When heading to Europe for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, it’s tempting to try to do everything. After all, shouldn’t we climb the Eiffel Tower, ride bikes along the Rhine, wave to the Mona Lisa, try to visit the Pope in Rome and tell our Gondolier in Venice to “make it fast”? Sometimes concentrating on one geographic area creates a trip with distinct memories, rather than a blur of experiences. Spending a few days exploring the “Sunny Side of Germany” will give you an insight into German culture with its traditions and lifestyle, without racing from one attraction to the next.
Getting Around by Car
Southwest Germany is frequently called the “Sunny Side of Germany” because…wait for it…the area gets plenty of sunshine. 2,329 hours annually if you like exact numbers. With all that sunshine, it makes sense to enjoy as many outdoor activities as possible.
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Southwest Germany is bordered by France on the west, Switzerland to the South and Bavaria to the east, making it an ideal launching point to other countries. While Europe is known for its excellent public transportation system, sometimes a rental car gives you more flexibility than a train or bus.
We’ve rented from Alamo several times in the past and usually get an economy or mid-sized car, making it easier to navigate Germany’s narrow roads and tight parking spots in the smaller cities. Just remember…if you are driving on the Autobahn and the car behind you is flashing their lights, (and they will!) that means pull over to the right because you obviously are not driving fast enough! This post is sponsored by Alamo car rental, which offers convenient pick up locations throughout Germany.
Start Your Rental Car Experience With Some Car Museums
Get your car in Stuttgart or Munich and you’ll soon be on your way to Southwest Germany fun.
Starting in Stuttgart, take time to visit some of the amazing car museums in the area. The Mercedes Benz museum lets you view more than 160 of these impressive cars. Nearby, at the Porsche museum, peer through windows and watch master mechanics work to restore classic cars. You could even drive the Bertha Benz Memorial Route, when Bertha, wife of Carl Benz, made the first long-distance drive in a petrol powered car.
Take a Hike!
Your family can watch videos and play computer games at home. Shake up the family routine by taking some family-oriented hikes in the area, ranging from walks along river pathways to trails through vineyards and picturesque villages. Our family enjoyed hiking in Southwest Germany because we always discovered something along the way.
Instead of simply hiking through a wooded pathway seeing trees and more trees, we’d find something to explore. At times it was a castle ruin, or a local family selling barbequed skewered fish from their backyard. When our daughter tired of walking, the promise of gelato at the next town kept her happily walking along.
The Black Forest is crisscrossed with well-marked hiking trails. The most famous of these is the century-old, 175-mile-long (285 km) Westweg, which was the world’s very first recreational hiking trail.
Visit Black Forest National Park
If you decide to drive the world-famous Black Forest Scenic Route, (Schwarzwaldhochstrasse as the Germans call it) stop in Baden Baden to get your fix of shopping and restaurant sampling. Then it’s a short drive to the Black Forest National Park, with parking at the Plattig car park. This new national park is a large protected area where nature is left as natural as possible, without extensive human intervention. Guided adventure tours are available or try staying in the nearby Bodener Hohe youth hostel.
Walk Among Macaque Monkeys
Sure, taking hikes overlooking vistas of winding rivers and castles perched on a steep cliff are memorable. Yet hiking through a heavily forested area filled with monkeys takes on a different perspective. The Affenberg Salon lets you roam on a circular trail throughout a large enclosed area.
At times you feel all alone until your child yells, “Look! It’s a monkey!” As you look closer, you see a macaque monkey in a bush two feet away. Then another one appears in a tree overhead. Suddenly monkeys seem to surround you. Fortunately you received a handful of popcorn at the gate entrance, (along with specific feeding instructions!) and you can proceed through the park, gingerly feeding monkeys out of your hand.
Enjoying Lake Constance
Southwest Germany is home to the third largest lake in Western Europe, Lake Constance, or, if you want to be seen as a local, Bodensee. The lake borders Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
If you are a true outdoorsy, let’s-do-it-all family, you can rent bikes and ride the entire 300 KM loop. If you are like our family, you’ll rent a bike, pedal the traffic-free bike path for an hour, stop for lunch at an outdoor café, ride an hour, enjoy gelato and slowly pedal back to return the bikes. Then we tell our friends, “Yes, we’ve biked Lake Constance.”
The path is directly on the lake, so it is flat and ideal for all family members. Along with bike rentals, there are numerous places to try stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing or kayaking.
With your rental car available for self-guided adventures, check out the Holiday Pass of Lake Constance. With more than 160 free or mostly free attractions available, you can drive around Lake Constance and enjoy guided tours, pools, scenic boat trips and museums.
Because SouthWest Germany is centrally located, spend a few days here, absorbing the culture and activities. Then head out and see what else you can discover in the surrounding areas!
Disclosure: Alamo Rental Cars paid a sponsorship fee for this post, but the experiences and opinions are solely those of the writer. A TravelingMom cannot be bought.