This 7-day tour begins in Munich and ends in Berlin, showing off the best of southern and northern Germany and introducing the country’s two greatest cities, two of King Ludwig II’s castles, and a mighty river, the Rhine, as it flows past the lively city of Cologne. Our preferred mode of transport is train, a comfortable and efficient way to get anywhere you want to go in Germany.
Day 1: Munich
Spend your first day in marvelous Munich. Head first for Marienplatz, the city’s main square. You can go up to the top of the Rathaus tower for a bird’s-eye view, watch the Glockenspiel, and visit the nearby Frauenkirche, Munich’s largest church. Then walk over to the adjacent Viktualienmarkt, one of the greatest food markets in Europe. Browse around and find a place for lunch from among the dozens of possibilities in the area. Afterward, make your way to the Asamkirche for a glimpse of the rococo ornamentation for which southern Germany is famous. In the afternoon, choose a museum: If you’re an art lover, you may want to see the priceless collection of old masters at the Alte Pinakothek (note: parts closed for renovation through 2018; check website before heading over). If you’re interested in science and technology, make your way to the famous Deutsches Museum. If you’re in the mood for oom-pah-pah, have dinner at the fun-loving Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. Munich is one of Germany’s top cultural capitals, so you may want to end your evening at a concert or the opera.
Day 2: More Munich
Start your second day in a palace. You need the entire morning to wander through the enormous Residenz in central Munich. Or make an easy excursion to beautiful Schloss Nymphenburg, which you can reach by streetcar. If you choose Nymphenburg, allow some extra time to wander through the gardens, and be sure to visit the collection of carriages, which includes the ornate sleighs and coaches used by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, creator of Neuschwanstein Castle. Have lunch near Marienplatz. In the afternoon, choose another museum to visit. Two possibilities are the Neue Pinakothek, a showcase for 19th-century German and European art, and the Lenbachhaus, with its stunning collection of early German Expressionist art. At some point, fit in a stroll in the bucolic Englischer Garten, Munich’s oldest, largest, and prettiest park. You can relax at the park’s famous beer garden.
Day 3: Bavarian Alps
Head to the Bavarian Alps, just south of Munich. Arrive in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in time to ascend the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak, for a spectacular view of the Alps. No exertion required: You’ll make the trip on cog railway and cable car.
Day 4: Füssen
Make your way to Füssen, jumping off point for Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles. Try to arrive early, and make Neuschwanstein your first stop; Germany’s most popular tourist attraction quickly fills up with tourists as the day wears on. You can easily make the 6.5km (4-mile) trip from Füssen to the castle by bus. Tours of King Ludwig II’s fairy-tale castle take about 1 hour. If you’re still in a “royal” mood, visit adjacent Hohenschwangau Castle, Ludwig’s childhood home. Enjoy a nice stroll around medieval Füssen before settling into a weinstube for dinner.
Day 5: Cologne
Hop on the train and make your way to Cologne on the River Rhine in western Germany. By fast train, the trip from Munich takes about 5 hours. You’ll see Cologne’s greatest sight—the enormous Dom (Cathedral)—as soon as you step out of the train station. Enjoy the afternoon in this lively Rhine-side city by visiting the awe-inspiring cathedral and one of its many fine museums, such as the Römisch-Germanisches Museum (Roman-Germanic Museum), dedicated to the Romans who made Cologne one of their strategic forts nearly 2,000 years ago; the Wallraf-Richartz Museum displaying old and modern masters; and Museum Ludwig entirely devoted to 20th-century and contemporary art. You can also take a sightseeing boat ride along the Rhine. Stay overnight in Cologne and have dinner at one of the city’s famous beer halls (be sure to sample Kölsch, Cologne’s delicious beer). The city has an excellent music scene, too, so you may want to see an opera or attend a concert.
Day 6: Berlin
In the morning, take one of the sleek, superfast trains to Berlin. The trip takes about 4 1/2 hours. Huge, sophisticated Berlin has endless things to do (for additional ideas, see “Northern Germany in 1 Week”). Settle into your hotel and then take one of the sightseeing bus tours of the city—otherwise you’ll see only a fraction of this enormous metropolis. After your tour, make your way over to the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of the city, and the nearby Reichstag, the country’s parliamentary headquarters. Take the elevator up to the modern dome on top of the Reichstag for a fabulous view over Berlin (the dome is open late, so you can come back later if the line is long). From the Reichstag, walk east down Unter den Linden to Museumsinsel (Museum Island) and stop in at the Pergamon Museum (though it is under renovation until 2019, so not all exhibits will be viewable). Better, for now, is the Neues Museum, with its world-class collection of Egyptian antiquities, including the celebrated bust of Queen Nefertiti, one of Berlin’s greatest treasures. Berlin is famed for its nightlife, so when darkness falls, you may want to attend an opera, a concert, a dance club or a cabaret.
Day 7: Berlin
Here’s hoping your flight home departs sometime in the afternoon, so you can take advantage of the morning by going over to the western side of Berlin to stroll down Kurfürstendamm, the renowned boulevard known locally as Ku’Damm, before making your way to the airport.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.