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DISCOVER GERMANY

Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €9 ticket

Summer is upon us, and travelling around Germany is cheaper than ever. If you're keen to get away from the bustle of the Bavarian capital for the day, here are nine day trip ideas to get you started.

Bergsee, Bavaria
Bergsee in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

Germany’s €9 ticket is finally on the scene, giving people the chance to snap up unlimited travel on regional and local transport for less than ten euros a month.

Since the offer, which started in June, is also running through the whole of July and August, it’s the perfect opportunity to do some exploring outside of the major cities. In the case of Bavaria, there’s so much on offer: from dazzling alpine lakes to fairytale castles and UNESCO towns. 

If you’re based in Munich or visiting the city on holiday, these stunning destinations can all be reached on regional transport in under three hours, making them perfect for a day trip or even a weekend getaway. 

READ ALSO: €9 for 90: Everything you need to know about Germany’s cheap travel deal

Salzburg 

Salzburg

Salzburg’s historic centre. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Anita Arneitz

Surrounded by soaring Alpine peaks, the Austrian city of Salzburg is a must-visit if you’re ever nearby. Immaculately preserved baroque buildings line the historic streets, giving visitors the sense of stepping back in time to the era of the city’s most famous resident: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Visiting Hagenauer Haus – the birthplace of Mozart – is a must while you’re there, as is a trip to the city’s striking modern art museum and the charming toy museum

If you decide to stay in Salzburg for longer than a day, it’s definitely worth scheduling a trip out to Germany’s Königsee. This alpine lake is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful locations in Germany – and if you make it there, you’ll see why. Simply hop on the 840 bus from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden and then switch to the 841 to Königsee. The journey takes an hour and a half but with breathtaking views to look at the whole time, the time will fly by.

Incredibly, the €9 deal will even take you across the border into Austria and as far as Salzburg for no extra charge. Simply take the RB40 from Munich East and then change to RE45 at Mühldorf. The whole journey shouldn’t take longer than 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Schloss Neuschwanstein

Schloss Neuschwanstein

View over Schloss Neuschwanstein. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Ludwig II’s masterpiece of neo-gothic architecture is immensely popular with tourists – and it’s no wonder. Surrounded by dizzying peaks and pine forests, Schloss Neuschwanstein is straight out of a fairytale, and famously inspired the Walt Disney logo. 

Take a walking tour around the castle to hear all about the escapades of mad King Ludwig II and discover why people nicknamed him the ‘Swan King’. Just a stone’s throw away is Ludwig’s equally stunning but less famous summer residence – the colourful Schloss Hohenschwangau – which is also well worth a visit. And if you still haven’t had your fill of royalty, you can find out even more about Ludwig and his relatives at the Museum of Bavarian Kings. Otherwise, take a refreshing dip in the nearby Alpsee or enjoy some hearty southern German fare and a Helles at the atmospheric Schloss Bräustüberl Hohenschwangau

To get to Schloss Neuschwanstein, take the RB70/74/76 train from Munich Central Station to Buchloe and then change to the BRB RB77 to Füssen, which is about an hour’s walk or a short bus ride from the castles. 

READ ALSO: Five haunted castles in Germany that will creep you out

Regensburg

Regensburg's old stone bridge

Regensburg’s Old Stone Bridge and Old Town. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Armin Weigel

The university town of Regensburg, to the north of Munich, is an essential day trip for history buffs and lovers of medieval architecture. Located on the banks of the Danube, Regensburg is believed to be the northernmost Roman fort in Europe and the town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006. 

Incredibly, Regenburg’s Old Town managed to make it through two world wars unscathed and the town is now considered one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. To soak up the atmosphere, take a meandering walk around the Altstadt and cross the old stone bridge to colourful neighbourhood of Stadtamhof – and keep an eye out for Regenburg’s iconic tower houses on the way. If you get peckish, you can stop by at Germany’s oldest sausage kitchen, which has been serving delicious Wurst to locals since the 12th Century. You can also learn about the region’s Jewish and Roman past at the fascinating Document Neupfarrplatz museum, or see a who’s-who of brilliant German men and women in the historic Hall of Fame.

To get to Regensburg from Munich, you have a choice of regional trains. The RE2 or RE25 only take around 1 hour and 20 minutes, while others such as the RE50 tend to take more of a scenic route.

Tegernsee 

Tegernsee

A view of Tegernsee and the surrounding mountains. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

If you’re looking for all the natural highs that Bavaria has to offer, then look no further than the lakeside resort of Tegernsee. This stunning spot has everything from mountain peaks to a crystalline lake – not to mention endless fun activities that the whole family can enjoy. There are some immensely popular hiking and biking trails both around the lake and in the mountains – and for those who want to skip the sweaty part, the Wallbergbahn gondola will take you 1,600 feet above sea level to enjoy the best views of Tegernsee and its surroundings. 

During the summer, adrenaline junkies will love taking a ride down the hillside on the summer toboggan at nearby Oedberg or even trying their hand at paragliding. And of course, there are numerous charming Bavaria eateries and swimming beaches dotted around the lake itself.

There are great train connections between Munich and Tegernsee. The BRB RB57, for example, will take you from Munich Central Station to Gmund am Tegelsee in just over an hour. 

READ ALSO: REVEALED: 10 of the best hiking day trips from Munich

Garmisch and Zugspitze 

Wankbahn

Visitors enjoy a ride on the ‘Wankbahn’ gondola to the tip of Mount Wank. Photo: picture alliance / Sven Hoppe/dpa | Sven Hoppe

For fans of winter sports, Germany’s highest mountain should need no introduction. In summer, however, the popular ski resort of Garmisch-Patenkirchen and its famous peaks are no less captivating.

With its historic alleys lined with chocolatiers and cafes, Garmsich-Patenkirchen is worthy of a day trip in itself. But for lovers of the great outdoors, the hiking and cycling opportunities in the surrounding alps are what really makes the area special. From Garmisch, you can ascend approximately 2,600 feet to the top of Zugspitze by cable car, where you can follow adventurous hiking trials and experience a real glacier up close. Beyond Germany’s highest mountain, Garmisch is also a good starting point for a trip up the hilariously named Mount Wank, another soaring mountain with panoramic views of the valley.  

Due to a tragic train derailment, a part of the railway between Oberau and Garmisch is closed. Currently, passengers can get the RE6 from Munich to Oberau and then change to a bus to Garmisch. The journey takes about an hour and a half.

Nuremberg 

Nuremberg old town

Nuremberg’s quaint city centre. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

From fascist rallies in the 1930s to the courthouse where prominent Nazi figures were put on trial in the aftermath of WWII, nowhere quite represents the darker side of German history as much as Nuremburg. If you visit for the day, the exhibition at the Documentation Centre – housed in the old site of the famous Nazi rallies – will help you understand Nuremburg’s unique role in the far-right’s rise to power. You can also visit the Memorium Nuremberg Trials, which is housed on the top floor of the Palace of Justice where the trials took place.

It’s also worth taking a walk around the historic centre, which was largely destroyed in the Second World War but subsequently rebuilt in all its medieval charm. 

The ICE fast speed train is by far the quickest way to get from Munich to Nuremburg, but if you want to use the €9 ticket, the RE1 will take you there in 1 hour and 45 minutes. 

Taufkirchen

Body-flying at Jochen Schweizer Arena

‘Body flying’ at the Jochen Schweizer Arena. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

Just south of Munich in the unassuming suburb of Taufkirchen, you’ll find the ultimate pilgrimage site for German adrenaline junkies: the Jochen Schweizer Arena. For those who don’t know, Jochen Schweizer is a German stuntman and extreme athlete who made his fortune by setting up an ‘experiences’ business which sells every type of gift experience imaginable, from wine tasting to skydiving. 

At his flagship arena, you can try anything from indoor surfing to bungee-jumping and body flying – otherwise known as indoor skydiving. On sunny afternoons, adults and kids alike can have hours of fun clambering around the outdoor high-ropes climbing course and whizzing through the air on the ‘Flying Fox’ zipwire. 

Getting to Taufkirchen from central Munich couldn’t be easier: it takes around 20 minutes on the S3. 

READ ALSO: The 9 best day trips from Berlin with the €9 ticket

Dachau 

Arbeit macht frei

The infamous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ inscription at the entrance to Dachau. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Spending a morning or afternoon at the former concentration camp at Dachau is a heart-wrenching experience, but it’s also a powerful way to keep the atrocities in living memory and bear witness to the stories of those who were incarcerated there. 

The former factory at Dachau was turned into Germany’s first concentration camp in March 1933 – just a few months after Adolf Hiter was appointed Chancellor of the Reich. It acted as a prototype for similar death camps elsewhere in Germany and housed about 200,000 Jewish and political prisoners during Nazi rule. 

To get the best understanding of the history of the camp, it’s a good idea to book a guided tour, though walking around the site alone can be equally moving.

It takes about 40 minutes to get to Dachau from Munich city centre. Travel north on the S2 or the RB16 regional train, and then transfer to the 726 bus from Dachau train station. 

Oberammergau

Oberammergau

A house in Oberammergau with traditional ‘Lüftlmalerei’, or frescoes. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | Ammergauer Alpen

Nestled in the mountains and just a stone’s throw from the Austrian border, you’ll find Oberammergau – a tiny alpine town with an incredibly vibrant cultural history. For almost 400 years, the people of Oberammergau have had a tradition of putting on a series of passion plays – historic performances of biblical stories – every ten years. Since 2020’s performance had to be postponed due to Covid, you can catch this once-in-a-decade experience this summer. 

Even if you don’t manage to snap up tickets to the passion play, the town still has plenty to offer. Walking around, you’ll see facades emblazoned with colourful frescoes and traditional wood carvings. For the full alpine experience, head to the Erlebnisbad Wellenberg – a huge outdoor swimming pool surrounded by breathtaking mountains. Another exciting way to see the mountains is to take a ride on the Alpine Coaster, a summer toboggan run that speeds down the hillside through meadows and pine forests. 

The quickest way to get Oberammergau from Munich is to take the RE6 or RE60 towards Innsbruck and then change at Murnau to the RE63. This route takes about an hour and 40 minutes. 

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

Hoping to do his bit for the planet, perhaps save some money and avoid spending any time in airports, The Local's Ben McPartland decided to travel 2,000km with his family across Europe by train - not plane. Here's how he got on on and would he recommend it?

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying - even with kids

Summer 2022 has seen the return of people travelling across Europe en masse whether for holidays or to see family, or both.

But it’s also seen chaos in airports, airline strikes and more questions than ever about whether we should be flying at all as Europe bakes under consecutive heatwaves caused by the climate crisis.

But are there really viable alternatives to travelling 2,000 km across Europe in a short space of time – with young kids?

The predicament

We needed to get from Paris to Portugal, or to be more precise the western edge of the Algarve in southern Portugal, for a week-long family holiday.

We didn’t have that much time to spend travelling there and back so the dilemma was how could we get there, fairly quickly?

“We” in this case being a family of four including two children aged 5 and 7, one fairly easygoing mum and a dad (me) who increasingly comes out in a rash when he goes near an airport.

Normally we’d have flown – as we did when we went to the same region of Portugal in October – but the stories of airport chaos, delays, cancellations, strikes and never-ending queues around Europe at the start of the summer made the prospect of taking the plane far less appealing.

Then throw in the climate crisis and the growing feeling that we, as a family, need to make an effort for the cause.

So the thought of flying, during what forecasters say was one of the hottest Julys on record in Europe and as rivers dried up and wildfires burn, just didn’t feel like an acceptable option – to me anyway – when there are alternatives.

There was the option of driving from France to Portugal, as many French and Portuguese nationals living in France do every summer. But driving nearly 2,000 km there and back for just a week’s holiday with two kids strapped in the back for hours on end would have been asking for trouble – either a breakdown or lots of meltdowns.

So that left taking the train. But would it be viable?  Would something go wrong as my colleague Richard Orange had warned on his own rail trip across Europe with kids this summer?

READ ALSO: What I learned taking the train through Europe with two kids

Planning the route

With the help of some really knowledgeable European rail experts like Jon Worth and information from the excellent The Man in Seat Sixty-One website we looked at the various rail routes through France and Spain to southern Portugal.

One problem was the line from southern Spain to the Algarve no longer runs which meant the best we could do was get to Seville and then hire a car.

At one point the best option looked like a night train (fairly cheap with a whole cabin reserved for the family) down to the Pyrenees (Latour-de-Carol) and then a local train to Barcelona before onwards travel to Portugal.

But in the end we settled on the direct train from Paris to Barcelona, spend the night in the Catalan city before taking the train the next day to Seville and picking up the car.

READ ALSO 6 European cities less than 7 hours from Paris by train

It would be mean Paris to Portugal in two days – or to be precise 7 hours to Barcelona, one night in a hotel, before a five-and-half-hour train journey to Seville and a three-hour car journey. It was the quickest way without flying, as far as we could see.

We were about to book the tickets when friend who was travelling by rail through Europe mentioned the Interrail option.

I did Interrailing as an 18-year- old and it was a great way to spend a month travelling around Europe (and Morocco) but had never thought it could be an option for a quickish trip to Portugal and back.

But Interrail has changed a bit since 1996 and indeed since 1972 when it was first launched for under 21s.

Now it offers passes that can be used for 4, 5 or 7 days a month – perfect for travel to a few destinations in a short space of time.

And, this was the clincher – Interrail passes for under 11s are free if they are with an adult.

Well almost free, because in certain countries like France and Spain you still need to pay for seat reservations for anyone travelling.

But the cost of the passes for two adults, plus seat reservations were cheaper than just booking direct trains and much cheaper than flying (more on costs below).

The high-speed train from Barcelona to Seville. Photo: The Local

The Upsides

Let’s start with not having to wake up at 4am and arrive at the train station three hours before the train leaves just to check in a bag and then spend the next three hours queuing in various lines – bags, passport, security, boarding etc..

We arrived at Gare de Lyon around 30 minutes before the train left and boarded without queuing and the train departed on time.

Compare this with having to get a taxi or the RER train to Charles de Gaulle airport and then still find yourself in Paris three hours later as you queue to board. (I know this is not always the case but this summer the advice was to arrive three hours before your flight to check in bags.)

Plus there was no luggage limits on the train and no having to empty your bags at security because you left an old roll-on deodorant at the bottom of your bag.

Although rail stations in Spain do have airport style x-ray machines to check all luggage, they were very rapid and didn’t result in any long queues.

Add to this comfortable seats with leg room, a bar you can walk to and spend hours watching the beautiful French and Spanish landscape whizz by.

You arrive in the centre of town – in our case Barcelona – so there’s no need to get public transport or taxis to and from out of town airports. 

Spending a night in Barcelona was a great way to break the journey – albeit a bit expensive (see below).

And it all ran pretty much on time. Over five train journeys in four days we had 15 minutes of delay. Spain’s high-speed trains were fantastic.

To sum it up: when flying your holiday only really begins when you arrive at your final destination because these days the day spent travelling is one big headache, but with the train the holiday begins as soon as you leave the station.

It’s just far, far more relaxing.

heading back to Barcelona Sants station after a night in the Catalan capital. Photo: The Local.

The Downsides

But what about the kids, you say?

Yep this can be an issue. Travelling for 7 hours on a train is not easy with two young kids but if you come prepared and can think of 75 different ways to occupy them from drawing and playing cards to I-spy and “count my freckles slowly” then it’s possible the journey will be tantrum free. (Playing hide and seek on a train with 12 carriages isn’t advisable.)

And kids adapt, so the following day’s five and half hour journey from Barcelona to Seville was a breeze because they settled into the pace of life and by that point had worked out the code to get into my mobile phone.

One complaint was how long the TGV train took to get along the southern French coast. Does it really need to stop at Nimes, Montpellier, Beziers, Agde, Sete and Perpignan? Can’t local trains serve these stations and the TGV just head straight to Spain?

Another little gripe was the train food. Whilst buffet cars on SNCF and Renfe trains are great for a coffee or a beer they don’t really offer a selection of healthy meals, so you need to come prepared. We weren’t and spent a lot of money on crap food and drink during the trips.

But if you know this in advance you can bring whatever you like onto the train, with no nonsense about 100ml limits on liquid.

Cost comparison

Working out cost comparisons are hard and anyone looking to do a similar trip will need a calculator at hand. 

It’s hard to do a direct comparison between flying and taking the train because so much depends on what the prices are when you book, the route you want to take and how quickly you want to travel and whether to go first class or standard.

But for us at the time of booking (roughly two months in advance) flights from Paris to Faro were about €1,500 for four people, train tickets booked directly with SNCF and Renfe (not interrail) for four people were around €1,200 (this probably could have been much cheaper further in advance), whilst the Interrail option – 4 day passes plus seat reservations was around €810.

So on the face of it travelling by train, especially using Interrail passes, was cheaper – but then add on the cost of two nights in hotels in central Barcelona and there was no real financial benefit of going by train.

But then it was never all about money – what price on not having to spend three hours at Charles de Gaulle airport?

How easy is it to Interrail?

Interrail proved a great option for us, even though it was only a relatively short trip. It’s more suited to those looking to do multiple journeys through various countries, perhaps at a slower pace. But the kids being free was crucial for us, so other families should definitely explore the option.

The one downside to Interrailing through France and Spain is the requirement to book seat reservations for the high-speed trains.

Whilst this sounds fairly straightforward we couldn’t do it through the Interrail app or website so had to be done with Renfe directly. For most countries you can reserve seats through the Interrail app (more on this below).

With SNCF it required a lengthy phone call because we reserved the seats to make sure there were some available before getting the Interrail passes.

For Paris to Barcelona the reservations cost €34 for standard class seats or €48 for first class.

With Renfe it was more complicated although much cheaper (Around €10 to €12 a seat). We were told on the phone that to reserve seats with Interrail you have to do it either at a Spanish train station or by phone but only if you can pick up and pay for the reservations at a Spanish train station within a certain amount of time.

Neither of these were possible when booking from Paris back in May/June. But the helpful website Man at Seat 61 recommended going via the man behind the AndyBTravels website, who charges a small fee. A few emails were exchanged and our reservations for Barcelona to Seville arrived in the post a few days later. 

Renfe and SNCF could make it easier for Interrail passengers.

The Interrail mobile pass on the the Rail Planner app was very easy to use. It was just a case of adding the days when we were travelling and then adding the specific journeys.

This brought up a QR code for each trip but the ticket controllers were always more concerned about the seat reservations we had on paper.

But all went to plan.

 

Conclusion

Those days spent sitting drinking coffee, orange and beer (in separate cups) starring out of train windows at fields, hills, mountains, villages, beach and train platforms were part of the holiday.

I’d say that if you have a day or two to spare then travelling across Europe by train instead of plane is well worth it – yes, even with two young kids.

They might even thank you for it one day if we all help avert a climate disaster. 

Advice

It’s hard to give advice because each person has different requirements that need to be taken into account – whether number of passengers, time needed for travelling, destinations, cost etc.

But plan ahead and do the research to see what’s possible.

One bit of advice if you need to travel quickly is try keep connections to a minimum or give yourself plenty of time to make them.

My colleague Richard Orange had problems on his trip from Sweden to the UK via Denmark, Germany and Belgium because of delays and missed connections.

Useful links and extra info

You can explore Interrail pass options and prices by visiting the Interrail site here. The site offers plenty of info to help you plan your trip and reserve seats on trains if necessary.

The fantastic Man in Seat 61 guide to train travel across Europe is a must-read for anyone planning a trip. It has pages and pages of useful up to date info and can be viewed here.

It also has loads of information on how to use an Interrail pass and calculations to see whether it’s the best option – if you need help with the maths. The page can be viewed here.

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