I have made a tentative itinerary for our 7 day trip flying in & out of Stuggart. Here is some background information. We are a family of 4 with 2 boys ages 9 & 11 who are seasoned travelers. We will be traveling over Thanksgiving week. Please help shorten this itinerary to fit within our time frame. Are there towns that don't deserve an overnight? FYI this is our 3rd trip to Germany so we are certain that this is the general area we would like to stay in. Thanks. Jean Day 1: Land in Stuggart drive to Heidelberg. In Heidelberg tour of the Old Town and the famous Stone Bridge over the Neckar River, and then tour Heidelberg Castle. Sleep in Heidelberg. Day 2: Travel south to Neckarsteinach & visit 4 castles & then drive onto Bad Wimpfen visit 2 castles & spend the night. Day 3: Head out to the medieval city of Lauffen that is completed walled. Spend ½ the day & then continue onto Besigheim & stroll through the town. End the night in Ludwisburg. Day 4: Spend ½ day touring palace & the rest of the day tour the city. Then onto Esslingen, sleep in Esslingen. Day 5: Enjoy Esslingen & travel to Tuebingen. Sleep in Tuebingen. Day6: From Tuebingen head out for 2 castles. Burg Hohenzollern & Schloss Lichtenstein. Sleep in Tuebingen. Day 7: Head to Bad Urach & see waterfall & castle ruins atop mountain. Spend the night. Day 8: Drive to Horb spend the morning walking around & then drive to Rottweil. Spend afternoon in Rottweil. Continue on to Hohentwiel to tour ruins of fortress. Sleep in Rottweil. Day 9: Head back to stuggart & to Christmas Market Day10: Fly home
Jean, I hope this trip works out for you and the family. I look forward to the answers you get as I am hoping to duplicate much of the ring next year or the next. I'm sorry I don't know that area well enough to help but I am looking forward to what you put together. Be sure to come back after the trip and let us know how it went...
I only know the area well between Heidelberg and Heilbronn, so I'll keep my comments limited to that stretch. First of all, I wouldn't recommend driving from Stuttgart to Heidelberg under the influence of jet lag on your first day. This is an AWFUL stretch of traffic. Consider taking the train and pick up your rental car in Heidelberg. In Heidelberg, don't miss the Nazi-era Thingstätte, and just above that, the ruins of a medieval monastery. It's a little hard to find the road to drive up to these, so you may have to ask. Right across the river from Neckarsteinach sits the small walled castle town of Dilsburg. It's worth a quick visit. If the weather is clear, I would recommend taking a detour from either Eberbach or Neckargerach to climb the tower on top of Katzenbuckel, the highest mountain in the region. The views are spectacular. If the weather is overcast, don't bother. Burg Hornberg near Neckarzimmern and Burg Hirschhorn in Hirschhorn are also worth a short visit. There's another impressive castle located somewhere along the way, but I can't remember exactly where at the moment. Bad Wimpfen is a jewel!
One more recommendation. If you want to see the Kornbühl (that's the big hill with a small white chapel sitting on top- you see it in many travel videos and postcards), it's very close to Burg Hohenzollern. In November, if the visibility isn't good (which is likely), you don't have to feel too bad if you skip it. Ralph, you've never seen the Thingstätte? It's pretty cool, especially with the perfect acoustics.
The Thingstatte is kind of cool although I enjoyed the medieval monastary a bit more. It's cool to see the ruins of something so old along with the accompanying illustrations of what each room was. And if you go up there, be sure to go up in the tower that overlooks the castle. If I only had one day in HD though, I would skip the Thingstatte and monastary (St. Michaels, I believe it's called?) altogether. As usual I hasten to point out that the highlight of Heidelberg is the view of the Altstadt from the Philosophenweg across the river. Most travelers miss this and that's a shame. The cobblestone path starts right across the street from the old bridge and it's a short walk up.
PS... I just noticed this. I'm pretty certain Lauffen am Neckar isn't surrounded by a wall, although I've only driven by.
Wow, thank you for all the great information Tom. If I have to shorten this by 2 days or so what do you think could be condensed or skipped? Do you think I've timed things right on the front end? Thanks again. Jean
Day 1 seems a little too aggressive to me after an overseas flight. You could add or subtract between Heidelberg and Bad Wimpfen, depending on how many castle ruins you want to see -you don't really need to see all of them in Neckarsteinach, for example. Lauffen am Neckar to me looks skipable, but as I wrote previously, I've only driven by. As for the rest of your trip, I've really only seen Burg Hohenzollern, which is impressive from the outside, less so on the inside.
Thanks Tom for all your help. Do you have any accommodation recommendations? Would it be possible to rent an apartment & just do day trips? Thanks again. Jean
I think you might be spending a little too much time between Ludwigsburg, Esslingen, and Tuebingen. These cities are quite close together. Ludwigsburg has a pretty baroque main square but other than that, the palace is really the only interesting thing about the city, although you do want to allot several hours for it. Personally I wouldn't overnight there, I think it would be boring. I'd rework the schedule so that you see the Ludwigsburg palace during the one English tour they offer (1pm previously - but double check on the website) then going to Esslingen to overnight there. Much more charming for wandering at night. And the Christmas market is my favorite I've been to so far. Then morning in Esslingen - pretty, but not time-consuming (there is a small city history museum my in laws enjoyed, and a 'paper model' museum that is skippable unless you're into paper models (the men in my family are) and then head to Tuebingen. You can also "see" Tuebingen easily in half a day, especially in winter when there's no canoe trip son the river or anything. That could save a night if you rework the Lauffen/Besigheim part a little. Do keep in mind that driving times between most of these destinations is really very little (barring traffic). Your boys might be overdosed on cute old villages on this trip - I'd consider omiting one maybe and taking them to the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, or the Wilhelma zoo.
Jean - Also as I said the area you're covering is not huge so it would be possible to rent an apartment and do day trips, or split it up - maybe one apartment in or near Heidelberg, and another in Esslingen or Tuebingen. I think that would make more sense honestly than driving 30 min to an hour between destinations for one night stays.
PS- Most of the castles ruins in the Neckar river valley are not staffed. They never open or close, they're just sitting there for anyone to come and go. I think only the Schloss in Heidelberg and the small castle in Dilsburg are staffed.
I've only stayed in a hotel once in this area (before I moved here) and it was Hotel Holländerhof in Heidelberg. You couldn't ask for a better location- right in front of the old bridge. It might not be economical for a family, however. To get an idea of driving times, I live about 30 minutes north of Heidelberg's Altstadt. Most of northern and central Baden-Württemberg is within daytripping distance. I have taken family members on day-long tours of the Neckar valley between Heidelberg and Bad Wimpfen in November, and we hit all the highligts, minus Katzenbuckel, by the time the sun set. Burg Hohenzollern is within daytripping distance as well.
Wow, this is all sounding much closer than I realized. I hope we are not limiting ourselves too much. On previous trips we have done the Rhine & Mosel valleys, & Wurzburbg, Rothenburg, Romantic road & Fussen. I am beginning to rethink this trip. Is 6 days too many in this area? Thanks again for everyone's help. Jean
Actually, let me clarify something I wrote, in case it was misunderstood. When I said I hit most of the highlights of the Neckar between Heidelberg and Bad Wimpfen in one day, this did not include Heidleberg. You could easily spend a day there alone. And when I wrote that Burg Hohenzollern is within daytripping distance from Heidelberg, you probably could only combine that trip with maybe a short stop in Tübingen or Schloss Licthenstein. In November, I doubt you would have time for all three in one day. So yes, I agree with Sarah. I think you really only need to change lodgings once. That way, if you've had enough castle ruins and Fachwerk by day 4, you're not commited to another similar town.
One other bit to keep in mind is the time of year. In winter, many castles are either closed or have limited open hours, like 10-4. It might be tough to see 2 or 3 castles, plus driving, in such a tight window of time. Think about what to do with kids after dark (5pm)--those evenings can get long in a hotel room! Perhaps practicing their sword fighting...
Here's another castle to consider in the Neckar Valley, which I didn't even know about until today- Minneburg, just across the river from Neckargerach. This is one of the better castle ruins I've encountered, mainly because except for the roof and top floor, the keep is largely intact. It probably also offers a good view of Katzenbuckel, but the weather blocked the view today. It's a little bit of a hike to reach and not very well marked, so if you want to see it, let me know and I'll give you specific directions.
Tom, thank you for letting me know. Tell me how has the weather been, is it very cold & is there snow yet? Thanks again for all your help. Jean
There was a light dusting of snow about 3 weeks ago, but it warmed up again to highs of around 8-12°C. Night time temperatures have mostly remained above freezing. It has been quite damp recently, though. If this weather pattern holds, don't expect too much sun shine.