Bavarian State Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts


The Basics about Bavaria

Bavaria – that is lots of mountains and cows, right? Well, if that is how you picture it, you are not entirely wrong. Parts of the Bavarian Alps definitely match the stereotype. However, Bavaria’s different regions and their landscapes are much more varied than that. Here is a short overview of the state’s geography.


Bavaria is Germany’s largest and most southern state sharing borders with Austria, the Czech Republic and – across Lake Constance – with Switzerland. Neighbouring German states are Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Thuringia and Saxony. The Free State of Bavaria sprawls over 70,551 square kilometres, which makes it bigger than Denmark, the Netherlands or Switzerland.

Bavarian Regions

Bavaria is divided into seven administrative regions:

  • Lower Franconia (Unterfranken)
  • Upper Franconia (Oberfranken)
  • Middle Franconia (Mittelfranken)
  • Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz)
  • Swabia (Schwaben)
  • Lower Bavaria (Niederbayern) and
  • Upper Bavaria (Oberbayern).

Each region is proud of its own culture and traditions as well as its unique culinary specialities.

City and Countryside

Bavaria’s capital is Munich, Germany’s third-largest city, with a population of more than 1.4 million inhabitants. Another major city is Nuremberg, with around 500,000 inhabitants. Most people in Bavaria live in smaller towns and villages in the countryside, though. Only about one-fifth of the population live in cities of 100,000 inhabitants or more, including Augsburg (approx. 260,000), Würzburg (approx. 130,000), Regensburg (approx. 135,000), Ingolstadt (approx.125,000), Fürth (approx. 115,000) and Erlangen (approx 105,000).

Wherever you go in Bavaria, every corner of the state offers a vibrant cultural life. Metropolitan cities like Munich or Nuremberg offer many historical and cultural attractions, as well as shopping, entertainment and leisure facilities. However, even small towns in Bavaria have theatres or cinemas and many interesting restaurants, bars and cafés. The choice of venues in the countryside may be more limited than in metropolitan cities like Munich or Nuremberg and the pace of life is generally more relaxed and quiet here. However, even smaller cities offer numerous leisure facilities and opportunities for a great night out.

Mountains, Lakes and Rivers

If you mention Bavaria abroad, many people immediately think of the Alps. However, actually only a small, southern part of the state is alpine. The Bavarian Alps include Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze, at 2,962 meters (9,718 feet). Popular holiday destinations in the mountains include Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Oberstdorf and Berchtesgaden.

In the Alpine Foothills, between the river Danube and the Alps, there are numerous beautiful lakes, such as the Chiemsee, Lake Starnberg and the Ammersee. The landscape in this area is characterised by rolling hills and forests. Another midsize mountain range can be found in the Bavarian Forest in eastern Bavaria, which runs along the Czech border and is Germany’s oldest National Park. In Franconia and Swabia you will see more low and midsize mountain ranges, with many rifts and deep valleys. The Franconian Switzerland region north of Nuremberg is known for its bizarre rock formations and caves.

Franconia boasts a unique lake district with giant lakes that offer an eldorado for recreational activities both on and along the water. Small lakes and ponds are waiting for you to jump in and enjoy the cool, clean water all over Bavaria. The state’s two main rivers are the Danube (Donau) and the Main.


Time Zone

The whole of Germany, including Bavaria, lies within the Central European time zone (CET), which is one hour ahead of World Time (UCT). Between the last Sunday of March and the last Sunday of October it falls within Central European Summer Time (CEST), which is two hours ahead of World Time. This means you need to adjust your watch twice a year.