Consistently rated among the German National Tourist Board’s Top 100 Sites, the Romantic Road winds through Bavaria’s heartland. The full route hits 15 towns, but you can spend fewer hours on the road with this abbreviated version (450 kilometers, 5-7 nights).

Würzburg (.5 day, 1 night)

The official start of the Romantic Road is Würzburg, a city founded by the Celts 3,000 years ago that became an unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire and later the seat of the Prince-Bishops. Visit the keep, dungeon and one of the oldest churches in Germany during a 45-minute guided tour of the Marienburg Fortress, available Saturdays, Sundays and German bank holidays at 3 p.m. (April-October). Allot at least one hour to absorb the Residence, former palace of the Prince-Bishops. This UNESCO World Heritage boasts one of the grandest staircases in the world and countless halls with ceiling frescoes and ornate plaster carvings. English tours are offered several times daily.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber (4 hours to overnight)

The best way to appreciate the beauty of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is from the city hall tower. However, not all of this quintessential walled city’s history is so charming. Discover contraptions of torture and death at the Medieval Crime Museum, and hear stories of the disturbing past during an after-dark tour with the Night Watchman.

Munich (2-3 days, 2-3 nights)

Though not on the Romantic Road, Munich is a must-see. Plan your time in the main square, Marienplatz, to coincide with a daily Glockenspiel performance, when the marionettes on city hall’s clock come to life. Get lost in the massive Munich Residence, home of Bavaria’s governing royalty for 400 years, or lust after BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce exhibits at BMW Welt. Have a hearty meal with a Maß of beer at Augustiner, Munich’s oldest brewery. Plan day trips to the Bavarian Filmstadt movie studios and Herrenchiemsee, King Ludwig II’s extravagant palace that rivals Versailles.

Füssen (2 nights) and Schwangau (8 hours)

Füssen and Schwangau are neighboring towns and just minutes from the Austrian border. Book two nights at a small Alpine lodge in Füssen, and buy tickets online for your excursion to Mad King Ludwig’s awe-inspiring fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle. Ride the Tegelberg cable car into the Bavarian Alps and hike back to Schwangau. Or reconnect with your inner kid — and entertain yours — with a hair-raising descent on the alpine coaster near the cable car base station.

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