Things to Do in Bavaria
Located close to the Austrian border and soaring to a height of 9,718 feet (2,962 meters), the snow-crowned Zugspitze is Germany's highest mountain and one of its most popular ski resorts. The views from the top are spectacular, spanning the German and Austrian Alps.
A vast tract of untended land southeast of Nuremberg's medieval city center, the Nazi Party Rally Grounds were once the stage for some of Adolf Hitler's most infamous and dangerous speeches during the rise of the Third Reich. The nearby Documentation Center museum chronicles the terrors inflicted by the Nazi party during World War II.
The Old Stone Bridge in Regensburg, Germany is a medieval bridge that was constructed in a Romanesque style in the mid 1100s. It crosses the Danube River connecting the old town to the Stadtamhof, and for more than 800 years, it was the city's only bridge across the river. For several centuries, Regensburg was a major center of trade and government due to this bridge because it was the only crossing over the Danube between Ulm, Germany and Vienna, Austria.
Visitors today can see 15 arches on the bridge, although there once was a 16th arch. Three towers were once connected to the bridge, but one was damaged by ice and torn down in the late 1700s and another was damaged during the war in 1810 and torn down. One tower remains, the Schuldturm, on the city side of the bridge, and it is now a museum. On this tower you can see two clocks and a painting depicting the 30 Year Battle. Although vehicles were once allowed on the bridge, it is now a pedestrian and bicycle bridge.
With its snow-white limestone facade and fanciful turrets peeking out from the forested mountain tops of the Hohenschwangau valley, Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein) could easily have been lifted from the pages of a fairy tale. In a way, it has—the German castle famously inspired Disney'sSleeping Beauty castle.
Built in 1120, Imperial Castle of Nuremberg (Kaiserburg) was once a residence for kings of the Holy Roman Empire. Despite suffering damage over the years (especially during WWII), the castle has been carefully restored to showcase its original Gothic and Romanesque architecture.
The Regensburg Cathedral is the most important church in the city and is dedicated to St. Peter. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Regensburg and its two tall spires can be seen from all around the city. It is one of the best examples of Gothic church architecture in Bavaria. Though a church was once at this location since the year 700, the one that you see today was completed in the early 1300s. Over the centuries the cathedral underwent several renovations including the addition of Baroque elements.
On the north side of the cathedral you can visit the Bishop's Palace, which is now the Treasury Museum. The square to the west is called Domplatz. The west portal of the cathedral is decorated with arches, canopies, and several sculptures depicting scenes from the bible. Nearly 100 images of St. Peter can be found both outside and inside the cathedral. Visitors can also admire the large number of detailed stained glass windows that have managed to survive since the Middle Ages.
With its glassy blue waters framed by jagged mountains and lush alpine meadows, King’s Lake (Königssee) is one of Bavaria’s most beautiful. The natural wonder lies within Berchtesgaden National Park, offering a majestic backdrop for hiking and cruises.
Located on a hilltop over the Alpsee and Schwansee lakes, the Hohenschwangau Castle (Schloss Hohenschwangau) is a dramatic 19th-century fortress built by the king of Bavaria. Often overshadowed by its neighbor, the Neuschwanstein Castle, the Hohenschwangau is worth a visit for its dazzling interior decor and striking views of the Alpsee and surrounding mountains.
The Hauptmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany is the city's main square, and it is located near the Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady. Crowds gather here at noon to witness the clock's figures performing Männleinlaufen, or Little Men Dancing, up in the clock tower. One of the main features of the square is the Schönen Brunnen fountain with intricately detailed sculptures carved onto the sides. The church and the fountain were built in the 14th century and are important pieces of the square, although the fountain you see today is a replica. The original is held in the German National Museum for safekeeping.
This is the city's main outdoor market where you can find fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, bread, flowers, crafts, and other local goods. Several cafes and restaurants are located on and near the square, and several pedestrian streets lined with stores connect with the square, making this a nice area to go shopping. In December you'll find Christmas markets set up in this square.
The city of Nuremberg is one of the most walkable cities in Bavaria, and its second-largest. The old city (Altstadt), which was bombed flat during WWII, has since been completely restored to its original state. Unlike many other German cities rebuilt in the 1950s with ‘modern’ architecture, Nuremberg captured its original, quaint atmosphere during the rebuild — but with beautiful new buildings. Most of the city’s attractions are located in the compact Altstadt, which is located inside the city’s medieval walls.
In the middle of the Altstadt is the central square (Hauptmarkt), home to the Frauenkirche: a 14th-century Gothic church. The Hauptmarkt also has a gorgeous gilded fountain with tiers of figures called the Schöner Brunnen. At noon every day, you can watch the church clock’s figures do a little dance. Be sure to touch the golden ring on the wrought-iron gate for good luck. The Altstadt is rich with restaurants of all calibers: from the humble Donair-kebab to the Michelin-starred, there’s something for every palate.
More Things to Do in Bavaria
A public plaza in the center of Munich, Marienplatz is full of history—it’s been the city’s main square and central heart of Munich’s Old Town (Altstadt) since 1158. Marienplatz is a popular gathering spot and possibly the busiest location in all of Munich, with crowds of locals and tourists visiting its landmarks, shops, and restaurants on foot from early morning until late at night.
Among the most scenic historic towns in the Bavarian Alps, Oberammergau is known for its traditional wood carving and the colorful frescoes that adorn its centuries-old buildings. However, the town’s biggest claim to fame is the Passion Play—held every 10 years and dating to 1634, the performance tells the story of Jesus’ last days.
Famous for his delicate and anatomically precise etchings, woodcuts and prints, Albrecht Dürer was a Northern Renaissance artist who lived all his life in Nuremberg between 1471 and 1528. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the city became one of Germany’s most successful commercial centers and also the focus of a great artistic flowering. Dürer was at the heart of this creative movement, visiting the great Renaissance cities of Italy, regularly attending courts of European royalty and revolutionizing printmaking. His iconic works include The Apocalypse, a number of self-portraits, books on the human anatomy and many sublime animal prints as well as friezes for civic halls in Nuremberg and altar pieces in Prague.
The Albrecht Dürer's House is afachwerkhaus, a half-timbered townhouse with a steep wooden roof and of an architectural style seen all over Bavaria. This is where he lived for many years and has been restored to its original 16th-century state; a costumed guide in the guise of his wife takes English-speaking tours from room to room, explaining the mechanics of life in the Dürer household. Printmakers work in the top-floor studio and reproductions of Dürer’s art are on display throughout the museum.
Hemmed in by Italianesque palaces, grand concert halls, and Baroque churches—Odeonsplatz is a testament to Munich’s storied past and the site of some of the city’s key historic events. At the northern end of Munich Old Town (Altstadt), the busy public square is the gateway to the Hofgarten gardens and the Munich Residenz.
Inspired by the Palace of Versailles in France, Bavaria’s 19th-century Linderhof Castle is one of the country’s most magnificent structures. The smallest in a trio of elaborate royal palaces built by King Ludwig II (also known as the “Mad King”), Linderhof was the only one he saw completed.
The ornate Schöner Brunnen is a landmark fountain in the cobbled Market Square (Hauptmarkt) of Nuremberg’s medieval Altstadt (Old Town). Created by local stonemason Heinrich Beheimby, it is a highly decorative, three-tiered masterpiece of religious imagery, adorned with 40 gaily colored, sculpted figures representing characters from the Holy Roman Empire.
At 62 feet (19 meters) high, the fountain has been restored several times over the centuries, and most of its original stone carvings are now preserved in the German National Museum (Germanisches Nationalmuseum). The wrought-iron fence that surrounds the Gothic fountain was designed by Paulus Kühn of Augsburg in 1587 and has a famous golden handle that must be twisted for good luck.
The Market Square itself is lined with multi-gabled townhouses and the ornate façade of the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), the site of a daily food market, as well as the famous Nuremberg Christmas Market (Christkindlesmarkt), which sees visitors pour in from all over Europe.
Munich's historic Victuals Market is the city’s main destination for gourmet Bavarian goods. Its stalls—many family-run for generations—overflow with exotic fruits, fresh vegetables, truffles, flowers, spices, sausages and hams, artisanal cheeses, honey, and much more. Snack as you go or gather items for a picnic at the nearby park.
The former royal palace of the Bavarian monarch, the Munich Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and is open to visitors to see its spectacularly adorned rooms and royal collections. The complex of buildings in the Munich Residenz contains 10 courtyards and the museum displays 130 rooms. The three main parts of the Residenz are the Königsbau, the Alte Residenz, and the Festsaalbau, which is also home to the Cuvillies Theatre.
Get a feel for palace life in the Residenz museum which features the collections of porcelain, silver, paintings, and classical antiquities amassed by the Wittelsbach monarchs. The Antiquarium's Renaissance collections is especially breath-taking. Step outside the elaborately decorated rooms to the beautiful Court Garden or check out the Treasury (Schatzkammer) for a display of the royal jewels, gold objects, and ivory.
The oldest church in Munich, St. Peter's Church, or Peterskirche, is a Roman Catholic establishment built in the 12th century in the Bavarian Romanesque style. The interior of the church features the magnificent Mariahilf-Altar, Gothic paintings & sculptures, and a ceiling fresco. But even these beautiful works of art can't top the bizarre gem-studded skeleton of St. Mundita, who stares at visitors with false eyes and jeweled teeth.
From the spire of "Old Peter", as the church is known to the locals, are spectacular views of the oldest part of Munich. Remember to check the colored rings at the bottom, a white ring means the Alps are visible, making the hike to the top even more worthwhile. Although the spire was almost completely destroyed duringWorld War II, it was fully restored with the traditional architechture.
One of the largest urban parks in the world, the English Garden (Englischer Garten) is Munich’s most popular green space, boasting over 48 miles (78 kilometers) of walking and cycling trails. It offers plenty to explore, including a Japanese teahouse, a boating lake, and traditional beer gardens.
King's Square (Königsplatz) was initially built to serve the urban notions
of King Ludwig I, who wished to integrate culture, administration, Christianity and Bavarian military in one massive green space. The king opted for a European Neoclassic style based on the Acropolis in Athens. He even had two museums built in the same style; first was the Glyptothek, where he could house his sprawling collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, and second, the Bavarian State Collection of Antiques, which contains Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts. King Ludwig I also commissioned the Propylaea, an imposing and austere gate which served as a memorial to his son, the Bavarian prince Otto of Greece.
Despite this architectural and urban prowess, the square is now infamous for being the place where the Nazi party held marches and mass rallies during the Holocaust. In fact, the national headquarters of the Nazi party, the Brown House, was located on Brienner Straße just off the square. It was even featured in a Nazi propaganda film, The March to the Führer. Two temples were built on Königsplatz to honor the 16 Nazis killed in the failed coup attempt by Adolf Hitler to seize power in 1923 – they were later on destroyed (except for their platforms, which are still visible today) as part of Munich’s denazification by the US Army in 1947.
However, not all Nazi constructions were systematically demolished; the Führerbau, for example, where the Munich Agreement was signed in 1938, still exists to this day and houses a music school.
Today, Königsplatz has returned to its pre‐war appearance and remains one of Munich’s most significant attractions. It is now regarded as the center of Munich’s museum quarter, the Kunstareal.
A Munich landmark, the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady (Frauenkirche) features two 325-foot (99-meter) towers topped by spherical domes. According to local ordinance, no other building in the city may be taller than this, preserving the cathedral’s central position on the skyline of Bavaria’s capital.
With a lacy rose window and delicate religious statuary, the fancy Gothic façade of St. Lorenz Lutheran Church dominates Nuremberg’s Altstadt (Old Town) with its landmark copper-topped twin spires and began life as a Catholic church. When the Reformation came in the early 16th century, St. Lorenz soon became one of the most important Lutheran churches in Bavaria and also one of the very few with its rich hoard of treasures still intact.
Construction began on the church in 1270 and lasted for more than two centuries; its interior is a mass of pale-gray marble with a net-vaulted ceiling and soaring columns, with three aisles liberally stacked with masterly artworks. Light floods in behind the choir through the delicate stained-glass windows and the pulpits gleam with gold and gilt, but of most note are the intricate sculpture of the Annunciation above the altar by 16th-century artist Veit Stoss, who also created the figure of Archangel Michael standing proud in the nave. The painted panels on the choir are the work of Michael Wolgemut, a printmaker whose most famous pupil was Albrecht Dürer.
Badly damaged during WWII bombing raids by the Allies, the church was restored and re-consecrated in 1952. Midday organ and choir recitals are often held here and tours of the towers are available.
At 80 sq km (31 square miles) Chiemsee is the largest lake in Bavaria, fed by the snowmelt water of the rivers Prien Tiroler and Achen, which drain the lake on its northern shores as the Alz.
Attractions around Chiemsee include the house designed by flamboyant Secessionist artist Julius Exter in the lakeside resort of Übersee-Feldwies; surrounded by colorful gardens, the house is ornately decorated with wrought-iron balconies and many of his paintings are displayed in his former studio.
There is also a retrospective exhibition of Exter’s vivid landscapes in the Baroque Augustinian Monastery on Herrenchiemsee, an island in the middle of Chiemsee. Also located on the same island is the extravagant Herrenchiemsee New Palace, built in the style of Versailles for King Ludwig II, who reigned over Bavaria between 1865–86; a small museum in the palace details his short but eccentric life.
Frauenchiemsee is the second islet on Chiemsee, home to one of the oldest monasteries in Germany. It was founded back in 782 and flourished for the most part for the next millennia before being rebuilt in Baroque style in the 17th century, although parts still date from medieval times.
As well as its manmade landmarks, Chiemsee is popular with walkers and cyclists for its natural beauty; surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Alps, the shoreline is protected as the wetland home of several endangered species of wading birds.
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