There are multiple itineraries for the Bavarian Alps, ranging from a day trip to a week-long road trip. Obviously if you have more time, the best way to soak in the Alps is to do a multi-day road trip along the Romantic Road in Germany and visit the postcard-perfect towns. But if you're strapped for time, and want to cover the essentials, a day trip from Munich should suffice. You'll get to drive along an alpine road surrounded by beautiful mountains and small towns, and visit the Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the best places to visit in Germany. Here's everything you need to know!
Driving in Germany: Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle
We rented a car from Munich, and were at the castle within 2 hours (there's a map at the end of the post). Car rental is simple in Germany, but if you plan to rent one during peak times (weekends or summers), just book it online well in advance. It's pretty hard to get a rental on the spot (especially if you're looking for an automatic vehicle).
The Neuschwanstein castle is one of the most beautiful places in Germany, and is said to have inspired the Disney logo - pretty cool, right? The drive to the castle is absolutely gorgeous, making this one of the best day trips from Munich. No doubt, the Swiss Alps are beautiful, but its Bavarian counterpart is equally stunning, and perhaps not as crowded. Here are some pictures from the very scenic drive.
Getting to the Neuschwanstein castle:
Small towns in Germany along the Romantic Road look like they're out of a fairytale. The town of Schwangau, where the castle is located, looks like a scene from a postcard (minus the tourists). You can't take the car all the way up the mountain to the castle, so we had to park in the town. The choice to get to the castle was between walking up, taking the bus, or going by horse. Please choose the bus - it's cheaper (just 2.60 euros round trip), quicker, has shorter queues, and is more weather-friendly (much needed, because it was raining the day we went).
The bus dropped us off by the Marienbucke bridge, very famous for its views of the castle. The bridge is so rickety. It's made of wood and packed with more tourists than it should hold. I stood long enough to take one picture of the castle, but that was it; a bit too scary to stand for any longer!
Visiting the Neuschwanstein castle:
If you plan to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle from the inside, you have to purchase tickets in advance. Queues are crazy, and slots get booked out! We had decided not to tour the inside of the castle because several blogs advised against it. It seemed a bit overhyped (and overpriced). We were happy to see the castle from the outside, get some photos of the mountains, and then spend most of our time driving through alpine roads, and exploring small towns in the German Alps along the Romantic Road. If you only have one day trip from Munich, I'd highly recommend doing the same. The views outside the castle are probably far more stunning than the inside - take a look:
Where to eat along the road trip from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle:
There were no decent vegetarian food (except for cheese sandwiches) around the castle, so we drove around a little and found this adorable café (Sauerwein Café) that served thin-crust personal pizzas. They were delicious! I'd recommend going here if you're looking for vegetarian food. We wasted a lot of time just driving around looking for something decent, and it wasn't easy.
Exploring Bavarian towns along the Romantic Road:
The towns we intended to drive through were Oberammergau, Garmisch-Parterkirchen and Ettel (these are also great for staying overnight if you're doing a multi-day trip). After picking up some lunch, we searched on Google Maps for any picnic spots close by, and came across a quiet camping ground, right by a GORGEOUS lake (Lake Bannwaldsee). Our "quick" lunch break turned into a 2-hour stop, with lots of photo ops. Try and picnic here if you can! It is one of the most beautiful places in Germany. We had our feet dipped into the cool water, with the sun shining on us (the sky magically cleared out just for the 2 hours we were there)!
Finally, around 4:30pm, we set off for Oberammergau. By the time we got there, the town was fairly quiet and empty, but stunning nonetheless. We stopped at a café to get some hot tea while it was pouring outside (told ya! The sun came out just for our picnic by the lake ???? )
We couldn't make it to any of the other towns because of timing ???? But I don't regret it one bit, because I wouldn't have traded in that lakeside picnic spot for anything else! It really opened my eyes to the beauty of driving in Germany, and just stumbling upon something magical. We were back in Munich by 8pm.
Mapping the day trip from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle:
Here's the route we took overall, going from Munich -> Neuschwanstein -> Sauerwein Café -> Lake Bannwaldsee -> Oberammergau -> Munich:
Here's a zoom-in of the route within the Bavarian Alps, starting at the castle and ending at the café in Oberammergau:
Truly a great day trip from Munich, away from the hustle and bustle of city life! If we had more time, I'd have loved to drive along the Romantic Road from Schwangau to Frankfurt, stopping at the most famous Bavarian town Rothenburg ob der Tauber - a village out of a fairytale!