Think Bavaria is only about beer, pretzels and one month of mirth? Try again. There’s much more to Munich than the spirited fall tradition known as Oktoberfest, and one of the best times to discover a much richer culture is not when flight prices skyrocket for sudsy celebrations.

Grab a compact suitcase ideal for train travel and hop on a direct red-eye from Logan to Munich. You’ll likely arrive before your hotel room is ready, which is why Taxi Guide Munich is essential. The consortium of 30 guides certified as both drivers and local tour directors means your introduction to the city starts right when you exit the airport. Get the lay of the land so you can later explore the BMW Museum and Olympia park, learn about nearby public transportation options and stroll the grounds of Nymphenburg Palace, the summer residence of the former rulers of Bavaria.

You’ll feel like a monarch when checking into Hotel Platzl, where warm wood accents, staff in traditional dirndl dress and even beer soap make it easy to settle in. The location in the center of the city is ideal for sightseeing, unless it’s time to nosh—several excellent restaurants are within the hotel or walking distance. Knock off the quest for knockwurst at Hofbräuhaus and make new friends raising a pint—or massive stein—while listening to festive oompah music. If your tastes are more geared toward the high-brow, set your sights on Pfistermühle, a historic former mill building with a new concept and menu that elevates German gastronomy with products like cheese made from hay milk and meat from Bavarian pasture veal. And with its stalls blessedly filled with local products, the downtown Viktualienmarkt fruit and vegetable market is a destination worth exploring, in addition to trendy wine bars like brand-new Griabig Einfach Trinken and sexy cocktail palace Hutong Club.

HOLD THE BEER: There’s plenty of eating, shopping and strolling to be done throughout Bavaria.

Munich, however, is only a slice of Bavaria’s offerings. Catch a train and head toward Regensburg. The UNESCO World Heritage city on the banks of the Danube recently had its Stone Bridge refinished. When it was originally built in the mid-1100s, it opened an important trade route to Venice. Today, the charming, cobbled downtown streets are lined with shops and portend a bit of the wealth that made it a commercial hub. The well-preserved ruins and the Imperial Diet government building of the Holy Roman Empire—available for tours—nod to an even earlier past. Be sure to include a stop at Historische Wurstküche, the sausage kitchen that bills itself as the oldest continuously open public restaurant in the world. But there are also other delectable modern delights like Bodega, a tapas bar with outside seating, where you can pass a few hours sipping sangria for less than 4 euros a glass. Or opt for beer at Regensburg’s Dult, since many of the cities outside Munich have their own beer festivals at different times than Munich’s Oktoberfest. An early September trip means the best of late-summer weather along with carnival rides, seasonal beer stalls, gingerbread and sugary concoctions, bands and dancing complete with lederhosen.

Staying out late is tempting, but it’s best to hop on the train early to make the most of your next stop: Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Colorful half-timbered homes with flower boxes and babbling Middle Age fountains are nestled between this medieval marvel’s well-preserved city walls and watchtowers. The
2.7-mile stroll along these walls is a great way to admire views of the vineyards below, and get familiar with your surroundings before enjoying a snack. The most traditional of these is
schneeballen, a short-crust pastry rolled into a snowball shape and covered in powdered sugar. Grab one of the best at family-owned Cafe EinzigARTig and keep the seasonal theme going a couple of blocks away at Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village. This shop and museum is dedicated to all things holiday, brimming with nutcrackers, Nativity scenes and towering trees—most handmade in Germany. Looking for something to put below the tree? Rothenburg has no shortage of options like toy stores overflowing with teddy bears for the kids and shops brimming with inexpensive Birkenstocks for the adults.

One thing that’s sure to please all ages is the charismatic night watchman tour in Rothenburg’s center. Centuries ago, these caped crusaders guarded against invasion once the sun set, and the legends of those who succeeded—and some who failed, miserably—incite many chuckles. Follow up with a nightcap at Glocke, where the varietals harvested in the valley below make their way to the table and tasting room; or try one of the pizza-like flammkuchen at Hotel Reichsküchenmeister, whose spa offers a great spot to relax. After eating and drinking your way through Bavaria, it might really hit the spot.

Traveler’s Checks

— Book train travel ahead of time to get an easy-to-follow English-language transfer schedule. Track departures are planned well in advance, so there’s no mad scramble like the commuter rail.

— The castle you only saw in Disney movies awaits at Neuschwanstein, a 1.5-hour drive from Munich. Getting there can be a bit of a slog on public transit, so renting a car or taking a bus tour is more bucolic.

Bodega,; Glocke,; Historische Wurstküche,; Hofbräuhaus,; Hotel Platzl,; Hotel Reichsküchenmeister,; Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village,; Pfistermühle,

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