The Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) is Germany’s most popular holiday route. It passes through medieval towns including Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen, and Füssen.
The Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) in western Bavaria is the best known and most popular of Germany’s numerous thematic holiday routes. The top sights include the fantasy, neo-Romanesque Schloss Neuschwanstein castle, and wall-enclosed medieval town Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Day-trip bus tours are usually available to Rothenburg from Frankfurt or Munich.
UNESCO-Listed Würzburg Residenz Residence Palace
The Romantic Road in the Sweet Tauber Valley (Liebliches Taubertal)
From Würzburg, the Romantic Road briefly passes through the Tauber Valley, which is mostly in the state Baden-Württemberg. Popular stops in this valley include:
- Bad Mergentheim with a large Teutonic Order castle and a wonderful Rococo church;
- Stuppach with a remarkable Matthias Grünewald painting of the Madonna;
- Weikersheim with a splendid Renaissance palace; and
- Creglingen with its world-famous Tilman Riemenschneider altar and the Fingerhut (Thimble) Museum.
See Top Sights to See in the Liebliches Taubertal for a more detailed description of the Romantic Road sights in the Tauber Valley.
Romantic, Medieval Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the most popular stops on the Romantic Road and for many travelers the highlight of a visit to Germany. Rothenburg is a small town completely encircled by a town wall. It has managed to maintain its late medieval appearance and is incredibly romantic, especially at night.
Wander the narrow alleys of medieval Rothenburg as well as walking along the sentries’ walk on the town walls are free and for many the best part of visiting this medieval town. Rothenburg is hugely popular but most visitors are day-trippers that arrive mid-morning and depart by late afternoon.
Overnight hotel guests may enjoy Rothenburg in the evenings and early mornings in relative tranquility to soak up the very romantic atmosphere.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber has several formal museums and cultural sights worth seeing too. The Medieval Crime Museum has excellent exhibits of historic torture instruments but also is a very serious presentation of the medieval justice system.
Also worth seeing in Rothenburg is the Holy Blood Altar (Heilig Blut) by Tilman Riemenschneider in the St.-Jakobs-Kirche. The German Christmas Museum and numerous Christmas decoration shops of Käthe Wohlfahrt scattered through the old town are also popular sights.
Romantische Straße in the Romantic Franconia Region
Fewer visitors visit the romantic sights directly to the south of Rothenburg allowing those who do to enjoy these sights in relative peace and quiet. Highlights here include:
- Schillingsfürst’s Spanish Baroque palace;
- Feuchtwangen’s 12th-century Romanesque cloisters; and
- Dinkelsbühl’s romantic old town, half-timbered buildings, interesting church, and intact town wall.
The Romantic Road in Ries-Danube Region
Between Dinkelsbühl and Augsburg are further small towns worth visiting for romantic and historic sights:
- Nördlingen is the only town in Germany where the town wall is still 100% accessible and visitors can actually walk around the town on the sentries walk. Nördlingen’s old town is almost perfectly round and sees fewer tourists than Rothenburg or Dinkelsbühl.
- Wallerstein has a huge 65-m (213-ft) rock that can be scaled for lovely views.
- The Romantic Road passes through a tunnel under Schloss Harburg, one of the best-preserved old castles in Bavaria.
- Donauwörth at the confluence of the Danube and Wörnitz Rivers has interesting façades along Reichstraße.
Augsburg – The Fugger City on the Romantic Road
Augsburg is by far the largest city on the Romantic Road – it is not particularly romantic but does have some very interesting sights. Augsburg was a wealthy city at the end of the Middle Ages and had the first Renaissance buildings in Germany. The Fuggers, a rich banking and trading family, were based here and left the Renaissance Fuggerkapelle (Funeral Chapel) and the Fuggerei, the oldest still in use social housing complex in the world.
The Augsburger Dom (Augsburg Cathedral) has a Romanesque core and the oldest stained-glass windows in Germany. The Renaissance Rathaus has a very impressive reception hall.
Augsburg has excellent railway connections to Munich and other parts of Germany.
Southern Romantic Road – Heading for the Bavarian Alps
From Augsburg, the Alps can be seen on the horizon as the Romantic Road snakes through small towns towards its destiny in the mountains.
- Landsberg on the Lech has a romantic old town with several Baroque façades. Adolf Hitler spent some time in the local jail – still in use – following his failed coup d’état in 1923.
- Schongau has a Baroque church by Dominikus Zimmermann but the best sight is in nearby Altenstadt – the Basilica St Martin is arguably the finest Romanesque church in Bavaria.
- Steingaden has an interesting parish church with Romanesque exterior and Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo elements in its interior.
- The UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed Wieskirche is the artistic highlight of the Romantic Road. The Wieskirche, literally Church in the Meadows, is considered the definitive Bavarian Rococo church. Dominikus Zimmermann designed the church and did most of the stucco work while his equally talented older brother Johann Baptist Zimmermann did most of the paintings.
- The Romantic Road ends in Füssen on the Austrian border. This lovely town has a large former monastery and castle but most visitors come to see the Disney-like Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle, Mad King Ludwig’s fantasy castle, and Schloss Hohenschwangau in nearby Schwangau.
It is possible to drive the full Romantic Road in less than a day but most visitors will spend much more time doing sightseeing. Public transportation on the Romantic Road is not continuous but it is possible to visit most sights without a car.
The Europabus, operated by Deutsche Touring and sometimes referred to as the Romantic Road Coach, recently reverted to its original schedule and run almost the full length of the Romantische Straße. The coach runs daily from mid-April to mid-October from Frankfurt via several Romantic Road sights to Füssen and back.