flavored ice cream before hitting the road to Cochem. Wine, castles, and sunshine = my perfect day.
Drive Time: 1 hour from Bacharach to Cochem
Stay: Cochem at Hotel Zehnthof
Day 7: Moselle Valley + Burg Eltz
Highlight: Cochem is another charming town right on the river with medieval streets, a majestic castle, and picturesque vineyards. Cochem is the hub of the middle of the Mosel, so it’s larger and more bustling than Bacharach or St. Goar. We had a great time exploring the town and this hotel was my favorite hotel we stayed at on this trip. The breakfast was the BEST. The highlight of our time in this area though was our side trip to Burg Eltz, a 700 year old castle in the middle of the forest.
Stay: Cochem at Hotel Zehnthof
Day 8: Cologne + Hannover
Highlight: On our way to see the relatives, we stopped in Cologne for a few hours to see the famous Cathedral. The real highlight of this day was meeting Patrick’s relatives! This was such a cool experience. A few of them had been to the US when Patrick was a tiny baby, and Patrick’s grandparents had visited Germany many years ago and kept in contact. Patrick connected with some of the relatives his age on Facebook and they set up a time to meet up. They live outside of Hannover so we arrived late afternoon for dinner and drinking. Such a fun time! We ended up getting to our hotel in Hannover (the nearest place with a hotel) around 1am.
Drive Time: 4 hours from Cochem to Hannover
Day 9: Wittenberg + Leipzig
Highlight: We saw a lot of the main Luther sights in Wittenberg, including Schlosskirche which is the church where Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses, Stadtkirche St. Marien (Luther’s home church where he was married, where his children were baptized, and where he preached over 2,000 times), and Luther’s former home that is now a museum. After Wittenberg, we drove one hour to Leipzig where we ate dinner and spent the night.
Drive Time: 3 hours from Hannover to Wittenberg, 1 hour from Wittenberg to Leipzig.
Stay: Leipzig at Holiday Inn
Day 10: Leipzig + Nuremberg
Highlight: We spent the morning walking around Leipzig, had coffee at a traditional Leipzig coffeehouse called Cafe Riquet, and visited Johann Sebastian Bach’s tomb in St. Thomas Church. Leipzig was very different from anywhere else I’ve been in Germany and it has a really youthful vibe. After our morning in Leipzig, we drove 4 hours to Nuremberg. Patrick and I had been to the Christmas market in Nuremberg so it was nice to see it during summertime. We did a short walking tour to see all the medieval architecture before eating at a beer garden and making our way back to Munich.
Drive Time: 4 hours from Leipzig to Nuremberg, 45 minutes from Nuremberg to Munich.
Stay: Munich, at our place
Day 11: Munich
Patrick’s parents flew home this day.
Road Trip Basics and Costs
Fly in and out of: Munich
Car Rental: We don’t own a car in Munich since the public transportation here is so great. For this road trip, we rented a car at the Munich airport. It was pretty easy, but most cars here are manual so you will have to pay a little extra to rent an automatic.
Fuel: Gas stations were very easy to access from the highways and were available in most places.
Driving around Germany: I didn’t drive at all on this trip, but according to Patrick driving in Germany is very straight forward. It took me a little while to get used to the fast speed on the Autobahn (as a passenger) but after a while it didn’t feel so fast.
Planning day trips: Before our trip, I did a lot of research to find towns, activities, and sights which I then added to our Google Maps. Once we decided on our final destination/place to sleep, I filled each day with things that were along the way. I typically find and save on the map way more than we can possibly visit in a single trip. This way, when we plan out our day we can take a slightly modified route to add an extra spot we might not have otherwise have seen.
Cash: Always have some cash on hand because cash is king in Germany. Most public restrooms are not free and typically cost 2 euros to enter. If there is no automatic charge, then you are expected to tip the bathroom attendant, so it’s a good idea to have some coins on you at all times.