This year I visited the Bavarian Forest for the third time, with my friends and loyal Bavaria-travel-companions Nadine and Constanze. That makes it high time for some recommendations of my favourite activities in the region. So, here we go!
1. Take a boat tour on the Danube river – and visit Passau in the process
Passau is the place where the three rivers Danube, Inn and Ilz meet, and that makes it the perfect start point for boat trips. We took the Kristallschiff (“crystal ship”) for a 2-hour cruise down the river towards the Austrian border. We secured a table right next to the huge panorama windows in the Swarowski-laden ship. With Austria on one side, and Germany on the other, the Danube flows past beautiful mountain regions speckled with castles and cute little towns.
Make sure to take time before or after the boat trip to have a look around Passau itself. The town is beautiful with lots of little alleys and colorfully painted houses. We went to visit the Cathedral as well, although due to a concert we weren’t able to enter. I wouldn’t mind coming back one day to spend more time in this place.
2. Visit a castle – or the ruins of one
This is pretty much a mandatory activity in this part of the world, simply because there are so many of them. We started with Altnußberg, the oldest and biggest castle ruin in the Bavarian Forest. A tower also survived which offers a beautiful view of the countryside.
The other ruin we visited was Burg Runding. This was once the biggest castle in the Bavarian Forest region. The ruins still cover a big area and there’s plenty of interesting stuff to explore. Unfortunately it was pouring rain throughout our entire visit, so we did not see it at its best.
If you feel more like visiting a castle that’s still standing I recommend Veste Oberhaus in Passau. It’s on a hill overlooking the city and hosts a museum about the city’s and the castle’s history, and the middle ages in general. We went there after our boat tour. Unfortunately that meant we didn’t have a lot of time left before closing, so we decided to skip the city history part and do only the medieval section. The exhibition is very nicely done, and really tries to give you a feeling for what life in the castle would have been like all those centuries ago. Of course, there’s also a lookout with fantastic views over the city and the three rivers.
3. Search for animals
The Haus zur Wildnis (“House to the Wilderness”) is a part of the Bavarian Forest National Park. It consists of several wildlife enclosures that you walk past to get to the house itself. There’s wolves, lynx, and old races of horses and cattle.
The house itself is a wildlife and nature information centre, with lots of hands-on displays and things you can try out while learning about the flora and fauna of the forest region. Insider tip: don’t leave before you have tried some cake at the restaurant attached! It’s the most delicious cake in all Bavaria (in my humble opinion). To tell you a secret, the cake is the only reason we’ve visited that house repeatedly. It’s that good.
And no need to worry about calories, because you walk it off afterwards. It doesn’t take too long to do the walk though, and it’s not a difficult one. Of course, you might want to stop to look at the animals. You need to be lucky to see them, but on my last visit we spotted two wolves! On the other hand, everybody else was hiding. Not even the horses and cattle wanted to show themselves. The one animal I haven’t seen on any visit yet is the lynx. I guess I’ll have to do this excursion again next time. Nothing to do with the cake, of course…
4. Walk around a lake
The Arber is a mountain near the Bavarian Forest. It’s popular for climbing, and also skiing in winter. Or just take the lift to get up and enjoy the view. However, I’ve never been up on the mountain, but I have visited the two lakes that lie at its base, Großer Arbersee and Kleiner Arbersee. Walking around them opens the view to some amazing landscapes. It wasn’t too full of tourists, so perfect for a relaxed walk in the countryside. You can also go swimming or rent a boat, if you would rather be on the lake than around it.
5. Meet some famous Germans
Walhalla is the name of a Greek-style monument near Regensburg. It’s up on a hill and thus gives some beautiful views of the country. For 4 Euros you can enter the hall where there is a collection of busts from famous Germans. They include everything from politicians to artists to writers and musicians. The room itself is also quite worth seeing, being beautifully decorated.
6. Do a treasure hunt in Furth im Wald
The main thing about Furth im Wald is of course the dragon, which you can read about here. But that’s not all there is. We ended up spending our afternoon with an unexpected treasure hunt. It all started at Wildgarten, a park-like area that exhibits nature’s curiosities alongside little adventure paths and artworks. At the entrance we were told that you can get a stamp, and if you visit two further attractions in town on the same day you get a gift from the treasure chest. Needless to say, we were immediately determined to win.
So after visiting the Wildgarten we headed across town to the next destination, the Felsengänge. They’re underground vaults hidden behind an unobtrusive door in the middle of town. If you didn’t know what to look for, you very easily miss them. Which would be a shame, because they are well worth the little entrance fee of 4 Euros.
Most importantly, we got our stamp, so there was only one destination left. A short walk brought us to the Flederwisch, a shop for everything connected to the spiritual and medieval, and attached to it a garden with a mix of all kinds of curiosities. From an old building with original furniture from a hundred years ago, to a gold mine, to funny experiments and curious gimmicks, this place has a lot to offer – although with some of it, I must admit, I failed to see the point. Still, it brought us our final stamp and with that our treasure: a little gemstone! Okay, it might not have been a huge treasure, but it’s all about the hunt anyway. Right?
Our Bavaria-expert Nadine has been known to plan past trips solely around when we want to go to which restaurant. Most places I’ve eaten at in Bavaria were good, but I’ll tell you about some of my favourites. First there’s Eck, where you get the best Kaiserschmarrn (a sweet Bavarian/Austrian specialty) in the whole region. The portion is enormous. In fact, every time the two of us order this dish, the waitress asks if we really wanted two, or not rather share one between us. Of course we take one each, and so we always feel challenged to eat at least more than half of it to prove one wouldn’t have been enough. I’m proud to say so far we succeeded every time.
Of course they also offer other food. I personally always stick to the Kaiserschmarrn, but my friend Conny has assured me that the savoury food is just as delicious. They’re also a brewery, so there’s plenty of beer to choose from if that’s what you’re after.
The other place I recommend is an amazing Thai restaurant called Thai-Bay. It’s part of the hotel Schnitzmühle. Unfortunately on my last visit we failed to get a reservation, because they tend to be full. But last year I was there, and it was yum! Just reserve in time if you want to go there to make sure to get a table.