German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation

Slide 1 of 31: Germany has many highlights, from cities overflowing with culture and world-famous landmarks to mountains that harbor fairy-tale castles. Then there’s the nature: the less-explored Baltic coastline, waterfalls found deep in the Black Forest, lakes dotted with islets and vast nature reserves. The best way to appreciate all this loveliness is on a road trip. From a journey inspired by the Brothers Grimm to roads that follow the salt-sprayed “German Riviera”, here are some of the best scenic road trips in Germany. (Due to COVID-19, check local travel restrictions before you head out.)
1/31 SLIDES © Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock

From castles to coast

Germany has many highlights, from cities overflowing with culture and world-famous landmarks to mountains that harbor fairy-tale castles. Then there’s the nature: the less-explored Baltic coastline, waterfalls found deep in the Black Forest, lakes dotted with islets and vast nature reserves. The best way to appreciate all this loveliness is on a road trip. From a journey inspired by the Brothers Grimm to roads that follow the salt-sprayed “German Riviera”, here are some of the best scenic road trips in Germany. (Due to COVID-19, check local travel restrictions before you head out.)

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
2/31 SLIDES © Werner Spremberg/Shutterstock

Berlin to Hainich National Park

This route is like a series of snapshots of Germany’s best bits. Starting in Berlin, and lasting for around 350 miles (563km), the journey first dips south to Potsdam, with opulent buildings like the 18th-century Sanssouci Palace, dubbed the “Prussian Versailles”. Then there’s the medieval town of Brandenburg, famed for its Gothic architecture. Among more enchanting stops along the way is Spreewald or Spree Forest, a forest and biosphere reserve laced with wetlands and canals, and dotted with “floating” houses (pictured).

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
3/31 SLIDES © Takashi Images/Shutterstock

Berlin to Hainich National Park

Drivers can travel via scenic roads that skim past nature reserves and wiggle through the conservation area of Naturpark Thüringer Schiefergebirge, so the journey is best taken leisurely over a few days. The destination is also worthy of slow exploration. Hainich National Park (pictured) is one of the last remaining primeval beech forests in Central Europe, with a canopy walk that takes hikers through the treetops as lynx and wolves roam the forest below.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
4/31 SLIDES © travelpeter/Shutterstock

Stuttgart to Weil am Rhein

This delightful route delves into parts of the ever-popular Baden Wine Route, while also devouring portions of the Black Forest. Covering around 175 miles (282km), the journey out from Stuttgart weaves through wine-growing villages on the edge of the Black Forest while also taking in vineyards in the foothills of the Upper Rhine Valley. The elegant spa town of Baden Baden and the Kaiserstuhl wine region (pictured) are among the string of scenic highlights.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
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German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
5/31 SLIDES © Taxiarchos228/Flickr/CC BY 3.0

Stuttgart to Weil am Rhein

There are many opportunities to take detours through different wine areas along the route, heading into the hilly Kraichgau district, known for pinot noir, or spending time around Badische Bergstraße near Heidelberg. A natural journey’s end is Weil am Rhein, the most southwesterly town in Germany on the east bank of the River Rhine. The town is home to the striking Vitra Design Museum, which has buildings designed by Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, and the Three Countries Bridge (pictured), which crosses the Rhine to link Germany with Switzerland and France.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
6/31 SLIDES © canadastock/Shutterstock

Mannheim to Bayreuth

Stretching for an epic 746 miles (1,200km), the Castle Road runs all the way to Prague in the Czech Republic. This 373-mile (600km) section weaves through southern Germany, incorporating some of the country’s most fascinating fortresses. The line-up of captivating castles and royal residences is dizzying, with the Baroque 18th-century Mannheim Palace at the start of the route and jaw-dropping stops at Nuremberg and Heidelberg Castles. Picturesque towns along the way include the incredibly pretty Rothenburg ob der Tauber (pictured).

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
7/31 SLIDES © Andrija Petrovic/Shutterstock

Mannheim to Bayreuth

Driving this route spans millennia and passes through some of Germany’s most stunning architecture, from hilltop fortresses and medieval ruins to lavish palaces and summer residences. The final castle is Hermitage Old Palace in Bayreuth, built in 1715 by Margrave Georg Wilhelm for his wife Wilhelmine, who extended it into a lavish example of Rococo architecture (pictured).

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German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
8/31 SLIDES © Sergey Dzyuba/Shutterstock

Bonn to Trier

The Volcanoes Route showcases a side of Germany beyond its famous castles and captivating, culturally rich cities. This 174-mile (280km) journey passes through the mountainous Eifel region, which is the country’s most geologically active area and – as the scenic route’s name suggests – strings together several volcanoes. It’s a starkly beautiful landscape shaped by lava flow, although thankfully the volcanoes have laid dormant for around 10,000 years. Signs along the route weave together stories of eruptions, while highlights include the caldera lake Laacher See and nearby Andernach Geyser (pictured).

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
9/31 SLIDES © S-F/Shutterstock

Bonn to Trier

Easily completed at a leisurely pace within a day, the route also passes cinder cones, quarries and spurting geysers. It ends at the southwestern city of Trier (pictured), once a Roman colony and trading hub known as the “second Rome”. Unsurprisingly it’s rich in architecture, including the 4th-century High Cathedral of St. Peter, the oldest bishop’s church in Germany. It stands above a former emperor’s palace, with the original Roman walls still visible inside. The setting is particularly lovely, with the city arranged by the Moselle River and surrounded by vineyards.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
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German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
10/31 SLIDES © Frank Fischbach/Shutterstock

Frankfurt to Schweigen-Rechtenbach

Incorporating the country’s oldest scenic drive, the German Wine Route which was designated in 1935, these 115 miles (185km) or so are best taken slowly, especially for those who plan to taste some of the renowned Riesling wines along the way. From Frankfurt, the road dips south to Bockenheim, the route’s official starting point, and plunges right into the heart of the Palatinate or Pfalz wine region (pictured).

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
11/31 SLIDES © Little Adventures/Shutterstock

Frankfurt to Schweigen-Rechtenbach

Tasting rooms, pretty villages and even roadside sampling spots line the route, while the Dürkheim Barrel – the world’s largest wine barrel used for dining and tasting – is a must-stop. It’s an especially pretty stretch in spring, when almond trees are in full blossom and fruit shrubs are bursting into life. The route ends at the German Wine Gate (pictured) in Schweigen-Rechtenbach on the border with France.

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German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
12/31 SLIDES © rphstock/Shutterstock

Papenburg to Papenburg

Starting and finishing in Papenburg, a city in the northern Emsland region of Lower Saxony, this scenic 106-mile (170km) loop – also a popular cycling route – heads north to Aurich before circling back. Along the way, it takes in landscapes from a patchwork of greenery and farms in the Ammerland region, to charming canal-side villages. Skirting near the border with the Netherlands, the Fen Route is named for the Dutch word “fehn”, referring to the methods used in the 16th and 17th centuries to dig canals for drainage by marshland.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
13/31 SLIDES © Bienchen-s/Shutterstock

Papenburg to Papenburg

The views are unrelentingly glorious, from meadows with picture-book windmills to nature reserves. Back in Papenburg, a vibrant port city known for shipbuilding, several museums trace the history of sailing and the shipping industry in the region. The city is also laced with canals, crossed by bascule bridges (drawbridges) and dotted with permanently moored, historic ships (pictured).

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
14/31 SLIDES © anyaivanova/Shutterstock

Weimar to Dessau

The influence of Bauhaus, a progressive design movement born in Weimar in 1919, can still be seen in buildings around the world. But its tenure in its home country was relatively short-lived, with the school forced to close by the Nazi regime in 1933. This fascinating trip – covering around 178 miles (286km) – takes in important Bauhaus sites including Weimar’s new museum, 1923-built experimental house Haus am Horn and Dornburg, whose Rococo palaces (pictured) are home to the Bauhaus Pottery Workshop.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
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German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
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Weimar to Dessau

Other stops include Chemnitz, known as the City of Modernity thanks to buildings such as Villa Esche, and Leipzig’s Grassi Museum whose distinctive stained-glass windows were designed by Josef Albers, who taught at Bauhaus. The final stop – Dessau – was home to the school from 1925 until it was forced out of the country. Here, the Bauhaus Building, designed by the movement’s founder Walter Gropius as the new school and workshop, is now UNESCO-protected.

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German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
16/31 SLIDES © Sina Ettmer Photography/Shutterstock

Düsseldorf to Mainz

Officially designated as the Romantic Rhine route, this road trip scoops up some of the country’s most beguiling cities and stunning landscapes into its 155 miles (250km). Think majestic cliffs, rolling vineyards and fascinating castles clinging to forest-blanketed hillsides. The scenic journey starts in riverside Düsseldorf before heading south to Cologne, whose fabled Gothic cathedral dominates the landscape. The road continues to beautiful Bonn before unfurling through the spectacular Rhine Valley (pictured).

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
17/31 SLIDES © C. Nass/Shutterstock

Düsseldorf to Mainz

The final destination on this inspiring route is Mainz (pictured), just south of Frankfurt. Sitting pretty at the confluence of the Rhine and Main Rivers, it’s both charmingly quaint and wonderfully vibrant, with wine bars and restaurants in half-timbered houses. The city’s crowning glory is the Romanesque Mainz Cathedral, dating back to the 10th century.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
18/31 SLIDES © Ingo Bartussek/Shutterstock

Hanover to Hanover

Dubbed the Asparagus Route, this journey really is all about the vegetable, although the pretty scenery should appeal even to those who dislike the spears. Lower Saxony is the heart of asparagus growing in Germany and this loop links up around 470 miles (756km) of towns, farms and countryside. The route officially starts and ends in Burgdorf, known for white asparagus, though Hanover is the closest big city (around half an hour away by car). Then it’s a journey tracing the vegetable’s heritage from root to tip, with Lüneburg Heath (pictured) among the gorgeous places it grows.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
19/31 SLIDES © S-F/Shutterstock

Hanover to Hanover

The road is happily well-signposted and also traverses the asparagus-growing regions of Brunswick, Mittelweser and Oldenburg Münsterland. During harvest season, usually from April to June, the spears can be sampled along the route and in restaurants, while the plants – bearing red berries – look lovely in fall too. Bookending the trip, Hanover has some incredible architecture including the 14th-century Market Church and the elegant, castle-like New Town Hall (pictured) dating from 1913.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
20/31 SLIDES © May_Lana/Shutterstock

Frankfurt to Bremen

Fairy-tale scenery is almost commonplace in Germany, so it stands to reason there’s a designated Fairy Tale Route, known as Märchenstraße. The route joins up magical sites connected to the works of the Brothers Grimm (Wilhelm and Jacob). There are more than 60 stops marked out along its 375 miles (604km), including the brothers’ birthplace in Hanau, enchanting villages, and castles and palaces straight from a children’s picture book – including Trendelburg (pictured), the purported setting for Rapunzel. In Hamelin, the pavements are inlaid with brass rats, while Kassel’s Grimm World houses original manuscripts.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
21/31 SLIDES © Czech Evgenia/Shutterstock

Frankfurt to Bremen

The journey is so pinch-me pretty that it doesn’t feel real, which is apt given the theme. Aside from fairy tales and folklore, the scenic route includes several nature parks, forests, flower-strewn meadows, mountains and rivers. At the journey’s end, Bremen has its own connection to the Brothers Grimm as the setting for their tale Town Musicians of Bremen, about a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster who journey to the city in search of a better life. A bronze statue in the market square pays homage to the legend.

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German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
22/31 SLIDES © Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock

Würzburg to Füssen

The storybook scenery continues on this north-to-south route, known as the Romantic Road or Romantische Straße. It’s one of Germany’s most popular road trips for good reason. Lots of reasons, actually: chocolate-box Bavarian villages, vineyards in the Alpine foothills, medieval walled towns and dreamy hilltop castles are just a few of them. The 249-mile (400km) journey begins in Würzburg (pictured) and continues along to Füssen with a string of stunning sights.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
23/31 SLIDES © emperorcosar/Shutterstock

Würzburg to Füssen

One of the route’s most spectacular sights is actually right at the end, near the Bavarian town of Füssen, and it links this journey with another spectacular road trip – the Alpine route or Alpenstraße. Bavarian King Ludwig II’s 19th-century Neuschwanstein Castle (pictured) is so ethereal and picture-perfect that it’s believed to have inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Nearby Hohenschwangau Castle, the king’s childhood residence, is equally lavish.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
24/31 SLIDES © DR pics/Shutterstock

Berlin to Leipzig

The Avenues Route is all about the slow, scenic back way, and includes nearly 2,000 miles (around 3,000km) of tree-flanked road from the Baltic Sea in the north right down to Lake Constance in the south. This chunk of the route traces around 650 miles (1,046km) of these green avenues through the prettiest parts of central Germany. The route picks up in Dessau, around a 1.5-hour drive southwest of Berlin, before looping through the Harz Mountains (pictured).

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
25/31 SLIDES © paparazzza/Shutterstock

Berlin to Leipzig

This road trip is like a jewel box of Germany’s charming spots, passing forests straight from fairy tales and villages with half-timbered houses. Quedlinburg is a particularly pretty example – cobbled lanes are lined with buildings in shades of spearmint and buttercup. The route also links up culturally rich cities including Erfurt, Weimar and Leipzig. The journey finishes in the latter, known for its elegant opera house and its New Town Hall, or Neues Rathaus (pictured on the left).

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German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
26/31 SLIDES © anyaivanova/Shutterstock

Lübeck to Binz

Take a trip to the seaside and breathe in the fresh salty air. This roughly 250-mile (402km) seaside drive showcases the glorious beauty of the Baltic coast, or “German Riviera”, tracing the shoreline from Lübeck – known for its medieval and Gothic architecture – and along the northern edge of the country. Opt for coastal roads that skim past the water, passing beaches, sand dunes and waterfront towns like Wismar and Stralsund (pictured).

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
27/31 SLIDES © Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock

Lübeck to Binz

Binz is the final stop on this road trip and a real highlight. A seaside resort on the island of Rügen, it’s famed for bright-white chalk cliffs and sand that’s just as pale and pristine (pictured). The island, linked to the mainland via a road from the Hanseatic city of Stralsund, is part of Jasmund National Park. It’s a glorious blend of dramatic bluffs, ancient beech forest and gorgeous beaches lapped by blue-green water.

German road trips that'll make you want to book your next summer vacation
28/31 SLIDES © AdryPhoto1/Shutterstock

Stuttgart to Villingen-Schwenningen

It’s around a 1.5-hour drive from Stuttgart, the closest major city to this charming road trip, to the loop’s official start and end, Villingen-Schwenningen. Known as the Clock Route, it covers around 200 miles (322km) of the atmospheric Black Forest, famous for a history of intricate clock-making – particularly cuckoo clocks – dating back to the 17th century. The landscapes are spectacular, with the route taking in Triberg Falls, St. Peter’s Abbey and Lake Titisee (pictured).

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