Three Countries, Two Weeks: An Itinerary

Otherwise known as, T’s Chocolate Tour of 2015. This itinerary is all you need to know for a two week trip through Rheinland (Western Germany, Eastern France, & Northern Switzerland).

First off though – Merry Christmas! I took a bit of a break to truly enjoy the time off, but now I’m back with many more stories to tell.

But before embarking on a new set of posts, I want to fully sum up our recent trip through Germany. Many of you have been asking for a full itinerary, so here’s the shortened version if you don’t want to scroll post by post, marking the points of interest. If you need more detail, you can always head to the full post (linked in orange within the headings).

By now, you should have also realized that my sweet tooth cravings are endless. So, while the purpose of our trip was to spend two weeks touring through Germany, it really turned into endless chocolate purchases (and subsequently, chocolate eating).

Each year, Cole & I rotate selecting our main vacation, and this year his choice was Germany. We focused on the Rhein River area, but ended up dipping into Switzerland and swinging back up through the Romantic Road. All in all, we spent 14 days – but, you could easily break this up into two or three smaller trips, or extend a few stays to make it even longer. We rented a car for our trip, which I would highly recommend.

Day 1: Arrive in Frankfurt.

We arrived on a Sunday and it wasn’t all that exciting; but honestly, that’s exactly the kind of day you want for Day 1. The less exciting it is, the better you feel about hitting the hay at 7pm when jetlag kicks in.

Stay at: the Hotel Adina. Large, modern, and comfortable rooms at a decent price. (And quite close to the train station if you want to walk from it).

Do: Walk along the river boardwalk until you get to the old town, or in German, Altstadt. Spend some time meandering around the cobblestone roads and taking in the scenery. If you’ve got time to spare, walk the other way into the financial district and take the elevator up to Main Tower. It’s got an observation deck where you can see a 360 degree view of the city.

Eat: For dinner, head to Steineres Haus (close to the Altstadt main square) for authentic, but cheap, German food. Or, pop on into Margarete for a modern and organic meal. For breakfast, go for tea and pastries at Bitter & Zart.

Chocolates: Grab a few bars and a decent selection of individual pieces from Bitter & Zart. My favourites were any of the nut options, as well as the white chocolate with buttercream. By far, this place had the best chocolate combinations of our entire trip. They’ve also got Zotter chocolate bars which are Cole’s personal fav.

Day 2: Arrive in Heidelberg.

Heidelberg was such a gem, I can see why it’s a crowd favourite for spring and winter. We stayed one night, but two would have been great.

Stay at: The Hotel Hollander Hof. Comfortable (but older) rooms located in the best location for exploring.

Do: Walk around the old town and down the long pedestrian roadway. Check out the Schloss Heidelberg (but try and go long before the 6pm close). Take a tour through the interior and then spend some time wandering around the grounds. You can walk up, or take the funicular. At night, the castle lights up and there’s a beautiful view of the twinkling town below. During the day, walk across the old bridge and up through the Philosopher’s walk. There are some mammoth houses, and it’s a great way to see the town from another point of view. Finally, make sure to take a trip along the Neckar in the solar boat.

Eat: For dinner, we headed to an Italian restaurant that was decent but nothing to write home about.

Chocolates: Make a stop into Knosel Chocolatier and purchase one of the Student’s Kisses. It’s a traditional Heidelberg treat, made from chocolate and wafers.

Day 3: Baden-Baden.

A beautiful town, I imagine it’s best to visit here in the summer. That being said, the fall colours are something else.

Stay at: Somewhere that is within the town centre. We booked a room at the Leonardo, which was about a ten minute walk from the town. It wasn’t bad, but next time I would book a room at the Brenners (splurge) or Sophienpark.

Do: Walk along Lichtentaller Allee and admire the gardens. At the end of it is a gorgeous rose garden which is worth a peak (and a sniff). Spend the night at the Kurhaus (casino), or at least visit it for a peak in the ornate interiors. Spend the next morning easing your worries at the Caracalla Therme. Or, if going nude is your thing, head into the Friedrichsbad. Finally, make a quick visit to the Museum Frieder Burda for a modern exhibit.

Eat: If you’re looking for a good spot for dinner, Rizzi is the place to go. It’s comfortable, warm, and quite filling. A stop into Café Konig is also mandatory, from which you must order a slice of their black forest cake. It’s best enjoyed in the sitting room at the back of the restaurant with warm tea and coffee. If all you’re looking for is a spot to enjoy breakfast, hit up Kafeehaus where there are big cups of coffee, luxurious hot chocolates, and house made cakes.

Chocolates: Again, Café Konig is my go-to. Most of the chocolates are stuffed with liquor, so beware. It’s also got excellent treats and the yummiest tea cookies. Plus, if you’re into gingerbread, it’s all house made.

Day 4 & 5: Strasbourg (post #2 here).

This is where two nights is absolutely mandatory. You’ll be needing the break, and honestly, it’s the kind of city where you can spend hours exploring.

Stay at: the Regent Contades if you don’t mind a ten minute walk to the city centre. The big rooms are luxurious and the location is perfect for exploring outside the old town. Other options are the Hotel Rohan, Hotel D, or the Regent Petite France (but I didn’t actually go inside these these three).

Do: Spend your time touring the old city. Pick up an electronic audio guide from the tourism centre (across from the main cathedral) and go on a walking tour of the main sights. Then, hop on the Batorama for a night time tour through the waters and under the many bridges of Strasbourg. You’ll also want to plan to check out the EU parliament buildings, which we drove to. While there, hop across the street to the Parc L’orangerie. It’s a great place to have a picnic or stop for lunch.

Chocolates: I wasn’t super impressed with anything here, but I did pick up a yummy bar from Dammann Freres (and some absolutely incredible tea).

Day 6: Alsace.

The French wine district.

Stay at: the Best Western Riquewihr was alright, but nothing special. Most hotels in this area are quite old.

Do: Leave Strasbourg and drive along the Route Du Vin (use Barr for a GPS target starting location if you need one and then follow the route signs the rest of the way – marked by “Route du Vin” or the symbol of a grapevine). This will take you the better part of an afternoon. Stop in at the wineries or get out and take a break in a few towns along the way. Also, drive up the hill and take a tour of Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg, a 12th century castle that has been restored. Then, be sure to stop in Ribeauville, but be warned shops close at 6pm. Spend the night in Riquewihr.

Eat: Dine at La Table du Gourmet, a French Michelin star restaurant. Go for the 5 course meal (splurge) and the wine pairings. It’s the perfect way to get a taste of the wines in the region.

Chocolates: All you’ll find here is loads of Kouglopf cakes.

Day 7: The Black Forest.

Skip back over the German border and spend the day touring the black forest. Again, this is where a car is a must.

Stay at: We stayed at the Holzschuh which was a little bit out of our way. It’s a comfortable hotel run by three ladies and offers a delicious dinner in house. I would probably recommend something in Triberg next time.

Do: Make a quick stop in Titisee-Beystadt to check out the lake and the cuckoo-clock resembling homes. Then, hop back in your car and make your way to Triberg. If you want to purchase an authentic clock, this is where to do it. The House of 1000 clocks has quite the selection and you can spend hours debating between birds and tunes. While in Triberg, visit the waterfalls and walk along the paths for a bit of fresh air.

Eat: No real recommendations here.

Chocolates: You MUST stop in Café Schaefer. It’s the go-to spot for a slice of the original black forest cake. If kirsch liquor isn’t your thing, grab a slice of the Sacher torte and take a seat with some coffee and tea. Be sure to arrive early (before noon) or you’ll risk the black forest selling out.

Day 8: Basel.

One of my favourite stops, I could have spent two nights here as well.

Stay at: the Passage hotel. Excellent modern and luxurious rooms, with underground parking nearby and a delicious breakfast buffet. It’s also in an excellent location, just on the border of the city centre.

Do: Generally just walk through the city. There is a big fair on during the fall months, and of course, a Christmas festival. We walked through the old town and back up around the luxury stores and newer centre.

Eat: Grab some comfort food and a few beers at Zum Braunen Mutz, a local beerhall near the town centre. For something more fresh and healthy, head on into Schmale Wurf, an excellent restaurant down by the river. Take a seat on the patio, or enjoy a meal indoors. It’s an excellent place without ridiculously high prices.

Chocolates: Laderach is the place to go for individual pieces or chocolate bark. Grab a few chunks of your favourite combinations and enjoy the creaminess of fresh ingredients.

Day 9 & 10: Lucerne (post #2 here).

Again, another Swiss gem. Just make sure you bring a decent number of Francs. Sidenote: many restaurants will also let you pay in Euros if needed.

Stay at: the Grand National hotel. Its luxurious yet time-appropriate rooms are perfect for a few days of relaxation. The location is excellent and the breakfast buffet is one of the best (be sure to order the pancakes).

Do: Spend the first day wandering the small town, being sure to take a zillion photographs of the tower bridge. The city twinkles at night and you will enjoy zig-zagging across the river. Spend the next morning walking to the Lion Monument and then around the city walls for some panoramic views of the alps. Also consider a trip to Mount Pilatus (but FYI it’s a little pricey). If the gondola or boat are open, take these options. Otherwise, take a train to a small town nearby (Alpnachstad) and then head up on the funicular. Spend an hour or so here, grab a warm drink in the restaurant, and then head back down to town.

Eat: There are some excellent fine dining options in Lucerne. We spent the mornings filling up on the breakfast buffet, which usually meant we skipped lunch. For dinner, I would recommend Des Balances for a fine swiss meal, or Zunfthausrestaurant Pfistern if you’re looking for fondue.

Chocolates: Again, Laderach. This time, be sure to grab some of the individual pieces. They’re so creamy and absolutely exquisite. Anything with hazelnut in it is my recommendation.

Day 11 & 12: Rothenburg (post #2 here).

Another of my favourite spots on our trip and a must-see if you’re near the area. The medieval town is one of a kind.

Spend the day driving through the romantic road (but be warned, the signage sucks). Or, just pop on the Autobahn and get to Rothenburg at a decent time.

Stay at: the Goldener Hirsch. A town favourite, this place has large comfortable rooms and modern, clean bathrooms. Plus, it’s a 2 minute walk from the town square.

Do: Walk around the town. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but it’s seriously my number one recommendation. Walk along the city wall and look down below and admire the different houses and red roof tops. During the night, go on a Night Watchman’s tour to learn a little more about Rothenburg’s history and to see the city in a different light. Then, the next day make a stop into Kathe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Village and check out her Christmas museum. Consider purchasing one of the fine ornaments or just cruise around and take in everything the store has to offer. For a last stop, check out the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum for a different take on Rothenburg’s history. When you leave Rothenburg, drive back along the Romantic Road and consider making a stop in Dinkelsbuhl for an hour or two.

Eat: Hell. I would have ate here every night had I known how delicious it was going to be. The prices are fantastic, the food is fresh, and the location is one of a kind. I can’t speak more highly of this place. If you’re looking for lunch or afternoon tea & pastries, go to the Hotel Reichskuchenmeister (and have the apple strudel). It’s just across from the old church.

Chocolates: Try the town special, a schneenball, from any of the vendors. Dillers is the popular recommendation, but they’ve got three or four shops set up. My favourite was the white chocolate stuffed with buttercream.

Day 13: Wurzburg.

Drive along the Romantic Road or autobahn depending on your time constraints.

Stay at: Schloss Steinburg. An old castle, it’s got different categories of rooms to suit your needs. I would recommend a stay in one of the Refugium rooms which overlook the river. It’s a bit of a hike from the city, so plan on spending the night here and relaxing – it’s worth the splurge.

Do: The next morning, get up and do a quick walking tour of the old city. You can check out the inside of the palace or just walk through its gardens. Walk along the main bridge, and then head up to the old UNESCO heritage site for a tour.

Eat: Locanda is a great spot if you’re within the city and looking for some cheap eats. They’ve got fantastic pizzas and pastas and are located just along the river. If you’re looking for a more fine-dining experience to celebrate something (the end of the trip perhaps), book a reservation at the Steinburg’s restaurant. There are some excellent options – and a great selection of German wines.

Chocolates: Sadly, I was so full by this time that I didn’t actually try anything.

Day 14: Fly out from Frankfurt.

Drive back to Frankfurt and spend the night cruising the main pedestrian walkway. It’s an entirely different scene – the opera is all lit up and restaurants are bursting with people. Or, hop back into Bitter & Zurt for a few more treats. Then, get on the train and take it back to the airport.

I would recommend a stay at the Hilton for early morning flights. We didn’t leave until 10, so we grabbed a room at the NH hotel and took the free shuttle down to the airport.

Hope you find this helpful! I’m hoping to post many more itineraries in the future.

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