seeing germany in six days
September 8, 2012 6:39 AM   Subscribe

Germany, seven days, mid October. Beginning in Berlin, ending in Frankfurt, but what in the middle? Also, are there any seasonal things to eat or drink at that time we should look out for?

My friend and I would love to have suggestions for cities in Germany to see when we visit in the third week of October. Too late for Oktoberfest I think. Itinerary is currently quite up in the air and looks something like,

Day 1: Berlin
Day 2: Berlin
Day 3: maybe Dresden?
Day 4:
Day 5: Munich? (is Munich worth two nights?)
Day 6:
Day 7: leave from Frankfurt

We like good food/drinks, gorgeous scenery, and the occasional awesome castle. I don't know if the temperature will be appropriate for light hiking but that would be an option too. History is cool but not a priority since we don't have much time. Not big on museums/nightlife either. And we won't be driving, so unfortunately can't have any autobahn adventures.

We probably won't be heading to the southwest portion of the country, unless there's something there that's a must-see. Have already been to Heidelberg and Freiburg which were both fantastic.

Thanks a lot in advance!
posted by swimmingly to Travel & Transportation around Germany (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You basically have two options: a big southern loop via Munich, or through the Northern heartland (Hamburg, Cologne, etc.). If you look at a map you'll see Munich is quite a long way out of the way. But nevertheless, here's a southern using Munich as a base: seems a shame to go all that way and not spend some time there. It's a world city and regional capital. It's very different to Berlin, and interesting of itsef. But if the weather is good then I would spend one of those days in the Alps (60-90 minutes on the train to the bottom of the cable cars), and one day Regensburg, a intact medieval city on the Danube and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Day 1: Berlin
Day 2: Berlin
Day 3: Dresden
Day 4: Get to Munich (5h on the train from Dresden, so you won't arrive until the afternoon at the earliest)
Day 5: Munich/Regensburg
Day 6: Munich/Alps
Day 7: leave from Frankfurt, stop at Heidelberg on the way if you have time.
posted by caek at 6:55 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, sorry, you've already been to Heidelburg. In that case, I would see if you can move your outbound flight to Munich rather than Frankfurt, and take you're time getting from Berlin to Munich. There's great countryside in Saxony (esp. Sachsische Schweiz National Park). And then when you hit Bavaria it's castles all the way, the most famous of which is probably Neuschwanstein. And of course the Alps are preposterously pretty, and very accessible on public transport.
posted by caek at 7:03 AM on September 8, 2012

Although I would normally suggest more time in one city to get a feel for the place, since you say that you're not massively interested in history, museums or nightlife, 2 days is probably enough for Berlin - the reason why the city is interesting is to see how modern history has directly shaped the city it is today, its world-class museums and (for some) the really quite crazy nightlife that go on for 3 straight days etc.

In Berlin, I'd suggest you do a free walking tour for 3-4 hours, which is genuinely excellent, and more than enough history to understand the city. I would also *definitely* go to the Pergammon, even if you're not that keen on museums - the Ishtar gate is awesome even if you have little prior interest in Babylonian culture. Otherwise, the other attraction of Berlin is its rather disconnected fusion of distinct neighbourhoods - so I would devote a few hours just exploring the Turkish areas of Kreuzberg, the hipster areas near Prenzlauerberg etc.

Dresden has quite stunning architecture that you can't really see in Berlin (which is, frankly, quite unsplendid and somewhat ugly in parts), and make you contemplate the effects of the bombing that took place there. 1 day should suffice.

I love Munich - I prefer the city so much more to Berlin, although a lot of people feel the opposite (too boring/old/expensive/Bavarian). In terms of awesome castles the most obvious one is the Neuschweinstein castle near Munich - it literally looks like a Disney castle set against a stunning landscape. (I personally thought the interior was a little tacky, but everyone seems to love it and the exterior is definitely worth a look.) Unlike the rest of the country, Munich also has lovely mountains and hills which could be worth a hike; the Regensburg area is particularly pretty. If you get bored of Munich, it is also possible to take a daytrip to Salzburg.

On preview, I also agree that it'll be more economical use of your time to get your homebound flight from Munich.
posted by pikeandshield at 7:08 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Neuschwanstein castle (new swan stone), that is, rather than Neuschweinstein (new pig stone)... d'oh.
posted by pikeandshield at 7:12 AM on September 8, 2012

I am actually fairly museum-oriented, so take this for what you will. On a week's trip that went Munich-Berlin-Stuttgart (flying in and out of Frankfurt), we spent two nights in Munich and the only full day we had in Munich was a Sunday. We spent Sunday at the Deutsches Museum, which is well worth it, even if you don't like museums, I think. Monday we wandered around the Englisher Garten and caught the train in the early afternoon.

BMW has a complex that we would have gone to had we had more time. Dachau is readily accessible from Munich and may be a good choice if you want to go to a concentration camp. Sachsenhausen is outside Berlin, but harder to get to. (We had a no concentration camp agreement since we realised neither of us would really be able to keep it together and we concluded we needed one of us to not be a wreck.)

Like caek said, Munich is really different to Berlin. I'm quite strongly biased towards Berlin, but Munich's, I don't know, pretty and floats many people's boats. I guess, as a tourist with two days, we didn't really get far outside the city center, so god knows what Munich is actually like. Staying in a hostel further out might make Munich more enjoyable. I've only ever stayed in Neukölln and Friedrichshain in Berlin, which probably skews my impression rather a lot. But I started writing this answer to try and suggest two days in Munich is worth it.

I sort of disagree with pikeandshield. I really didn't enjoy the Pergamon. I'd vote for your one Berlin museum being the German History Museum. The caveat here is that, while they translated the stuff at the start each section of an exhibit, there's a good deal of text that is German-only, so it's probably decidedly less awesome if you can't read German.

The place I haven't been in Germany and would like to go is Cologne. The cathedral is impressive enough in pictures that I want to see it and I'm generally not impressed by gothic cathedrals. Cologne is also supposed to be enjoyable in general. It is, however, ludicrously far from Berlin (because Berlin is far from most places in Germany).
posted by hoyland at 7:24 AM on September 8, 2012

North of Munich and West of Nuremberg is the cute little town of Rothenburg. It's an old fashioned medieval town and one I remember fondly. The Criminal Museum is really interesting and the town is very picturesque.

Nuremberg itself is worth a visit in my opinion. I lived in Bamberg and love it there too. It's a great place if you like beer.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:27 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

As an off the wall suggestion which may or may not fit your timetable or be of interest, you could go to Spiel, a giant games fair. That's where I'm going to be in Germany at that time anyway.
posted by shelleycat at 7:59 AM on September 8, 2012

If by good food/drinks you mean beer, and by scenery you mean gorgeous medieval town center, you might want to hit up Bamberg on the way from Berlin to Munich. It's directly between the two and seems to win over everyone who visits it.
posted by besonders at 8:10 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't have much time, so if you're not interested in history, museums or nightlife, there's really no reason for you to spend two days in Berlin.

The area around the Rhine Gorge has everything you want - great food and wine, beautiful landscapes, lots of castles and some nice hikes. You could go to Cologne from Berlin or Dresden and take the ship to Mainz, maybe spend a night in one of the places in between.

Bamberg is beautiful and it sounds like you'd really enjoy spending some more time in Franconian Switzerland.

Allgäu is another region of Germany that you might like, Neuschwanstein is located there, but there are also lots of other attractions.
posted by snownoid at 11:00 AM on September 8, 2012

2nding Bamberg. Won me over like a Mack truck. What a wonderful vibe. Good food and nice surroundings in town and out.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:13 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

3rding Bamberg. I'd go back just for the fresh Maisel's Weisse and Bayreuther Aktien Zwickl brews. Speaking of that, Bayreuth is a nice stop in the area. College town and all. Lots of interesting stuff there.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:41 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

4thing Bamberg. I lived there for a couple of years back in the 80s, and it's really beautiful - city center, Cathedral - and fantastic beer.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:03 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are going to do the northern loop, I recommend hamburg and Lüneburg. I live in Lüneburg and it is a beautiful town that survived through the ages without any huge fires, wars or bombings. It has a lot of preserved buildings from the middle ages and hanseatic period. If you swing through, I can recommend a few nice hotels and places to see.
posted by chillmost at 4:22 PM on September 8, 2012

If you go to Dresden, there is light hiking and gorgeous scenery in the Saxony Switzerland natural park, it's just outside Dresden, on the metro network

Saxon Switzerland
posted by gmm at 12:01 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds like Berlin isn't really going to do much for you (If I had a week in Germany, I would spend pretty much all of it in Berlin, but it's all museums and history and urban), but you might like Potsdam. Huge park full of palaces and a lovely lake to cycle around.

The audioguide for the Deutsche Historische Museum (which I've been to three times, it's that good) is good, and helps with the "not speaking German" part.

The pretzels in Munich are good, but the city itself was pretty forgetable. Neuschwanstein is fab on the outside, a bit meh on the inside, but there was also another castle across the valley that Ludwig grew up in, that was fabulous, and put Neuschwanstein into perspective. Dresden is pretty, but you can do most of the highlights in an afternoon.

A trip down the Rhine from Cologne to Mainz (to catch the plane in Frankfurt), might be worth looking into. Lots of castles. Lots of wine.

For something completely random, the Wartburg is an awesome castle, and nearby Weimar is full of history and apparently has an onion festival in October. Also, the area, Thuringen, has the best bratwurst and mustard. Nom. Also pretty good hiking.
posted by kjs4 at 9:30 PM on September 9, 2012

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