ROMANTIC ROAD, GERMANY
Würzburg – Füssen (10 days, 440km)
The Romantic Road long distance cycle route (D9) leads through romantic river valleys, with a landscape that changes from woodland paths in Franconia to a series of lakes in the Allgäu, passing historic old towns, medieval cities with fortified walls, Baroque churches, medieval abbeys, and of course, fantastical Bavarian castles.
The cycling route comprises a number of well-marked connected paths away from busy main roads; the route is relatively flat – there are no mountains to cross despite the fact it goes into the foothills of the Alps – except for the Pfaffenwinkel region.
Start the journey from historic Würzburg, which centres around the Prince-Bishops and their two main homes: the Marienberg Fortress and the Residence Palace.
Following the route, you’ll hit medieval towns like Creglingen (known for Lindleinturm, a house that’s perched atop a medieval watchtower) and Bad Mergentheim, a spa town with the impressive Castle of the Teutonic Knights.
Not to be missed are the 3 charming towns of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbühl, and Nördlingen – prime examples of walled medieval towns (the only ones left in Germany), with their beautiful, well-preserved architecture and alleys. Nördlingen is the least crowded and is located in the crater of a meteorite impact – its impressive tower was built from meteorite rock.
At the final portion of the route from Schongau, the road starts to ascend into the alpine foothills and through smaller villages (Rottenbuch, Wildsteig and Steingaden) until the towns of Schwangau and Füssen. This is the beginning of the Pfaffenwinkel region – a local dialect name meaning “priests’ corner” – which is famous for its gorgeous rural scenery, and its collection of historic pilgrimage churches and monasteries in the small villages and hilly countryside that make up the area.
The highlight for many is Schwangau – smaller than its bustling neighbour Füssen, it boasts what’s considered the icon of Germany: King Ludwig II’s fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle. This unfinished castle still draws throngs of visitors daily.
For a quieter experience, you can visit the villages of Schwangau and Hohenschwangau – the nearby surroundings boast some gorgeous scenery of lakes and mountains.
While you can start the journey from either direction, most people set off in a north-south direction (from Würzburg) due to the wind conditions: anyone travelling south to north will most likely be riding into the wind. In any case, Romantic Road buses also ply the route from April to October and will carry your bicycles as long as you book in advance, so you don’t have to cycle the entire journey.
Würzburg and Füssen have no air connections but are well-connected by rail from cities like Munich and Frankfurt.