Day 1: Quedlinburg
It’s a three-hour train ride from Berlin to Quedlinburg, so be sure to leave early enough that you can arrive in the village/UNESCO World Heritage site by about 11am. It’s adorable in and of itself and interesting to compare to Rothenburg from the first leg of the tour, but the best thing is getting to ride a steam train up the mountain. Even more fun in winter.
Day 2: Essen
It’s another early start this morning for the five-hour train ride to Essen, but it’s worth it. Once you arrive at the HBF, take streetcar 107 or the S2 S-bahn to the Zollverein, Germany’s largest industrial museum/arts complex. First stop: the Casino Zollverein for a lunch you’ll remember for many years. After you’ve rested and refueled, use up all that energy exploring the massive monument to the steel industry, and now UNESCO World Heritage site, that once powered Germany. For the full experience, check the listings to see what concerts are on in the evening you’re visiting.
Days 3–4: Cologne
This morning you can be at your leisure, as Cologne is just an hour from Essen by train and they leave multiple times an hour. It’s worth planning on eating well in Cologne. The Kölsch culture and customs are all about having a beer and watching the world go by. Try your hand at finishing a portion of Haxe at one of the many Brauhauses near the main station before venturing forth on an afternoon guided tour of the Kölner Dom. For dinner, push the boat out and head to Le Moisonnier, the best restaurant in town.
The next day, ease into things with a walk along the Rhine, starting near the train station and walking south along the Promenade. Pop into the Chocolate Museum or Mustard Museum if that’s your thing, aiming to end up at Die Fette Kuh for lunch. The burgers are otherworldly, but it’s not a place to linger. Which is just as well. Catching the early-afternoon train to Cochem will get you there just in time to check in, have a tour around town, and grab dinner at Zom Stüffje.
Day 5: Burg Eltz
Probably the best-preserved Medieval castle in all of Germany, Burg Eltz is really the perfect place to indulge all your knight and damsel fantasies. Take the train from Cochem to Moselkern and walk though the forest for about an hour to get to the castle, or splurge on a taxi. Sleep at your hotel in Cochem and get ready for an early start to Heidelberg for day six.
Day 6: Heidelberg
On everyone’s list of places to see in Germany, Heidelberg doesn’t disappoint. If you haven’t had your fill of castles, Heidelberg has a pretty impressive one, but the main fun of visiting the city is walking around the town, absorbing the 900 years of history and eating lots of cake. Treat yourself to some Malaysian food for lunch at Serai, one of the favourite restaurants in town among locals.
Day 7: Munich
You can go directly to Munich airport from Heidelberg in about three-and-a-half hours, so if you have an early flight it’s best to stay in an airport hotel and leave Heidelberg in the evening. If you have a bit more time, you could stop in Stuttgart on the way and hit the Mercedes Museum, but for a more leisurely end to your trip, go straight to Munich and enjoy another restorative visit to the Blue Spa. Your skin will thank you.