First of all, apologies for not writing anything in over a month. Missus and I were on a 16 day holiday and then there was office work piled up. But that is no excuse. That being said, let me take you to the amazing Bavarian adventure that we experienced, along with Austria and Switzerland. Below is our 11 day Germany (Bavaria), Austria and Switzerland itinerary.
- When to go?
- What to pack?
- Our itinerary
- Driving in Germany and Switzerland
- Resources from where we booked our car rental, tours etc.
1. When to go?
While our trip was in late June to early July, I would say that you rather visit the region in September. Two primary reasons for this. One, climate change is for real and we witnessed this first hand. Temperatures were soaring wherever we went between 34-36 degree celcius. And trust me, with the pinching sun rays in Europe that temperature can be exhausting. Second, June-July has lots of tourists as well and we prefer to visit a place when most of the tourist traffic has gone. Another additional reason was that sunset at this time of the year wasn’t until 10:30 PM. And at very few places did we get a chance to enjoy the vibe at night.
2. What to pack?
If you are going in Summers, like we did, just pack t-shirts, shorts and other summer clothing plus sun screen. Do carry one jacket as some peaks in Switzerland can be a tad cold. Also, there are multiple lakes in Germany where you can go for a swim, hence, carry your swimming costume. Lakes in Switzerland, except Zurich, were a tad cold even in June for a swim (at least for me).
3. Our Germany, Austria and Switzerland itinerary
We have a ritual, which is to visit Amsterdam and pay our regards to the beautiful city before starting off our Euro trip. That is what we also did this time. We landed in Munich, stayed for a night and then went to Amsterdam for three nights. More on Amsterdam in a separate post. We shall start our itinerary from when we landed back in Munich.
We landed at the Munich airport at around 9 AM local time. My wife’s friend stays in Munich, so we took a day card for metro which was around Euro 23.5 for two (buy the group one). The day card works in all public transport. After getting refreshed at a friends place, we went to pick up our car from the rental. Our first stop was Ramsau, which is around 150 KMs from Munich.
The key highlight of Ramsau was the church of St. Sebastian. It can be skipped and one can instead go to Eagle’s nest in Berchtesgaden. But you cannot take your car till Eagle’s nest and you would need to go the last few miles in the designated buses. The last bus departs at 4PM, hence, plan accordingly. Since, we did not have much time, we left for Salzburg which was around 40 mins. from Ramsau. Do remember to purchase the Vignette or toll sticker if you are crossing country borders. It is a small sticker that you would be able to buy at gas stations that are near to the borders. The vignette for Austria for 10 days (the minimum one) costed us Euro 19. Once you buy it, paste it on the windshield.
After checking into the hotel, we roamed around Salzburg old town or as it is called Salzburg Altstadt. Visited the Stiegl brewery and the Love lock bridge after wandering around the old town of Salzburg. We spent some time sitting on the river bank with a bottle of wine and two hours went by in a jiffy.
Day 2 of our itinerary started off by driving towards Hallstatt. On our way, we stopped at Dachstein skywalk. It has Ice Palace, Suspension Bridge and stairway to nothingness. We didn’t buy the ticket for Ice Palace but did the other two. Tip: while you are driving towards Dachstein skywalk, you would encounter a toll. Remember to take your toll ticket with you to the Dachstein gondola ticket counter to get it punched and avoid paying toll.
To reach the top, you would need to go via Cable car or Gondola. The ticket price was Euro 39 per person. This does not include walk over suspension bridge and stairway to nothingness. We reserved our time slot online and I would suggest you do the same as there are a lot of people especially in tourist season. While making the reservation online, you do not have to pay. You can pay at the ticket counter. Once you take the Gondola to the top, you can buy the ticket to Skywalk for Euro 3 per person.
The views from the skywalk are amazing and we would definitely recommend everyone to visit Dachstein skywalk. After walking on the bridge and stairway to nothingness, we decided to have a beer on top at the restaurant amidst beautiful views of snow capped peaks and green valleys.
On the other side of the mountain there is Five finger lookout with almost similar views and hence we decided to skip that. But if you have time, then may be you would want to cover that as well.
After Dachstein skyway, we continued our journey towards our Airbnb, which was around 15 mins from Hallstatt in a small town called Gosau. Post checking in and settling down, we went to Hallstatt in the evening. It is a great city to walk in the evening, with Hallstatt lake on one side and town on the other.
Next morning, we started off towards Hallstatt as we had Hallstatt salt mine tour booked. These are the oldest salt mines in the world and always have a constant temperature of 8 degree celcius inside. In the tour, they explain about how the mines were formed and how till date they keep on discovering artefacts. The tour involves around 1.5 hours of walking, so be prepared for the same.
Additionally, the mines have two sides inside to go down and we would say it was a wonderful experience. Both of us got reminded of our childhood days :). The cost came out to be Euro 68 for two people and Euro 8.5 for 6 hour parking. After the Salt mine tour, we went to Hallstatt town for lunch.
In the evening, we went to Wolfgang, which is around 45 mins from Hallstatt. The drive to Wolfgang was amazing with lush green fields and road curving between them. It is another small town in Austria, where we took a quick dip in the lake. After filling ourselves with Pizza and wine, we drove back towards Gosau. On our way, we spotted a place called Steegwirt. It has amazing view of a small wooden embankment and a restaurant to enjoy the beer and the view.
After Austria, we went back to Bavarian region in Germany for the next two days of our itinerary. We started the day by driving towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen which is a ski town in Germany. And driving on Auto-bahns is one of a kind experience. At places, I was touching 220 Kmph.
Our airbnb was around 10 mins from Garmisch, in a small town called Oberau. And I must say, it was the best Airbnb and the best host. Below is the airbnb we stayed at:
After checking in, we went to Partnach gorge or as the locals call it Partnachklamm. I would argue It is one the most underrated tourist destination. From the parking you could either walk 30-35 mins or take a horse carriage. Although it was written that the horse carriage is free but the carriage driver charged us Euro 5 per person. The entry to the gorge is another Euro 5 per person. It is a must go destination, as you would see clean blue water gushing between rocks and cutting through the mountains.
After spending a couple of hours in Partnach Gorge, we drove towards Innsbruck. It is a beautiful town, though we found it a bit more touristy with flocks of people arriving in tour buses. We had our dinner at an Indian restaurant called New India restaurant and I must say that the chef was gracious enough to make food for our palate. A must go if you crave for Indian food.
The day 5 of our Germany, Austria and Switzerland itinerary was a relaxed one. We had a couple of friends joining us over for a day and we decided to spend it at Staffelsee. It is a lake where you can swim, take your own food, beer and just unwind. In fact, there are multiple such lakes in the Bavarian region. The water at Staffelsee although clean, wasn’t very crystal clear, hence, you might want to try a different lake but the environment at Staffelsee was great. We nearly spent our entire day here while sipping Aperols and diving in the lake.
At night we got a scare, as our host in Zurich for the next three days cancelled our booking at the last moment. I shall write more about it and other tips while booking via Airbnb. However, at night we tried to reach the host and wrote to Airbnb but to no avail. Anyway, we decided to call it a night and thought we shall figure it out next day enroute to Zurich.
After spending 4-5 hours with Airbnb, and worried about where we would spend the night, we booked a hotel via Booking.com for 1 night in Zurich. Airbnb refunded us the money for the booking and helped us book a different accommodation near Lucerne for two days. They did provide us with coupons to adjust for the fare difference as well. As an old saying goes, “Whatever happens, happens for a reason”, it couldn’t have been more true. Originally, we had booked 3 nights in Zurich and planned to drive to other places from there. However, if there is one city in Switzerland that you can skip, it would be Zurich. At least we didn’t get a great vibe in that city.
After figuring out a place to spend the night, we went out to Zurich Altstadt (old town) near Zurich lake. After spending nearly Euro 35 on a pizza and a glass of wine, we decided to rest for a bit.
At night, we went to Alpeli bar. It is a nice little bar in old town itself that serves a signature drink called Alpeli milk. It is a combination of white whine, sugar, brandy and egg. Trust me, you do want to try it. Next up was Rimni bar, again a great chilled out location where we spent an hour or so. After having drinks at the bar we decided to call it a day.
Day 7 (DDLJ day)
We started early next morning. Lucerne was the next stop in our itinerary or rather updated itinerary. We reached quite early at around 830 AM, the shops were still closed and only a few cafes were open. But it was a great time to click some pics.
Next up, we decided to go to Hammetschwand Elevator. We entered the place in GPS and started to drive. It was an uphill drive with enchanting views all along.
Unfortunately, it seems the GPS was incorrect and we weren’t able to find Hammetschwand Elevator. But nonetheless, this drive was a great one.
Next up we decided to visit a few of the shooting locations of an iconic movie of our childhood, “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge”.
DDLJ shooting locations – Switzerland
First up was Zweisimmen train station. Remember the iconic station, outside which Simran misses her train. This is the same station with the same shop outside, nothing has changed.
The iconic Saanen bridge was our next stop. This is the same bridge where Shahrukh pops in the following dialogue, “Raj agar yeh tujhe pyar karti hai toh yeh palat ke dekhegi … palat … palat!”. It was hardly 5-10 mins away from Zweisimmen.
After Saanen bridge, we paid a short visit to the same church where Kajol went immediately after the bridge. In fact, there are two churches. One that you could see from Saanen bridge. This is the church which was shown in the move from outside. The one where Kajol goes in is St. Grat church in Montbovon. We decided to skip this and instead went to Montreaux.
It is a small resort town on Lake Geneva, with a lot of French influence, considering France is around an hour from here. We roamed around Montreaux center and there was a lot of activity happening here. Montreaux also holds Jazz festival in July and hence, we could see some Jazz singers performing in open air. We had dinner at one of the lakeside cafes and called it a day.
We had to start our day early to take the first Brienz-Rothorn Bahn. It is a cute steam engine powered open train, which climbs from Brienz, at the eastern end of Lake Brienz, to the summit of the Brienzer Rothorn.
We wanted to take the first train that leaves Brienz at 8:36 AM as it costed us CHF 52 per person rather than CHF 92 per person. You cannot buy the ticket for 8:36 AM train online and need to buy it at the ticketing counter which opens at 8 AM. Tickets are sold on a first cum first serve basis, but we noticed that even in the tourist season everyone who arrived could get a seat. The entire train ride is amazing with some beautiful views all along. The view from the top of Brienzer Rothorn is breathtaking. Once at the top, you could either sit in the cafe or hike your view up.
Tip: The train goes in reverse direction from Brienz. Hence, you may want to choose your seat accordingly.
We got back to Brienz at around 11 AM and left for Grindelwald. This is where all the adventure sports and key tours for Jungfraujoch depart from. We did not cover Jungfraujoch but it is another one that you can add to your list. In Grindelwald, we first did a Toboggan run. Esentially, you you sit on a tiny sled (imagine a block of 4 ft. by 1.5 ft) and have a lever to control the speed/ apply brake. The toboggan then speeds down a track with curves and amazing valley views.
After Toboggan, Missus went for paragliding and I chilled around with a large mug of beer and sausage. Paragliding took her a couple of hours, after which we went to Lauterbrunnen. It is another amazing Swiss gem with numerous waterfalls.
While our next booking was in Fussen, back in Bavaria, we wanted to explore Interlaken and surrounding areas a bit more. After checking out, we went to Interlaken to have breakfast and then roamed around a bit. From there we left for St. Beatus caves, which are around 15 mins. from Interlaken. The entrance fee to the caves is around 18 CHF, a bit high for the caves in my opinion. The caves consist of a long tunnel into the mountain with a series of caverns and a fast stream rushing through the middle. Outside the caves, there is a small cafe, a museum, a playground and picnic area.
Next up, we went a little ahead to visit Oberhofen castle situated on the shore of Lake Thun. You may want to check it out if you like to visit castles and/or enjoy a beer at a great pier. I wanted to take a quick dip in Lake Thun but unfortunately one cannot dive from this pier. There are multiple spots along the road where one could take a dip and we did stop at one such point. However, the lake was too cold to take a dip.
Post that, it was a long drive to our next stop, Fussen. It is a quaint little town in Bavarian region and the key attraction is Neuschwanstein castle. But by the time we reached Fussen, castle was already closed. We decided to check in to our hotel and roam around in Fussen city center. After having dinner at a great Chinese restaurant we decided to call it a day.
After checking out, our first stop of the day was Neuschwanstein castle or as it is also referred to as “Disney castle”. We decided to skip the tour and only visited the castle from outside. There is also a bridge called Marienbrucke bridge from where one can get great view of the castle. There is a ticketing counter below, from where one can take horse carriage or a bus to the castle. We took the bus that costed us Euro 3 per person for round trip. Bus drops you at a point from where castle is around 10 mins walk and Marienbrucke bridge is around 5 mins walk away. We first walked towards Marienbrucke bridge can clicked some great snaps of the castle.
Next up in our itinerary was driving through romantic road. This is a road from Fussen till Wurzburg that has a lot of quaint little towns on the way. We had decided to stay in one such town called Rothenburg ob der tauber (be cautious as there are multiple Rothenburg in Germany, hence, always put in the full name in Google Maps).
Not so romantic for a while
We put the destination in GPS as Rothenburg ob der tauber and started driving. After driving for around 45 mins. we realized that there is nothing romantic about the road. It was like any other highway. That is when we remembered that GPS will give the fastest route or shortest route not the most romantic one :P, wish it had the feature. Post that, we entered the towns on the romantic road in order. Below is the map of Romantic road and all the towns, so that you don’t take a different route.
We stopped at a few towns like Donauworth, Hohenfurch, Rain, Dinkelsbuhl and then finally at Rothenburg ob der tauber.
Our hotel here was a fantastic one, Wildbad Tagungsort Rothenburg O.D.Tbr. that we booked via Booking.com. You may use our referral link to get Rs. 700 discount. It is a 19th century hotel with and it at an amazing location.
After admiring our hotel complex, we roaming around in the main town of Rothenburg ob der tauber. With its cobbled streets and unique buildings we loved every bit of it. Missus did a little souvenir shopping and I got back to Bavarian beer.
After spending a while in Rothenburg, we drove towards Wurzburg. And it was one of the key highlight of our trip. We both immediately fell in love with Wurzburg. It has characteristics of a city but the charm of a medieval town. One can buy Franconian wine at the start of old river main bridge and with glass in hand can roam about on the bridge. And if you are a wine lover, you would definitely love Franconian wine.
With wine doing its trick, we spent an hour or so just enjoying the views over the bridge. And by the time we knew, it was time for dinner. We found a great Indian restaurant called Kashmir that serves amazing food. And the spice level was according to our Indian tastebuds. With wine and food inside, it was time for us to head back to Rothenburg O.D.Tbr.
We headed back to Munich, where we spent a relaxing day at our friend’s place. In the evening we went to one of the beer gardens close to their place and spend the evening chatting about our trip with final mugs of Bavarian Beer.
4. Driving in Germany and Switzerland
It is a great experience driving on German Autobahns. While there are speed restrictions in place in a lot of them now but still there are stretches where you can easily go up to 200 KMPH and still have vehicles overtaking you. I would recommend renting a good car a BMW, Merc or Audi to experience the thrill of driving on German Autobahns.
Switzerland is a different ball game. The speed limits are lower and they are strictly enforced. One thing we noticed was that there are a lot of tunnels as you enter Switzerland. And all of these tunnels have speed detection instruments along with cameras installed. On at least a couple of occasions we did notice the camera flashes. But we are not sure whether that was for us or the car that just overtook us. Till now we haven’t received a challan and fingers-crossed we hope we don’t get one. The challans in Switzerland are hefty and depending upon how much over the speed limit you were driving can go upto Euro 250. As far as we know, beyond a particular speed it is also a criminal offence and can lead to jail term. So be careful while driving in Switzerland.
Additionally, if you are renting a car in Germany and crossing over to Austria and Switzerland, you would need different vignette for both the countries. It is a sticker which you stick on the windshield. You can get it from a gas station near the border. Vignette for Austria for 10 days (the minimum one) costed us Euro 19 and the one for Switzerland costed us around Euro 36 (it is valid for an year). But do check with your rental company if the car already has vignette.
5. Resources from where we booked our car rental, tours etc.
- Flight bookings – Skyscanner.com and Skiplagged.com are great to fight cheap flights. I recommend installing their mobile apps
- Hotel bookings – We used Booking.com to book hotels with free cancellation. We also used AirBnB to find great deals.
- Car rental – We booked our vehicle from Auto Europe.
- Tour bookings – Directly from tour operator website, but do search for discount coupons on Groupon etc.
- How many days – As many as you want, but not less than 10.
- What to be careful of – Speed cameras in Switzerland.