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Driving Day Trip from Heidelberg - Where to?

Hello, My wife and I will be in Heidelberg for a couple of days in June of next year and we're considering taking a day to drive out and visit some towns that are known for "Fachwerkhaus" architecture and perhaps see a castle or two.
Our first thought was to drive north and do a Michelstadt to Miltenberg to Neckarsteinach loop that would seem to involve approximately 3 hours of driving time and, I would imagine, easily another 3 hours devoted to stops along the way. Certainly a full day and nearly half of it in a car.
After a little more research, a second thought woud be to drive south to Bad Wimpfen to Mosbach to Eberbach, and return to Heidelberg via Neckarsteinach. A little over 2 hours driving, with Burg Guttenberg and Hornberg Castle along the way. So perhaps, giving us a little more to spend at each stop. Also, wondering if a drive along the Neckar River might be more picturesque?
So our question is, which route would have the most to offer?
Any additional thoughts on places to visit, sights to see, or perhaps a nice stop for lunch on either route would be appreciated.

Posted by
333 posts

While I love Michelstadt and Miltenberg, that is a lot of time in the car. I don't remember Mosbach having a ton of Fachwerk. We spent the evening and night in Eberbach and enjoyed strolling along the river.

I did a summer abroad program in Heidelberg during college and we did a boat tour on the Neckar river towards Neckargemund. We were able to hop off the boat and visit some castle ruins and then hop back on and continue on. There were 4 stops along the way. It was almost 30 years ago, but I wonder if they are still doing it and might be something of interest to you.

Posted by
1325 posts

I was last in this region in August 2021. I'd been to Miltenberg for New Years in 2007 and enjoyed it. We practically had the place to ourselves then. The last visit in August 2021 was super packed with tourists and we left rather quickly. Erbach was nice for a stop too towards Michelstadt. I've never been to Burg Guttenberg and Hornberg Castle, but enjoyed the ruins of Burg Schadeck and Hinterburg. Driving through the Odenwald is nice, and so is along the Neckar. Bad Wimpfen is pleasant, but along with everywhere else it is becoming more touristic too.

Posted by
515 posts

Burg Eltz and Freiburg are about 2 hours from Heidelberg, and in 1 hour gets you to places such as Ludwigsburg and the nearby Bietigheim-Bissingen or north to Mainz. Strasbourg is about 90 minutes from Heidelberg. All of these would be less about the picturesque drive and more about a day trip / the destination. However, each of these would be a destination where you can comfortably spend several hours exploring and then drive back feeling like you have seen the highlights.

Mainz is highly underrated, Burg Eltz is high on my list of must-sees (WAY better than Neuschwanstein--I have done the former twice and the latter 6 times, and I would choose Burg Eltz any day), and Strasbourg is an absolutely beautiful city. Ludwigsburg is cute, and Bietigheim-Bissingen is surprisingly so as well--the combination of the two could be fun.

Freiburg might be a bit ambitious, and it would leave me wanting way more of the Black Forest, so it would be my last choice of the ones I suggested.

Posted by
6749 posts

Which option offers more depends on what you're after. The combination of castles/ruins and river scenery along the Neckar is a pretty special thing to North Americans, and then there's the falconry show at Guttenberg Castle - not something you happen upon just anywhere.

If the driving and the time for this outing is to be minimized and the Fachwerk is key, consider the Bergstraße route running north/south through the wine country just outside Heidelberg. There are numerous towns on this route, and I haven't seen them all, but for me the towns of Heppenheim and Ladenburg had some nice buildings that stuck out. I have only visited these places by train myself, so I'm unsure about traffic/parking etc., and it was a long time ago, as well, so maybe others will chime in with suggestions. From Heidelberg Hbf it's 17 minutes by direct train to Ladenburg and 20 minutes further to Heppenheim according to today's train schedule.

Maybe the train is the way to do this anyway (especially if you're thinking about trying the local wines.) Heidelberg Hbf departures on the RB train to Heppenheim are hourly at :01 after every hour... Heppenheim trains to Heidelberg are also hourly, leaving at :20 after. A daypass from the local VRN transit authority - the "Tagesticket-Familie" day pass is available at ticket machines, valid at any time of the day and will get 2 adults from Heidelberg to Heppenheim and back with as many stops/trips as you like in between for €22.10.

Posted by
1605 posts

I think your idea of a drive to Bad Wimpfen alongside the Neckar is a good one. I've visited Bad Wimpfen twice before, one time including a visit to the salt mine at Bad Friedrichshall beforehand – parked there and walked into Bad Wimpfen. Schwetzingen Palace combined with Speyer is also an option. I was in few of the places mentioned above in 2019, some for the second time. Miltenberg was good and busy, many of the storefronts in Michelstadt were papered up (temporary/renovations?).

One thing I'll point out is that the driving in most directions around Heidelberg is very busy, even on some of the side roads. Once out of Heidelberg and going east, alongside the Neckar, was easier and more scenic.

If you have the time, there is a nice path just above the river from Heidelburg to Neckargemund.

Posted by
6832 posts

I would second Howling Mad's recommendations for Burg Eltz and Strasbourg. I've been to both and loved them both, and would definitely go back. The castle is gorgeous with so much history - plus it's in an incredible setting. And Strasbourg was so charming.

Another stop would be Gengenbach, a "chocolate box " village with lots to see and do - it's only an 80 minute drive from Heidelberg, and is a wonderful experience. Small enough to be easy to walk around in and see the scenery and history (and half-timbered houses) but big enough to have some really good restaurants.