Every year, Bavaria draws millions of visitors to its stunning towns, all drenched in the area’s diverse heritage and rich cultural traditions. From medieval riverside towns to former imperial jewels to settlements set against an imposing backdrop of the snow-capped Alps, this German state is a traveler’s paradise. Here are the 10 most beautiful Bavarian towns in Germany you should visit.
Nestled on an island on the eastern side of Lake Constance, Lindau is a stunning gem a stone’s throw away from the borders of Austria and Switzerland. Made a Free Imperial City within the Holy Roman Empire in 1275, the town stood as a fishing settlement for hundreds of years along the opulent trade route between Swabia and Italy. Over the years, Lindau has exchanged hands between numerous political groups and nations, and a lot of multicultural influence is still present today. For those passing through, the best way to discover this lovely town is to immerse yourself in the mazes of small streets and century-old houses that it has to offer, before wandering down to the harbor for the glorious views of the Austrian shoreline.
For those looking for a taste of the great Bavarian outdoors, look no further than Garmisch Partenkirchen, a town that was actually merged out of two alpine villages for the Winter Olympics in 1936. Each retaining its own character, old-world and modern respectively, both are set against a dramatic backdrop of the Alps, offering some of the best hikes and skiing right on Munich’s doorstep. The area is also a handy stop-off point before continuing on to visit some of Ludwig II’s grandest palaces, including the nearby Schloss Linderhof, Jagdschloss Schachen and, if you’re really adventurous, the magical Neuschwanstein castle.
Known largely for its violin-making industry, Füssen has been on the map of Bavarian places to visit for centuries. Boasting a 700-year history at the southern tip of the Romantic Road, it is one of the finest vacation destinations in the area. As if drawn by an artist’s hand, the romantic old town is located 1,200 meters above sea level and is framed by dramatic mountain peaks and freshwater lakes. For those interested in the town’s musical instrument history, The Füssen Heritage Museum will provide a wealth of knowledge.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Regensburg is a vibrant medieval town nestled on the banks of Danube river, encompassing a notable number of historic structures spanning two millennia. Completed under Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the town was the first capital of Bavaria, playing host to numerous dukes, kings and bishops for centuries. Thankfully, Regensburg was saved from tragic devastation during the wars, so today, it retains many architectural gems that illustrate how it must have looked during its medieval zenith. Certainly worth a stay for a couple of days, the plethora of historical monuments and cultural attractions will certainly not disappoint.
Author Hermann Hesse once wrote of this town: “If I could choose my place of birth, I would consider Würzburg,” and even upon first glance, many visitors will see why. The history of the beautiful hilly location goes all the way back to 686, when it was a Franconian duchy and a pilgrimage point. Similarly today, the scenic town has much to offer to visitors, with the Residenz being the crown jewel. Built in the 18th century by architect Balthasar Neumann, it remains one of the most prominent examples of Baroque architecture in Germany. Coincidentally, Würzburg is also right in the middle of the country’s wine-producing region, making it a superb place to sample local tipples.
Occupying a glorious hilltop along the Romantic Road, Rothenburg ob der Tauber invites visitors to enjoy a spectacular selection of medieval and Renaissance buildings that have somehow escaped the ravages of the centuries. Very much a day-tripper magnet, the charming town boast a web of cobbled lanes, higgeldy-piggedly houses and a transfixing fairytale atmosphere that attracts thousands of tourists every year. Be warned, as testament to its medieval appeal, the crowds can get quite unbearable during the summer months and the Christmas period so it is recommended that you stay the night to experience the true essence of this magical place after the last tour buses leave.
Perfect as a day trip from nearby Nuremberg, Bamberg is a fascinating town with an Altstadt (old town) that has been awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site honor. Occupying seven hills at a cross section of numerous rivers and winding canals, it is repeatedly voted as one of the most beautiful settlements in Germany and one of the best places for students to live. Every year, many visitors descend on Bamberg’s narrow medieval streets, frequenting its abundance of pavement cafés and sampling local beer from its myriad city breweries. Alternatively, for those looking from a historical perspective, the four-spired cathedral, the Baroque residenz (residences) and the old rathaus (town hall) on the island will give day-trippers plenty to wonder at.
Located on the convergence of three rivers, the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz, the picturesque town of Passau has quite literally been shaped by water over the centuries. Historically, the town has always been a wealthy trading hub, known for its Bohemian salt, as well as its close ties to the Holy Roman Empire, a church has stood here since the fifth century. A long time ago, the quaint town was deemed incredibly prestigious for being the largest bishopric in the land, exquisitely built by powerful princes and bishops to form the winding lanes, tunnels and grand archways, many of which still stand today. A perfect spot to visit for a day on a river cruise, Passau also appeals to avid cyclists for its abundance of long-distance routes.
The historical town of Dinkelsbühl is located in Central Franconia on the northern part of the Romantic Road. According to many historians, the area is the best-preserved medieval town in Germany, having remained totally unscathed during the World Wars, except for a broken window in the gothic cathedral of St. George. The unspoiled townscape harks back over 800 years and is filled to the brim with striking churches, proud townhouses and timbered cottages among its many winding lanes.
Shaped by over hundreds of years of history, Mindelheim gives visitors a chance to embark on a journey of discovery in the heart of the Unterallgäu district. Located 56 miles (90 kilometers) west of Munich, it is the perfect stop on the way to Lindau. The town’s earliest history officially dates from 1365, when it came into the possession of the Dukes of Teck-Owen, but it was soon passed into the hands of the Württemberg counts. Today, Mindelheim reflects the structure of a typical medieval settlement, with its partially standing city wall, its array of churches and the town hall arranged around the market square.