After PCSing to Germany, moving into your new home, receiving your household goods, and purchasing a German SIM card, it’s time to explore! There are so many places to visit, but during COVID, it’s much easier to stay close to home.
We’ve compiled some of the best day trips from Grafenwoehr to help you with that cabin fever!
American Living in Germany: Know Before You Go
First of all, you don’t need to bring your passport everywhere you go. Your military ID is sufficient.
Second, make sure you bring cash! Restaurants, shops, cafes, and local tourist attractions rarely accept cards. So stop by a Sparkasse or go to your on post bank to withdraw euros before you go on your adventure.
But when it comes to parking garages and street parking, many kiosks accept card payments. And speaking of which, pay attention to the parking signs! Some streets don’t charge on weekends or after 6pm, so check before you pay.
Also, if you decide to park in a parking garage, keep in mind that “frei” doesn’t mean “no cost.” It means that there are spaces available in the garage. You still have to pay!
COVID Update: As of December 2020, lockdown measures are in place throughout Bavaria until 5 January. For up-to-date information in English, visit USAG Bavaria’s website
Day Trips from Grafenwoehr: Visit Nearby Cities
A perk of living in Germany is definitely the travel! But in the age of COVID, it’s not recommended to leave the country, let alone the region.
So I highly recommend that you take this time to explore the local area in a socially distanced, responsible way. In fact, it’s the only thing that people regret when they PCS away from Germany: they didn’t spend enough time visiting local sites!
Grafenwoehr and Vilseck
Regardless of when you arrived at USAG Bavaria, there’s a good chance you haven’t seen everything your local town has to offer.
Have you been to every shopping center? Walked through every store? Tried a brezen from every bakery? There are probably more restaurants and places to eat in Grafenwoehr and Vilseck than you realized!
Plus, there’s plenty of green space for kids to run around or go for a long walk. It all feels new and foreign, but after you spend some time exploring these villages, it will quickly feel like home.
Just an 18-minute drive from Grafenwoehr, Parkstein sits on an inactive volcano. You can learn more about it at the Parkstein Volcano Museum!
You can also hike up the volcano and check out the castles ruins (more on castles in a bit). The small town can easily fill an afternoon with activities!
Hirschau is one of my favorite places to go in the Grafenwoehr area. The town has an amazing adventure park where you can ski down a sand mountain, ride a coaster, and splash around in the water area.
It doesn’t have as much as Six Flags, but it also doesn’t have the same price tags! Hirschau is a great place for the whole family, especially during warmer months.
If you’re looking for something historical and educational, visit Flossenbuerg. It’s the closest concentration camp memorial to USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr, and certainly worth a visit (Pssst… there’s also a nice castle to visit in this city 😉 ) .
COVID Update: The exhibitions are closed, but you can still visit the grounds.
The work camp opened in 1938 and liberated in 1945, but it didn’t become a memorial until the mid 90s.
I may be a bit biased about the best city around USAG Bavaria, but it is 100 percent worth your time! There are plenty of restaurants to visit throughout the year, as well as local events to celebrate each season.
But if you just arrived in Germany, I recommend visiting the Weiden farmer’s market. There’s nothing more welcoming than getting fresh eggs, bread, vegetables, and meat from local farmers. But it’s not an all-day affair – be sure to arrive on Wednesday or Saturday before noon!
Regensburg is the largest city in der Oberpfalz, and just a 75-minute drive from Grafenwoehr. But before you arrive, stop at Walhalla for an amazing view of the Danube River!
The city itself has all kinds of shopping and dining opportunities. And when the weather is nice, I highly recommend going for a bike ride!
Bamberg is famous for its smoked beer (rauchbier), but there are so many other things to do in the city!
Check out Little Venice for gondola rides and the annual Bamberger Sandkerwa: the town’s Volksfest that includes jousting on gondolas. There’s also just amazing architecture in the neighborhood.
Once you’re done exploring the town, take a seat at Schlenkerla for a smoked beer and pork shank. But fair warning: people either love or hate the smoky flavor of rauchbier! If you don’t think it’ll be your thing, there are plenty of other delicious beers you can have.
Kuchlbauer Turm and Kelheim
If you enjoy funky architecture and delicious beer, you have to visit Kuchlbauer Turm and Kelheim!
Take a tour of the brewery (in English) and see all the strange and wonderful things it has to offer. At the end, you can climb the colorful tower and get a nice view of the surrounding area.
Afterwards, enjoy a couple beers and classic Bavarian snacks in the garden!
On your way back from (or going to) Kuchlbauer Turm, stop at Kelheim to visit the Hall of Liberation. The structure commemorates Germany’s victory over Napoleon in the early 1800s.
Just a 45-minute drive from Grafenwoehr, Bayreuth is the local college town. You’ll find all kinds of restaurants and bars, including the Maisel and Friends restaurant Liebesbier, which makes the famous Maisel’s Weisse.
And while the marktplatz is quite enjoyable during the summer months, it also transforms into an amazing winter wonderland for the Bayreuth Christmas market!
If you work in Vilseck, there’s a good chance you already live in Amberg. Its pedestrian area is much larger than the Weiden marktplatz, with a huge variety of restaurants and shops!
One of their unique attractions is the smallest hotel in the world. It was originally built so that poor couples could “buy” the home – a provision for getting married.
Amberg also has a really nice movie theater that screens original version (OV) films (but only the big blockbuster movies). You can enjoy dinner at the burger restaurant that’s attached, and then head into your movie right afterwards.
And if that’s not enough to keep you entertained, the city has a castle! Although today it’s used as an administrative building (still pretty cool).
Pottenstein is a great day trip from Grafenwoehr for family, friends, and visitors. A small castle towers over the town, which is classically filled with cobblestone streets and quaint cafes.
But the real highlight of Pottenstein is all the nature you can explore! Check out Devil’s Cave before you enter the city, and then go to Erlebnisfelsen to ride the toboggan.
And speaking of nature…
Day Trips from Grafenwoehr: Hang Out in Nature
Bavaria has so much green space, it would be hard to avoid ever taking a hike!
In the summer months, you should definitely visit the lakes to cool down. We really enjoy Freizeitsee Dießfurt for paddleboarding, swimming, and just general relaxation. If you’re looking for a day full of activities, check out Steinberger See for their ski track, picnic area, and Holzkugel with a giant slide and adventure playground.
If you’re looking for biking and hiking trails, you should download the Komoot app. Or you could just drive down almost any B-road and find a small parking lot to pull into. One of our favorite hiking trails is located in Doost. You’ll find plenty of trees, rocks to climb, and a beautiful river stream that runs through the middle of the hike.
And wherever you choose to hike or bike, there’s a chance you’ll end up at a small biergarten or stub’n for a long break. Treat yourself to a beer, some obatzda, and enjoy nature!
Day Trips from Grafenwoehr: Explore Churches, Monasteries, and Castles
I’ve already mentioned some of the castles you can visit, but where else will you live where you can drive less than an hour to see a real castle?
As I mentioned, the castles at Pottenstein and Parkstein are definitely worth a trip. But there are a few more you can add to your list. Speaking of lists, you can find my google map list of all the Bavarian castles I mention here.
This castle is just an 18-minute drive from Weiden and has an amazing view. (Most castles will have an amazing view though because castles needed to see everything.)
You’ll see some stones protruding from the wall, which is where they’d hang criminals for everyone to see. It really set an example for the town!
Rauher Kulm Tower
This destination is so close to Grafenwoehr that you can see this tower from Netzaberg!
It’s a healthy hike up the basalt mountain to get to the top. I highly recommend waking up early so that you can watch the sun rise at the tower.
Speinshart Monastery is just a bit north of Eschenbach with incredible architecture from the 1600s.
The interior is just truly breathtaking. There are cathedrals and monasteries all throughout Europe that are just as intricately designed, but this one is just a 15-minute drive from Grafenwoehr.
Hohenfels is almost the same distance from Grafenwoehr as Nuremberg – around a 75-minute drive. You don’t need to visit the base while you’re there, but you should definitely treat yourself to some cake and cappuccinos at the Kuhstallcafe!
Afterwards, explore the town or check out Burgruine Velburg, the castle ruins 20 minutes from Hohenfels. You can hike up to it like I did, or just park in the parkplatz up the hill.
Nearly 10mins away from Velburg you’ll find the city of Lupburg. As you drive closer to the city, you can’t miss Burg Lupburg, another small castle with 360 panorama views of the city and mountains.
In fact, this entire Hohenfels area is loaded with castles. Make sure to also check out Burg Parsberg, Burg Lengenfeld, Burgruine Kallmünz, and for bonus points Burgruine Schöneberg.
Day Trips in Grafenwoehr: Where Will You Go?
It’s remarkable that there’s so much history within a small radius of where we live. Every weekend you can hop in your car and visit a town that feels completely new.
COVID may put a damper on PCSing to Germany, but you can still safely explore the region and get to know your host country!