Located in the heart of Europe, Germany today maintains the continent’s most powerful economy. However it is probably best known for its World War II history and the country’s even more recent times when it was split into East and West; everybody knows about the Berlin Wall, which came down less than 30 years ago. There’s a load of culture, natural beauty, and much older history to discover in this large European nation.
You’ll find much of this in Bavaria, southern Germany, where you can soak up the Bavarian Alps, explore some truly charming medieval towns, and get involved in the infamous Oktoberfest. In the north, you can explore beaches and old port towns from the Hanseatic period. Berlin wows with its famous clubs and huge museums, as does Frankfurt with its skyscraper-laden cityscape. Then there’s everything in between, offering a chance to really get into the nitty-gritty of Germany. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Germany:
The walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber sits on a plateau overlooking the Tauber river in Bavaria. Straight from the pages of a fairy tale, this Franconian town is famous for its extremely well preserved medieval center. The town itself is small and easily traversable on foot.
Be sure to visit the Town Hall, the seat of city government since medieval times. Climb the steps of the 13th-century hall’s tower for stunning views of the city. Rothenburg is also famous for the stores that carry Christmas items all year round and for having an outstanding Christmas market each December.
9. Rugen Island Find Hotels
Favored for its remarkable landscapes and romantic seaside resorts, Rugen Island has flourished as a popular tourist destination since the 18th century. Located in the Baltic Sea as part of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Rugen Island is the largest island in Germany, connected to the mainland by the Rugen Bridge and Rugen Causeway.
Charming villas, historic old towns and beautiful beaches all draw tourists to Rugen Island, but the star attraction is the Jasmund National Park, famous for its unique chalk cliffs rising 161 meters over the sea. Of these majestic cliffs, the largest is known as Konigsstuhl, or King’s Chair. Legend has it that in ancient times, a newly crowned king would climb to the top of this cliff and sit in a chair to demonstrate his power.
Another notable feature of Rugen Island is Cape Arkona, East Germany’s northernmost tip, where tourists can visit an old lighthouse, remnants of a Slavic castle and a picturesque fishing village.
Among the island’s many seaside resorts, a few most popular include Binz, Sellin, Gohren and Sassnitz. Tourists will find a wide variety of recreation here ranging from golf to horse riding, cycling, windsurfing and hot air balloon trips.
Rugen Island can be reached by car across Germany’s longest bridge, by train and ferry service. Within the island, buses run between all major towns. Many of the main attractions are car-free, so walking and cycling are good alternatives. A great way to explore Rugen Island is by its steam-powered train, called Racing Roland.
Stretching between the cities of Bingen and Bonn, Germany, the Middle Rhine flows through a dramatic geological formation called the Rhine Gorge. This region features a spectacular landscape dotted with medieval castles, picturesque villages and terraced vineyards. Tourism flourished here after aristocrat travelers brought much attention to the area during the Romanticism period of the 19th century and the area became known as the Romantic Rhine. The inspiration behind poems, painting, operas and legends, the Romantic Rhine today is a major tourist destination in Germany.
A journey through the Romantic Rhine presents splendid views of medieval castles perched on nearly every hillside. Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, these castles range from ruins to fortresses and majestic palaces. One of the most well-preserved is the Marksburg Castle while other significant ones include Stolzenfels, Pfalzgrafenstein, the Electoral Palace and the Stahleck Castle, which offers overnight accommodation.
Bathed in color and history, the charming villages along the Rhine Gorge provide excellent sightseeing opportunities as well as cafes, shops and hotels. The town of Bacharach is particularly beautiful in its setting of half-timbered buildings, cobblestone streets and terraced vineyards.
The region’s most famous natural attraction is the Lorelei, the deepest and most narrow section of the Rhine Gorge, which features a large, treacherous rock that caused several boating accidents prior to the 19th century. Because of its unique echo, the rock inspired a legend that claims a beautiful siren sat upon the summit, luring sailors to their deaths.
The best way to experience the Romantic Rhine is by a riverboat cruise. However, there are also highways and trains that run along both sides of the river. Additionally, tourists can explore the beautiful region by scenic walking trails and cycling routes.
Read more: Great Day Trips from Frankfurt
7. Cologne Where to Stay in Cologne
It may have been nearly destroyed from heavy bombing during World War II, but Cologne today is one of the largest cities in Germany and a major European metropolis. Situated on the Rhine River in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne offers several vibrant array of attractionsinteresting tourist attractions, a buzzing nightlife and a stellar arts and culture scene.
Cologne packs impressive landmarks such as the city’s informal symbol, the Cologne Cathedral, a stunning Gothic church that claims to contain the gifts of the Magi mentioned in the Bible. Moreover, the Twelve Romanesque Churches are magnificent examples of medieval architecture.
As a leading culture center in the Rhineland area, Cologne boasts an outstanding collection museums. Two of the most important include the Wallraf-Richartz Musem for its fine medieval art, and the Farina Fragrance Museum, which details the history and production of the city’s famous perfume, Eau de Cologne.
Every year, Cologne hosts one of Europe’s largest Carnival festivals, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors, and filling the streets and pubs with costumed people, music and dancing. However, even outside of festivals, tourists will find no shortage of nightlife choices in this city of many pubs, bars and clubs. Cologne is known for its unique beer, called Kolsch, which is served cold and fresh in every bar in town.
Read more: Top Cologne Attractions
6. Dresden Where to Stay in Dresden
Before it was severely damaged from World War II bombings, Dresden was known as the Jewel Box because of its lavish collection of stunning art and architecture. After many years, the city has restored much of its former glory. The capital of the federal state of Saxony, Dresden is one of the largest urban districts in Germany, serving as an important center of government and culture.
Dresden offers several interesting landmarks such as the beautiful plaza of Bruehl’s Terrace and the magnificent palace complex known as the Zwinger. The Old Town also contains a number of historic sites like the stunning Frauenkirche cathedral. Impressive art galleries and museums abound in the city, particularly the Green Vault, which houses thousands of exquisite precious gems, jewelry pieces and fine art works.
An important culture center, Dresden boasts many cultural institutions of which the Semper Opera is most widely esteemed. The city plays host to several annual events that include Europe’s largest Jazz festival, the Dixieland Festival.
Amid the bustling city, open green spaces like the Big Garden offer outdoor leisure activities and relaxation while the River Banks presents summer sports, barbecues, concerts and outdoor cinema. Getting around the city center is easy by walking, cycling and bike taxis.
Read more: Top Dresden Attractions
5. Lubeck Find Hotels
As one of the largest Baltic seaports in Germany, Lubeck is located in the country’s northern-most state, Schleswig-Holstein. Founded in 1143, Lubeck served for several centuries as the capital seat of the Hanseatic League. Although it was the first German city to be bombed and damaged during World War II, Lubeck still retains much of its medieval architecture, making it a popular tourist destination.
Dominated by seven Gothic churches, the city’s Old Town presents an attractive setting of romantic medieval architecture intertwined with modern day infrastructure. A walk through the old, narrow streets offers views of historic sites like the stunning cathedral, the 12th century Town Hall, the old city gates and the house of Thomas Mann, the 1929 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The bustling streets of Huxstrasse and Fleischhauerstrasse are lined with restaurants, art galleries, book stores and souvenir shops. A stroll along the city’s harbor allows tours of old Hanseatic warehouses and old shipping vessels now fashioned into museums.
Lubeck is well known for its production of the confection, marzipan. Local legend says that marzipan originated in Lubeck during a time of famine when almonds and sugar were the only available staples. The city also boasts its own wine specialty called Rotspon, which can be found in every shop of Lubeck.
Read more: Top Lubeck Attractions
4. Heidelberg Where to Stay in Heidelberg
With historic treasures like the medieval Old Bridge, the Heidelberg Castle, the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Knight St. George House, it is no wonder that Heidelberg is a popular tourist attraction. The city center’s main street, Haupstrasse, is packed with pubs, restaurants, open-air cafes, shops and markets selling the likes of beer steins, cuckoo clocks and German sausages.
Not far from the Old Town is Thingstatte, an outdoor amphitheater, originally constructed by the Nazi regime to promote propaganda events. Today, this intriguing site is the scene of concerts, celebrations and other special events.
Home to Germany’s oldest university, Heidelberg’s long academic history can be retraced along the Philosopher’s Walk, a scenic footpath often walked by many earlier philosophers and professors. Likewise, the city’s arts and history can be experienced in its many theaters, galleries and museums that include the Carl Bosch Museum, Palatinate Museum and Bonsai Museum.
With more than 300 pubs, dance halls and nightclubs, Heidelberg offers a variety of nightlife venues to suit all ages and preferences. What’s more, the city hosts several lively annual festivals and cultural events such as the Ball of the Vampires, Carnival, Classic Music Festival, International Easter Egg Market and Christmas Market.
Read more: Heidelberg Attractions
3. Neuschwanstein Find Hotels
The most photographed building in Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle, is also one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Nestled among the breathtaking beauty of the Bavarian Alps near the town of Fussen, this fairy-tale castle served as the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Constructed in the late 1800s, Neuschwanstein Castle was never built for defense purposes as most castles. Instead, this castle was created as a fanciful retreat King Ludwig II of Bavaria who had a reputation for abiding in daydreams instead of reality.
2. Munich Where to Stay in Munich
Best known as the origin of the world famous Oktoberfest, Munich is a major international hub for research and technology. The capital of the state of Bavaria, Munich is Germany’s most prosperous city, boasting research universities, global companies like BMW and state-of-the-art science museums such as the Deutsches Museum.
However, Munich is not all business. This vibrant city offers one of Germany’s best culture scenes, presenting several sophisticated opera houses and theaters like the National Theater. The city center is an attractive blend of classic and modern architecture, teeming in historic churches, medieval walls and royal palaces as well as bustling shopping centers and art galleries.
Munich also offers its share of lush green spaces, which include the English Garden, one of the world’s largest public parks. Munich is home to sports teams consisting of basketball, ice hockey and a championship football club.
Munich’s Oktoberfest began in 1810 with a royal wedding celebration. Today, this famous beer festival draws millions of visitors every year to take part in the revelry that involves several gigantic beer tents, delicious Bavarian food, fun competitions and millions of liters of beer. No matter what time of year tourists visit, they can experience Munich’s beer gardens and beautiful beer halls.
Read more: Top Munich Attractions
1. Berlin Where to Stay in Berlin
A federal state and the capital city of Germany, Berlin is widely associated with its World War II history and former division of East and West Germany by the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. Since the fall of the historic wall in 1989, Berlin today is now a vast, unified city diverse in ethnic groups and abundant in sightseeing attractions, culture and nightlife.
Many tourists are drawn to Berlin’s famous historic structures, which include the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag and the Holocaust Memorial. Although most of the Berlin Wall was demolished, there are some portions still standing near Checkpoint Charlie and the Reichstag.
Berlin is respected for its high concentration of museums, namely Museum Island, which comprises a collection of museums that house impressive relics, temples and even reconstructed villages from many of the world’s ancient civilizations.
However, Berlin is not all about history. With two zoos, swimming lakes, public parks, botanic gardens and dozens of nightlife venues, Berlin offers plenty for everyone in the family. The city also hosts annual festivals such as the Long Night of the Museums, Carnival of Cultures and the glamorous Berlin Film Festival.
Read more: Top Berlin Attractions
Map of Germany
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