Castles, Alpine peaks, lakes, half-timbered houses, vineyards, forests… From the Black Forest to Bavaria via the Rhine valley, Germany has fabulous routes where the beauty of the landscapes rivals the richness of the heritage . Here are 5 road trips to experience just across the Rhine, to get away from it all without going far ...
The Romantic Road - Bavaria
Created in the 1950s, the Romantic Road crosses the Bavaria from north to south, between the towns of Würtzburg (Lower Franconia) and Füsweet in the Alps. Today it is one of the most popular routes for tourists across the Rhine. By car, it's impossible to lose sight of it, its 350 km are marked out by brown signs "Romantische Straße". In order to make the most of the landscapes of Bavaria, by making a few detours, it can also be discovered by bike (a 440 km trip) or on foot (around 500 km).
The superb Würtzburg Residence, in Lower Franconia, immediately sets the tone. Here is a baroque palace from the 18th century, surrounded by vast gardens and classified as a World Heritage Site. In short, something to inspire romantic souls ...
About a hundred kilometers to the south, we enter the vallée de la Tauber, dotted with forests, meadows and vineyards. The opportunity to taste the wines of the region: Silvaner, Muller-Thurgau, Dornfelder, black Riesling ... Overlooking the river, Rothenburg ob der Tauber seems out of a fairy tale. This city, which passes for one of the prettiest in Germany, has hardly changed since the Renaissance. Very touristic.
A stop at Dinkelsbühl shows that, in this medieval town with its imposing ramparts, time also seems to have stood still. The charming Nördlingen, with its half-timbered houses, also deserves attention, just like Augsburg where the birthplace of Leopold Mozart (father of the musician prodigy) and playwright Bertolt Brecht are located.
More to the south, Steingaden houses one of the most beautiful rococo-style churches in the country: at the foot of the Alps, the oval church of Wies is covered with frescoes and stucco ornaments. Not far away, on a 200 m high rock, stands the extravagant Château de Neuschwanstein, built in the 19th century by the mad king Ludwig II of Bavaria. One of the icons of Germany, which draws crowds from all over the world, a few km from Fussen, last stage of the road.
See the Romantische Strasse website
German Alpine Route: from Lake Constance to Berchtesgaden
To gain height in Germany, head for the route des Alpes, which starts from Lindau on the shore of Lake Constance, to Berchtesgaden National Park, near Salzburg, Austria. This route traverses Bavaria from west to east for approximately 450 km at an average height of 1 m.
Three majestic lakes line the German route to the Alps: on one side, the lake constance (or Bodensee), the third largest in Europe, located on the border with Switzerland and Austria. It immediately seduces with its mild climate, its small villages, its vineyards and orchards. At the other end of the route, surrounded by steep mountains and located at a height of 600 m, the Konigssee reminiscent of the fjords of Norway. Its waters are renowned for their cleanliness and clarity, but also their echo ... Halfway, the Chiemsee, largest lake in Germany nicknamed the "Bavarian Sea", is known for its islands, one of which is home to one of the castles built by Louis II: the Herrenchiemsee.
Mentioned for the first time in 1879, the German Route of the Alps passes through high places of Bavarian tourism: the famous castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, built by Louis II of Bavaria, or the pretty town ofOberammergau, with its houses painted in the “Lüftelmalerei” style.
At the foot of the summit of the Zugspitze, the "roof of Germany" at 2 m, is the famous Alpine resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen which hosted the 1936 Olympics in sad memory. Then the road crosses Bavaria to Berchtesgaden and its magnificent national park, a hotspot for hiking.
Read also our report on South Bavaria
See the Deutsche Alpenstrasse website
Black Forest Scenic Route
The mountain range of Black Forest, in the south-west of Germany, is crossed by a 70 km scenic route, from Waldkirch à Feldberg. It takes several passes and largely follows the route of the national road B 500 in the middle of the greenery.
It begins with many bends that lead to the Kandel (1 m) with a drop of 243 m. Between the mountains and the ridges nestle, over the valleys, postcard landscapes, with mountains, forests, villages and dapper houses.
The first step, Waldkirch, is renowned for its barrel organ makers. The ruins of its castle can be visited. This is the opportunity to have a beautiful view of the city. Further on, at St Peter, a pretty village nestled in the hollow of the greenery, one will not fail to visit the Benedictine abbey.
On a mountain plateau between the peaks of Kandel and Feldberg, here is a small village of 2 inhabitants: St Märgen, a good base for wonderful hikes in the region. The route then continues through the village of Breitnau et Hinterzarten, a Winter sports resort. Popular discipline of the place: ski jumping.
Before reaching the Feldberg (highest point in the Black Forest, 1493 m), the Black Forest Scenic Route makes a detour through Titisee-Neustadt. This typical village is located on the north shore of the lake Titisee, suitable for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter. In winter, too, the snowy slopes become the playground for skiers and snowboarders. Another popular activity in Titisee-Neustadt: hunting for cuckoo clocks in souvenir shops ...
See the site of the Schwarzwald Panoramastrasse
German Castle Route: from Mannheim to the Czech border
Fancy a foray into a medieval universe filled with history, tales and legends? You have to follow the German fortified castle route, which is over 1 km long. More than 70 hpâteaux, réresidences and fortresses punctuate the route that crosses Germany from west to east. You can even extend the road trip to Prague.
Top start in the Baden-Württemberg region, at Mannheim. This large city of 300 inhabitants is the seat of one of the largest baroque-style castles ever built. Mannheim Palace had the ambition to compete with the Palace of Versailles. It was completely rebuilt after World War II.
After admiring the elegance of the palace of Schwetzingen, direction the Neckar valley and Heidelberg, a city with incredible charm. On the Königstuhl hill, the red sandstone castle contrasts with the green landscape. Curiosity of the place: the largest barrel in the world. AT Neckarsteinach, still in the Neckar valley, no less than four fortresses dominate the city!
In Bavaria, after the picturesque village of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the castle route crosses the picturesque region of Franconia. Mandatory stop at Nuremberg, city marked by history, where is located a castle which was one of the imperial residences under the Holy Roman Empire.
60 km north of Nuremberg, we are seduced by Bamberg, one of the most beautiful Bavarian cities with its old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last German stage of the route: Bayreuth, the capital of Upper Franconia, well known to fans of Richard Wagner. In addition to its seemingly modest 18th century palace, one must definitely visit its famous Opéra des Margraves, one of the most beautiful rooms in Europe.
See the Burgenstrasse website
Romantic Rhine Valley Route: Bingen to Koblenz
La vallée of the Upper Middle Rhine, known as the “Romantic Rhine”, fascinated artists, from Friedrich Schlegel to William Turner, including Lord Byron and Richard Wagner. It is on its banks that the légende de la Lorelei, a mermaid perched on a rock 130 m high, where the Rhine is narrowest and where several shipwrecks have taken place. The character of Lorelei inspired Heinrich Heine with one of the most famous poems in German literature.
The 65 km of the Upper Middle Rhine valley were registered in the World Heritage by Unesco the landscape is so spectacular, between Koblenz and Bingen. It must be said that this is one of the most beautiful regions in Germany. The Rhine winds between steep hills covered with vines, on its banks a succession of picturesque villages, forests, rocky peaks sometimes topped with castle ruins.
Among the must-see stops, the magnificent ruins of Rheinfels Castle with their panorama over the meanders of the Rhine, just above the dapper village of St Goar (beautiful view of the Lorelei rock); the medieval city of Braubach, surrounded by vines and dominated by the medieval Marksburg castle, or the fortress of Pfalzgrafenstein, built on the small island of Falkenau, in the middle of the Rhine. And, just before the valley, do not miss the delicious villages of Rüdesheim and Bingen and their renowned white wines. One of them is also the seat of the Mäuseturm of Bingen, a tower where mice are said to have devoured Archbishop Hatton I. Brrr ...
At the end of the route, the town of Koblenz worth a stop for the promontory Deutsches Eck, with the equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, which marks the point where the Moselle meets the Rhine.
Note that the Upper Middle Rhine valley can also be explored by boat. In summer, during the Rhein in Flammen event, the Romantic Rhine is illuminated by Bengal lights and fireworks. The river, bordered by fortresses and castles, glows red. Superb!
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