Germany’s Allgäu region is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Travelers of all ages flock there for clean air and unspoiled picture-postcard landscapes that make them want to quit their city jobs and move to rural Germany: lush green valleys and high mountain passes; neatly kept farmhouses, their wooden balconies overflowing with pink petunias and red geraniums; snow-capped Alpine peaks reflected in the clear blue waters of cold mountain lakes—all these pastoral pleasures punctuated by the soft clanging of cow bells and the pealing of church bells. Yet the Allgäu almost never feels overcrowded, even during tourist season.
Located in southern Germany, adjacent to the Austrian border, the Allgäu is an Alpine-and-foothills region that extends across the southwestern tip of Bavaria and into the neighboring state of Baden-Württemberg. Its boundaries range approximately from the towns of Pfronten in the east, Memmingen in the north, Wangen in west, and Oberstdorf in the south.
What To See and Do in the Allgäu
Hiking trails, cycling routes, and ski runs crisscross the land, and the entire region is dotted with health resorts. Although best known for its natural beauty, the Allgäu also has many cultural attractions worth visiting, including Baroque churches and cloisters; 39 palaces, castles, and ruins; and more than 80 museums on a wide range of subjects, from fine arts to automobiles, from cheese-making to rural life. Don’t miss, for example, the massive Cathedral at Ottobeuren, outside Memmingen. Michelin’s Green Guide for Germany gives it three stars, “worth a journey.”
For a good introduction to this area, begin at the Schwäbisches Bauernhofmuseum (Swabian Farm Museum) in the village of Illerbeuren, south of Memmingen between the A-7 and A-96 Autobahns. The first open-air museum built in Bavaria (1955), it presents a fascinating view of traditional Swabian farm life during centuries past.
Many of the museum’s two dozen buildings are handsome half-timbered structures, some dating from the 17th century, that have been moved to the site from other parts of the region. Inside the farmhouses, barns, and workshops, are interesting exhibits about flax production, dairying, shoe making, beekeeping, and bread baking—with ready explanations supplied by the museum’s friendly staff. At the Töpferei (pottery workshop) visitors can watch local potters shape, paint, and fire their colorful wares, which are for sale to the public. (A popular item is a large hand-painted ceramic bowl for serving Käsespätzle, a regional macaroni-and-cheese-style dish made with Allgäuer cheese.) The museum also schedules special demonstrations and events throughout the year.
The Allgäu is a popular tourist region with plenty of hotels, inns, pensions, and vacation apartments to suit every budget. For a closer look at rural life, stay in a traditional Allgäu farmhouse where the owners rent out rooms at reasonable prices. (Stay more than one night and the rate is usually even lower.) Look for small signs that say Zimmer (room) near the road or posted on the farms themselves, or contact the local tourist offices (contact info on page four) for a list of accommodations in the areas you plan to visit. See links below for recommended hotels in the region.
The Allgäu offers a wide range of good places to eat, from cozy little Gasthöfe serving traditional Swabian or Bavarian cuisine to upscale restaurants with good ratings in gourmet guides. Local specialties include many varieties of Swabian Maultaschen, large ravioli-like squares of pasta with a meat, spinach, or cheese filling, and Allgäuer Käsespätzle, little flour-and-egg dumplings boiled in water, then mixed with grated local cheeses and garnished with browned onions. Allgäu cheeses turn up as an ingredient in many dishes and on cheese platters at the end of a meal. See links below for recommended restaurants in the region.
- Allgäuer Cheese
- Allgäuer Food
- Basic Info: The Allgäu Region
- Brauerei-Gasthof Schäfflerbräu, Missen
- Gasthaus zum Lamm, Wangen
- Hotel Adler, Bad Wurzach
- Hotel Bären, Insy
- Hotel Blaue Traube, Wangen
- Hotel Hohe Linde, Isny
- Restaurant Allgäuer Stuben, Isny
- Restaurant Blaue Traube, Wangen
- Restaurant Museumsgasthaus Gromerhof, Illerbeuren
- Restaurant-Gasthof Schäfflerbräu, Missen
- The Allgäu Cheese Route