Germany is one of the easiest countries in Europe to navigate either by public transportation or by car. The smaller the town, the longer is generally takes to get there via public transportation. Therefore, if you’re headed to Germany for a long vacation, I highly recommend renting a car. This will allow you to easily move from one town to the next without wasting precious time.
Germany is the 3rd largest country on Continental Europe with one of the most sophisticated highway system. Plus, it helps that only 40% of the autobahn still has no speed limits. But even with the large amount of land mass and driving fast, Germany is still relatively small compared to a country like the United States. Therefore, everything is much closer together and easier to reach within a few hours time. The roads in Germany are by far one of the best maintained with proficient signage guiding you.
One of the most beautiful and popular routes in Germany is the Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse) stretching 220 miles from Würzburg to Füssen, taking you through the heart of Bavaria to some of the most romantic towns!
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The route is based very loosely on the ancient Roman routes of participating cities. However, in reality, Germany was desperate to rebuild tourism after the end of the Second World War. In the 1950s, this marketing idea was created to boost tourism of some of the most romantic towns and medieval castles. And sure enough, it worked!
However, many guide books no longer even mention the Romantic Road and is actually hanging on for dear life and mostly popular with older tourists as well as with the Japanese. Secondly, tourists mostly seem to flock to the most popular towns, like Rothenburg ob der Tauber which is overburdened by 2 million visitors per year. But today, I feel that people are beginning to look for those off-the-beaten-path locations away from the hordes of tourists to get a better understanding of the culture and the people and walk away with a more authentic experience. Plus, the architecture is amazing!
This is a guide of almost every city, town, village and castle directly on the Romantic Road which will share with you the must-see places to visit and the ones you can skip over if you’re short on time.
Cities, Towns, Villages & Castles on the Romantic Road:
- Wertheim Village
- Bad Mergentheim
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber
- Schloss Baldern
- Landsberg am Lech
- Schloss Neuschwanstein
Down in a valley, surrounded by rolling hills of vineyards lies the first romantic town you’ll embark upon. Würzburg is easily overlooked by its other larger neighbors and doesn’t receive much attention, which is a crying shame because the town is absolutely beautiful and the wine is delish!
80% of the town was unfortunately destroyed during the WWII in March 1945, but has since been rebuilt to its former glory. There are still scars on this town which are visibly clear, but that doesn’t take away from the romance of the town.
Head up to the Festung Marienburg for an amazing view of the town and when you’re done, sip some wine on the Alte Mainbrücke (Old Main Bridge) while gazing upon the fortress, perched upon a hill overlooking the Main River. Rows upon rows of vineyard stretch beneath it.
Take a tour of the Residenz, a vast complex built by two prince-bishops brothers. Take a gander at the marvelous staircase and the largest fresco in the world and be amazed by the Kaisersaal!
While you’re in town, find a wine festival. During the summer months, there is always a festival to be found! You’re in wine country, and there is no shortage of wine, so drink up!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
By far one of the best known towns on the Romantic Road is Rothenburg ob der Tauber which receives some 2 million visitors per year. Surrounded by its Medieval walls and endless half-timbered houses, it makes strolling through this town feel like a fairy tale come true. This is one town, you do NOT want to miss!
Again, most of the town was destroyed during the Second World War, but it was quickly rebuilt to its former glory from donations around the world. Stroll along the Medieval walls and read some of the names of the donators. When you get to the Röderturm (Röder Tower), climb to the top for an amazing panoramic view over the town! You’ll pay a small entrance fee once you nearly reach the top to a gentleman waiting for you!
Snap a photo of the towns two most iconic houses, the Gerlauchschmiede as well as the Plönlein with Kobolzeller Steige and Spitalgasse. Then when you’re done, find all the towers that were once used to safe guard the town.
The second medieval walled town of three along the Romantic Road, Dinkelsbühl is located in Central Franconia and is definitely worth a visit. Luckily, the entire town escaped the Second World War completely unscathed, which means that it remains just as beautiful today as it did in the Medieval Ages. Although, the town claims it is “the most beautiful town in Germany”, which we feel is definitely ONE of the most beautiful, but far from being the MOST beautiful.
St. George’s Minster is a 15th century Gothic style church which dominates the town. The main alter is definitely worth a visit. And when you’re done checking out the inside, climb up the tower for a view over the town.
The best part of the town is the Weinmarkt, or Wine Market. Colorful gabled buildings line the market, dating from around 1600. Here you’ll find many restaurants and cafes along the promenade making for an enjoyable and surprisingly exciting town to visit!
Located in the Donau-Ries district, Nördlingen is the third of three medieval walled towns on the Romantic Road, it’s has by far one of the most interesting origins. The town is surprisingly built entirely inside of a massive crater, that was created some 14 million years ago when a meteorite struck the Earth! So, that makes it all the more worth visiting! It wasn’t until 1960 that two American scientists discovered that the town was in fact built inside of a crater! Today, it’s called the Nördlinger-Ries, or the Ries Crater.
The town is dominated by the Gothic-style Saint George’s Church which I highly recommend climbing the church tower for a breathtaking panoramic view over the town! You’ll pay a small entrance fee once you nearly reach the top to a gentleman waiting for you! Obviously, not open during the winter.
The best part of the town includes the plethora of half-timbered houses throughout the town, making for absolutely picture perfect photos. If you’re looking for a less touristy version of Rothenburg o.d Tauber, then this is the place to go, as here you can also walk along the entire Medieval wall.
Situated at the confluence of the Lech and Wertach rivers, Augsburg is the third largest town in Bavaria, as well as one of the oldest. As early as 15 BC, this was the site of a Roman camp. It grew to be one of the richest towns until the Thirty Years’ War ended their prosperity. Almost all of Augsburg was destroyed during the Second World War, but it has been meticulously rebuilt to its former glory.
Therefore, it’s definitely worth visiting! The City Hall and its Golden Hall is one of Germany’s finest examples of Mannerist architecture. I highly recommend you to check out the inside of the city hall. It’s absolutely glorious! If you’re feeling up to it, take a climb up the Perlachturm (Perlach Tower) next to the City Hall.
Take a walk down Maximilianstrasse, Augsburg’s main thoroughfare lined with beautiful buildings such as the Schaezler Palace and notable fountains. Don’t miss the Fuggerei which is Europe’s oldest social housing!
Located in Northern Swabia, just a few minutes drive from Augsburg is the small town of Friedburg that was once a fortress, built to protect the towns residents from attacks from Augsburg.
A stop here and you’ll find a very quaint town lined with beautiful houses and an adorable little Rathaus (city hall) built in 1673. Of importance here is the Herrgottsruh church located in the east of town and is the finest building in the town. In the north of the town, you’ll find a medieval castle (currently undergoing restoration as of April 2017).
Landsberg am Lech
Most tourists seem to skip over Landsberg am Lech as it lies between Augsburg and Füssen, therefore, the town isn’t overcrowded with tourists looking for that picturesque ambience that Rothenburg can offer. But that doesn’t mean the town isn’t worth looking at, because it definitely is!
The history of Landsberg am Lech dates back to the 1160 when Henry the Lion built his castle here. It grew into a small settlement, but then after the Thirty Year’s War, the town’s growth stifled. After Hitler was arrested for his unsuccessful coup in Munich, he served his prison sentence here, and wrote his abhorrent book, Mein Kampf, here.
The heart of the town is Hauptplatz with its Baroque city hall with its 14th Century tower, Schmalztor with elaborate carvings. A stroll down to the river side and you’ll be able to soak up the sun at one of the cafes along the river, and enjoy the view of the Lechwehr, a weir built in the 14th century. When you’re done with a coffee, cross the river and head toward the Mother’s Tower, built in 1884-7 by Hubert von Herkomer who dedicated this fairy tale tower to his mother. The best gift a mother could ask for! (Sorry mom, I can’t give you such a gift!) Also of importance and is a must-visit is the Heilig Kreuzkirche towering over the town with glorious frescoes. Be sure to check out the town’s original gate, Bayertor on your way in or out of the town.
In the small village of Rottenbuch are the remains of an old Augustinian monastery that was founded in 1073. But when I say “remains”, I don’t mean the type where all that is left is some crumbling bits of brick. No, I mean only a few buildings left of what used to be a larger complex.
During the secularization of Bavaria between 1802 and 1814, many monastic buildings were pulled down. Unfortunately, Rottenbuch Abbey met that same fate. There was once a noteworthy library here, but that too is gone. Today, only a few bits of the monastery remain and is now a parish church. The abbey itself no longer exists, per say as parts of it have also been sold off. You can however still visit the church.
The inside of the church is decorated in elaborate pastel and gold rococo with frescoes that are an outstanding example of the work of Matthäus Günther. Outside of the church is a beautiful cemetery with brass headstones making for a picturesque resting place. To the right of the church, near the tourist shop is a small biergarten, making it the perfect location to stop for a beer and a beautiful church!
Address: Klosterhof 42 82401 Rottenbuch
- Winter : 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- Summer: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Just down the way, is the quaint village of Wildsteig perched upon a small hill in the Pfaffenwinkel Upper Bavaria region. This region is Munich‘s natural recreational playground.
To be honest, there isn’t much here other than the St. Jakob Church located in the middle of the town, surrounded by typical adorable Alp-style homes. But, we felt the need to stop anyways and get out to take a look around.
The St. Jakob Church is your typical small town church with surprisingly a beautiful ceiling fresco and alter piece. Even though there isn’t much here, it worth a quick stop for the picturesque church. Plus, as an added bonus, there are some amazing view of the Alps off in the distance from the hilltop town!
Address: Kirchbergstr. 34 Wildsteig, 82409
Located at the foothills of the Alps, this small town is home to the Steingaden Abbey as well as Wieskirche. The town of Steingaden is actually quite small, but there is definitely plenty of hiking trails for around the town if you’re looking to get out and stretch your legs! You’ll find more information at the Wies Church on the surrounding hiking trails!
You can also visit the Steingaden Abbey which was a Premonstratenian monastery founded in 1147. At first, we questioned if it was worth going in, but since we were here, we might as well. Turned out to be another absolutely stunning church with more beautiful rococo artwork and frescoes! Never judge a book by its cover, right!?
Again, the church was dissolved during the secularization of Bavaria and portions of it were either auctioned off or destroyed in 1819.
Not directly on the Romantic Road, it is located in the foothills of the Alps and it’s definitely worth a visit on your way to/from Schloss Neuschwanstein! This pilgrimage church is an oval rococo church is a miraculous masterpiece of Bavarian Rococo and is probably the finest in the world!
There is a legend that tears were seen on a dilapidated wooden figure of the Scourged Saviour that dates back to 1730 which resulted in this church being built. And at one point, it is possible that the Bavarian government planned to destroy the church during the secularization between 1802 and 1814. Supposedly, protests from local farmers saved the church from what would have been an untimely death.
In 1983, the church was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and underwent extensive restoration and if there was only one church to visit, THIS would be the one!! With absolutely picture perfect frescoes in light pastels and golden embellishments, it was absolutely jaw-dropping!
Address: Wies 14, 86989 Steingaden
- Summer: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Winter: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
You might never have heard of the town, but you have certainly, and most likely heard the name Neuschwanstein Castle or the “Disney Castle”. The town generally gets overlooked and over shadowed by the two castles, which also includes Schloss Hohenschwangau, that sit perched in the Alpine mountains.
The town receives a lot of passing through tourists, looking to hit up the most iconic and romantic castles of them all. But if you stop to enjoy this region, you might just be surprised at what you can do here! There is a ton of hiking routes to stroll around as well as the Tegelbergbahn (Cable Car) which offers amazing views over the region!
For a breathtaking and absolute picturesque view of the Neuschwanstein Castle, drive along Colomonstrasse and pull over to a safe area. Then continue on to the Colomon Church and snap the iconic image of both the church and Neuschwanstein in the background!
Address: Colomanstraße 1, 87645 Schwangau
Not directly on the Romantic Road, but skipping this would be a huge mistake if you’re in the area anyways as it is the epitome of romance!
One of the absolute most iconic places not only in Germany, but in the world is the fairy tale castle the world associates with Disney. Built by the romantic King Ludwig II of Bavaria as his personal retreat, it was not meant to be used for court.
Unfortunately, King Ludwig II had bankrupted the state of Bavaria building his three magnificent castles, and then dug into his own personal finances to fund the construction. But as funds were running low, the castle was never completed. Of the 360 rooms in the castle, only 17 of them are finished and open to the public by the time of his mysterious death. Within 6 months of his untimely death, Schloss Neuschwanstein opened to the public and has become the state’s largest source of income. No figure!
If you would like to visit his other castles, Schloss Linderhof is his only castle that was completed and not far away from here. There is also Schloss Herrnchiemsee on Lake Chiem not far from Munich.
The last and final stop on the Romantic Road and is definitely worth visiting. Perched high on a rock, above the town is the palace of the Augsburg prince-bishops which began construction in 1291. The residential buildings of the palace range around a courtyard.
Just below the castle is the former Benedictine Abbey (Kloster St. Mang) with its connecting Parish Church which was also dissolved during the secularization in 1802. Take a quick peek inside for some beautiful architecture. When you’re done, head over to the entrance to the Abbey and visit the Oval Library for 6€ per person.
A walk around the town will provide endless picture perfect moments with one colorful building after the next. Eventually, you’ll find the Heilig Geist Spitalkirche (Holy Ghost Spital Church), quite possibly the most quaint church I’ve ever seen!
Not on the Romantic Road, but not far from it either, and therefore Zugspitze makes the cut! It’d worth taking some time out of your trip to check out Germany’s tallest mountain peak, at 9,718 feet high which straddles the German-Austrian border. With breathtaking views stretching as far as Italy, how could you pass this up?
Once up at the top, enjoy a nice warm meal (if it’s winter) or enjoy a beer at the highest biergarten in Germany and be sure to check out both the Bavarian and the Austrian sides of the border.
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