Germany has been on my bucket list for too long and I am so glad that I finally made this trip! It is indeed everything I had heard, imagined and still so much more.. Germany has a diverse combination of rich culture, magnificent architecture and a great heritage! The range of places to visit in Germany is vast and varied, offering everything from fairy tale castles to rave clubs to river cruises to hiking through lush forest. Narrowing your list down to just a few of the best places to visit in Germany is no small feat!
Before visiting Germany, I made it a point to research the many world-class museums as I simply love spending time at the Museums and engrossing myself in the history and art of that particular country. If you ask me, I would say that museums are the best places to visit in Germany. However, I understand that every traveler is different and so I will attempt to make the most elaborative description of all the best places to visit in Germany.
One can explore the spotless miles of golden beach on the various islands and along the coastline, like in the National Park of Wattenmeer in the North. The Alpine Foreland, home to the Zugspitze Mountain, welcomes hikers in summer and skiers and snowboarders in winter. In the forests, the fragrant flora and fauna shade the legends of fairies and goblins. Of course the Magic Cities of Germany buzz with beer gardens, remarkable architecture and rich history. Then there’s the quirky and colourful side of German culture, which can be seen in the many top German festivals, especially during carnival in Germany. I was lucky to spent a month in Germany and it grew on me everytime I visited another city. There was so much to explore and experience that I just couldn’t get enough! I will share here about all the places that I explored, not necessarily in a particular order as I visited as one can choose to skip or add destinations as per one’s own preferences and travel modes opted for.
Well, as the obvious states, I started my journey from Berlin. It is the capital of Germany and the largest city in Germany which known by its rich history, museums, street art, clubs, bars and diversity of its population. The city’s architecture is mixed like its population, due to World War II and the Cold War. Berlin’s combo of glamour and grit is bound to mesmerise all those keen to explore its vibrant culture, cutting-edge architecture, fabulous food, intense parties and tangible history. It is definitely one of the best places to visit in Germany!
There are lots of amazing places to see in Berlin but the first stop must be the ‘Berlin Cathedral’ or ‘Berliner Dom’ in German. This impressive church was built at the end of 19th Century and is definitely a landmark of Berlin. The entry to this church is 7 Euros and you will get to see the amazing view of central Berlin from the top of the dome. You can find the well preserved ‘Berlin Wall’ on the east side of the city. A colourful memorial to freedom, the ‘East Side Gallery’ sits along the Spree River and is the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall. Shortly after its fall in November 1989, more than 100 artists from all over the world turned it into an open-air gallery covered in declarations of peace and other, often politically minded murals. You should also check the ‘Berlin Wall Memorial’ or ‘Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer Hohenschönhausen’. This spot is mostly missed by tourists since it has a dull look with absolutely no attractive part but in order to understand the cold era of Germany, there is no better place!
Also, you can check out the Documentation and Visitor’s Centre as well as the Memorial site for free! The ‘New Synagogue’ is an institution for the preservation of Jewish memory and tradition. This amazing synagogue was built between 1859-1866 and heavily damaged during the World War II, but it was rebuilt again and now it stands with its glory. ‘The Pariser Platz’ is a square located by the ‘Brandenburg Gate’ after you take a walk on the ‘Unter den Linden’ street.
Berlin’s most iconic landmark, the ‘Brandenburg Gate’, was erected in 1791 as the royal city gate, but spent the Cold War years abutting the Berlin Wall and thus becoming a symbol of the divided nation. Crowned by an elaborate sculpture of the winged goddess of victory piloting a chariot, it now serves as a potent symbol of German reunification.
This lively city on the Rhine offers a wealth of cultural activities, international trade fairs and conferences, and numerous major events. Attractions such as Cologne Cathedral, which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city’s 12 large Romanesque churches create an unforgettable impression on visitors. What’s more, the cathedral city of Cologne is home to many museums and galleries that present top-class art treasures of all styles and from all epochs.
With shopping streets, alleys in the old town’ and characteristic urban neighbourhoods – known as ‘Veedel’ in Cologne’s own dialect – Cologne is considered an insider tip as one of Germany’s greatest cities for shopping. And let’s not forget the excellent and exciting night life – among Germany’s major cities, Cologne has the highest density of pubs and taverns. Around 3,300 bars, clubs and restaurants invite the visitor to enjoy a cool Kölsch beer. So for a beer lover, Cologne might be considered as one of the best places to visit in Germany Kölsch – the city’s signature beer – never stops flowing there, the kitchens dish up Rhineland specialities and there is so much friendly and light-hearted revelry you would think it were carnival all year round. Every type of kölsch has its own distinctive flavour and of course, its own brewery. The beer waiters, known as Köbes, remain immune to the general merriment: a certain gruffness is the hallmark of a genuine Köbes.
If the culture and excitement of Cologne takes its toll and you need some time to relax, head to Rhine Park, one of the largest and prettiest in the city. Locals describe this park on the eastern bank of the Rhine as being on the ‘wrong’ side of the river. Nevertheless, you can get over there on the cable car.
Cologne’s Flora und Botanischer Garten is the oldest public park in the city. Located on the left bank of the Rhine, the site covers almost a 1/2 mile and has more than 10,000 species of plants like magnolias, rhododendrons, coniferous trees and maples. It is visited by more than a million people every year. The Flora, set at the center of the garden, is an event building that hosts concerts, dances, and parties. Following a 3-year renovation, the site reopened in 2014 with upgraded facilities that make it a perfect respite for tourists needed a break from walking.
Something guaranteed to surpass expectations, however, is the city’s museum scene, in particular the magnificent Ludwig Museum which features works by Picasso, Warhol and Lichtenstein. There’s also the Romano-Germanic Museum, where the exhibits span 2,000 years of history, the Wallraf Richartz Museum, with art from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century, and the chocolate museum for sweet-toothed visitors. I enjoyed the most at all of these museums indeed!
Best known as the origin of the world famous ‘Oktoberfest’, Munich is another of the best places to visit in Germany with a great culture scene. Munich is home to several sophisticated opera houses and theatres like the National Theatre.
About Oktoberfest: Steaming from hundreds of years of Fall agricultural festivals, Oktoberfest has grown to become the World’s best party attractions of 6 million visitors. Today Oktoberfest has 14 major tents capable of holding up to 5,000 to 10,000 party goers a piece. Oompah music spills out from every corner of the Oktoberfest grounds while traditionally dress guests hold l litre beer mugs and eat authentic German food.
Beer halls in Munich are like Starbucks in Seattle, they are everywhere and are deeply embedded into the city’s culture. Of the almost 200 beer halls and gardens in Munich, there are a few that we love the most. By far the most famous of Munich’s beer halls is the Hofbrau Haus.
Serving as Munich’s main town square since the 1100s, Marienplatz is still the heart and soul of Old Town. Marienplatz is home to the castle-like Old Town Hall and the Goliath-sized New Town Hall (Neuse Rathaus) which dominates the square. Sitting at over a football field in length, the huge building has 6 courtyards and over 400 rooms.
If river surfing, beer gardens, and escaping the city to relax in the park sound great then you’ll love Munich’s English Garden. Established in 1789, the English Garden is one of the best urban parks in the World. Munich’s massive green space is not only one of the biggest in Europe, but it is more than twice the size of both New York City’s Central Park and London’s Hyde Park.
- THE BLACK FOREST
The beautiful Black Forest with its dark, densely-wooded hills is one of the most visited upland regions in all of Europe. Situated in the southwestern corner of Germany and extending 160 kilometers from Pforzheim in the north to Waldshut on the High Rhine in the south, it’s a hiker’s heaven. It is best known for being the place where many of the Brothers Grimm fairytales were based, so it’s an area that has long been associated with folklore, fairytale and magic. It’s also a place of incredibly natural beauty, filled with spectacular waterfalls, expansive lakes, dense forest and mountains. A nature lover will indeed term the Black forest as one of the best places to visit in Germany! For the outdoorsy, there are endless things to do in the Black Forest. Before venturing deep into the Black Forest, a stop at the quaint and colourful town of Freiburg is a must for anyone visiting the area. Spend a day strolling through the pretty medieval old town with its waterways and cobbled streets. Start your visit to Freiburg at the Munsterplatz, which is home to the city’s cathedral and a daily farmers market selling everything from locally grown fruit, veg, flowers and other foodie produce. For a great al-fresco lunch option in the Munsterplatz, head to Oberkirch Restaurant and have a drink at the stylish SKAJO rooftop bar for some great views over the city.
Nestled in the forest just beyond the tiny town of Triberg is Germany’s tallest waterfalls. For a small entry fee you can climb from the foot to the top of the waterfalls on a winding path through the forest. Two bridges means you can also walk across the waterfalls and look down at the cascading water below.
A visit to Lake Titisee is one of the more typical things to do in The Black Forest. This beautiful lake is surrounded by a rugged vista of hills, mountains and trees. A wide boulevard of boutiques, cafes and gelato shops slope down towards the banks of the lake, where you can hire rowing boats, pedalos or hop on a larger passenger boat for a gentle lake cruise. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can also do similar activities on the smaller and lesser-known Schluchsee Lake.
The Black Forest is also home to a scattering of spa-towns, with Baden-Baden being one of the most famous. For the ultimate Black Forest spa experience, head to Brenners Park Hotel and Spa. This grand-dame hotel exudes timeless style and their newly-renovated Villa Stephanie spa is a must watch.
The railway viaduct is a must-see in the Black Forest. At the foot of the Ravennaschlucht, there is a hub of facilities including a few restaurants, a glass-blowing shop and a cuckoo-clock shop. If you’re visiting the area in December, be sure to visit the wonderful Ravennaschlucht Christmas market
Another of my favourite location and best places to visit in Germany is indeed the Neuschwanstein Castle, which is also known as the Fairytale castle or the real-life Disney Castle since it inspired Walt Disney when he made the Cinderella Castle. Neuschwanstein was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It took 22 years to finish the castle. The castle itself is located at the southern end of the Romantic Road just outside the village of Schwangau and not far from the town of Füssen. It is in a hamlet called Hohenschwangau, which is a brisk half-hour walk uphill from Schwangau. Neuschwanstein Castle itself is another 30-40 minutes steep climb from the ticket office in Hohenschwangau. Do take out the time to walk up to the Marienbrücke (the suspension footbridge behind the castle) where some of the lovely shots of Neuschwanstein with Schwangau in the background have been taken and you will know why this castle is one of the world’s most photographed places. The castle was featured in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie. King Ludwig only slept 11 nights in Neuschwanstein Castle & unfortunately he died before its completion. The Sleeping Beauty castle was immensely inspired by Neuschwanstein. Legoland in Gürzburg has a replica with more than 300 000 Lego bricks. More than 14.5 million euro is spent on maintenance each year and it is now owned by the state of Bavaria.
Unfortunately, Photography and Video is not allowed inside the castle. The interior is absolutely stunning, and everything you could possibly imagine and dream of when it comes to a royal castle . Each season has its charm, so there’s never a bad time to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. However, autumn is popular among photographers due to the foliage colors. Summertime is high-season when most tourists visits and wintertime is the least visited time of the year.
Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city (after Berlin) and home to 1.8 million people. Located in the north of the country off the Elbe River and North Sea, it features a large working harbor, interconnecting waterways, and hundreds of canals. Hamburg has more bridges than Amsterdam and Venice combined, all adding up a to a bustling city with lots of maritime charm.
Today, Hamburg is the mecca of the German media and its publishing houses make the city one of the wealthiest in Germany. Hamburg is also known for elegant shopping, world-class museums, and the legendary nightlife on the Reeperbahn. It is one of the cities you must visit in Germany with plenty to do for the whole family.
Among the must sees is the 800-year-old Hamburg Harbor, which is one of the largest ports in the world. Take the free ferry or wander through the reinvigorated Hafencity, a warehouse district that is newly built up and offers the latest in shopping and dining.
Another historic, lively working site is the 300-year-old fish market. Come early to shop, or come here after a late night to eat. Church of St. Michael is a baroque church that defines the city skyline and is known affectionately as ‘Michel’. Hamburger Kunsthalle houses an impressive art collection that makes up one of the largest museums in the country. The Emigration Museum Ballinstadt covers the mass migration of 5 million people who moved through the city from 1850 to 1939.
Hamburg knocks places like London, Las Vegas and even Berlin out of the park when it comes to nightlife. At least that’s what over 4000 travellers said when surveyed by a renowned hostel-booking platform, who all boasted about the city’s welcoming atmosphere, friendly locals, excellent public transport and a general sense of safety when walking about the city. Explore the eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, theaters, erotic museums and strip clubs any time of day, but visit at night to get the full neon experience. And while you need to watch your possessions, the area is generally quite safe.
The opening of the extravagant Elbphilharmonie concert hall in January 2017 has put Hamburg in the spotlight as the current must-see destination for music lovers worldwide. But the city has even more to offer. Hamburg has over 50 museums, 45 theatres, and around 100 music venues and clubs.You would know now why I couldn’t have missed Hamburg! It is also one of the biggest musical cities in the world, second only to New York and London. When it comes to music and art, Hamburg will not be outshone by Berlin. From fascinating historical architecture to striking futuristic buildings to some of the best nightlife in Europe, Hamburg has it all. Nestled on the River Elbe, Germany’s second largest metropolis prides itself with an abundance of parks and green spaces, a treasure-packed historic center, and more bridges than any other city in the world. Fine dining restaurants line the riverbank, museums are bursting with world-class art and naval memorabilia, and its beautiful Town Hall is a marvel of neo-Renaissance architecture.
Those with more contemporary tastes should definitely visit the futuristic HafenCity district, one of Europe’s most ambitious inner-city developments. This 2.2 sq km area along Hamburg’s port is a striking mix of towering skyscrapers, modern glass facades, and airy promenades, with a shimmering concert hall (Elbphilharmonie) designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and its heart. Otherwise, the UNESCO-awarded Speicherstadt is the largest warehouse district on the planet, a remarkable ensemble of Neo-Gothic brick buildings built on oak piles and interspersed with century-old waterways.
In the heart of the historic Port of Hamburg, the magnificent Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway, is an attraction that appeals equally to young and old alike. Boasting more than 12,000 meters of track, this massive scale model includes sections dedicated to the USA, England, and Scandinavia (as well as Hamburg) and incorporates 890 trains, more than 300,000 lights, and in excess of 200,000 human figures. It’s not unheard of for guests to spend many hours exploring this fascinating world with its remarkably detailed miniature airports (and planes that actually take off), crowded cities, quaint rural scenes, and bustling harbors. For a memorable experience, book one of the behind-the-scenes tours, an especially fun thing to do at night.
Speaking of harbors, be sure to explore the vast Port of Hamburg while you’re there. Covering 100 square kilometers, this huge tidal harbor – one of the world’s largest cruise ship terminals, and known as the Gateway to Germany – is best explored by boat. Afterwards, visit the harborside promenade, a lovely pedestrian route, and the Warehouse District with its continuous lines of tall brick-built warehouses.
Dresden, the mighty capital of Saxony, is a city full of life and one of Germany’s most prestigious cultural centers. Dresden could definitely be on top of the list of an architecture lover, as one of the best places to visit in Germany! It boasts a wealth of architectural treasures such as the astonishing Zwinger Palace – one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture, the impressive Brühl’s Terrace, or the stately Dresden Frauenkirche, a Lutheran church that dominates the city’s skyline. It is the largest Protestant domed building in history, that was rebuilt in 2005; 250,000 people, half the population of Dresden, visited it in the three days after opening.
The Altmarkt (old Market Square), first mentioned in documents dating to 1370, with the rebuilt town hall (rathaus) and 18th century Landhaus (housing the state museum) is the heart of Dresden. Altertinium is Dresden’s leading art museum, where I also happened to spent most of my time.
Königstrasse or King Street, on the right banks of the Elbe in the quarter known as Neustadt is a street of patrician houses, hidden restaurants, elegant boutiques and passageways full of stores. The Saxon Steamship Company will take you down the river on eight historic paddle steamers, the oldest and largest fleet of paddle steamers in the world.
Neustädter Markthalle – the covered market hall, which first opened in 1899, was reopened in November 2000. Inside is a museum called Kraftfahrzeuge Ostmobil featuring collector’s item vehicles, mostly from Saxony and Thuringia, some four wheeled and 50 two wheeled. Zwinger is Dresden’s baroque showpiece designed as an orangery and a setting for court festivities. Inside is now the Old Masters Picture Gallery, Armoury (Rüstkammer), Porcelain Collection, Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (rare scientific instruments) and the Zoological Museum. Recently Reopened was the Military History Museum, with around 9,000 exhibits. Dresden is loaded with interesting museums.
- THE MOSEL VALLEY
The Mosel is located near Germany’s western border. Lined with picturesque terraced vineyards, half-timbered medieval villages, and hilltop fairytale castles, the Mosel Valley is one of Germany’s most staggering sights.
The main tourist town of Cochem, tucked between steep vineyards and the river, boasts picturesque medieval streets. Stroll the delightful riverfront promenade, play life-size chess. To join in the fun, take the Sesselbahn (chairlift) up to a hilltop, enjoy the views, hike down, and end up at a wine-tasting at Weingut Rademacher.
Wine-tasting is a popular activity here and hence a not-to-miss best places to visit in Germany, on the list of a wine-lover! The long and peaceful Rhine’s tributary flows for 195 km between Trier and Koblenz, marking one of the country’s top white wine producing regions. This is a wonderful destination to escape the chaos of everyday life, immerse yourself in the German culture, and indulge in wine tasting. Sample local white wines or Roter-Weinbergs-Pfirsich Likör — a cordial made from the small, tart red peaches unique to the Mosel Valley. Throughout the region on summer weekends and during the fall harvest, towns host wine festivals with oompah bands, colorful costumes, and dancing, powered by the good food and wine.
Cochem’s castle is better admired from afar. This 19th-century reconstruction is more fanciful than authentic. Burg Eltz, on the other hand, is the real deal. Lurking in a mysterious forest about 30 minutes by car from Cochem.
One of the best times to visit Germany’s idyllic Mosel Valley is late summer/early fall, when the villages come to life with sprightly harvest and wine festivals featuring street parades, live music, and delicious local produce.
- THE RHINE VALLEY
The Rhine is not only Europe’s most important waterway, it’s also the most beautiful. With a total length of 1,320 kilometers, this magnificent river stretches from Switzerland through Germany all the way to the Netherlands. The Rhine Valley is the ultimate place to savour a drop or two. But the history of the Rhine goes so much deeper than just the wine industry: once an important strategic spot for the Roman Empire, this beautiful valley is dotted with Roman ruins. Check out the fort they left behind in Boppard, before reading up on their influence in the region at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum in Mainz. Soak up the architectural sights of this great city by going gothic-cathedral hunting – we’re sure you’ll find more than one or two.
The main architectural attraction of the Rhine Valley is its many castles and forts. Visit the hilltop-wonder that is Marksburg Castle in the town of Braubach before uncovering the stories hidden in Castle Maus.
Just in case you were not aware, Riesling is the main wine produced in the region from its namesake grape. And yet another reason to include this place among your list of best places to visit in Germany! For the ultra-frugal, you should visit the local supermarket for a bottle. A lot of the small towns don’t have large supermarkets, but you can also head to one of the largest cities, including Koblenz or Frankfurt to pick up a bottle on your way.
Enjoy Rhine Valley Nature. You will see numerous bikers biking around and along Rhine Valley. It’s an absolutely stunning bike ride along the Rhine if you’re into bike rides although you can also take the higher/more challenging route to reach nearby wineries and the forests close by. In spring you will see lots of canola fields in bloom.
For anyone who loves hiking, you can do the Oelsberg via ferrata, which is a challenging hike with a rope to help you along the steepest parts of it. Hiking will allow you to further appreciate the stunning beauty of this region, which surprised me to be honest. For those looking for an easier path can just enjoy a long walk around the Rhine.
- ZUGSPITZE MASSIF
The Zugspitze is the highest mountain of the Wetterstein Mountains as well as the highest mountain in Germany, at 2,962 meters above sea level. Beauty, Nature and Life! Endless adventures and outdoor activities for all ages and on top you have 360 degree panoramic views. Get to the top of the summit by using one of the three normal routes: one from the Hollental valley, another out of the Reintal valley, and the third from over the Austrian Cirque. One of the best known ridge routes in the Eastern Alps runs along the knife-edged Jubilee Ridge to the summit, linking the Zugspitze, the Hochblassen and the Alpspitze.
Three of the five German glaciers are found on the Zugspitze massif: the Höllentalferner the Southern and Northern Schneeferner. For mountaineers there is plenty of accommodation in the vicinity allowing you to spend 2-3 days hiking and seeking adventure. For those who wish to reach the top without hiking there are three cable cars that run to the top, the Tyrolean Zugspitze Cable Car, The Bavarian Zugspitze Railway and the Eibsee Cable car. In the winter time there are nine ski lifts that cover the ski areas on the Zugspitaplatt.
From November to April the Zugspitzplatt offers Germany’s highest skiing, with powder snow, a range of red and blue runs and spectacular views, extending in clear weather as far as Italy and Switzerland.
For a brief period in midwinter you can also stay in an igloo hotel. In summer, there is a limited selection of short hikes, including one which crosses the glacier to the Windloch observation point, from which you have good views of Ehrwald in Tyrol, 2000m below.
I have tried my best to elaborate as much as possible, to enable you to pick your best places to visit in Germany! Choose your destinations as per the time of travel available with you and also your specific interests.