I gleaned the information in this post during a press trip with Germany Tourism. All opinions and images are my own, based directly on my experience unless noted below.
Germany Tourism invited me to Franconia for the purposes of understanding the area as a wine region. And I gladly accepted knowing that though I already enjoy traveling to Germany I had not previously been to Franconia. But I do adore German wines. What I didn’t expect was how much I would love the wine. And the region itself is endlessly charming, full of delicious food and fascinating people. This was the type of trip that felt responsible and sustainable. Because it was focused on family-owned businesses, with only one exception [Sonnenhotel].
What To Do
Drink wine! Unlike wine regions such as Champagne or Napa, Franconia does not have much large-scale production. Every winery or cooperative we visited was family-owned. Which is why, while sipping wine, you will get to know people who have compelling stories that enrich the experience of drinking wine and leave you wanting more. Some wines come in a bulbous bottle known as a “Bocksbeutel”. This is special to Franconia.
Many of these small businesses focus on traditional or organic ways of making wine. As Daniel of Rainer Sauer said, “We are totally organic and our goal now is certification.” We encountered several instances of natural and orange wines being produced. The main grapes are Riesling, Silvaner and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). But there are others.
I saw what seemed like an increasing amount of new wellness opportunities or set to open soon. So I would return for a spa holiday or wellness retreat. There are also Oktoberfest events in Franconia which are easier to get into or less crowded if you’re looking for an alternative to Munich. In fact with more than 300, Franconia has a high density of breweries.
Where to Go in Franconia
Bürgstadt, Miltenberg, Sommerach, Volkach, Iphofen and Königsberg are smaller towns, alternative to the larger cities.
Miltenberg: Visit the castle-turned-museum/gallery on the hill. Have lunch at the bier hall in Zum Riesen. Enjoy homemade chocolates from Konditorei-Confiserie Sell. Walk along the old city wall to find the house attached to it. Go through the nearby gate to visit one of the best preserved Jewish cemeteries in Germany.
Volkach: Do not miss lunch at Zur Schwane. Try to visit their stunning cellar. Choose the small plates and wine pairings at Vinotheque Fahr Away for dinner. Buy a few bottles for later. Take in a near-panoramic view of the region by stopping at Aussichtspunkt Volkach Terroir F, just a bit outside of town on a hill.
Iphofen: Wonderfully-preserved, with an intact old city wall, it’s a wonderful option for tasting or buying wine. There are several wineries right in town. There’s also a cooperative that sells bottles from all over the region close to the Town Hall.
Königsberg, just like Miltenberg, has a castle on the hill with far-reaching views. It’s an idyllic, storybook town. It was an exclave of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha until 1918.
Where to Eat & Where to Drink Wine
Weingut Kremer – 2nd generation winery with award-winning reds, whites and a contemporary vibe.
Gasthof Zur Krone – truly outstanding dinner beyond reproach in a traditional setting featuring a notable wine list with a very kind couple who own and manage it. I was blown away.
VDP Weingut Rudolf Fürst – I was so charmed by Paul! There is a beautiful view from the tasting room. The stomping of grapes was occurring during our visit. And the wine itself was magnificent. VDP is a private organization with strict rules. Their logo is a stylized eagle bearing a cluster of grapes that guarantees hand-crafted wines of the highest quality from some of the finest wine estates of Germany.
Winzer Sommerach – is a a cooperative, a collection of family wine estates bottled under one name. Educational facilities help area winemakers gather to learn and better their trade. There are indoor and outdoor tasting areas. A chef’s kitchen offers cooking classes. Their underground multi-room cellar is beautiful. The wine is sublime.
Weingut Rainer Sauer – German interior design award-winner with a family history of involvement in the wine industry yet a current lineup of wine that is amongst the best of what we tasted in Franconia. Son Daniel has ensured that though the winery has grown, it has not forgotten that traditions of the past inform the present. They age in concrete eggs and wood barrels.
Weingut zur Schwane – Beautiful, traditional tavern with excellent food and an attached hotel. The cellar is particularly memorable and had real candles burning. Like a scene from a gothic story.
Weingut Hans Wirsching – such a lovely, upscale tasting room in the heart of Iphofen.
Vinothek Iphofen – wine store and cafe in modern surroundings. Located in the heart of Iphofen not far from the Town Hall.
Vinotheque Fahr Away – wine bar, small plates restaurant and store selling wine from the region. Absolutely excellent cuisine with the most wonderfully talented staff and a female sommelier.
Weingut Martin – also family-owned with a restaurant in town and vineyard on the hills above. It is regionally known by a building with a face.
Landhotel Rügheim – We visited to have a nice dinner in their Weinstube. It is cozy and traditional with great food.
Where to Stay in Franconia
Adler Landhotel – Right in town. It is family-owned with very kind staff, lovely balconies and a superb breakfast. Contemporary but also traditional in some ways.
Romantik Hotel zur Schwane is much talked about online and if my lunch there was any indication, it would be a charming overnight experience. It’s also in the middle of town which is convenient.
Sonnenhotel & Weingut Römmert – just opened before we visited. It is a chain. I admired some design details. But overall I was disappointed by the food and service. The abundance of bugs every time I opened the door to my balcony made me uncomfortable in my room. Also, the wine seems to need more time to mature or age into a quality that’s worth writing about. Though I thought the historical display they had was certainly different. And they have a large indoor/outdoor pool and spa that would have been nice to try.
Gutshof Andres is 300 + years of family tradition in culinary arts with the addition of modern, cozy rooms in a new building across the road from the family home, as well as traditional holiday suites with kitchens.
Brauhaus 3 Ferienwohnungen – Apartment-style accommodation owned by Silvia Schuhmann, her husband and son. Mr. Schuhmann, a talented woodworker, founded a furniture line. It features such distinctive wood pieces that I was so in love with, I wanted to buy them on the spot. Opening in 2020 will be a rounded, standalone structure that defies definition, featuring a natural lap pool and expansive view over rolling fields.
How to Get Around While Visiting Franconia
Having a car is probably the most efficient use of personal time should you choose to vacation in Franconia. The region in large enough that walking everywhere would take time. This is how I experienced the region, in a coach with other travel media. You really have the ability to appreciate the countryside when you’re not the one behind the wheel.
Like any region equipped for tourism, there are options to hire guides and drivers. However, if you have a lot of time to spend, consider a walking and hiking tour of Franconia. I have also heard of bicycle tours in Franconia.
Finally, along the Main River, you can take a river boat cruise which would take you through the charming town of Miltenberg.
When to Visit Franconia
I visited during harvest season in early October. I enjoyed this because of the ability to see harvest happening, mostly by hand and not with machines. Autumn was just beginning to appear which added a lovely colorful palette on some trees and vines. I never needed more than a leather jacket and light sweater to stay warm as it was never freezing even in the early mornings. I also think it would be lovely in late Spring or in winter if you enjoy cross-country skiing which I understand from the Bavaria website, is something that occurs in Franconia.
To see more images, check out my photo essays on the harvest and the wineries we visited. There’s also a photo essay of the storybook towns we traveled through.
For more information, check out the Visit Franconia, Germany Tourism and Bavaria websites.