Crystal clear lakes, dense pine forests, storybook villages, and weißwurst sizzling on the grill — welcome to Bavaria’s Gourmet Trail. As the name suggests, this route is largely devoted to local eats inspired by southern Germany’s long-standing tradition of hospitality and indulgent cuisine.
The beauty of Bavaria is that it has plenty to offer year-round. Spring and summer are ideal for hiking, exploring the alpine trails, and swimming in the Isar River’s refreshing waters. Winter is the definition of comfort for anyone who loves to cozy up with a glass of glühwein (mulled wine) at a family-run inn. Regardless of the season, you’ll be able to go on a culinary adventure, sampling cheese, wine, sausage, pretzels, and desserts. For anyone who appreciates good food and fine beer and wine, Bavaria will very likely be the trip of a lifetime.
In Bavaria, even the salad is made of sausage.
Germany has a diverse repertoire of dishes united by two things: a passion for kneading dough in elaborate shapes and a love for the many types of German sausage.
Get your hands on a brezn with obatzda (pretzel with cheese) and have a go at the hearty local dumplings stuffed with either meat or fish. Try the iconic Nürnberger Rostbratwurst — a grilled sausage with a fragrant mint flavor made of veal, beef, or, most often, pork.
One of the most beloved culinary products in Bavaria, this sausage dates back to the 14th century. According to legend, Nürnberger Rostbratwurst was so popular that German innkeepers used to sell it illegally to hungry customers past the hours of a curfew imposed during various epochs of history. Only three-inches in length, the sausage was passed through keyholes in an elaborate secret transaction. Luckily, today you can order a Nürnberger Rostbratwurst at any time of day or night, and the sausage is often present at local inns’ breakfast buffets.
Bavaria’s cuisine is so indulgent that even the salad is a sausage salad. A mix of Regensburger sausages, onions, chives, and vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste, Bayerischer Wurstsalat is the ideal appetizer. At the dinner table, you’ll also find some Allgäu mountain cheese — a dry cheese made of 62 percent unpasteurized cow milk with a three-inch rind colored in the signature dull shade of yellow and dotted by a few holes that’s a recognizable characteristic of alpine dairy products.
Bavaria prides itself on its hospitality, and most eateries recreate the authentic atmosphere of a German home by inviting you right in. You’ll run into a multitude of beer gardens, and if you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll cool off in the shade of their thick chestnut trees. Bavaria is something of a paradise for beer. With more than 600 breweries and 40 types of beer, you can travel for over a month without having the same beverage twice.
Some must-try beer combos: Pair a cold glass of Helles, a light lager, with a semmelknödel — a fluffy mix of breadcrumbs, eggs, and milk the size of a tennis ball. Go for the iconic Bavarian pilsner — a pale lager with a bitter, earthy taste. Refresh yourself with a radler — a bubbly mix of equal parts Pilsner or lager and lemonade.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’re in luck. Start with a bowl of the traditional Bavarian Creme, which is a compote-based gelatinous dessert made of berries with a light vanilla flavor. Then reach for a slice of Zwetschgendatschi — a buttery flan made of cornflour and almonds.
Bavaria has over 15,000 acres of vineyards around its storybook villages.
Although more low-key than its neighbor France, Bavaria has plenty of wine to offer with its thriving viticulture. Franconia is the home to a number of grape varieties — blauer spätburgunder, müller-thurgau, bacchus, kerner, silvaner, and, of course, Riesling, which is perhaps the best-known of the bunch. In the winter, you have white glühwein to look forward to.
A spicy-sweet blend of white wine (typically produced from silvaner or müller-thurgau) is mixed with apple juice, plum brandy, orange and lemon slices, a stick of cinnamon, anise, cloves, and honey to produce the warm holiday drink that makes you feel warm and cozy on the inside. Glühwein is traditionally paired up with Lebkuchen biscuits from one of the stands at the Christmas markets. Each baker has a secret recipe for biscuits that they will never reveal, so you’ll just have to try them all.
Many wineries are located in the area between Aschaffenburg and Schweinfurt, facing the slopes of the Main River. You have a myriad of “wine walks” to choose from. In Sommerhausen, you can explore the wine trail that leads you directly through the Siegelswäldchen Woods. This trail delivers stunning views of Ochsenfurt and Eibelstadt’s rolling hills.
If you head out on the Iphofen trail, you can visit the Julius Echter estate, the second-biggest winery in all of Germany, which has been around since 1576. Here you will learn all about the bocksbeutel — the pot-bellied, flat bottle that has become one of Bavaria’s staples. The shape was strategically designed to prevent the bottle from rolling when placed on a hill.
All three of these trails are known as “Terroir F” sites. The term dates back to the 16th century and refers to a region that has all the necessary conditions to produce great wine — fruitful soil, favorable climate, good location, and a diverse variety of grapes.
Where to stay
You will find a great deal of choice in terms of accommodation in the region, with small inns dotting the Bavarian hills, all of them offering stunning views of sprawling meadows and picturesque valleys.
You’ll feel right at home at Zum Hausjacker — a rustic collection of vacation apartments located on a large dairy farm that lies in Wackersberg, near Bad Tölz. Here, you’ll soak up the alpine panorama at the foot of Mt. Heiglkopf. The area is perfect for hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the cold months. Zum Hausjacker offers spacious apartments furnished primarily with wood in a traditional Bavarian fashion.
The Berghaus Wahalo am See is a three-floor cottage that sits on the banks of Lake Walchen. Surrounded by a spectacular garden, this is the perfect summer destination as you’ll be less than a minute away from the crystal lake. The inn has three apartments. Each one is equipped with its own kitchen or kitchenette, a comfortable bed, and a balcony. The largest apartment has a fireplace, too, for an extra cozy time.
Located on the edge of the Alps, Alpenhof Bad Tölz can accommodate any type of guest and occasion. With single and double rooms and suites, the hotel has a modern yet rustic feel. The hotel has a swimming pool and a sauna where you can unwind after a long day of exploring the nearby Isarwinkel and Karwendel trails. The hotel offers guided tours if you want to take all planning out of the equation.
Whether you’re looking for an idyllic mountainous escape, a wine-tasting adventure, or simply a good meal in a homey environment — Bavaria has it all.