Every time I’m in Europe I’m reminded how close everything is! In a few hours you can be in a completely different town filled with its own rich history, art, architecture and even new languages. Most of the time people travel to Europe and hit the major destinations like London, Rome, Paris, the Amalfi Coast, Santorini, etc but miss out on these quaint, magical little towns.
Munich is nestled in the heart of southern Germany. It’s the capital of Bavaria and in itself is impressive. If you’re visiting Munich make sure to check out these top places. If you have extra time here are some amazing day trips you can take right from Munich!
Ever wonder where Walt Disney got his inspiration for cinderella’s castle? The answer is Neuschwanstein, a castle hidden in the foothills of the alps in southern Germany. The castle itself was built in the late 1800’s and was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria. It was built to be the home for the king and then opened to the public after he died.
The palace is every bit as magical in person as it looks in photos. People argue whether it’s more beautiful on sunny summer days or snowy winter ones but I think it’s perfect any time of year for a visit. You can visit the castle on the inside with one of their guided tours and also enjoy the views from outside.
All you need to know about visiting Neuschwanstein
- Getting to the castle grounds– Getting to Neuschwanstein can be a bit tricky if you don’t have a car. You can take a train and then bus if you’re a public transit adventurer or join a day trip and let them handle the rest for you!
- Getting to the castle- This is the most incredible part! On the castle grounds there is a little village and another beautiful castle you can visit (Hohenschwangau). Neuschwanstein is up the hill from the car park and takes about 30-40 minutes on foot (it’s a bit of a hike). Other options include a shuttle bus or an incredible horse-drawn carriage ride (who doesn’t want to arrive at a castle in a carriage)! Prices aren’t too expensive and the experience makes it worth every penny.
- Tickets- As you can imagine this castle is a top destination for tourists and often extremely crowded. It’s recommended to buy tickets in advance. Whether you’re visiting on your own or joining a bus tour from Munich make sure your tickets are secured before you set off for the castle!
- Tours- You can only visit the inside of the castle on a guided tour. They offer walking tours in German or English or you can go through with an audio guide if you speak another language! Tours last about 30 minutes and are a great way to feel like you got to experience the castle. Make sure to book your tours at least 2 days before going and show up on time! For tickets head to this website.
Dachau was the first concentration camp opened in 1933 by the Nazi’s. It’s about 10 miles northwest of Munich and was originally only intended as a military prison for political prisoners. The history of WW2 is evident throughout Europe and these concentration camps are an important part of that history. Dachau was turned into a memorial site honoring the 30,000+ lives that were lost there. The concentration camp was in operation the longest out of all camps lasting from March 1933 to April 1945.
- Getting there- Dachau is quite easy to get to by public transit from the center of Munich. You take the S-bahn to the Dachau train station and then a bus directly to the site. It is also easy to get there by car or you can join a tour company from the city center.
- Entry- Entry is free to the grounds, visitors center, and exhibitions. You don’t need to book anything in advance to visit and the site is open every day from 9am to 5pm except December 24th.
- Tours- You can walk through the grounds and exhibits on your own using a brochure and a map but it might be worth it to take a guided tour if you don’t want to miss anything. If you are in a group you should book your tour in advance otherwise you can join one of the tours that are offered multiple times daily with tickets under 4 euro per person. The tour is 2.5 hours long and offered in English, German, Italian, and Spanish.
Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria after Munich and boasts a stunning city center. What made Nuremberg a name known around the world was that it was the site for the Nuremberg trials where many Nazi officials were held accountable for their actions during the war.
Some of the top reasons people choose to visit Nuremberg are the quaint streets, traditional German architecture, robust arts and theater culture, food scene, and massive outdoor markets for local artisans and foodies. The city center is extremely walkable and quite magical and it makes for the perfect day trip from Munich.
- Train- the train is a beautiful and convenient way to get from one city center to the next. The trip takes about an hour and a half so plan accordingly and the views are beautiful.
- Bus- the drive takes about 2 hours and the bus is a much cheaper option than the train. If you’re looking for travel on a budget, you’d be surprised by how comfortable and affordable bus travel can be!
- Car- The drive through Bavaria to Nuremberg is a beautiful one. Parking can be a bit tricky but it’s definitely doable.
Top things to see / do
- Visit the site of the Nuremberg Trials: If you’re a history buff you might want to check out the exhibit where you can walk through a full museum with information about WW2 and even see the courtroom where the trials were held.
- Enjoy traditional cuisine: Nuremberg is known for their bratwurst (shorter than the traditional one you’ll see across Germany), and lebkuchen (gingerbread) that you see throughout the Christmas season. My favorite spot to enjoy traditional regional dishes is Zum Gulden Stern. Their bratwurst, potato salad, and apple strudel are all to die for and the ambiance makes you feel like you just stepped back in time!
- Explore the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg: towering over the city the views are amazing from the Nuremberg castle and the gardens are kept in pristine condition.
- Go to a market in Hauptmarkt: Nestled in the center of the old city, the Hauptmarkt is a massive open-air market famous for its magical Christmas market and other markets held throughout the year.
- Walk through Weißgerbergasse: (I know, this word is crazy hard to pronounce, just put it in your Google maps!) This street is filled with medieval houses and is the perfect instagram moment in Nuremberg.
- Visit Albrecht Dürer’s House: One of the most famous artists in Germany, Albrecht Dürer is famous for his incredible paintings. What’s fascinating about this house is that it’s the only surviving 15th century artist’s house in Northern Europe. It’s nestled in the center of the city and quite affordable to visit so make sure to stop by!
Last, but certainly not least, I have to mention Salzburg, Austria. This gorgeous city is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the location for filming The Sound of Music- but that’s not all there is to see in Salzburg. Nestled in the foothills of the alps and a short train ride from Munich there is so much to see and do in this small Austrian city.
Salzburg’s historic city center is a UNESCO world heritage site and has many museums dedicated to Mozart including the home he was born in. There is also a rich musical culture here, as you can imagine, inspired by Mozart himself. The city is broken in half by the Salzach River and each side has its own unique charm and magic.
- Train- Train is the most beautiful and convenient way to travel to Salzburg. It’s actually quite inexpensive and the ride is stunning. From Munich to Salzburg it will take you just under an hour and a half.
- Car- The drive is about the same time as the train but parking can be difficult in Salzburg. If you do drive, park on the outskirts and walk through the city center. It’s so small you can walk the whole city quite easily!
Top things to see/ do
- Visit Mozart’s birth place: The Mozart family lived on the third floor in the 1700’s. WA Mozart was born here in 1756 and the home has since been turned into a museum. Here you can find his first musical instruments, portraits, documents, and early editions of his music, and (for the hardcore music lovers) you’d be surprised to know the clavichord is there on which he composed The Magic Flute.
- Walk along the Getreidegasse: known for being one of the busiest streets in the city, this street is filled with shops and is the street where you’ll find Mozart’s birth house
- Explore Schloss Hellbrunn: One of the filming sites of Sound of Music, this baroque palace is absolutely stunning.
- Go to the Fortress Hohensalzburg: one of the largest medieval castles in Europe this gorgeous fortress overlooks the city center of Salzburg. You can get here by foot if you like to hike or by the funicular which runs often.
- Walk through the Mirabell Palace: These gardens are the famous ones you’ll recognize instantly from the Sound of Music. The palace is a listed cultural heritage monument and is home to many incredibly beautiful concerts.
- See a concert at the Salzburg festival: Since 1920 this festival has been held in the summer in Salzburg and some of the most famous musicians in the world have performed here. The quality of the concerts is incredible and people come from all over the world to experience it!
Whether you’re looking for history, culture, adventure, or just a really amazing meal the possibilities are endless when taking day trips from Munich. These are just a few of the options you have for day trips and I definitely encourage you to take advantage of the amazing culture!