The capital of Germany’s smallest state is approximately 40 minutes by car from Ramstein and a day is plenty to explore the city’s highlights. The Ludwig’s Church, widely considered to be a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, is a must-see. So is the Saarbrücken Castle and the Museum of Regional History which occupies the castle basement with a fascinating exhibition about the region’s cultural, economic and social history, combined with the ruins of the ancient city castle.
The romantic city of Heidelberg is not only a highlight of southwestern Germany but the entire country. Known for the breathtaking vistas of the Neckar river, a prestigious university and the ruins of a medieval hilltop castle, Heidelberg is one of Germany’s most popular and enchanting destinations. Mark Twain, Goethe and Hemingway are known to have strolled the winding cobblestoned streets of the old town, seeking inspiration for their literary works, and you can’t really blame them. You can reach Heidelberg in just over an hour from Ramstein, leaving enough time to explore most of the not-to-miss sights.
Mainz is another German city which often makes the list of the country’s most romantic destinations. The old market square is overlooked by the impressive Roman Imperial Cathedral, holding unimaginable ecclesial treasures and around the corner, a museum dedicated to the inventor of the movable-type press connects the dots between Johannes Gutenberg and the fascinating city of Mainz. A day is enough of time to explore the city centre, but make sure you plan for a sumptuous meal – the food is fantastic, plus Mainz is considered one of the major wine hubs in the country with many award-winning vineyards on its doorstep.
If you’re a fan of history, you should put Worms on your list. As one of Germany’s oldest cities – if not the oldest – Worms’ city centre is studded with historical sights and architectural gems. The drive here from Ramstein takes no longer than an hour and is rewarded with a visit to the Cathedral of St. Peter, which is rooted in the 12th century and since has towered over the old town from its hilltop spot, and a trip to the city-centre museum. Much of the exhibition is dedicated to the epic saga of the Nibelungs – revolving around the journey of dragon-slayer Siegfried – with mentions of Worms in the earliest writings.
Wine-lovers are in for a treat no matter where in southwest Germany they’re headed but Bernkastel-Kues often front-runs the list of destinations in the area. The picture-perfect town is an ensemble of historical half-timbered houses which line the alleys and market square, a beautiful river promenade, countless fantastic vineyards and the Mosel Wein Museum which explores the history of winemaking in the region in more depth.
Speaking of wine: Bad Dürkheim is one of the major stops along Germany’s 85-kilometre long Wine Route between the villages of Schweigen-Rechtenbach and Bockenheim and every year in September, the village prepares for the country’s largest wine festival. The Bad Dürkheim Wurstmarkt sees thousands of wine aficionados flock to the town for a joyous celebration of local wine with live music, fireworks, food and parties – very much like Oktoberfest. But don’t stress – you can sample the best wines of the region at local wineries and taverns throughout the year should you not make it for the festivities.
The romantic Rhine lures people to the region from across Germany and beyond, and an hour-long drive takes you to Bingen am Rhein, which is the perfect starting point for a river cruise down the most captivating section of the Rhine River. The imposing Niederwald Monument is almost around the corner, followed by the Stahleck and Rheinstein castle – both sit perched on the cliffside on the riverbanks. Depending on scheduling and how much time you want to spend aboard you could go as far as St. Goarshausen which is known for the myth-enshrouded Loreley rock formation.