The Romantic Road route takes clients through the town of Landsberg, Germany. // © 2016 Simone Sedlmair/Bernd Kittlinger
Feature image (above): When driving, make sure to carve out some time to see the historic Baldern Castle. // © 2016 Stadtarchiv Bopfingen
The German countryside is veined with an extensive network of scenic roads — some 150 driving routes, to be exact, connecting its most well-known cities with charming and quaint villages. These drives are replete with historic castles, rolling hills and medieval towns, with heavy doses of culture and cuisine along the way. Here are some of the best road trip routes to recommend for clients traveling in Germany.
Black Forest Panorama Route
This mountainous route leaps right off the pages of a storybook, with roads that wind through forests and landscapes peppered with farmhouses. The route puts drivers in the birthplace of cuckoo clocks, Black Forest ham and cherry brandy. About 43 miles long, the Black Forest Panorama Route runs from Feldberg to Waldkirch and is one of the most stunningly beautiful drives in Germany.
“This route, as you head toward Baden Baden, is so beautiful,” said Harry Dalgaard, president of Avanti Destinations. “It’s full of villages, scenery, craft centers and a wonderful outdoor museum that is a recreation of an authentic Black Forest farm village.”
Schwarzwalder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof (Black Forest Open-Air Museum), founded more than 40 years ago as a museum of architecture, brings travelers back in time 400 years. The museum is made up of a laborer’s cottage, mills, sawmills, storehouses, a distillery, gardens and a chapel. Every winter, on the third advent weekend, there is a massive Christmas market where handicrafts are sold, along with regional cuisine.
The Castle Road
As if the title doesn’t speak for itself, this iconic country drive is steeped in fairy tales and legends, taking drivers past more than 70 castles, palaces and stately homes. The nearly 745-mile route runs from the city of Mannheim, where the Neckar River converges with the Rhine River, and continues through to Prague. But castles aren’t the only highlight of this journey.
“One of my favorite stretches to drive in Germany is from Heidelberg to Rothenburg, following the Castle Road itinerary,” said Dalgaard, whose passion for the country’s driving routes stems from his many years of living in Heidelberg, where he fell in love with cruising Germany’s scenic highways. “As you follow the Neckar River, it is one of the most beautiful stretches of the country.”
Highlights in Heidelberg include Heidelberg Castle, the old quarter and the Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Walk). Other must-sees on the drive include the baroque Mannheim Palace, as well as Kaiserburg Castle, the old quarter and the underground tunnels in Nuremberg.
The Romantic Road and the Fairy Tale Road
This month, international tour operator Collette debuted a brand-new tour, which will kick off in 2017. The Romantic Road and Fairy Tale Road, a Germany-only tour, combines two of Germany’s most iconic driving routes.
“This tour has canals, cities, lakes and culture,” said Dan Sullivan Jr., CEO of Collette. “It takes in all the highlights of both the Fairy Tale and Romantic Routes, and putting them together is not something that has been done before. There are not enough tours that do a Germany-only program.”
The 12-day trip goes from north to south and gives a comprehensive overview of the country. The trip starts in Berlin and makes its way to Hamburg — a city not usually covered on road-trip routes. From there, travelers take a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Lubeck and then move on to Hamelin, Rothenburg and Munich. The tour finishes in Bavaria with a trip to Germany’s iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, the most photographed castle in Germany.
Route of Industrial Heritage
Part of the greater European Route of Industrial Culture, this road trip travels through the Ruhr region of Germany. Packed with history, the route pays tribute to more than 20 German feats of engineering that span nearly 150 years. The loop, which totals about 250 miles, begins in Essen and passes through Duisburg, Oberhausen, Gelsenkirchen and Dortmund.
A must-visit on this itinerary is the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum complex, designed by architects Fritz Schupp and Martin Kemmer, exemplifies classic German Bauhaus style and is made up of installations of a historical coal-mining site, including pits, railway lines, pit heaps and miners’ housing.
The driving route can also be combined with a bike tour, as industrial heritage can be explored along the Emscher, Lippe, Rhine and Ruhr rivers — all of which are connected by more than 430 miles of bike paths.