Whether you’re looking for historic towns, mountain adventures, or castles, the best day trips from Munich are only a short car or train ride away. The city seems to have it all. Great food, it is surrounded by beautiful nature, there are more castles than you can shake a stick at, and Munich’s people are so friendly. And for visitors, another thing that’s so appealing about Munich is its location. It’s a wonderful location to serve as your home base if you want to explore Bavaria, Austria, and the surrounding area. With great transportation connections and lots of interesting sites within an hour to three hours by train, it’s a no brainer. Here are my picks of the best day trips from Munich!
Nicknamed by locals the Bavarian Sea, the Chiemsee is the largest lake in Bavaria. There, visitors can partake of all kinds of activities in the fresh air and enjoy nature and the water. The lake is also home to two inhabited islands. On the Herreninsel, the larger island, you will find a palace commissioned by King Ludwig I that was inspired by Versailles. There is an active Benedictine monastery on the other island, the Frauenchiemsee. Both are easily accessible for a visit after a short ferry ride.
While the Austrian capital is a bit far to be considered in this list of day trips from Munich, Salzburg is just over the nearby border. The thoroughly European city charms with its quaintness: narrow cobblestone shopping streets hide all manner of adventures. And don’t forget the cafes: Austria may not have invented sitting in a cafe with a coffee, a pastry and the newspaper but they have sure perfected it. The city is also a must see for fans of The Sound of Music and Mozart, who called the city home during his early years. The nearby Hellbrunn Palace, a Lustschloss, is a fun visit with novelty fountains.
Read More: Get Wet & Wild at Schloss Hellbrunn
Whether it be the impressive castle that overlooks the city, the World War II past or the home of artist and humanist Albrecht Dürer, Nürnberg is a city steeped in history. Some of that history may be right under your feet. Literally. Beneath the streets of Nürnberg lie miles of passages that were once used to hold beer and, later, hide priceless works of art. It’s home to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. And the city, where the Nuremberg Trials were held, was also the site of the Nazi party rally grounds. But today, it is home to the Documentation Center, a moving and emotional museum that pays tribute to helping generations understand what led to National Socialism and how we can stop it from happening again. Be sure to try the city’s unique Rotbier (red beer) while you’re there, too.
Surrounded by the Alps and the border with Austria, Berchtesgaden is tucked deep in Bavaria. The region is perfect for history buffs and active outdoor types. It is home to the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s bunker. But it is also home to the Watzmann mountain peak of the Alps and the Königssee, a lake of water so clear and blue it seems like it’s from a fairy tale. But, if you aren’t up to hiking, take the short electric ferry ride down the Königssee. One of the stops is a former royal hunting lodge and the St. Bartholomew pilgrimage church.
Read More: A Visit To: Königssee
Ammersee, Starnberger See and Tegernsee
Bavaria is full of lakes. The nearby Ammersee, Starnberger See and Tegernsee are popular destinations. The lakes are especially busy spots on warm summer days or long weekends. Whether you are an active outdoors type looking to partake in some watersports, go for a hike or just relax and enjoy the view, there is a lakeside town for you. For example, a popular day trip is hiking from Herrsching along the Ammersee to Kloster Andechs to sample its famous beer.
Read More: A Winter Day Trip to the Tegernsee
Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau
Perhaps one of the most popular day trips from Munich is the one to visit Neuschwanstein. The fairy tale castle is world famous — and construction was never even finished! Together with Hohenschwangau, which is right across the valley, the two palaces play an important part in the life and history of King Ludwig II. While the troubled and often eccentric king was found drowned before Neuschwanstein was completed, the castle is still an impressive draw. Visits to the area are very crowded and touristy. It simply can’t be avoided. But the sheer impressiveness and the views of the surrounding countryside made it worth the while. At least once.
Read More: A Visit To: Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau
Lake Constance, or the Bodensee, is the third largest lake in Europe. In addition to Germany, Austria and Switzerland border the lake. Lake-side towns dot the perimeter of the pleasant lake. Lindau in Bavaria is the closest to Munich. If you’ve got the time, Friedrichshafen, the city of the Zeppelin, is just west of Lindau. Ferries criss-cross the lake and watersports abound.
Read More: My Flight in a Zeppelin
Dachau is just a stone’s throw from Munich. In fact, you can reach the city relatively quickly just by using Munich’s public transportation (just take the S2 line). The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial is a well known site for visitors to learn about the horrors of the Nazi regime and pay their respects. But the city also has several churches worth seeing as well as a palace and gardens.
About an hour southwest of Munich in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. A series of cable cars and lift systems transport visitors up into the clouds. There you can ski, hike, rock climb or simply enjoy unprecedented views from almost 3,000 meters above sea level. Visitors can also take tours of the Zugspitze glacier or find a moment of solace at the Maria Heimsuchung chapel.
All of these spots are easily accessible, especially using Deutsche Bahn. To save some money, consider a discount or regional ticket. For example, with the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket, you have unlimited travel on local transit services for a single weekend day.
Have you visited any of these spots? Or did I miss your favorite day trips from Munich? Let me know and share in the comments below!