Germany is a wonderful country for driving, and its roads are excellent. The country’s pride and joy is its famous 6835-mile (11,000km) network of autobahns, but it also boasts jaw-dropping landscapes, eons of history and a huge variety of outdoor activities to make you stop and stretch your legs.
Here are the top 10 road trips that will show you the best of Germany.
Follow the trail of the Brothers Grimm on Fairy-Tale Road
Start – Hanau; End – Bremerhaven; Distance – 439 miles (707km)
You might just live happily ever after! You'll certainly end this trip happy, having traversed a beautiful swath of Germany and learned the real stories behind the Grimms' fairy tales.
The Märchenstrasse (Fairy-Tale Road) is one of the country's most popular tourist routes, with more than 60 stops along the way. It’s made up of cities, towns and hamlets in four states, all of which are associated with the works of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm. Although most can be easily visited using public transport, a car lets you fully explore the route.
Drink in the scenery on the Wine Route
Start – Schweigen-Rechtenbach; End – Bockenheim an der Weinstrasse; Distance – 59 miles (96km)
Plunge into the heart of the Palatinate (Pfalz) region's vine-planted hills, rambling forests, chess-piece castles, wisteria-draped villages and thermal springs along one of Germany's oldest and loveliest touring routes.
From the French border, you'll wind north along this venerable route through Germany’s largest contiguous wine-growing area, which is is scattered with half-timbered villages and castles and blessed with a temperate climate that allows almonds, figs, lemons and kiwi fruit to thrive. The route was inaugurated in 1935, and its western edge weaves through the hilly forest of the Pfälzerwald, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve with invigorating hiking and cycling trails.
Channel old-school Grand Tour vibes in the Romantic Rhine
Start – Düsseldorf; End – Mainz; Distance – 155 miles (250km)
After traversing powerhouse riverside cities Düsseldorf, Cologne and Bonn, watch epic scenery unfold as Germany's Romantic Rhine valley carves between towering cliffs, clad in forest and vines and capped by castles, to delightful Mainz. A fabled stop on the original European Grand Tour, the riverscape is a designated Unesco World Heritage site.
Explore the foothills of the Bavarian Alps on Alpine Road
Start – Lindau; End – Königssee; Distance – 280 miles (450km)
This exciting drive winds through the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, taking in romantic castles, lakes of drinkably pure water and high peaks whose mantle of snow remains year-round.
The Alpenstrasse, as it's known in German, was the country's first touring road, dating from 1858. A bonus of this route is its variety – one day you can be exploring one of King Ludwig II's castles, the next picnicking on an Alpine meadow, and the day after that taking a boat trip across a glassy Alpine lake.
Venture around Berlin and the jewels of eastern Brandenburg
Start – Berlin; End – Gedenkstätte; Distance – 250 miles (400km)
This tour wraps a lot that's great about Germany into one neat package. This trip gets your head spinning in scintillating Berlin, then slows you back down on a leisurely tour around little-populated eastern Brandenburg.
You'll meet the Sorbs, a traditional Slavic people at home in the Spreewald, a rivulet-laced fairy-tale forest. You'll visit soul-stirring monasteries, a technological marvel, socialist model cities and gardens created by an eccentric prince. WWII comes hauntingly alive in a concentration camp and on the largest battlefield on German soil.
Plan a classic German excursion on the Avenues Route
Start – Dessau-Rosslau; End – Leipzig; Distance – 652 miles (1050km)
This quintessential German road trip, along the avenues of the Harz Mountains and country highways of central Germany, leaves no stone unturned. On this magic loop through the diverse natural beauty of the ancient states of Saxony-Anhalt, Lower Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony, you'll fall in love with the eye-catching villages of Quedlinburg and Goslar, perhaps take a steam train to the top of a mountain, see where Bach was born and Goethe died, keep watch from the Wartburg and ponder the histories written upon the culture-laden cities of Erfurt, Weimar, Dresden and Leipzig.
This trip showcases Germany's evolution from medieval times to the industrialized, environmentally aware nation that's celebrated today. From just over an hour outside Berlin, you can pick up this fantastic time warp around one of the longest inhabited regions in the country, along tree-lined avenues, up mountains, down dales, through ancient forests and by sparkling rivers.
Go palace-hopping on German Castle Road
Start – Mannheim; End – Bayreuth; Distance – 373 miles (600km)
This romantic trip will take you castle-hopping across 373 miles of southern Germany and through a thousand years of the country's history. From Germany's biggest baroque pile in Mannheim to Bayreuth's Altes Schloss, it's a-castle-a-day time on this route – though when palace fatigue sets in, there's nothing easier than escaping to a contemporary art gallery, fascinating museum or a traditional tavern to sample the local sausages and beer.
Dive into the Black Forest via the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse
Start – Baden-Baden; End – Freudenstadt; Distance – 37 miles (60km)
Road trips in the deep, dark Black Forest don't get any lovelier than the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse. Why? This is a road with altitude, where the views over hill and dale are constant. Wind down the window for pine-fresh air as you wiggle south from the spa town of Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt, passing heather-flecked woodlands, luscious meadows, waterfalls, lakes and stout farmhouses. It meanders scenically past glacial lakes, toy-town villages and the gentle folds of valleys and forests that seem to roll on to infinity. Fall brings a dash of gold to the picture.
Find your new favorite place on the Baltic Coast
Start – Lübeck; End – Binz; Distance – 259 miles (417km)
Head to northeastern Germany because you love the water. The fabled Baltic historic towns like Lübeck, Wismar and Stralsund mix with long stretches of wave-tossed sand. The Hanseatic cities along the Baltic coast are some of the most beautiful in Germany, perfect for evocative strolling amid huge architectural treasures made from untold millions of bricks. In between, this drive takes you along the wave-tossed coast with its rugged beaches and long sandy vistas. But there are also great places to take a dip, like the fabled promenade at Binz.
Spend a snowy break driving the Romantic Road
Start – Würzburg; End – Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles; Distance – 217 miles (350km)
Experience the Germany of the bedtime storybook – medieval walled towns, gabled townhouses, cobbled squares and crooked streets, all preserved as if time has come to a standstill. Do the trip in winter when Bavaria's chocolate-box towns look even prettier under a layer of snow.
From the vineyards of Würzburg to the foot of the Alps, the Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse) is by far the most popular of Germany’s touring routes. This well-trodden trail cuts through a cultural and historical cross-section of southern Germany, coming to a climax at the gates of King Ludwig II's crazy castles. The route links some of Germany's most picturesque towns, many appearing untouched since medieval times.