The romantic road is a path less traveled than the typical big cities of Germany but it’s definitely one that you should add to the bucket list. The good news is that is is possible to do this trip in one week or less! The route stretches from Fussen to Wurzburg and there are plenty of tiny, enchanting towns and sights to see along the way. Below is my guide to recommendations on which towns to see and how much time to allot for them during your week or less trip. Keep in mind, each time noted is the minimum time I would recommend but it’s easy to spend double if not triple the time in each town.
The best way to do it? Rent a car. The first time I drove in Europe was my trip to Iceland (see my Iceland guides here) and I became addicted. Who doesn’t love the freedom of hopping in their car and moving from one destination to the next? Don’t get me wrong, I think public transportation is a great option for most trips. But for trips like this, renting a car for an epic road trip is the way to go. Trust me. You can spend as little or as much time in a town as you want or even add a few to the itinerary that weren’t there before. It’s pure freedom and flexibility plus the drive is gorgeous (minus the fact that I accidentally drove on a one way and I had a few minor panic attacks on the autobahn. Also, thanks US for making us have a whole different system. How am I supposed to know how far 500m is??)
You can start on either side of the Romantic Road. I chose to do a day in Munich (read my itinerary for one day in Munich here) and then start my journey. I picked up my car in downtown Munich and after a few minutes of struggling to make the GPS speak to me in English was on my way.
Stop 1: Neuschwanstein Castle
Min Allotted Time: 3-4 hours
First stop, Neuschwanstein castle in Fussen. Yes, this is a very touristy thing to do but do it anyways. It feels like you’re in a fairtytale and who doesn’t want to feel like a princess (or prince) for a little bit?
Let me just say that the drive to Neuschwanstein Castle was absolutely breathtaking. There was snow blanketing the ground and you could see the Swiss Alps in the distance. I stopped multiple times just to snap a few pictures.
If you are traveling in a large group, I highly recommend buying your tickets in advance on their website. Once I reached, there was a long wait for the next tour group (almost 3 hours). Luckily, since I was traveling alone (or maybe because the woman pitied me), I was able to squeeze into an earlier group. There are a few ways to get up to the top, a horse drawn carriage, a slightly strenuous walk up, and a bus. The bus wasn’t working for me so slightly strenuous walk it was. Once in the castle, you can pick an audio guide in your language of choice and you’ll have a guided tour of the castle.
Stop 2: Nordlingen
Min Allotted Time: Half a day
The next town was Nordlingen. In my opinion, you don’t need more than a few hours in this tiny town (half a day should suffice). Nordlingen is one of the only remaining walled medieval towns in Germany and is not very crowded at all. It is very unique because it is located in the crater of a meteorite impact. I know, mind blown. I explored the town and grabbed some coffee and cake in the center square to enjoy while people watching before moving on.
Stop 3: Dinkelsbühl
Min Allotted Time: Half a day
The next town to see is Dinkelsbühl. This is also a walled town and this also can be seen in a few hours (I recommend half the day in Nordlingen and half the day in Dinkelsbühll). I immediately fell in love with this town. It was absolutely breathtaking. I stumbled across an Easter market and spent some time going through the different crafts by the local artisans. There are tourist offices in most of these towns with free maps so I went to the office and grabbed a map and then continued to explore the city.
I also tried Schneeballen here. It’s in the shape of a ball and then they put it into a bag and give you a little wooden mallet to smash it up with. I was a little confused at first when the lady handed me the mallet but soon understood what I was supposed to do after she made smashing motions.
Stop 4: Nuremberg
Min Allotted Time: 1 Day
My next stop was Nuremberg. Though this isn’t a city on the Romantic Road, it’s easily accessible and well worth a stop. I spent a full day here exploring the old city which has beautiful cathedrals, markets, a castle, etc. I spent the morning doing this and then spent the rest of the day visiting the museums. There are a lot of museums that you can see, depending on your interests. I personally wanted to focus on World War II so I went to the Documentation Centre which provides a very thorough account of the Nazi party. I highly recommend visiting this museum if you are interested in this time period of history.
Stop 5: Rothenburg
Min Allotted Time: 1 Day
After Nuremberg, I headed to Rothenburg, one of the most famous towns on the Romantic Road. This is a well preserved picturesque medieval old town. Rothenburg defines the word “romantic” and you’ll find yourself wanting to explore every inch of this town. I’d recommend a day here and if you’re able to stay overnight, you can take part in the evening watchman’s tour. Unfortunately, they were not offering it during my trip but I have read fantastic reviews. There is a tourist office near the main square that will provide you with a map. There are plenty of things to see/do in Rothenburg. I started with the Rothenburg Town Hall since it is very close to the tourist office. If you love architecture, this is a must see as half of the building is in gothic style and the other half is in the Renaissance style.
Next, I went to the year round Christmas store. I don’t even celebrate Christmas and this was still one of the most magical places I’ve been too. The store is massive with the most breathtaking ornaments you will ever see. I highly recommend holding off on shopping for your next Christmas until you get to Rothenburg. Inside the store is also a museum that provides the history of Christmas. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this store.
I moved on to the Castle Gardens that exist in the area where the old Castle used to be before being destroyed. There’s a beautiful view from this area and it’s a great place to walk through.
There are stairs to get up to the walls so you can actually walk on them and see the city from above. There are staircases every so often so do not fear, you don’t have to walk the whole perimeter of the city.
I had some of my favorite German food in Rothenburg. Disclaimer: Germany Is extremely vegetarian friendly and I had zero issues, to my surprise. This particular dish was fried potato cakes served with a creamy sauce and a side salad. Sounds simple but boy oh boy does it delight the taste buds.
There are plenty of other architectural sites and museums to visit so don’t forget to grab your city map when you get there!
Stop 6: Wurzburg
Min Allotted Time: 1-2 Days
The last town to see is Wurzburg which might have been my favorite town of all the Romantic Road (hard to make a statement like that as each and every town is mesmerizing). Wurzburg reminded me of a cross between Seville and Prague. Unfortunately, I had only budgeted a short amount of time for this beautiful city. Depending on your time allowance, I would spend a night here, if not two. I started my trip to this town with a visit to the Residenz. I have been to many palaces across Europe and this one ranks in my top 3. It’s a beautiful Baroque palace and each room is honestly dazzling. I would have set up camp and lived there forever if I didn’t think I’d be thrown out in a heartbeat.
The next thing to do is the Marienburg Fortress. This fortress has amazing views of Wurzburg and the Main river. It’s a bit of a climb from the general parking area but after all the delicious German food you’ve been eating, it’ll be good to do the walk. There are also mobility arrangements if you need them.
My favorite part of Wurzburg was walking along the river and exploring the beautiful Alte Mainbruecke (Saints Bridge). This is the bridge that reminded me of the infamous Charles Bridge in Prague. I ascended the bridge and immediately stumbled across a little restaurant that had a window where you could grab a glass of wine to go.
Where has this heavenly place been all my life? You pay for a glass of wine that includes a deposit for the glass and as long as you return the glass you get your deposit back. Not knowing any of the regional wine, I asked them to recommend one and it was fantastic. I couldn’t believe it…Germany not only has outstanding beer but amazing wine as well. The wine pour was generous and I strolled along the bridge, enjoying the gentle calm buzz.
This was undoubtedly, one of the highlights of my trip.
You won’t be disappointed with your trip to the Romantic Road. Use this guide to make the most amount of the short time you have there!