Bavaria is the Texas of Germany: a relatively huge chunk of the country (Germany's largest Bundesland), with an independent streak and unique history, not to mention still-vibrant rural traditions that seem to epitomize, at least to outsiders, the national character. The romantic American image of Germany — lederhosen-clad lads and busty Mädchens swilling beer and pretzels before an alpine backdrop — is a Bavarian scene (probably because this was "our" sector after the war). Many Bavarians really do wear dirndls and lederhosen (at least on special occasions), erect maypoles in spring, host exuberant Christmas markets in winter, and frequent Oktoberfest-type beer halls year-round. Southern Bavaria is home to its most well-known areas: Rollicking Munich and the storybook castles that nestle amid snowy peaks. But farther north and east lie some of Germany's most visit-worthy spots, including Nürnberg, Würzburg, and adorable Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Munich Lively city with a traffic-free center, excellent museums, Baroque palaces, stately churches, rowdy beer halls, convivial beer gardens, and beautiful parks (such as the English Garden) — plus the sobering concentration camp memorial at nearby Dachau.
▲▲▲ Bavarian Alps Bucolic southern end of Bavaria, boasting the fairy-tale castles of Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, and Linderhof; inviting villages such as the handy home base Füssen and adorable Oberammergau; the towering Zugspitze and its high-altitude lifts; Berchtesgaden, soaked in alpine scenery and Nazi history; and hiking, luge rides, and other mountain activities.
▲▲ Rothenburg and the Romantic Road Well-preserved medieval city full of half-timbered buildings and cobbled lanes surrounded by walkable medieval walls; jumping-off point for the "Romantic Road" scenic route through lovely countryside and time-passed towns, including Dinkelsbühl and Nördlingen.
▲▲ Nürnberg City with old-fashioned sandstone core, great museums, and reminders of Nazi past thoughtfully presented on the outskirts of town.
▲ Würzburg Home to the impressive Residenz palace (with manicured gardens and dazzling Rococo chapel) and lively wine bars.