I can remember the first time I flew overseas. I felt so very small, so humbled by the pure history in the earth under my feet. I’m in awe of the amount of beauty there is for me to still discover in so many parts of the world – from the culture to the food, from the people to the architecture, from the art to the music to the wine, from the festivals to the landscape.
Easily one of the most stunning locations in the world, one that I’m confident is on your must-visit-list is The Alps. Imagine taking two weeks to tour the heart of the area which encompasses Switzerland, Austria and Germany, all on your own road trip time. The good news is with the help of Absolutely Alps, I have the insider tips that will make this very journey one you will never forget. With three itineraries to choose from, Absolutely Alps suggests the best foods, the can’t miss highlights and where you should stay on every stop.
For a closer look, and because I simply can’t wait to share a few suggestions, I’ve opted to take you through a few of the cities I think you simply must see on your road trip. As a preview, take a look at this Absolutely Alps video….I dare you to look away.
Welcome back. Let’s imagine we are starting in Switzerland.
A highlight of your time in Switzerland will be the storybook setting of Interlaken. The city is small enough to allow you to navigate comfortably by either foot or bicycle. It is situated in between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and boasts over 130 miles of hiking trails as well as more than 45 mountain railways, aerial cableways, chair and ski lifts to take any skiers in your group to some amazing runs. If you visit in the summer, there are cruises and paddle-steamers that go out on the lakes.
Nestled at the base of the world-renowned Matterhorn mountain, Zermatt is known for its Winter tourism which offers world-class skiing, climbing, and hiking, as well as boutiques and restaurants to accompany the atmosphere. The ski-season often lasts through early summer, but you can certainly take advantage of the skiing year-round as this area boasts a glacier. The village itself is car-free, though you can take horse-drawn-cabs or electric vehicles. While in the region, be sure to indulge in the local delicacy – Raclette cheese. Though there are imitations around the world, this melted cheese originated in Valais, one of 26 cantons in Switzerland (similar to a state).
Nearly six-thousand feet above sea level, St. Moritz is a luxury resort town with many five star hotels. Its origins date back less than 200 years to 1864. In 1987, the St. Moritz tourism office trademarked the phrase ‘Top of the World’ and the area is promoted as such. It hosted the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympic Games and the stadium still stands.
Also a premiere skiing location, Bregenzerwald is known for the Bregenz Forest, which consists of nearly two dozen villages, pastures and mountains. You’ll find yourself drawn to the architecture and craftsmanship as many of the buildings are hand-crafted. While there, be sure to visit Bregenzerwald Cheese Road for a chance to experience both the beauty of the landscape and the local flavors of cheese, butter and yogurt.
This is just one of the many stops from the list of the the 9 best hidden gems this region has to offer. Check out the other 8 when you plan your road trip!
Zell am See
As if the views hadn’t already been spectacular, you’ll be in awe of the pure blue of Lake Zell. In this area you can dive in the summer and ski in the winter. This area has been populated since the early 700’s, so the history buff will want to take their time exploring. The views from Schmittenhöhe on the eastern edge of the Alps is breath-taking as you can see 30 different 10,000 foot peaks.
On the border of Germany, Salzburg offers views of the Eastern Alps. The 4th largest city in Austria is known for its art and culture, as well as being both the birthplace of Mozart and setting for The Sound of Music. It is full of festivals and unrivaled cultural experiences and is best navigated on foot.
The best preserved medieval city in Germany is a must-see. As it has been maintained almost entirely in its original form since the 8th century, walking the streets will truly feel like stepping back in time, far back. The historic relics you see in the picture above are two that should be on your list. As the only preserved arch bridge in Germany, you’ll know there are stories in its stone and St. Peter’s cathedral dates back to 700 AD.
Nuremburg is also one of the oldest cities in Northern Bavaria and like Regensburg, boasts medieval architecture. Home to a handful of castles and churches worth exploring, this city is also the location of the infamous Nuremburg trials – a series of military tribunals held after World War II to prosecute many of the leaders of the Nazi party accused of participating in the Holocaust.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Bavaria, Bamberg was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 as it is largely unchanged since the 9th century. The nickname ‘Beer City’ fills travelers in on a not-so-hidden secret: the town has nine breweries and is laid out over seven hills. Worth adding to your list of places to see is the Romanesque Bamberg Cathedral.
A few things to consider when planning your road trip:
- Two weeks is likely an ideal amount of time to hit all of the cities on any of the three full itineraries at a leisurely pace, but if you have less time available, you can certainly hit the spots that most call to you.
- You can rent a car at most airports or in some downtown locations in major cities, but keep in mind, rental agencies are closed on Sundays.
- Most gas stations are closed at night though many self-service stations remain open.
- Be flexible – if you find yourself in love with one city on your Absolutely Alps Road Trip, feel free to take your time and adjust your schedule accordingly. Experience what matters to you.
- Special seasons to consider: October – Wine Harvest, November – December -Christmas Markets, January – February – Viennese Ball Season, and March – Easter Celebrations
- To inspire some additional planning, check out these 9 must-try dishes and 9 fun facts.
Above all else – relax and enjoy the majesty of this part of the world.