South Germany: A Guide to One of Germany’s Top Regions and Culture

The reality is that when the vast majority of people think of “Germany” (you know….the picturesque landscapes, half timbered villages, lederhosen and festivals, majestic Bavarian Alps, or enchanting forests) they actually are typically picturing “South Germany.”

Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria

(Important: I am in NO way saying that other parts of Germany are not worth your time and attention, that is FAR from the truth.) But as a strong word of warning, I have personally been living in South Germany (Regensburg-Bavaria) for over a decade now, so I may be a bit biased in my opinion that it IS a pretty awesome place to visit!!)

The thing about Southern Germany is that it’s really easy to pack in A LOT of sightseeing, cultural appreciation, and “Balancing the Iconic Sights with the Authentic Delights” (as we say here at WIG), especially for those that may be short on time and want to get the most out of their itinerary or limited time visiting Germany.

So, while I think that it does Germany a disservice to ignore the other regions of the country that offer wonderfully unique experiences in and of themselves, I also totally get why so many travelers end up focusing most of their trips in the “Southern Germany” regions.

Which is why in this article, we’ll begin the deep dive (check out AAAALLLL my other articles on the site for extremely in depth itineraries, off the beaten path ideas, cultural events, and more) on planning your perfect South Germany trip! From fairytale castles, to Alpine views that will take your breath away, to beer so good it will convert non beer drinkers (well, at least that’s what happened to me!) to quaint villages that could be in a Disney movie, Southern Germany has it all.

beer festival germany

Key Takeaways

  • South Germany offers a diverse range of experiences for travelers, including scenic landscapes, historic cities, and cultural highlights.
  • You can experience so many different things, places, events, geography, etc just by staying in the “Southern Germany” region.
  • “Southern Germany” is still a very large part of Germany as a whole and deserves plenty of time to be explored.
  • The region’s natural beauty, including the Black Forest and Bavarian Alps, provides opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing.
  • South Germany is also rich in history and culture, with several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and traditional culinary experiences to enjoy.

What is Considered “South Germany?”

South Germany is home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes in Europe. The region boasts a diverse mix of mountain ranges, forests, lakes, and rivers that offer breathtaking views and endless opportunities for outdoor activities. But what, or should I say, WHERE is “South Germany” exactly? After all, it’s a bit of a “made up” tourist term. And the reality is that there isn’t one hard definition of this and the answer is going to vary depending on who you ask.

For the sake of this article, and your Germany trip planning purposes, when most people are looking at traveling in Southern Germany, what they really are saying is that they are wanting to spend their time in the Southern German states (yes, Germany is divided into 16, individual Federal States) of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, probably part of the Rheinland Pfalz, and maaaaybe a little part of Hesse (depending on the definition of “South”).

Popular Towns and Cities in South Germany

While this is clearly not an all encompassing list of ALL of the wonderful places to visit in the region, some of the most visited popular, favorite, and visited towns in Southern Germany are:


  • Munich
  • Nuremberg (although some would argue that this is no longer “South”…but that’s another topic of debate for another day)
  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • Alps
  • Regensburg
  • Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Bavaria is where you’ll also find the Romantic Road, the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle, the Bavarian forest, Oktoberfest, and more

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  • Heidelberg
  • Stuttgart
  • Ulm
  • Karlsruhe
  • Freiburg im Breisgau
  • Baden Baden

Baden-Württemberg is where you’ll find Black Forest (Schwarzwald) and most of the GIANT Lake Constance (Also known as Lake Konstance and Bodensee locally).


  • Trier
  • Saarsbrucken
  • Koblenz (depending on how far up you want to consider)
  • Kaiserslattern and Ramstein
  • While Cochem is in this state, I would argue it’s no longer in the “Southern” portion of Germany, but that’s not to say you can’t make it part of your trip….it is YOUR trip after all, make it what you want!

Rheinland Pfalz is arguably best known for its wine production regions along the Moselle and Rhine Rivers and some of the most famous castles like Burg Eltz.

Planning a Trip in South Germany

St Coloman Church in Southern Germany in front of the Bavarian Alps

It is really easy as tourists to want to pack in as much as humanly possible into our once in a lifetime trips (I’m guilty of this as well when I travel). However, my word of warning is that even though it may LOOK like it’s a “small” portion of Germany, it’s not! And while sure, the high speed trains may be able to zip you between Munich to Frankfurt in just over 3 hours, that doesn’t mean that you’ll actually be able to experience the different regions within South Germany if you go to fast from one place to the next. I still highly suggest focusing on just a few main areas of the region for a trip. I know, I know, that probably means having to skip some amazing stuff.

But hey, that’s just a great excuse to come back!

The (Almost Perfect) 1 Week in Germany Itinerary

It’s nearly impossible to create the “Ultimate” or “Best” Germany 1 Week Itinerary. However, with such a short amount of time and knowing what most people love to see, my 1 Week in Germany Itinerary focuses the majority of its time in Southern Germany. I wish it were possible to include more locations throughout the country, but with limited time, we want to get the most culture, sights, memories, and experiences we can without sacrificing actually ENJOYING the trip itself!

Not All of South Germany Is the Same (Culturally, Geographically, etc)

And that’s why you want to travel there, right!? I say this though because knowing that even though a few states may be nestled in right next to one another doesn’t mean that they are going to offer the same experiences.

Knowing what you personally enjoy when it comes to travel, scenery, and culture may help you to determine where to spend more of your time on your trip.

Geography and Natural Landscapes of Southern Germany

The Bavarian Alps

golden cross on top of the zugspitze, the tallest mountain in germany with the Bavarian Alps in the distance

Putting my personal weak spot for the Bavarian Alps aside, I really do believe that the Alps are a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to South Germany. This stunning mountain range is home to Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze, but even its neighboring peaks are just as beautiful and enjoyable.

The area is famous for its scenic beauty, with snow-capped peaks, deep valleys, and crystal-clear lakes. The Bavarian Alps are also home to several charming towns and villages like Garmisch and Oberammergau, each with its own unique character and culture.

The Black Forest

triberg waterfalls germany

The Black Forest is often at the top of people’s bucketlists for Germany and is a fantastic region for nature lovers. The Black Forest covers a HUGE section of Baden-Württemberg and is perfect for seeing stunning waterfalls, lakes, and has a plethora of great hiking trails.

The Schwarzwald region is also famous for its cuckoo clocks, which are handmade by local artisans using traditional techniques.

Lake Constance (Bodensee)

Lake Constance at Sunset

Lake Constance is one of the largest lakes in Europe and actually borders three countries! Depending on where you are at on the lake, you can be at (or at least see!) Germany, Austria, AND Switzerland! This lake is so huge that it literally has dozens of cities and towns that line it. To thoroughly enjoy the whole lake, you would need countless days, but even just picking one or two main towns as bases for exploring everything around the lake is a great option, too.

The Allgäu Region

tegelberg allgäu

The region in Southern Germany that continues to enchant anyone who passes through the area is arguably the Allgäu. While sure, it is still part of the Bavarian Alps, the Allgäu seems to take on a charm of its own. The Allgäu mountains are home to some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Germany and add those cute Alpine cows hanging out eating wildflowers to the picture and you might not be able to hold in your audible “Aaaaah!” (or at least “WOW!!!). And what do those Alpine cows do really well (besides looking insanely cute wandering the mountainsides)? Make the most delicious Allgäuer Cheese!!!!

Oh, and who doesn’t know about the most famous fairytale castle in the world? There was a reason why King Ludwig decided to build the Neuschwanstein Castle in the Allgäu!

Historical and Cultural Highlights

I wouldn’t be doing my job of being a Germany travel specialist if I led you to believe that other parts of Germany didn’t have their own unique cultures and customs that are amazing to experience in their own right. However, if you want to solidify some of those “German Stereotypes” then Southern Germany is sure to have your back (and also surprise you as well).

If you are traveling to Germany to immerse yourself in local culture or even history, you won’t have any problems finding either of them in Southern Germany.

Munich and Bavarian Culture

Bavarian Beer Culture at the Oktoberfest

Munich is the capital of Bavaria and a hub for Bavarian culture. You can explore the city’s history at the Bavarian National Museum or visit the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall (although I recommend also going to the Augustiner Keller for an even more authentic Bavarian Beer Hall experience). Bavarian traditions are also on display at the Viktualienmarkt, a daily food market that has been a Munich institution since 1807. In addition, Munich is home to several world-class art museums, including the Alte Pinakothek and the Pinakothek der Moderne.

Munich also makes for a perfect “home base” for traveling in Germany. You can easily stick to one hotel and then take countless day trips from Munich that has you seeing all the different sides of Bavaria!

Use my 1, 2, or 3 Days in Munich Itineraries to Plan Your Stay in the Capital of Bavaria

Castles and Royalty

lichtenstein castle pictures

South Germany is famous for its castles and royal history. For example, Neuschwanstein Castle may be touristy, but it is WELL worth it!
Insider Tip: Go to Neuschwanstein’s next door neighbor Hohenschwangau for an even better interior!
Bonus Insider Tip: Combine another King Ludwig Palace in your Castle Day and see Neuschwanstein and Linderhof in 1 day.

Some of my other personal favorite castles in South Germany that I have been to are Lichtenstein and Burg Eltz.

And is there anything more relaxing than sipping a local Riesling wine as you float down the Rheine River gazing up at countless medieval castles along the river banks!? (Well, maybe taking part in the German Sauna Culture may be more relaxing, but hey, I would take either!!!)

Medieval Towns and Architecture

Regensburg skyline, stone bridge and danube river

South Germany is also home to several well-preserved medieval towns. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is perhaps the most famous, with its half-timbered houses and well-preserved town walls but for a more “off the beaten path” alternative to Rothenburg, I can’t rave about Bamberg enough. (And try its famous “Smoked Beer!”) Nuremberg is another popular city in Bavaria that combines a bit of modern with classic and medieval.

And of course, I may be a bit biased since I personally live in Regensburg, but even without that, it has always been one of my favorite medieval towns in Germany!

Culinary Experiences

When it comes to culinary experiences, South Germany has a lot to offer and surprisingly varies quite a lot not only from its Northern States but even WITHIN South Germany itself! From traditional Bavarian beer and local delicacies to Rhine River Rieslings, to cheese delicacies in the Allgäu and don’t forget the Black Forest Ham, you will find a variety of options to satisfy your taste buds.

And while sure, you can get a schnitzel just about anywhere, Germany does remain quite regional, so don’t expect to find many Black Forest Tortes in Bavaria and you’ll be hard pressed to find a Rauchbier outside of Bamberg!

Bavarian Beer and Oktoberfest

Bavarian beer is famous worldwide, and for a good reason. With over 600 breweries in the region, you will find a vast selection of beers to try. The most famous beer festival in the world, Oktoberfest, takes place in Munich every year. It attracts millions of visitors from all over the world who come to enjoy the traditional Bavarian beer, food, and music. If you want to experience the authentic Bavarian beer culture, Oktoberfest is a must-visit.

Important: Oktoberfest is ironically mostly in September, so plan accordingly. Also, there is only ONE official Oktoberfest and that is in Munich. However, there are plenty of other amazing (and less touristy) huge Volksfest all over Southern Germany if you can’t make it to Oktoberfest. Look into the Stuttgart Cannstatter or the Straubing Gäubodenvolksfest for similar experiences.

🥨 Want To Go to Oktoberfest? Read These First:

Wine Regions and Vineyards

3 glasses of Germany wines in front of an ivy plant

South Germany is also home to some of the best wine regions in the country. The Baden region is known for its excellent white wines, while the Franconia region is famous for its sweeter red wines. While the Rhineland Pfalz is home to the stunning Rhine Valley, which is world famous for its Rieslings.

No matter which wine region in Southern Germany you explore, you can take a tour of local vineyards and taste the wines while enjoying the beautiful scenery! Würzburg, a city in Franconia, is a great place to start your wine tour. Or, do an amazing day river cruise on the Rhine to combine a wine tasting with castle spotting!

Local Delicacies and Dining

where to eat black forest cake in the black forest

While many foods from South Germany are so delicious that you MIGHT be able to find them in other regions, it’s always fun (and the most delicious!) to be sure you try foods IN the region of Southern Germany that they originated from. While you are galavanting around, be sure to have these foods next to your maps to know when to order which local dishes:

  • Nuremberg Bratwurst: Small little sausages that originated in Nuremberg and are protected by the EU’s culinary register of protected ingredients.
  • Käse Spätzle: Find this dish anywhere in Germany because it’s soo good, but to get the best and most authentic, don’t forget to order it while in the Allgäu region!
  • Black Forest Torte/ Cake: Nothing like a chocolatey, boozy cake! Enjoy it at a local cafe in the Black Forest
  • Schäufele: A melt in your mouth pork shoulder typically found more in the Franconia region than other parts of Bavaria
  • Windbeutel: I’ve only found these savory cream puffs in the Bavarian Alps, particularly around the Garmisch area
  • Obatzda: Few things pair so well with a freshly baked Pretzel but you’ll typically find this mostly in Bavaria
  • Maultaschen: Head to the Swabia region of Southern Germany to try out this “German Raviolis”

Outdoor Activities

Germany as a whole loves nature and outdoor activities are a huge way of life no matter what part of the country you are visiting. However, Southern Germany has SO many wonderful opportunities that many people who want to explore the outdoors flock to the various regions in this part of the country.

Winter Sports in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

skis and ski poles in the snow on the Zugspitze mountain in Germany

If you want to find the Best Ski Resorts in Germany, many of them are going to be in the Bavarian Alp region. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a popular destination for winter sports, including skiing and snowboarding. The town is located at the base of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, and offers a variety of slopes for all skill levels. You can also take a cable car to the top of the mountain for stunning views and even more skiing options.

Summer Hiking

mother holding son looking out over the bavarian alps

There is practically no limit to the number or places to find beautiful hikes all over Southern Germany and for all ability levels. From a leisure stroll on the Jura Steig overlooking the Danube to a jaunt through the Bavarian or Black Forests to a fun and easy family Panaramaweg on a mountain paved path to legit mountaineering or hut to hut hikes in the Alps, there is a hike literally for everyone somewhere in Southern Germany!

Leisure Activities

Germans work hard so they can play hard! Well, or relax hard??? All over Southern Germany the region encourages bike paths that can go on for miles and miles (kilometers and kilometers) literally connecting towns to towns and regions to regions! Many people do biking trips AS their vacation to see South Germany!

There are also other leisure activities such as horseback riding, swimming in local lakes, and more to allow you to slow down and enjoy both the nature and culture of the region.

Spa Towns and Wellness

German Saunas and Spas

I’m only a little (ok a lot) obsessed with the German Spa Culture. It’s it’s own intriguing cultural phenomenon and hey, if I get a day of relaxing out of it, then so be it! South Germany has several spa towns to choose from but perhaps the most famous is THE “German Spa Town” Baden-Baden with its affordable local thermal baths as well as luxurious spa hotels.

For a really amazing and authentic spa experience, one of my favorite German spa towns is Bad Füssing. Or of course, you can head to the GINORMOUS Therme Erding which boasts the world’s largest indoor waterslide park on one side of the facilities, and an absolutely huge and luxurious spa and sauna facility on the other side!

Overall, South Germany is a great destination for outdoor activities and leisure. Whether you’re looking for winter sports, hiking, or spa treatments, there’s something for everyone.

South Germany National Parks

lake konigsee in Berchtesgaden

Germans take the protection of nature very seriously. They also believe that nature is a place that should be accessible to EVERYONE, which is why the National Parks in Germany are not only extremely well maintained but FREE! A few of the best national parks in the Southern Germany region to add to your itinerary are:

  1. Berchtesgaden National Park (Bavaria): Situated in the Bavarian Alps near the Austrian border, I personally think this is one of the most beautiful national parks in all of Germany. It’s known for its stunning mountain landscapes, the famous Königssee (King’s Lake), and diverse wildlife.
  2. Black Forest National Park (Baden-Württemberg): Already frequently mentioned in this article, the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) isn’t “just” a forest, it’s an entire region and that entire region is a protected national park! It’s famous for its dense, evergreen forests and picturesque villages, and it’s a popular destination for hiking, beginner level skiing, and exploring traditional German culture.
  3. Bavarian Forest National Park (Bavaria): Bordering the Czech Republic, this national park is known for its extensive forests, wildlife, small scale mountains. It’s one of the oldest national parks in Germany and I find it to be a fantastic “less touristy” option to the Black Forest.

Amusement Parks in South Germany

Churpfalzpark freizeitpark

As both a mother of three children but also as a kid at heart myself, I’m a sucker for an amusement park day here in Germany and luckily, there are plenty of them right here in Southern Germany!!! A day at a local amusement park is a fantastic way to break up the long days of sightseeing to let loose and still enjoy some local culture. In fact, there are so many all over Southern Germany, here are just a few of the most popular or ones I’ve been to that I can personally recommend:

Europa-Park – Located in Rust (Baden-Württemberg) if you are heading to the Black Forest, don’t overlook Europa Park! It’s the largest theme park in Germany and the second most popular theme park resort in Europe and it’s one of my personal favorites of all the amusement parks I’ve been to in Germany! It’s got something for every age range from wee little ones to crazy roller coasters for us adrenaline seeking adults!

Legoland Deutschland Resort – Located in Günzburg, Bavaria, if you’ve got a Lego Lover on the trip with you, then you better plan on a few days exploring, building, and having fun at Legoland Germany. My kids loved it so much, they keep asking when we can go back!

Ravensburger Spieleland – Only about 20 minutes from Lake Constance, Ravensburger theme park is a highlight for families. Even if the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, I’m sure you’ve seen (or have in your home) a Ravenburger Puzzle or game! If the company is that good at making those things, imagine what an entire amusement park is like from them!

Churpfalzpark– nestled into the Bavarian Forest, Churpfalzpark is one of the most bizarre, amazing, unique, and fun amusement parks I’ve ever been to. You need to know what you are getting into before going to Churpfalzpark, but if you are up for it, it can be a really memorable day for all!

Playmobil Fun Park- Just outside of Nuremberg is the shockingly well priced and affordable Playmobil Fun Park. Definitely more of a Theme Park (no rides or rollercoasters) this amusement park is absolutely perfect for kiddos under 10 years old. There is so much to explore, do, and have fun with! We try to go annually since it’s so affordable and fun!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the major cities in South Germany?

South Germany is home to some of the most vibrant and culturally rich cities in the country. The major cities in South Germany include Munich, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Karlsruhe, Freiburg, and Heidelberg. Each of these cities has a unique charm and offers a plethora of attractions and activities for visitors. Smaller towns that are popular are Regensburg, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Baden-Baden, and Rudesheim.

What is the typical weather like in South Germany throughout the year?

The weather in South Germany varies season to season as well as even regionally within South Germany. The weather in Baden-Württemberg could be drastically different from the weather in Bavaria on the same day.

However, as a whole and generally speaking, Southern Germany weather is sometimes preferred over more Northern Germany Weather (where there is sometimes more rain). There are all four seasons in all of Germany but in the Southern Parts, they can be more pronounced yet still considered “mild.”

For example, while summers may come with plenty of rain, July and August are often extremely pleasant, sunny and have temperatures ranging from 20-30 (C)/ 70s-80s (F). While winters can be cold, with temperatures rarely drop far below freezing point in most places besides the mountains. Snow isn’t uncommon but it’s typically not enough to cause much concern. However, if you DO want snow, then head to the Bavarian Alps or the Black Forest particularly from February-March, which is typically when the most snowfall occurs.

Which states constitute South Germany?

South Germany is not a hard defined area or region. Most people include the states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg as well as parts of Hesse and the Rheinland Palatinate in “Southern Germany.”

What are some must-visit destinations in South Germany?

South Germany is home to some of the most beautiful and picturesque destinations in the country. Some of the must-visit destinations in South Germany include the Bavarian Alps, the Black Forest, Lake Constance, the Romantic Road, and the Neuschwanstein Castle.

What activities and attractions are popular in South Germany?

South Germany offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors. Some of the popular activities include hiking, skiing, cycling, and water sports. The region is also known for its vibrant festivals, such as Oktoberfest in Munich and the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart. Visitors can also explore the region’s rich history by visiting its many museums, castles, and historic sites.

What language is predominantly spoken in South Germany?

German is the official language of all of Germany. However, since “South Germany” is such a large broad-reaching region and made up of many different states, there are many different local dialects spoken all over Southern Germany. However, speaking English in Germany is increasingly common, especially in the more touristy or popular areas.

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