Take my Advice: Plan a trip to Germany for the Fall
One of the best surprises of my October trip to Germany was how amazingly beautiful Germany’s Bavarian region is in Autumn. And, I seriously want to share this so others can experience it too. So, for this article I’m going to focus on the southern part of the country and why I felt it was so magical. My goal is to convince you that you should not only plan a trip to the Germany’s Bavaria, but do so in the Fall! (You’ll thank me later!)
After arriving to accept delivery of a new car in Stuttgart (yes, that’s a thing – if you want to pick up your car in Germany for a discount to what you’d pay in the US, read about how I did it here!), we had wheels to explore the countryside and Alpine areas of Germany, ending our journey in Munich.
Throughout the week, we saw:
- Some of the world’s most famous castles
- Beautiful lakes
- Quaint medieval towns
- Rolling green pastures
- Baroque architecture
and hands down, the most vibrant and unbelievable fall colors we’ve ever seen. And, that’s coming from US Midwesterners with some of the best access to fall foliage in the US.
Beyond all that awesome, we:
- Attended beer festivals
- Ate sausages and schnitzel
- Tried amazing craft mustards and meatballs
- Drank bright, crisp German hefeweizen
- Drove fast cars through the German Alpine Road (where Porsche was inspired)
- Had one of the best photography trips we’ve ever taken
The Bavarian experience was one I will remember forever and for sure one I’ll repeat. Here are the highlights I think you should check out and pro tips you’ll want to know for your very own Fall trip to Germany.
As a note, we started in Stuttgart (flew in there from Chicago). I think this is a good place to begin the journey. I honestly wouldn’t spend a lot of time there per-se, but it’s a great jumping off point.
Cannstatter Volksfest Festival
This is right outside of Stuttgart, so you should time your trip with Cannstatter Volksfest, which is the 2nd largest Oktoberfest after Munich’s. From what I learned, it’s the festival that more actual Germans go to vs. Munich which is a lot of tourists. From Stuttgart, you can easily take the metro to get there. It is huge with giant carnival grounds and enormous tents filled with people dressed in traditional German clothes (like, really guys in leiderhosen) dancing on tables with giant mugs of beer. It was super fun and if you want to read more about it, visit the article I wrote specifically about the festival. It’s usually end of September through early October which is perfect timing.
If you are in Stuttgart, you can take a very easy train ride to see where Porsche headquarters are. The Museum is really a really pretty architectural gem and filled with tons of Porsche cars, old and new. My mister loved this. If I was by myself, I probably wouldn’t have gone, but I appreciated it once I was there. If you have any Porsche fans you’re traveling with, it’s a good stop. Mercedes also has a museum in Stuttgart, but we didn’t visit this one though it gets good reviews from tourists.
This amazing castle built into a cliff overlooking the vast valley below is a real must-do. It was easy with a car to drive right up to it. On the way you’ll wind through really quaint, preserved old villages built into the valleys that are also a sight in and of themselves. We didn’t actually go in, but the grounds and the views were plenty enough to have us in awe of the place and feeling like it was an afternoon very well spent. There’s lots of lookout points and photo opps.
Tip: To pay for parking, you walk up to the restaurant right near the parking lot and pay a small fee, and they’ll give you a receipt to put in your car.
This university city is unbelievably picturesque, with baroque architecture juxtaposed against medieval castles and bridges. It has all the modern shopping you could ask for, tons of restaurants and bars and we even found a cool cocktail club to have some drinks. It’s great for a 2-day stop. You will absolutely not regret it. I honestly think it may be one of the prettiest cities in Germany. Learn more about visiting Heidelberg by reading on here.
Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most preserved walled, medieval villages in Europe. It escaped destruction in WWII and while now is essentially a tourist attraction with hotels, cafes and museums, it is beautiful and made for a great half day stop. I thought it deserved an article of it’s own, so you can read more details on it here.
German Alpine Road
This road snakes through the German side of the Alps and can’t be beat for gorgeous mountain views. Just driving and looking out the windows is worth the trip but also pull over at lookout points when you see them to take in the fall colors and dramatic vistas. Being there in the peak of Autumn was the best time with the mind-blowing colors and the reflections in emerald green lakes. We literally stopped the car practically every 10 minutes to get out and take pictures. Plus, it is the way you drive to Neuschwanstein Castle.
This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region, and even one of the most famous castles in the world. Built by “mad” King Ludwig, this castle inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella castles. It does get crowded, but we just hiked around the outside and the crowds really didn’t bother us. You can pay to go inside, but we didn’t do this as the reviews come back underwhelming. It is situated in a forest very high up on the mountain with great views below. There is a shuttle that will drive you up the hill that we took for $5 to get up to the castle and we hiked our way down, which worked out great.
Amazing hotel tip!
I have to give very special mention to Das Rübezahl for being a highlight of our trip in the German Alps. We stayed there for a night when we did this drive before heading down to Munich. This boutique spa hotel is everything you want out of a home in the mountains. It offers remarkable views of Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle DIRECTLY FROM YOUR ROOM! No joke, I would get up from bed just to take one last peek out the window at the ethereal castles glowing in the distance one last time before I fell asleep. Check out my full review here.
The perfect end will be in Munich where you can return your car, fly out of a large airport and spend a couple days enjoying the city. I’d stay right in the city center to be centrally located so you can walk and take public transportation easily.
Tips for the trip:
Rent a car
You’ll need your own wheels to get the most out of the trip. Assuming you’re not picking up your own car, you’ll want to rent. Many sights are driveable within an hour or so of each other. Plus, you really don’t have to worry about the driving in Germany. The German roads are very well taken care of, even in the mountains. The drivers are orderly and considerate and the rules and signage are pretty easy to learn. Plus, why not add ‘Driving the Autobahn’ to your list?
If you don’t dress right, you’ll curse me for sending you there at this time of year. To be clear, the weather was not awesome at all times. It can be chilly and possibly drizzly or rainy. But, I was dressed for it, so it was totally OK and didn’t put a damper on anything. We did have some sunny days, but some were not. I like to borrow the Iceland saying, “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.” We were there the first week in October and the weather would span from light jacket weather in the cities to pretty chilly up in the mountains. I wore my winter coat to hike in those areas. I was fine wearing flat, comfortable leather boots. I didn’t need hiking boots or anything like that. So, have layers, warm coats, comfortable shoes and rain gear on hand and you’ll be fine. The benefits of being there in the fall outweigh the cons in my opinion.
Download Google Translate
While for the most part (especially in Heidelberg and Munich) we really didn’t have too many problems with finding English speakers, this helped us read menus and signs when we didn’t want to bother anyone. But you may run into some areas where English is limited, so this will just be a good safety net overall. We struggled a bit to find English speakers at Cannstatter Volksfest (which I view a a positive because it verified it was authentic) and also at the ticket booth at Lichtenstein Castle.
I’ll let the images do the rest of the talking talking! Also, here are additional related articles for inspiration and to help you plan your own trip to Germany!