It was an early August when I left my very hot Bucharest behind and headed to a very rainy Germany with one thing in mind: driving Germany’s Romantic road for the next few days.
The strong AC and 15 degrees from the airport prepared me for the days to come, Munich was rainy, moody and cold. Because that’s what I call 15 degrees in early August. Cold.
Check out also some useful things to know before visiting Munich, Germany
Munich was not new to me, having been there several times in the past years and having my very good friend living there, but Germany’s romantic road was sure something to wait for and dream about ever since I booked my tickets.
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What exactly is Germany’s Romantic road?
I think I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, before working for a German company and having the chance to see Munich and its surroundings, for me Germany was nothing to consider as a travel destination, and nothing close to the word “romantic”.
But man, was I wrong!
Germany’s Romantic Road is called that way for a reason. It is packed with beautiful colorful villages, medieval castles, churches, vineyards and hence delicious wine, and so much more. It can easily be done a one week in Germany, or even in a few days as we did it, but if you choose to add a few of the places to your trip through Europe, make sure to have all you need from the backpacking Europe packing list.
Get your Germany Romantic Road guide
The 350 km road itself stretches from Bavaria all the way to the Baden – Württemberg area, and one can start it and end it no matter where.
In an ideal world, I would have spent 3 weeks discovering the castles in Germany and its vineyards, but unfortunately, we only had a few days and wanted to do so much more (include also 2 towns in France – Strasbourg, and Colmar). And it was so hard to choose the itinerary since there are so many amazing places to visit in Germany.
Driving Germany’s Romantic road – Our Germany castle itinerary
One day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Leaving (now) sunny Munich behind, we hit the road and headed all the way to sunny colorful Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
For both of us, this was a dream come true, having read about it and looked at hundreds of pictures from this beautiful village in the heart of Germany.
We parked the car right next to one of the old town’s medieval walls and walked around in this village torn straight from a fairytale.
Finding a parking space is easy in Rothenburg, and there are plenty of signs showing you where there’s a parking space. And the prices are not as high as the ones we paid in France. Just a few euros for some hours in the old town, I really think it is worth paying.
Judging by how beautiful and touristic the place is, it is easy to understand how come taking pictures at noon, without anybody to ruin it, it’s a challenge, but we somehow managed to take plenty.
This place is a neverending source of beauty, and wherever you turn your head to, your heart will melt.
Just wandered around and a bit outside the main square and touristic spots, and we found plenty of little colorful corners.
What to do in one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
When you have more time, and even for one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, there are certainly some things you don’t want to miss out on.
Even though the village, and the old town itself, are not very big and one day in Rothenburg should be enough, you wouldn’t want to miss out on seeing the town by night.
Another thing to have in mind when planning your Germany Romantic road itinerary is you should avoid having your one day in Rothenburg on a Sunday. That’s when in Germany pretty much everything is closed.
The easiest way of seeing Rothenburg in one day is with a guided tour
However, since the town is so popular and touristic, mostly during high season, some restaurants and shops will still be open. But you will want to make the best out of your trip since you’ve managed to get all this way, right?
Here are a few things you should not miss out on when spending one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber:
- The Plönlein square – one of the most iconic places in Rothenburg, or even Germany. You must take a picture with this yellow building in between towers, which makes me think about Thea Beauty and the Beast somehow.
- Shop till you drop for some amazing German souvenirs. Stroll through many of the unique handcrafted stores you’ll find hidden in plain sight on the streets of Rothenburg.
From beer steins, unique Christmas ornaments, wooden nutcracker, and so much more you’ll want to bring back home.
- Marktplatz – the main square, the place which links together Rothenburg’s main streets. Here is where the City Hall is (Rathaus), the Councillor’s Tavern (Ratstrinkstube), and so many buildings with pretty architecture.
- Don’t leave without eating some authentic German food – we had a hearty hamburger with fries, and drank some refreshing apfelschorle (apple juice with cold mineral water). Or, of course, you can always go for a German beer if you choose to stay overnight.
- Climb the city walls of Rothenburg ob der Tauber – as soon as we arrived we had our first encounter with the city walls and one of the picturesque towers. Needless to say, there are plenty more for you to explore during your stay, and that should be a must on your list.
Did you know that you can get discounts at shops if you show them you’ve found them through Rick Steves’ book?
What I would have done differently?
I would have stayed overnight! The town must look amazing once the sun is down, but even better, imagine strolling on the empty streets early in the morning.
If you choose to follow my advice, here are some options for your overnight extravaganza:
- Hotel Reichs-Küchenmeister – I actually have a picture with this place, that’s how pretty this historic building is. Located on one of the streets getting you in just one minute to the junction where you’ll have the main square and Christmas Market on your left, and the Plönlein on your right.
- Hotel Eisenhut – Superb vintage-style hotel, with a perfect location. Rooms are furnished with antiques and original artwork, and the place has a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the Tauber River Valley.
- Double room with breakfast in the Kreuzerhof – a B&B might be a more affordable option, while you won’t have to give up the idea of staying in the heart of the town. And if you’re new to Airbnb, you can get 46 EUR off your first trip with this link.
What else can you see if you have more time?
Coming from Munich, stop in Augsburg, the oldest city in Bavaria.
Take a Rothenburg Night Watchman Tour and learn everything you’ve wanted about the town and its history.
Only 45 minutes away from Rothenburg, and a little over an hour from Frankfurt, Würzburg is definitely worth adding to your stops.
If you’re planning to arrive in Frankfurt, the Romantic Road can be started as well from here, and you’ll surely need some inspiration as to where to stay in Frankfurt.
The town is set on a hill, crossed by the River Main (offering the option of taking river cruises and admiring the town), packed with history since the settlement dates from the 7th century, and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Cochem is the place we chose as a basecamp for our first night in the Germany castle exploration experience, mainly because of some good reasons:
- it has a castle overlooking Mosel River from the top of a hill
- it is in the middle of the vineyards and has plenty of wine shops
- it’s only 40 minutes away from another (and more popular) German castle: Burh Elz
Unfortunately, we reached Cochem pretty late in the afternoon, thus we had time only for a quick glass of wine in the city, but the view from our ApartHotel was just stunning.
The small village is so charming, very quiet, people exploring the area on their bike just admiring nature and the surroundings, the castle between the vineyards with a perfect view over the river, colorful houses at the feet of the hill.
We had time to climb the hill on a hidden road in the woods, taste some delicious local wine at one of the cellars in the center of the city, buy some wine (of course, who would leave this place without at least a bottle), walk around the colorful streets, and go forward to our next stop.
If I would have more time, I would go back to Cochem and stay there for several days, take a bike and go on the many trails around the old town.
Here are just a few accommodation options to convince you it is worth staying longer in Cochem:
- aparthotel Cochem – our choice and I couldn’t recommend it more. The view from our window over both the river and the castle was stunning. And it is within walking distance to the city center.
- Villa Sonnenblick – perfect for a longer stay, this is the place where you can just sit back and relax in between the vineyards. The patio, river views, and seating area are just perfect for your zen vacation.
- Pension Winnemuller – right in the heart of Cochem, here is where you want to stay if you want to be close to everything in town, but still have a nice view over the river. Breakfast is served in the room, and the decor is very traditional.
We drove our way from Cochem to Burg Eltz and the scenery was just beautiful. Pure nature, small villages almost uninhabited but so perfectly cared for as if torn from a design magazine.
And vineyards as much as the eye can see.
I won’t exaggerate when I’m saying that we have seen a machine trimming the trees on a hill, in the middle of nowhere. That’s how organized everything is.
But getting back to the castle of Burg Eltz, I really felt like Belle from “The Beauty and the Beast” stepping on the castle’s bridge.
We left the car in the castle’s parking (where we paid 2 EUR) and went on to the castle on foot, on one of the trails and it took us around 20 minutes of walking until we finally saw the castle.
Another option for getting to the castle from the parking is the shuttle bus they offer for the price of 2 EUR/person.
After Burg Eltz, our trip through Germany’s Romantic road was detoured and we crossed the border to France for a few days, only to get back and stop at the following castle (I would dare to say my favorite one of them all).
A castle still owned by a family, Lichtenstein Castle is one of the most beautiful ones, also because of its location on the edge of an abyss.
Just staying on the edge, at the viewpoint, looking at the castle and at the nature surrounding it, made my heart smile.
I couldn’t even start imagining how living in this place would be like, but I sure know I would love to experience it someday. Maybe not here, maybe not even in Germany, but staying overnight in a castle should be on everyone’s bucket list!
One thing to have in mind is that parking next to the castle is 2 EUR, and the fee for visiting the castle’s garden was also 2 EUR/person (only paid in cash, since they don’t accept card).
After the last castle visit, we headed back to Munich, where I had the chance to rediscover Bavaria’s capital for two days in Summer.
Read this for getting around in Munich in an efficient way
Driving Germany’s Romantic Road – tips and learnings
I’m putting the emphasis on “Driving” because of course, you could take a tour of Germany and of its romantic road also by public transportation (trains and buses), but the best way of doing it, in my opinion, was by driving.
We rented a Budget car beforehand on Kayak.com and, after several tries, we finally managed to find the place we were supposed to pick it up from because there were so many addresses linked to the pick-up location.
Since we arrived 1 hour later than stated on the booking, our car (a Fiat 500) was gone.
Luckily they managed to offer us another car, which was actually to our advantage since it was a larger car, perfect for driving on Germany’s Autobahn (which on portions does not have a speed limit).
What we’ve learned from driving Germany’s Romantic road?
- A stronger car (a German car maybe) is better since there are areas where you don’t have speed limits
- Parking spaces are easy to find and not extremely expensive, with the highest price paid around 3 EUR
- Roads are very good, but there were portions of roads with constructions where traffic was heavy or even almost still
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