The Romantic Road in Germany

What was once a medieval trade route is today charming road trip. Germany's Romantic Road still retains much of its medieval character. The road winds through forgotten sections of countryside, connecting small towns and picturesque villages. You will discover completely walled towns with arched gateways and towers. Inside the walls we find gothic churches, half-timbered houses and other beautiful historic buildings.

The Romantic Road connects Würzburg with Füssen near the Austrian border. The trip is usually made from north to south, but you can also do it in reverse, as an alternative route when you return from Austria or Italy. The route is a string of historic villages and towns, impressive castles and beautiful baroque churches.

The Romantic Road is marked with brown signs, but make sure you get a good roadmap. In each local tourist office you can get a free copy. Even a GPS can sometimes be helpful: when you leave the cities, the route is quite difficult to pick up again.

The Romantic Road map
Map of the romantic road

Starting point: Würzburg

At Würzburg we discover a wide range of beautiful buildings, but no one attracts more attention than the Residenz, the most beautiful baroque palace in Germany. It was the residence of the prince bishops of Würzburg. In the 18th century, this palace was built for a wealthy family. They used the best architects and artists of their time. Under the Residenz you can visit the wine cellar of one of the largest and oldest wineries in Germany.

The Residenz
The Residenz (Photo by Marco Marsella)

Another attraction is the St. Kilian Cathedral, the largest Romanesque church in Germany. Not far from the Cathedral lies the Alte Mainbrücke (the Old Main Bridge). There you get a great view of the pastel-colored houses along the Main and the vineyards that surround the city. On the other side of the river is located the Festung Marienberg. The prince bishops of Würzburg lived in this citadel before they moved into the Residenz. Right next to the bridge you will find an excellent restaurant: Alte Mainmühle.

After 63 km: Weikersheim

Weikersheim is surrounded by vineyards and boasts a magnificent Renaissance palace with gardens inspired by Versailles. The marketplace of the town is a unique entity, including a Gothic church, the former grain house and a beautiful rococo fountain.
Weikersheim Market Place
Weikersheim Market Place (Photo by Mene)

After 98 km: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg is the most medieval city of Germany. Walt Disney used it as inspiration for the town of Pinocchio and during WWII the U.S. Secretary of War personally guaranteed that this little jewel was spared from bombings. A real highlight is the market square with its Renaissance Town Hall, but Rothenburg is especially proud of its medieval fortifications: a wall with towers, gates and a bastion. There is a Christmas Museum and various shops are selling Christmas items year round. Try the specialty of the town: snow globes, dough balls with a layer of sugar or chocolate. This charming town is a great place to spend the night. There are several charming hotels like the Eisenhut Hotel and the Historik Hotel Gotisches Haus. Both are located near the town hall and the marketplace.

 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber

 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber

After 143 km: Dinkelsbühl

Also Dinkelsbühl preserved its medieval character. The town is surrounded by a wall with eighteen towers and a huge church is towering over the village. Walk through Dinkelsbühl and discover the all the beautiful spots. Here you can find some of the finest half-timbered houses of Germany: the Deutsches Haus and Der Hezelhof. The hostel is located in the old corn barn.

After 192 km: Harburg

Harburg is a pleasant town with narrow cobblestone streets and a historic bridge, but the most famous attraction is Harburg Castle, the picturesque castle on a cliff above the village. For 900 years the castle has been owned by the royal family Oettingen-Wallerstein and it grew from a fortress into a pleasant residential palace. Michael Jackson tried unsuccessfully to buy Burg Harburg. The family Oettingen-Wallerstein has also two other castles along the Romantic Road: Wallerstein and Baldern.

Harburg Castle
Harburg Castle (Photo by Peschn)

After 267 km: Augsburg

Augsburg is sometimes called The northernmost city in Italy due to the splendid Renaissance buildings and the many fountains you can find there. Be sure to take your time to get to know the city. The town hall square is the center of town. Walk inside the city hall to discover the Goldener Saal (Golden Hall). This is a wonderful salon with marble, frescoes and gilded stucco. Next to the city hall is the Perlachtoren, a city tower from the 11th century that now serves as a bell tower for the adjacent church. You can climb the tower; a yellow flag indicates whether the view up there is good or not.

Golden Hall
Golden Hall (Photo by Eistreter)

Go out there looking for the Fuggerrei, the world's first social housing project. The Fuggerrei was founded in 1516 by the wealthy banker Jakob Fugger. He provided the poor people of Augsburg small rental houses for just 0.88 euros a year. And the rent has not changed today. The only condition is that the residents are Catholic and that they pray for the salvation of the Fugger family, who still operates the Fuggerei. You can visit the complex but beware: at 10PM, the gates are closed. Residents who still want outside or inside must pay rent for a whole year to the guard.

Fuggerei
The Fuggerei (Photo by Betina)

After 313 km: Landsberg am Lech

Landsberg am Lech also preserved its full city wall. Landsberg is also the birthplace of Dominikus Zimmermann, the famous German rococo artist who left many traces in German architecture. On the facade of the Altes Rathaus for example, this is decorated with fluorescent stucco. Zimmermann designed also the Saint-John Church, but the surprise is the Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche (Church of the Holy Cross). Inside you'll be overwhelmed by the magnificent frescoes. Landsberg am Lech has also great shopping streets.

Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche
Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche (Photo by Tk)

After 362 km: Steingaden

Steingaden is located at the intersection of the Romantic Road and the German Alpine Road. The main attraction is outside the city center, the Wies Church. This church is located in the middle of fields and is considered the height of Rococo style. She is recognized as World Heritage.

After 381 km: Schwangau

Schwangau lies at the foot of the Alps and consists of various small hotels for tourists. They come here to walk in the mountains or around the lakes but they are also interested in the fairytale castles of Schwangau. The neo-Gothic Schloss Hohenschwangau was built in the 19th century by Maximilian II of Bavaria. His successor, Ludwig II continued living there after the death of the old king. But in 1868, Ludwig's building anger prevailed and he ordered a new castle built on a high ledge that he had chosen. Neuschwanstein would be even bigger and more luxurious than Hohenschwangau, but the castle brought Ludwig no luck. He spent just six months in the palace, after which he drowned in suspicious circumstances. Hotel Schwanstein and Wellvital Hotel Rübezahl are located within walking distance of both castles..

Schloss Neuschwanstein in winter
Schloss Neuschwanstein in winter

After 385 km: Füssen

For many people, Neuschwanstein is the goal, but that would be a shame. The official end of the Romantic Road is located in Füssen and the town really is worth a detour. Füssen has late medieval roots and has many Gothic houses and baroque churches. The city center is pleasant for shopping.

After 415 km: Zugspitze

Strictly spoken the Romantic Road ends in Füssen, but some put the terminus at the Zugspitze, the highest point in Germany. From Garmisch-Partenkirchen you can take a gear train to 2,964 meters altitude. Currently there is an impressive viewing platform under construction, but even now you get already breathtaking views of the German and Austrian mountain peaks.

Top of the Zugspitze
Top of the Zugspitze