Germany’s Romantic Road
This 220-mile route through Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg is one of the loveliest rides in Germany.
The beginning or end of the Romantic Road, Füssen sits at the foot of the Alps near the Austrian border. Settled under Roman rule, Füssen is best known for the Hohes Schloss (High Castle) and St. Mang’s Abbey. The Hohes Schloss, one of the largest and best-preserved Gothic castle complexes in Bavaria, was once the summer home to the prince-bishops of Augsburg, but now holds a branch of the Bavarian State Collections of Paintings.
Near the southern end of the Romantic Road, Schwangau is home to two storybook castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. Neuschwanstein sees more than one million visitors a year and you may have seen it, it’s the castle from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. For a short time it was home to the Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, and its mountain setting makes it a stunning sight. Nearby Hohenschwangau is also stunning though less visited. King Ludwig grew up here, surrounded by mountain and lakes, and you can tour both castles today.
Pfaffenwinkel means Priests’ Corner, referring to the large number of churches in the small city. The Wieskirche, or Wies Church, a UNESCO World Heritage protected building, stands as a famous work from the Rococo period (many have called it a perfect example of Bavarian Rococo architecture), and inside and out, it’s awe inspiring in a way similar to the larger cathedrals found in Nuremberg and Cologne.
Founded in 15 B.C., Augsburg is one of Germany’s oldest cities. A Roman provincial capital for more than 400 years, the city’s intricate canal system and as many as 600 bridges carry the mark of the former rulers who constructed them. Augsburg became prominent in the 15th and 16th centuries when trade made the city wealthy. The Fugger family, bankers, built the Fugger Stadtpalais (City Palace) in 1512. You can admire the palace from afar as only parts are open to the public, but you can go to Augsburg Puppenkiste (Puppet Theatre), where marionettes enact fairytales and shows for children and adults.
One of the oldest, largest and best-preserved castle fortresses in Bavaria, Harburg Castle dates back to at least 1150 when this red-roofed, white-walled castle was first mentioned in writing. Several notable people, including Michael Jackson, have tried to buy it. However, it’s remained in the hands of the Oettingen-Wallersteinfamily (one of Europe’s oldest noble families) since 1731.
A walled town like its neighbors Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg, Nördlingen is a picture-perfect example of a medieval town, but it’s more notable for a meteor impact 15 million years ago. At the Ries Crater Museum, learn the story of this kilometer-wide meteor and its fingerprint in the geography, and see a moon rock on loan from NASA as a thank you for helping train the Apollo 14 astronauts on the geology of impact craters. Another museum chronicles more recent activities here. The Bavarian Railway Museum is home to more than 100 railway vehicles including steam locomotives and insight into the region’s history.
With Dinkelsbühl, the medieval city that’s overflowing with half-timbered houses and ringed by a well-preserved city wall, it’s love at first sight. So charming you’ll be ready to move here even before you tour the historic old quarter. The old quarter is steeped in that medieval feel, with a collection of well-preserved homes and businesses, and narrow streets that wind their way to the market square.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg looks like a town lifted from the pages of a fairytale. From the moment you stroll through the gates, the cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses and narrow streets cast a spell on you. At every turn there’s another picture-perfect sight like the elaborate clock or storks nesting on rooftops. Rothenburg’s Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, which chronicles the history of punishment, particularly torture, through displays of original and reproduced punitive machinery, is sobering. After a visit there, how about a bit of cheer? The Christmas Museum, where there are 150 Father Christmas figurines from throughout history, tells of the development of Christmas decorations throughout the centuries.
The whole of this spa town is beautiful, but the Deutschordens — Castle of the Teutonic Order — draws many visitors. This castle and complex were built over an 800-year period and represent a range of architectural features from the moat to the walls, as well as Romanesque, Renaissance, Rococo and Classical elements.
Festung Marienberg (Marienberg Fortress), overlooking Würzburg and the statue-lined Alte Mainbrücke — the Old Main Bridge over the Main River — began as a fort guarding the river. Later it became the home of the prince-bishops for five centuries until they left in 1719 for what became the Würzburg Residenz across the river. Today it houses a pair of museums. The Residenz Palace, a masterpiece of Rococo and Neoclassical architecture, is a sprawling building that was severely damaged in World War II air raids. Prior to that, Napoleon visited and declared war on Prussia from here, and a string of notables stayed here on European trips. Today it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list for the building and gardens.
Explore Germany’s Romantic Road! Visit your local AAA office to speak with a AAA Travel Agent about planning your fairytale drive.