What could be better than hitting the open road through the very finest pockets of France and Germany? From Reims to Würzburg, there are plenty of enchanting sights to see. Plus, along the way you’ll stop for shopping at La Vallée Village, 40 minutes from Paris, Ingolstadt Village in the Bavarian countryside and Wertheim Village, in the Tauber Valley – all members of The Bicester Village Shopping Collection.
Begin your adventure with a visit to La Vallée Village, with the might of Paris, just 40 minutes away, and its grand couture houses to one side and the road to Champagne on the other. Flanked by romance, culture and affluence, the Village is a perfect French curiosity, radiating Parisian charm like a micro-world of high fashion.
From there discover the lovely city of Reims, where you'll find the ancient cathedral plus all of the big-name champagne houses – Krug, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, Mumm and Pommery. There are over 155 miles of champagne cellars snaking around here, holding some 200 million bottles, many of which you can visit – but do book in advance. Pommery is among the largest champagne houses and one of the prettiest to visit.
It will take around six and a half hours to drive to Munich, where you can join the ‘Romantic Road’ around Bavaria. Look out for the pointy-topped castles and medieval villages with cobbled streets and chocolate-box houses.
Take a detour to Ingolstadt Village, less than an hour from the cultural melting pot that is Munich. This nook of Germany has a famously welcoming atmosphere and many tales to tell. And so this Village, with its art deco architecture, sense of gastronomic adventure, wealth of boutiques – more than 110 from local and international brands – and air of the modern fairy tale is just as characterful.
The Romantic Road heads to Würzburg and ‘mad’ King Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein Castle, outside the town of Füssen. Its fairy-tale turrets are famous for being the inspiration for the castle of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
Augsburg is Bavaria’s oldest city. Originally a Roman town, it’s about an 80-minute drive north from Füssen. This is picture-book Germany. Visit the Fuggerei, a walled Catholic housing complex built for the poor in the early 1500s. It’s still in use today. Residents are charged a nominal rent, provided they attend mass daily – just like in the 1500s!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the most popular towns on the route, a beautifully-preserved 13th-century walled masterpiece complete with flagstone streets. Have lunch at The Burg-Hotel, built right into the city walls with spectacular views over the Tauber valley.
Then it’s on to Würzburg, outside Frankfurt, a drive that takes around 40 minutes. The city is famous for its wine, especially its Riesling, as well as the Residenz, an 18th-century Baroque palace.
After all that culture, end your road trip 20 minutes outside Würzburg with a well-deserved stop at Wertheim Village. Nestled amid castles and fortresses, the Village is a compelling mix of ancient and modern, and flavoured with fashion. Browse more than 110 boutiques and cafés, turrets and towers, all set against a backdrop of wooded hills and forests.