This past summer our family of 4 (kids ages 6 and 16) went on a 2-week European roadtrip through Germany, Alsace (France), and Switzerland. It took me several months to plan this roadtrip and I am happy to share our itinerary to inspire you to start planning yours!
We made 8 overnight stops on this roadtrip that started from Germany, and here they are, with driving mileages, VIA points and day trips from each stop.
STOP 1. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany (1 night)
Drive: Frankfurt Airport, Germany, to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Miles: 115 (1hr 40 mins)
We flew into Frankfurt, Germany (from New York), took possession of our rental car and drove to our first destination, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (not to confuse with a couple of “other” German Rothenburgs). We explored this “straight from the fairy tale” medieval town (one of Germany’s best preserved) on foot – on our own during the day and with the Night Watchman’s Tour at night.
STOP 2. Munich, Germany (3 nights)
Drive: Rothenburg-ob der Tauber, Germany to Munich, Germany (VIA Nuremberg, Germany)
Miles: 160 (3 hrs.)
Day trips from Munich: Lake Chiemsee (islands Herreninsel and Fraueninsel); Salzburg, Austria
We left Rothenburg in the morning to start our drive South to Munich. On our way we stopped in Nuremburg to pay our tribute to WWII history at Memorial Nuremberg Trials. We highly recommend visiting this powerful Museum housed in the functioning Palace of Justice. (If not in use for current trials, you can see Room 600 where the actual trials over Nazi regime took place in 1945-1946.) Exhibit rooms tell the commanding story of this first ever International Military Tribunal: the defendants, the evidence, the prosecutors, the sentencing, and famous visitors from around the world. We followed along with the self-guided audio tours. To preserve the significance of the visit, we did not stop anywhere else in Nuremberg and spent the 1.5 hour drive to Munich in quiet reflection.
We spent the following three nights in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, a cosmopolitan city representing the Germany of today. Traditional beer houses, world class art museums, vibrant central squares Marienplatz and Odeonsplatz, an epic day trip to the islands of Lake Chiemsee and Salzburg occupied our time in this modern city with a history. We left Munich wanting more of it. Stay tuned for my “three day Munich itinerary” post in the coming weeks.
STOP 3: Ettal, Germany (Bavarian Alps), 3 nights
Drive: Munich, Germany to Ettal, Germany (VIA Lake Walchensee, Germany)
Miles: 75 (1 hr 40 mins.)
Day trips from Ettal: Neuschwanstein Castle, Fussen, Linderhof Castle, Zugspitze, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Oberammergau.
When we practically tore ourselves from last minute Munich sightseeing in the afternoon, we headed south east in the direction of Garmsich-Partenkirchen to a small town of Ettal which we have chosen as our base to explore Bavarian Alps. Over the next couple of days we swam in Alpine lakes, admired more of King Ludwig II impressive creations set against the Alps, journeyed to the top of Germany (aka Zugspitze mountain) and explored picturesque Bavarian towns of Oberammergau and Partenkirchen. And when we felt that we had enough of Bavarian country side, we headed to Switzerland.
STOP 4: Zurich, Switzerland (1 night)
Drive: Ettal, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland
Miles: 175 Miles (3.5 hours)
Our drive from Ettal to Zurich was the longest on our road trip. Our trip plan (and frankly, the budget) only allowed us a glimpse into this beautiful country, but we loved what we saw and will hopefully have a chance to explore more of Switzerland on another trip.
In elegant Zurich, the city of swans and fountains (not to mention the clocks and the banks, of course) we put Zurich Cards generously offered by Zurich Tourist Office to a good use. Here is our “24 hour Zurich” post.
STOP 5: Lucerne (1 night)
Drive: Zurich, Switzerland to Lucerne, Switzerland
Miles: 35 ( 40 mins)
Day trip from Lucerne: Mount Pilatus
From Zurich we drove south for less than an hour to Lucerne, for another “one-nighter” (we managed to squeeze 2 full sightseeing days out of our stay in Lucerne). The old town with its unique covered bridges decorated with 17th century art, blue waters of Lake Lucerne surrounded by glorious mountain tops – one of which (Mount Pilatus) we journeyed to using 5 different transports, followed by a visit to the Transport Museum itself – filled our 2 days in beautiful Lucerne to the fullest.
STOP 6: Ribeauville. (Alsace) France
Drive: Lucerne, Switzerland to Ribeauville, France (3 nights)
Miles: 110 (1.5 hrs.)
Day trips from Ribeauville: Colmar, Castle Haut-Koenigsbourg, Kayzerberg
We were only able to leave the awe inspiring Lake Lucerne at 8pm as the skies started to turn grey for the first time on our trip (this was actually welcomed after 8 days of sightseeing in intense heat).
At some point (we did not notice in the dark) during our 2 hour journey to Ribeauville we crossed the Swiss boarder over to France and found ourselves in the Alsatian wine region. We awoke in the morning to the views of the vineyards right outside our terrace. For the next 3 days the pace of our journey slowed down a bit, as we tasted local whites, walked cobblestone streets of charming towns on the Alsatian wine route and went on culinary adventures in tiny local restaurants (did you know that Alsace has the most Michelin stars restaurants in France?)
STOP 7: Baden-Baden, Germany (2 nights)
Drive: Ribeauville, France to Baden-Baden, Germany (VIA Strasbourg, France)
Miles: 77 (1.5 hrs)
We left our Ribeauville base in the morning but continued our exploration of Alsace as we headed to Alsatian capital of Strasbourg. We spent 6 busy hours putting Strasbourg City Pass to the test (it passed!) as we climbed Notre Dame Cathedral (once the tallest building in the world), toured canal-lined medieval Petite France quarter (Unesco World Heritage Site), took a boat tour along Ill river all the way to the European Parliament and admired ancient royal residence Palace Rohan which once housed Napoleon for the night.
As much as we admired Strasbourg, we were ready for some heavy duty relaxation that awaited us in the German spa town Baden-Baden at the foothills of the Black Forest.
We headed out to the famous Baden-Baden spas as soon as we unpacked. We spent the next 2 days soaking in the thermal waters of the town’s 2 main spas – Friedrichsbad and Caracalla, taking short breaks for art museums (which, may I say, included the world’s most beautiful casino decorated with original paintings and period furniture), a cable car ride up to mountain Mercur and a walk along famous Lichtentaler Allee, straight from the 19 century Russian novel. When asked if he would do anything differently on our busy trip, my husband’s (aka designated driver and photographer) only regret was that we did not spent another day in Baden Baden’s spas.
STOP 8: Frankfurt Airport, Germany (1 night)
Drive: Baden-Baden, Germany to Frankfurt Airport, Germany (VIA Bingen, Germany)
Miles:150 (2.5 hrs.)
On our last sightseeing day, after (yet another) last minute soak in the Baden’s thermal pools, we drove to Bingen to catch a cruise along the Rhine river. With its steep vineyards’ lined shores, dreamy villages of Bacharach, Boppard and St. Goar and a castle every hundred feet- it is no wonder Middle Rhine has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. We took a 4:30pm cruise with KD line out of Bingen to the village of St. Goar (and rode a train back to our car in Bingen). We spent the night at the hotel at Frankfurt Airport before taking an early morning flight to New York.
It was a beautiful ending to the road trip quite out of the ordinary.
See HERE– Planning Family European Road Trip: What Worked and What Did Not.
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29 thoughts on “Our Family European Road Trip”
An absolutely epic trip! I am really envious. We have been to Austria (utterly beautiful!) a few times, including Lake Wolfgang and Salzburg last year, but we haven’t been to Germany with the children and would really love to. Can’t believe how much you fitted in! I’d love to try the Baden Baden spas, but also so much else…
Thanks, Sarah! It was a very busy but also very fulfilling trip! We saw a lot but also fit in quite a few relaxing spa visits with and without the kids (not just in Baden Baden).
You have just made me even more excited about my Christmas road trip in Europe. We will be doing most of the same route as you but are lucky to have 3 additional weeks to spread our wings even further. I look forward to reading more of this trip.
So lucky indeed, Dean! I hope you will be able to use some of my research. Come back soon for more!
What a wonderful trip! Sounds like the perfect way to explore the region. Look forward to reading more about it.
So you finally made it to Lucerne, Victoria. I remember earlier this year you were mentioning this in one of your comments. This is such an awesome itinerary! I’m sure you had a lot of fun.
What an awesome itinerary and family trip!! Those memories will last a lifetime!
Thank you, Alyssa, I agree and hope to be making new ones soon:)
ALLTID kjekt med bursdag! Du hadde en superfin Ã¸nskeliste. BS skjerf er en hit i dette huset ogsÃ¥. VÃ¥ger ikke si hvor mange jeg har….. Kos deg
MEGA productive! I’m so impressed, seriously, at how much you got done in just one weekend! We’ve been putting off working on our master bedroom (in a small ranch house it seems kind of ridiculous to call it a master, but whatevs) but this has me inspired to tackle it! Way to go!
It sounds like you squeezed a whole lot into your itinerary! You saw so many great places that I’m sure you have lots of stories to come. I’m especially looking forward to your city itineraries because it’s always been hard for me to decide what to see.
Glad you got a bit of spa down-time without the kids. We parents need that, especially when we are with them 24/7. Did you have a favorite spa?
Thanks for linking to #TheWeeklyPostcard. It will be fun to see what you share next.
Linda, it’s funny that you ask about the spas:). I liked Baden Baden spas a lot but I had very high expectations about them which is always difficult to deal with. I had very low expectations of the spa in Ribeauville and loved it. It was hard to bit the mountainous outdoors portion of that spa (the Vosges Mountains)
I am really impressed with how much ground you covered! How did you find it going to so many places in a relatively short period of time? We did a road trip this summer and stopped in 5 places over 2.5 weeks, which in hindsight was probably a bit too much (but still a lot of fun). It really does sound like a great trip though and you got to visit some of my favourite places in Europe!
Katja, while I don’t regret a single step on this trip, covering so much in so little time is challenging- with or without the kids! That said, stay tuned for my analysis of “good”, “bads” and “uglies” of planning a road trip.
What a great roadtrip. I like that you did this overview and included maps. It will be so helpful to others planning their own independent travels.
Thank you, Michele. It is also a helpful starting point for me to tell my travel stories from this trip.
What a fun road trip for the whole family!
What a fantastic family adventure! I’ve been a bit nervous of European road trips after driving in Spain a few years ago. You’ve inspired me though!
What a great road trip! I’m not very good at the planning of road trips so I’m very impressed with this.
Thank you, Shobha! Stay tuned for my planning tips post:)
We’ve done our share of road trips over the many years, and this itinerary is fantastic! As much as I love train travel in Europe, the freedom that a car affords our family really can’t be beat.
I agree, Claudia- road trips are something everyone with with kids (and luggage:) should consider in Europe
What a fun road trip, you covered so much ground! Looking forward to more of the travelogues!
What a jam packed trip, did you leave any stone unturned? Sounds like a spot on itinerary too, especially with the independence and flexibility of a car. I’d love to hear more about your visit to the Nuremburg Museum, we learnt so much about it in school as kids so I always find visits like these such a powerful lesson. And isn’t Colmar just so cute! We were there in Feb and didn’t want to leave!
Heather, thanks for stopping by! Nuremburg Trials Museum was a deeply moving experience, but not something I could do “justice” to within the format of this blog. I included the highlights in this post hoping that people would visit it for several hours of historical and may be personal reflections. On a lighter note- lovely Colmar- it was your post that inspired me to go to Colmar in the first place!
That looks like a great route. I’d love to do a road trip around Europe, but I think I’d find the whole driving on the wrong side of the road thing a bit stressful. Maybe I’d get used to it after a few days.
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Seems like you fully enjoyed your road trip and thats what we are hoping to achieve from our upcoming road trip as well. We would like to use your experience. Our road trip will be witnin Germany and Switzerland only. Infact we would like to spend more time in Switzerland and explore the real swiss beauty as mentioned in your blog as well.
Any advise or comments or lesson learned?
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