10 Best Road Trips in Germany: From the Baltic Sea to Southern Germany

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Historic Altstadt (Old Town) of Boppard

I know, I know. The infamous German autobahn can sound intimidating to anyone getting a rental car. However, I promise that driving in Germany is a perfectly normal (yet slightly faster) experience. 

While train travel throughout Europe is great, sometimes you just want a good old-fashioned road trip–and Germany is the place to do it. From views of the Bavarian Alps to the Baltic Sea, a road trip in Germany can take you anywhere. 

To help you plan your Germany itinerary, we’ve put together a list of the top ten best road trips in Germany. Fasten your seatbelt, and let’s ride!

TL;DR

Best Overall:The Romantic Road
Best for Castles: The Castle Route
Best for Relaxation:The Black Hills Spa Route
Best for Mountain ViewsThe Alpine Route

The Ultimate Germany Road Trip Itinerary

Karlsruhe Castle in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
avirid / Adobe Stock

It’s time to hop in your car rental and cruise. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious spa town or getting your feet dirty on some hiking trails, these ten road trip routes are sure to please every traveler’s interests.

1. The Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse)

Medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany
JFL Photography / Adobe Stock

When you think of “road trips in Germany,” the Romantic Road, called Romantische Strasse in German, comes to most folk’s mind first. And with good reason!

If you only have time for one road trip in Germany, this is the one you should choose. You can begin or end the route in Würzburg and Füssen (about an hour’s drive from the Zugspitze).

This 250+ mile route takes wide-eyed travelers through some of Bavaria’s most fairytale-like landscapes. Of course, the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle is even a stop on this road trip. Additionally, you’ll be treated to epic views of southern Germany, including the Bavarian Alps, quaint medieval towns, and seemingly endless beer hops fields.

My personal favorite stop on the route is Rothenburg ob der Tauber. If you didn’t know better, you’d feel like you had stepped back into medieval times within this double-walled UNESCO World Heritage site. It may seem like a sleepy town, but it’s absolutely worth staying the night and exploring what goes on within the city walls.

If you’re staying in Würzburg and not quite up to driving yourself, book the Romantic Road & Rothenburg ob der Tauber Tour. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy the sites from the comfort of the passenger seat.

2. The Castle Route (Burgenstraße)

Architecture of Heidelberg Castle in Germany
Sergii Figurnyi / Adobe Stock

For a country “double feature,” the Castle Route (Burgenstraße) takes travelers between Germany and a small portion of the Czech Republic. Keep your eyes peeled to spot the 60 castles along this 600-mile road trip. You can begin or end your journey in Mannheim or Prague.

A highlight of the Castle road trip route is the majestic Heidelberg Castle. Additionally, those traveling over the winter holidays will have the option to stop at the world-famous Christmas markets in Nuremberg.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Heidelberg, Germany

3. The German Wine Route (Weinstraße)

Sunset aerial view of Rheingau vineyards and river in Germany
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

While Germany’s Italian and French neighbors tend to get all the credit for wine, Deutschland still puts up a fight with good quality wine. And what better way to experience it than on Germany’s Wine Route (Weinstraße)?

This short and sweet 52-mile drive takes you through the heart of the country’s winemaking region. You’ll begin or end your road trip in Germany at Palatinaten and the Schweigen-Rechtenbach (near the French border).

Along the way, you’ll sample the region’s famous local wine, Riesling, and soak in views of colorful half-timbered houses. If you’re visiting in September, you’ll have the opportunity to catch the annual grape harvest festival, called Neustadt Wine Festival, for a wine tasting in Bad Dürkheim.

4. The Fairy Tale Route (Märchenstrasse)

Trendelburg Castle in Trendelburg, Germany
clousunbilder / Adobe Stock

Search for Snow White on the enchanting Fairy Tale Route, known as Märchenstrasse in German. This 370-mile German road trip begins in Hanau, the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm. If you don’t recall, the Brothers Grimm are responsible for almost all of your favorite Disney fairy tales.

The Fairy Tale Route takes travelers through more than 50 locations directly related to the brothers’ lives or the fairy tales they wrote. Along the way to Hamburg, you’ll see some of the more than 25,000 castles scattered across Germany, Rapunzel’s castle, traditional half-timbered homes, and plenty of gorgeous scenery.

See Related: Most Beautiful Fairy Tale Towns Around the World

5. German Volcano Route (Vulkanstrasse)

Aerial view of Laacher See lake in Germany
engel.ac / Adobe Stock

Did you know there were volcanos in Germany? It doesn’t typically join your thoughts alongside lederhosen and pretzels. 

However, this nearly 180-mile Germany road trip takes eager travelers along the path of ancient volcanic activity. You’ll find lava flows, calderas, hot springs, and even volcanic lakes to swim in. The route starts from the River Rhine and ends near the mountains of the High Eifel.

The highlight of the route is the Laacher See. This crater lake was formed by a volcanic eruption over 13,000 years ago. Today, locals and tourists alike enjoy it as an excellent swimming and hiking spot.  

6. German Alpine Road (Alpenstraße)

Oberammergau and skyline in Germany
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

If you’re headed to Germany for magnificent Alpine views–the Alpenstraße (Alpine Route) is for you. The route runs parallel to the Austrian border near Lake Constance and extends all the way east to a suburb of Salzburg.

Throughout your southern Germany road trip, you’ll find over 20 alpine lakes, see the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, and look up at the tallest point in Germany (Zugspitze). Booking a Full-Day Trip from Munich is also a great way to visit the fairy tale Neuschwanstein Castle.

Another highlight is the small and picturesque town of Oberammergau (and my personal favorite town in Germany). Since 1634, the village has been staging an elaborate performance of the Passion Play every ten years (in modern times).

It is absolutely worth taking a coffee break and enjoy some traditional Bavarian food in this epic little village. If you have the time, an Oberammergau Private Guided Walking Tour is well worth the investment.

7. Romantic Rhine Route (Romantische Rheinstraße)

Aerial View of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley at Sunset
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Romantic Rhine Route (Romantische Rheinstraße) is 223 miles and stretches between Cologne and Wiesbaden. It follows the winding path of the iconic Rhine River and provides road trippers with timeless views of medieval castles, traditional villages, and Riesling vineyards.

A highlight of this route is the Lorelei Rock. The steep cliff has become a symbol of love and romanticism for many famous poets and songwriters like Clemens Brentano. Additionally, you’ll have the pleasure of passing through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Upper Middle Rhine Valley.

See Related: Best Places to Visit on the Rhine River & Things to Do

8. Stuttgart to Weil am Rhein Route

Panoramic view of Titisee Lake, Germany
Simon / Adobe Stock

The Stuttgart to Weil am Rhein Route is a lesser-known but equally epic road trip in Germany. This 155-mile, somewhat commuter route immerses you in the legendary Black Forest.

Along the way, you’ll pass Lake Titisee, one of Germany’s most beloved recreational spots for water sports, hiking, and just plain fun. The Freiburg Cathedral is also worth a stop on your way down south.

Other highlights include the Baruoque-style towns of Rastat and Baden-Baden. Badeb-Baden is particularly famous for its luxurious spa culture (which we’ll mention again later). This route’s final destination is Weil am Rhein, a charming town on the Swiss border known for its architecture and art scene.

We highly recommend staying at the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa. This Baden-Baden resort is the perfect way to break up your road trip, relax, and enjoy traditional German food at a local restaurant during your overnight visit.

9. Baltic Coast Route

Rugen Island Sunset
onurcepheli / Adobe Stock

Germany really does have it all – from mountains to farmland and, of course, a coast. The Baltic Coast Route, in northern Germany, runs over 200 miles from Lübeck (The City of Seven Spires) to Binz. Throughout your journey, you’ll visit charming towns on the seaside and even beaches.

Binz is on the island of Rügen. Rügen is a sight you wouldn’t expect to find in Germany, which has chalk-like cliffs and fishing villages.

Another must-stop destination is Stralsund. This medieval city has beautiful Gothic architecture and even an Ozeaneum that recreates the marine life of the Baltic Sea, making it worth a few hour’s visit.

10. Black Forest Spa Route (Schwarzwald-Bäderstraße)

Fountain in Square of Baden-Baden, Germany
daliu / Adobe Stock

Germany is renowned for its spa culture, and the Black Forest Spa Route (Schwarzwald-Bäderstraße) highlights some of the best. This 168-mile loop begins in Baden-Baden and takes you through southwest Germany.

You’ll pass through Black Forest towns like Bad Wilbad, which is known for its mineral springs and beautiful walking trails. Baiersbronn is another great stop that offers over 300 miles of walking trails, a 15th-century monastery, and opportunities for cross-country skiing for our snow lovers.

But the true star of this Black Forest scenic route is Baden-Baden, a popular medieval town since Roman times. As we mentioned earlier, the city’s main attractions are the numerous thermal baths and spas to choose from.

Here, you’ll have plenty of chances to relax and rejuvenate in the healing waters. Check out the Best of Baden-Baden with a guided walking tour to truly enhance your experience.

Driving Tips for Your German Road Trip

Sunrise in Eibsee Lake, Bavaria, Germany
Andrew Mayovskyy / Adobe Stock

Before you hit the road with your Germany itinerary, it’s important to be aware of a few tips and tricks for driving your rental car in Germany. From tried and true experience, keep the following in mind:

  • Get an International Drivers Permit: It’s true that not all rental car companies will ask for an International Drivers Permit. However, if you get pulled over by a police officer, you’re going to want to have the proper documentation. The process is extremely easy and can even be done by mail. Take a look at InternationalDriversPermit.org to view all the requirements and pay the cheap fee.
  • You can still get a speeding ticket: Americans seem to have a false narrative that you can drive as fast as you want in Germany. Technically, the speed limits in Germany are “speed recommendations,” but you can still get a ticket for driving too fast. Trust me; a certain significant other of mine has experienced this at least once or twice.
  • Cars are left-handed: Another common misconception is that German cars are right-handed. Wrong! If you’re American (or basically anyone who isn’t from the UK, Ireland, or Australia), you’re going to be driving on the “correct” side of the road.
  • Parking: Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of free parking when you visit Germany. Germany can be notoriously strict with parking rules. Make sure to pay close attention to signs and regulations. Parking on the street usually requires you to display a parking ticket that indicates your arrival time. These generally can be paid by card or on an app. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best South Germany road trip?

The best road trip in South Germany is the Romantic Road. This scenic drive takes you through picturesque towns and the beautiful surrounding countryside.

What are the most scenic routes in Germany?

All of these drives are fantastically beautiful, but Germany’s Romantic Road and Castle Road are two of the most splendid scenic routes. These drives take you through some of Germany’s most iconic landmarks and through stunning castles and rolling hills.

Is it easy for an American to drive in Germany?

Yes! Many Americans find driving in Germany to be similar to driving in the United States. The German highways are well-maintained, road signs are well-marked, and traffic laws are enforced, making it safe and efficient to navigate endless Germany road trips by rental car.

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Cait Kontalis
WRITTEN BY

Cait Kontalis

Cait is a Chicago-based Greek-American but spends most of her year floating around the globe. She holds a B.A. in Communications and a M.A. in Nonprofit Management. Her favorite destinations include visiting her homeland in Greece, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and wherever her partner is stationed abroad. Cait is also a powderhound, taking to ski slopes in the Rocky Mountains and throughout the country.

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