If you want to explore more of Europe, if you like picturesque countryside, charming villages, historic towns and prefer traveling by car over plane, then a road trip to the 3 hidden gems of Bavaria: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bamberg & Nuremberg in Germany, might be just the thing for you too!
Especially if you live in Western Europe and don’t want to drive too far, Germany is the perfect destination to easily discover more of Europe’s history and heritage in Unesco towns and quaint villages.
Especially in the Bavaria region of south Germany, where the Romantische Strasse can be found.
One of the most famous tourist routes of the country, passing through medieval cities, by picturesque towns and several castles.
We only explored part of this route on a road trip from the Netherlands end of July. But we are certainly coming back for more. After a 7 hour drive we found ourselves immersed in the culture, architecture, and natural beauty of Bavaria.
In this blog, I’ll share 3 of the hidden gems we uncovered here: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bamberg, and Nuremberg, each with its unique historical significance and allure.
But why Bavaria & what makes this German region so special?
The Bavaria region in southern Germany is truly an authentic gem filled with character. It's the largest and 3rd wealthiest state of Germany, offering a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and culture.
Known for its stunning landscapes, it's also home to the Bavarian Alps, charming lakes, and dense forests, making it a favorite destination for outdoor- and history enthusiasts alike.
What makes this region truly unique are the following features:
Rich historical heritage
Traditions & festivals
Bavaria's historical significance is evident through its well-preserved medieval towns and castles. This history is clearly visible in towns like Rothenburg, Nuremberg and Bamberg, which we absolutely loved.
Road Trip to Bavaria's 3 hidden gems: Rothenburg, Bamberg & Nuremberg
Bavaria is also well known for its vibrant culture, which is celebrated through various traditions and festivals. The famous Oktoberfest in Munich for example, attracts millions of visitors each year, offering a taste of Bavarian hospitality and beer culture.
But towns like Rothenburg, Bamberg and Nuremberg also host a multitude of cultural and historic festivals and events throughout the year.
We decided to visit one of the most romantic towns in Germany, along the Romantische Strasse, first:
Stop 1: Rothenburg ob der Tauber - A Medieval Fairy Tale
The romantic flair of the Middle Ages and Renaissance is uniquely preserved here, making Rothenburg a popular and prize-winning tourist destination with a fairy tale vibe! We found it, however, not overly crowded during our visit end of July.
Upon arrival, we were immediately transported back in time, when we realized we had to enter the Old Town through the medieval city gate. Driving over cobbled streets lined with charming half-timbered houses and colorful flower boxes to get to our hotel in the center.
Where to stay in Rothenburg
An absolute must-experience here is an overnight stay at the 13th century Hotel Gotisches Haus Garni.
The perfect place to experience that historic vibe with all the modern facilities you need. This family-run hotel is truly unique, serves a great breakfast and offers parking right in front of the hotel for just €10 a day.
They even have their own lunchroom with outdoor terrace, perfectly located on a cute square with historic fountain. And right around the corner from the Town Hall and main square.
Interesting things to do
When in Rothenburg don't miss the opportunity to climb its historic walls, which encircle town and pass by 40 surviving towers of the Old Town!
This Tower Trail is unique in Europe, totally free and offers great views over Rothenburg's quaint houses and nature surroundings.
The town's strategic location and well-preserved fortifications give insight into its historical significance as an essential trading post during medieval times. The total walk covers 4 kms and takes about 2 hours, but can also be done in phases.
But no worries if you'd rather relax, as Rothenburg has much more to offer with its museums, quaint shops and culinary delights. At many bakeries you can try Rothenburg’s traditional Schneeballen. A local pastry resembling a snowball, available in various flavors and toppings.
And the regional wines, beers and authentic German cuisine should not be missed either. Offered at plenty of restaurants, biergartens, terraces and taverns throughout town.
Other things we really enjoyed during our visit were:
Wandering the Market Square (Marktplatz), surrounded by colorful houses and impressive historical buildings, with many terraces and a historic fountain.
Make sure to climb the Town Hall tower here, for the best views from above.
A tour with the historic nightwatch man, starts in front of Town Hall, every night in English at 8 and German at 9 pm.
Visiting the Rothenburg Museum and Klosterhof gardens.
Visiting the Christmas Museum.
Learning more about the gruesome, but also interesting history of Rothenburg ob der Tauber at the Medieval Crime and Justice museum.
Having breakfast or lunch at Café Einzigartig, delicious, super photogenic and the whole interior is for sale too. You can stay overnight here too: Hotel Einzigartig.
A medieval dinner at Zur Höll tavern & restaurant.
Photogenic spots in Rothenburg's Old Town
Just wandering around the streets of Rothenburg will provide ample of photo opportunities already, as all houses and shops are so photogenic. However, my fave photo spot recommendations are:
From the top of the town hall tower
Klosterhof and garten
Burgtor with the outer Röder Gate
Get an impression through this gallery:
TOP TIP: Start a bit earlier! We found the streets nearly empty when walking around at 9-10 am, creating the perfect photo settings. Especially on Sunday morning when the whole town goes to church😊
Photogenic nature spots around Rothenburg od Tauber
But also wandering outside town to enjoy the Taubervalley and Rothenburg’s vineyard is highly recommended. There’s a lovely walking / cycling route here, that offers photogenic spots amidst nature. My favourites were:
Burggarten, with several scenic viewpoints.
From here walk down to Biergarten Unter den Linden, for lunch by the Tauber river.
Follow the Taubertalweg to the Toppler Schlossen,
and don’t forget to stop at the wooden Taubertal bridge nearby.
Walk on to the Double bridge from there,
and after that to Wildbad for lovely sights like this:
Find all info for your own visit on the website of Rothenburg Tourism.
Stop 2: Bamberg - A Unesco World Heritage Site
From Rothenburg we drove 1,5 hours further to a bigger Unesco city, which still maintains an old town charm.
Although Bamberg is officially not part of the Romantic Route, we found it surprisingly beautiful and romantic. A real hidden gem, as most tourists don’t know it yet, which creates an authentic vibe!
Bamberg has been listed a Unesco Site since 1993, for its unique cultural value, due to its Baroque and Gothic architecture and many well-preserved medieval elements.
The Old Town offers a charming labyrinth of narrow alleys, imposing architectural marvels, charming historic buildings, with quaint squares and picturesque bridges along the river.
But it's also a real beer mecca, boasting 9 breweries and a unique beer culture. Bamberg's renowned Rauchbier (smoked beer) offers a distinctive and unforgettable taste, which you really must try during your visit!
Where to stay in Bamberg
We stayed here for 2 nights, right at the beginning of the historic city center. You can easily park your car in front of the hotel for €25 a day, or at the nearby parking garage for just €18 a day.
The hotel's design is classy, with high ceilings and unique historic architectural details. Hotel Bamberger Hof serves an excellent breakfast and is perfectly located within walking distance of all the main sites.
Must-visits & things to do
Other interesting activities that should not be missed in Bamberg are:
A visit to the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). An architectural marvel located on an island in the Regnitz River, showcasing 14th-century design and housing a collection of historical artifacts.
A city tour with a local guide, like we had with the lovely: Dirk Hirsch.
Strolling along the river to admire the quaint houses of Bamberg’s Little Venice.
Enjoying the local beer culture, especially at Brauerei Schlenkerla, the most famous brewery of Bamberg, dating back to 1405. Here they serve Franconian dishes and local beers in the former house chapel of a Dominican Monastery.
A visit to Hain park for its lovely botanical garden, flower beds and ponds.
Walking past the river and crossing it with the little ferry to get back to the Old Town.
Strolling up to the Bamberger Dom, an impressive Romanesque structure with high twin towers, stunning interior and altars.
And visiting the classy New Residence and Rose Garden here, looking out over the city.
Having a traditional German lunch on the terrace of Scheiners am Dom.
And for lunch or dinner by the river, the outdoor terrace of Wirtshaus Eckerts is the perfect spot!
For a bit of history and culture, a visit to the Diozesan- and / or Naturkunde Museum is certainly recommended too!
But there are several other nice museums and sites in Bamberg too. If you’re staying 3 days or more, you can save money on admissions to most popular attractions, as well as free public transport in and around Bamberg, with the Bamberg Card.
Photogenic castles & palaces, just outside Bamberg
By car, a visit to the Altenburg Castle is highly recommended too. Just a 12 minute drive from Bamberg, perched on a hill overlooking the city.
This 900-year old castle and fortifications date back to the Middle Ages and provides a unique view over Bamberg and its surroundings.
Another unique place to visit near Bamberg, is the prince-bishop’s summer residence, just north-east of the city.
Seehof palace is located in Memmelsdorf, less then a 15 minute drive away, also reachable by bus.
A true gem, still quiet and undiscovered by the masses.
This colorful country house and hunting lodge dates back to the 15th century and is surrounded by a big nature park, private lake, orangerie, cascade with stunning sculptures, and has a restaurant as well.
The impressive interior and most rooms can be visited through 45 minute guided group tours on set times. And make sure not to miss the fountain show by the lake, that runs once every hour.
Schloss Seehof is still partly under renovation, however can be visited and will probably be finished by the end of the year.
Do note that: visiting the exterior of the castle is free, and for the inside a discount applies with the Bamberg Card. Seehof castle is however closed on Mondays and from November until March.
Stop 3: Nuremberg - A Historical Hub
While it's much bigger than Rothenburg od Tauber or Bamberg, this city has a complete different vibe, while still maintaining a historic charm.
Its ancient city walls, quaint bridges, Imperial Castle and gardens, combined with the modern elements and facilities of a bigger city, make Nuremberg truly unique.
To us, this was the perfect city trip combination with the 2 smaller towns. You can read all about our Nuremberg visit in my previous blog.
A 1,500-km road trip from the Netherlands to Germany, while exploring the hidden gems of Bavaria, provides a unique journey through history and natural beauty.
From medieval fairy tales, to a Unesco World Heritage site and a historical hub of significance.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bamberg, and Nuremberg each exude a unique charm, while reflecting the rich historical heritage of this south German region.
A trip to these 3 cities is easy to do by car, but you can also get to Nuremberg by train or plane and rent a car from there, to shorten the drive.
Whatever your preference, this city trip combination offers a true kaleidoscope of experiences, which I can only recommend to experience yourself!
For other German city- and road trip inspiration blogs you can go to my Germany page.
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