5 reasons to drive the scenic German Limes Route

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This posts provides 5 reasons to drive the scenic German Limes Route.

Fans of citrus fruit, prepare to be disappointed. This driving route has nothing to do with the tangy green fruit that is one of the key ingredients in the caipirinha cocktail.

If you’re want a holiday picking citrus fruit then plan on heading further south. Try Italy, Spain or one of the other countries washed by the Mediterranean Sea.

The German Limes Route is a scenic driving route based on a historic theme, the frontier of the Roman Empire on German land.

This scenic driving route is one of more than 150 themed drives in Germany. Their themes are diverse, encompassing the likes of castles, fairy tales and timber-framed housing.

Snaking more than 700km through the countryside, the German Limes Route follows the remnants of Roman Frontier that once ran between the River Rhine and the River Danube.

If you’re looking for a driving holiday involving exploration of historic sites this could well be the basis of a dream vacation.

Here’s a look at 5 reasons to drive the scenic German Limes Route.

Sign for the Limes near at the Limes-Park Rainau at Rainau-Schwabsberg, Germany
Sign for the Limes near at the Limes-Park Rainau at Rainau-Schwabsberg, Germany.

1. It’s related to Hadrian’s Wall

The route takes its name from the Limes Germanicus, a Latin term meaning ‘Germanic Frontier’.

Technically, the frontier consisted of two parts, the Upper German and the Raetian Limes. Both consisted of a network of forts, earthworks and watchtowers. At its core, in the late second century, the 550km frontier also featured either a three-metre high wall or a palisade fence. Archaeologists suggest it would have been painted white.

Even to the fearsome Germanic tribes – who in 9AD inflicted the bloodiest defeat ever suffered by the Roman Army, at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest – the Limes Germanicus was a formidable physical and psychological barrier.

In 2005 the German Limes Route was inscribed as part of the transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire UNESCO World Heritage Site. That also encompasses Hadrian’s Wall, which runs across northern England from Solway Firth to the aptly named Wallsend.

UNESCO World Heritage Sign at Saalburg Roman Fort, one of 5 reasons to drive the scenic German Limes Route
Sign celebrating the UNESCO World Heritage Site statues of the German Limes by the gate of the reconstructed Roman fort at Saalburg near Bad Homburg, Germany.

2. You can climb a Roman style tower

More than 900 watchtowers along the Limes Germanicus once provided the Roman Army’s sentries with elevated lookout posts over the rolling Germanic countryside.

In countryside near Idstein a 12-metre tall Roman-style watchtower stands 10 metres from the foundations of an original tower. Idstein is a picturesque town at the intersection of the German Limes Route and the German Timber-Frame Road.

The Hexenturm (Witches Tower) at the castle in Idstein, the town where two of Germany's scenic driving routes meet
The Hexenturm (Witches Tower) at the castle in Idstein, the town where two of Germany’s scenic driving routes meet.

Climbing the tower’s three storeys gives you fine views over the surrounding landscape. It hosts a compact museum holding a handful of archaeological finds.

The castle at Idstein, a city on the German Timber-Frame Road and German Limes Route, two of Germany's scenic driving routes
The castle at Idstein, a city on the German Timber-Frame Road and German Limes Route, two of Germany’s scenic driving routes.

You can even let loose the big kid inside of you and pull on the 8.1kg chainmail vest. It’s a replica of the protective clothing worn by Roman auxiliaries along the frontier. You can also pick up one of the shields that weigh 4.5kg, holding a sword in one hand and snapping a selfie with the other.

Reconstructed Roman-style tower near Idstein one of 5 reasons to drive the scenic German Limes Route
Reconstructed Roman-style tower near Idstein along the route of the Roman Frontier in Germanic lands.

3. There’s beer galore along the route

After you’ve parked up for the night there are plenty of opportunities to taste local beer in traditional German taverns (in moderation, of course, given that you have to drive the next day).

If the weather’s fine you can sit in the beer garden of the Brauhaus Bad Homburg, whose specialities include a whiskey-smoke beer and a springtime wheat beer. The kitchen prepares dishes typical of the Hesse region. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to try the green sauce made with fresh herbs.

A reenactor wearing a metal helmet topped by a fox skin at Saalburg Roman Fort near Bad Homburg, Germany
Have a beer with a local. A reenactor wearing a metal helmet topped by a fox skin at Saalburg Roman Fort near Bad Homburg, Germany.

The Roter Ochsen in Ellwangen is another guesthouse that brews its own beers and serves hearty Swabian cuisine. The beers are rarely sold beyond a radius of approximately 30km from the brewery.

Tasting the local beers is one of the great joys of travelling in Germany. If you enjoy beer you may want to read out post about Germany’s beer purity law, based on the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot of 1516, and how it governs the ingredients used by German brewers.

Half-litre of beer from Ellwangen's Rotochsen brewery served in a bar in Ellwangen an der Jagst, Germany
A half-litre of beer from Ellwangen’s Rotochsen brewery served in a bar in Ellwangen an der Jagst, Germany.

4. You can dine on Roman-style cuisine

As the Roman Empire crumbled a man named Apicius jotted down what went into Roman recipes. Unfortunately, he did not mention the amounts.

You can taste a number of dishes inspired by his historic recipes at the Taberna café inside of Saalburg Roman Fort. The dishes include platters featuring herby sausages and sweet mushrooms.

Roman style food served at Saalburg near Bad Homburg counts among the 5 reasons to drive the scenic German Limes Route
A plate of Roman style food, inspired by a recipe collected by Apicius, served at the reconstructed Roman fort at Saalburg near Bad Homburg, Germany.

Those who aren’t driving can wash it down with mulsum, a honey-sweetened blend of white wine and herbs.

The fortlet at Pohl also has a restaurant serving Roman-style food.

Roman style pork stew, based on a recipe recorded by Apicius, served at the reconstructed Roman fort at Pohl, Germany
Roman style pork stew, based on a recipe recorded by Apicius, served at the reconstructed Roman fort at Pohl, Germany.

5. You can see gladiators in combat

Time your journey right and you can even get to see reenactors recreating gladitorial scenes.

Regular historical reenactments are heldat Saalburg Roman Fort during the summer. Volunteers don costumes to convey aspects of life during Roman times.

Reenactors with swords re-enact a gladitorial fight scene by the gate Saalburg Roman Fort on the German Limes Route
Reenactors with swords re-enact a gladitorial fight scene by the gate Saalburg Roman Fort on the German Limes Route.

You might hear musicians playing Roman-style instruments or see poets reciting Latin verses.

Men reenact the role of a slave and Roman master by the reconstructed Saalburg Roman Fort near Bad Homburg, Germany
Men reenact the role of a slave and Roman master by the reconstructed Saalburg Roman Fort near Bad Homburg, Germany.

The reconstruction of the Roman Fort at Saalburg began back in 1897 after Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II provided the necessary patronage. A statue of a much earlier emperor, Antonius Pius, stands frozen in salute outside the fort’s main gate.

Saalburg provides an idea of how a Roman fort would have looked around 1,800 years ago.

UNESCO World Heritage Sign at Saalburg Roman Fort, one of 5 reasons to drive the scenic German Limes Route
Sign celebrating the UNESCO World Heritage Site statues of the German Limes by the gate of the reconstructed Roman fort at Saalburg near Bad Homburg, Germany.

Further information

See the German National Tourist Board website for more details of the country’s scenic driving routes and for ideas about holidays in Germany.

If you have any tips for making the most out of a road trip along the German Limes Route please feel welcome to share your suggestions in the comments field below.

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7 Comments

  1. Patricia McQillam says:

    I’d like to say thanks for your post about the German Limes Route. My husband and I were inspired to drive it and spent 14 wonderful days in Germany as a result. The fort at Saalburg was a particular highlight and bathing in Bavaria was also very good.

  2. Sharon Livingstone says:

    I’d like to find driver and share a road trip along the German Limes Route.

  3. Roxy Andrews says:

    Thanks for these reasons to drive the scenic German Limes Route. I enjoy visiting your site.

  4. Danny Stone says:

    I’m not normally one to comment on websites but this prompted me to spend a week driving in Germany. Danke as they say over there.

  5. Selena Wade says:

    I think some of the other scenic driving routes of Germany are more fun to drive along.

  6. Jonny Dawes says:

    If you’re driving this route and interested in art it will be worth making a stop in Dusseldorf. I was very impressed with the galleries in the city.

  7. James Mann says:

    We drove the route from west to east this springtime. I highly recommend it…and don’t forget to take a camera!

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