"Romantic road" in German. A scenic tourist route in southern Germany.

Romantische Strasse is not a road proper, in the sense that it would carry a particular road number. Rather, it is a lovely itinerary to follow if you wish to visit a large number of beautiful castles, palaces and medieval walled-in towns with half-timbered houses in southern Germany. The itinerary will take you along many roads with different road numbers (always avoiding the Autobahn), but it is well marked out with brown signs every few kilometers.

Romance in Japanese and German

The brown signposts carry the message "Romantische Strasse" in two languages: German (of course) and then, curiously enough - Japanese. Yes, no English, no French, no Italian, no Spanish, just Japanese and German. It would seem that the Japanese and the Germans are here seen as the only people romantic enough to take in the true romance of the enchanting landscape and architecture. Nevertheless, every year thousands of travelers of other nations are defying this notion and are allowing themselves to be charmed by the marvels of the Romantische Strasse.

Streching the romance

There is even some disagreement as to what stretch of road should be considered as the "true" Romantische Strasse. Some - in particular the people living in the valley of the small river Tauber - maintain that the Romantische Strasse proper only follows the Tauber valley, starting in Tauberbischofsheim and ending in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a distance of about 60 km.

However, in 1950 the tourist boards of a group of picturesque South German cities and towns decided to make the definition of the Romantische Strasse much wider, letting the Romantic Road stretch out all the way from the city of Würzburg on the Main river to the small town Füssen close to the Alps at the Austrian border. The old "true" Romantische Strasse along the Tauber valley was of course included in this Greater Romantic Road, but the entire road now became much longer, some 300 km in all.

Finding romance

Is the term "Romantic Road" justified, or is it just a PR gimmick, invented by sly tourist agents to attract more business?

It depends on what you are looking for. The road itself is for the most part pretty and sometimes even enchanting, but it rarely displays the breathtaking beauty of some other scenic German roads, e.g. the ones built along the great German rivers like the Rhine, the Mosel and the Neckar.

But if you see it as just an itinerary and actually visit some of the towns, palaces and castles along the way, then you will not be disappointed. The small wine-making towns along the way seem quite untouched by wars and time, displaying the architecture of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque period in all their romantic splendor.

Mad King Ludwig

It is a fairy-tale journey, ending with the most fairy-tale-looking palace in all of Europe, the Schloss Neuschwanstein in Schwangau (near Füssen). In contrast to all the other palaces along the Romantic Road, Neuschwanstein in its glory of fairyland towers and pinnacles is not even old. It was built at the end of the 19th century by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a romantic and somewhat deluded monarch whose main interest was erecting lavish palaces and lavishly supporting the composer Richard Wagner.

Here is a list of the towns along the Romantische Strasse. They all merit a visit, even the ones which are not specifically commented below:

  • Würzburg - a city hard hit by WWII, but with the splendid Prince-Bishop's Residence and the nearby Teutonic Festung Marienberg intact
  • Tauberbischofsheim
  • Lauda-Königshofen
  • Bad Mergentheim - castle of the Teutonic Order
  • Weikersheim - Renaissance palace and beautiful Baroque garden of the Count of Hohenlohe, with the laboratory of the Count, an accomplished alchemist in the 16th century
  • Röttingen
  • Creglingen
  • Rothenburg ob der Tauber - enchanting medieval town with a fully preserved town wall
  • Schillingfürst - Baroque palace
  • Feuhtwangen
  • Dinkelsbühl
  • Wallerstein
  • Nördlingen im Ries - an almost circular medieval town within fully preserved walls and wall-towers
  • Harburg
  • Donauwörth
  • Augsburg - one of the oldest cities in Germany, founded by the Romans
  • Friedberg
  • Landsberg am Lech - medieval town center, but infamous for its prison, where Adolf Hitler wrote Mein Kampf
  • Hohenfurch
  • Schongau
  • Peiting
  • Rottenbuch
  • Wildsteig
  • Steingaden
  • Halblech
  • Schwangau - the fairy-tale palace Schloss Neuschwanstein
  • Füssen