Germany’s Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) is a picturesque 290 mi (460 km) long road stretching from Füssen in the south to Würzburg in the north. In the south, it loosely follows the old Roman road. The path was deemed the Romantic Road in the 1950’s as a way to promote the collection of medieval villages as a tourist destination.
During the Fall of 2020, my family and I explored the villages of the Romantic Road. Each village has beauty and charm, but eventually they began to blend together. So, when putting together this list, I included the ones that made a lasting impression due to uniqueness or its stunning, traditional beauty. Below are my favorite villages along the Romantic Road.
This village is amazing because the entire village is built in the cater of an asteroid that struck this area of Bavaria more than 15 million years ago. If you look closely, the buildings have a shimmer to them because the stones used to build them came from within the crater where the intense heat the asteroid created upon impact produced tiny glass, crystal and diamond specs embedded within the stones. The crater stretches approximately nine miles into the German countryside and the entire village of Nördlingen is nestled within the crater.
It is also one of the few medieval villages in Germany that has a completely intact wall surrounding it. I recommend climbing the tower of St.-Georgs-Kirche for an aerial view. From that height, one can see the complete wall, the red roofs of the traditional timbered houses and the surrounding countryside. The climb can be a bit intense. I don’t recommend it if you have health issues.
This is definitely one of my favorite villages along the Romantic Road. It is one of the best-preserved German villages from the Middle Ages and still has a completely intake surrounding wall. Formerly a free imperial city, it flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries and was a prosperous trade and craftsman village. Exploring it is like stepping back in time.
It is said that the preservation of this city can be credited to its children. During the 30 Years War (1618 – 1648) parts of Germany were destroyed, while the medieval city of Dinkelsbühl was spared because the children of Dinkelsbühl begged favor with the Swedish colonel. For the past 100 years or so Dinkelsbühl has celebrated its delivery during the Kinderzeche Festival where the whole story is performed again and the children in the procession are presented with treats to show gratitude.
There was a street fair during our visit, which made it difficult to take pictures inside the village, however it was quite pretty with the colorful, half-timbered buildings and the cobblestoned streets and alleys, and of course the impressive churches and cathedrals rising up to the sky.
It is also very beautiful to stroll along the outside wall. There are many places to relax and experience picture perfect views back toward the village.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is probably one of the most popular villages along the Romantic Road. It is quite beautiful and fun to explore, however it felt touristy and was more crowded than the others, which wasn’t so great. My family and I thought this would be the case so we woke up early to experience the village before the crowds.
Again, similar to the other villages, it has beautiful architecture, cobblestoned streets, half-timbered buildings and a surrounding wall. You are permitted to walk quite a long way on the upper, interior section of the city wall to experience some great views and learn about the defensive battlements and towers of the Middle Ages.
You may decide to purchase a Christmas ornament from the famous Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store. There is a large variety of ornaments and Christmas items to consider.
Füssen – Neuschwanstein Castle
This is a pretty village, but what I think is most interesting about the area and probably most well-known is the Neuschwanstein Castle that is nearby. This is not an original castle as it was built in the 1800’s, so, if you’re a purest, you might not like it. I, however, think it is quite stunning and it is one of Germany’s most famous castles. It is even the inspiration behind some of the Disney castles.
Also, the story of the castle’s creation and history is quite interesting.
We did not go inside the castle as you have to make reservations several months in advance, but we did hike up to it and then up to a lookout point for a picture. What I noticed from the hike, was that the castle looks quite unique from various perspectives, but each is beautiful. The hike was not difficult.
Interesting fact: The Nazis stored much of the artwork they collected during War World II within the walls of the Neuschwanstein Castle. It is said that there was an order for the castle to be destroyed toward the end of the war to prevent the allied troops from gaining access to the artwork…but the order was not followed…thank goodness.
Landsberg am Lech
Another photo worthy village along the Romantic Road is Landsberg. When we arrived, we were lucky to see a beautiful wedding procession walk from the cathedral at the top of the hill to a restaurant down the hill for the reception. Each wedding guest walked along the cobblestoned street, dressed in suits or flowing knee-length dresses, carrying a large, fresh sunflower, even the children.
It was lovely to see this wedding procession with the historic backdrop of cobblestoned streets, half-timbered buildings, grand churches and colorful ivy climbing its way up the buildings.
This is a great village to stop in for lunch as there are many cafes and eateries throughout with a large variety of options. Quick note: there is a busy road in the center of this city so be careful. We saw a huge tractor for farming make its way through the city.
Make sure to walk outside of the village just over the bridge to get picture of the village with the river in the foreground.
Ok, ok. This is not the most spectacular village along the Romantic Road, however, if you have read The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsche, as I have, then you must include a brief stop here as part of your itinerary. This is the exact village that the story is set. You’ll be tempted to nerd out a bit as I did.
Along the outskirts of the village there is still a tower and section of wall that you can climb up into and explore. There is interesting architecture and several places to stop in for coffee or food. Though, if you did not read the book, then you might not find this village as exciting.
Though I only featured a few cities on the Romantic Road in this blog post, there truly are many beautiful additional sites to tour along the 290 miles. I hope this blog inspires you to plan trips of your own.