9 German Cities in 12 Days by Rail
Discovering 9 German cities in just 12 days is an adventure never to be forgotten. Germany brimming with history is full of buzzing cultural hubs, historical architecture, quaint towns, stunning landscapes, and, of course incredibly rich German cuisine. A great way to tour through Germany is by rail, which will connect you to all of its standout destinations whilst showcasing the lush countryside in between. Come with us on a rail journey through 9 German cities and towns and discover the magic of this vast and unique country.
DAY 1: Arrive in Frankfurt, Germany's beautifully contrasted financial capital
Fly into Frankfurt, Germany's fifth largest city and burgeoning financial hub. This incredibly unique city is located on the glistening Main River and is at the centre of the larger Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region. Although many elements of this city appear to be strikingly modern, the towering skyscrapers, economic centres and vibrant nightlife scene, Frankfurt has also managed to retain its sense of old German charm.
Stroll through the streets of Altstadt (old town) and admire the traditional architecture (some of which has been has been rebuilt after being destroyed in WWII) including the 47 metre high Eschenheimer Tower (Turm), built in the early 1400s, the Kaiserdom (a 95 metre high Gothic church tower), and Römerberg, Altstadts undeniably picturesque town square.
Frankfurt is also a fantastic destination to immerse yourself in arts, culture, and history, with a huge array fantastic museums and art galleries to explore. Once youve finished perusing the streets of this simultaneously ultra-modern and traditionally charming city, head to Frankfurts main train station, Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, located just west of the city centre. This station is one of the largest in Europe, servicing over 350,000 travellers every day, and is the perfect place to begin your rail adventure across Germany. Next stop, Bamberg.
DAY 2: Explore the ancient architecture of Bamberg
The entire Altstadt of Bamberg, a town in northern Bavaria, is Unesco World Heritage listed its cobbled streets and intricate architecture beautifully preserved. Based at the intersection of the Regnitz and Main rivers, this incredibly picturesque town was built upon seven hills, earning it the moniker Franconian Rome. Atop each of the hills lies a church or castle, adding to the old-world charm of this visually stunning town.
Highlights include the ornate 11th century Bamberg Cathedral, which houses the tombs of Emperor Henry II and Pope Clement II, the Atles Rathaus (Old Town Hall) perched on a bridge above the Regnitz River, the Alte Hofhaltung (the Old Court), the baroque church of St. Martins, the New Residence which is home to the Gallery of German Art, the State Library and a magnificent rose garden, the gothic Church of Our Lady complete with a huge, wall length organ, and the canals of Little Venice. Before you leave this magical town, be sure to try a Rauchbier a variety of smoked beer which has been brewed in the Bamberg for centuries.
How to reach Bamberg from Frankfurt:
To get to Bamberg from Frankfurt, you can take the Germany's ICE (Inter City Express) high-speed train to Würzburg (Wuerzburg) and then take a connecting local direct train to Bamberg. The complete journey only takes around 2 - 2.5 hours.
DAY 3: Step back in time in Michelstadt
The next town on your rail adventure through Germany is Michelstadt, a small town in the heart of the Odenwald region. This beautiful little town has an enchanting atmosphere; it is one of the oldest settlements in the Odenwald region and boasts many historical buildings, including ancient ruins like the Kellereihoff (an old wine cellar, now serving as the local museum, which is part of the old Roman Walls), the remains of a moated castle, the Thieves Tower and Einhardsbasilika.
Walk through the cobblestone town square and you will find more charming medieval architecture including Stadtkirche, a striking pink-hued gothic church, the market fountain (Marktbrunnen) erected in 1575 and the famous town hall, Rathaus, which appears on Germany's national postal stamps. Michelstadt is also a fantastic destination for nature lovers, with the Odenwald forest offering many stunning hiking and cycling trails.
How to reach Michelstadt from Bamberg:
To reach Michelstadt from Bamberg you can take the Regionalbahn train to Würzburg, followed by the ICE to Frankfurt and then the local DPN-Bahn train to Michelstadt, with the total travel time spanning around 3.5-4 hours.
DAY 4: Relax in beautiful Cochem
Cochem is another stunning town, located in the Rhineland Palatinate. Situated on the Moselle River, this picturesque town looks as if its been pulled straight from the pages of a fairy tale. Cochem is lined with timbered buildings, cobbled streets and plentiful vineyards, making it a fantastic destination for wine tasting with over 300 varieties of wine on offer during Mosel Wine Week in mid-June.
Cochems other attractions include the historical Senfmühle mustard mill, the last of its kind in Europe, the market square where you will find the baroque town hall (built in 1739), St Martins fountain and a slew of quaint restaurants and shops, stunning views from the Pinnerkreuz Mountain, and, of course, the magnificent Reichsburg Castle, which was first constructed over 1000 years ago and rebuilt in 1768.
How to reach Cochem from Michelstadt:
To get to Cochem, you will can catch the DPN-Bahn (DPN) to Frankfurt, followed by a regional (RE) train to Koblenz and a connecting regional train to Cochem, with the total travel time spanning around 4 hours.
DAY 5 - 6: Explore the cobbled streets of Quedlinburg
Quedlinburg, Germany's first capital, is a quaint medieval town situated on the Bode River Valley, just north of the Harz Mountains.
This ancient town is steeped in history; it was here that King Heinrich I (Henry the Fowler) was crowned in 919, uniting Germany for the first time as one nation. Quedlinburg is a maze of ancient streets and laneways and beautifully preserved timber-framed buildings, earning its status as a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.
One of Quedlinburgs standout attractions is the Burgberg (Castle Hill), where you will find the remarkable Collegiate Church of St. Servatius.
This incredible Romanesque structure, which combines a basilica, abbey, and castle, contains sections which are over 1000 years old, including the crypt where King Heinrich I, and his wife Mathilda, are buried.
Be sure to check out the Schlossmuseum (Castle Museum), which explains the development of Castle Hill and houses bronze-age artefacts, along with baroque representations of the castles rooms from the 17th and 18th centuries.
How to reach Quedlinburg from Cochem:
To get to Quedlinburg from Cochem you can take a regional (RE) train to Koblenz, followed by the ICE to Bremen, the Intercity (IC) from Bremen to Magdeburg and finally the DPN from Magdeburg - Quedlinburg. It will take you around 8- 9 hours in total to reach Quedlinburg. Reservations are compulsory on the IC train and possible but not compulsory on the ICE train.
DAY 7: Unwind by the river in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
After soaking up the antiquity of Quedlinburg, you will journey on to Rothenburg, which is about 7.5 hours away by train. Rothenburg, aptly located on the 400km Romantic Road, is a profoundly scenic town, with 42 gates and towers sculpting its unique skyline. Rothemburg sits on the Tauber River, hence its name, which means Red fortress above the Tauber. This medieval wonderland is full of attractions; from the lively market square (Marktplatz), to the prodigious gothic Jakobskirche or St Jakobs Church, featuring the magnificent Altar of the Twelve Apostles and the Holy Blood altar, to the serene castle gardens and the incredibly photogenic Plönlein (Little Square). Rothenburg is also brimming with museums including the Imperial Town Museum, the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, the History Museum with Town Dungeon and even a Christmas Museum, open year round.
For a spectacular panoramic view of the Rothenburg and its surrounds, climb up the 52 metre Rathausturm (Town Hall Tower), or, take a 3km walk across the 14th century, Town Walls.
How to reach Rothenburg ob der Tauber from Quedlinburg:
Here is one option for traveling by rail from Quedlinburg to Rothenburg ob der Tauber:
Quedlinburg - Magdeburg on DPN train
Magdeburg - Hannover on IC train
Hannover - Würzburg on ICE train
Würzburg - Steinach (b Rothenburg ob der Tauber) on RB train
Steinach (b Rothenburg ob der Tauber) - Rothenburg ob der Tauber on RB train
The total travelling time will be around 5.5 hours.
DAY 8 - 9: Immerse yourself in Monschau's history
Sometimes called the Pearl of the Eifel (a region spanning two German states, along with parts of Belgium and Luxembourg), Monschau is a small town just 2km from the Belgian border.
This historic town is nestled in the High Fens nature reserve, on the Rur River.
First settled in the 12th century, Monschau is a beautiful medieval town, filled with slate-clad houses and idyllic half-timbered buildings.
It was during the 18th century that Monschau truly flourished, with a burgeoning textile industry employing 6000 workers. The Red House (Rotes Haus) is a fascinating relic of the town's cloth milling period.
Named after the colour of its facade, this beautiful 1796 mansion belonged to Johan Heinrich Scheibler, one of Monchau's most prominent cloth producers and traders. The mansion is now a museum of cloth milling; its standout feature a three-story spiral staircase with detailed wood carvings depicting the cloth production process.
Overlooking the town is Monschau Castle, which dates back to the 13th century. The castle now serves as a private youth hostel and hosts concerts during the summer.
How to reach Monschau from Rothenburg ob der Tauber:
Here is the fastest option for traveling by rail from Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Monschau:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber - Steinach (b Rothenburg ob der Tauber) on RB train
Steinach (b Rothenburg ob der Tauber) - Würzburg on RB train
Würzburg - Frankfurt (M) Flughafen Fernbf on IC train
Frankfurt (M) Flughafen Fernbf - Köln on ICE
Köln - Aachen-Rothe Erde on RE train
The total travelling time will be around 4.5 hours.
DAY 10: Kick back Freiburg im Breisgau
The famous university town of Freiburg im Breisgau sits on the western edge of the Black Forest, and, with 2000 hours of the sunshine per year, Freiburg has earnt its title as Germany's warmest town. Founded in 1120, Freiberg offers the perfect mix of history and culture, with historic architecture juxtaposed against lively beer gardens, bars, and eateries.Be sure to visit Freiburgs amazing gothic cathedral (Freiburg Minster), its main tower soaring 116 metres above the town.
Other highlights include the Old Town Hall, assembled from numerous old houses between 1557 and 1559, the Martinstor (Martin Gate) which was built as part of Freiburgs first fortification at the beginning of the 13th century and the Schlossberg, a tree covered hill belonging to the Black Forest which is perfect for hiking.
How to reach Freiburg im Breisgau from Monschau:
The fastest way to reach Freiburg im Breisgau from Monschau by rail, is to take a regional (RE) train from Aachen-Rothe Erde - Köln and then the ICE from Köln to Freiburg (Breisgau), with the total travel time spanning approximately 4 hours.
DAY 11: Explore Berlin, Germany's cultural capital
It would be unthinkable to make a trip across Germany without paying a visit to its capital and cultural centre, Berlin. Berlin is an iconic city, effortlessly blending urban modernity with its compelling history. Stroll through the district of Mitte (Berlins unofficial centre), where you will be greeted by an abundance of museums, galleries, cafes, and clubs, as well as many historically significant sites. Head to Pariser Platz, a square in the centre of Berlin, where you will find the magnificent Brandenburg Gate.
This monumental sandstone structure was built between 1788 and 1791, modelled on the Propylaeum of Athens Acropolis, and although its location (near the old border of East and West Berlin) led to it being a symbol of division during the Cold War, it is now considered a symbol of unity.
While in this fascinating city, be sure to visit the historic Reichstag Building, where you can gain a 360-degree view of the cityscape through the Reichstag Dome. Below this lies the debating chamber of the Bundestag, the German Parliament, which can be observed through the domes transparent floor. Must see sites also include Checkpoint Charlie, Tiergarten (park), Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) and, of course, the East Side Gallery, the worlds largest open-air mural collection created from the remains of the Berlin Wall.
You may want to spend an extra day in Berlin to fully immerse yourself in this cultural mecca.
How to reach Berlin from Freiburg:
You can reach Berlin via high-speed ICE (Inter City Express) direct train from Freiburg in around 7 hours.
DAY 12: Return to Frankfurt to complete your trip
On the final day of your whirlwind tour through Germany's most stunning towns and cities, return to Frankfurt where you can wind down and explore the attractions you may have missed the first time round. Perhaps you want to pay a visit to the Goethe House, the birthplace of famous author and poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe, now a dedicated museum to the writer's life and works, or, if you're more inclined towards the visual arts, check out the Liebieghaus, which houses an impressive sculpture collection and offers an overview of the art of sculpture across 5000 years, from Ancient Egypt to Neoclassicism. However you decide to spend the final day of your German adventure, there is no doubt you will leave with a new appreciation for this incredibly captivating country.
How to reach Frankfurt from Berlin:
You can reach Frankfurt via high-speed ICE (Inter City Express) direct train from Berlin in around 5 hours.
See Germany with a German Rail Pass Consecutive or Flexi
All you need to visit these magical German destinations is a 15 day German Rail Pass Consecutive. Alternatively, a German Rail Pass Flexi will allow you to spend a little longer in each town or city, with the flexibility to change your itinerary as you see fit.