A Snapshot of Germany's Romantische Strasse

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dasWerk Michael Mitrenga und Maike Zimmermann GbR/Kontributor-MOment Mobile@gettyimages.de

Germany’s Romantische Strasse (the Romantic Road) is not entirely an ab novo 20th-century innovation. Rather, it’s a post-World War II rebranding of a section of the primary trade route in the Middle Ages linking southern Germany with its more densely populated center. Indeed, the so-called theme route now known as the Romantische Strasse meanders 350km northwards from Füssen, Bavaria (Bayern), in southern Germany, on the border with Austria, through 26 intermediate cities in Bavaria and Baden-Württemburg, and ending in Würzburg, Bavaria.

Here, you'll find a snapshot of each town in order of northerly progression, with some enticing capsules of what to expect. Regardless of the romance and the excitement afforded by the many points of interest along the Romantische Strasse, the undeniable fact is that only by visiting Germany, traveling the Romantische Strasse, savoring authentic local meals and beverages, roaming the many castles and churches, and personally viewing the exquisite beauty, grace, and perfection of Germany’s exemplary medieval architecture can you really immerse yourself in this subtle and powerful culture.

Highlights of Cities and Towns Along the Romantische Strasse

Füssen has about 15,000 residents and straddles the Lech River quite near the massively beautiful Allgäu Alps. It’s about an hour’s driving time northwest of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest point, and a detour well worth the trip.  Schwangau is a small village only 4km from Füssen and quite close to the next stop.

Neuschwanstein, actually Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein), construction of which began in 1868. It is yet to be completed. Called “the castle of paradox” for several reasons, it inspired the castle in Disney’s film classic Sleeping Beauty.  Hohenschwangau, a small village adjacent to Neuschwanstein Castle; Wildsteig is a small, nearby community and home to the St. Jakob church.

 Rottenbuch is a small town featuring the Romanesque Rottenbuch Abbey of exceptionally unusual design founded in 1073 by Augustinian monks and a focal point of an 11th- and 12th -century religious controversy (the so-called investiture controversy), which is deemed a turning point in medieval civilization.

Schongau is a small town in Bavaria, near the Alps and located along the Lech River, between Landsberg am Lech and Füssen, and boasts, among other things, a well-preserved old wall around the center.

Landsberg am Lech is about 35 km south of Augsburg -- noted for its prison where Adolf Hitler was incarcerated in 1924.

Friedberg is a city with some 30,000 inhabitants.The city was founded in the 13th century in order to collect a toll from people using the bridge across the Lech River, which is fed by glacial meltwater.

Augsburg, founded as a Roman colony in 15 BC, lies at the junction of the Wertach and Lech rivers and extends over the plateau country between the two rivers and was home to the Fugger family, but was overwhelmed by the Thirty Years’ War. It has numerous landmarks, churches, fountains, museums (including the Mozart museum), galleries, and monuments of staggering significance and beauty.

 Donauwörth was first settled at least 15 centuries ago and is centered around a fortress. It was a flashpoint for the Thirty Years’ War and continues to be a center for well preserved medieval buildings, including its town hall, medieval fortifications, and several churches.

Harburg is extraördinarily picturesque, with an especially noteworthy 900-year-old castle.

Nördlingen straddles the Eger River and was an important religious town in the 9th century. Many battles of both the Thirty Years’ War & the French revolutionary war were fought nearby -- beyond the still-standing city walls. Historic buildings include the town hall as well as the church of St. George and the church of St. Salvator. It is the venue for Germany’s oldest horse race.

Dinkelsbühl, surrounded by a moat and 12th -century towers, lies on the Wörnitz River. It was fortified in the 10th century and withstood numerous assaults in the Thirty Years’ War (annual festival in July). Worthwhile sites include a superb single-naved church with a Romanesque tower, a 14th -century mansion, a Teutonic Order castle, and a fortified town mill

 Feuchtwangen, on the banks of the Salzach river, is nestled in the Salzach valley. It dates from an early 9th -century monastery, with the town’s development coming over the next three centuries. The last 900 years involve the Thirty Years’s War, Sweden, and a German Margrave (Marquess) and it now has a superb casino and outstanding museums. It is a unique blend of the old, the tried-and-true, and understated contemporary conveniences.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a walled city above the Tauber river and is 12 centuries old. It was laid low in the Thirty Years’ War, only to be saved at the last minute by a wine-drinking challenge. It is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Germany and is chock-a-bloc with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque landmarks.

Creglingen was founded by Celts two millennia ago and was officially chartered in 1349. It is one of the most enjoyable and worthwhile stops along the Romantische Strasse.

Röttingen was initially settled 15 centuries ago and was the site of a pogrom in the 13th century. The German peasants’ war brought the economy to a standstill, after which the local bishop inspired economic recovery through the wise promotion of local wines. Later, the Thirty Years’ War devastated the town as did Napoleon.

Weikersheim is the location of the famous and classically beautiful castle Schloss Weikersheim, built in the 12th century

Bad Mergentheim is an ancient town, dating from the 11th century. It was chartered in the 14th century, and its baroque castle, which survives, had been the one-time residence of the Teutonic Order’s Grand Master. Many striking landmarks, mineral springs, and a popular health resort are tempting attractions.

Tauberbischofsheim was first settled more than five millennia ago and is a town of approximately 13,000, famous for relics of its medieval city wall and its Olympic medal fencers. Its modern history traces itself back to the late 9th century. Popular local wines, beers, and delightful local dishes tend to distract visitors from the numerous historic buildings and landmarks, as well as superb and interesting museums, that merit close attention.

Würzburg is a city of approximately 135,000. It was originally a Celtic settlement and is now an inland port on the Main River, which flows to the Rhine at Mainz. It’s the center of a wonderful wine-growing region with some truly spectacular wines of international renown. Landmarks include, but certainly aren’t limited to, the Baroque Episcopal Residence, the Main bridge, the Marienberg fortress, the Romanesque cathedral, the Neumünster (with a Baroque façade), and many other landmarks of Baroque and Rococo styles. The University of Würzburg was founded by Bishop Julius in 1582.