With its snowcapped mountains, half-timber houses and romantic-looking castles, this region encompasses some of the most iconic images of Germany.
From rural mountain hamlets to booming cities, Bavaria treads the line between tradition and innovation. Beneath soaring Alpine peaks lie lush meadows, enchanting forests, secluded lakes, walled medieval towns and the occasional castle. Enjoy a stein alongside locals in a raucous beer hall and embrace the region’s welcoming atmosphere of Gemütlichkeit (coziness).
Perhaps best known for hosting Oktoberfest, Munich draws visitors year-round with its blend of small-town charm and big-city sophistication. You’ll find plenty of enormous beer halls and Bavarian waitresses dressed in traditional dirndls, yet this cosmopolitan city is also an important center of German art and industry. Check out the exceptional science and technology exhibits at the Deutsches Museum and discover a bounty of art in the Kunstareal (art district). Admire the 15th-century Frauenkirche, the city’s landmark cathedral. Sip coffee at one of the trendy cafés lining Gärtnerplatz, a leafy plaza popular with the bohemian set.
Rising from the craggy Bavarian foothills near the Austrian border are the exuberant turrets and towers of Neuschwanstein castle, an architectural oddity commissioned by King Ludwig II. The fantastical structure was designed as a tribute to composer Richard Wagner and motifs from his opera are present throughout. Look for murals in the bedroom showing characters from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and wall frescos depicting scenes from Tannhäuser in the lavish Sängersaal (Singers' Hall).
Part of Germany’s iconic Romantic Road, historic Würzburg is known for its fine wines and stately architecture. Explore the town’s UNESCO-listed Residenz, a sumptuous palace considered to be among the most beautiful Baroque structures in the country. Marvel at the vast ceiling fresco above the palace’s grand staircase.
Bavaria’s second-largest city, Nuremberg, is another popular stop off, particularly for those interested in history. A long-time cultural and intellectual center, Nuremberg later became a hub for Nazi party rallies and the boycott of Jewish businesses. Explore the Memorium Nuremberg Trials, the courthouse where Nazi war criminals were tried for crimes against world peace. Its dark history aside, modern Nuremberg is a busy commercial city known for its boisterous beer bars and its Christmas market, where vendors sell gingerbread, mulled wine and handcrafted ornaments.
Munich is Bavaria’s main transport hub and is well connected to the surrounding region by air and rail. You can reach most areas of Bavaria by train although Eastern Bavaria and the Alps are best explored by car. With its rustic settlements and sophisticated cities, staggering scenery and amiable beer halls, Bavaria’s charms are manifold.