When you take the highway out of Munich, bucolic countryside, Medieval villages, and Alpine towns await you.
The states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are full of bustling cities, quaint villages, and pastoral landscapes, making the region perfect for a road trip.
With Munich as your starting and ending point, it’s easy to hit the road and strike a perfect balance of metropolitan centers and rustic countryside along the way.
From Munich, up through Bavaria and into Baden-Württemberg, here’s your route for an awesome road trip through southern Germany.
Home Base: Munich
As the capital of Bavaria and third largest city in Germany, Munich makes for a perfect jumping off point for your road trip. Situated along the river Isar just north of the Alps, Munich is brimming with art, architecture, and green spaces.
Experience the heart of the city by visiting its main square, Marienplatz. Admire the impressive New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus), catch the performance of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel in the tower, and people watch.
Make sure to get your fill of Bavarian brews by visiting the city’s beer halls and beer gardens. It may be touristy, but the Hofbräuhaus, which dates to the 16th century, has quite a fun atmosphere.
Enjoy the greenery as well with a stroll through the English Garden (Englischer Garten), and grab a pint while you’re there!
Stop 1: Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Now it’s time to leave Munich and hit the road. Our first stop is the famed small town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is just about two and half hours from Munich.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a well-preserved walled city dating back to Medieval times. The town is located along Germany’s scenic Romantic Road. It’s situated on a plateau above the Tauber River. The city was first founded in the 1100s and today it’s a popular tourist stop home to around 11,000 people.
This quaint town makes for a lovely road trip pit stop. Stretch your legs by wandering its cobblestone avenues and admiring its picturesque buildings. You can even climb some stairs to a platform that runs along the wall and see the town that way.
Stop 2: Würzburg
Würzburg is a city in northern Bavaria situated along the Main River. Also on the Romantic Road just less than an hour from Rothenburg ob der Tauber, it makes for a great place to pause for the evening.
Würzburg is in the Franconia region and traces its early settlers back to the 4th or 5th century. Today, the city is known for its university, white wine, and historical sites. Its current population is around 130,000 people.
The city is not very large, so it’s pretty easy to get in and around, yet still has things to do. Make sure to spend some time and explore the town. Also, opt for a hotel up on the hill, like Schlosshotel Steinburg, to best enjoy the golden hour views.
Stop 3: Heidelberg
Heidelberg is a popular university town in Baden-Württemberg, just about two hours from Würzburg. The town is famous for its castle, history, and scholarly institutions. This lively city is a wonderful spot to get out of the car and spend a couple days.
Heidelberg is located on the river Neckar and is part of the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. It’s home to Heidelberg University, the oldest university in Germany, founded in 1386. Today the city is home to about 160,000 people, many of them students.
When in town, head up to Heidelberg Castle. Today the castle is mostly in ruins, but the site is full of history and offers up great city views. For a more fun trip up, hop on the Heidelberg Mountain Railway (Heidelberger Bergbahn), a funicular that runs up to the castle.
Afterward, simply roam around the old town. Spend some time seeing the shops, stroll the old stone bridge, and enjoy the city’s energetic atmosphere.
Stop 4: Stuttgart
Just about an hour and a half from Heidelberg, Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg.
It’s primarily an industrial center and much of the city is fairly new, due to damage and subsequent reconstruction after World War II. Stuttgart is home to the headquarters of several automobile manufacturers, shopping areas, palaces, and public squares.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum and Porsche Museum are both popular spots and worth a visit even if you’re not really into cars. The Mercedes museum in particular feels just as much like a history museum as an automotive one. Meander around old town and relax in Schlossplatz, the city’s main square.
Stop 5: Konstanz / Lake Constance
The town of Konstanz is situated on the western end of picturesque Lake Constance. Located in Baden-Württemberg, it’s just about two hours by car from Stuttgart.
Just across the water from Switzerland, Konstanz is known for its university and history. First mentions of the lake date back to 43 AD, when Romans lived in the area. Today the town is home to around 84,000 people and its main attraction is Lake Constance.
This quaint town on a beautiful lake is a marvelous place to relax for a few days.
Spend some time exploring the town, then head out onto the lake. From Konstanz, you can take a boat ride to Mainau Island. This small island is home to a botanical garden and an 18th century castle. It’s a lovely place to spend the day (plus, you get to ride on a boat to get there!).
Stop 6: Neuschwanstein
After about two and half hours in the car from Konstanz, you’ll arrive at Neuschwanstein.
Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein) is the famed fairytale castle which served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. The castle was built in the 19th century by Ludwig II of Bavaria in the Romanesque Revival style.
The castle one of those places where no matter how many photos you’ve seen of it beforehand, you’re still in awe once you arrive.
It’s easy to park your car in town and then head up to the castle. More than one million people visit Neuschwanstein Castle each year, so it will likely be crowded.
This is one place where it’s important to take a tour. The informed guides will add depth to the experience. Wander the castle, take in the history, and enjoy the whimsical surroundings.
Stop 7: Mittenwald
If you looked up “Bavarian Alpine town,” you’d get an image of Mittenwald. The town is just about a two-hour drive from Neuschwanstein.
Mittenwald is located in the foothills of the Alps near the River Isar. The town is famous for making instruments — namely violins, violas and cellos. Today it’s home to about 7,000 people.
Mittenwald is simply a quaint mountain town. It’s full of colorfully painted homes set against mountain peaks. It’s a charming place to stop for a stroll through town and a bite to eat.
Stop 8: Spitzingsee
Finish off your road trip by spending the night in the quiet village of Spitzingsee nestled high in the Bavarian Alps. From Mittenwald, carry on about another hour and a half through the mountains to get there.
Spitzingsee is a small town on the lake of the same name. It’s also home to a ski resort, hotels, shops, and restaurants. It may be busier in the winter, but during the summer it’s simply relaxing.
Spend your day enjoying the beautiful scenery. Spitzingsee’s lush greenery and peaceful atmosphere will make the perfect finale to your road trip adventure.
Back to Munich
From Spitzingsee, it’s only about an hour by car back to Munich, your home base.
From metropolitan centers to small towns, pastoral countryside to towering mountains, and plenty of historical sites, you’ve seen a bit of everything on this journey. Just take your time as you head back to Munich and enjoy that Bavarian scenery. Prost!
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