The north west of Baden Württemberg is home to three world-class castles. Schloss Schwetzingen features opulent gardens in a blend of French and English styles. Of all the buildings adorning this huge 72-hectare property, the one that really turns heads is the mosque, built in 1795 with its twin minarets, as a potent symbol of how religion and culture can peacefully co-exist.
With its prime location, the Mannheim Baroque Palace has a different feel. A must-see for visitors is the bel etage [main floor], with sumptuous rooms full of valuable furniture and art. From Mannheim you follow the Neckar River with a pit stop in the pretty town of Ladenburg before reaching Heidelberg with its magical castle that captures the hearts of everyone who visits its magnificent ruined walls.
If you have a taste for the finer things in life Scharff’s Schlossweinstube restaurant has a Michelin star to its name; restaurant guests have free access to the castle grounds after 6pm and can park there free of charge.
Maybe you are tempted to check out the excellent wineries and vineyards around Heilbronn, but if temperance is your friend today, Heilbronn is where you wave a fond farewell to the Neckar and turn east on the E50, past Öhringen to Neuenstein Castle. This imposing renaissance construction was once the residence of the Counts of Hohenlohe and today is home to a good museum.
The Castle Route continues via Schwäbisch Hall and the Kocher valley to the jewel known as Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Stepping inside the city walls is stepping back in time to medieval, fairytale Germany. Walk through narrow cobbled lanes and wander past a jumbled collection of quaint half-timbered houses. It’s hard to say which image best captures the spirit of Rothenburg, but a good bet would be the Fleisch und Tanzhaus [butcher’s and dancing house] or the Feuerleinserker [Feuerlein house bay window].
If you switch to the Romantic Route in Rothenburg, it takes you through the Lovely Tauber Valley towards Würzburg, where all roads lead to the renowned Residenz Palace. But if you stay on the Castle Route, relax as you continue east on quiet country roads, the St2249 and the St2246, on a romantic road trip through Franconia.
When you get to Ansbach, you simply must visit the Residenz before continuing on to Nuremberg. The Kaiserburg Castle is the iconic emblem of the city it has watched over for more than 800 years. Locals recommend a visit to the Johannis cemetery, the final resting place of Albrecht Dürer. Nicknamed the “rose cemetery” due to the elaborate flower arrangements adorning the gravestones, this has to be one of the most unique in Germany, if not worldwide.
If you then go for a stroll in the baroque elegance of the nearby Hesperiden gardens, catch your breath with a coffee in the garden café.