Are you wanting to plan an epic Germany Itinerary but not sure where to start?
I collected info on some of the best things to do in Southern Germany and combined them into an epic two week Germany Itinerary that includes some main attractions in France, Switzerland, and Austria.
Germany itinerary: 2 weeks
Sound like a lot of travel in just two weeks? Germany Austria Switzerland France are all located in central Europe and are all quite close so they make a tidy little driving route.
All of this can be done in a 10 day or 14 day trip. I have worked this into a 2 week itinerary for you but doing this Europe trip in 10 days is actually ample time but you won’t be able to see it all.
This itinerary is packed full. Yes it was tiring, but there’ll be plenty of time to rest afterwards!
Travel style for this trip
dense forests, dreamy castles, cobbled streets, river valleys with lazy winding rivers, alpine lakes, mountains, waterfalls and much more!
All of the towns are smaller towns, no big cities. Unless you decide to make your way to bigger cities like Köln as add-ons, Strasbourg France (pop. 278,000) is the largest city on the itinerary.
Where to stay?
I’m only going to recommend a few choice spots because I am confident that you are capable of choosing your own accommodations. My favorite place to search accommodations is booking.com.
Total drive time for the entire trip: less than 20 hours
This route was planned to be as efficient as possible adding as many highlights as possible with as little driving as possible.
You get an incredible bang for your buck, seeing some of Europe’s best attractions, in a very reasonable amount of drive time.
It’s affordable and efficient, but you’re at the mercy of transit schedules.
HOWEVER this trip can be done by train, but you may need to make choices because regional trains and buses can be slow.
You can explore route options at the Deutsche Bahn website but I find it easier to use Google Maps to plan train travel. You might find my introductory blog on public transit helpful: Public Transportation For Beginners.
A road trip is the best way to do this trip. If you have reservations about driving in Germany don’t. With some preparation, you won’t have any trouble.
1-Do yourself a big favor and add the GPS onto your car rental, or bring one along. We have this GPS unit from Garmin (purchase Europe maps separately.)
2- You may need an International Driving Permit permit to drive in Europe. Get one at your local AAA office.
3-Rental Car: I like to start my search at Booking.com or Expedia to get an idea of which companies are offering the best rates and then make my way to the rental car company website to do further research and book with the company directly.
One of the easiest and best places to pick up a rental car is at the airport.
Arriving in Germany
Our adventure starts at Frankfurt International Airport (FRA.) I normally find the best flight times/schedules and rates flying into and out of Frankfurt International. (not to be confused with Frankfurt-Hahn Airport HHN.)
enough of the technical stuff! let’s get started on the fun stuff!
Rhine River Valley
Our trip itinerary starts (and ends) in Germany. First up is the beautiful Rhine River.
(Drive to Rheinstein Castle in the Rhine River Valley for our first stop on the Germany itinerary)
The Rhine River for castles and a cruise! The Rhine river winds lazily through Germany, its banks littered with castles and adorable villages.
The Rhine River is almost 800 miles long but the most scenic section spans a mere 50 miles, from Bingen to Koblenz.
Cute little Rheinstein Castle is immaculate, compact, and almost homey. It was built in 1316, has a drawbridge, portcullis, a courtyard with a lush garden, and 500-year-old grape vines that still produce grapes…and fantastic views of the Rhine!
(Next drive to Bacharach)
Rhine River Cruise
Our next stop is in the tiny town of Bacharach for a short but sweet cruise down the Rhine River.
The KD (Koln-Dusseldorer) Line cruise of the Rhine, round trip from Bacharach to Sankt Goar is a good option for a short 45 minute each way pleasant and relaxing ride down the river.
My husband enjoyed his very first beer in Germany, my sister-in-law a glass of wine, while I drank up the atmosphere of the beautiful Rhine River.
(photo credits: Nick Kunze and Angela M. Kunze)
The cruise stops in St. Goar where you’ll have a 2 hour and 20 minute wait for your return boat to Bacharach, enough time for lunch if you didn’t already eat, and to visit Rheinfels castle.
Rheinfels Castle ruins
This castle was built in 1245 AD. Not only is it the best castle ruin on the river it is also still the largest castle on the Rhine. The castle was once 5 times its current size, and successfully withstood an army of 28,000 French soldiers. Impressive!
There’s a tourist train that will take you up to Rheinfels Castle, or take the nature trail up (15 minutes each way.)
Where to stay night #1:
Want to stay in a castle? There are 3 fabulous opportunities for an overnight stay in a castle in this section of the Rhine River. Burg Rheinstein, Burg Reichenstein, and Castlehotel Schönburg. Each has romantic views overlooking the Rhine River.
drive time for the day:
approximately 1 hour 10 minutes
Rhine and Moselle River Valley
Take a look at the map of the best of the Rhine and fill this day however you please.
Spend a little more time exploring the surrounding area villages of Bacharach, Sankt Goar (originated in Celtic times,) and Oberwesel (more of a town than a village vibe than the other two but it was a Celtic town way back in 400 BC.)
Choose some of your favorite castles. All of the ones shown on this map are good choices.
(Drive to Cochem Germany)
Moselle River Valley
Unique dining opportunity: If you can make it work with your schedule, reserve a table at Alte Muhle Thomas Horeth restaurant. You’ll find it’s an easy stop between the River Rhine and Cochem. The restaurant is located in a 1,000 year old mill! Reserve a table in the wine cellar!
Total Drive time for the day:
approx. 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on where you decide to overnight along the Rhine and which sites you choose to visit on day 2.
Where to stay day 2 and 3:
Cochem and Burg Eltz Castles
The Moselle River meanders through Germany, France, Luxembourg and Belgium and is lined with terraced vineyards, castles, and picture perfect little wine villages with half-timbered houses.
The small town of Cochem sits on either side of the Moselle River. This charming little village, with its medieval town center, has a population of 5,000, but during the day is quite popular with tourists and river cruise passengers.
Evenings are pleasantly quiet and nighttime in Cochem is a treat, the perfect place for an evening stroll. The lights from the town reflect off of the river and the castle up on the hill, warmly lit and glowing, is a bit reminiscent of Hogwarts.
You’ll need to get an early start to hit both of these castles in one day. Try to be at Reichsburg Castle as soon as it opens.
Reichsburg Castle, this Gothic beauty sits majestically on a hill overlooking Cochem and the Mosel River. The first historical mention of the castle was in the year 1130, but was destroyed and was rebuilt in 1868. You can hike up to the castle, or take the shuttle bus up the hill.
Burg Eltz Castle
A trip to the stunning 865 year old Burg (Castle) Eltz will transport you back to medieval times. The castle is currently owned and occupied by the same families who have owned it since it was built!
Getting there by train: You can drive to the castle BUT… you can also take the regional trains from Cochem to Mosellkern and from there take an idyllic 1.5-hour walk through the forest to the castle. It’s an easy half hours train ride.
The trail through the woods and your first peek at the castle..
Get full details on visiting Burg Eltz in my complete visitor’s guide to Burg Eltz.
where to eat in Cochem:
Alte Wein Wirtschaf-Cochem has a rustic wine cellar vibe. Their Rahmschnitzel (a schnitzel with a creamy mushroom sauce) was seriously tasty!
Total Drive time for the day:
none! Enjoy the short but scenic train ride! Otherwise, 1 hour if you decide to drive to the castle.
Have more time?
Cologne (Köln) Germany . If you have more time to spend on your Germany trip and don’t mind larger cities, the beautiful 2,000 year old city of Cologne is an easy day trip from the train station in Cochem and worth visiting.
Population: approx. 1 million. It’s a 2-2.5 hour train ride, faster by car but you’ll be dealing with traffic and parking.
The top site in the beautiful city of Cologne, the Cologne Cathedral, is a world heritage site. Construction began on this massive gothic cathedral in 1248 and ended some 500 years later.
There are 24 museums as well as a historic old town and Roman Ruins. And much more! Explore all of Cologne’s many attractions on the tripadvisor site.
***Day 4 and Day 5***
(Drive to Strasbourg France)
You’re in Western Germany and the trip down south to our next stops will take you oh so close to France so why not add it!?
Our France itinerary takes us to the Alsace region of France. Control of Alsace has alternated between France and Germany throughout the centuries and so it has a perfectly charming mix of the two. Today the Alsace region it is located in France.
Strasbourg France is a small city by world standards with a population of 277,000, is the biggest city on our itinerary.
Notre Dame Cathedral
(Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg) is one of the tallest churches in Europe. The Gothic / Romanesque Strasbourg Cathedral was once the tallest building in the word. A UNESCO World Heritage site it is now the 6th tallest church in the world.
if you happen to be visiting from late November through the month of December Strasbourg has one of Europe’s best Christmas Markets!
Alsatian Museum will transport you back in history through a series of reconstructed historically decorated rooms.
Alsace after dark
Alsace is romantically lit at night. Be sure to get out for a stroll after the sun goes down.
boat ride on the river Ill
Take a boat ride on the River Ill. Boats run year round and take you on a 70 minute ride down the river, around the Grand Isl (another UNESCO site) and back to your original destination.
La Petite France
La Petite France, located on the Grand Isl, is a charming medieval quarter of half-timbered houses overlooking the Ill River. Slow down the pace and explore the nooks and crannies of this picturesque little spot.
Total drive time for the day
3 hours 30 minutes day 1, zero on day two! Enjoy exploring Strasbourg by foot or take a tour out into wine country. (Alsace is the wine region of France)
where to stay night 4 and night 5:
The Black Forest
(Back to Germany! drive to Triberg Germany. This is your longest travel day so you’ll want to get an early start.)
The black Forest (Schwartzwald!)
When in Germany, a trip to the Black Forest is practically obligatory. The Black Forest (Schwartzwald) is known for it’s dense forests, cute villages, cuckoo clocks and of course delicious Black Forest Cake.
Triberg is a cute colorful little village in The Black Forest and is a great place to stop for a little taste of all of those things!
The Triberg waterfall is touted as the highest in Germany. An immaculate little trail though the forest leads you from town the short distance to the waterfall. You’ll be surrounded by babbling brooks and moss covered rocks. If you care to linger a bit longer there are additional trails that surround the waterfall.
Black Forest Cake There are plenty of places in town to get a taste of the famed Black Forest Cake that originated in this area. Just stop into any of the cafes or bakeries as you stroll through town shopping for cuckoo clocks.
You’ll find all of the ins and outs of visiting Triberg in my article titled:
(Let’s head to Switzerland! Continue your drive south to Wasserauen. Don’t forget to stop and purchase a Swiss Vignette sticker (like a toll pass.) At around 40 CHF it’s a bit pricey but it’s Switzerland…everything is.)
Have more time?
Have more time and need more ideas? Lake Constance Before you cross over from Switzerland into Germany you will be driving near lake Constance (Konstanz) known as Bodensee in German if you have worked the time into your itinerary it makes a good addition.
Total drive time for the day
4 hours (without a stop over at the lake)
where to stay night 6:
The adorable little alpine hotel Hotel Alpenrose is within walking distance of Ebenalp Cable car and offers spacious rooms with balconies facing the mountains. Open your balcony door for the relaxing sounds of water running off of the mountain.
A little Switzerland on the side! Switzerland is one of the most beautiful, peaceful and stunning places on planet earth and the next stop on our itinerary is certainly no exception! Not only is the scenery stunning but it doesn’t seem to be crowded which in my opinion makes it even more appealing.
Switzerland is extraordinary and it is also one of the most expensive places to travel to but totally worth it so let’s add a little Switzerland into our itinerary!
If there is one thing you are almost guaranteed to not like about your time in Switzerland is that it wasn’t long enough!
Berggasthaus Aescher is a hotel built into the side of a mountain in Switzerland. Take the Ebenalp cable car up to the top of Ebenalp Mountain and then hike back down, stopping at the stunning Eibsee Lake, for a fabulous day of adventure and outstanding natural beauty!
Berggasthaus Aescher is a quirky little hotel and restaurant built into the side of Ebenalp Mountain. If you get to the top and the morning fog has not yet lifted, head to Berggasthaus Aescher, and enjoy some refreshments while you wait out the fog. We shared a cheesy potato dish common to the region called Rosti. My husband enjoyed a warm liquor coffee drink, while the rest of us sipped hot tea.
Wildkirchli is a 400 year old cave church on Ebenalp. If you happen to find yourself at the top of Ebenalp on a Sunday you are in for a treat of a different kind. The church choir gathers at Berggasthaus Aescher before church services to practice their hymns, a heavenly sound somewhere between a hymn and a yodel. Still waiting out the fog? The congregation welcomes visitors to their services which are in German. Hear the glorious voices of the swiss mountain choir on my Youtube Channel! and follow this link to see the video of church services.
Head on down the mountain but be cautious, the steep trails are a little treacherous and wet but are peaceful and the views are stunning!
About midway down the mountain is the stunningly beautiful Seealpsee Lake. The tiny lake is a stunning shade of emerald green, surrounded by a walking trail, and has a snow peaked mountain in the background.
Read my Ebenalp / Seealpsee article here: Wasserauen Ebenalp Mountain Switzerland: unique experiences and stunning scenery!
When in Rome….I mean Switzerland!
Two of the things that Switzerland is known for are fondue and chocolate. Give them a try!
Now back to Germany! drive to Fussen Germany
where to stay nights 7, 8, 9, 10
Fussen makes a very good home base. Get on over to Booking.com and find something that fits your style!
Drive time for the day
2 hours 10 minutes
keep reading on the next page!