Heading to the south of Germany for a holiday sometime soon? The beautiful region is where you’ll find one of the most historic and spectacular driving trails in Europe – the 350km long Romantic Route.
Dotted with charming cobblestone towns, medieval cathedrals and some of the most beautiful castles on the planet, the German Romantic Route loosely follows an ancient Roman road and is the ultimate location for a leisurely road trip. If you’re hiring a car from Munich, here’s just a handful of places to stop off along this iconic route.
With its turrets and glorious alpine backdrop, this stunning castle is like something out of an old-fashioned fairy tale. In fact, it’s said to be the inspiration behind the Sleeping Beauty Disney castle and was also used as a filming location for various iconic movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Great Escape.
The impressive castle is the first major stop on the Romantic Route and was built by King Ludwig II in the late 19th century as his own personal retreat. Since the 1890s, it’s been open to the public, apart from during WWII when the Nazis used the castle to store stolen artwork. Enjoy the mountainous drive up to the castle and make sure you don’t miss touring Neuschwanstein’s majestic Throne Hall and the brightly decorated royal lodgings.
Distance from Munich: Neuschwanstein Castle is nearly two hours south of Munich on the Austrian border, but well-worth the 80 mile (128km) road trip.
This UNESCO World Heritage cultural site is one of the most popular stops on a Romantic Route road trip. Located in the tiny village of Wies, it’s an elaborately decorated Rococo-style church in the shape of an oval which was designed by the Zimmerman brothers – two well-known local architects and artists – in the 1740s.
After you’ve parked up in the sleepy village, step into the bright interiors of the church and allow your eyes to be drawn to the fabulously ornate ceiling that’s covered in beautiful frescoes and white stucco work. The main attraction is a statue of the Scourged Saviour (Jesus Christ) which pre-dates the building itself.
Distance from Neuschwanstein: It’s only half an hour by car between the two heritage sites (approximately 16 miles or 25km).
Augsburg is the largest city on the Romantic Route and, while it may not be as picturesque as our other picks, it’s still well-worth spending a few hours in. The city’s heritage stretches back to Roman times when it was set along a popular trade route, making it one of the oldest metropolises in Germany.
As well as tucking into a tasty lunch at one of the restaurants near the Rathaus (Town Hal) or doing some shopping in Innenstadt, you can admire art at the Baroque Schaezlerpalais, soak up cityscape views from the top of the 10th century Perlach Tower or tour the world’s oldest – and possibly prettiest – social housing complex (which is still in use) at the Fuggerei.
Distance from Wieskirche: Journeys between Wieskirche and Augsburg cover 55 miles (88km) and will take you around 75 minutes by car.
Step back in time at this gorgeous Bavarian town which is famed for being one of the best-preserved walled medieval towns in the country. Found around an hour north of Augsburg, it once hosted a popular market during the Middle Ages and is now the unofficial mid-way point of the Romantic Route.
Park up at one of the free carparks beyond the town walls and then stroll down cobbled streets to Nördlingen’s huge Gothic church which sits right in the heart of the town. Nearby is also where you’ll find Marktplatz that’s a dream for architecture buffs thanks to its array of beautiful buildings from different eras. If you’ve got time, consider a walk around Nördlingen’s walls for views of both the town and the stunning Franconia countryside beyond.
Distance from Augsburg: You’ll need to jump in your car and drive for around an hour to reach Nördlingen from Augsburg, a journey which will cover around 47 miles (75km).
The next step on your Romantic Route road trip is another pretty walled medieval town. Just like Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl is packed with timber-framed buildings from centuries gone by. They’re all painted in the same selection of colours – a requirement of any residents in the town.
Dinkelsbühl’s crowning glory is its town centre and glorious Minster, although you can easily spend an hour or two meandering the charming streets surrounding it. If you want some fresh air and greenery, make a beeline for the town walls which are lined on one side with a two mile (3km) long cycle and walking trail.
Distance from Nördlingen: Trips by road between Nördlingen and Dinkelsbühl cover 19 miles (30km) and take just over 30 minutes.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
If you’ve researched the Romantic Route before, you’ll likely know that Rothenburg ob der Tauber is by far one of the most visited attractions. It’s also a walled town dating back to the Middle Ages that’s been used as a backdrop for dozens of well-known films over the years. Gorgeous lanes and well-preserved buildings additionally make it a popular spot for holidaymakers after a dose of Bavarian history.
You’ll find several paid carparks around the outside of Rothenburg’s walls to leave your hire car. Enter through one of the stunning gate houses and get ready to discover the medieval town hall, the colourful houses around Marktplatz, the landscaped castle gardens and the landmark Plönlein – a charmingly crooked house which is said to have inspired the village in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio. Love all things festive? Don’t miss the town’s quaint Christmas Museum on Herrngasse.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber also hosts numerous cultural festivals throughout the year including the Rothenburg Wine Festival, so it’s worth checking what’s on when you’re planning your Romantic Route road trip.
Distance from Dinkelsbühl: Journeys by road between Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Dinkelsbühl (30 miles or 50km) take just 35 minutes.
The final stop on our Romantic Route road trip, Würzburg certainly won’t disappoint. It’s a hotbed of extraordinary art and architecture, with the main attraction being the Residenz. The immense Baroque palace dates back to the 18th century and its 360 rooms house both the largest fresco in the world and a magnificent zigzagging staircase. Elsewhere in Würzburg, you can walk across the medieval Old Main Bridge or take a tour of the impressive Würzburger Cathedral.
If some of your group fancy doing some wine tasting, you’ll be in the right place as Würzburg is in the very heart of the Franconian wine region. You’ll spot numerous wine bars around the town centre, including many located in old and atmospheric wine cellars.
Distance from Rothenburg: The final leg of the Romantic Route covers 40 miles (65km) and will take you about 45 minutes by car.
Want to explore even more of Germany by car? Drive into the heart of Frankfurt – just 80 minutes from Würzburg – to explore its many amazing museums or journey just beyond Berlin for a stroll around the city’s beautiful Botanical Gardens.