Germany: the land of wienerschnitzels, pretzels the size of your head, world-class beer, and…romance? Absolutely. Germany’s Romantic Road, or Romantische Straße, shows off the country’s fairytale side, with detours through charming towns, the Bavarian Alps, and landscapes that feel like stepping into a postcard.
Not technically a stop on the Romantic Road, Frankfurt is a solid starting point (and a good place to fly into). Get your fill of city living before heading off to the quaint countryside the road is known for. The South Bank is a good hub for restaurants and bars, Goethe’s house was painstakingly restored, and pastel-hued Römer square will get you excited for the storybook-esque buildings coming up.
The official start of the Romantic Road, Würzburg is defined by the Residence, once home to Würzburg’s prince-bishops (and still jaw-droppingly palatial). Also pretty impressively elegant, the Baroque Juliusspital was established as a home for the sick, but now also houses a winery. You know what they say — wine is the best medicine! (They say that, right?)
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Wait, isn’t Beauty and the Beast (supposedly) set in France? Rothenburg will have you doing a double take with the almost-painfully-quaint town squares, cobblestone roads, and buildings. For history buffs, check out the Town Hall, which dates back to 1240.
Next up: Nördlingen. More lovely buildings, yes, but also: diamonds. An asteroid struck the area some 15 million years ago, leaving in its wake an estimated 72,000 tons of diamonds, some of which are embedded in the town’s very structures. You can also check out the over-nine-mile-wide depression left in the countryside, known as the Nördlingen Ries.
Dating to the 9th century, the Dom St. Maria (the town’s cathedral) is lovely in its simplicity. And, if you’re fed up with rising rent in your hometown, the Fuggerei is the world’s oldest social housing complex still in use. The annual base rent for low-income residents today is 88 cents and three daily prayers. Visitors are welcome to learn about the history and take in seasonal events like classical music concerts.
To cap off your fairytale experience along the Romantic Road, head to Neuschwanstein Castle. Look familiar? It served as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland. Though the inside is somewhat underwhelming, the view of the hilltop castle from the bridge across the valley and the surrounding idyllic countryside more than makes up for it.
Get back to city life with a final stop in Bavaria’s capital. Bike around the Englischer Garten, stop for a beer at the Chinesischer Turm, then watch surfers take on the unusual natural wave in the river running through the park. For a sobering reflection on concentration camps, Dachau is just a short trip outside the city. When you get back into Munich proper, visit Hofbrauhaus or Augustiner-Keller for your German beer hall experience.