Marvel at the fascinating Christmas markets of Germany and Austria, do as much or as little Christmas shopping as you wish, and still see many of the features of the Bavarian Castles tour.
Highlights include the Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, Linderhof, and Herrenchiemsee castles, Innsbruck, Fussen, Kempten, Oberammergau, Munich, Nymphenburg, Hofbrauhaus, and Wieskirche - the Church in the Meadow.
Day One. Arrival in Munich, Germany. Your flight should arrive at the Munich Airport by 11:15 a.m. at the latest for the complimentary transfer at noon. When the group is complete we head south to your home away from home in HOPFEN AM SEE, on the lake near Fussen (Füssen or Fuessen in German). Our home base here at the southern end of Germany's famous Romantic Road is within hiking distance of Neuschwanstein in the beautiful Bavarian Alps. You are staying in a typical local "landhaus", where you are a friend, not a tourist. Your rooms are very gemuetlich, decorated in Bavarian country style, all with cable TV, telephone, refrigerator, extra sitting area, balcony, and a great mountain view. You'll be treated to a welcoming Bavarian dinner on the Lake Promenade tonight.
Day Two. Today we focus on NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE (Schloss Neuschwanstein in German), Germany's most famous castle. First we go to Marienbruecke (Mary's Bridge) sitting high above the Poellat Gorge, where we can take the best pictures of the castle. (If Mary's Bridge is closed because of ice or snow on the path, you will be taken to another lookout where you can take wonderful pictures of Neuschwanstein.) From there we walk downhill for our inside tour of Neuschwanstein. Afterwards there's time for lunch and a stroll on Lake Alpsee, where young Ludwig learned to swim. In the afternoon we visit SCHLOSS HOHENSCHWANGAU, the castle built by his father Maximilian, where Germany's fairy tale king spent much of his childhood, and where he dreamed about his future castles. Local guides in both castles. Tonight we will have a gourmet dinner in one of Bavaria's oldest restaurants.
Day Three. Our first stop today is the famous WIESKIRCHE, or Church in the Meadow, one of the few buildings in Bavaria that are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. On to SCHLOSS LINDERHOF, Ludwig's beautiful hiding Castle deep in the forest where he spent more time than in his other Castles. There's time for lunch on the grounds before we visit the inside of the castle, and afterwards there's time to explore the beautiful gardens on your own, before we go on to ...
OBERAMMERGAU, a pretty village known for the Passion Play (every 10 years, next time in 2020), a tradition which derives from a vow made by the inhabitants in 1633 that if God spared them from the effects of the bubonic plague then sweeping the region they would perform a passion play every ten years. Oberammergau is also known for its Lueftlmalerei (painted houses) and woodcarving. Best Christmas shopping!
Day Four. Today we focus on King Ludwig II's largest castle, HERRENCHIEMSEE, which he built on an island in Lake Chiemsee after a visit to Versailles. Herrenchiemsee was Ludwig's most expensive project, he stayed here only about one week. Boat and horse carriage rides to the castle and local guide for inside tour. On the way back we stop in the beautiful town of BAD TOLZ (Bad Tölz or Bad Toelz in German). Bad Tolz became famous for its spa. It also features colourful painted buildings. There's time to relax before we join the locals tonight for great atmosphere and food at a local brewery.
Day Five. We go to MUNICH (München or Muenchen in German, sometimes Munchen on the net) and first visit SCHLOSS NYMPHENBURG (Nymphenburg Palace), the summer residence of the Wittelsbacher family, the place where Ludwig II was born, and the Martallmuseum, containing many of Ludwig's elaborate carriages. An orientation Tour of Germany's Secret Capital features the Olympic Stadium, Olympic Tower, Leopoldstrasse, Schwabing, Ludwigstrasse, Odeonsplatz, Koenigsplatz, Karlsplatz and ends by the Residenz and the Opera, where we get off and continue the last few meters on foot to Marienplatz, the very heart of Munich, known for the carillon in the Town Hall. It is here where you find one of the best Christmas markets in Germany. Enjoy the atmosphere, find your Christmas gifts and ornaments and have some Gluehwein and Gingerbread. You have plenty of time on your own for shopping, more sightseeing (lots of suggestions) or enjoying the city from a rooftop cafe. In the evening we have tickets for dinner and a show at the HOFBRAUHAUS (Hofbräuhaus), Munich's most famous beer hall. You will see a traditional Bavarian dance show with alphorn blowing, yodelling and polka, while having dinner and a stein of beer.
Day Six. Today were are heading towards INNSBRUCK, the Capital of Tyrol in Austria. First we visit the famous Swarovski Kristallwelten in Wattens, then we enjoy a walk through the quaint medieval lanes of Innsbruck, see the little Golden Roof in front of the Austrian Alps, the fine Baroque Church, and take a guided tour through the Hofburg, built by Empress Maria Theresia as a summer residence away from hot and stuffy Vienna. Enjoy Innsbruck's famous Christmas Market, admire the setting of this beautiful town, and get more Christmas shopping done. Dinner on your own tonight. How about wiener schnitzel in a typical Tyrolean Restaurant?
Day Seven. Today we focus on FUSSEN (Füssen), an old Roman Town on the Lech River. Walk its narrow streets and lanes and enjoy the details your local guide provides. Afterwards enjoy a hot Gluehwein and homemade applestrudel in one of Fussen's cosy cafes. This afternoon we take a short ride to KEMPTEN an old Roman City, about 20 miles away from Hopfen. Admire the baroque Residenz, have free time for great shopping, and spend time on Kempten's gemuetliche Christmas Market followed by a great dinner in Kempten.
Day Eight. Time to say "Auf wiedersehen". Transfer to Munich Airport for your return flight home.