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PCS to Germany: Your First Look at USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr!

Grafenwoehr, Germany is a Bavarian village full of history, fellowship, and beer! At first it will feel completely foreign, but as you spend your days strolling the cobblestone streets munching on Brezen, it will quickly become home.

If you’re worried about moving to a foreign country, I can promise you this: I don’t know anyone who was happy to leave Grafenwöhr, Germany after living here! Your PCS to Germany will be one of the best things to ever happen to you.

US Army Garrison Bavaria shield with all US bases

About Grafenwöhr and Life in Germany

First, let me explain the spelling situation. The “o” with an umlaut isn’t a default character on English keyboards. To express the ö sound, you can write the character as “oe.” So if you see “Grafenwoehr” written in one place and “Grafenwöhr” in another, just know that it’s the same town!

It’s the largest NATO training base in Europe, which means allies come from all over to train at the Grafenwoehr Training Area (GTA). It was originally built by the Bavarian Army between 1907 and 1915, and after World War II, it became a jointly run base between the U.S. and Germany.

The town itself is in the heart of Germany’s farm country. If you’re used to big city life or 24-hour convenience, this will be a real shock! But after you adjust, you’ll learn to love the change of pace.

For example, everyone has made the mistake of forgetting to double-check their shopping lists on Saturday because everything is closed on Sunday (with the exception of gas stations and some bakeries). It’s really frustrating the first couple times, but you quickly learn to plan accordingly!

A Tour of Grafenwoehr, Germany

Regardless of whether you live on or off post, you’ll eventually learn to orient yourself in Grafenwoehr based on the USAG Bavaria gate numbers!

Main Post Grafenwoehr Community guide map

Outside Gate 6: Bundesstrasse 299

There isn’t much to do in this part of Graf, but there are some useful shops and places to know.

You’ll find a few car dealerships as well as my favorite auto repair shop. If you don’t PCS to Germany with a car, I highly recommend purchasing one from a Military Auto Sales dealership! They speak English and they’re familiar with USAA’s procedures.

If you’re shipping a car from the U.S., check out my guide to learn all about the process!

If you need to print brochures, holidays cards, or posters, there’s a print shop (Druckerei) off 299 as well. You can also get some awesome merch made, like sweatshirts and mugs!

Downtown Grafenwoehr

This is easily one of the most picturesque parts of Grafenwoehr! The Alte Rathaus (old town hall) is the small building in the center, and it’s surrounded by all kinds of restaurants and bars.

This is also where you’ll find the farmer’s market every Thursday and their Christmas market in December. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon drinking and eating on the restaurant patios.

But before you sit down for dinner, consider stopping by the Grafenwoehr history museum! It may be a small town, but it has a history worth learning.

Inside the Grafenwoehr Culture History Museum

And after your tour, I highly recommend visiting the zoigl stub’n. It’s a typical Bavarian experience, and it only exists in der Oberpfalz! Story goes that farms or hotels would hang the 6-pointed star outside their establishment to indicate that their zoigl was freshly brewed and could be served in exchange for labor.

And if you have a well-trained (or at least well-behaved) dog, most restaurants will allow you to bring them inside.

Are you bringing a pet to Germany? Check out our guide to PCSing with pets!

You can also find a variety of footpaths throughout the downtown area. They’ll take you all around the town, including to the park!

Kids playing outside in the Grafenwoehr Park

Parks in Grafenwoehr

The Stadtpark off Neue Ambergerstrasse is a beautiful place to let your kids and pets run wild! You’ll find a small stream running through it, ducks going for a swim, benches, and a playground.

And if you just PCSed to Germany but don’t have your car, the park is just a 15 minute walk from Gate 1. You can also find a variety of other walking paths by just wandering around the town.

Small church and statue memorial in Grafenwoehr for lives lost during World War 2

Pro-tip: If you have questions about the area, I recommend joining these Facebook groups: A Perfect PCS to Germany, Grafenwoehr Vilseck Military Spouses, Grafenwoehr/Vilseck Army Wives, and Bavaria Army Wife Travelers

But once you have a car, you should definitely explore the different parks throughout the area! The greenspace around Grafenwoehr is one of my favorite things about living in Germany. It’s so easy to find some nature where you can go for a casual stroll.

Outside Gate 1: Alte Ambergerstrasse

As you walk out Gate 1, you’ll find a strip of restaurants and shops, including a T-Mobile store. The staff is very friendly and comfortable speaking English. If you need a mobile contract or new phone ASAP, stop by their office!

As you walk further down, you’ll find a great Korean restaurant, a döner spot, a Metzgerei (butcher shop), and a gelato shop. I definitely recommend visiting these spots if you’re tired of the options on post!

You won’t want to miss my guide to the best restaurants in Grafewoehr!

Cheers bar and colorful buildings in Grafenwoehr Germany

You can also find a few ATMs along the way, but the fees can easily run up to €4. If you need euros, I recommend either making a withdrawal from your bank on post or going to a German bank ATM like Sparkasse.

And if you’re looking for a hairdresser in town, my wife goes to the Friseur on Richard Wagnerstrasse. It’s not obvious that the building is a hair salon, but it’s really nice nonetheless!

If you keep heading in that direction, you’ll find yourself in a residential area. But if you keep walking down Alte Ambergerstrasse, you’ll reach another part of downtown Grafenwoehr.

Grafenwoehr's main street through the city with colorful buildings

Outside Gate 3: Neue Ambergerstrasse

The road that leads out of Gate 1 intersects with Neue Ambergerstrasse (299). If you turn left to head north, you’ll find some of the shopping centers (more on that in a bit). But if you turn right to head southeast, you’ll find more restaurants and shops! This is also the road that takes you to Gate 3, or even Gate 6 if you just keep driving.

If you can’t secure a room at Army Lodging when you arrive, you may end up staying at a hotel around this area. They may not have all the comforts of an American-style hotel, but at least you’ll be closer to some great restaurants! Plus, most of the hotels are just a 15 minute walk from Gate 1 and Gate 3.

Pro tip: If you can’t get a room at Army Lodging, I highly recommend Andreas Hotel, which has a nice Biergarten in the back. Homestead Hotel and Cozy Corners are also great options when you PCS to Germany.

But the highlight of this area is the Chicken Man! Every Wednesday this truck has roast chicken, ribs, potato salad, Pommes (fries), and more. It’s not Southern cooking by any means, but you could call it comfort food. And sometimes they also sell cartons of fresh eggs. Pssst… the Chicken Man truck has locations all over, find the closest one to you!

Hertels Hähnchen ribs, chicken, and more roasting on a spit

Shopping in Grafenwoehr, Germany

At first, you may only want to shop at the PX, but I promise that shopping on the German economy isn’t hard! Just like when the Kroger or Safeway in your neighborhood has a different layout, learning how to navigate your local Edeka, Aldi, or Rossman will eventually become second nature.

Outside sign of Edeka shopping center in Grafenwoehr Germany

Grocery Stores in Grafenwoehr

You’ll find a mix of grocery stores on Pressatherstrasse between Bahnhofstrasse and Felsmühlstrasse. Edeka is one of the largest grocery store chains in Germany, and you will probably do a lot of grocery shopping there.

Pro tip: (both) Edeka stores in Weiden are much larger than the one in Grafenwoehr!

Bäckerei Konditorei Cafe Bauer in Grafenwoehr Germany

There is also an Aldi, which is nothing like the Aldis in the U.S.! If you need basic dry goods, freshly baked rolls, some hangers, a head of lettuce, toilet paper, cheese, and a pair of socks, this is your one-stop shop. Same goes for Netto, Lidl, and Norma. Prices at these stores also tend to be lower than at Edeka.

And no matter where you do your grocery shopping, you’ll either find freshly baked goods in the store or a bakery attached to it! Actually, no matter where you shop period, you will probably find a bakery attached: the train station, OBI (like Home Depot), gas stations, even a pretzel kiosk ACROSS from a bakery.

Of the few convenient things in Germany, bread is by far the easiest to buy. Do not underestimate the German people’s love of bread.

Various business signs in the Grafenwoehr shopping center

Clothing, Home Goods, and More

If you go to the shopping center across from Fusion Garden on Bahnhofstrasse, you’ll find a Lidl as well as some other types of stores.

Rossmann is like Walgreens. You’ll find things like toiletries, vitamins, diapers, and cough medicine. And at some locations, you can also print photos directly from your device!

If you just PCSed to Germany, Kik is great for the odds and ends you’re missing. They have a small selection of things like clothing, dishware, decorations, water bottles, storage containers, and stationery.

Tedi is the equivalent of a dollar store. You’ll find some standard housewares like whisks, containers, baking pans, garbage bags, batteries, and even sprinkles. But it will quickly become your go-to destination for festive things like decorations, wrapping paper, and craft supplies.

But before you go shopping, you should grab a quick bite to eat at Landmetzgerei Witt. In the morning they have a variety of pastries, and for lunch they bring out the savory dishes like Cordon Bleu, Leberkäse, and Schnitzel. There’s also a gelato shop in the same shopping complex!

And don’t forget to stop by the getränkemarkt for all your beverage needs. Purchase crates of beer, sparkling water, juice, and soda! And as you finish each bottle, return it to the same crate so that it’s easier to process your Pfand when you return it for recycling.

Pro tip: the Pfand is the small deposit you pay to ensure that you return the bottle when you’re finished. Plus, you get a small receipt (like a coupon) to use towards your next purchase!

These small nuances to German life – crates of beer, bakeries everywhere, small grocery stores – will be so foreign (or even annoying) when you first arrive. But they will eventually become part of a comfortable routine in your everyday life!

Frequently Asked Questions about Living in Grafenwoehr, Germany

If you have questions about how to PCS to Germany, I recommend our PCS to Germany: Arrival Guide! But if you have questions about living in Grafenwoehr, Germany, check out these common questions. Feel free to ask me more in the comments, or check out the Facebook groups I mentioned.

What if I’m PCSing to Vilseck, Germany?

Vilseck isn’t far from Grafenwoehr. Plus, because so much of USAG Bavaria’s operations are located in Grafenwoehr, you may find yourself there more often than not. The biggest difference, however, is that people who work at Vilseck tend to live in Amberg, whereas people who work at Grafenwoehr (or Netzaberg) tend to live in Weiden.

You can learn more about Vilseck in the PCS to Germany: Arrival guide!

What are the best Grafenwöhr restaurants?

Depends on what you’re looking for. I put together a pretty comprehensive guide to the best Grafenwoehr restaurants that will keep you busy!

Where should I travel to first outside of Grafenwoehr?

There’s so many options! However, after spending years in the area, these are the most popular MUST-SEE destinations!

Where are the Grafenwoehr/Vilseck military housing areas?

Looking for a head start on housing? We created a FULL guide to On/Off post housing here!

Front entrance to the Grafenwoehr Culture and History Museum

Need a PCS checklist? I’ve got every stage of your move covered! (PLUS: an explanation of acronyms)

Ready to PCS to Grafenwoehr, Germany?

Change is always hard, especially when it’s to a new country. But your life in Grafenwoehr, Germany will depend entirely on how you choose to experience the town. Don’t spend your three years eating only at the PX and watching AFN Bavaria. You live in Europe now! YOLO!

For more tips about living in Germany as an American, subscribe to my Youtube channel and follow me on Instagram

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