14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bavaria
Bavaria, Germany's largest state, lies in the southeast corner of the country and is bordered by Austria and the Czech Republic. One of Germany's most popular tourist destinations, Bavaria offers access to some of the country's most beautiful scenery, including spectacular mountain peaks, rolling hills, and wide rivers. It's also steeped in history, with records of the state's existence indicating it was already well established by 555 AD. Today, many centuries-old and well-preserved buildings stand testament to this rich heritage.
1 The Bavarian Alps
The Bavarian Alps extend south from Munich to the Austrian frontier and from beautiful Lake Constance in the west to the neighborhood of Salzburg in the east. In some cases, such as the spectacular Zugspitze, the mountains reach heights of almost 3,000 meters, their beauty enhanced by deep glacier-carved valleys and high plateaus with numerous lakes. The Bavarian Alps offer excursions of all kinds, from magnificent forest walks to easy climbs and rewarding views. Walkers are particularly drawn to the Berchtesgaden National Park, the only such park in the German Alps, whose plateaus - Untersberg and Steinernes Meer - are a paradise for hiking. (Hiking programs and tours are available.)
Address: Hanielstraße 7, 83471 Berchtesgaden
Accommodation: Where to Stay near the Bavarian Alps
2 Lindau and Lake Constance
Lindau, the largest town on the Bavarian shores of Lake Constance, consists of the picturesque Old Town on an island in the lake, its harbor, and the garden city of Lindau, spaciously laid out amid orchards on the slopes of the mainland. The harbor is a wonderful place to enjoy the delights of Lake Constance, including the Alter Leuchtturm (the old lighthouse) and the 13th-century Mangturm. Also of interest are the six meter high Bavarian lion (Löwe) and the 33-meter-high new lighthouse, the Neuer Leuchtturm, both built in 1856. The pedestrian friendly Old Town, too, is well worth exploring, with its many lovely streets lined with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque homes. Particularly attractive is Maximilianstrasse, the town's main street, with its arcades, fountains, and cafés. A 20-minute drive from Lindau, the sunny city of Lindenberg perched above Lake Constance at the foot of the Alps, is a health resort famous for its hat-making heritage and cheeses.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lindau
3 Zugspitze: Germany's Largest Mountain
Bavaria's Zugspitze is part of the Wetterstein Alpine mountain range that spans the frontier between Austria and Germany. Surrounded by steep valleys, its eastern summit stands 2,962 meters tall and is famous for its gilded cross and superb views. Accessible by the excellent Bayerische Zugspitzbahn cog railway, it's extremely popular among hikers and casual walkers alike, with numerous trails of all levels to choose from (for many, the best way is to take the cable car up and walk down). The journey includes Zugspitz-Westgipfel Station and its panoramic restaurant at 2,950 meters. Come winter, the nearby Schneefernerhaus on the northern edge of the Zugspitzplatt, the highest skiing area in Germany, comes alive as winter sports enthusiasts from across Europe come for the superb snow and après ski activities.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Zugspitze
4 The Bavarian Forest
The spectacular Bavarian Forest extends along the border between Germany and the Czech Republic and encompasses the Bavarian Forest National Park as well as two other large parks: the Bavarian Forest Nature Park, and the Eastern Bavarian Forest Nature Park. The largest protected area of forest in Europe, this expanse of woodland once extended across much of southern Germany. Today, the area is crisscrossed by countless excellent walking trails, including some leading to the 1,455-meter-high Great Arber, the highest peak of the Bavarian-Bohemian-mountain ridge and home to one of Germany's most popular ski areas. A must-see is the 44-meter-high Tree Top Walk in Neuschonau, consisting of a spectacular 500-meter-long wooden ramp leading through the forest to the base of the wooden tower, built over tall trees and offering incredible views.
5 Marienplatz, Munich
Munich, the capital of Bavaria, is the third largest city in Germany and home to many of the country's top tourist attractions. On the River Isar along the fringes of the Bavarian Alps, it's one of the best places from which to explore Bavaria. A good place to start is Marienplatz, the city's large central square and home to the Old and New Town Halls. It's also where you'll find the city's most important churches: Peterskirche, built during the Romanesque period; the Cathedral of our Lady; and Michaelskirche, the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. Marienplatz also offers plenty of distractions, most notably its many shopping opportunities, including everything from department stores to boutique shops and galleries. It's also where many of this always-busy city's cultural activities occur, from regular concerts and carnivals to its fabulous Christmas Market. Munich's also well known for its wonderful parks and open spaces, including Englischer Garten, the world's largest urban public park.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Munich
6 Editor's Pick The German Alpine Highway
The spectacular German Alpine Highway - the Deutsche Alpenstrasse - was started in 1933 and now runs for 450 kilometers all the way from Lake Constance through the Allgäu and Bavarian Alps to Berchtesgadener Land. It's a popular way to tour this picturesque area, with numerous attractions of interest to both nature lovers and those in need of a culture-fix. From Lindau, the road runs northeast into the Allgäu, climbing steadily to the winter sports resort of Oberjoch and skirting the beautiful Grüntensee. Numerous magnificent castles line the route, including the former homes of Kings Ludwig II and Maximilian II of Bavaria, along with several beautiful lakes. Other sites include the Benedictine abbey of Ettal, founded in 1330 and converted into a domed Baroque church, and the picturesque town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, home to numerous winter activities.
Address: Siedlerstraße 10, 83714 Miesbach
7 Berchtesgaden and Königssee
Berchtesgaden, at the end of the Deutsche Alpenstrasse, is one of the most popular resort towns in the Bavarian Alps. Surrounded by mountains - the Hoher Göll, Watzmann, Hochkalter, and Untersberg - it's drawn sightseers for centuries. A highlight of a visit is the handsome palace of the Wittelsbachs, originally a house of Augustinian canons founded in 1100 and now home to a museum with displays of weapons, furniture, porcelain, and paintings. Also of interest is the six-and-a-half-kilometer-long Kehlsteinstrasse, a private road built for Adolf Hitler. Accessible by special buses, a tunnel leads to a lift up to the Kehlsteinhaus at 1,834 meters where you'll find a restaurant and magnificent panoramic views. Be sure to visit the Königssee, a lovely lake and one of the great beauty spots of Berchtesgadener Land. A footpath leads along the east side of the lake to the Malerwinkel with its superb views.
8 Old Town Aschaffenburg
The Old Town of Aschaffenburg, in Lower Franconia on the hilly right bank of the River Main, is dominated by the massive bulk of the early 17th-century Schloss Johannisburg. It's here you'll find the State Art Gallery with its impressive collection of Dutch and early German paintings, as well as the Palace Museum, the Palace Library, and a number of magnificent state apartments. The Palace Gardens are also well worth a visit and contain the Pompejanum, a 19th-century reproduction of the Villa of Castor and Pollux in Pompeii, as well as fine views of the Main. Also of note is the Stiftskirche, the 12th-century church of Saints Peter and Alexander and home to a number of important works of art.
9 Bamberg Cathedral
Bamberg Cathedral - affectionately referred to by locals as Domberg - lies high atop a hill overlooking one of Bavaria's most picturesque small cities. This four-towered masterpiece of early 13th-century ecclesiastical architecture includes the Fürstentor (Prince's Doorway) with its figures of apostles and prophets, and a relief of the Last Judgment. Also of note are the Adamspforte (Adam's Doorway) along with the Marienpforte (Virgin's Doorway). Inside is the tomb of Henry II, who died in 1024, along with that of his wife Kunigunde. Perhaps the cathedral's best known feature is the famous Bamberger Reiter, or the Bamberg Horseman. Erected in 1240, it's thought to represent King Stephen of Hungary, Henry II's brother-in-law. Afterwards, visit the Diocese Museum, home to the cathedral treasury with its precious vestments, including Henry II's imperial robes.
Address: Domplatz 5, D-96049 Bamberg
10 Imperial Regensburg on the Blue Danube
The old imperial city of Regensburg lies at the most northerly point of the Danube, joined here by the River Regen and navigable all the way to the Black Sea. The town's medieval townscape is made up of numerous churches and aristocratic homes from the 13th and 14th centuries. Other highlights include the 310-meter-long Stone Bridge, built over the Danube in the 12th century and a masterpiece of medieval engineering, and the Cathedral of St. Peter in Domplatz, the city's central square. This lovely 13th-century structure with its twin 105-meter-high spires and magnificent west front is considered to be the finest Gothic church in Bavaria. The interior, too, is of great beauty, its most notable features being the superb 14th-century stained glass and the figures of the Annunciation from 1280 on the two western piers of the crossing.
Address: Domplatz 1, 93047 Regensburg
Mittenwald lies in the beautiful sheltered valley of the Isar, framed on the south and west by forest-covered hills, above which rears the peak of the Wetterstein. One of the most charming towns in the Bavarian Alps, Mittenwald is popular for its magnificent old houses with their unique frescoed exteriors, as well as the Baroque Parish Church with its painted tower. Built in 1745, it's famous for its statue of Mathias Klotz, founder of the town's violin-making industry who died here in 1743. This rich instrument-making heritage can be seen everywhere, from small workshops with their works-in-progress to the excellent Violin Making Museum with its many fascinating displays of tools and more than 200 stringed instruments, including a number of Klotz violins.
Address: Ballenhausgasse 3, 82481 Mittenwald
12 Picture-Perfect Passau
Passau lies on the Austrian frontier at the junction of the Danube and the River Inn and is famous for its flat-roofed 17th-century Italian-style houses linked by flying buttresses. Other highlights of the Old Town, widely regarded as one of the most picture-perfect townscapes in Europe, include the Oberhaus fortress, the Mariahilf church, and the charming stepped lanes leading down to the two rivers. In the Domplatz with its old canons' houses stands the Cathedral of St. Stephen, consisting of a Late Gothic east end dating from 1407 and crowned by a dome and a superb Baroque nave added in 1678. Also of interest is Residenzplatz, with its old homes, and the New Bishop's Palace (Neue Residenz) built in 1772, home to the Cathedral Treasury and the Diocesan Museum.
Address: Residenzplatz 8, D-94032 Passau
13 The National Germanic Museum, Nuremberg
The ancient town of Nuremberg (Nürnberg), the second-largest city in Bavaria, is home to the National Germanic Museum with its many artifacts related to art and culture. The museum boasts more than a million unique artifacts, including historical documents, a fine arts archive, and a collection of paintings representing the major schools. While in Nuremberg, be sure to visit St. Sebaldus Church. Built between 1225-73, it's popular for its magnificent Gothic east choir and the Schreyer-Landauer tomb dating from 1492. Inside, in the east choir, is the tomb of St. Sebaldus from 1519, a masterpiece in bronze.
Address: Kartäusergasse 1, D-90402 Nürnberg
14 The Old Town of Amberg
The old town of Amberg, still ringed by its medieval walls with its towers and gates, is a great place to get a taste of old Bavaria. The hub of Amberg's Old Town is the Marktplatz, a highlight of which is the 14th-century Town Hall with its exquisite Council Chambers and their beautiful coffered ceilings. The Late Gothic hall-church of St. Martin, constructed between 1421-83 and the most important Gothic church in the Upper Palatinate after Regensburg Cathedral, is worth visiting. Highlights include its 91-meter-high west tower, built in 1534, and containing the imposing monument of Count Palatine Ruprecht Pipan who died in 1397.