The Romantic Road is a stretch of road 220mi long in Southern Germany connecting the towns of Würzburg and Füssen with a bunch of quaint medieval towns along the way. The road itself is scenic – there is no shortage of rolling hills and stretches of the Bavarian countryside. When I was doing research on Bavaria, a journey on this road was one of the must-do’s, but the more research I did, the more confused I was! Which towns are worth visiting? What’s the best way to travel the route (train, bus, car)? Things were further complicated by the fact that we were traveling in winter and road conditions were questionable.
Now that I’m back from my trip, here’s my recommendation if you’re considering spending a few days along the Romantic Road – rent a car, opt for the navigation, and drive the road at your own pace. The roads in Germany are smooth, easy to drive, and you’ll earn bragging rights for cruising down the autobahn at over a hundred miles an hour (if that’s what you’re into). Plus, with a car you’ll have all the advantages of visiting each town at your own pace spending as little or as much time in each town as you want. The other two alternatives are a tour bus which instantly puts you at the whim of the tour itinerary (read: you’re on someone else’s schedule) and the train, which doesn’t even service all the towns! Besides, the stretch of road is called the Romantic Road and not the Romantic Rail for a reason! So, now that I’ve actually done it, it’s really a no brainer – drive it yourself all the way! The only major thing I’d caution is to ensure you have a reliable navigation system as the street signs aren’t always obvious and it would be super easy to get lost. Luckily for Mr. T and I, we had cell service so good ol’ Google maps helped navigate us without fail.
If you’re interested a sample itinerary, we started and ended in Munich and spent 3 days and 2 nights along the road.
Day 1: Leave Munich in the morning and drive to Nuremburg (~2 hour drive). Spend the rest of the day visiting the shops in Nuremburg and walk up to the castle for the view of the city. Overnight in Nuremburg.
Day 2: Leave Nuremburg after breakfast and drive to Rothenburg (~ 1 hour and 15 min drive). Walk through Rothenburg, visit the shops, and take a horse carriage tour of the town. Overnight in Rothenburg.
Day 3: Leave Rothenburg after breakfast and make your way back to Munich, stopping in Dinkelsbuhl for lunch, then climbing up the church tower in Nördlingen for the view of town, and stopping for picture ops in little Harburg. You should be able to get back to Munich in time for dinner.
While we returned the car in Munich you could continue down through the Bavarian Alps all the way to Füssen on days 4 and 5. I highly recommend doing this instead of doing what we did – we took a tour through the Alps on Day 4 and (what a surprise) was rushed from attraction to attraction the whole day. If we could do it over, we’d drive the road ourselves (make sure you have chains if you’re doing this in the winter as this area gets more snow) so that we could take our time stopping in the little towns and touring Sleeping Beauty’s castle near Füssen.
The Bavarian Alps and the castles around it are in a class of their own so first and foremost, make sure they are on your itinerary! If you’ve got time afterwards to properly visit the other cities along the Romantic Road, the best ones were Nuremburg and Rothenburg. Nuremburg is a must-see especially if you’re there during the Christmas markets since it hosts the largest and most famous Christmas market in Germany. Rothenburg is just so darn festive it’s like you’re in an amusement park! There are literally Christmas trees year-round in Rothenburg so it’s the place to go if you’re yearning for the holiday spirit (and even if you’re not). Dinkelbuhl, Nördlingen, and Harburg are less touristed and worthwhile if you’re in the neighborhood, but not worth a special trip of its own. Finally, we also stopped at Augsburg enroute to Munich. Augsburg is just another big city in Germany and not worth the stopover if you’re looking for that medieval town feel so feel free to skip it.
If you’ve got the time, consider driving the Romantic road to get from Frankfurt to Munich or vice-versa. You could probably make this trip rushing from city to city in about 3 days or you could take your time and do it over 5-7 days.