For many travelers, Germany hits its high notes along the so-called Romantische Strasse, or Romantic Road, a scenic route that rambles through much of Bavaria. The 350km (220 miles) of specially marked lanes and secondary roads wind from the vineyard-clad hills surrounding Würzburg south through an unfolding panorama of beautiful landscapes interspersed with small medieval cities. To the south, the road rises through foothills covered with verdant pastures, lake-splashed countryside, and groves of evergreens to the dramatic heights of the Alps that divide Germany and western Austria. As if all this scenery weren’t enough, these final stretches of the road lead to Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, two of the fantasy castles built by the legendary King Ludwig II in the second half of the 19th century.
Officially, the scenic route the German government drew up after World War II takes in 28 towns and villages. We take a few liberties and veer off the Romantic Road to also include some fascinating nearby places that are too good to miss—among them Nürnberg, a city that all in one swoop encompasses medieval and Renaissance splendor, the horrors of World War II, and the successes of Germany’s postwar rebuilding. We also detour east to Regensburg, a little city that was untouched by the war and as result comprises one of Europe’s largest swaths of medieval architecture. In the south, we wander off the Romantic Road to take in a section of the Bavarian Alps around Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Although you can easily hit the high points—Würzburg, Rothernburg ob der Tauber, Nürnberg, Regensburg, and Füssen by car, bus, or train within a week—you might want to slow down and take time out to bike or hike through the Tauber Valley, see the beautiful Herrgottskirche in little Creglingen, ascend a mountaintop, or just bend your elbow in a historic tavern or two.
Romantic Road Info & Bus Tours
A good source of information is the Romantische Strasse Touristik Arbeitsgemeinschaft GbR, Segringer Strasse 19, 91550 Dinkelsbühl (tel. 09851/5513487; www.romantischestrasse.de), which officially oversees the Romantic Road and offers brochures and maps for drivers, cyclists, and walkers. A lot of bus tours ply the route, and you’ll be besieged with options in Würzburg, Munich, and other cities and big towns on and near the Romantic Road. Most offer transport, guides, and overnight accommodations on trips that last anywhere from an overnight to a week, with prices from around 250€ to 1,200€. Buses operated by Romantische Strasse Touristik (www.romanticroadcoach.de) are an economical and handy option that allow passengers to hop on and off buses that operate from mid-April to mid-October. Unlike organized bus tours, the scheme doesn’t tie you to a schedule and let’s you pick and choose where you want to stop along the way and for how long. There are various passes available, and Eurail pass holders receive a 20 percent discount. Daily departures are from Frankfurt and Füssen and from Munich. Do some math before purchasing, though: If you plan on visiting only one or two towns along the Romantic Road, it’s probably cheaper to buy individual bus or train tickets to get there.