Best Things to Do in Bavaria: 12 Essential Places to Visit

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Bavaria
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Are you planning a trip to the heart of Europe? If so, Bavaria should be at the top of your list. Here are some of the most fun, scenic, and unique things to do in Bavaria. This region, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, offers a plethora of unique experiences that will make your trip unforgettable.

Bavaria, the largest state in Germany, is a treasure trove of medieval castles, picturesque villages, and majestic mountains. But it’s not just the natural beauty and historical sites that make Bavaria a must-visit destination. There are countless options when it comes to the best things to do in Bavaria as the region is also renowned for its hearty cuisine, world-class breweries, and lively festivals, offering a taste of authentic German culture.

From the bustling city of Munich to the fairy-tale-inspired Neuschwanstein, from the historic Nuremberg to the breathtaking Alps, there’s no shortage of things to do and places to visit in Bavaria. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie, you’ll find something that suits your interests. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Bavaria.

The top places to visit in Bavaria right now
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Best Places to Visit in Bavaria

Ready to deep dive into all the coolest things to do in Bavaria? As noted above, this vacation destination has something to offer to everyone regardless of taste and preference. So keep reading to discover all these unique Bavaria places to visit.

Are you looking for city attractions and cultural sites? Or would you prefer a relaxing escape from the city to explore the beauty of nature? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Bavaria can definitely satisfy your demands. Each location is unique and offers a different perspective on Bavarian life and culture. Here’s all the best attractions in Bavaria that you should know about.

1. Neuschwanstein

For an experience like no other, you’ll want to check out this top place to visit in Bavaria. Perhaps “Mad” King Ludwig II was eccentric in his choice of a fairy-tale-inspired neo-Romanesque style for his castle, but his choice of setting was pure genius. The spires and towers of Neuschwanstein rise from a rocky crag above a forest and lake, with a panorama of the Bavarian Alps rising beyond.

Widely recognized as the inspiration for Walt Disney’s theme park castles, Schloss Neuschwanstein is every bit as fantastical inside as it is when first viewed from below. The Throne Room, the Singers’ Hall, and other grandiose rooms are sumptuously decorated (some might say over-decorated) in themes drawn from heroic legends, opera, and romantic literature. The views of the Alps from the windows are simply breathtaking.

On a facing crag is another castle of the imperial Wittlebach family, Hohenschwangau. Not far away is the king’s hunting lodge, Linderhof, an equally fanciful architectural confection. You can combine tours of both King Ludwig’s palaces with a stop in the beautiful Bavarian village of Oberammergau on a 10.5-hour Royal Castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Day Tour from Munich. It’s easy to see why this is one of the best things to do in Bavaria!

Exploring Neuschwanstein is one of the best things to do in Bavaria.
Discover Neuschwanstein Castle, perched artfully on a crag, offers majestic views of forests, lakes, and the Alps.

2. Watch the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz, Munich

Looking for the most unique things to do in Bavaria? Don’t miss this one! The heart of Bavaria beats in its capital, Munich, a city that effortlessly blends tradition and modernity. A must-visit spot in Munich is the Marienplatz, the city’s central square, where the majestic neo-Gothic facade of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) stands. Twice daily, crowds gather to watch the glockenspiel, a grand clock animated with moving figures, perform its enchanting dance.

The square is flanked by the Old Town Hall and the twin-domed towers of the Frauenkirche, the Cathedral of our Lady. A stone’s throw away from Marienplatz are two more of the city’s most important churches: Peterskirche, a relic from the Romanesque period, and Michaelskirche, the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps.

Marienplatz is not just a historical hub, it’s also the center for many of Munich’s cultural activities. This ranges from regular concerts and festivals to its fabulous Christmas Market. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture vulture, or simply a curious traveler, Marienplatz offers a slice of Bavarian life that’s hard to resist. As one of the top Bavaria attractions, you’ll definitely want to add this to your travel itinerary.

Experience Munich's blend of tradition and modernity at Marienplatz.
Experience Munich’s blend of tradition and modernity at Marienplatz.

3. Zugspitze and the Bavarian Alps

This is one of the best things to do in Bavaria, hands down. The Bavarian Alps are a treasure trove of natural beauty, and at the heart of it all is the majestic Zugspitze. As the tallest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze is a must-visit for any adventurer. The mountain’s 2,962-meter eastern summit can be reached by cable car from Eibsee or by the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn cog railway, starting either from Eibsee or Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

The Zugspitze is a paradise for hikers and casual walkers alike, with numerous trails of varying difficulty levels. If you’re not up for the steep climb, you can ride up and walk down, enjoying the breathtaking views of the Bavarian Alps. At the Zugspitz-Westgipfel Station, you’ll find a panoramic restaurant situated at a dizzying height of 2,950 meters.

The Bavarian Alps extend from Munich to the Austrian frontier and from Lake Constance in the west to the neighborhood of Salzburg in the east. Deep glacier-carved valleys and high plateaus dotted with numerous lakes enhance their beauty. In the valleys, you’ll find some of the most picturesque towns in Bavaria. This includes Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald, and Berchtesgaden, known for their colorful painted houses and Baroque parish churches.

Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or a summer adventurer, the Bavarian Alps and Zugspitze offer an unforgettable experience. As such, this Bavaria attraction is one of the most popular sights in the state.

Zugspitze is a hiker's paradise with trails and epic views; ascend or ride for the Alps' beauty.
Zugspitze is a hiker’s paradise with trails and epic views; ascend or ride for the Alps’ beauty.

4. Nymphenburg and the Residenz, Munich’s Royal Palaces

Experience Germany in style at this unique place to visit in Bavaria. In the heart of Munich, the grandeur of the past comes alive in the form of Nymphenburg and the Residenz. These royal palaces once served as the seat of the dukes, electors, and kings of Bavaria.

The Residenz, located in the city center, is a vast complex that encloses seven large courtyards. It has three main sections: the late Renaissance Alte Residenz, the Königsbau, and the Festsaalbau (Banqueting Hall), overlooking the Hofgarten. The magnificent 16th-century Antiquarium is now part of the Residenz Museum.

In contrast, the Baroque palace of Nymphenburg has an airy country setting. It seems to float above its canal, gardens, and fountain-splashed pools. The 17th-century Central Pavilion is built in the style of an Italian villa. It houses the lavishly decorated three-story Stone Hall (Steinerner Saal) and furnished private chambers. The outer buildings host the Palace Chapel and a collection of state coaches and carriages in the Marstallmuseum. The highlight of Nymphenburg, however, are its magnificent 17th-century gardens. They feature formal beds, a hedge maze, a Palm House, and fountains, and the Amalienburg, a grand hunting lodge featuring a Hall of Mirrors.

Visiting these palaces is like stepping back in time, offering a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of Bavaria’s past rulers. This is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Bavaria that is sure to be a highlight of your trip.

Step into the past with palace visits, glimpsing Bavaria's opulent history, a top highlight for an unforgettable trip.
Step into the past with palace visits, glimpsing Bavaria’s opulent history, a top highlight for an unforgettable trip.

5. Englischer Garten (English Garden), Munich

Attractions in Bavaria come in all shapes and sizes, but this one is among the best! One of the most popular places to go in Munich, for both locals and tourists, is the English Garden. It attracts walkers, joggers, and cyclists with 78 kilometers of pathways and bridle paths, and sunbathers with acres of lawn and riverbanks. A good place to visit for families, the gardens have playgrounds and plenty of places to run.

The English Garden (Englischer Garten) is a large public park located in the heart of Munich, Bavaria. It stretches from the city center to the northeastern city limits. This makes it one of the largest inner-city parks in the world. The park measures a whopping 375 hectares, extending from the Altstadtring inner-city motorway to Munich’s northeast along the west bank of the Isar River.

The park’s newest feature is the Japanese Garden, on an island of its own, complete with an authentic teahouse presented to the city in honor of the 1772 Olympics. The park also contains the Bavarian National Museum, with medieval German sculptures and tapestries, and the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection of local prehistoric artifacts.

The English Garden is not just a beautiful place to relax, but it’s also a bustling hub of activity. It’s an oasis of green right in the middle of Munich, offering a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Whether you’re a local or a tourist, the English Garden offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural attractions. This makes it one of the most fun Bavaria things to do.

Munich's vast English Garden is a 375-hectare inner-city park stretching to the Isar River's northeast.
Munich’s vast English Garden is a 375-hectare inner-city park stretching to the Isar River’s northeast.

6. Rothenburg and the Romantic Road

As far as things to do in Bavaria go, this activity is among the coolest! The three medieval walled towns of Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber, Dinkelsbühl, and Nördlingen are highlights of the Romantic Road, a driving route that winds scenically through the rolling countryside of Bavaria and northern Baden-Württemberg. Rothenburg is one of the best-preserved medieval towns anywhere in Europe, its postcard-perfect streets lined by half-timbered houses, and its shops and cafes marked by intricately crafted wrought-iron signs. It’s a place that I can’t seem to stop going back to!

Walls enclose the Old Town and seem to hold it from tumbling down into the Tauber River below. It’s December all year-round at the town’s most famous shop, Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Village, just off the Market Square.

Dinkelsbühl owes its prosperity to the wool trade of the 15th and 16th centuries, when the row of gabled houses on the Weinmarkt was constructed. Look especially for the ornate wooden trim on the Deutsches Haus and for the 16th-century patrician Hezelhof.

Each July, Dinkelsbühl celebrates Kinderzeche, one of Germany’s most colorful traditional festivals. The 10.5-hour Romantic Road, Rothenburg, and Harburg Day Tour from Munich follows this picturesque route, stopping at Harburg Castle before arriving in Rothenburg. With so much charm and personality, The Romantic Road is one of the top places to visit in Bavaria.

Exploring the Romantic Road's medieval towns is one of the best things to do in Bavaria.
Explore the Romantic Road’s medieval towns like Rothenburg, Dinkelsbühl, and Nördlingen, showcasing timeless charm.

7. Linderhof Palace

Yearning for a getaway like no other? This thing to do in Bavaria has got you covered. Linderhof Palace was King Ludwig II’s favorite, and it’s easy to see why.

Although it glitters with lavish ornamentation, the palace’s size and nature setting give it an intimate and livable quality. On a tour, you’ll see the Hall of Mirrors, the Audience Chamber that Ludwig used as a study, the two tapestry Chambers, the King’s Bedchamber, and the Dining Room.

A separate tour is required to explore the Venus Grotto, a fantastic man-made cavern created by Ludwig. However, visitors are free to explore the palace’s beautiful gardens and grounds on their own. These grounds feature a mix of landscape and formal gardens, fountains, pools, and the Moorish Pavilion. Visiting the palace and its surroundings offers a unique glimpse into the life and tastes of King Ludwig II. This makes it one of the coolest things to do in Bavaria that you don’t want to miss.

Linderhof Palace: Bavarian forest gem showcasing King Ludwig II's eccentric grandeur.
Linderhof Palace is a Bavarian forest gem showcasing King Ludwig II’s eccentric grandeur.

8. Königssee and Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest).

Yearning for a getaway like no other? This thing to do in Bavaria has got you covered. One of the most beautiful spots in Bavaria is the emerald green Königsee, a lake surrounded by steep wooded mountainsides and the rocky cliffs of the Watzmann range. On its shore, the distinctive red domes of the little pilgrimage church of St. Bartholomew reflect in its clear waters. The church dates to 1697, and inside is beautiful stucco work. You can reach it by boat from Schönau, and a footpath leads along the east shore of the lake for superb views of the church and lake from the Malerwinkel.

Nearby Berchtesgaden is one of the most popular resort towns in the Bavarian Alps, surrounded by mountains — the Hoher Göll, Watzmann, Hochkalter, and Untersberg.

You can’t drive the 6.5-kilometer-long Kehlsteinstrasse, the steep road to the infamous symbol of power of the Nazi regime known as the Eagle’s Nest. Instead, you can ride the gleaming brass elevator through the mountain; like the mountaintop Kehlsteinhaus itself, it was built to impress. In fact, Hitler was rarely there, and today it has only a few original features, but it’s still a grim reminder of the horrors of that era of unbridled power. Visiting Königsee and Berchtesgaden are definitely among the most unique things to do in Bavaria that you won’t soon forget.

Experience Bavaria's finest: the stunning Königssee Lake, embraced by wooded mountains and Watzmann cliffs.
Experience Bavaria’s finest: the stunning Königssee Lake, embraced by wooded mountains and Watzmann cliffs.

9. Imperial Regensburg

History and culture buffs will love this top thing to do in Bavaria. Regensburg, located at the most northerly point of the Danube, is a treasure trove of history and culture. The medieval Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a labyrinth of churches and aristocratic homes from the 13th and 14th centuries. The 310-meter-long Stone Bridge, a masterpiece of medieval engineering, spans the Danube, connecting the city’s past and present.

The city’s skyline is marked by the 105-meter-high twin spires of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Domplatz, the city’s central square. This cathedral is considered the finest Gothic church in Bavaria, with a magnificent west front and delicate twin spires. The cathedral is known for its boys’ choir, the Domspatzen, one of Europe’s finest.

Regensburg is not just about the past. It’s a vibrant city with a lively contemporary art scene, cutting-edge architecture, and state-of-the-art interactive museums. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or a foodie, Regensburg has something to offer. Is this one of the coolest things to do in Bavaria? You bet!

Regensburg: A captivating fusion of history, art, and modernity in Bavaria's coolest city.
Regensburg: A captivating fusion of history, art, and modernity in Bavaria’s coolest city.

10. Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial

No visit to Bavaria would be complete without a trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. The little town of Dachau was known for its castle before World War II and the Nazi era. It was also recognized as a plein air artists’ colony. Today, the attractive town’s name is almost synonymous with the Holocaust, as the site of the notorious Dachau concentration camp, where 41,000 people died during the Nazi regime.

The KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau is now a somber memorial to those victims and to countless others like them. Barracks and cells have been reconstructed, and the stories of its prisoners are told through photographs, personal accounts, artifacts, and documents.

Guided tours in English are offered daily, or you can visit with a knowledgeable guide to interpret the site, on a Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site Tour from Munich by Train. There’s so much to see and learn at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, that it’s no wonder this is among the best things to do in Bavaria.

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial stands as a poignant symbol of the Holocaust.
Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial stands as a poignant symbol of the Holocaust.

11. Herrenchiemsee

Looking to visit one of the best places in Bavaria? Add this to your bucket list! King Ludwig II of Bavaria chose an island in Chiemsee, Bavaria’s largest lake, as the site of his third and largest palace. This place is known as Herrenchiemsee. He envisioned it as a rival to Versailles in its grandeur and splendor, even to the Hall of Mirrors, but it was only partially completed when he was drowned near Neuschwanstein, at the age of 40.

Much of the palace had been completed as he envisioned it. This includes the Hall of Mirrors; State Staircase; State Bedroom; and Ludwig’s Small Apartment, decorated sumptuously in the Rococo style. The King Ludwig II Museum displays artifacts and furnishings connected to his life, and the surrounding gardens, also patterned after Versailles, are decorated with fountains and statues. You can reach the island by boat from Prien or Stock. Guided tours of the palace, the only way you can see it, are available in English.

On the smaller Frauenchiemsee island is a monastery founded in the 8th century and extended in the 12th and 13th centuries. Parts of the original remain, and the present church dates at least from the 11th century. That island is the scene of a charming Christmas market each December, featuring fine handmade gifts and decorations. For its historical appeal and guarantee of a truly unique experience, this is one of the top things to do in Bavaria for tourists with discriminating taste.

Exploring Herrenchiemsee is one of the best things to do in Bavaria.
Herrenchiemsee is King Ludwig II’s unrealized island palace but halted by his untimely demise.

12. Bavarian Forest National Park

It would be a crime to write an article on the best things to do in Bavaria without mentioning the Bavarian Forest National Park. This park is a natural wonder that is not to be missed when visiting Bavaria. Established on October 7, 1970, it was the first national park in Germany and covers an area of 24,250 hectares.

Nestled on Germany’s border with the Czech Republic, this park, along with the nearby Czech Bohemian Forest, forms the largest contiguous forest area in Central Europe. The park is known for its lush, green forests and pristine lakes. It offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and swimming.

The park is also home to a variety of wildlife. This includes deer, boars, and eagles. Visitors can take guided tours or explore the park on their own. There are also a number of restaurants and cafes located in the park for those who want to stop and enjoy a bite to eat.

The Bavarian Forest National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, attracting nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the tranquility that the forest provides.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Bavaria, make sure to include the Bavarian Forest National Park in your itinerary. It’s a place that will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for the natural world. As such, I recommend this thing to do in Bavaria to everyone I meet.

Bavarian Forest is Central Europe's largest forested area, celebrated for lush woods, pristine lakes, and a range of outdoor activities.
Bavarian Forest is Central Europe’s largest forested area, celebrated for lush woods, pristine lakes, and a range of outdoor activities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Bavaria

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Bavaria? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Bavaria:

What is the best time to visit Bavaria?

The best time to visit Bavaria depends on what you want to do. For outdoor activities like hiking and sightseeing, the summer months (June to August) are ideal. If you’re interested in winter sports, consider visiting during the period from December to February. For those who want to experience Oktoberfest, late September to the first weekend in October is the time to go.

How many days do I need in Bavaria?

A week is a good amount of time to explore the main attractions of Bavaria. However, if you want to delve deeper into the culture and history, or explore the natural beauty of the region, you might want to consider staying for two weeks. Here’s a rough guide to help you plan:

  • 1-3 Days: With a very limited time, you could explore Munich and perhaps one or two nearby attractions like Neuschwanstein Castle or Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site.
  • 4-7 Days: A week would allow you to explore Munich in more depth and visit other significant cities like Nuremberg, Regensburg, or Augsburg. You could also explore the Romantic Road or the beautiful Alps.
  • 8-14 Days: With two weeks, you’d have a chance to delve into more of Bavaria’s diverse regions, such as the Franconian Wine Country, the Bavarian Forest, and Berchtesgaden National Park. You could also experience local festivals, hiking, or other specialized interests.

Remember, these are just general suggestions. Bavaria offers something for every interest, whether it’s history, art, food, outdoor activities, or simply enjoying the beautiful landscapes. Tailoring your itinerary to your interests and preferences will help you decide the right amount of time for your visit.

Is Bavaria expensive to visit?

Bavaria is generally more affordable than other regions in Germany, especially compared to cities like Berlin or Hamburg. However, prices can vary depending on the time of year and the specific location. It’s always a good idea to budget and plan ahead.

What is Bavaria famous for?

Bavaria is famous for its stunning landscapes. This includes the Bavarian Alps, beautiful castles like Neuschwanstein, and historic cities like Munich and Nuremberg. It’s also known for its beer culture, with numerous breweries and the world-famous Oktoberfest.

Crowd celebrating Oktoberfest in Bavaria.
Crowd celebrating Oktoberfest in Bavaria.

Is Bavaria different from Munich?

Yes, Bavaria and Munich are different, but they are closely related. Bavaria is one of the 16 federal states in Germany, known for its distinct culture, beautiful landscapes, and historic sites. It’s the largest state in Germany and is located in the southeastern part of the country.

Munich, on the other hand, is the capital and the largest city of Bavaria. It’s known for its vibrant arts scene, museums, architecture, and of course, the world-famous Oktoberfest. Munich serves as a cultural and economic hub for the region, offering a blend of traditional Bavarian charm and modern city life.

So, while Munich is a part of Bavaria, it is just one city within the broader context of the state, each having its own unique characteristics and attractions.

Do I need to know German to visit Bavaria?

While it’s always helpful to know a few phrases in the local language, it’s not necessary to be fluent in German to visit Bavaria. Many people in the tourist industry speak English, and information is often available in English as well.

What makes Bavaria different from the rest of Germany?

Bavaria stands out from the rest of Germany with its unique blend of rich cultural traditions, distinctive dialect, and hearty cuisine. All of this is set against a backdrop of stunning Alpine landscapes. Its iconic lederhosen, dirndls, and beer festivals, like the world-famous Oktoberfest, give Bavaria a distinct identity that’s steeped in tradition and a sense of local pride.

Is Bavaria worth visiting?

Absolutely, Bavaria is a treasure trove of experiences that’s well worth the visit. From its fairy-tale castles and picturesque Alpine landscapes to its vibrant cities and world-renowned beer festivals, there’s a wealth of cultural, historical, and natural attractions that cater to all types of travelers.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Bavaria

Bavaria is a region that’s rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. From the stunning castles and palaces to the charming towns and vibrant cities, there’s something for everyone in this part of Germany. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie, you’ll find plenty to love about Bavaria. So why wait? Start planning your Bavarian adventure today!

The top things to do in Bavaria for all types of travelers
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