High-tech and traditional, conservative and innovative, quaint and quirky there’s much more to the Free State (as Bavaria is known) than the stereotypical Lederhosen and felt hat image.
World-class museums, thigh-slapping beer halls, speedy cars, Alpine vistas, dreamy castles, belly-filling food, top-notch beer…there are hundreds of reasons to visit Germany's southeast corner.
Here we list the ten most compelling.
1. The Alps
Geography may have handed Germany’s south a mere sliver of the Alps, but the region certainly makes the most of its peaks, many of which are but a short train ride from central Munich. The ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the place to head for the best fun in the snow, as it sits under Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, the top of which can be reached by train.
Surrounded by Austria on three sides, the Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria's far southeast keeps all the region’s clichéd Alpine promises, providing dramatic mountain scenery, great hiking and Germany’s prettiest lake, the Königssee.2. The beer
Munich has often been called 'the city of art and beer’, and when you are done with the art by day, the evenings belong to the 1L steins of frothy brews in typical beer halls such as the Hofbräuhaus, the Augustiner Bräustuben and the Weisses Brauhaus.
3. The castles
Every Bavarian town and hilltop seems to host a medieval noble pile or two, but it’s to three 19th-century follies commissioned by Bavaria’s King Ludwig II that most outsiders flock. Rising out of Alpine forest near the town of Füssen, Schloss Neuschwanstein is Germany’s most popular tourist attraction, its dreamy turrets and dramatic location having inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle.
4. The cars
Bavaria is home to some of the highest-octane names of the motoring world, BMW in Munich and Audi in Ingolstadt. Munich’s space-age BMW Welt (BMW World) is a petrolhead’s dream come true, a huge free exhibition of the company’s latest models which can be sat in, fiddled with and admired from the driver’s seat. Next door is the excellent BMW Museum, and intriguing tours of the nearby factory can be easily arranged.
5. The traditions
From the world-famous Oktoberfest and Christmas markets to Oberammergau’s once-a-decade Passion Play and the glass-blowing traditions of the Bavarian Forest; from the beer-brewing monks of Adndechs and folk-costumed bashes in Alpine taverns to Bayreuth’s Wagner obsession – Bavaria is a place where culture and traditions form an easily accessible link with a colourful, folksy past.