Romantic Road, Best Reason to Love Germany
Why: Recommended especially to those who haven’t been Germany before and/or who has no interest to see the country itself. It’s a good start to change your perception and put Germany to your wanna-see list. To step back in time an find yourself in medieval towns, picturesque scenery with forest, mountain, lake, valley landscape. The 500 km route is also the favourite of hiking and cycling fans (not to mention paragliding at certain mountains).
When: Preferably in Spring/Autuun so that you won’t bear too much cold. Summer should be fine if you prefer it over a beach trip, as the temperature isn’t that high.
How: Since the route of Romantic Road is between Würzburg to Füssen, you can choose any of the flight options at Frankfurt, Nürnberg, Stuttgart, Augsburg and Munich if you are a long distance traveler. If your departure point is Europe, you might wanna prefer train since the cities are very well connected. Car is another good alternative for small families. From April to October there’s also a coach service.
Duration: Spare at least a week if you wanna have a feel of the concept. If you have less time, a couple of days covering only a part of it with a few cities is also appreciated. You can enjoy up to 28 cities and towns if you have more time.
My itinerary consisted of 7 days with 8 cities/towns, all the way from north to south. As I traveled from afar by plane, Frankfurt and Munich were added automatically even if they are not a part of the Romantic Road. And the route I picked after serious consideration, was as follows:
Frankfurt - Würzburg - Rothenburg ob der Tauber - Augsburg - Kempten - Füssen - Munich
Despite all the “what’s there to see, not worth it” comments, I did enjoy Germany’s big financial centre. Half / one day is enough to have a feel of the city, where a little bit of history meets business centers and modern life.
Römerberg (Ostzeile): The historical old town centre, including its splendid half-timbered houses, was rebuilt according to the original plans in 1986. Hundreds of tiny green Ampelmänner (figure on pedestrian crosswalk lights in East Germany) welcomed me at Römmerplatz, the old city square, to my surprise. This art installation was a part of the celebrations commemorating 25 years of German Unity.
Alte Nikolaikirche: The Old Nikolai Church (Alte Nikolaikirche) belongs to the famous group on Frankfurt’s Römerberg. This small church, dating back to the 13th century, presumably served as electoral site for kings and parliaments. Visitors enjoy its harmonic carillon with 47 bells.
Römer (City Hall): This former Patrician Villa, featuring a three-gabled Roof, has served as Frankfurt's city hall since 1405.
St. Bartholomew's Cathedral: With its 95 m high tower rising over Frankfurt city centre, the Cathedral (Dom) can be seen from afar. The monument was originally a Carolingian chapel. Although called a cathedral since the 18th century, it never was an episcopal church in the true sense. Ideal to check out the scenic views of the Frankfurt skyline from its tower.
Eiserner Steg is an iron footbridge spanning the river Main which connects the centre with the district of Sachsenhausen. It's also the site for thousands of locks of love.
Dreikönigskirche: From the top of this 81 meter (265.748 feet) high neo-Gothic tower, you can enjoy panoramic views over the river Main and Sachsenhausen from the tower of the church. It was first a hospital then became a parish church and finally a protestant church in time.
Eschenheimer Turm: Very little of Frankfurt’s titanic medieval wall has survived. The ten-storey Eschenheimer Turm erected at the start of the 15th century, is the oldest unchanged landmark in Frankfurt. Today it houses a posh restaurant.
St. Catherine's Church: The building was completed in 1681 in a Baroque style. After being heavily damaged in 1944 during allied air raids in World War II, the church was rebuilt in the 1950s in a simpler style.
Behind the historical facade of the previous Alte Oper (Opera House) lies one of the most outstanding concert halls. The history of the house reaches back into the late 19th century. After the destruction at the end of world war II, it took almost four decades until the so-called most beautiful ruin of Germany received it’s magnificent facade and the interior turned in to a modern concert hall, that finally solemnly reopened on 28 August 1981.
Mainkai: Take a stroll along the river on this promenade and get a panoramic view of Frankfurt’s impressive skyline. With cafés and restaurants along the way, this route makes for a leisurely pastime as well as a sightseeing adventure.
If you can, try to see the childhood home of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hauptwache, the district named after the baroque building that once was a barracks, then a prison and a police station, and now a much-loved cafe.
Don't forget to try a glass of tart Apfelwein, the drink of choice at Frankfurt’s taverns (Kneipen) for more than 250 years, the best compared to cider.
The Franconian town is surrounded by countless romantic vineyards on the Main River.
The icon of Würzburg is undoubtedly The Residenz. This magnificent Baroque palace – one of the largest and most beautiful in Germany and surrounded by wonderful gardens – was created under the patronage of the prince-bishops Lothar Franz and Friedrich Carl von Schönborn. The structure is a joint achievement of the most significant European architects, sculptors, and painters of the 18th century from France, Italy, Austria and Germany.
Unterer Markt (The Market Square) is the heart of the city. From here begins the little old streets where you can see the old brick buildings, cobble stoned pathways, and the beautiful St. Mary's Chapel.
St. Mary's Chapel is one of the few Gothic buildings that remain preserved in Würzburg. Located along the Jewish quarter, the church is well remembered for its bright contrast of colors using red and white as the external design of the church. It’s not just its exterior that’s striking, the interior is equally impressive.
You’ll see many monuments with beautiful facades; like the rococo one of Falkenhauses or that of Neumuenster Church that is sandwiched between residential buildings.
St. Kilian is a roman catholic cathedral serving as the seat of the Bishop of Würzburg. Located in the Domstrasse, in the heart of the Old City, the cathedral serves as the major starting point for exploring the rest of the tourist attractions. With an overall length of 103 metres it is the 4th largest Romanesque church building in Germany and a masterpiece of German architecture from the Salian period.
This neo-gothic church I’ve come across on my way, is probably the most interesting I have ever seen. Destroyed during the bombings in 1945 and rebuilt by architect R. Riemerschmied in 1957, St. Johannis Church is a protestant parish church, nicknamed Batman-Church by the locals J Don't miss the cool interior either.
For the best views of the city, you may opt to make the trek up to Marienburg Fortress by crossing the Alte Mainbrücke (Old Bridge). The bridge serves as a vital connection between the old town and the Marienburg. Lined with stone statues, hills, and fortress looming overhead, it definitely reminds you of Prague’s famous Charles Bridge. The fortress was built by Gone deo in XIII century on top of Pekah Hill. It served as the residence of bishops at first but was occupied in the Thirty Years War by the Swedish government and during World War II by the Americans.
In the Old Town, 46 surviving towers still demonstrate the importance of Rothenburg in its heyday. Did you know you could actually walk on top of the fortified walls? Looking down from a vantage point on the wall is like going back in time; a must-do!
If you’re wondering what to in the evening, not to miss is the Night Watchman Tour. Hans Georg Baumgartner h as been doing a great for years. I was so biased to join it but it was one of the most fun tours ever!Join him on his entertaining and informative rounds through the darkness. For an unforgettable experience, keep in mind.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Where do you plan to spend Christmas? Conveying the aura of a fairy tale, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, turns into a living postcard during Christmas time, so they say. I was able to enjoy it without snow but I can only imagine the 500-year-old Christmas market and glamorous decorations, strenghtening its romantic character.
A visit to Rothenburg’s Reiterlesmarkt is a must during the Advent period (01-23 December). As far back as the 15th century, Advent festivities have been accompanied by a wonderful Christmas market. This market can look back on over 500 years of living heritage that has hardly changed a lot since its historic origins. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a glass of mulled wine 😉
The postcard image is Plönlein (Little Square); charming townhouses framed by the Kobolzeller Tower (securing the entrance to the town from the Tauber Valley) and the higher Siebers Tower (built from dressed quarry stones, protecting the southern gate).
The Röderbogen Arch, with the slim clock tower, and the romantic Röderbrunnen fountain, together with the massive hipped roof of the Markus Tower, form another picturesque ensemble.
Marktplatz is the pulsating heart of the town. The steps of the Rathaus (Town Hall) are also a popular place for locals and guests from all over the world to meet and stop for a rest. From here you can enjoy the view of the splendid patrician houses that frame the market square.
Behind the St. George Fountain in the photo, you find the half-timbered gable of the Fleisch und Tanzhaus (Meat and Dance House) rise steeply into the sky. Don't let the name fool you. In the past, the vaulted rooms on the top floor were a place for dancing and celebrations, while butchers sold their wares down below. Today, the upper floor has a store of beautiful garments while the basement is the most important meeting place for contemporary art in the city.
Ratstrinkstube, the former tavern, now houses the Rothenburg Tourismus Service. The astronomical clock on the facade of the house represents the legendary Master Draught of 1631. Try to be around each hour to watch it!
The narrow lancet windows and tall spires of the Church of St. James seem to reach towards the heavens.
Walt Disney was again inspired by Germany, this time by Rothenburg ob der Tauber for “Pinocchio” was very much influenced by sketches of Rothenburg ob der Tauber he knew.
Rothenburg hosts two museums which are unique in Germany and in Europe: Medieval Crime and Justice Museum as well as the German Christmas Museum.
Burgtor, the fortified castle gate which was built around 1460 is the western gate system with the highest gate. Castle Gardens’ name is actually misleading because 12th century castles did not have gardens. The gardens have been built in the place of the Rothenburg Castle (which was destroyed in an earthquake) in fact. The mask on the wall of the Burgtor gate at the entrance was used to pour hot pitch onto attackers. The views from the garden include the southern part of the town and the Tauber Valley to the left, as well as the Double Bridge and the Kobolzeller Church.
Augsburg, the third largest city in Bavaria, lies north of the Wertach and Lech Rivers. Once being connected with Verona had earned it the title of center of commerce.
Dating from the 11th century, Augsburg Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic structure, believed to have been built on top of a 4th century building, possibly a church. The original Romanesque bronze doors are famous for its relief panels depicting Old & New Testament scenes and are currently located in the neighboring Diözesanmuseum (Diocesan Museum) since 2002.
Rathaus (Town Hall) is a massive Renaissance building, popular as much for its spectacular interior as for its exhibits relating to the city's rich and fascinating past. Golden Hall is a notable room, regarded as one of the most impressive examples of the German Renaissance, with its 14-meter-high, richly-decorated ceiling. Perlachturm, the 10th-century watchtower with commanding views over the city, is in fact 7 centuries older than the town hall itself.
Founded by the Fugger family in 1521, The Fuggerei was originally built to house the town's poorer Catholics.It has been world's oldest social housing complex with rent as little as 0,88 EUR (1 gulden) per year, still the same as 500 years ago. Interesting fact is that its gates are locked by 10 pm and residents are fined for arriving later than that.
Walking or driving up and town the centrally-located Maximilianstraße is like travelling through the ages. Back in 15 BC, the Via Claudia Augusta was established to connect the Roman settlement with Italy and grew to be one of the most important trade routes of the time. With gothic, renaissance, rococo, neo-classicist and post-war buildings that seam the road, Maximilianstraße is considered a notable example of art history.
Can't miss this colorful structure when walking the Maximilianstrasse; sitting just south of the Rathaus and across from the Church of St Moritz. The Weberhaus was originally built in 1389 and left to its down devices for quite some time. Recent restorations and more than its shops inside, its artistic facade with paintings are like a magnet to the eyes.
Brechthaus is birthplace of the author Bertold Brecht, the author of many plays and creator of modern theatre. You'll find info on his life, writing and various stage performances in this small museum.
The late gothic basilica of St. Ulrich & St. Afra, dedicated to patron saints Ulrich (prince-bishop) and Afra (Roman virgin), was built between 1476-1500 on the site of a Roman temple. The double church, half Catholic and half Protestant, makes a fitting tribute to the site where the Peace of Augsburg put an end to violent religious conflict in 1555.
Schaezlerpalais (Schaezler Palace), is a lovely old Rococo mansion currently housing the German Baroque Gallery and the State Gallery. In front of the palace is the ornate Hercules Fountain.
The Stadttheater (City Theatre), offering opera, theatre, plays and ballet, had opened in 1776 and has welcomed guest ensembles including Mozart. The square in front of the theater is dominated since 1992 by the aculpture 'Ostern' by Matschinsky-Denninghoff. One thing often associated with Augsburg is the Augsburger Puppenkiste. The famous marionette theatre shot to fame when its productions started to be broadcast on German television in the 1950s.
Kempten is a picturesque town set amid beautiful surroundings. Tucked away in the gently rolling hills of the Allgäu at the foot of the Alps, it is worth a half day trip. The architecture of the city was largely influenced by the coexistence of two Christian denominations, Protestant and Catholic. Traditional customs such as the Funkenfeuer bonfires, putting up the maypole, driving the cattle up to and down from the Alpine pastures, are very much kept alive.
St. Lorenz Basilica sits in an impressive square in the Old Town dominating the area. It’s the first major church built in South Germany after the Thirty-Years War as a parish and monastery church alike. Inside is a testament to the church's wealth and baroque style.
Residenz Palace is a 17th century monastery whose rococo state rooms are without parallel in southern Germany. Today it serves as a courthouse.
Rathaus (the city hall) is located on the Rathausplatz, where you can find several restaurants and bars. Perfect place for a break, sip a drink and enjoy the street life.
Allgäu Museum lets you trace the life in the Allgau region from the Middle Ages to modern times. The building is also home to an art gallery.
Another notable attraction you can look for, is The Burghalde, a Roman castle nowadays used for various live performances.
The old town of Füssen, between the Ammergau and Allgäu Alps, a popular alpine resort and winter sports center, is a good base from which to explore nearby Europe's famous royal castles. While the 700 year-old town is small, there are a few hidden gems that the majority of visitors undoubtedly miss. There’s more to it than just a sleepover, trust me.
Fussen’s pedestrianised Altstadt(old town)'s charm comes from its typical Bavarian architecture; brightly coloured buildings, some adorned with frescoes and cobblestoned streets.
Historically been a major centre for violin making, you can find all about that and more of town's history in The Museum der Stadt Füssen (the City of Füssen Museum).
Hohes Schloß (High Castle) used to be the summer residence of the Lord Bishops of Augsburg, but today is home to the local tax office and the state art gallery. Don't forget to look for the gothic wooden ceilings in the Knight’s Room and take in the view of the Allgäu from the Veitskapelle, the highest castle chapel in Germany. Right next to it is, St Mang’s Abbey. The Benedictine monastery was once one of the most powerful institutions politically and socially. It's home to the oldest fresco in Germany.
A must see is a beautiful, small, rococo art styled church near the abbey. 18th century Holy Ghost Hospital Church's exterior is richly decorated with frescoes, opposed to white-walled interior.
If you want to enjoy nature, try a gentle walk to the Lechfall, a stepped man-made waterfall at a bottleneck in the chalk blue-green Lech Gorge. The falls are 20 minutes walk through a park from Füssen train station. You could walk back into town after visiting the falls and have some coffee and cake, or you could cross the road and visit the town’s only steakhouse.
Schwangau is in fact the district housing the royal castles. From 1869-86, King Ludwig II of Bavaria built Neuschwanstein Castle, the many-towered and battlement-covered fantasy fortress - the inspiration for Walt Disney's famous theme park castles. Did you know Neuschwanstein means New Swan Stone which derived from the name of one of Richard Wagner's opera characters, Swan Knight? Remember, Marienbrücke (Mary's Bridge) offers a great view of the castle.
Situated to the south of Neuschwanstein on a small hill between the Alpsee and Schwansee, is the Schloss Hohenschwangau. Maximilian II, father of King Ludwig II, had it built on top of the ruins of a former castle. Decorated in the style of a romantic palace from the gothic period, the castle has swan motifs present in the beautiful gardens and in the forn of a fountain.
For fabulous views of the Alps and the Forggensee, indispensable is taking the cable car up to the top of the mountain Tegelberg (1730m). Once you reach the top, you are greeted with panoramic views over a stunning Bavarian landscape. It's a very popular spot for paragliding, hiking and mountain climbing.
If you’re a winter sport fan, you can experience the Allgäu summit at Alpspitzbahn Nesselwang, one of the best ski resorts in Füssen.
Munich deserves another post and here you have it.
I hope you enjoyed reading and that my guide will easify your plans. Enjoy Germany like you never knew before!
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