By Rick Steves
So much to see, so little time. How to choose? To help you get started, I've listed my top picks for where to go in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and my plan for your best three-week trip.
Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, here are my recommended priorities:
- 3 days: Munich, Bavaria, Salzburg
- 5 days, add: Romantic Road, Rhine castles
- 7 days, add: Rothenburg, slow down
- 10 days, add: Berner Oberland (Swiss Alps)
- 14 days, add: Vienna, Hallstatt
- 17 days, add: Bern, Danube Valley, Tirol (Reutte)
- 21 days, add: West Switzerland, Baden-Baden, Mosel Valley, Köln
- 24 days, add: Berlin, Appenzell
- 30 days, add: Black Forest, Nürnberg, Dresden
Best Three-Week Trip in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (by Car)
Day 1: Arrive in Frankfurt, pick up your car, and drive to Rothenburg (2 nights).
Day 2: Sightsee the medieval walled town of Rothenburg.
Day 3: Drive along the Romantic Road route to Reutte, Austria (2 nights).
Day 4: Using Reutte as a home base, spend the day at castles near Füssen and other sights in Bavaria.
Day 5: Drive to Munich and begin exploring the city (2 nights).
Day 6: All day in Munich.
Day 7: Drive over the Austrian border to Salzburg and see the town (1 night).
Day 8: Tour the Sound of Music country, the Salzkammergut Lake District. Spend the night in tiny Hallstatt (1 night).
Day 9: Visit Mauthausen Concentration Camp and follow the Danube into Vienna (3 nights).
Day 10: All day to enjoy Vienna.
Day 11: Another day for Vienna.
Day 12: Make the long drive into Switzerland, ending in the Swiss village of Appenzell. Sleep in Appenzell or in the mountain hut at Ebenalp (1 night).
Day 13: Drive west to the Berner Oberland, and stay in the high-altitude village of Gimmelwald (2 nights).
Day 14: Enjoy a free day in the Alps, with great hikes and spectacular views.
Day 15: Spend some time in Bern, then drive west to Murten (2 nights).
Day 16: Using Murten as a home base, day-trip south through the French Swiss countryside to Lake Geneva.
Day 17: Drive to the Black Forest, spending the night in the village of Staufen (1 night).
Day 18: Tour the Black Forest on your way north to Baden-Baden (2 nights).
Day 19: Relax and soak in the baths at Baden-Baden.
Day 20: Drive to the Rhine, take a river cruise, and visit some castles. Sleep in the riverside town of Bacharach (1–2 nights).
Day 21: Explore the Mosel Valley, including one of Europe’s best castles: Burg Eltz. Return to spend the night in Bacharach, or sleep in the cute Mosel village of Beilstein.
Day 22: More time on the Rhine, or visit Köln and/or Frankfurt. To extend your trip, take a night train to Berlin.
Day 23: Fly home (or enjoy some time in Berlin).
If traveling by train, sleep in Füssen rather than Reutte, sleep on the train from Vienna to Zürich on your way to the Swiss Alps (skipping Hall and Appenzell), skip French-speaking Switzerland, skip the Black Forest, and add two days in Berlin, connecting it with night trains.