Southern Germany is probably best known for traditional Lederhosen, Oktoberfest and brass music, and while these are great reasons to visit, the Bavarian region south of Munich has a lot more to offer. And makes a fantastic holiday destination for families! Here are 6 reasons why:
The extravagant King of Bavaria, Ludwig II, had a thing for Louis XIII of France and tried to emulate the grandeur of Versaille in Bavaria. Probably his most famous construction is Schloss Neuschwanstein, near Fuessen. Situated on the edge of the Alps, the fairy tale castle with its princess towers overlooks his childhood home, Schloss Hohenschwangau. Inside, the walls are decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from operas by his favourite composer, Richard Wagner.
Not far away, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, is Schloss Linderhof, the only one of his architectural projects Ludwig actually saw completed. This small Rococco-style palace is surrounded by stunning gardens and forest grounds. King Ludwig’s fascination with King Louis and Richard Wagner is visible throughout – there’s even a mirror room and an artificial venus grotto. (Schloss Linderhof also features in my list of must-see castles and palaces!)
If you travel even further east along the Bavarian Alps you get to Schloss Herrenchiemsee, King Ludwig’s very own ‘Versaille’, which he built on an island in the middle of the Chiemsee lake.
Germany’s highest mountain is the Zugspitze, at 2,962 metres high. From its top, easily reached in a panoramic cable car, you can see the magnificent Alps stretching out around you with its peaks in four countries. But even if you’re not keen on the steep ascent all the way to the top, there are plenty of smaller hills (e.g. the Kolben) around which you can either walk or even drive up to enjoy the wonderful panorama of the Bavarian Alpine countryside. A little further inland, at just under 1000 metres high the views from Hohenpeissenberg over the Bavarian Alpine upland and lakes are easily accessible and simply stunning. The intricately decorated St Mary’s pilgrim’s church on its peak is also worth a look.
Bavaria has a strong Christian history and is still a stronghold for the Catholic church. There’s a wealth of fine celestial buildings all over the country, from intricate small chapels to large basilicas. One of the most famous examples is the Wieskirche, one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Southern Germany. The Stiftsbasilica Waldsassen, a little bit further north, is best known for its collection of Holy Bodies and reliquaries as well as its large organ.
There are so many wonderful lakes in Southern Germany there surely is one for everyone. Mountain lakes (such as the Eibsee), posh lakes (such as Starnberger See), touristy lakes (Ammersee), small lakes (Staffelsee), large lakes (Chiemsee), wellness lakes (Forggensee), you name it. All of them are stunning and worth a dip, a paddle on a pedalo or simply a picnic on the shore.
The Swimming Pools
There are municipal swimming pools all over Southern Germany, some of them are indoors only, some are outdoors only, others are a combination of both. They are relatively cheap and great value, at least compared to England. Some of them have hot pools outdoors you can swim to in the winter, others have wave and diving pools offering great fun for both kids and adults. Theres the Wellenberg in Oberammergau or the Freibad in Germering, to name just a couple.
The Food (and Drink!)
Admittedly, as a vegetarian you’re going to miss out. Bavarian food is all about meat – sausages, roasts, bacon, pork knuckles, beef, meat loaf, some more sausages, with sausage salad on the side (yes that’s a thing!). In a traditional Bavarian Biergarten, even if linked to a restaurant, customers are permitted to bring their own food, usually a picnic of bread, cheese, salad, and, well, sausages. Bavarian beer is served as Mass (1 litre stein) or Halbe (half a litre) and still brewed according to the 1516 purity law, permitting only four ingredients.