The Via Claudia in Germany and Austria Overview

Published on:  | Last updated: 29 April 2017

Cyclists on the Via Claudia near the Forggensee

Cyclists on the Via Claudia near the Forggensee in Germany

At a glance

Distance

326 kilometres (in Austria and Germany)

Difficulty/​terrain

Fairly easy. If you are heading north-south there are some short climbs to the main passes but there are shuttles if you'd rather avoid these.

Traffic

Mainly on traffic-free cycleways (although these may be roads that are restricted to agricul­tural vehicles so in summer expect to see tractors trundling round with trailers of freshly-mown hay).

Surfaces

Mainly on surfaced roads or cycleways. But note that there are some stretches on unsur­faced cycleways and forest roads.

Signs

Very well signposted. The route is signposted in both direc­tions. See note on signposting below.

When to go

May to September or October is probably the best time. The highest point on the route is 1512 metres so snow shouldn't be a problem. Bear in mind that even in summer, the weather in the mountains can be unsettled.

Introduction

The Via Claudia is an inter­na­tional cycle route that runs through southern Germany, Austria and Italy (with a brief section in Switzerland).

The route takes its name from the road build by the Roman emperor Claudius Augustus. The road became, and remained, one of the major routes for trade and travel across the Alps. The road linked the Donau (Danube) with the river Po and with the Adriatic coast near Venezia passing via Augusta Vindelicorum (modern-day Augsburg), Feltria (modern-day Feltre), Tridentum (Trento), Verona, and the river port of Hostiliae (Ostiglia) on the Po.

There are surpris­ingly few visible remains of the old Roman road - there are a couple of short stretches of the old road that you can see in southern Germany. A couple of milestones have been discovered: one near Tezze near Bassano del Grappa and the other at Cesiomaggiore near Feltre. You can see the remains of the old roman bridge at Algund.

The route is about much more than the Roman remains - the route remains an important artery of commerce and cultural exchange for almost two millennia after it was built. In Austria you can visit the Ehrenberger Klause near Reutte and the Altfinstermünz near Pfunds which were both forti­fic­a­tions built to control, and tax, trade along the route.

The route through Germany and Austria follows the course of two major rivers:

  • the Lech takes you south from the Donau (Danube) through Augsburg and southern Bavaria and on into Austria via Füssen
  • in Austria the route follows the Inntal (valley of the Inn river) from Imst to Martina in Switzerland

From Martina you climb to the source of the third major river on the route: the Etsch/​Adige which heads south through the Südtirol towards Verona.

The Via Claudia near Burggen

The Via Claudia near Burggen

Highlights

In Germany probably the main must-sees are the cities of Augsburg (the former Roman city of Augusta) and Landsberg am Lech. As you get further south, there are the beautiful lakes of the Lechsee and Forggensee. Füssen at the end of the German section is an inter­esting city in its own right, but close to the iconic Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles which are some of the region's major tourist attrac­tions.

In Austria the natural scenery of the Alps is the star of the show, but along the route there are the attractive towns of Imst and Reutte and the villages of the Inntal.

The Schloss Neuschwanstein near Schwangau. Photo by Thomas Wolf via Wikimedia Commons

Options and connections

There are a huge number of connec­tions with other cycleways along the route. At Donauwörth (pronounced "Donau-vurt' by the way) it connects with the Donau Radweg (Danube cycleway) which from Donaueschingen in Germany to Budapest (and beyond).

The other major connection in Germany is with the D9 Romantische Straße (Romantic Road) cycle route which runs from Würtzburg to Füssen. In its southern part the Romantic Road goes through Donauwörth, Augsburg etc and at points the two routes coincide, but at others it offers an altern­ative option. The D9 takes you through both Augsburg and Landsberg am Lech while the VCA skirts round them - although it's easy to make a side trip to visit them. You could of course use the Romantische Straße to reach Donauwörth - or to head north from there.

In Austria the major connection is with the Inn Radweg follows the Inn river from its source in the Engadine valley in Switzerland near Sankt Moritz to Passau on the Danube passing through Innsbruck and Rosenheim on the way. The Inn Radweg connects in turn with the München-Venezia cycle route, and so offers an altern­ative route into Italy or an altern­ative route to München.

Reutte: the Grüne Haus. Frescoes by Johann Jakob Zeiller

Reutte: the Grüne Haus. Frescoes by Johann Jakob Zeiller

Map and altitude profile

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 tips for using the map

Map screen grab

Run your cursor over the graph to show the elevation, and distance from the start, for any given point on the route. (Note: the altitude graph is not shown where the route is flat).



map detail

Click the little icon in the right-hand corner to see the map fullscreen


Distances
Donauwörth - Augsburg 48 kms
Augsburg - Landsberg am Lech 49 kms
Landsberg am Lech - Füssen 74 kms
Füssen - Imst 72 kms
Imst - Pfunds 54 kms
Pfunds - Nauders 21 kms
The Innradweg/Via Claudia near Pfunds

The Innradweg/​Via Claudia near Pfunds

Signs and signposting.

In Germany the routes are indicates by small panels with the VCA symbol. The only problem is that the same method is used for other cycling and walking routes, and the wealth of connec­tions means that at points there's a bit of a risk of inform­ation overload. This is partic­u­larly true around Donauwörth and Füssen.

Things are more straight­forward in Austria, but there are a couple of points where you need to watch out: coming out of Füssen the Via Claudia initially coincides with another route which then crosses the river while the Via Claudia continues on towards Reutte; at Imst the route joins with the Innradweg. If you are following the Via Claudia you need to follow the Innradweg towards Landeck.

Click the photo below for a small slideshow of examples of signs from the German, Austrian and Italian sections of the route.

Too much information: cyclist on the Via Claudia trying to work out which way to go

Too much inform­ation








The shuttles

The Via Claudia Augusta is unusual in that there are 6 shuttle bus services provided to support the route. Two of these are in the Austrian section:

  • Fernpass (Biberwier - Nassereith)
  • Reschenpass (Landeck - Pfunds - Nauders)

If you are travelling on a full-loaded touring bike or say with a child trailer, my advice would be to seriously consider taking the Fernpass shuttle. The route over the pass is signed as a mountain bike route, the road is fairly nasty and there are stretches where bikes are banned (I'm not to sure about exactly where - I think bikes are banned from the tunnels). I saw people doing it on trekking-type bikes but whether they did it thinking 'I should have got the shuttle' I don't know.

Bikes are also banned from the road to the Reschenpass, however there is a pretty good road altern­ative via Martina in Switzerland. Take the shuttle if you feel like it, but if you'd rather carry on under your own steam then there's no reason not to. The VCA shuttle from Pfunds also means missing out on the Finstermünz {internal link} which for me was one of the highlights. You can however have the best of both worlds and see the Finstermünz and then take the public bus from Martina which is equipped to carry bikes.

The 270 SAD bus from Martina to Nauders and Mals in Italy

The SAD bus from Martina to Nauders and Mals in Italy

Getting there and getting back

The official start of the route is a short ride from Donauwörth station. There seem to be frequent trains from München Hauptbahnnhof station, and trains from there to/​from the airport.

Downloads

Maps to print out or view offline

The zip files contain pdf files packaged together for convenience. If you are using a tablet you may find it easier to download the individual sections.

Show map download links for individual sections

 About the maps

sample map page.

Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.

The maps are in two versions: A4 portrait format - for printing and maybe also for viewing on an iPad, and A5 for smaller tablets and smart­phones. As far as eReaders are concerned so far I’ve not managed to get them to work on a Nook - but you may have more success with other devices.

GPS files

  •  Via Claudia Germany and Austria gps files
    (.zip file containing 4 track files and one file of waypoints)
  •  Italy Points of Interest

     About POIs

    POIs are like waypoints, but while you can usually only store a limited number of waypoints on a device, you can store thousands of POIs. These files include inform­ation about campsites and hostels, bike shops, train stations, drinking water sources as well as warnings for tunnels and roads where bikes are banned. Please check the ReadMe file for instruc­tions. Updated March 2017.

More information

Places to stay

Hotels and B&Bs etc

There's plenty of choice of accom­mod­ation options along the route. See the individual sections of this guide for more inform­ation.

Hostels

In Germany there are hostels in Donauwörth, Augsburg and Füssen. I could only find one in the Austrian section of the route.

  Hostels map:  VCA-FT-hostels-mapshow map in overlay    |  VCA-FT-hostels-map  show map in new window   

Campsites

There are plenty of campsites on the Austrian section of the route, but relat­ively few on the German section.

Transport and services

The route has its own dedicated website viaclaudia.org (de/it/en)with inform­ation about accom­mod­ation and points of interest along the route as well as shuttle services to take you to the top of the major passes.

Transport

  • bahn.com German Railways
  • oebb.at ÖBB (Austrian Railways)
  • viaclaudia.org: shuttles
  • VCA shuttles pdf brochure (de/​it/​en)
  • bikeshuttle.at (de/​it/​en). A taxi/​transport firm based in Nauders they offer daily luggage transport services on the route as well as shuttles over the main passes. Between May and October they offer They also offer also daily bus services back from Verona and Venezia to München main station, and a three times a week service from Verona to Füssen or Garmisch stations.

Resources

Tourist information sites

Regional tourist inform­ation sites:

There are also many local sites — see the individual sections of the guide for more inform­ation.

Cycling websites

  • viaclaudia.org the official dedicated website for the route
  • Bayernnetz für Radler - Bavarian Network for Cyclists
  • ADFC Bett und Bike site listing bike-friendly accom­mod­ation in Germany —operated by the German cyclist’s associ­ation the ADFC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club)
  • Radtouren in Österreich overview of cycle touring routes in Austria
  • veloland.ch (de/​en/​fr/​it) cycle routes through Switzerland
  • Innradweg the site for the Innradweg
  • donauregion.at site for the Danube cycleway through Oberösterreich (northern Austria)
  • donau.com site for the Danube cycleway through Niederösterreich (lower Austria)

Tour operators

It's perfectly possible to ride the Via Claudia independ­ently: the route is well signposted, and online services such as Booking.com make it really easy to book accom­mod­ation en route, but there are tour operators. These offer the option of a guided tour which means that you travel with a group, and 'self-guided' which mean that they organise your accom­mod­ation, transport your bags and provide backup in emergencies. The operators I know of are:

Via Claudia mural between Tosens and Ried im Oberinntal

Via Claudia mural between Tosens and Ried im Oberinntal

Articles in this series

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