Munich is strategically located in the middle of Europe – a truly awesome starting point for all who want to explore Central Europe. It’s crazy to think about it, but you can reach up to 10 countries within 5 hours and that’s only overland travel – by train, bus or car. You don’t even need to go that far – some places can be reached faster than the train ride to the airport and are perfect for a day trip.
Day trip ideas from Munich
Of course I have a bias towards this region, as I currently live here, but that doesn’t change the fact. I can say for sure that there are so many cool places around Munich to go on a short day trip that if I would be having a one-day stopover here I would want to extend my journey. Scroll down for my top 15 ideas on where to go for a short day trip.
Side note: I really suggest using the rail wherever possible – for a price of 49 euros you can get an unlimited travel daily ticket for 5 people valid on all regional trains (except high-speed trains, like IC, ICE and RJ). You can buy it at any ticket machine, just look for “Bayern ticket” and input the number of travelers (more info here). Alternatively, of course, you can rent a car and go to all “harder to reach” locations.
1. Explore the vineyards of lake Constance
If you’re like me – enjoy water, wind, fresh air and awesome views – then you should definitely head over to lake Constance first.
The lake, also referred to as Bodensee, is quite unique – it has Germany on one side, Switzerland on another side and Austria on the third. It’s a go-to holiday location for many locals and has the best SPA centers in the region.
If you’re coming by bus, you can either make a stop at Friedrichshafen (sort of a “capital” of Bodensee region), or at Meersburg (from here you can take the ferry to the other side if you wish).
If you’re coming by car, just drive along the German coast and make a stop wherever you prefer. The whole coast is filled with vineyards and in summer it’s the best place for snapping pictures.
2. Spend a day at one of Konstanz SPA
If you take the ferry to the other side of the lake, you’ll find yourself in the university city of Konstanz, right next to Switzerland. If you walk far enough – you can easily cross a border.
You can spend a day walking around the old town and the promenade, or enjoy the day at the SPA. I personally recommend Bodensee-Therme, an all-day SPA on the city’s East coast. You can sit in a sauna with a never-ending view over the lake.
Just one thing to remember about German saunas – those are common saunas where bathing suits are not welcome. So yes, men and women sit together either naked (like most people do there) or cover themselves with a towel.
Bonus tip: if you’re coming by car and staying more than one day, I really suggest you drive to the Swiss town of Neuhausen am Rheinfall. It’s home to Rhine falls, the biggest waterfall in Europe.
3. Make a roadtrip to Liechtenstein
If you’re on a mission to visit all countries in Europe, you should definitely rent a car and drive to one of the world’s smallest countries – Liechtenstein. Visiting this place by public transport is not so easy and would definitely take much longer.
Vaduz – the capital of Liechtenstein – is a rather small and peaceful city with few tourists. There’s also not much to do as the key place of interest – the Vaduz castle – is the residence of royal family and, therefore, closed to admission.
I didn’t find much to do in the city, apart from taking photos and wandering around, which took a grand total of 4 hours. I would have stayed more, but I passed so many beautiful places on the way from Munich that I wanted to spend even more time on the road.
4. Explore Bavarian castles
Bavaria is the land of kings where the most known is king Ludwig II who had a vision to build most beautiful castles. In fact, Neuschwanstein castle that he has built on the cliff has been a “role model” for the Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle (I’ve written about it previously here).
It will be hard to visit all castles due to logistics, but I would definitely devote a day to visit the Neuschwanstein castle and the Linderhof palace (the small castle hidden between the mountains where Ludwig II spent most of his time) and on another day would go to see the Herrenchiemsee castle which is located on an island on the lake Chiemsee, East of Munich.
Bonus tip 1: On the way back from the Linderhof palace make a stop at the Oberammergau village where houses are painted with biblical tales.
Bonus tip 2: If you’re coming by car, do make a detour from Linderhof palace or Neuschwanstein castle to Austria and make a stop at Plansee, It’s a mountain lake with crystal clear water and amazing view on the valley, followed by a scenic drive through a mountain pass.
5. Get active at Tegernsee
If you’re looking for some active leisure, the best place to enjoy it would be at Tegernsee – just one hour train ride would allow you to enjoy cross country skiing in winter and all you can possibly think of in summer (mountain biking, swimming, running, hiking)
6. Climb a mountain, ride a mountain bike
Speaking of hiking or mountain biking, you can do that almost anywhere around Munich – luckily Alps are just one-hour stone throw away.
Hikes can range everywhere from 500 vertical meters that will take you just 1-2 hours to the top to more challenging ones that will take you 4+ hours of climbing.
Those looking for longer hikes can climb the Demeljoch mountain which is located close to Austrian border and provides an awesome view on the Sylvensteinsee.
7. Hike to the Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden
If you’re looking for an even more spectacular places to hike I suggest you visit the most Southeastern part of Germany which is almost surrounded by Austria.
There, on a lonely cliff Hitler has built a “tea house” for himself where he would welcome high-ranked guests.
You can hike if you want, which will be somewhere around 3 hours, or you can also take the bus to the mountain’s upper part and an elevator to the very top that provides a 360-degree view on the surrounding area.
8. Swim in the lake of kings at Konigsee
Now if you’re already in the region, head over to the coast of lake Konigsee, located just several kilometers away from Berchtesgaden, and take a swim surrounded by alpine peaks. The water is rather cold, even in summer, but as someone said, you can’t come to the lake of kings and not swim there.
If you have enough time, have a boat tour around the lake as the most beautiful part of it is hidden from the plain sight.
9. Listen to sounds of music in Salzburg
There is a reason why Salzburg is called “city of Music”. Wherever you go there will be someone playing a musical instrument or at least the recording of such will be heard. It gives the city a special feel and atmosphere – almost as if you’re part of the world’s most known musical “Sounds of music” which, by the way, pictures the life in Salzburg back in the days.
If you plan on going there, avoid going by car on a weekend – it’s a popular destination from Munich and the road can be quite crowded (not mentioning the extra you’ll spend on parking). The journey by train will be less than 2 hours and as Salzburg is small, everything is reachable by foot.
10. Spend a lazy morning at Ammersee or Starnberger see
If don’t want to go too far away there are alternatives even closer to Munich – grab a coffee at the central station and enjoy the short 20 to 30 minute ride to either Ammersee or Starnberger see – two lakes on the West and Southwest of Munich where you can wander around and enjoy a nice breakfast or lunch (whatever you fancy).
If you’ve heard the story of Sissi (Empress Elizabeth of Austria, half-sister of King Ludwig I of Bavaria), then you can pay a visit to Possenhoffen which is the place she grew up in.
11. Explore Andechs monastery and drink the beer brewed by monks
Actually, if you plan on going to Ammersee you should consider a visit to the Andechs monastery, where monks are brewing their own beer. You can take both the tour of the monastery and the brewery (more info here).
From Munich take the S8 train all the way to Herrsching and from there it’s around 1 hour uphill walk to the monastery.
12. Visit one of Northern-Bavaria towns
If you’re the city breaks kind of traveler, I suggest you take the regional train to one of other Bavarian towns – Nuremberg, Passau or Regensburg.
Each of those will provide a different experience, but you’ll see that people are still quite relaxed and very friendly.
13. Go skiing or snowboarding
If you’re into winter sports and happen to be in Munich in winter – definitely go for a day trip to the mountains.
Instead of going through the hassle of looking for transportation, renting the car and/or looking for accommodation, I suggest you book an all-inclusive bus trip to one of the bigger resorts. There are daily bus tours every weekend that leave from Munich, get you to one of major resorts (mostly Austria, but also Switzerland), give you a ski pass, drive you back home and even provide coffee and mini breakfast on the way.
Search for skibus-muenchen, or rather Studenten im Schnee (my personal favorite – you also get a bottle of beer and usually a nice after party in the bus on the way back).
14. Explore olympic town Garmisch-Partenkirchen
If you don’t really know what you want to do, you can head over to the Olympic town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and decide there.
Here you can do almost anything – hike, mountain bike, explore the city, ski and so on. In fact, it’s one the best places to learn to ski, as the slopes are not so difficult and prices are much cheaper than in Austria.
If you go further to Ehrwald, you’ll find yet another awesome lake with crystal clear water and a couple of guest houses and hotels on the coast with mountain views. In addition, you can make a trip to the top of Zugspitze – the highest mountain of Germany at 2,962 meters above sea level. For that you can buy a combined ticket that includes train ride to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and a scenic train ride or a cable car (buying the ticket on the spot will be more expensive).
15. Make a weekend trip to Zurich, Prague, Innsbruck or Milan
These cities are slightly further away from Munich and, even though still doable in one day, would require slightly more time to explore. All of those are around 3 hour drive or 4 hours by bus. If you leave early enough, you’ll still have a day to walk around the city and see major sights before boarding an evening or night bus back.
That’s all fifteen and most are in Bavaria. Munich by itself is a rather small city to spend too much time in, so make sure you leave at least a day or two to travel around and see where the real beauty of Bavaria and neighboring lands is.