Fairytale Trip Around Bavaria at Christmas Time
Fairytale Trip Around Bavaria at Christmas Time
I’ve visited Germany several times for different reasons but I always had Bavaria at the top of my bucket list, dreaming about fairytale castles, stunning nature and enchanted typical villages.
Located at the southeast of Germany, Bavaria is the largest federal state in the country with almost one fifth of its total area. Its capital is Munich and it is also well-known for other important cities like Nuremberg or Augsburg.
In fact the first time I went to Bavaria, it was a long time ago in a long stopover in Munich coming back from Dubai and I had the opportunity to spend a few hours in this beautiful and traditional German city.
Two years ago, in December 2018, I decided to go back to Baviera with two main objectives: visit Neuschwanstein Castle and the famous Christmas Markets in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
I flew from Lisbon to Munich and I rented a car at the airport which was the most convenient way to travel around the region. If you go to Baviera to visit the Christmas Markets I recommend you to book your accommodation well in advance. I decided to go last minute and it was quite difficult to find places to stay.
I drove directly from Munich to Fussen to start my Christmas adventure in Baviera. Many visitors head to Fussen on their way to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, the most known touristic attraction of that area. And it is indeed the perfect place to stay when visiting the castle.
But Fussen has so much more to offer and I immediately fell in love with this charming city nestled at the heart of the Bavarains mountains, surrounded by lakes and crossed by Lech river with its impressive crystal turquoise waters.
Located at the end of the Bavarian Romantic Road, Fussen is also known as the city of the legendary King Ludwig II from the 19th century, who built some of the most impressive castles in the world.
Before visiting the famous castles in the area (there are more than 50 castles and palaces in this region), don’t miss the opportunity to spend one day in Fussen enjoying this beautiful city.
Start your visit to Fussen walking around the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, with centuries of history, medievals houses and baroque churches that you will discover in each corner of the city.
Head to Hohe Schloss, the High Castle of Fussen, which used to be the summer Residence of the Prince-Bishop of Aubsburg and it is now one of the most important secular buildings of German late Gothic period with coloured illusionist paintings. In your way to Hohe Schloss you will experience the surrounding nature and amazing views to Lech river.
It’s time to explore Lech chores, which is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen. Cross the bridge to the other side of the river for beautiful views of Fussen.
I recommend to take a walk to see the Lechfall, an artificial waterfall built to control the floods in the 18th century. Even though it’s not a natural waterfall, it is beautiful and it is worth the 30m walk from the city.
If you go to Fussen in December, as I did, don’t miss the Christmas decorations and walk around the city at night. You will feel immediately the Christmas mood.
Do you believe in fairytales? Neuschwanstein Castle, which literally translates to New Swan Stone Castle, is probably the best scenario for a fairytale that I could ever imagine. Built in the 19th century (its construction lasted for almost 20 years) in a breathtaking location at the top of a mountain and surrounded by Bavarian forests, this castle has also amazing indoors and it attracts millions of visitors from around the world. It was also the inspiration for Disney’s castles.
It was built by King Ludwig II with the intention in his own words of “rebuilding the old castle of Hohenschwangau in the authentic style of old German knights castles”.
How to go to Neuschwanstein? If you are staying in Fussen it is short drive to Hohenschwangau, where you can park your car. I recommend to visit the castle in the morning to avoid the crowds and to make the most of your time there. You can buy your tickets online or at the counter office in Hohenschwangau.
It is not allowed to drive in the mountain road to Neuschwanstein, but there are several options to get there on foot (approximately 30m walk), by horse-drawn carriage or by shuttle bus. I took the shuttle bus as it was quite cold to walk.
From the shuttle bus stop take a walk across Marienbruck (Queen Mary’s Bridge who was King Ludwig’s mother) to see the most stunning views of the castle and Pollat Gorge and take the most iconic picture of Neuschwanstein.
Please be aware that sometimes during the winter the bridge is closed due to bad weather conditions. I was afraid that it happened during my visit, but I was lucky enough and it was opened. From Marienbruck there is also a hiking trail to a spot well-known for different beautiful views to the castle, but the path was quite slippery and unfortunately it was not possible to go there.
Then finally head to Neuschwanstein. In your way to the castle through a forest road, you will be delighted by the views to the surrounding landscapes and the castle itself as you get closer.
The building from outside is majestic and its indoors are not less impressive. Don’t forget that that you can only visit the castle with a ticket in a guided tour and pictures inside the building are not allowed.
After visiting Neuschwanstein, you can also explore Hohenschwangau Castle, where King Ludwig II lived in his childhood. It was built in the 19th century by his father, King Maximilian II of Baviera. I didn’t have time to go there, but I also recommend a visit.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
From Fussen region I drove to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is approximately a 2h15m drive.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the most well-known and well-preserved German medieval cities. Located in the famous German Romantic Road, it gets particularly magical and an authentic Winter Wonderland at Christmas time, with its Christmas markets and decorated with thousands of candles and festive ornaments.
The Holiday season is definitely one of the best times to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber, but be aware that it will be crowded (at least it was before covid-19 situation that impacted hugely traveling and tourism around the world).
There are many things to do in this fairytale city but I recommend to start walking around the Old Town streets with its iconic brightly painted timber-frame houses.
Stop by the Rathaus, the Town Hall, where you can climb to the tower and have the best views to the city. In the Town Hall square you will find in December the typical Christmas Market, a huge Christmas tree and carol singers. Take some time enjoying the most magical time of the year in one of the most enchanted Christmas destinations ever.
Not far away from the Town Hall, visit St. Jacobs Church, one of the most famous pilgrimage churches in Germany.
Then head to the Old Town Halls and spend some time walking around and enjoying the more than 40 towers and gatehouses built around the walls.
It’s also worth a visit to the Castle Gardens, with beautiful views to the Old Town and Double Bridge.
And because Rothenburg ob der Tauber is considered one of cities in Germany with the strongest Christmas tradition, don’t miss Kathe Wohlfhrt – Weihnachstdorf, a perfect spot to celebrate Holiday season all year round.
This Christmas shop has thousands of decorations and nativity scenes, so take the opportunity to choose a few ornaments to take with you and recreate the magic back home.
Last but not least, look for the most iconic landmark in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the Plonlein. This word means “small square at a fountain” and in fact the Plonlein is a spot with a yellow timber-frame house and a fountain located in a bifurcation of two streets and two towers of the old city walls.
At the end of my roadtrip around Bavaria I stopped for a few hours in Nuremberg on my way back to the airport. It was not enough to explore this city rich in History and with many attractions to offer. Additionally it was raining which was not ideal to explore Nuremburg, so I definitely want to go back.
Nevertheless I had the opportunity to walk around the cobblestone streets and endless bridges of the medieval Old Town, to admire the impressive St. Lorenz Church and the beautiful facade of Albrecht Durer’s House.
I also stopped by the Christmas Market at Hauptmarkt, located in the main square of the city with the Church of Our Lady. This is one of the oldest and most famous Christmas Markets in Europe and I couldn’t resist to the typical gingerbread and mulled wine with the warm and spicy flavours of the season.
If you are in Nuremberg with more time, don’t miss other important sites in the city like the Nuremberg Castle, the Germanic National Museum where you will find the first globe ever made in the 10th century, the Toy Museum and the Town Walls.