GERMAN WINE ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
Referred to as both the German Wine Route and the German Wine Road, this lovely touring opportunity runs right through the heart of the largest undivided wine-growing area in all of Germany, known commonly as the Palatinate countryside. There, the almost 53 miles of the road begins in the north in Bockenheim at the House of the German Wine Route and ends in the south at Schweigen-Rechtenbach on the border with France. The German Wine Route is the oldest of its kind anywhere in the world and has operated continuously since October of 1935. The countryside through which the road runs is generally hilly in terms of the terrain. Winds and rain that might normally affect the area don't tend to be an issue here, as the Palatinate Forest (the largest in Germany) protects the road and makes for ideal driving conditions. So whether you're an experienced driver or you're just renting a car in Germany for a few days to travel the Wine Road, you can't go wrong. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities for wine enthusiasts to sample some of the country's best vintages, together with stunning views, top-notch cuisine, and ample places to stay the night. Here, we take a look at touring the German Wine Road, from the north to the south, over the course of a few days.
GERMANY WINE ROAD TRIP DAY 1: THE NORTHERN SECTION OF THE ROUTE
Whether you're traveling in a luxury car rental and taking advantage of the thrills of a world-class automobile, or you've opted for a more comfortable, roomier family vehicle, a trip through the country alongside the German Wine Route promises to be a memorable one. Travelers would be wise to fly into Frankfurt, where car rental bookings can be made, or pre-booked rental cars can be picked up before beginning the trip south to tour the German Wine Road.
Traveling from the north to the south along the German Wine Road, your trip will begin in the city of Bockenheim, where the municipality has gone as far as adopting a more specific name to let visitors know the importance it plays in the area. Bockenheim a der Weinstraße, as it's often called, signifies that the area is located along the wine route. Visiting during the early autumn months will allow travelers to sample what's known as "Neuer Wein", a younger wine that's served before completion of the standard fermentation process.
Marking the very northern end of the Wine Road in Bockenheim stands a building known as The Haus der Deutschen Weinstrasse, which is well worth the visit. The town itself is replete with so many wineries, that it may be difficult narrowing it down to just a few. Within just a short rental car ride from the town, you will find several restaurants worthy of mention in the Michelin Guide, including Kollektur, where you can dine in a lush outdoor garden setting; Alte Pfarrey, where diners can take in a meal in the historic dining room or in the interior courtyard during the summer months; or for a more expensive outing, consider Karlbacher L'Herbe De Provence, a restaurant known for its elegant setting on the top floor of a historic old house.
Aside from the marvelous culinary options that travel along Germany's Wine Route will offer, just a few city stops should make it clear that life in this part of the country is all about celebrating the goodness that life has to offer. Depending on the time of year, traveling through the northern part of the Wine Road in Bad Dürkheim should make that abundantly clear, as visitors can take advantage of the Wurstmarkt wine festival. This folk festival is meant to celebrate the best in local wines, every second and third weekend during September. While you're there, you'll also be able to take a few pictures of the world's largest wine barrel. It's so big, that it can hold an entire restaurant inside!
Featuring plenty of things to engage family members or traveling companions, a trip through German wine country along the old Wine Route offers up medieval towns, historic castles, and sightseeing along the breathtaking Rhine River. Stop in Deidesheim just north of the midway point, and treat yourself to a world-class restaurant dining experience. Deidesheim is the first place in Germany to join the Slow Cities league, so life is definitely not about anything superficial or quick. Explore the wine taverns and old-world architecture after dinner, as you walk down cobblestoned streets with your travel companions.
When it's time to lay your head down for the night after a long day spent traveling the German Wine Road, you can't go wrong with any number of hotels located in Deidesheim. Among the best is the Hotel Ketschauer Hof, known for its chic design; the Kaisergarten Hotel & Spa, situated in the center of the village; or Deidesheimer Hof, with many newly renovated rooms and an amazing gourmet restaurant, Schwarzer Hahn.
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GERMANY WINE ROUTE DAY 2: THE MIDDLE PART OF THE ROUTE
When it comes to the middle part of the German Wine Road, travelers will have to ask themselves - what could be better than staying the night in the former castle that dates all the way back to the year 756? If this sounds like something you have to try, then be sure to stay the night at the Schlosshotel Edersheim, a four-star hotel built within a castle. Spend the night in luxury, and head out on day two of your tour in a car rental that allows you to make the trip exactly what you want it to be.
Another great place to stop in the middle of the Wine Road in the town of Neustadt a der Weinstrasse, which is the home of another castle (Hambacher Schloss). The views from the castle provide a panoramic picture of the surrounding vineyards, while inside, there are several informative exhibits that are sure to delight the entire family. In Neustadt, the Germans crown the Wine Queen every year during a festival that takes place in October. If you choose to stay the night in Neustadt, then consider the Hotel Palatina, which features a sleek, modern design; or lay your head to rest at the ACHAT Premium Neustadt/Weinstraße, which offers a more affordable experience that won't break your budget.
Along the way, you can take your rental car through the valleys along the Wine Road, stopping to park for short daytime walking tours through the cobblestone streets of small wine villages like Maikammer and St. Martin. In Maikammer, there are many villas that were originally built by the wine families who first planted the region. Walking tours of the village can be quite scenic because of this and a few other destinations, such as the old church of St. Kosmas and St. Damian, whose spire stands tall above the rest of town. Inside, travelers can see several historic paintings, statues, and the baroque altar, as well.
While you won't find too many places to stay the night in smaller villages of this kind, you can discover local cuisine and stock up on German wine while you're there - or take home a small supply of gourmet vinegar for cooking. Notable restaurants include the Ristorante Pizzeria La Corona if you're in the mood for the Mediterranean and traditional Italian food, or Dorfchronik, where you'll find excellent examples of local cuisine, paired together with wine that's made right in the area.
GERMANY WINE ROAD DAY 3: THE SOUTHERN SIDE
Along the southern part of the Wine Road, travelers will discover small cities like Frankweiler, with a very small population of right around 1,000 people and a late gothic church steeple that dates back to 1487, or Leinsweiler, which is the home of fewer than 500 people. There, a few notable pieces of architecture are worth the visit, including a town hall that dates back to 1619, a fountain in the village that dates back to 1581, and a late gothic church that was erected in the 13th century (the church of St. Martin).
In Siebeldingen, you can pay a visit to the German Institute for Grapevine Breeding, which is based at the Geilweilerhof. There, researchers are studying the effects of weather and grapevine pathogens on new strains of vines that are cultivated at the institute.
For a look at a much bigger city in the southern part of the Wine Road, be sure to stop in Bad Bergzabern, which once belonged to France (from 1792 to 1815) and now plays home to nearly 8,000 inhabitants. The town has been a health resort since 1964, and spas like the Sudpfalz Therme will go a long way towards relaxing a tired traveler. There, you'll be able to visit the Castle Bergzabern, which originally dated back to the 12th or 13th century; after numerous disasters that included destruction in war and fires, the structure was restored in 1984 and now houses the city's administration.
In Bad Bergzabern, you will find several dining options. The Fritz Walter Weingut is highly rated by tourists, and features a modern restaurant that serves seasonally inspired dishes at a reasonable price; the Culinarium has a large outdoor patio for dining in nature when the weather permits; or try the Weinstube Weinschlossel for traditional German fare.
Staying the night in Bad Bergzabern is probably a good idea, as there are many hotels to choose from, and something for every budget and style. The Schlosshotel Bergzaberner Hof features friendly service, a newly renovated restaurant, and spacious, modern rooms. The Hotel Petronella is a great deal and is conveniently located in town, offering visitors easy access on foot to just about anywhere in Bad Bergzabern. You'll find spacious bedrooms inside and a tall, elegant exterior outside at the Hotel Pfalzer Wald, where dining on the outdoor terrace is said to be a very pleasant experience.
WINE ROAD DAY 4: DAY TRIPS IN THE AREA AND SEASONAL WINE EVENTS
Along with parts of the German Wine Road, you'll have access to a few notable cities that are close enough to get to via your rental car. Strasbourg is one such town, located just over an hour's drive away from the Wine Road. There, you can spend the day on a walking tour to take in such sites as the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, the historic cobblestoned streets of the La Petite France neighborhood, the Parc de l'Orangerie, or the Musee Alsacien. You'll dine on Alsatian cuisine, which ranks among the great gastronomic styles in the world. In fact, Strasbourg's dining scene features four restaurants with either two or three Michelin stars.