Bavaria is a region located in the heart of Europe. Neighboring Czech Republic to the east, and Austria to the south, Bavaria constitutes much of the southeastern corner of Germany. The area is bounded by the federal states of Thuringia and Saxony to the north and by the states of Baden-Württemberg and Hessen to the west. Munich, Bavaria's capital and the third largest city in Germany, can be found in the southern part of the region. In contrast, the second biggest city within Bavaria's borders, Nuremberg, is located in its northern part. Among the prominent attractions within Bavaria's borders is Castle Neuschwanstein, which is one of the most visited castles in Europe. Neuschwanstein is famous for its architecture, which is said to have served as an inspiration to Walt Disney. Regarding the natural attractions, the southern part of Bavaria is composed of Bavarian Alps, serving as a popular destination for tourists seeking winter sports recreations. Germany's highest mountain, Zugspitze, can also be found in that area. In terms of Bavarian traditions, locals are reportedly proud of their history and customs. Their authentic cuisine, beers, costumes, and traditions are upheld locally and around the world as well, for example, in New York and other US cities where Bavarians have emigrated. In the past, Bavaria used to be an independent kingdom of Germany. Presumably, for that reason, it is said that several Bavarians often say they are "Bavarians first and Germans second."
Among some of the most visited places in Bavaria is Munich, the state's capital city and also the third largest city in Germany. Located in the southern part of the territory, Munich is home to several culturally and historically significant landmarks. In the city center, Frauenkirche, a gothic cathedral from the 15th century, can be found. Situated in close proximity to the cathedral is Marienplatz, regarded as the "heart of Munich." Nymphenburg Palace, found in the western part of the city, was built during the times of the Bavarian monarchy. Nowadays, the palace is visited for its fairly extensive park with pavilions, promenades along the palace canals, fountains, and flower gardens. Among other visited areas are Stachus, Odeonsplatz, Residenz, and several museums.
Concerning the war history of the area, outside Munich's borders, the town of Dachau is located in the northwestern direction. The first concentration camp built by Nazi Germany was opened in Dachau in 1933. Nowadays, the area is open to the public, with a number of memorial sites. Nuremberg, the second largest city in Bavaria, has a connection to the Second World War as well. The city was the place where German officials involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity were judged before the international tribunal. The trials, known as the Nuremberg trials, bear the city's name to this day. However, Nuremberg is also a popular destination for visitors regarding history and culture. Tourists in the city often visit Nuremberg Castle, Frauenkirche, and other local attractions.
Neuschwanstein, one of the symbols of Bavaria and one of the most popular of all the palaces and castles in Europe, is located in the southernmost part of the region at the foothills of the Alps. Reportedly, 1.4 million people visit the castle annually, with over 6,000 people visiting daily during summer. The castle was built for King Ludwig II, often nicknamed the "shy" or "crazy king," in the 19th century. Neuschwanstein is set in the mountainous area near Forggensee lake. The castle became an inspiration for one of the most influential storytellers, Walt Disney, who visited there while touring Europe. The picture and design of Cinderella's Castle, which often represents the center of most Disneyland amusement parks, was inspired by the Bavarian Neuschwanstein Castle.
Oktoberfest, held annually in October in Munich, is the world's largest and reportedly the most popular folk festival. Approximately six million visitors attend Oktoberfest every year, breaking the records of beer consumed and people visiting. During the festival, traditional Bavarian costumes, cuisine, beer, and customs are presented, combined with a number of modern attractions such as rollercoasters, carousels, and booths selling local souvenirs. Over the last 200 years (as the first Oktoberfest was held in 1810), the festival grew in size and popularity, becoming the Oktoberfest that it now is today.
Regarding the natural attractions in the territory, the southern part of Bavaria, specifically the Berchtesgadener area, is a popular destination for tourists looking for recreational activities in nature, such as hiking, cycling, and more. Water activities, including boating, fishing, and swimming, can be experienced as well on Lake Königssee.
Aside from cultural, historical, and natural sites, plus its' world-renowned capital city, Munich, Bavaria is known to be home to a considerable number of companies. Luxury car brands, such as BMW (Bavarian Motor Vehicle), Audi, and other brands, were first established in Bavaria. Among sports brands, Puma and Adidas companies were also created by the Bavarian brothers near Munich. Concerning the electrical equipment, Siemens company is of Bavarian origin as well. The area is also home to football club Bayern Munich, Germany's most successful football team.
Bavaria is geographically located in the heart of Europe. Neighboring Czech Republic to the east, and Austria to the south, Bavaria comprises the southeastern corner of Germany. Munich, Bavaria's capital, is located in the southern part of the region, whereas the second biggest city within Bavaria's borders, Nuremberg, can be found in its northern part. The country is mainly composed of high plateaus. Spessart hills represent the northwestern part of the region, which is drained by the Main River, one of Bavaria's most significant waterways. Another notable river of the area is the Danube, flowing in the west-eastern direction, geographically dividing Bavaria into southern and northern parts. The Bohemian Forest protrudes across the state borders from Czechia in the east, whereas the northern part is made up primarily of Franconian Forest. Munich, located to the south of the Danube, lies on a plateau beyond which the Bavarian Alps stretch. The highest point of the Bavarian Alps, Zugspitze, has an altitude of 2,962 m above sea level and is also the highest peak in Germany.
Within Bavaria's borders, two national parks can be found. Berchtesgadener National Park Area, located in the southern part of the region, is the only protected land in the German Alps. Berchtesgadener is mainly composed of rugged cliffs, deep forests, wild torrents, glaciers, and pastures. Some of the rare species inhabiting the territory include orchids, over 700 different kinds of butterflies, chamois, ibex, red deer, and golden eagles. The national park has been visited by a considerable number of tourists, as it provides a variety of attractions and activities, such as hiking, cycling, climbing, and skiing, among others. On the eastern border of Bavaria, neighboring Czechia, another national park, Bavarian Forest, occupies an expanse of land. The national park contains different habitats, such as woodlands, raised bogs, clearings, and boulder fields, providing home and refuge to various animal and plant species. Bavarian Forest is also a popular destination for hiking, cycling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing opportunities.
Bavaria is located in the continental climate area, with temperatures and weather highly dependent on altitude above sea level. In general, the continental climate is typical of alteration of four seasons throughout the year, with warm summers and snowy winters. The warmest month in Munich is July, with an average daily temperature of 25°C, while January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 4°C. February tends to be the driest month in Munich, with an average of 46 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, with an average of 125 mm.
The region of Bavaria, also known as Freistaat Bayern in German, has been inhabited since ancient times. Celtic tribes have lived in the territory since the third century BC. Later, Celts were expelled as Romans overtook the region. Old Bavaria became part of the Roman Empire's provinces of Raetia and Noricum. Bavarian people formed from remnants of various ethnic groups, such as Celts, Romans, Franks, Ostrogoths, and Longobards, after the fall of the Roman Empire. In the sixth and seventh centuries, Irish and Scottish monks Christianized the general population of Bavaria. Shortly after, the land became part of the Holy Roman Empire. During that time, Hungarians often ravaged and depopulated the territory and were only stopped in 995 by ruler Otto I. In 1180, Frederick I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor, granted Bavaria country to the Wittelsbach dynasty, who ruled over the territory until 1918.
During the Middle Ages, around the 16th century, Bavaria allied with the neighboring Habsburg Monarchy and became a strictly Roman Catholic territory. In the 18th century, several territorial disputes affected Bavaria, and by the end of the century, Bavaria was incorporated into Prussia. In the following century, Bavaria became an ally of France and earned a status of a kingdom. Through French influence, "equality before the law, universal liability to taxation, abolition of serfdom, liberty of conscience," and other modern ideas were proclaimed in the constitution, leading to the modernization and development of the territory. However, after several war conflicts, Bavaria became part of Prussia again in 1870. Yet, the state remained largely independent, at least more so than other states constituting Prussia. After the end of World War I, Bavaria became a state in the Weimar Republic of postwar Germany. Concerning the Second World War, Adolf Hitler's movement started in Bavaria's capital, Munich. Nazis came to power in 1933, when they built their first concentration camp near Munich, at Dachau. Bavaria was divided between supporters of Hitler and those opposing the regime and its anti-catholic policies. After the end of the war, Bavaria became part of the US occupation zone.
Nowadays, Bavarians have been found to carry national pride and reportedly often proclaim they are "Bavarians first and Germans second." Several differences between Bavarian and German culture can be reported, mainly regarding religion, traditions, customs, and language. Bavarian traditions are upheld not only in Bavaria but also in cities such as New York, where Bavarians have organizations to preserve and represent their customs.
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