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.
Map of the romantic road
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 (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.
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 (Photo by Mene)
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
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.
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 (Photo by Peschn)
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 (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.