Popular Destinations

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Contents

Germany

This section is arranged primarily using the German Federal States. There are officially 16 "Länder", but we take some liberty as a few destinations border two separate states and others are grouped for convenience.

Bavaria

Munich

Munich (München) should not just be thought of as a place to merely pick up your new BMW. Plan to spend at least a few days in the city, enjoying the museums, shopping, food, Bier, and atmosphere. Marienplatz is the center of a major Fußgängerzone (pedestrian zone) and the city´s Rathaus (city hall). The Englischer Garten (English Garden) is a very large park in the center of the city and the Chinesischer Turm is the site of a wonderful Biergarten in the park.

The Nürburgring, aka The Ring, aka Green Hell. Contact in Nuerburg: Ed Healey aka "Hammerwerfer", Ed@RSRNurburg.com , or email, or PM here, can show you around, or offer instruction.

Third Reich-related sites: Someone who may be even more obsessive than some of us has created a Google map with a large number of Nazi-era sites. It appears to be quite well done and should be of interest to history buffs..

Munich Hotels & Restaurants

(The general introduction to several Munich hotels, listed by neighborhood, is now a separate entry under the "Munich hotels and restaurants" main category.)

Elsewhere in Bavaria

There are several locales in and around southern Bavaria that make for interesting day trips. Many are also definitely worth more than a day. See the "1 Day Itineraries" sub-section of the "Suggested Itineraries" section.

(Andechs is such a popular destination that it is included both here and in the itineraries list.)

Beer lovers pilgrimage to Andechs

Take a trip to Andechs (45 minutes from Munich) and visit the Brewery, Church, and Monastery.

Berchtesgaden

Here are some highlights:

  • Hiking in the National Park
  • Visiting the salzbergwerk (salt mine) work to see how salt is mined (Fun for Adults, but even better for the families)
  • Ship ride and/or hiking the Königssee. If you have ever seen a calendar of Germany, you have seen a picture of this beautiful lake and its church.
  • Salzburg 20-30 minute drive makes Salzburg an easy day trip.
  • Schellenberg Eishöle (an ice cave that is a nice way to cool off in the summer)
  • hike in a gorge: Wimmbachklamm or Almbachklamm (with Germany’s oldest marble mill)
  • Visit a distillery: Enzianbrennerei (yes, with free samples!)
  • Visit the picturesque church in Ramsau and the Wimbachklamm (gorge)
  • Rossfelt Ring Strasse
  • "Eagles Nest" (Kehlsteinhaus)
  • Dokumentation Obersalzberg is a museum in two parts. One part covers the history of the area, especially when it contained the vacation homes of Hitler and other top Nazis from 1923-1945. The other part covers much of the history of the Third Reich. There is also access to some of the fortifications and tunnels under the area. This is all handled quite intelligently.
General Walker Hotel was the US Army R&R hotel. Originally "Der Platterhof". Demolished in 2000, it is now the site of the Documentation Center parking lot. The ticket building for the Kehlsteinhaus buses is the site of the Platterhof garage. The remaining arcade area of the Platterhof has been opened as a souvenir shop. See this source for references, photos, and old maps.
  • Nice farm house B&Bs can be found for 35Euro/night for two people.
  • etc. (yes, there is a lot to see and do near this village)

We have created an overview map showing the relative locations of the Intercontinental Hotel and nearby Documentation Center (A; at Obersalzburg, approx. 5 km E of Berchtesgaden center), the center of Berchtesgaden (B), and the boat dock at Schönau am Königsee (C; approx. 6 km to the S).

Two additional Berchteesgaden links: [1] and [2].

Berchtesgaden area hotels
Elmau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Elmau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen area hotels
  • Schloß Elmau is a modern, five-star resort and spa only 100 km from Munich. See the review in Executive Road Warrior
  • Edelweiss Lodge & Resort. (This is an amazing place, but it literally is not for everyone.) The Edelweiss is the U.S. Army's R&R facility in the Bavarian Alps. It has special rates for those on leave, and is basically a cross between a modern 330-room resort complex and a Cold War holdover. If you can qualify, the pricing is fantastic. While a nice hotel, do not mistake it for a German one. It is US run and serves predominently American food. This is not the location you're looking for if you're expecting to be immersed in German culture. This version of the resort opened in 2004, but there were other R&R facilities and requisitioned hotels in G-P from the late 1940s.
"The Royal Castles"
Hotels in the region
  • Hotel Mueller is right in Hohenschwangau and gets many positive comments. It is very close to the ticket office for "The" castles. (Inside joke here.) First recommended by Northcar, with follow-up recommendations from several others.
  • Hotel Sommer is in Füssen, on the way to the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles; it has received good reviews here and on Tripadvisor.
  • Hotel Sonne is in Füssen, a 5-10 minute drive to both castles. It has received good reviews here and is currently (June 2011) the #1 rated hotel in Füssen on TripAdvisor. For a few Euros you can get a reserved spot in their underground parking garage. They also have a free washer and dryer in the basement. An advantage to staying in Füssen is being within walking distance to many restaurants, including the excellent Il Pescatore, the #1 ranked restaurant in Füssen on TripAdvisor (as of this writing). The Il Pescatore is cash only, no credit cards.

See this map for the relative locations of these three hotels.

Another option is to use the web site and hotel/pension booking engine at the official website of the town of Schwangau.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg obT is an old gated town on the "Romantic Road". While it can be "done" in a day, many 'Festers take the "Night Watchman's Tour" and spend the night. There are many hotels and restaurants. Those listed below have first-hand evaluations pulled from posts to the ED forum.

Hotels
  • Gerberhaus has been written up in several posts. It is a small, centrally-located, clean hotel with pleasant staff and atmosphere. When you book your room, ask for parking in the garage. There are a few spaces available.
Restaurants

b-y recommended these two after his 2006 trip:

"This cheerful, modern restaurant in warm colours offers contemporary cuisine. Specialities: Gebratene Jakobsmuschel mit Rote Bete, Kapern und Kräutersalat. Glattbutt mit Erbsen, Shinken und Verjus. Grand cru-Schokolade, geröstetes Weißbrot mit Kirschen und Olivenöl."

"Pleasant, down-to-earth, modern wine bar and cookery school. Excellent Italian dishes are served in the villa's vaulted cellar, and there is also a delicatessen."

Both located at the same address, just outside the East (?) Gate, at Vorm Würzburger Tor 9, D91541 Rothenburg obT.

Baden-Württemberg

The Black Forest (Schwarzwald)

The major driving routes are covered in the Suggested Itineraries part of the this Wiki. ViaMichelin ran an article in Sept. 2008 with a 3-day trip. Options include the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, which runs along the ridges at approx. 1000 meters altitude, the Black Forest Spa Route, which is basically an intesting loop in the northern half, and the Schwarzwald Panoramastraße. This link lists several of the routes.

Two of the best restaurants in Germany are in or around Baiersbronn:

  • The Schwarzwaldstube. Great for lunch or dinner, whether you stay at the Traube Tonback or not.

AlbertG and Northcar recommend the Schlosshotel Bühlerhöhe. Two smaller hotels in Baden-Baden, Der Kleine Prinz and the Belle-Epoque, were recommended by dkreidel.

Larger cities and towns include Baden-Baden (spas & resorts), Karlsruhe (Schloss, KZM media museum, Majolika museum, university), and Freiburg. SusieBelle used Freudenstadt as the base for a 10-day stay.

Unlike Juliet's Balcony in Verona, you cannot visit the Schwarzwaldklinik (images here). It went off the air in 1989.

Baden-Baden is on the Black Forest spa route. This town is home to mineral springs which makes it a popular tourist destination and attracts a well-off crowd. Stop at the Caracalla Therme [3] where you can spend the better part of the day in various different baths and saunas for a few dozen Euro. For a couple hundred Euro you can live like a Roman emperor for a day.

Bodensee (aka Lake Constance)

Lake Constance, known as the Bodensee in German, forms part of the border between Germany, Switzerland, and the western part of Austria. It is also on the boder between Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. It is a 2-to-3-hour drive from Munich via the Autobahn, depending on one's destination. There is a mix of resorts, historical towns and sites, and more modern industrialized regions. Main cities include Lindau at the SE end, Konstanz at the NW, Friedrichschafen on the E shore, Bregenz in Austria, and St. Gallen in Switzerland. Zurich is quite close (approx. 70 km to the SW).

Lindau is a historic port city with several tourist hotels, an interesting harbor, and streets with old houses. It is essentially an island connected by a causeway to the lakeshore. The most famous of the hotels on the promenade overlooking the port is the Bayerischerhof. (ERW review here.) Inland, set in vineyards in the suburb of Hoyerberg, is Villino--a small hotel with a one-star Michelin restaurant. b-y used Villino as the stop-over point on the first night of his 2010 ED. It was all that he expected.

The next town to the NW is Friedrichschafen, former home of the Zeppelinwerk, the Zeppelin airport, and the Zeppelin museum in the old RR terminal. (Notice a common trend here.) This was the European terminus for the trans-Atlantic flights (3-day travel time) of the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenberg airships in the 1930s. As of this posting, flights on the "new technology" airships (Porsche engines, we believe) can be booked for rates starting at EUR 200 per 30-minute ride.

A little further on is Meersburg, a small town with an old lakefront area, an "upper town", and a castle ("burg") on the hillside. It is also the E terminus for the frequent ferry service to Konstanz.

Mainau is an island connected by a causeway to Konstanz. It is the home to extraordinary gardens. (Admission charged during the summer.) There is a Benedictine monastery in Richenau island, also available to vistors.

Stuttgart

Stuttgart hotels
Things To Do and See

Daimler Museum and Porsche Museum in Bad Cannstatt. The Daimler Museum is about the history of Daimler Benz and is larger than the BMW Museum. The Porsche Museum is about Porsches. (I would explain more, but I haven't been to the Porsche Museum.)

Tuebingen has a pretty cool Altstadt. It's also a pretty vibrant "college" town given it has it's own Uni.

Metzingen is known for its factory outlets. Hugo Boss HQ is located there. (I've never been to the outlets in Metzingen, but all of my German friends in BW buy there business attire there.)

Saxony, Sachsen-Anhalt & Thuringia

There are several interesting destinations along the route from Munich to Berlin. Berlin is off the 'Fest standard route, most likely due to the fact that there is no local drop-off site. (Although Hamburg and Bremerhaven are not far away if you do not want to return to Munich.) There are several interesting cities, towns, and regions along the way. The route given here is somewhat straight, from south to north. But it is easy to add locales a bit further off the line, going west to (for example) Erfurt and Weimar or east to Prague, Karlsbad, Marienbad, etc.

Regensburg - BMW plant (3-series), university, Thurn-und-Taxis castle, good lunch stop for tiny sausages along the river. b-y highly recommends the Historiche Wurstküche next to the Steinerne Brücke.

Nürnberg/Nuremberg - castle, DB museum.

Zschopau - (Notes from b-y: When I was in the region I wanted to visit the old MZ factory, but was told it was sold off to Malaysia! There was limited production, especially of spare parts, for a while. Now there are unconfirmed reports of a possible new lease on life. Who knows??)

"Saxony Switzerland" - incredible scenery between the Czech border and Dresden. Scenic train ride through the mountain passes, but would probably also be an interesting drive. Supposedly great hikes and treks also. (Official region website.) Also search for Königstein on the web.

Dresden - Start with a visit to the local tourist office, either in person (Kulturpalast at Schloßstraße) or online. Major sites include the Frauenkirche, the Treasury (Grünes Gewölbe or Green Vault), the Zwinger, and the Semper Opera. Look at the "Fürstenzug" (oddly, often translated as "Procession of the Dukes"), a 101-meter-long mural painted on Meissen porcelain tiles. Cross the Elbe to Neustadt and then climb to the top of Dreikönigskirche (Church of the Magi). You get a great view, including parts of the city that are still bombed out. Also see the "Japanese Palace" and the old Jewish cemetery. Have lunch at Pfunds Molkerei (Pfund's Dairy). You can easily arrange a side trip to tour the Meissen factory and museum. Top hotels include the Kempinski Taschenbergpalais and the Bülow Residenz. (The latter's restaurant, Caroussel, is justly famous. There is a viamichelin article about it and other top spots.)

Leipzig - The architecturally-interesting train station is just north of the ring road. Approximately across the street to the SE is the tourist office at Richard-Wagner-Strasse 1, which had free maps and an English-language guide book (pamplet-sized). It is then a very short walk S or SW to the old town center, which is quite historically interesting. Visit the Old Town Hall and the two churches--St. Thomas's and St. Nicholas's. There are Bach memorials everywhere. St. Nicholas's is considered to have been the starting point of the "peaceful revolution" in 1989 which paved the way for the unification of Germany. Also look for nice arcades with shops, etc. Go to Mädler Passage and have lunch at Auerbach's Keller (look for the statue of Faust). Goethe actually did eat here. (Latest factoid: according to at least one source, it is the fifth best-known restaurant in the world.) The modern BMW assembly plant on the edge of the city has tours (M-F, and sometime Sat, when in production. Usually only in German; see this thread for infomation as of June 2009 on special English-language small group tours at EUR 80.) Book ahead.

Wörlitzer Park - (formally The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz). Official English language website.

Colditz - Home of Colditz Castle, near Leipzig, Dresden, and Chemnitz. Used as a workhouse for the indigent and a mental institution for over 100 years, it became notorious as Oflag IV-C, a prisoner-of-war camp for "incorrigible" Allied officers who had repeatedly escaped from other camps. (Description taken from Google Maps via free license.) This is where the actual glider was built for an escape attempt during WWII. [4] To get good feel for the place, see Guy Hamilton's 1955 movie, even though the glider does not appear in this version of the "story".

Dessau - This one of the homes of the Bauhaus. Here you will find the school building with "Bauhaus" in block letters on the side that is shown in numberous old photos. (Approx. E or NE of the train station.) A bit further on are the "Meisterhausen" of Klee, Kandinsky, and Gropius (who was the Dean). The Lyonel Feininger house has a nice Kurt Weil museum. Have lunch or dinner at the Bauhaus-designed Kornhaus on the Elbe. {If you want to see the "Historisches Arbeitsamt" (Bauhaus-designed Weimar-era employment office), do not say "Arbeitsamt, bitte" to the cab driver. This will probably take you to the current city employment office thinking that you are looking for a job.} There is an historically interesting Jewish cemetery, a couple of blocks SW (?) of Historisches Arbeitsamt and the main cemetery, along the river Mulde. (It has a wall constructed of the remnants of gravestones vandalized on Kristallnacht and then ploughed under by the communists. Look for "Israel. Friedhof" near a Dresdner Bank off Ludwigshafener Strasse. Bring a hat.)

Wittenberg - Luther-related sites.

Quedlinberg - foot of the Harz mountains. Quaint medeival town with well-preserved buildings and historically interesting castle and church used for SS swearing-in ceremonies and rallies. (You might recognize the interior from old movies and newsreels.) Founded in 922 by Henry the Fowler and his wife Mathilda (both buried in the church) and therefore a favorite of Himmler who saw himself as the reincarnation of Henry I (see this source). Interesting town square with a statue of Roland, over 1,300 timber-framed houses, and the Lyonel Feininger Gallery.

Potsdam - Several Prussian royal castles, all open to the public. Fascinating "waterworks" (engineering) building. Movie studio. (Also accessible by S-Bahn from Berlin, but requires extra fare.)

Berlin

Berlin is the old (and new) capital of Germany with museums, symphonies, and historical sites. There is a nice article (Apr. 25, 2009) in the Wall Street Journal on the activities surrounding the 20th anniversity of the breaching of the Wall.

Selected attractions

The most popular tourist destinations include the Jewish Museum (Jüdisches Museum Berlin in the Collegienhaus on Lindenstraße, with addition designed by Daniel Libeskind), the German Historical Museum (I. M. Pei re-do), walking along Unter Den Linden, the KaDeWe department store, the remains of Gestapo HQ (Topographie des Terrors) on what was Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse (now Niederkirchnerstrasse), Postdamer Platz (now with the Sony Center), the Bendlerblock (ex-Army General Staff HQ), and whatever is currently open on Museumsinsel. b-y was particularly fascinated by the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way reconstructed at the Pergamon Museum. (Some consider this represents a theft of cultural heritage equivalent to that of the Elgin Marbles or the Rosetta Stone. See it before the Germans have to give it back.)

Modern art is in the Neue National Gallery.

Take the tour of the Reichstag, with its new "dome".

Recommendations from voltigeur include:

  • bar hop in Kreuzberg; have a Schnitzel at Gasthaus Dietrich Herz (or more casually some Turkish)
  • saunter along Unter den Linden
  • Bauhaus design Museum - see the roots of much of what we consider modern household design (post WW1 to early '30s)
  • new architecture, Potsdamer Platz
  • pick and choose your food at Rogacki desliktessen in Charlottenburg
  • check out the 'Ku-damm' & KdW .. and ponder at the ruins of the Kaiser-Wilhelm church - mute testimony to the terrible effectiveness of Allied bombing
  • Jewish Museum / Holocaust memorial, http://www.stiftung-denkmal.de/
  • day trip to Potsdam

Update on Gestapo HQ: The former HQ building was demolished after the war. (Photos from 1933 on the web here and here.) There has been an interesting outdoor exhibit built around the partially excavated basement prison rooms since 1987. The plans for a more permanent exhibit have gone ahead at times, but the current status is somewhat unclear.

Berlin now has an Umwelt or Green Zone. (More information here.) Cars are restricted inside the U-Bahn ring. Use the green sticker supplied with your car at the Welt.

Hotels

There are lots of top places, and the prices are lower than Paris or London. The main center has moved from Kurfurstendamm (the "West") to Mitte (formerly the "East" but now again the center).

This list starts with two places that are historically interesting, with top service, and differ according to size and location:

  • The Adlon. Although it was reconstructed following unification, it still has the charm of the original. Directly opposite the Brandenberg Gate at the start of Unter den Linden.
  • The Schlosshotel im Grunewald. A bit far out, in a residential area with ambassadors' residences, etc. Live like one of the Kaiser's ministers or the head of a puppet state. (It was in turn the residence of each.) There are only 53 rooms and suites. Interior redone by Karl Lagerfeld. 10-15 min. walk to the S-Bahn if you won't have a car or don't want to use cabs.

Other options for luxury hotels include:

One-half a step down are a number of chain hotels including:

  • Grand Hyatt (Marlene-Dietrich-Platz 2, just S of the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz; nice dining room and short walk to the Philharmonic)
  • Marriott (Inge-Beisheim-Platz 1, just N of the Potsdamer Platz S- and U-Bahn stations). This map shows the relative locations of the Marriott (A), the Grand Hyatt (B), and the Ritz Carlton (sort-of in the middle).
  • Radisson Blu Hotel (bing330i reports: "Modern, scenographic and great location, not to mention, complementary internet access for anyone. It's next to the Berlin Cathedral and minutes away from the top Berlin museums, e.g. Pergamon, Altes, etc. and a great spot to start a walking tour along Unter den Linden all the way to the Bradenburger Tor.")

Restaurants

There is not an equivalent to the Viktualienmarkt, but the food hall at KaDeWe rivals Dallmayr's. There are food bars serving all sorts of great stuff and provisions to buy. Places to eat in the store include Le Buffet in the Wintergarten (7th fl.) and the Art Nouveau Silberterrasse. A few years ago Mrs. b-y treated herself to a light dinner at KaDeWe before a concert at the Philharmonie. It is truly a great experience for foodies.

Another delikatessen-like option is Rogacki, at Wilmersdorfer Strasse 145 in Charlottenburg. There is a short write-up in the NY Times (October 2009).

This list leaves out all hotel restaurants despite the fact that some are quite good.

b-y's favorite is actually Italian. Don Camillo is in Charlottenburg, and is quite possibly the best Italian restaurant outside of Italy. See the write-up here. Cash only, so take lots.

Reinhard's Landhaus is in Grunewald, within walking distance from the Schlosshotel (who originally recommended it). Reasonable prices and easy neighborhood parking. A cross between German and Continental cuisine. English menu available here.

There are now lots of top-quality centrally-located restaurants. Two that provided good, but not perfect, experiences are:

Lutter & Wegner is right in the Gendarmenmarkt and has been for almost 200 years. It is almost everyone's ideal of a classic Berlin restaurant; great food and service. Only two downsides: (a) Their Flash intro does not always work in either German or English, so no link to their menu. (b) Not quite ancient report: "We went one time when the cigarette smoke ruined Mrs. b-y's dining experience. But the law has changed, so that should no longer be a problem."

Ana e Bruno - Italianish, higher-end then Don Camillo. The food and service were very good, but possibly not worth the price, unlike DC. Jacket & tie required.

For someplace less expensive and completely different: Sushi Circle in Potsdamer Platz. It is part of a small chain, with two restaurants in Munich and four in Berlin. (Half of their locations seem to be in Karstadt stores.) It is surprsingly good and--even more surprisingly--reasonably priced given its central location. You catch onto the color-coding of the plates quite quickly.

For lunches, b-y recommends Gosch Sylt and similar things. Just what a chain of casual seafood places should be. There was one right in the middle of Potsdamer Platz, but possibly this Berliner Zeitung article says that it has closed. The website now lists one at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

Moderately-priced places in Mitte The Fall 2009 NY Times Travel Magazine has a short write-up of five smaller restaurants, all on Torstrasse in Mitte.

Frankfurt and Hessen

Frankfurt is one of the great centers of finance, transportation, and culture in Europe. Read What's Doing In Frankfurt for a complete look at the city today with several multimedia tours of the city.

While it is often not thought of as a driving destination, the state of Hesse (Hessen) offers many beautiful off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Restaurants

One of the best kept secrets in Germany is the Restaurant Villa Rothschild, which holds two Michelin Stars. Read the review in Executive Road Warrior for details.


Hotels

In Frankfurt, which is the host to many conventions each year, there are a lot of great hotels to choose from.

  • The Hessischer Hof is a privately-owned luxury hotel. Read the review in Executive Road Warrior] for details.
  • The Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof is a classic, centrally-located hotel with beautiful, large rooms. It is often quite expensive, but there may be special rates available at times. (The are at least five Steigenberger properties in the Frankfurt area, including one at the airport, so do not confuse them.)
  • The Westin Grand Frankfurt (formerly the Arabella Sheraton) is at Konrad-Adenauer-Strasse 7, also centrally located. It is a modern building and one of the top Starwood properties in Germany. Despite having expensive posted rates, it often has both Starwood deals and special offers on the web.

Within one hour of Frankfurt, there are multiple great hotels, many set on parks or lakes with spas and other activities. Königstein im Taunus is one such town.

  • Villa Rothschild Kempinski is a 22-room luxury hotel. Read the review in Executive Road Warrior] for details.
  • Beewang (the forum moderator) recommends the Hyatt Regency in Mainz. There is a discussion of it and several other options in this thread from 2008.

Rhineland-Pfalz & Saarland (the Rhine & Mosel Valleys)

Weinstraße in the Pfalz

Wineries (Weingut in German) around Bad Duerkheim and Neustadt offer something other than beer. A local delicacy is Saumagen which most Germans won't eat (other than locals who would swear it's the best thing in the world).

The area is known for Riesling. On a summer day, the normal drink is a Rieslingschorle: Riesling wine and sparkling mineral water. During September (before Oktoberfest) is the Duerkheimer Wurstmarkt: allegedly the largest wine festival in the world.

North Rhine-Westphalia

This is the heartland of old industrial Germany. The Ruhr Basin is not what it once was. (Think Cleveland or Pittsburgh or even Gary, Indiana.) The steel mills are basically all gone. Don't expect to find any memorials to Dam Busters. (2011: Actually, we just have found one--in Neheim, 7 km from the Möhne dam at the junction of the Möhne and Heve rivers.) But there is the German Mining Museum (Deutsches Bergbau-Museum or DBM) and the Railway Museum (Eisenbahnmuseum Bochum-Dahlhausen) in and near Bochum., respectively. Warner Bros. Movie World is in Bottrop, and Duisberg is now a university town with a modern sculpture museum (Wilhelm-Lehmbruck Museum). Villa Hügel, the Krupp mansion, is outside of Essen on the north shore of Lake Baldeney; it is open to the public. (Those not familar with the Krupp family history should read Wm. Manchester's The Arms of Krupp; originally published in 1968, with a new paperback ed. in 2003. Trivia: the U.S. branch of the family uses the old Bohlen family name. Henry Bohlen was a Civil War general; Chip Bohlen was instrumental in uncovering the text of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and later became an ambassador; Celestine was a NY Times reporter and is now at Bloomberg. Henry was Gustave Krupp's grandfather.)

Hotels

In Cologne or Köln, which is the host to many conventions each year including the Photokina, there are several great hotels to choose from.

Hamburg & the areas near the Baltic & North Seas

Hamburg is a commercial center, a seaport, and an interesting destination for tourism, food and culture. The Alster basin is directly in the middle of the old city, with the top hotels and shopping areas facing the water. There are several popular boat rides covering the working port, the interior waterways, etc. The Kunsthalle (Fine Arts Museum) has a superb collection that ranges from 17C Dutch to 19C German (C.D. Friedrich, etc.) to modern (everything from die Brücke and Blaue Reiter to Richter). A new attraction is the BallinStadt Museum, documenting the mass emigration of a century ago. It is built in the emigration halls on Veddel Island and named after Albert Ballin, the president of the shipping company HAPAG. Ballin was written out of German history by the Nazis and has only been recently recognized as a transportation pioneer.

Top hotels include The Atlantic (of James Bond fame; has a "BMW Suite") and the Fairmont Vier Jahreszeiten, both directly on the Alster. Both hotels have excellent rooms and service and have been personally inspected by 'Festers JSpira and b-y.

Other parts of Germany

Austria

One of the most popular destinations in Austria (Österreich) is, of course, its capital city, Wien (Vienna) but there are many beautiful and distinct areas of the country you can visit since you will be driving a brand new BMW.

Make sure to have purchased an Autobahnvignette and Warnwesten (safety vest, one of the latter for each occupant of the car - and they must be kept inside the vehicle) before entering Austria.

Austria borders Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. Modern Austria dates back to the ninth century, when the name ,,Ostarrichi`` (Old High German for ,,Eastern Territory``) was first used in an official document.

There are nine federal states (Bundesländer)

  • Burgenland - capital Eisenstadt;
  • Carinthia (Kärnten) - capital Klagenfurt;
  • Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) - capital St. Pölten;
  • Upper Austria (Oberösterreich) - capital Linz;
  • Salzburg - capital Salzburg;
  • Styria (Steiermark) - capital Graz;
  • Voralberg - capital Bregenz;
  • Vienna (Wien) - capital Vienna

Burgenland

The Burgenland, Austria´s youngest Bundesland, shares the Neusiedler See, Austria´s largest lake, with Hungary. Eisenstadt (Kismarton), its capital, was the seat of the Eszterházy Hungarian noble family and Joseph Haydn lived there as Hofkapellmeister under Esterházy patronage. 2009 is the Hadyn-Jahr (Haydn Year) in honor of the 200th anniversary of the composer´s death. This area was once referred to as "German-speaking western Hungary".

Eisenstadt

The capital has a lot of worthwhile sights. (Web site under construction.) The Schloß Esterházy, esp. the Hadynsaal, is worth spending time in as is the Schloßpark. The former Jewish district is also noteworthy and near the Schloß: visit the "Österreichisches Jüdisches Museum" (Austrian Jewish Museum) in Unterberg. Inside is the Wertheimer'sche Schul, a private chapel from the 18th century that was somehow spared destruction after the Anschluß. Samson Wertheimer was a key financier for the Esterházy family and the Holy Roman Emperors in the late 17th and early 18th century. Not only is this museum the first Jewish museum to open in Austria after the Second World War but officials found hidden Torah scrolls and other sacred objects hidden in the walls. The Schul is still used for occasional services. Also visit the historic Jewish Cemetery in this district. (Remember to bring a hat if you visit either the Schul or the cemetery.)

Haydnhaus, where the composer lived, is also nearby and very much worth a visit. His mausoleum (the composer was reunited with his head in 1954) in the Bergkirche is also worth a stop. If you are lucky, you may find a concert being played on the church´s organ, the same one that Hadyn himself (and Beethoven one time) played.

There is a tourist office in the rebuilt old town hall on Hauptstraße, the main pedestrian-only street. (The building is architecturally and historically interesting itself.) The top restaurant, also named Esterházy, is in the old stables building opposite the Schloß (basically at the top of Hauptstraße), and there are several simpler places to stop for a light lunch.

Rust

Rust is a wonderful area to visit, right on the border of Hungary. Explore the Weinländer ,,Neusiedlersee`` (north and east of the Neusiedlersee) and ,,Neusiedlersee-Hügelland`` - both famous for Spätlese and Eiswein as well as Traminer.

Storks are part of the city´s essence as well; Rust is sometimes called ,,Die Stadt der Störche`` (,,Stork City``) and you will see many storks as you wander around town.

Consider staying at the Seehotel Rust, directly on the Neusiedlersee.

Other Neusiedlersee locations

The Neusiedlersee is a broad shallow lake and marshland area with the exact borders shifting from year to year. The Leitha River used to be the border between Austria and Hungary, but the border moved east in 1921 with the formation of the current Austrian Burgenland. Lake access is at Rust and the town of Neuseidl am See. There is public swimming, sun-bathing, and an informal restaurant at the lake near Neuseidl am See. (Possibly this one.) The price is quite reasonable, but be prepared for the mushy lake bottom.

Purbach (formally Purbach am Neusiedler See) is a small town between Neuseidl a. S. and Rust, with walls built in the 16th and 17th Century to defend against the Turkish invasion. (Web site still under construction; local German-language site is here.) b-y recommends Weingasthof Pauli's Stuben for both its food and rooms. It was an amazing bargain at less than EUR 40 per person per night, and the restaurant is popular with both locals and tourists. The food is several notches above the traditional heavy country fare, with interesting dishes (lamb, duck, fish, etc.) in light sauces with fresh local ingredients. Local wines without the typical restaurant markup! Longer write-up here.

Taubenkobel, a pleasant restaurant and R&Ch hotel in 7081 Schuetsen am Gerbirge, now has two Michelin stars.


Oberösterreich (Upper Austria)

Kopfing im Innkreis

Kopfing is a community (Marktgemeinde) in Oberösterreich with ca. 2000 residents. It is 547 m above sea level and was founded by the duchy of Bavaria in 1779.

The Baumkronenweg (Treetop Path) in Kopfing is a most unusual way to visit a forest - from the treetops! The 1000m path includes an observatory tower and even a hotel (Baumhotel) and restaurant (Gasthof Oachkatzl). The cost of building the Baumkronenweg was ca. €1 million Euro.


Salzburg & the Salzkammergut

Salzburg is a very popular destination for those doing BMW tourist delivery due to its proximity to München but incredible vistas, driving, and food await if you drive to the east. Salzburg is a common destination for both day trips from Munich and for short visits. The lake district ("Salzkammergut") nearby is exceptionally pleasant, with interesting small towns (St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang, Bad Ischl, Hallein, etc.), salt mines, sled runs, etc.

A warning: during the music festival season (last week of July and most of August) Salzburg is overrun with tourists, and hotels (and restaurants) book up early.

Hotels in and around Salzburg

There is a useful 2011 thread with Salzburg hotel suggestions and advice from 'Festers. It covers a variety of locations and prices.

All of the following are from the Michelin Red Guide and right in Salzburg proper. We have no first-hand experience with any of them unless noted. (NOTE: The * ratings below are actually the Michelin hotel "towers" from the print edition and do not match either Viamichelin's online ratings or the national star ratings.)

  • 4*/Pleasant - Sachar
  • 4* - Bristol (highly recommended by BMR2009), Sheraton, Altstadt Radison SAS
  • 3*/Pleasant - Goldener Hirsch (our favorite in the old town; part of the Starwood Luxury Collection), Schloss Moenchstein
  • 3* -Crown Plaza-The Pitter, Castellani Parkhotel
  • many 2* and 1*

Not listed in the Michelin Red Guide:


Outside the city...

In Hof bei Salzburg, about 10 mi out

  • 5*/Pleasant: Schloss Fuschl. It is part of the Starwood Luxury Collection. BMR2009 provides photos and a glowing review. (There is also the Arabella Sheraton Hotel Jagdhof on the same lake-front property)

in Salzburg-Aigen, 4 mi out

  • 2*/Pleasant - Rosenville

in Salzburg-Liefering, 2.5 mi out and just off the A1 exit

  • 2* (but with a one-star Restaurant) - Hotel Gasthof Brandstätter

The Wachau

The Wachau region along the Danube (Donau) river in Niederösterreich, namely the village of Dürnstein as well as Stift Melk have (thanks to favorable reports from Jonathan Spira) become destinations for Festers. Dürnstein is where Richard Löwenherz (Richard the Lionhearted) was held captive during the Crusades and you can visit the ruins atop a hill today. It is also a wonderful place to bike ride, enjoy good Austrian wine (Grüner Veltliner, for example), and excellent Austrian cuisine. Stift Melk is one of the world´s most famous and beautiful monastic sites. You can purchase local wines, Apricot (Marillen) Marmalade, and Apricot Liqueur (Marillenlikör) to take home with you.


Wien (Vienna)

Vienna is Austria´s capital and has a population of ca. 1.7 million (2.3 million within the metropolitan area). It is also one of nine Federal States of Austria, the largest city in Austria, and its cultural and commercial center. It has the tenth largest population in the EU and was rated 2nd in quality of living by Mercer.

Vienna traces its origins back to 500 B.C.E. and was a Roman frontier city, known as Vindobona (,,good wine``), guarding the Roman Empire against Germanic tribes to the north.

It was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg Empire and continues to play a major role in European and world politics as a bridge between East and West.

Vienna is also a world capital of the arts and music. The Burgtheater is one of the best German-language theaters in the world and the Volkstheater and Theater in der Josefstadt are also well known. The city is home to the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic), considered the finest orchestra in the world by many, based in the Musikverein in the Bösendorferstraße. The Staatsoper (State Opera) and Volksopera (devoted to Viennese operettas) are several of the city´s opera houses and are also among the world´s finnest. The music of Johann Strauß (both junior and senior) resonates throughout the city.

Preparing for your visit to Vienna

Vienna can be as daunting a city to visit as London or Paris. There is too much to do and see, and you could easily spend days on foot or using public transit in the city center or you can use it as a base for day trips to neighboring regions. It can also be quite expensive. All of this means there is a large payoff to some initial planning. Recommended reading includes Wining and Dining in Vienna for a look at the city, its cuisine, and the many types of restaurants one can visit and enjoy and Vienna: Summer and Winter.

Other options include the Michelin Green Guide to Austria, Rick Steves books and DVDs, and the experience of others on their ED trips. (Use "Search" or ask specific questions on the forum.) Another approach is to have a "theme" such as tracking down locations from The Third Man or looking at the classics of Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) architecture: the Secession Building, Karlplatz pavillions, etc. Similarly, the former home of Sigmund Freud has a small museum open to the public. Nearby is the former home of Theodor Herzl.

Vienna's 19th and 20th Century history is an integral part of what makes it interesting. You can get some of the flavor of the Allied occupation (from 1945 to 1954) along with insights on Vienna's Imperial past and the early years of the Cold War by watching The Third Man or reading Charles Drazin's In Search of The Third Man. (Additional "Third Man" information and links below.)

In October 2009, the Wall St. Journal ran a nice piece by Danial Akst on the history and architecture of the Ringstraße.

Hotels

The Imperial is one of the best hotels in the world, located on the Ringstraße. Read the review in Executive Road Warrior for details. The Bristol (also on the Ring; they were particularly understanding about parking and the BMW rules concerning the keys) and Sacher are also top hotels.

Here are several lists of Vienna hotels. Both the "ratings" and the classification scheme are somewhat arbitrary, but this should provide a good starting point.

Top classic hotels. This first list consists of old-style (the buildings, some are new hotels in old city palaces; others have been there for years):

  • Palais Coburg
  • Imperial
  • (Im Palais Schwarzenberg is still closed as of summer 2009)

One-half step down but still top 5-star options, also classic style:

  • Bristol
  • Sacher

Modern hotels in modern buildings:

  • Hotel Daniel (just "above" the Schloss Belvedere; opened in the Fall of 2011)
  • Intercontinental
  • Le Méridien: on the Ring and very modern. Read the review in ERW for further details.
  • Do & Co.
  • Renaissance
  • Das Triest
  • There are two centrally-located Hiltons:
    • Hilton Vienna (am Stadtpark) is also very modern and is located near the Stadtpark and the City Air Train (CAT) terminal.
    • Hilton Vienna Plaza, located overlooking the Ringstrasse at Schottenring 11. Recommended by bing330i (Dec. 2010).

More reasonably-priced options:

  • {list to come}
Dining

A good introduction to a variety of restaurant types plus reviews may be found in "Wining and Dining: Vienna, Austria" in Executive Road Warrior.

Some favorites include:

  • Schweizerhaus is a beer garden with traditional food at a corner of the Prater. There is a short write-up in the NY Times.

An interesting local option is to go to a Heurigen, generally a tavern that is associated with a vineyard. They are usually in outer neighborhoods (including near the Wienerwald) and have buffets for food with table service for the wine. Many also have music. Prices are quite reasonable. There are dozens of possibilities; here are a few that some of us have visitied:

  • Ing. Werner-Welser, Probusgasse 12, in Heiligenstadt (19th district). Closer in than most, good food & wine; accessible by bus and a short walk. (Subway U4 to Heiligenstadt and then bus line 38A as far as Armbrustergasse.)
  • Weingut Reisenberg, Oberer Reisenbergweg 15 (officially in 1190 Döbling), in the hills above Grinzing, with a fantastic view of both the city and the Wienerwald. Take tram & bus, then an uphill walk or drive down a narrow hill road. (As above but take the 38A to Oberer Reisenbergweg; alternative is to take tram 38 to Grinzing and then the 38A bus. The second option lets you walk around Grinzing if you wish. Directions for driving & parking avalable--click on "Anfahrt" then "Anfahrtsplan".)

Another appealing local option is to go to a Beisl for ,,alt Wiener Küche`` or traditional Viennese cuisine. The word ,,Beisl`` is slang for a Wirtshaus, Gasthaus, or pub. One example is Zum Reznicek.

Museums

The Hofburg (Imperial Palace) houses the Schatzkammer (treasury), displaying the Habsburg imperial jewels. The Sisi Museum is a museum devoted to Empress Elisabeth. (Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria was born in 1837 at Possenhofen, married the Emperor of Austria in 1854, and died on September 10, 1898 in Geneva. She was assassinated by an anarchist while walking from the Brunswick Memorial to the quay and died just outside the Beau Rivage Hotel. More details here.) Across from the Hofburg are the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum.

The Museumsquartier (museum quarter) is located in the former Imperial Stalls. The Museum of Modern Art,commonly known as the MUMOK (Ludwig Foundation), the Leopold Museum (displazing works of the Viennese Secession) are all worth a visit.

The Albertina has been remodeled in recent years and often has quite good special shows.

Do not expect to find the Klimts in the upper part of Schloss Belvedere. They were returned to their rightful owners.

"The Third Man"

Considered by many to be the greatest British film of all time, The Third Man is appealing on many levels--location, history, casting, acting, plot (a "spy story with no spies"). JSpira can provide you with detailed bios of all the Austrian bit players, and b-y can tell you which of the Allied forces were billetted in which hotels.

In May 2011 the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page feature on sewer tours in Europe. The Vienna sewer system and its role in the movie are prominently featured. The extras on the WSJ website include a video and a slide show.

Kärnten

Southernmost province borders Italy and Slovenia.

Hotels

On a mountianside outside of Jenig, 10 kilometers and countless switchbacks takes you to a meadow and the Berghotel Preßlauer. A charming family run hotel with a stunning veiw of the Drau river valley and the Austrian/Italian border; recommended by Snoduc, July 2010.

Switzerland

Zurich and Luzern/Lucerne

Zurich is controversial with 'Festers. It is expensive, and some argue it is boring. However, there are interesting art galleries and museums, good shopping and restaurants, and a drop-off location near the airport. See this September 2009 article from the NY Times.

Lucerne/Luzern is probably the more scenic of the two cities. It has a world-quality Picasso Museum and other interesting tourist venues in the old town. Boat rides on the lake are fun. You can go to the transport museum (Swiss Museum of Transport / Verkehrshaus der Schweiz) just outside of the center city or to any of a number of small lakeside towns and cable-car stations.

Sometimes Lucerne is too expensive/crowded, in that case the neighboring towns of Brunnen or Isleten are nice alternatives.

Alpine peaks

Interlaken with a trip to see the top of the Jungfrau is a beautiful destination. The three principal peaks in this region are the Eiger (Ogre), the Monch (Monk), and the Jungfrau (Virgin or Maiden) in that order. Note the Monk is protecting the Virgin from the Ogre.

There are absolutely fantastic hikes to be had in the Berner Oberland. Two easy ones that are highly recommended for sheer beauty are (1) the one from Schynige Platte for which you will need to take the cogwheel sightseeing train from Wilderswil, and (2) the easy hike from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. For that one you will take the cable car from Wengen. There is also an easy hike from Lauterbrunnen to the Trummelbach falls. It is flat and only a few miles. Lauterbrunnen will allow cars but Wengen will not.

Please note this medical information: People with cardiac or lung impairments and women who are pregnant should read the medical information at the Jungfraubahn Website. Altitude sickness is a danger in the high parts of the alps.

The Ticino & Lower Engadine

These are the Italian and Romansch-speaking regions of southern Switzerland, essentially just north of Como. There are three major resorts--Lugano, Locarno, and Ascona in Ticino. But the even more interesting part of the Ticino is the interior. See this article from the Fall 2009 NY Times Travel Magazine.

In May 2010, the NY Times had a feature on the Lower Engadine. (The upper part is more famous with St. Moritz, etc.) The article features towns including Scuol, Vnà, and Zuoz.

Samnoun

Samnoun is a ski village which also happens to have duty free shopping. The drive up to Samnoun features several switchbacks. The town is very picturesque. You'll find a large selection of watches and other Swiss luxury goods, reasonably priced hotels and outdoor activities of all kinds.

"Heidiland"

"Heidiland" means different things to different people. It is the area between Lake Walen and Sarganser Land in Eastern Switzerland. It is also the home of Johanna Spyri, the author of "Heidi", in the village of Maienfeld in Canton Graubünden. But to motorists, "Heidiland" is possibly the most famous highway rest stop in Europe. "Marche Heidiland" is on the A13 between Zurich and Chur, officially in 7304 Maienfeld. It has game rooms, a bakery, food to go, and restaurants, etc. It has its own website. Incredibly touristy, but nevertheless interesting.

(Highly controversial) "things to avoid" list

Feel free to add items or comments to this list, but please do not delete items. Hopefully, everyone will understand that the items on this list represent personal opinions and--to some extent--are influenced by people's level of experience with European travel.

Things to avoid:

  • Frankfurt airport
  • Heathrow airport
  • Hofbräuhaus (OK for beer or a putsch, but avoid the food)
  • Venice in July or August
  • Florence in July or August
  • Rome in June-August
  • Driving into Milan for a short visit
  • Any city while it is hosting the Euro Cup or World Cup matches
  • Crowded subways in Rome
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