Tips & Tricks

2 Weeks of Bretzels & Bier | Germany & Switzerland | Our Trip Itinerary

Where: Bavaria & The Swiss Alps

When: September-October 2018

How: Rental Car, Trains, Steamboats, Gondolas, Mountain Carts

 

Planning a trip to Europe can be daunting! There is so much to see, cities are so close and the transportation is excellent–You can see it all, right? Wrong! We were having a lot of trouble narrowing it down too. We were inspired to visit Germany since Ryan’s Great Grandparents are from Baden Baden. Plus, we love beer! And pretzels and cured meats. Switzerland was high on my bucket list so I wasn’t letting that one go. We tossed around the idea of Northern Italy (Lake Como & The Dolomites, soooo many heart eyes!), Austria, even the UK  (The Seahawks were playing over there!) but ultimately, we decided to focus on Bavaria and The Swiss (Bernese) Alps! We only had 2 weeks and we wanted to be sure we had time to rest and explore at each stop. We love road trips and the freedom of having a car so we decided we would rent one but we did take advantage of some of the other amazing transportation options available along the way! This is our actual itinerary, with some of the must-sees/dos we missed included below.

 

Day 1-Munich

  • Arrival: 4:10pm
  • Purchase City Tour Card (for trains)

We were in Munich for the first couple of days so we decided to hold off on picking up our rental car. Driving and parking, especially, can be challenging in Munich. They also restrict certain license plates from driving in certain areas on certain days. It was much cheaper (and really easy) to ride the trains, rather than use Uber. Train passes can be purchased at any S-bahn or U-bahn (underground) station. We purchased the Gruppe/Group City Tour Card  for 48 hours. If you need it to get to and from the airport, be sure to select ‘Entire Network’. You only need to buy 1 for your group!

  • Hofbrauhaus

Hofbrauhaus is over 500 years old and serves some of the world’s most famous beer! Get the pretzels (Duh!) and try the Weisswurst!

 

Overnight Accommodations: Airbnb, in Neuried (short train ride from the city center of Munich)

 

Day 2-Munich

  • Oktoberfest

Fun fact: The first ever “Oktoberfest” was a wedding celebration for King Ludwig I to Princess Therese–they invited all the citizens of Munich to celebrate in front of the old city gates!

Oktoberfest is not to be missed! You have to be 16+ to drink in the beer tents but Oktoberfest itself is celebrated by people of all ages. In case you are debating it, DO dress up! You will be the odd (wo)man out if you don’t! We rented Lederhosen and a Dirndl from Bavarian Outfitters for 75 Euros, total. Bavarian Outfitters is about a 10 minute walk from the fairgrounds. We were able to check our bags out front for 4 Euros as only small bags are allowed in the beer tents.

Other Oktoberfest Tidbits:

  • Bring cash! They do not take cards in the beer tents! Each liter is about 11 Euros. Tip! This is one of the few places servers expect to be tipped.
  • Try and go on a weekday and try to go early! We went on a Friday and got there about an hour after the fairgrounds opened. It was only 2 of us so we had no problem getting into a couple different tents early on but they did fill up quickly. You only need/can make beer tent reservations if you are a group of 8+.

 

Overnight Accommodations: See above

 

Day 3-Head to Nuremberg

  • Pickup Rental Car 

We took the train back to the airport, on our way to Nuremberg, to pick up our rental car. We had reserved a BMW that we were hoping to rip on the Autobahn but they ended up giving us a diesel Jeep. We love Jeeps and have a Jeep but could we be anymore American?!

  • Dachau Concentration Camp

 

Overnight Accommodations: Airbnb, near the city center of Nuremberg

 

Day 4-Nuremberg

  • Nazi Party Rally Grounds- Zeppelin Field & Congress Hall

The incomplete Nazi Party Rally Grounds includes Zeppelin Field and Congress Hall. The rally grounds were interesting to visit as they are now a recreational area, similar to a Central Park or a Green Lake (if you’re from Seattle). It felt weird enjoying myself there! Although, we tried–seemed like everyone else was. It was a beautiful fall day so we stopped at one of the beer gardens on the grounds for a beer and some food. I still dream about the currywurst we had! 

  • Weinberggasse 

Weinbergasse is a pedestrian-only cobblestone street, lined with colorful half-timber houses

  • Imperial Castle of Nuremberg

 

Overnight Accommodations: See above

 

Day 5-Head to Baden Baden

  • Rothenburg ob de Tauber

Rothenburg ob de Tauber is the best preserved medieval town in Germany! It is still almost completely encircled by its fortress walls. 

  • Rothenburg Must-sees/dos:
  • Walk on the wall
  • Explore the colorful streets and alleyways
  • Eat apple strudel 
  • Visit the famous Christmas store
  • Tour the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum

 

Overnight Accommodations: Airbnb, in Baden Baden

 

Day 6-Baden Baden

  • Explore Baden Baden
  • Friedrichsbad or Caracalla Spa

Spa day! Baden Baden is a famous spa town, where the royals once vacationed. In fact, ‘Bad’ means bath! Baden Baden feels more French than German as it is only 10 miles from the border of France. It was a little boujee for our taste but for us, it was worth it–A day of relaxing and a chance to see where Ryan’s family is from (They were not royals! 😛 ).

 

Overnight Accommodations: See above

 

Day 7-Head to Lucern

  • Stop in Freiburg for Black Forest Cake
  • Dinner w/ Friends @ Bellini
  • Walk Chapel Bridge

 

Overnight Accommodations: Airbnb, in Emmen (15 min from city center of Lucern)

 

Day 8-Lucern

  • Steamboat Ride on Lake Lucern
  • Eat Fondue or Raclette

I, shockingly, was not a fan of fondue! That’s saying a lot because I could live off of cheese. The Alp cheese they use isn’t too funky so my only conclusion is that I didn’t like the smell of the alcohol burning off. Traditional fondue is made with white wine. 

 

Overnight Accommodations: See above

 

Day 9-Head to Lauterbrunnen

We purchased the Jungfrau 3 Day Travel Pass, in advance, which allowed us to use the majority of the trains and gondolas in/around Lauterbrunnen & Grindelwald. (We didn’t need our car the whole time we were there!) The passes did NOT cover the gondolas that go up to the Schilthorn as they are owned by a different company but you do get a discount. We we only used their gondolas once. (See below.) The passes do NOT cover the trip up to Jungfraujoch (The Top of Europe) either but you do get special pricing. We chose to skip it, we got plenty of epic views!

  • Hike to Balchapsee

The “hike” from First Station to Balchapsee is more of a walk. Anyone can do it! We started as soon as the gondolas opened to try and avoid the crowds. We packed our own lunch and grabbed beers at First Station, before heading back down. Definitely take the time to do this, the views are insane!! We ate out on the patio, looking right at Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau!

How we got there: We couldn’t check into our Airbnb yet so we parked in Grindelwald and took the gondola from Grindelwald to First Station. We hiked from First Station to Balchapsee and then, took the gondola back down from First Station to Grindelwald.

  • Hike from Mannlichen Station to Klein Scheidegg Station

This is another more-of-a-walk hike, which is probably for the best! The views are out of this world and you don’t want to have to pay attention to your feet! The Klein Scheidegg Station is another great place to drink a beer and make googly eyes at Jungfrau. The train up to Jungfraujoch leaves from this station.

How we got there: After we took our car to our Airbnb in Lauterbrunnen, we took the train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen and then the gondola from Wengen to Mannlichen Station (You can ride on the top of this gondola for 5 extra Francs!). We hiked from Mannlichen Station to Klein Scheidegg Station and then, took the train back down to Lauterbrunnen.

  • Dinner @ Weidstubli

This restaurant is located in the campground in Lauterbrunnen and is one of the only places open after 6pm. They also have a small general store. 

 

Overnight Accommodations: Airbnb, in Lauterbrunnen

 

Day 10-Latuerbrunnen

  • Explore Murren & Gimmelwald

Murren and Gimmelwald are adorable cliff-side towns, where cars are not allowed. On the trails around Gimmelwald, we were pretty much alone. The only company we had were the cows and the only thing we could hear were their bells! As from anywhere in this area, views in every direction!!

How we got there: We took the gondola from Lauterbrunnen and hopped on a connecting train to Murren. We walked down to Gimmelwald. From Gimmelwald, you can walk all the way down to Lauterbrunnen or you can hike back up to Murren and go down the way you came. We ended up taking one of the Schilthorn gondolas (again, not covered by the Jungfrau Travel Pass) from Gimmelwald to Murren because Ryan had some gnarly blisters. It was only about 6 Francs, w/ the discount.

 

Overnight Accommodations: See above

 

Day 11-Lauterbrunnen

  • First Station

We loved this area so much, we decided to head back up, explore other trails, and take mountain carts down! Once we got to the station, it was completely socked in with clouds but the mountain carts were totally worth the trip up!

How we got there: We took the train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, the gondola from Wengen to Mannlichen Station, the gondola from Mannlichen Station to Grindelwald (after a Swiss hot chocolate at Mannlichen) and the gondola from Grindelwald to First Station. We went back the way we came. 

  • Staubbach & Trummelbach Falls

 

Overnight Accommodations: See above

 

Day 12-Head to Oberau

  • Drive

 

Overnight Accommodations: Airbnb, in Oberau

 

Day 13-Oberau

  • Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau Castles

Neuschwanstein is the “Disney Castle” and was built by Ludwig II. Hohenschwangau was built by his father and is where the family vacationed. Hohenschwangau is smaller but we enjoyed that tour better. We actually had a human tour guide and had access to more of the castle. We went first thing in the morning and were able to buy tickets to both castles. On the way up to Neuschwanstein, be sure to take the side trip to Queen Mary’s Bridge! We were hoping to continue past the bridge and  hike up behind Neuschwanstein but the trail was closed due to a rock fall.

  • Ettal Abbey

Ettal Abbey is a Benedictine Monastery, where they also distill liqueur!

 

Overnight Accommodations: See above

 

Day 14-Head to Munich

  • Dallmayr

Dallmayr is a famous (and fancy pants) European delicatessen and is the best known German coffee brand. The lattes were amazing!

  • Vikualienmarket

Vikualienmarket is a daily farmers market in the center of Munich, where you can buy flowers, fruits, veggies, German-made souvenirs and a liter of beer, of course! 

 

Overnight Accommodations: Airbnb, near Munich (between city center of Munich & airport)

 

Day 15-Head Home

  • Return Rental Car
  • Depart: 11:00am

 

Sights We Will Be Back For:

These are sights/activities we missed because we ran out of time, due to poor weather conditions or because of some other extenuating circumstance

  • Andechs Monastery & Brewery, near Munich
  • The English Gardens, Munich
  • Casino, Baden Baden
  • Hohenbaden Castle, Baden Baden
  • Lichtentaler Allee, Baden Baden
  • Triberg Waterfalls, between Baden Baden & Lucern
  • Mineralbad & Spa Rigi Kaltbad, near Lucern
  • Hut to hut hiking, Switzerland
  • Interlaken, Switzerland
  • Schloss Thun, near Interlaken
  • Islewalt, Lake Brienz, near Interlaken
  • Matterhorn, near Zermatt
  • Bertchsgarden National Park & boat tour on Kongisee, near Oberau 
  • Partnach Gorge, near Oberau

 

Tips:

  • Pack layers! Some days, I started out in a beanie, sweater and raincoat and ended the day in a tank-top or t-shirt!
  • Bring comfortable footwear! We walked 6-12 miles a day, without even noticing.
  • We pretty much lived off of pretzel bread, cheese and salami, by choice (and LOST weight)! Eating out is pricey, especially in Switzerland so we tried to make our own breakfasts and lunches and only eat out for dinners occasionally!
  • We wish we would have stayed in the Lauterbrunnen longer, we LOVED it there! Give yourself AT LEAST 3 days but I would recommend 4-5 or more, if you want to really hike!
  • Cash is best but many places do take card
  • Don’t forget that Switzerland is not part of the EU so they use Swiss Franc, not Euros
  • If you are driving between Germany & Switzerland, make sure your car has the proper vignette (windshield sticker). If not, you can purchase them at gas stations
  • Don’t forget to get an International Driver’s Permit. We got ours at AAA for $15 or $20.

 

Ryan and I really miss our carb-based diet so I know we will be back! I would love to do the hut to hut hiking in Switzerland and visit in the winter for some skiing!!

Cheers & happy planning!

Erika

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