Heidelberg, Medieval Cities of the Main Valley and the Romantic Road
Many people think they know Germany but on a closer examination are delightfully surprised by its iconic historic cities, expansive rolling countryside, fairy-tale castles and magnificent buildings, delightful and perfectly preserved medieval villages plus the warmth and vivacity of it’s people. On this tour we explore one of its most fascinating regions and one which displays these qualities in abundance, bordered by three of the continent’s most stunningly beautiful rivers - the Main, Neckar and Danube - and punctuated by several of its most astonishing cultural gems. We explore what is known loosely as the ‘Romantic Road’ which is more of a collective description rather than an exact route and so described because of its near-perfect blend of the aforesaid attributes. The true wonders here are the extraordinarily preserved medieval town of Rothenburg, the beautiful cities of Wurzburg and Bamberg plus Heidelberg, interspaced by wonderfully unspoilt countryside studded with sleepy medieval villages like Miltenberg all dominated by half-ruined castles seemingly perched atop every hillside. This was the very heart of Europe throughout the Middle Ages from Charlemagne’s time and the Holy Roman Empire when the legendary chivalric order of the Teutonic Knights held sway, through the great Baroque movement of the 17th century and on into the modern era. You will just love exploring the hidden corners and cobbled streets of Rothenburg itself, lined with overhanging half-timbered, almost doll-like houses of the old medieval quarters, surrounded by the atmospheric ramparts and turrets of this astoundingly preserved medieval town. You’ll marvel at the wealth of magnificent religious edifices crowned by the majestic Gothic cathedral of Bamberg, the stunning vista of “pink” sandstone that is the great castle in Heidelberg and the cultural crescendo reached when you gaze in awe at the sumptuous glory of the wonderfully restored Residenz Palace in Wurzburg, built to rival Versailles with its opulence and fine art. You will be amazed by this corner of Germany and its plethora of truly fascinating places in an area yet to be discovered by the majority.
- Return flights
- Five nights four-star accommodation with dinner and breakfast
- Guided tour of baroque Heidelberg, seat of one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities
- Discover the Romantic Road, its bucolic scenery plus picturesque and beautiful 16th century Rothenburg
- Tour of the Residenze in Wurzburg, one of Europe’s most richly decorated 18th century palaces and city of the Prince Bishops
- Guided tour of Bamberg, one of Europe’s most beautiful small cities
- Explore the picturesque river Main and its delightful medieval towns of Miltenberg and Wertheim
- Escorted by experienced Tour Manager
- The five nights four-star accommodation with breakfast and dinner at hotels as mentioned; return flights and associated taxes; sightseeing tours of Bamberg and Heidelberg; entrance and tour of ‘Residenze’ in Wurzburg, all touring as mentioned, services of a Riviera tour manager.
You fly to Frankfurt where you will be met and then drive to Wurzburg, and your hotel for the next three nights, the excellent four-star Maritim where we also have dinner. Straddling the River Main and surrounded by vine-clad hills and wooded slopes, the city’s origins stretch back to Celtic times.You fly to Frankfurt where you will be met and then drive to Wurzburg, and your hotel for the next three nights, the excellent four-star Maritim where we also have dinner. Straddling the River Main and surrounded by vine-clad hills and wooded slopes, the city’s origins stretch back to Celtic times.
This morning we travel back in time, following the “Romantic Road” itself. The route’s name derives from its poetic journey through history, evoking the period when its medieval towns held ultimate sway and Teutonic chivalry reigned supreme. You can sense the history in unbelievably picturesque medieval villages whilst Baroque churches and hilltop castles unveil before you as we wind along the stunningly beautiful Tauber valley. We soon arrive in the undoubted jewel, spectacular Rothenburg where you meet the 16th century head on! It simply could not be more idyllic, crowning a hill overlooking the meandering river below, nestling securely behind perfectly preserved medieval walls. At the peak of its power, this Protestant town suffered greatly during the Thirty Years’ War subsequently remaining too impoverished to expand beyond its walls in the ensuing centuries thus ensuring its almost perfect survival creating today’s present gem. Narrow, cobbled streets lined with tall gabled, half-timbered houses with staircase turrets and oriel windows lead to St Jakob’s Church and a fine medieval Town Hall at its heart. Built high on a hill, the views over the meandering river below are astonishing and such is the atmosphere, it would not surprise you to meet a knight on horseback or a court jester around the very next corner! You really have a genuine glimpse of the past. Returning to Wurzburg which, during the 18th century was a seat of the Prince Bishops who created the truly magnificent Residenz, one of Europe’s finest Baroque palaces, constructed to outshine Vienna, Versailles and other great courts of the day – an aim which in artistic terms as you will see, they certainly achieved! There is a huge amount to admire here and our tour brings this splendid buildings history and architecture to life. You start with the incredible staircase, said to be the world’s most beautiful – with its glorious frescoes plus the marvellously intricate decoration of the Imperial Hall. Progressing further you can admire one room completely covered in gold leaf, and another having 600 mirrors. Fine-art adorns the beautifully wood-panelled walls and there are extensive views over the elegant gardens. One of the most unusual rooms has the most incredible acoustics you will probably ever experience. Walk across the room and your footsteps echo with increasing resonance, then on reaching the centre, the noise reverberates seemingly forever in a series of surreal crescendos! The calculations involved to create this effect 300 years ago are quite startling. It is easy to imagine why Napoleon is said to have called this stunning building the “nicest parsonage in Europe”.
This morning enjoy an easy drive though the scenic Steigerwald Natural Park to remarkable Bamberg, quite simply one of Europe’s most beautiful small cities, staggeringly so, but easily on a par with Prague! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the masterpiece you see today began its artistic journey during the 11th century when the Emperor Heinrich II planned a capital as grand as Rome. Although it never became so large Bamberg boasts spaciousness with a wealth of fine buildings belying its size. Pride of place goes to its outstanding gothic cathedral but this is but one example of the city’s shining beauty and range of architecture, from Romanesque to Baroque it is like an incarnation of an architectural text book. Not only is it historic, it is stunningly beautiful too with a network of shining canals and a fascinating tangle of lanes lined with merchants’ houses culminating in its picturesque main square and traditional daily market. You must visit the town hall, covered with the huge colourful frescoes so typical of central Europe, almost hovering on wooden piles whilst below the River Main flows swiftly on. Add the 11th century former Episcopal palace plus a host of other things to see and Bamberg really is a gem. We have included a walking tour of this superb baroque townscape whose reflections dance on the river, lending an extra special ambience to the whole gorgeous scene. There’s also time to simply wander where your feet take you or perhaps sample the local beers, noted as some of Germany’s finest. We return to Wurzburg in good time for dinner.
We leave Wurzburg heading downstream along the picturesque River Main valley with the medieval theme continuing as we call at another stunning historic town, Wertheim. Nestling beautifully at the confluence of the Main and Tauber, it’s a patchwork of twisting alleys and superb panoramic viewpoints with a ruined castle looming high above. Following the valley we soon arrive in Miltenberg acknowledged as one of Germany’s most stunningly beautiful villages, medieval and beautifully preserved. Continuing we join the Niebelungstrasse Route running through the heart of the Odenwald Forest, the inspiration for the medieval myths and legends of the great Wagnerian epics with which it is so indelibly linked. We stay two nights with dinner, at the comfortable four-star Maritim in Mannheim.
This morning we visit nearby Heidelberg enjoying a guided walking tour of this wonderful city, which positively flaunts its beauty. Its setting is second to none, nestling by the picturesque river Neckar, in a valley dominated by its imposing castle, high on a wooded hillside - a real-life fulfilment of the perfect medieval German landscape! The town itself is a maze of historic, baroque and gabled buildings lining the river with its romantic old-town behind. Adding to this, its 14th century university, one of the most prestigious in Europe lends Heidelberg that genteel atmosphere rather similar to that of Oxford or Cambridge. During the 19th century it was the centre of Germany’s Romantic Movement, on the route of ‘The Grand Tour’ and visited, amongst many others, by the artist Turner who captured its splendours for eternity. During our guided walk we see the principal sights but Heidelberg’s greatest monument, is simply the city itself. During the afternoon, you are free to explore as you wish, perhaps taking a stroll through the picturesque squares and lanes to enjoy a cooling “weisswein” or a tasty beer in one of the many delightful street cafes or heading up the hill for a closer look at the pink sandstone magnificence of the castle, before returning to our hotel for our final dinner.
Today bid farewell to this historic and traditional corner of Germany returning to Frankfurt at the appropriate time for your return flight.