Last year my mum and I had ventured to Cochem, a little yet famous and very picturesque German wine growing town, and were wowed by the beauty and history we had never really seen and come across despite me growing up in Germany.
This is where the idea of our great Bavarian adventure stemmed from. Bavaria is famous for beer and sausages but also for stunning nature, lakes and of course the sprawling and grand capital of the Bavarian state, Munich.
I had never even been close to this part of Southern Germany and was more than intrigued to finally see it for myself.
This initial idea was also during a time last year when the course of covid and future restrictions was still a little uncertain, so it also seemed like a safer option than travelling to a far flung country.
As the trip edged closer, I did become a wary - should we have booked to go to Italy or the south of France like everyone on my insta timeline? Would a holiday on my “home turf” really feel like a holiday?
I should have not worried though, because the time we spent in Bavaria was absolutely incredible and very memorable.
It was a pretty jam packed trip, I will admit. Being the producer by trade I am, I of course made a detailed itinerary beforehand (helped also thanks to the amazing tips of my Munich born and bred friend Juliana) and wanted to squeeze as much into our 4 days there as possible and it was all so worth it, letting me see a side of Germany I never knew existed.
Even if you are not German I would whole heartedly recommend our experience, using our time there to explore Munich, swim in the stunning Tegernsee, see one of the most famous castles in the world, Schloss Neuschwanstein and visit the Dachau KZ, one of the most emotionally affecting yet absolutely necessary experience of my life that I will never, ever forget.
A few last pointers before I get into the guide. Bavaria isn’t the most veggie or even pescatarian friendly place, I more or less survived on a very balanced diet of pretzels (or Breze as they are called in this part of the world), cheese spätzle and fries, and although everyone drinks beer in very large quantities you can actually find some amazing wine in Bavaria too, which mad me as resolute beer hater particularly happy about!
Anyways below a few places that truly made our stay and I can’t help but think I left a little bit of my heart in Bavaria, who’d have thought it!
HOW WE GOT THERE:
I actually flew into Düsseldorf from London so that I would get to spend a bit of time in my home away from home either side of the trip, which meant we took Germany's fastest style of train, the ICE, from Düsseldorf to Munich and despite a few delays (about 30 mins both ways) I found the whole experience very pleasant, especially as someone that genuinely hates flying.
It’s not the shortest train ride at just under 5 hours but the ICE trains are super clean, have AC and you get to really experience the changing landscape as you make your way down to Bavaria from your train window.
We booked our trains way in advance with Deutsche Bahn
so managed to get a super good price for the return tickets, paying around €150 each for our return (while a one way on the day was coming to that) so planning ahead when it comes to getting to Munich definitely pays off!WHERE WE STAYED:
The Flushing Meadows
hotel came recommended by Juliana and proved the perfect base for our little adventure.
It’s an affordable, hipster friendly boutique hotel in a fab location, right by the beautiful Iser river (which is so clean you can go for a dip in it..I mean quite the opposite to the Thames ), a 10 minute walk to the world famous Viktualienmarket, a 15 minute walk to get right to the city centre and right by a great array of bars and restaurants.
Don’t expect Soho House sort of boutique-ness in terms of style and amenities but rooms are spacious, clean and very unique (our studio came with a hammock), the staff is cool and super friendly plus the hotel comes with its own cosy roof terrace on the top floor overlooking the city.TOP TIP:
The entrance to the hotel is easily missed as it is literally just a metal door with a very understated logo on it, but once you get in you will realise what a little gem Flushing Meadows
truly is.PLACES TO EATSPATENHAUS AN DER OPER
The Spatenhaus an der Oper
is a great restaurant right by the Munich Opera. A little touristy and definitely priced accordingly, but a wonderful spot to take in the old world charm of Munich’s grand architecture and history. I had a very good plate of Käsespätzle while my mum enjoyed a creamy mushroom sauce with fresh knödel (a sort of German dumpling).
Booking is advised but not essential.
We sort of stumbled across this wine bar and restaurant
by chance as I spotted a gorgeous looking courtyard and really hit jackpot with this place.
Why? Well, here they specialise in German wine from the Pfalz region, the region we had visited last summer and had fallen in love with.
In fact there is a huge selection of the most amazing wine at ridiculously good prices (think €14 for a bottle of incredible Gewurztraminer) which can be enjoyed in the courtyard where there are plenty of outdoor tables.
There is also a rustic looking indoor restaurant space if the weather doesn’t play ball and they also have very good selection of classic German dishes, with enough options for non meat eaters.
There are hardly any tourists, the vibe is magical, especially when the sun sets over the city, and the wine simply outstanding. Indeed If I had to pick a fav dining spot of the trip it would for sure be this Weinstube.SHORTY
One evening, absolutely knackered from our day trip to Tegernsee, we just fancied a quick, fuss free and potentially not German inspired dinner (pretzel fatigue anyone?!), lucky for us then that literally next door to the hotel is one of Munich’s most hyped pizza takeaway spots, Shorty
A quick elevator ride down in my pjs and I was at the hole in the wall pizza makery ‘Shorty
It already smelled amazing and once I saw the guys making the pizzas from scratch with the best local ingredients after every order I knew I was in the right place!
We ended up sharing a very tasty truffle and mushroom topped pizza, which came with the perfect crust and stretchy dough but the whole menu had delicious sounding pizzas with inventive toppings that I would for sure come back for.PLACES TO GO FOR A DRINKFLUSHING MEADOWS
Viktualienmarkt is not only an utterly charming food market but also has a plethora of vibrant Biergartens and cafes surrounding it. A fab place for people watching, sharing a wooden bench with some strangers and soaking up the Munich lifestyle.
The great thing about Munich’s location is that you can literally be in the midst of stunning mountain scapes, lakes and castles after less than an hour on the train from its main station.
I was truly stunned by the variety of jaw dropping spots we were able to day trip to from the city and will not forget what we saw and experienced in a hurry.
HOW TO GET THERE:
A 40 minute on a local train from Munich’s main station.
WHAT TO DO:
Swim, chill and take in the beauty of this incredibly clean and clear lake, surrounded by imposing mountains and gorgeous traditional Bavarian country houses.
We spent most of our day sunbathing and going for dips at Monte Mare
, a sort of very casual beach club by the lake.
You pay €2.5 a person and get access to their cordoned off area of the lake with loungers, clean toilets and a little cafe which sells fries, €5 spritz’s and ice cream at your disposal! Honestly it felt like a proper beach holiday for the day and I would return to Tegernsee in a heartbeat.
WHAT TO AVOID:
Don’t waste your euros on an overpriced dinner by the lake. Dining options are limited and prices steep. We went to a restaurant and ate very mediocre food for double the price than it should have been.
Instead either bring a picnic along or go to one of stands selling fries and your standard sausage fare and wait until you are back in Munich to have a proper meal out.
HOW TO GET THERE:
1h 30 mins from Munich’s main station via two local trains and a local bus - a little further to get to, but it’s a pretty scenic train route so you won’t get bored looking out of the window and seeing this world famous castle is worth the schlep!
It’s so famous in fact that Walt Disney based his iconic Disney princess castle on its design with the castle attracting over 2 million visitors yearly,
WHAT TO DO:
Check out the castle of course!
My top tip: book your tickets way, way, way in advance.
I thought a month ahead would be enough but the official tickets had already sold out for all of August.
Instead I booked a ticketed tour with an official and legit local tourist office,
a little more expensive than the standard ticket (it was around 25 euros each) but totally worth it as we had an assigned slot for entry into the castle for the day of our visit.
They do sell a limited amount of ticketed tours on the day (an audio guided tour being the only way to gain entrance to the inside of the castle), but especially during peak months that is pretty risky and could mean you only end up seeing the castle from the outside, no doubt still an impressive sight but let’s be honest you will only go to Neuschwanstein once in your life so you may as well see it all!WHAT TO AVOID:
I would suggest getting there early in the day to avoid large tourist crowds. Our tour was at 11:30am and even though it meant a pretty early start, leaving our hotel at 7am on the dot, though not empty the whole castle and wonderful walk through the forrest to get there, felt calm.
By the time we had finished our tour and were walking back to the bus stop to bring us back to the train station the tour buses had arrived, it felt crowded and for me a little of the romance of the whole scenery was lost.DACHAU KZ MEMORIAL SITE
You may find it strange that visiting a concentration camp was included as part of my holiday itinerary but once my mum and I, by complete coincidence in conversation, realised that Dachau, the original and “model” concentration camp under the Nazis, was a mere 20 minute train ride away from central Munich I knew we had to go.
I had grandparents on both sides in the war, one in the German army, one Jewish, who had most likely spend some time in a KZ but till his death told us very little about his past, a deep seated sense of denial which he began to believe himself as way of survival. I spent hours sprawling the internet, trying to find clues to what he was too afraid to tell us and this actually became the main reason why I ended up studying history at university.
Yet nothing could prepare me to see the darkest of human history laid out right in front of me.
Unfortunately the worst atrocities eventually get forgotten and repeat themselves or even worse, start to become denied by some.
Seeing a concentration camp with my own eyes, including a gas chamber that was used to exterminate Jews, Political opponents, Homosexuals and the disabled, made the Nazis and their crimes very real and reiterated to me how something like this can never, ever happen again.
As our fantastic guide, a historian who gave us a two and half hour tour of the grounds, said “the last witnesses of this time are slowly dying, all we have left are these physical places, places of remembrance, to keep the history alive and stop it from becoming an abstract historian occurrence”
It wasn’t a “fun” holiday activity but something that I think everyone should see and that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
HOW TO GET THERE:
20 minute local train from Munich’s central station + 5 minute bus ride
WHAT TO DO:
Though you can rent an audio guide throughout the day, I would highly recommend the daily group tours with incredibly knowledgeable historians who take you through the vast camp complex and who offer you an invaluable educational experience.
There are 2 English tours a day at 11am and 2pm and a German one every day. They are only 4 euros a person and I cannot recommend them enough.