Nördlinger Ries Crater

Nordlinger Ries Crater Views on a Hike
Nordlinger Ries Crater Views on a Hike

By Vicky · Published Jun. 6th, 2024

A meteorite impact formed Nördlinger Ries Crater and today it’s a picturesque spot with historic towns and a turbulent geological past. It makes for a great (long) weekend trip from Munich or Nuremberg.

Nördlinger Ries Crater Map

Best things to do in Nördlinger Ries Crater

On a tour of the Romantic Road in Germany, you’ll pass grand cities, historic villages and fairytale castles. Make sure to check out the highlights below:

1. Walk around Nördlingen Walls

Nördlingen Old Town, one of the best things to see in Ries Crater, Bavaria, Germany
Old Town Nördlingen
Medieval Walls in Nördlingen town, in the middle of Ries Crater, Bavaria, Germany
Medieval Walls of Nördlingen

Nördlingen is the main town of Ries Crater, located in the middle. It’s famous for its complete Medieval walls that surround the old town, forming an almost perfect circle. The walk around the walls is about 4km, after which you can explore more of the historic town centre.

2. Visit the Nördlinger Ries Crater Museum

Apart from the walls, in Nördlingen you’ll also find the Rieskrater Museum. If you don’t speak German, you’ll get an iPad to take around with you that has all the explanations in English and is quite fun to use. It’s a super interesting museum that explains how meteorite craters form in general, plus the specific formation of the Ries Crater. You can easily spend a couple of hours here.

3. Go on a Hike

There are several lovely hikes in Nördlinger Ries Crater. On the walks below you’ll find beautiful scenery, interesting geology plus a castle or two.

4. Explore Harburg Castle

Harburg Castle from the River, one of the best places to visit in Nördlinger Ries Crater
Harburg Castle from the River

Harburg Castle (or Schloss Harburg) is a famous castle perched impressively above the little town of Harburg below. The castle is closed in winter, but the rest of the year it’s open every day from 10am to 5pm. It’s not very expensive to get in and you can wander around the courtyards by yourself, and visit the good Biergarten. Tours of the inside are only available in German. Find out more about Harburg and the Castle!

5. Discover Charming Donauwörth

An Old Gate Tower in Donauwörth
An Old Gate Tower in Donauwörth

Donauwörth is a historic town with a lovely centre. It’s at the confluence of the Wörnitz and Danube (Donau in German) rivers and surrounded by a lot of greenery. A walking tour of the town is a very pleasant way to spend half a day.

6. Find Hidden Gems

Schloss Baldern, a castle in Rie
s Crater, Bavaria, Germany
Schloss Baldern

There are several cute little towns in the crater, along with a few smaller castles.

Oettingen in Bayern: a small town with a lovely half-timbered main street and a little castle.

Wemding: A quiet town with a small historic centre and peaceful streets.

Monheim: Another little town with a pleasant mainly pedestrianised centre.

Schloss Baldern: Schloss Baldern is a privately owned castle on top of a hill. There are lovely gardens, tours of the interior in German and a nice cafe. Note – opening hours are limited.

Nördlinger Ries Crater Itinerary

Your itinerary will look a little different depending on whether you drive or take public transport in the crater.

Driving around Nördlinger Ries Crater

A road trip with a car is the easiest way to explore the Romantic Road, though it’s also possible by train (see below). An advantage of driving is that you can stop off in the countryside for some lovely walks along the Romantic Road.

Nördlinger Ries Crater One Day Itinerary

Highlights: Nördlingen Town & Harburg Castle

Looking down on Nördlingen Town from the Church Tower

If you only have one day to explore Nördlinger Ries Crater, make the most of it by visiting Nördlingen Town & Harburg Castle. Start the day in Nördlingen by walking 4 km around the town walls. Afterwards, head into the old town centre to grab Kaffee und Kuchen (Coffee and Cafe) at one of the cosy cafes.

Once refreshed, walk to the Rieskrater Museum to learn about the formation of the meteorite crater and the unique geology of the area. Head to a restaurant for lunch, before driving or catching the train to Harburg. Visit the castle and explore the cute town below if you have time.

Nördlinger Ries Crater Two Day Itinerary

On the Albsteig Stage 1 Walk from Donauwörth to Harburg
On the Albsteig Stage 1 Walk from Donauwörth to Harburg

It’s best to spend at least two days exploring Nördlinger Ries Crater

Highlights: Nördlingen Town, Donauwörth, Countryside Walk & Harburg Castle

A suggested two-day itinerary for driving the Romantic Road in Germany:

  • Day 1: Start in Nördlingen and follow the first part of the one-day itinerary. After lunch, head to Donauwörth and look around town before staying here overnight.
  • Day 2: Hike the Albsteig Stage 1 to walk through the lovely countryside between Donauwörth and Harburg. In the afternoon, visit the castle and explore the little town before returning to Donauwörth.

Nördlinger Ries Crater Three Day Itinerary

Exploring Geology on the Ries Crater Walk
Exploring Geology on the Ries Crater Walk

Highlights: Nördlingen, Donauwörth, Countryside Walk, Harburg Castle, Ries Crater Walk & cute little towns.

If you have three days, spend the first two days following the previous itinerary, then add the following:

Day 3: In the morning hike the Ries Crater Walk to discover more about the geology and history of the crater. If you have time in the afternoon, visit the cute little towns of Oettingen in Bayern, Wemding and/or Monheim, or Schloss Baldern.

Nördlinger Ries Crater by Train

Tips: Google doesn’t have all the train timetables in Germany, so check the official German public transport website, Deutsche Bahn. The trains and buses you use to explore Nördlinger Ries Crater are all included in the Deutschland €49 public transport ticket.

Nördlingen, Harburg and Donauwörth are all on the train line and easy to get between. Bopfingen, near the start of the Ipf & Blasienberg Walk, is also only 10 minutes on the train from Nördlingen.

A ruined castle, a place to visit in Nördlinger Ries Crater
Castle Ruins Hike

To reach the start of the Ries Crater Hike, you can take a 10-minute bus (number 506) from Nördlingen Bahnhof to Holheim, Nördlinger Straße Bus Stop. However, it’s not very frequent. Some buses in the schedule only leave if you phone them in advance (called ‘Rufbus’, or ‘Call Bus’). Check here for details.

The same bus continues to the Lamm – Ederheim Bus Stop, from where you can start the Castle Ruins Hike.

Best Places to Stay in Nördlinger Ries Crater


Hotel: Cafe Hotel Altreuter* is a lovely hotel right in the city centre in a nice old building with a great breakfast (closed in winter).

Apartment: Kasarme Auszeit* is a cute apartment in an old house by the city walls. It has a modern, equipped kitchen and free parking nearby, for up to four people (min. 2 nights stay).


Hotel: Hotel-Restaurant Straussen* is the best hotel in Harburg with very reasonable prices, free parking and a lovely restaurant attached.

Apartment: Appartement Burgblick* is a great place to stay if you want your own kitchen, and there’s even a nice place to sit outside.


Hotel: Hotel im Ried* has a great location on a mainly pedestrianised island in the old part of Donauwörth, with a great restaurant attached.

Apartment: Apartment in der Altstadt von Donauwörth* is bright and spacious, in the centre of Donauwörth’s old town with a kitchen and everything else you need for a great stay and space for bikes.

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