If you are planning a trip to Southern Germany, you are in for a treat! Although there’s no formal boundary between Central and Southern Germany, most Germans agree that the river Main, which flows westward through Frankfurt, is a natural border.
This area’s beauty and stunning landscapes are unmatched. The Alps, the Rhine River, the Black Forest, and lovely lakes, including Lake Constance, are just some of the region’s dominating, natural landmarks. Southern Germany is gorgeous, and every town has a rich history and culture, whether you’re visiting one of the largest cities in Southern Germany or a small village.
Unfortunately, the Thirty Years’ War, which took place in the 17th century, destroyed over 2,000 castles, while many sites in the country were also devastated by World War II. However, you can still find fairy-tale castles, palaces, old churches, beautiful architecture, and medieval bridges in great cities across Southern Germany. Some were luckily unscathed, while others have been rebuilt.
There are so many things to see in Southern Germany – towns untouched by World War II, castles built by the country’s eccentric King Ludwig II, some of the best preserved medieval towns, cuckoo clocks in the Black Forest, Christmas markets in Essen or Munich, and picturesque towns with magnificent gardens.
So, if you’re traveling to Southern Germany soon, check out these recommendations before planning your itinerary!
Best Places to Visit in Southern Germany
The Bavarian capital, Munich, is home to numerous historical buildings, art galleries, restaurants, beer halls, and museums, with the River Isar running through town. Munich, Germany, has a lot to offer, including the Old Town Hall, the English Garden, the city center, Marienplatz Square, Baroque churches, and opulent palaces. But if you want to enjoy Munich’s beer scene, this guided beer tour of Hofbräuhaus is for you.
One of the oldest art galleries in the world is the Alte Pinakothek, which dates back to 1836. King Ludwig II ordered the museum to house the Wittelsbach dynasty’s extraordinary collection, including paintings by prestigious artists such as Rembrandt, da Vinci, and van Dyck.
If you’re looking for history and architecture, you must head to the Munich Residenz. What used to be the palace of the 14th century Wittelsbach monarchs is now a burgeoning museum complex with over 100 rooms and ten courtyards. You can also have a unique musical experience in Hercules Hall and listen to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Vivaldi’s masterpieces.
If you’re in the area of the Munich Residenz, you absolutely must take a stroll in the nearby English Garden, a large park in Munich’s city center. Perfect for taking photos, it’s one of the largest urban parks in the world!
Munich’s Town Hall on Marienplatz is a Gothic Revival masterpiece with details such as little trefoil arches, pinnacles, and statues of the first Bavarian kings. While it’s famous for its glockenspiel (it chimes daily to the delight of visitors), those interested can learn more about the history and architecture on this exclusive guided tour.
And if you’re looking to see a Baroque palace, the Nymphenburg Palace is in Munich’s western district. It is one of Europe’s premier royal palaces, with the frontal width surpassing that of Versailles! If you would rather see all of the sights in Munich, Germany, on a private guided tour, you can combine many of the best attractions without the stress of transportation!
If you want to stay in the middle of Munich, Germany, near the city center, the highly-rated Eden Hotel Wolff is a solid choice, with a sauna, steam room, restaurant, and more.
See Related: Best Museums in Munich, Germany
Wurzburg, Germany, is another large city in Bavaria, known for its Baroque architecture, the Romantic Road, the German wine region Franconia, and one of the area’s oldest stone bridges.
One of the prime examples of Baroque architecture in Wurzburg is the 18th century Wurzburg Residenz, with an elaborate staircase, a large fresco, and ornate rooms. This palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous for being the home of the prince-bishops during the Enlightenment.
As one of the main symbols of Wurzburg, Germany, the Marienburg Fortress served as the home for local prince-bishops for almost five hundred years. If you’d like to experience the Wurzburg Residenz, the Marienburg Fortress, and the Würzburger Cathedral during your Wurzburg vacation, this private walking tour is perfect!
The Old Bridge, known to locals as “Alte Mainbrücke,” is a pedestrian-only bridge that connects the city’s old town with the left bank. This 15th century bridge has twelve statues of saints and other icons.
If you’re looking for a scenic drive in Southern Germany, Wurzburg is at the north end of the Romantic Road, also known as the Romantische Straße. This picturesque route goes through the mountains and forests from Wurzburg to Fussen.
It’s easily one of the best ways to experience the area, with three medieval walled towns on the route, the mountains, and Neuschwanstein Castle. You can also go on a guided day trip on the Romantic Road from Wurzburg to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for history, wine tasting, picturesque views, and fun!
Enjoy the scenic roof terrace at Hotel Franziskaner, where you are close to everything in this charming city. Located just mere feet from the bridge, Wurzburg Residenz, and Würzburger Cathedral, you can walk everywhere from this highly-rated accommodation!
On the border of Austria and Germany, Passau is in a unique spot. It is not only on the Austrian border but also at the convergence of three rivers: the Danube, Inn, and Ilz.
Because of this placement, it’s often called the “Three Rivers City.” Passau, Germany, is also known for its Baroque architecture and scenic landscapes, attracting another nickname, the “Venice of Bavaria.”
Overlooking the city is the Veste Oberhaus, a 13th century fortress that dominates the town with its location on the mountain ridge on the left side of the Danube. While it originally housed the prince-bishops of Passau, it now houses weary youth backpacking across Southern Germany and a museum dedicated to the history of Passau.
Another famous landmark in Passau, Germany, is St. Stephan’s Cathedral, renowned for its organ, with almost 18,000 pipes and over 200 registers. Once the largest organ in the world, it is still a sight to see (and hear!).
This small town in Southern Germany also has an Old Town Hall in the city center, with a large clock tower. This historic building is a central part of Passau, with many restaurants and shops surrounding it.
Many tourists visit Passau, Germany, on a road trip from major cities such as Munich or Prague. While in Passau, it’s best to learn its history from a local guide. This comprehensive private tour will teach you about the local sights and how Passau became a significant part of the salt trade!
Enjoy the comfortable down comforters, plush beds, and breakfast overlooking St. Stephan’s Cathedral at Alstadt-Hotel Passau. This hotel is in the best-rated area in Passau, Germany, with modern rooms and a daily breakfast buffet.
See Related: Best Family Vacation Ideas in Germany
As the second largest city in Bavaria behind Munich, Nuremberg, Germany, is known for its beautiful scenery, famous Christmas market, and quaint character. Like many cities in Southern Germany, Nuremberg is renowned for its historical landmarks, like the walled Old Town and the imperial castle.
One of the most well-known tourist attractions is Nuremberg Castle, the symbol of Nuremberg, Germany. This famous castle has represented the power of the Holy Roman Empire since the Middle Ages and the role of Nuremberg as the Imperial City.
One of the best ways to see most of Nuremberg’s attractions is to follow the Historical Mile of Nuremberg, which passes through the most meaningful historical sites. The central part of the route passes through the Old City of Nuremberg, which was once surrounded by a fortified city wall. Parts of the original wall are still standing, with some towers and gates accessible.
Of course, you can always find something fun in the main square of Nuremberg, Market Square. This square is very pedestrian-friendly and is usually busy with locals and tourists, whether visiting the Christmas market or one of the many seasonal events. However, you shouldn’t miss the Schöner Brunnen, the fountain with a height of almost 20 meters!
One of the best ways to experience Nuremberg, Germany, is with a local guide, and this highly-rated 1.5-hour private tour of the Schöner Brunnen, Nuremberg Castle, and Albrecht-Dürer-Haus is the best way to learn about the city’s history! You also visit the cobbled marketplace Hauptmarkt, timber-framed houses, and the city’s medieval wall.
If you want somewhere to relax after a day of sightseeing, the Novotel Nuernberg Centre Ville in the heart of Nuremberg, Germany, has an indoor pool, saunas, and a sun terrace for ultimate relaxation.
Known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Bamberg, Germany, spans over seven hills where the Main and Regnitz rivers converge. Bamberg is known as the “Rome of Bavaria,” with its seven hills and a church atop each hill. As the legend goes, the churches are at the top of the hills so they are closer to God.
Located in northern Bavaria, Bamberg, Germany, is a charming place to visit, with the Town Hall among the most popular tourist attractions. Only accessible by pedestrian-friendly arched bridges, this muraled building’s frescoes and architecture give off a three-dimensional quality, like an optical illusion. Today it houses the Ludwig Collection, also known as the Ludwig Museum.
Klein Venedig (or Little Venice) is not far from the city center and is an old fishing village from the 17th century. You’ll see half-timbered houses which represent life from that time. These timber-framed houses are an example of architecture during the medieval period.
Another favorite tourist attraction in Bamberg, Germany, is the 12th century Romanesque Bamberg Cathedral, featuring four towers and stone carvings. This cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Bamberg and is under the administration of the Roman Catholic Church.
If you want to try a unique beverage, you’ll want to order one of Bavaria’s famous smoked beers. If you want to drink like a local, this guided hiking tour takes you to some of the best Bavarian brewpubs in the Bamberg countryside, known as the “Tuscany of Franconia.”
One of the most captivating ways to learn about this small town is through an immersive medieval tour, where you start the tour with a glass of mead and then learn about the history of Bamberg.
If you want to stay in the heart of Bamberg’s UNESCO Old Town, you’ll find the Altstadthotel Molitor the perfect spot. It’s a 15th century restored mill minutes away from the Bamberg Cathedral and other local sights!
This charming town in Southern Germany is worth visiting with its medieval architecture, culture, and beer gardens. However, many tourists find a day trip perfect for visiting Bamberg, as it’s an easy drive from Frankfurt and Nuremberg!
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Northern Germany
Regensburg is one of the best preserved medieval towns on the Danube River in Southern Germany. This small town is a perfect day trip from Munich or Nuremberg, with plenty to see and do for an afternoon. Because of how well the city has preserved its medieval sites, Regensburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the most noticeable landmarks is the Regensburg Cathedral (St. Peter’s Cathedral), with its twin spires. Today it is home to the Domspatzen choir but is a beacon for German Gothic art. It also has one of the most extravagant collections of medieval stained glass of any German church.
The Old Stone Bridge, constructed in the 12th century, crosses the river into the Old Town. This old bridge has sixteen arches and is over 1,000 feet long! If you’re looking for a fun way to learn about the city, this sightseeing train tour is perfect for learning about the Old Town, Regensburg Cathedral, the Old Stone Bridge, and more!
If you’re looking for a combination of adventure, history, and natural beauty, you must visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Southern Germany. This city in the Bavarian Alps is a destination for hiking and winter sports like skiing and ice skating and is home to Germany’s highest peak. Partenkirchen has a more Bavarian feel with cobblestone streets, while Garmisch has a more modern feel.
There are so many impressive natural landmarks in this area, but the Partnach Gorge is one of the best. This wonder of nature features one of Southern Germany’s highest waterfalls, at over 200 feet tall!
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of the Bavarian Alps and Garmisch-Partenkirchen is on a gondola (cable car). There are many options depending on where you want to go and what you want to see!
If you’re looking for one of the most spectacular mountain peaks in Southern Germany, Zugspitze is it! However, if you want to experience a fantastic private tour, the Private Zugspitze Mountain Tour is an ideal way to explore the area’s beauty! It starts with a ride on the Zugspitze Cable Car and goes on a short journey to Austria before heading to the 1936 Olympic Ski Jump Stadium and the local chocolate shop.
And you can’t miss Linderhof Palace while you’re in the area. This 19th-century palace is like a mini Versailles, with unique fountains, gardens, sculptures, and the Venus Grotto.
The grotto was built to mimic the grotto of King Ludwig II, where he sailed his golden boat. There are many day trips to Linderhof Palace from large cities nearby, but if you’re staying in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it’s worth visiting!
If you’re planning a trip to Southern Germany, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is one of the top tourist destinations for winter sports, breathtaking views, and the Linderhof Palace.
Located on Lake Constance, Lindau is one of Southern Germany’s most popular tourist destinations. The island is known for its architecture, the clear waters of Lake Constance, stunning beaches, castles, medieval villages, and butterfly sanctuaries. It’s easily one of the most beautiful places in Southern Germany!
Lindau, Germany, is known for its historic Town Hall with a painted facade, located on the island, while the harbor has a massive stone lighthouse and a twenty-foot-tall lion statue, as well as mountain and lake views. Also on the harbor is a 12th century former watchtower with a pointed roof. One of the best ways to experience this wonderful town is an all-inclusive package with hotel, transportation, expert tour guides, and excursions included.
While you could spend your entire vacation in Lindau, many people take a road trip from Munich for a day or two since it’s only about two hours away. So this ninety-minute tour might be better if you want a brief overview of the sights!
Schwangau is a small town in Southern Germany famous for its beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle. Located in the Bavarian Alps, this fairy-tale castle was built in the late 19th century by King Ludwig II. It’s no surprise that Walt Disney used the Neuschwanstein Castle for inspiration when creating the castle in Sleeping Beauty!
This small village is one of the most beautiful places in Southern Germany, with its castles, spectacular mountain views, and beautiful countryside. Another famous castle nearby is the Hohenschwangau Castle, which was the childhood home of King Ludwig II. Visitors to the hilltop castle can see the ornately furnished rooms and envision the royal family’s life during the 19th century.
Since Munich is only an hour-and-a-half away, one of the best ways to experience all of the castles in this area is with a private skip-the-crowds tour from Munich. In addition, the expert tour guide can give you a lot of the history of the area while en route from one royal residence to the next.
See Related: Best & Most Beautiful Cities in Europe to Visit
10. Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is known for being one of the three German towns still with intact city walls. It’s also one of the most beautiful Bavarian towns, with cobbled streets, brightly colored homes, and adorable shops.
You shouldn’t miss viewing the Town Wall, with almost fifty towers and roughly 2.5 miles of covered walls. The Rothenburger Turmweg is a two-hour themed walk where you can learn about the towers, gates, and events over the last eight centuries.
The Town Hall is another beautiful Renaissance building in Southern Germany, with its 16th century main building at the front of the market square, a Baroque arcade at the bottom, and a tower above the arcade.
You can easily spend your entire vacation in this beautiful town on the Romantic Road, but it can also be a day trip from other cities in Southern Germany. But whether you’re in town for a day or a week, this private walking tour is one of the best ways to spend a few hours exploring Rothenburg.
Tourgoers will visit the Town Walls, the Medieval Crime Museum, the Church of St. James, and the Town Hall.
However, for a truly unique experience, this private nighttime tour has a “Night Watchman” that will tell you about the Black Death and medieval history while walking around Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Baden-Baden is a perfect road trip destination for many people in France, near the French border in Western Germany. Located in the Black Forest, this city is famous for its thermal baths, spas, and one of the oldest German casinos.
A visit to Baden-Baden isn’t complete without a trip to Lichtentaler Allee, a gorgeous garden following the Oos River. While it has beautiful views, if you want truly extraordinary views, you’ll want to take the Merkur Funicular Railway to the top of the mountain where the Merkur Tower is. At the top, you can eat at the restaurant, go hiking or walking, view wildlife, climb on the playground, or even go paragliding!
And if you want to see one of the oldest casinos in Germany, a trip to the Casino Baden-Baden is a must-do! You can tour the casino if you don’t want to gamble, but if you want to place any bets, there is a dress code.
While it’s not the tallest waterfall in Southern Germany, the Geroldsau Waterfall is almost twenty feet tall and located in the Northern Black Forest.
If you’re visiting Baden-Baden with your partner, you may want to consider learning about the romantic spots in this charming town with this romantic walking tour. Or, if you’d prefer to see all the historical sites, beautiful architecture, and amazing views of the Black Forest, this tour is a fantastic choice!
See Related: Best Parks in Germany to Visit
The beautiful city of Stuttgart is the capital of Baden-Wurttemberg and borders the Black Forest. It includes entertainment, culture, history, parks, and gardens, so there is something for everyone here!
Car lovers will appreciate the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums, but there is also a fantastic zoo and botanical garden called the Wilhelma that’s perfect for families. There are also many amazing parks, including Rosensteinpark, Killesbergpark, and Schlossgarten.
One of the easiest ways to get around town and see all the major attractions is the 24-Hour Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus. You can choose three different routes depending on your interests, with one of the routes being a wine tour!
Or, if you’d prefer a more intimate and private experience, this private Stuttgart tour can be customized to your needs, including city highlights, hidden gems, restaurants, and wineries.
Heidelberg is easily one of the top tourist destinations in Southern Germany, with the 13th-century Heidelberg Palace and the medieval Old Bridge. It’s also a college town, so it’s got an amazing library at Heidelberg University, with a treasure trove of books. Unlike many German cities, Heidelberg’s center remained intact after World War II, making the historical sites much more impressive.
The 13th-century Heidelberg Palace is the home to the largest wine barrel in the world, the Heidelberg Tun. There are also sculptures, special exhibitions, and elegant gardens to explore. Another must-see spot in Heidelberg is the Old Town, Alstadt, near Schloss Heidelberg.
The Old Town has cobblestone streets, historical landmarks, churches, and statues. Interestingly, the Alstadt has a mostly Baroque appearance because of fires during the Nine Years’ War in the late 17th century.
One of the best ways to experience Heidelberg is with a private tour, so you can learn about the city’s history from an expert. This private 3-hour tour covers all of the major attractions in Heidelberg, including the beautiful Old Bridge, the Church of the Spirit, and the Heidelberg Castle and Palace. And if you’d rather get your history from a brewery tour, this guided beer and Old Town tour is seriously fun, with six different stops. Prost!
14. Freiburg im Breisgau
While other towns in the Black Forest might be more popular, this university town is undeniably fun and scenic. Freiburg is known for its wine-growing region, Renaissance university, and proximity to the Black Forest. It also happens to be one of the warmest cities in Germany!
Much of the city was rebuilt after WWII, so you’ll notice various architectural stylings, from late Baroque to Gothic. One of the most distinctive landmarks in Freiburg is the Freiburg Munster, built during the 13th century. This cathedral somehow survived the WWII bombings, so visitors can see the Gothic bell tower and climb to the observation deck for panoramic views of the city.
In front of the cathedral is the cobblestone square, also known as Münsterplatz. This square has many historical buildings, including the Wentzinger House and the Merchants’ Hall.
Preserved since medieval times, Martin’s Gate is one of the city’s most notable landmarks. These two city gates were built in the 13th century and are still standing today.
And for some thrill-seeking, rollercoaster-riding fun, Freiburg im Breisgau is only 30 minutes from Europa Park, the largest theme park in Germany, and a popular spot for families!
This small city has so much history to learn, so why not learn from an expert? This historic city center tour is perfect for those that want to visit local historical sites and learn about Freiburg’s history. Or, if you’re looking to find the most Instagram-worthy spots in Freiburg, this tour is quite literally for you!
Located in Southern Germany toward Konigssee lies Berchtesgaden, the city with the highest waterfall and a scenic spot in the mountains called the Eagle’s Nest. Originally, the city was known for its salt mines, but it’s now a destination for adventure seekers and nature lovers!
To see the Röthbachfall, the highest waterfall in Germany, it’s best to take an electric boat across the lake to Salet and then hike up to the Obersee. This waterfall has a vertical drop of over 1,500 feet!
Many people overlook Berchtesgaden because nearby Salzburg, Austria is the more popular town, but Berchtesgaden has a lot to offer. Some of the best panoramic views are here at the Eagle’s Nest, where you can see up to 120 miles away! If interested in WWII history, this half-day tour takes you to Eagle’s Nest and other historical sites hidden on the mountain.
Salt mining has been the primary industry in Berchtesgaden since the 12th century. Many visitors love to visit the salt mines, where kids can slide down the wooden slides in a miner’s jumpsuit! The Bavarian Salt Mine Tour is one of Berchtesgaden’s most highly-rated tours!