The Alps have it all, friendly people, amazing views and fairytale worthy castles. But where should you start? With so many different sub-regions, the “Alps” are daunting to the first time visitor. Read on for my alpine itinerary fit for a first timer.
Where to Start
When people say they are going to the “Alps” they usually have a specific purpose that they are centering their trip on since it would be impossible to go everywhere at once. This itinerary is what I would call the Alps starter pack, a castle, a winding road and a chic alpine town to spend the night. Let’s get started!
Where to Stay
For this trip our main goal was to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. And so we choose to make Innsbruck, Austria our home base since we had already been to Munich and wanted to get a taste of Austria even though we’d be visiting a German Castle.
Innsbruck is a chic mountain town that is a great ski hub in the winter, but since we were visiting in the warmer months, it was a beautiful, walkable city that was just fabulous!
We choose the modern Adlers Hotel right in the center of town. As one of the taller buildings in town, Adlers has an amazing view of the city and the surrounding mountains. And with some fantastically modern furnishings, the rooms are exactly what you could ask for.
Oh and if you are driving the garage is located below the hotel and you can self-park. But one pro tip is that it is sort of confusing as to where you can drop off your passengers to check in and where the entrance of the garage is, so head to the corner of Museumstrsse and Bruneckerstrasse to drop off your passengers and the luggage and then you have to circle back around towards the other end of the building to enter the garage.
What to Do
Innsbruck is a fabulous mountain town all on its own, with some beer gardens and great nightlife, this could be your only destination for the weekend and you would have plenty to do. Some Innsbruck highlights are:
- Maria Theresien-Strasse – The grandest street in town filled with shops and restaurants
- Schloss Ambras – a 16th Century Castle in town
- Cathedral of St. James
- Hofburg – The Imperial palace
- AlpenZoo – Innsbruck’s fabulous zoo
- Stiftskeller – Fabulpus beer garden and restaurant in the center of town.
But if the goal of your trip is to really experience the Alps, you have to head to the Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany.
Budget plenty of time to get to Neuschwanstein, since the only way there from Innsbruck is through many winding Alpine Roads and if you get stuck behind a tractor trailer you will be slowed down quite a bit since many are single lane roads. But it should take under 2 hours.
When you arrive, park in one of the many car parks at the base of the hill, where you will be charged a nominal fee for the entire day. And then follow the crowds to the bus stop where you will wait in line for the shuttle up the mountain to the castle. Or if you are feeling adventurous and have extra time, it is about a 45-minute walk up. I recommend doing what we did and take the bus up and then walk back down so you don’t have to wait around for the bus when you are ready to leave.
The bus makes 1 stop on the way up, to the Insta-famous bridge where you can get the best view of the castle. You truly feel as if you are in Cinderella.
But yes, this bridge is crowded due to tour buses even in the off season. However, the view is worth it if you can squeeze your way on.
Then you head all the way to the top. And when you get there if you want to tour the inside of the castle you have to of had purchased a ticket back at the base for a timed tour, or you can skip the tour and just walk around the outside of the castle.
The best kept secret to viewing the castle is driving out to the surrounding fields to grab a pic where you won’t be bombarded by tourists.
Driving in the Alps
If you are visiting the Alps in the Spring or Summer, i.e. won’t be skiing, the best part about the visit truly is the journey. Driving through the Alps is an experience, the winding roads and the constant vistas make for an exciting route.
So if you are visiting the Alps, pick one or 2 main things to center your trip around and then plan outwards, that way you aren’t spending the entire time in the car just trying to get to your next destination.