The following post about road trips in Germany is authored by Ivan.
There’s nothing like taking a road trip in Germany to make you appreciate the diversity of the country – buy Schnapps and go for a walk anywhere along the Schnapps Trail out of the little town of Sasbachwalden then enjoy the view of Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrücke (aka Queen Mary’s Bridge).
From the rugged coastline of Rügen Island to cute medieval villages in Bavaria, there’s something to suit all tastes. I’ve done a fair few of my own German road trips, so I can attest that the real magic of Germany can be found off the highways, in the villages and towns along its quieter routes.
If you are thinking about taking a Europe road trip, particularly around Germany, then you are certainly in for a rewarding experience. Not only will you appreciate German roads, but also enjoy some of the most relaxing days cruising through incredible forests, dreamy hamlets, and breathtaking countryside packed with medieval castles and fortresses.
Germany’s autobahn system is an extensive network of limited-access freeways that offer a fast and most comfortable way to travel around the country. Since the speed limit is enforced in accident-prone areas, in construction zones or near the cities, driving on the Autobahn in Germany is a bucket-list-worthy experience for many travelers.
There are several scenic drives and well-established driving routes to pick from and get an enjoyable experience. With so little time and so many options to choose from, there are certain historic roads with numerous palaces and castles that make a cut above the rest and the top picks to make scenic road trips in Germany.
The Most Scenic Road Trips in Germany
1. Drive Through Bavaria (Germany’s Romantic Road)
The Romantic Road takes you from the Würzburg wine region to the southern border of Germany to the town of Füssen. Along the route, you can stop at romantic, secluded hotels to spend the night or just get a meal as well as enjoy the breathtaking countryside.
Travelers typically take between 3 and 7 days to complete the Romantic Road. If you have more time to set aside, you could easily make a stop in Munich, which is one of the capital of Bavaria and the location for the biggest Oktoberfest.
Consider staying in an Airbnb or a small hotel on the outskirts of the city. Explore the best of the sights and sounds of the Bavarian capital and visit the Viktualienmarkt, a farmers’ market in the city center.
This is the best way to sample Bavarian treats such as Leberkase, a southern German meatloaf made from finely ground corned beef, pork, bacon, and onions. You will love Munich’s centuries-old beer hall, Hofbrauhaus, and get a feel of a legendary German drinking establishment.
Highlights of This Road Trip in Germany
Before heading down the road, make sure to marvel at a spectacular monumental staircase hall with its huge fresco by Tiepolo at the Würzburg Residence. After that, pick out other points of interest along the way.
That said, you really can’t go wrong with one of the largest towns in the Tauber valley that is known for its therapeutic waters, Bad Mergentheim.
Then, linger a while strolling the well-preserved medieval town of Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber with its narrow cobblestone streets. They come to life before it’s time to jump back into the car on your way to Füssen.
In this stretch of the Romantic Road, the most popular towns not to be missed include the historic cities of Würzburg, 2,000-year-old Augsburg, the historic town of Dinkelsbühl, Harburg Castle, and Nördlingen. These towns offer great opportunities for appreciating local culture and folk traditions, indulging in regional cuisine, and taste some of the many world-class wines.
If you plan your trip right, you can make it up to Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge, aka Pöllat Bridge) located in the municipality of Schwangau just in time for sunset.
On your last day, take some time to explore two of Germany’s most famous castles Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, perched on rugged hills in front of the Alps.
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2. Mannheim to Prague (the German Castle Route)
One of Germany’s oldest holiday routes, the Castle Road stretches for 745 miles between Mannheim’s baroque palace and the Prague Castle in the Czech Republic, taking in some seventy fortresses, palaces, and royal residences along the way.
Some of Bavaria’s most impressive castles can be found between Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Bayreuth. Explore the Castle Route by car or motorhome. Or hop on a train – since almost all points of interest on this route are well-connected by railway. There are also bus tours along this route as well.
The Castle Road runs through beautiful valleys, plateaus, mountains, picturesque villages, and medieval towns, offering something new and unexpected around every turn.
As you embark on this route rich in natural beauty and steeped in history and culture, you are rewarded with the country’s glorious past, authentic cuisines, and pampering spa treatments. The Castle Road is also dotted with monuments dating back to the Roman era.
Nürnberg International Airport is a convenient starting point for doing part of the Castle Road in Germany. If you’re flying from the United States, there are also airports in Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Munich. If you are arriving in the Czech Republic, you can fly into Václav Havel Airport Prague and continue west into Germany.
It’s a pleasure to drive along the straightforward Castle Road. Almost all the castles en route have parking lots; however, space is limited, and they might get very busy during peak season.
If you plan on going on a guided tour, research castles that match your interests. Since there are over 70 castles along the route, it would take a month to explore them all.
Highlights of This Road Trip in Germany
The most highly-regarded medieval castles along the Castle Road include the Mannheim Palace, Heidelberg Castle, Nuremberg Castle, Hornberg Castle, Guttenberg Castle, Waldenburg Castle, Colmberg Castle, Ehrenburg Castle, Plassenburg Castle, and Prague Castle.
If you have some extra time, don’t miss out on visiting the charming towns of Auerbach, Nuremberg, Bamberg, Coburg, Kronach, Kulmbach, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Bayreuth in Germany, and Karlovy Vary and Prague in the Czech Republic.
If you’re thinking of ways to enhance your travel experience, many castles en route host historical performances, costume parades, medieval markets, and medieval-themed festivals.
Consider signing up for a ghost tour, staying overnight at a castle, attending a music festival, or enjoying a magical Christmas market and dig into a medieval feast.
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3. Freudenstadt to Baden-Baden (the Black Forest Route)
The Black Forest High Road is a gorgeous driving route stretching for some 60 kilometers from Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt (or vice versa) on the B500 highway. It will take you over the ridges of the low mountains in southwestern Baden-Württemberg.
The route got its name because the road rises along with two mountain ranges, Kniebis and Schliffkopf. The highest area on this route goes about 1000 meters above sea level towards Sasbachwalden and the Hornisgrinde.
You may choose to make this a rejuvenating weekend break, but it can certainly be done in a day if you don’t feel like doing all the stops.
This route became quite popular after the 1920s as more and more road trippers were actually taking vacations and spent more time outdoors. However, the Black Forest has always been attracting hikers and spa-goers from all over Europe.
In fact, the Black Forest is the place where the pace of life seems to have been unchanged for hundreds of years. If you decide to go for a walk around here, you will encounter some vintage trail signposts, many still dating from the 19th century.
Flanked by a number of interesting towns such as Baden-Baden and Freiburg, the Black Forest High Road is where you can eat in cozy cafes, take the ride on Baden-Württemberg’s highest funicular railway, before hitting the B500, winding south out of town on the smooth, perfect highway, shaded by evergreens.
Highlights of This Road Trip in Germany
The entire area is still full of the old rural crafts with more than 14000 distilleries that make schnapps. Is there a better way to appreciate their craft than the Schnapps Walking Trail out of the little town of Sasbachwalden? If you’re not into wine-tasting, you can take the bus to the Mummelsee from Sasbachwalden.
Passing the ski center of Kniebis, the Black Forest High Road ends in Freudenstadt, a town known for the largest market square in Germany.
In Freudenstadt, you can play golf, enjoy fantastic architecture, or even take a 100 km journey passing the Maulbronn, Hirsau, and Alpirsbach Monasteries along the Northern Black Forest Monasteries Route. Besides, the city has a great summer theater program, and the Afrikafest is one of the biggest performances on the last weekend of June.
When it comes to food, the Black Forest rarely disappoints. Indulge your taste buds with Black Forest Cake or Black Forest Cherry Schnapps, for that matter. And burn off all those calories hiking in the woods.
For example, there are 35 villages and farms in Bad Rippoldsau-Schapbach, so going there is an option. The area is home to 32 meter-high Burgbach Waterfall, the Wolf & Bear Park, the Weinbrenner style church, and the natural rock formations known as Kastelstein and Klagstein.
4. Hanau to Bremen (the German Fairy Tale Road)
Everyone knows that Germany is the country of fairytales. If you want to know where the legendary fairytales of the Brothers Grimm were written (or, more accurately, curated), the German Fairy Tale Road is for you.
On this 370-mile route you’ll be able to experience all the fairy-tale magic as you travel north from the city of Hanau near Frankfurt and takes in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Sababurg, the castle at (the setting for Rapunzel), Steinau (where the Grimms’ old house is now a museum) and, of course, Bremen (take a selfie with the Four Musicians).
Why Take the German Fairy Tale Route
Treat yourself to special experiences and celebrate with a variety of highlights in the Schwalm region, which is famous for being the setting of Little Red Riding Hood.
Here you will come across even more untouched scenery and get a chance to visit the Museum of Schwalm where you can try the famous rat-shaped cookies of Hamelin that celebrate the tale of the Pied Piper.
The Germany Fairytale Road was distinguished as an attraction fairly recently in 1975. Since that time, millions of people have traveled along the route.
It’s one of Germany’s most popular tourist routes with half-timbered houses, romantic, ivy-covered castles, various nature parks along the way, and some quaint, beautiful towns that were a central part of all fairytales.
Throughout the year, the fairytale sites hold regular events, including festivals, including open-air plays, exhibits, and medieval dinners. The most important events take place in the towns of Hanau and Kassel.
Some other enthralling festivals are regularly performed at Bad Wildungen, home of the legend of Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. But the bewitching Christmas markets of Kassel, Bremen, Hann, Münden are the highlights of any trip along the route.
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5. Bockenheim to Schweigen-Rechtenbach (the German Wine Route)
The oldest of its kind in the world, the German Wine Route (Deutsche Weinstraße), is the place where almond trees thrive, where kiwis, figs, and lemons flourish, and the chestnuts and mushrooms are harvested, and enough Michelin-starred restaurants to satisfy any food connoisseur.
The route takes travelers from Bockenheim right through the heart of the scenic Palatinate wine region towards Bockenheim an der Weinstrasse.
Pfalz is much less traveled by non-German tourists than some other routes on this list, but if you’ve spent any time there, you’ll probably wonder why. Pretty much all towns here hold quite a bit of history, and the people here are known for being welcoming, friendly, and relaxed.
In addition, you can travel around on a budget without affecting your trip’s quality. The region offers a multitude of activities for all age groups, which include exploring forests, attending festivals, visiting cathedrals, and following wine trails on foot or by bike. With its strong culinary traditions and a focus on eating local, seasonal food, it’s one of the best destinations for gourmets.
As Germany’s second-largest wine region in terms of wine production, many of the local communities have become extremely rich from the top quality wines they produce.
The road that runs between small towns offers countless stop-offs at not only some of the country’s best wine and Sekt (sparkling wine) producers but some of its best restaurants as well. It’s hard to argue that a journey along this route is particularly enjoyable by bike or foot – wouldn’t make for a highly memorable trip.
Highlights of This Road Trip in Germany
Along its 85 kilometers, you’ll find a number of historic sights (including castles), picturesque forests and wine-growing villages, and, of course, some of Europe’s best vineyards.
While most visitors opt to explore the route by car, you can also hike or bike it thanks to a unique and extensive trail network for both biking and hiking.
The Pfalz region (Palatinate) is the southernmost corner in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which sees a lot more sunny days than the rest of the country.
Therefore, spring and summer arrive there a little earlier and provide perfect conditions for rapid grapevine growth. Palatinate doesn’t offer the romance and striking beauty of the Mittelrhein (middle Rhine) region, but it more than makes up for with its food and drink.
6. Lindau to Berchtesgaden (the Alpine Route)
The German Alpine Road in the Bavarian Alps (Deutsche Alpenstrasse) is one of Germany’s most popular holiday routes. Traversing the route is an amazing experience all year round.
The German Alpine Drive is an adventure playground extending over 450km through many of Germany’s best lakes, green meadows, gorgeous alpine panoramas, rugged mountains, 25 magnificent castles, sun-drenched meadows, palaces, abbeys, and more than 60 spa resorts.
This spectacular section of road parallels to the Austrian border between the Bavarian town of Lindau at the Bodensee (Lake Constance) in the west, all the way to Lake Königssee near Berchtesgaden in the east of Bavaria. It ends near the baroque town of Salzburg in Austria.
Highlights of This Road Trip in Germany
Starting in Lindau, this road trip will introduce you to the stunning Alpine landscapes and the uniquely rich Bavarian culture in the south of Germany. Beer gardens, attractive architectural accents, green pastures, restaurants, shops, and little alleys to discover even more: Bavaria is sprawled with numerous charming things to discover along the way.
If you’re looking for cultural experiences, Füssen holds medieval festivals, and in the lower seasons, it is nice to escape from the crowds. A must-see is Neuschwanstein castle, which is absolutely one of the most famous points of interest throughout the whole drive.
Drive along east from Füssen, and you will come across an amazing jewel of Germany. Walchensee is one of the largest and deepest of all alpine lakes in the country.
Tucked away and the main location of Walchensee is a peaceful, tranquil, and relaxing holiday destination with fantastic views and crystal clear and turquoise blue waters surrounded by beautiful mountains.
If you are into climbing and hiking, there is an aerial tramway that takes you up to the summit of the mountain from where you can continue climbing or find some campsites nearby.
Arriving at the final destination, Berchtesgaden, you will pass Reit Im Winkl, which offers stunning scenery, Alpine meadows, and many traditional restaurants and guesthouses.
In Berchtesgaden, you can tour the Berchtesgaden salt mine to see an underground lake and slide down the old wooden slide once used by the miners. In fact, there is a very wide range of attractions in Berchtesgaden from historical World War 2 sites, amazing hikes, snowcapped mountains, and thoughtful architecture to fill up an entire vacation.
Do you plan on doing one of these road trips in Germany? Let us know in the comments below!
Ivan Tannenberg is an independent traveler, history junkie, and a techno-geek. Having traveled the world out of a backpack for a year-and-a-half non-stop, he is now based in Vietnam aiming to explore new incredible destinations and cities. Go and check his travel blog for more of his journeys around the world. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.