- Definition of Romanesque Architecture
- Planning Your Road Trip in Germany
If you’re planning a road trip in Germany, you might have already come across stunning themed roads, such as The Romantic Road in Germany (Romantische Strasse), The Wine Road in Germany, The Castle Road in Germany and even The Fairy Tale Road in Germany! But did you know there is another road you don’t want to miss on your next trip?
It’s the ‘Strasse der Romanik‘, or The Romanesque Road in Germany, located in the region of Saxony Anhalt. This road is part of Transromanica, a network of Romanesque heritage sites across Europe crossing 12 regions in 9 countries.
As part of the Council of Europe’s Cultural Routes since 2007, Transromanica shows us the shared cultural heritage in Europe on a 1200+ km trail that is rich in history, Romanesque cultural artifacts and offers you insights into medieval life in the Western World. It’s really a journey without boundaries, that takes you through different countries and cultures, space and time.
Today, I’ll show you the best stops along this route, so you can create your own perfect itinerary that stops at the most interesting cultural sites in Germany.
Definition of Romanesque Architecture
If, like me, you aren’t so familiar with the term ‘Romanesque’, let me briefly point out some elements to look out for (it’s hard to give a precise romanesque definition), so you’ll enjoy this particular road trip a lot more:
Around the year 1000, artists from all around Europe were inspired by the Roman and early Christian tradition, which developed into a unique architectural style: the Romanesque.
This Romanesque style of architecture (that flourished between the years 900 and 1250 AD) incorporated local myths and legends to reinvent old traditions, which is why it reflects the specific geographic characteristics of each region of medieval Europe so well.
One of the main elements of this type of architecture are the semi-circular arches over the portals and windows (rather than the more pointed arches from the later gotic period), thick walls with small windows (there is a reason this time was also called ‘The Dark Ages’), cross vaults, porticos (a porch leading to the entrance of a building with a roof structure) and symmetrical plans, which all together gives a harmonious appearance of simplicity.
While the buildings might look simple from the outside, the Romanesque did want to demonstrate the omnipotence of God and the Emperor, so most buildings are massive and lavishly decorated on the inside, as you shall soon see for yourself.
Now that we have a bit of background information, let me show you what we discovered on our Romanesque Road Trip.
Make sure to check this great video of our trip, made by Simon from nina-travels.com:
Planning Your Road Trip in Germany
Germany is a super easy country to travel by train or car, so if you’re thinking about doing a road trip to Germany, you’re in for a treat!
The country is rich in culture, history and nature and of course there are plenty of stops where you can get some amazing local food. We already wrote about our trips to the Black Forest, Gengenbach, Stuttgart and Freiburg, which are some great places to start.
We also have a guide on traditional german food you might want to check out.
With over 150 scenic routes, Germany is perfect to explore all the different aspects that each region has to offer. I had personally never travelled to the region of Saxony-Anhalt before, but with no fewer than four UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 80 churches, cathedrals, castles, palaces and abbeys that take you straight back to the Middle Ages and an extensive network of well-maintained trails, National Parks and Biosphere Reserves, I was sure that I was going to love it here!
My trip to Saxony Anhalt in Germany along the Transromanica Route was 5 days, and here are the highlights you don’t want to miss:
DAY 1: Magdeburg
From Berlin, it’s about a two-hour drive to Magdeburg Germany, the capital city of the region Saxony-Anhalt. Magdeburg is the start and end-point of the northern and southern part of the Romanesque Road that runs through the region.
Admire The View from Magdeburg Cathedral
Being the first gothic-style cathedral in Germany, Magdeburg Cathedral is well worth a visit. The two massive towers survived the Second World War and the rest of the cathedral was beautifully restored after the war ended. There is free entry, but I can recommend paying for a guided tour to the bell tower. After 433 steps, you have an incredible view over the city!
Magdeburg Cathedral is the place where the age of the Reformation began with Otto the Great. His burial site can be found at the cathedral today. Because the church took over 300 years to complete, you can see different buildings styles being used throughout.
In German, the cathedral is known as the ‘Dom St. Mauritius und Katharina zu Magdeburg’.
Opening Hours: November to March: 10:00 to 16:00, April & October: 10:00 to 17:00, May to September: 10:00 to 18:00, Sundays and religious holidays: open from 11:30.
Guided Tour: Fridays at 17:00, Saturdays at 15:00 and Sundays at 12:00, between April and October (limited to 20 people, English language on request)
Learn About History at Haus Der Romanik
The Romanesque Art Centre is a Magdeburg museum that you don’t want to skip if you’re interested in learning about the work of Transromanica. While small and mostly in German, this museum gives you a great interactive overview of the route throughout Europe and Saxony-Anhalt in particular.
Opening Hours: Monday and Wednesday to Friday from 10:00 to 18:00, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00. Closed on Tuesday.
Entry Prize: Free Entry
Enjoy the Elbe River
The Magdeburg Elbe River is one of those beautiful waterways that just invite you to spend some time up or around it. There are several ‘Elbe Cycle Routes’ that start in Magdeburg and take you to a variety of cities along the river. From short trips to multiple-day routes, there is something for everyone! You can rent a bike or join a tour with ‘Elbe Rad Touristik’ in Magdeburg. For more information, please check their website.
Another fun thing to do is to take a boat ride on the river. We got on board of a raft at restaurant and pub-garden ‘Mückenwirt’ and enjoyed a lovely buffet dinner while flowing along the river, watching the sun go down.
Taste Local Food at Ratskeller
If you’re looking for restaurants in Magdeburg, one place that I can definitely recommend you is the Ratskeller Restaurant Magdeburg. Over 300 years old, this is the oldest restaurant in the state! The restaurant is located in the basement of the Magdeburg Town Hall, that was first mentioned in writing in 1293.
They serve typical and delicious German dishes, but you might also want to check out their beer garden in Summer. With a signature cocktail and a fantastic tasting hamburger, the owner of this Magdeburg restaurant knows how to keep his customers happy year after year!
Stay at Art Hotel Magdeburg
There are a few hotels in Magdeburg, but if I can make a recommendation, it would for sure be the Magdeburg Art Hotel! This building was designed by the famous Friedensreich Hundertwasser. You might know him from the ‘Hundertwasserhaus’ in Vienna. This Austrian architect and artist is well known for his colourful structures.
From all the Magdeburg hotels, ArtHotel is the only one located in the ‘Green Citadel’. This multifunctional residential and commercial building was completed in 2005 and is the last completely designed and realised building that Friedensreich Hundertwasser worked on until shortly before he passed away in the year 2000.
DAY 2: Jerichow Germany
Visit Jerichow Monastery
From Magdeburg, it’s about a 1,5 hour ride to the town of Jerichow in the northern part of Saxony-Anhalt . Here, you can visit the Jerichow Monastery, dating from the 12th century. This is actually a church (monks never lived here), but since the church was build looking like a monastery, it got it’s name from there.
Jerichow Monastery is one of the oldest brick buildings in the northern part of Germany and there is a little brick museum on site to learn more. Mostly build in early Gothic style, the building still shows Romanesque influence, for example in the two towers and basilica, which you can admire from the garden cafe.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday from 09:30 to 18:00 (April to October) and Tuesday to Sunday + Holidays from 10:00 to 16:00 (November to March). Closed from 24 December to 08 January.
Entry Prize: €6,00 per person
Guided Tour: By appointment, there are guided tours for visitors and groups, also in English. The audio guide that you can get from reception gives you a complete tour of the basilica, crypt, cloister, dormitories and church grounds (or you can listen to parts of it here!). In Summer there are concerts and exhibitions in the monastery halls and yard.
DAY 3: Harz Mountains & Halberstadt
Get Outdoors in Saxon Ahalt: The Harz Mountains Germany
After two days of visiting churches, you might want to give yourself a little break and the Germany Harz Mountains are perfect for that! They are located about one hour and 45 minutes drive from Magdeburg.
If you’re up for some outdoor thrills, then I can highly recommend the megazipline that’s part of adrenaline adventure park ‘Harzadrenalin’. Ok, it does look terrifying standing at the bottom of the tower, and it doesn’t get much better at the top, but once you’re all strapped into your harness like a burrito, you’ll feel like you’re flying going down Europe’s largest (1 km length at 120 meter height) double rope slide. It was so much fun!
If you’re not feeling too adventurous, the area surrounding the zipline in the Harz mountains in Germany is stunning on its own, or you can cross the gigantic suspension bridge over the Rappbode river dam that opened in 2017. This bridge is the longest of its kind at 458 meters long, so you can imagine why it got the thrilling name ‘Titan-RX’!
Visit Halberstadt Cathedral
Halberstadt Germany is the capital of the Harz region and it was founded in the 9th century. The Romanesque church was constructed in the 11th century and the cathedral is from the 13th century. While there are some characteristics of Romanesque art in the cathedral (such as the baptismal font of marble), it was mostly modeled after French Gothic cathedrals.
The town center of Halberstadt was heavily bombed during the Second World War, but most of the buildings have been restored by now, including the cathedral.
Fun fact: George Clooney’s film “The Monuments Man” was filmed here, and you can find a corner in the museum dedicated to this event. Including a cardboard cut-out of Mr. Clooney himself. Just so you know.
That said, the treasury is the real reason to visit Halberstadt cathedral: it is the most extensive collection of medieval art in the world and includes over 650 artifacts from the 5th to the 18th century (many of them from Byzantine origin), including some world-famous Romanesque tapestries and romanesque paintings and romanesque sculptures. One of the most important decorative items inside the cathedral is the monumental triumphal cross group made around 1210, which truly is a masterpiece of medieval wood carving.
Opening Hours: Daily from 10.00 to 16.00 (November to April) and Tuesday to Saturdays from 10.00 to 17.30 and Sundays/Holidays from 11:00 to 17:30 (May to October). The Cathedral and Cathedral Treasury are closed on Mondays, Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.
Entry Prize: Entry to the Treasury is €8.00 per person
Guided Tour: The are public guided tours of around 90 minutes of the Cathedral and the Cathedral Treasury available. No registration is required. They run Tuesday to Friday at 11:30 and Weekends/Holidays at 11:30 and 14:30 (May to October) and only on Weekends/Holidays at 11:30 and 14:30 from November to April. Of course, the exhibition can also be visited without a guide.
Dine at Restaurant Halberstadter Hof
I really enjoyed the dinner we had in the garden of the Halberstädter Hof hotel in the center of Halberstadt. With a menu consisting of regional German favourites, you can’t really go wrong here. There is also plenty of seating inside when the weather is not so great as it was when we were there.
The walk to the restaurant was lovely, as our tour guide showed us the restored old town center with timbered houses and cobbled streets.
Stay at Parkhotel Unter den Linden
Parhotel Unter den Linden is one of the more traditional country houses that you can find in this region. While it was built in 1910 as a private estate, after WWII it changed hands and became a hotel in the early 1990s. There are just 80 rooms, all beautifully decorated and comfortable.
DAY 4: Merseburg, Querfurt, Wangen & Memleben
Visit the Cathedral of Merseburg Germany
After a two hours drive from Halberstadt, you reach Merseburg, a town that was founded in the 9th century. Many German kings in the 10th to 12th centuries lived here. By the 20th century, Merseburg became an industrial town and got badly damaged during WWII, but most buildings have been rebuild or restored by now.
Merseburg Cathedral features a late Gothic hall church with a transept and four towers. It is mainly characterized by the early Romanesque cathedrals building and inside, you’ll learn all about the different centuries and their significant achievements in art, culture and the church. The crypt of the cathedral is still in its original state and is one of the oldest and best preserved of its kind in Middle Germany.
One of the highlights of the cathedral is definitely the organ, which was renovated in 1855 and has almost 5700 organ pipes!
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 18:00 and Sunday/Holidays from 12:00 to 18:00 (March to October) and Monday to Saturday from 10:00 to 16:00 and Sunday/Holidays from 12:00 to 16:00 (November to February). Special Opening Hours at 24 December (09:00 to 12:00) and 31 December (09:00 to 14:00)
Guide Tour: Guided tours are available twice daily in the summer and once a day in the winter. They are in German, but audio tours are also available in English. You also have the opportunity to enjoy a view of the Saale river region when climbing up the west bell towers.
Explore the Castle of Querfurt Germany
Querfurt Castle is known as ‘The Movie Castle’, as the location features in some movies (most of them German though), but on top of that, it’s actually the largest castle in Central Germany! It’s also one of the best preserved medieval examples of fortresses on the Romanesque Road in Germany.
If you have extra time, perhaps a short visit here is interesting, there are 3,5 hectares of ground and garden tot explore and you could have lunch at the castle’s cafe (although it’s fairy basic) or perhaps better: in the small town of Querfurt.
It was super quiet when we were here and some buildings under construction, so I would probably advice to visit here when there is an event going on (they have several, including screenings of films in Summer). Check their website to find out when that is!
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00 (April to October) and Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00 (November to March). The Castle is Closed on Mondays. The Bauernmuseum is closed entirely from November to March, it’s open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 to 18:00 (April to October)
Entry Price: €5,00 per person (Museum, Tower & Church)
Discover The Nebra Disk in Wangen Germany
One of my personal favourite stops during our Saxony Germany road trip, was a visit to the museum of the Nebra Sky Disk in the town of Wangen. The Nebra disk is a bronze disk with a diameter of 12 inches (about 30 cm), that was found by illegal treasure hunters in 1999. On the disk, there is a depiction of our Cosmos in gold. While they first thought it was fake, it has been confirmed to be real, which makes it one of the most important archaeological finds of the area.
At the Nebra Disk museum in Wangen you can see a replica of the disk (the real one is in the museum in Halle-Saale), but with a planetarium and interactive exhibits, I still think a visit here is more than worth it, especially if you’re interested in history and our universe. I will write a more in-depth review of the museum on the site soon!
Opening Hours: Daily from 10:00 to 18:00 (April to October) and Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 to 16:00, Weekend/Holidays from 10:00 to 17:00, Closed Mondays and 24 December (November to March)
Entry Price: €7,50 per person in Winter and €9,50 in Summer (including Planetarium)
Walk Through History in Memleben Germany
In the town of Memleben, King Heinrich I and Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great died in the 10th century. In commemoration of his father, Emperor Otto II and his wife Theophanu founded a Benedictine monastery in Memleben that evolved quickly into an important abbey.
You can still see the original wall fragments of the church from the 10th century and an Early Gothic ruin going back to the fist half of the 13th century. Even the Late Romanesque crypt that had been part of the younger of the two churches is still preserved in its original condition, which of course is very special. There is a museum which will tell you more in detail about all the elements of the monastery.
What I loved most about visiting Memleben Monastery, was that the monastery garden gives you a good idea of the design and the plants used and grown in monasteries in the High Middle Ages.
Another fun element of this abbey is that (if you’re travelling with a group), you can participate in a traditional medieval handwriting lesson and even experience a -silent- Monastic dinner with soup, roast chicken, salad and local wine.
Opening Hours: Daily 10.00 to 18.00 (15 March to 31 October) and Daily 10.00 to 16.00 (1 November to 14 March, Estate only). Closed on Public Holidays
Entry Price: €6,00 (Winter) or €8,00 (Winter) per person
Guided Tour: On arrangement only
Stay at Hotel Waldschlösschen in Wangen
After our visit in the region, we stayed overnight at Hotel Waldschlösschen in Wangen, which is on walking distance to the Nebra Sky Disk museum. This family-run hotel is gorgeous. Not only the heritage-listed building looks amazing from the outside, the rooms are large and comfortable (there are only 13 of them), but it’s surrounded by a beautiful park and has a garden, where we enjoyed our wine & some snacks!
DAY 5: Freyburg, Rudelsburg & Naumburg
Enjoy Local Wine in Freyburg Germany
From Wangen, Freyburg is about a 45 minute drive. Freyburg has some great vineyards that you can hike all the way up to Neuenburg Castle. But before you do, perhaps you’d like to visit the ‘Rotkäppchen-Mumm Sektkellereien’ winery, who are producing some great sparkling wine, spirits and wine since 1856!
The region where the Saale and Unstrut rivers come together is a distinct climatic island in Central Germany and an ideal point of departure for exploring history and winegrowing.
Guided Tours: They offer different tours for groups and individuals, check their website for more information (rotkaeppchen.de)
More about wine in the Freyburg region: winzervereinigung-freyburg.de
Hike to the Castle of Neuenburg Germany
Build in the early 11th century, Neuenburg Castle was once the center of the medieval court and later a hunting residence. With a wine museum, guided tours and plenty of activities for kids (of any age ;), there is lots to see and do here. One of the most unique elements of this romanesque castle is the chapel from 1220, that has two stories: one for the ‘common’ people and one for the more upper class people going to the church service.
Neuenburg Castle also has a nice traditional German restaurant with beer terrace, which is perfect for lunch.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 tot 18:00 (April to October) and Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00 (November to March)
Entry Price: €3,00 per person
Guided Tour: €2,00
Hike to the Castle of Rudelsburg Germany
Another great short hike that you can do in the area is to take a short river cruise down the River Saale Germany, and then hike up the hill to Rudelsburg castle, built in the 12th century. While the castle itself is in ruins, the owner developed the building from a popular resting place for hikers into a meeting place for student fraternities and nowadays into a successful and very charming restaurant.
There are more exciting plans in the making to make the castle even more attractive to visitors in the future, which was great to hear! With a knights room and a wedding chapel and a great little walk to the top of the tower with incredible views over the area, Rudelsburg already left a great impression on me.
Discover a World Heritage Site in Naumburg Germany
Our final stop on our road trip around Germany was the city of Naumburg. During the 12th and 13th century, it became a significant trading center and the Naumburg Cathedral (‘Naumburger Dom’ – built in the 13th century on the site of an 11th-century church and crypt) is one of the most important Romanesque heritage sites in Germany, even becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2018.
Construction of the cathedral began in the early Romanesque architectural style, but later renovations added a Gothic choir and Gothic towers. Fire damaged part of the building in the 16th century and in the 18th century, many baroque elements were added (but also later removed again). Because the styles in this building are so mixed, you can really see the transition between Gothic and late Romanesque time periods.
What really sets this cathedral apart, and what also partly gave this location its UNESCO-status, is the fact that the figures displayed inside the church and the depictions on the choir screen are so realistic and made with such detail. Really impressive for this time period!
While had a nice stay at ‘Hotel Zur Alten Schmiede’, I didn’t think our dinner at the ‘Naumburg Ratskeller’ was all that great (food was so-so and the service really quite terrible), so I would recommend doing a bit of research and make reservations somewhere else. Other than that, Naumburg was well-worth a visit.
Opening Hours: Daily in Summer, Closed on Saturdays in Winter
Entry Price: €6,50 (Tickets include a visit to the gardens and treasury)
Guided Tour: €3,00, English tours upon reservation.
Website Cathedral: naumburger-dom.de
Website Hotel: ck-domstadt-hotels.de
I hope this article helped you plan a trip to Germany’s historical sights along the Transromanica route and that you picked up some interesting cultural facts about Germany as well.
Transromanica represents the common Romanesque heritage of nine countries in Europe between the Baltic and the Mediterranean Sea: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic and Spain.
Read more on their website: www.transromanica.com
And on the website of the Council of Europe: www.coe.int
And finally, go and check out the other bloggers from this trip:
All Transromanica Articles
Have a look at all our articles of things to see and do along the Transromanica Route:
- One Day In Magdeburg, Germany? Complete Guide To A Perfect City Break!
- Review Arthotel Magdeburg: Unique Hundertwasser Architecture In Germany!
- You Need To See The Incredible Nebra Sky Disk: The Oldest Depiction Of The Cosmos Found In The World!
- One Day In Santo Domingo De Silos, Spain? Complete Guide To A Perfect City Break!
- One Day In Burgos, Spain? Complete Guide To A Perfect City Break!
- One Day In Zamora, Spain? Complete Guide To A Perfect City Break!
- One Day In Amarante, Portugal? Complete Guide To A Perfect City Break!
- Unique Architecture Road Trip in Portugal: Rota Do Romanico
More Road Trip Suggestions
If you’re looking for more road trips in Germany, check out the following blogs:
- Planning a Trip to Germany’s Bavaria Region (bruisedpassports.com)
- Round Trip Germany’s South-West (flirtingwiththeglobe.com)
- Road Trip Germany: Romantic Road (divergenttravelers.com)
- Road Trip Southern Germany (wanderingwheatleys.com)
- Road Trip Through Medieval Germany (solotravelerworld.com)
- Road Trip Northern Germany (mikesroadtrip.com)
- Best Road Trips Germany for Families (nina-travels.com)
Looking to learn German? Check out this great guide by our blogging friend Michele from The Intrepid Guide:
Germany Tour Suggestions
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Disclaimer: I was invited by Transromanica for the #Transromanica campaign and was compensated for creating content on our website and social media channels. All photos and words are our own, as always.