Established in 1935 as a way to boost local wine sales, the 85km-long Deutsche Weinstrasse (German Wine Route; deutsche-weinstrasse.de) meanders almost due north from the French border at Schweigen-Rechtenbach, connecting picturesque wine-growing villages that dot wooded hills of the Pfälzer Wald and the broad, flat Rhine valley. Not surprisingly, wine is the main attraction; much of it dry, white and made with Riesling grapes, though reds made with Pinot Noir are increasingly attracting praise. Alongside the lively and attractive “capital”, Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, the neat spa town of Bad Dürkheim is the main urban focus, though the region’s real charm is in its villages: alongside viticulture, a refined culinary scene has emerged in places like Deidesheim and the little walled town of Freinsheim. Hugely popular with Germans and also attracting many French and Dutch, the Route gets going in March, when the almond trees blossom. Travelling by car is easy; additionally, a cycle route, the Radweg Deutsche Weinstrasse, parallels the road and there’s a choice of hiking trails – the 153km Pfälzer Weinsteg, which sometimes follows the wooded heights, or the more direct, 96km Wanderweg Deutsche Weinstrasse.
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