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Franconia or Alsace?

Hey fellow travelers! I am deep into planning an adult family road-trip by SUV through Germany beginning and ending in Frankfurt this June. (Those parameters are pre-set for us.) We will be driving through Würzburg, Rothenburg odT, and ending up a tad below Stuttgart. To get an idea of the itinerary here, we've planned for half-timbered medieval towns, schloss tours, rebuilt castles, and car museums.

Here's our dilemma: We have a few days open in our itinerary. Do we add in time to explore Franconia, like Bamberg and Coburg? Or do we put the time into the Alsace region, like Obernai and Colmar? We all love both wine and beer, Veste Coburg and Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, Bamberg Altstadt and Petite Venise...

Any recommendations to get the best variety and mileage out of our trip? Any personal preferences or considerations? All ideas are appreciated.

Posted by
845 posts

You might consider the Rhine area around Boppard (our favorite home base for that area). Check out Burg Eltz (wow!). Bacharach (super cute town). Take the train up river, then a riverboat down stream. Explore some castles (intact and ruins). Take the chair lift from Boppard for amazing river views from the top. It’s only an hour from Frankfurt, so you wouldn’t need to overnight in Frankfurt before you’re flight (unless it’s super early).

Posted by
5559 posts

Variety: I'm sure you're already aware that you won't be hearing much French in Franconia. But aside from that, I don't think you gain much with the stretching of your itinerary to Colmar. Well, more tourists maybe, but then Rothenburg should already have tested your limits in that regard.

Old-world wine towns in Franconia to see along the Main River south of Würzburg:

Sommerhausen (just across the river from Winterhausen)
Ochsenfurt
Marktbreit

Area map (railway map but you can drive to these places too.)

Other area standouts that are on the same map:

Bad Windshem (with Franconian Open-Land Museum)

Bayreuth (east of Bamberg) with Margravial Opera House and the Maisel Brewery tour/sampling

East of Würzburg on the route to Nuremberg: Iphofen

Franconia, with the highest density of breweries per square km of all regions in Europe, offers many variations on this theme. Road signs like this one (Land der Brauereien = Land of Breweries) shouldn't be taken as an invitation to drink and drive of course, which is one of the reasons I have Franconian train maps in my "favorites". There are also bike paths in many places that connect adjacent brewery towns, probably a good way to burn off the calories and the buzz.

To the west of Würzburg, Miltenberg, the Pearl of the Main River, is a fine place too.

Should you in fact end up in the Alsace and lack the time to really see Franconia, I suggest swapping Würzburg for Bamberg, a more impressive place altogether.

Since you're leaving from FRANKFURT, I'm going to suggest that you spend at least half a day on the Rhine, possibly in Rüdesheim, which not only has a nice chairlift ride but would provide easy access to FRA airport on the day you leave. Why? Marksburg Castle. It's a short train ride or drive north of Rüdesheim along the Rhine River. No sense settling for the "rebuilt" castles you mention when you can tour this INTACT medieval castle.

Posted by
850 posts

I'm the less traveled route and fewer tourists type. For me in Franconia is The Fränkische Schweiz and the Wiesent river valley. Less traveled is the Steigerwald. I like the northern end of the Steigerwald-Hoehenstrasse centered roughly around Untersterinbach - Nature, Wein and Bier. There is also the Fichtelgeberg region bordered with the Oberpfalz. The western end is Bayreuth. I recommend the Franken Wein Region too, just be prepared for a crowd in June with Covid restrictions lifted. You can probably catch the end of Spargelzeit. Silvaner and Spargel, doesn't get much better. Maybe a Schäufele and a good Bier.

https://www.fraenkische-schweiz.com/de/#googtrans(de|en)
https://www.drei-franken-info.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Steigerwald-Hoehenstrasse-Karte.pdf
https://www.fichtelgebirge.bayern/?langswitch=1#googtrans(de|en)

https://www.fraenkischer-weinfestkalender.de/termine/suche/?sf[pagenr]=&sf[tstmp]=1417392000&sf[mstmp]=1654034400&sf[stmpflag]=monat&sf[start]=0&sf[vwnum]=10&sf[suchen]=bier&sf[group]=&sf[search]=&sf[ressort]=0&sf[subressort]=0&sf[range]=MON&sf[plz]=&sf[umkreis]=0&sf[uhrzeit]=0

Posted by
271 posts

I'd go to Alsace if you haven't already been. It is delightful, and will be fundamentally different than the places you are already going.

If you like wine, Miltenburg is a good call. It has the most historic half-timbered buildings of any German town I think? Something like that. In Burgstadt, the town just to the east on the river, you'll find Rudolf Furst winery. There are serious wine aficionados who will argue that Paul Furst makes the best Pinots in the Teutonic world, and certainly great values.

https://chambersstwines.com/Articles/1244/the-greatest-german-winemaker-you-have-never-heard-of

The entire German Franken wine region is one of the very best undiscovered wine areas. The wines are excellent and the vine country is lovely, but for some reason the world largely has no idea it exists.

https://www.vogue.com/article/franconia-germany-wine-region-travel-guide

Posted by
6 posts

I should have noted this earlier, but thank you all so much for your responses. They have been super helpful! So very appreciated.

Posted by
946 posts

I hope you'll do a trip report when you get back as these are places I'm really interested in going to soon(ish).

Posted by
706 posts

https://tourismus.nuernberg.de/en/experience/events/festivals-markets/news/erlanger-bergkirchweih/

The Erlangen Bergkirchweih Beer Festival is June 2-12 this year.It is a hundred years older than Oktoberfest...and is returning after the obvious 2 year hiatus... So, if you are going to be in the Nuremberg - Bamberg area anyway... To be honest we used to teach in Erlangen and the "Berche" is a hoot filled almost entirely with Germans - unlike Oktoberfest. Just a few minutes north of Nuremberg by train- which is useful because you will NOT want to drive after the visit.

Have fun!