From big cities and techno mega-clubs to alpine valleys and medieval houses, Germany is a destination that can satisfy many individual tastes.
If you’re interested in history and sightseeing, there’s an abundance of museums, small towns, forests and mountains. Lovely old cathedrals and grand palaces are everywhere, and in the smaller towns and villages, many century-old traditions continue.
Cities to visit
Berlin - The largest city and the nation’s capital, it is known for its cultural flair and mix of old and modern architecture.
Munich - This major international centre is world famous for its annual Oktoberfest celebrations. In addition to beer, there are many grand buildings, beautiful parks and high-end shopping.
Cologne - The beautiful old cathedral on the Rhine River heralds this city’s attractions of art, museums and Roman history.
Frankfurt - Also known as the ‘Manhattan of Europe’, Frankfurt is a wealthy financial hub with a vibrant nightlife and swanky restaurants and bars.
Hamburg - The ‘Gateway to the World’ has Germany’s biggest harbour, a variety of theatres and classical music halls, and hosts summertime street parties.
The Brandenburg Gate
Modestly referred to as a ‘gate’, this towering 18th century Roman-style archway is a national icon. Originally built as a symbol of peace, the Brandenburg Gate eventually became a prominent section in the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Berlin. The gate and the area around it often featured in media coverage of anti-Berlin Wall protests, and again when the wall was torn down. The gate is part of the Berlin Wall walking tour, on which visitors can see preserved sections of the wall and the old military checkpoints.
Visit a fairytale castle
Neuschwanstein Castle must be seen to be believed. Perched in the German Alps, the cartoon-like white exterior was Walt Disney’s inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. It was built by King Ludwig II in the 1800s and, rather than hiring an architect, he commissioned a theatre set designer to come up with something unique. The interior is unsurprisingly flamboyant and contains attractions such as an artificial cave and a gilded hall for performances.
Have a thrill or two
Europa-Park is Germany’s largest theme park and second only to Disneyland Paris in popularity across Europe. There are 12 roller coasters to choose from, including the Blue Fire Megacoaster and a suspended coaster called Arthur. If that’s too tame, try the Euro-Mir — a ride that nosedives from a tower and reaches speeds of up to 80 kilometres an hour. There are also themed areas where you can ‘visit’ other European countries, such as The Netherlands and Spain.
The Black Forest
It has inspired legends and lent its name to a tasty chocolate cake — and the Black Forest region today captivates travellers with its rolling hills, dense evergreen forests and storybook villages. Situated near the borders of France and Switzerland, the area’s many hills, valleys and rivers can be explored on foot, by bike and by boat. Many of the Black Forest’s main attractions lie in the area between the university town of Freiburg, the ‘cuckoo clock capital’ Triberg and the quiet township of St Blasien.
Foods to eat
Wurst - Germany has so many varieties of delicious sausages that you’d be hard pressed to try them all. Bratwurst, weisswurst, gelbwurst — the list goes on.
Schweinebraten - Roast pork with a crispy crust, often beer-basted and popular in Munich.
Konigsberger Klopse - Tangy little meatballs made from minced pork and anchovies, and served with a white sauce and capers.
Apple strudel - Originating in Vienna, the Germans have taken this hot apple-filled pastry dessert and perfected their own regional version.
The Dachau memorial
Germany is dotted with World War II historical sites, and one of the most moving places to visit is the Dachau memorial. Located outside of Munich, the Dachau facility was built in 1933 as one of the first Nazi concentration camps. It was a brutal place for prisoners and there were over 32,000 documented deaths before the camp was liberated by American troops in 1945. In 1965, a group of surviving prisoners organised to have the camp turned into a memorial. Visitors can tour the grounds and buildings, and the onsite museum contains firsthand accounts and artworks from former prisoners.
Any list of German travel experiences would be incomplete without Oktoberfest, a 200-year old celebration packed with beer, sausage, amusement rides and giant pretzels. It’s the world’s largest fair, attracting over 6 million visitors to Munich during its 16-day run. The festivities kick off in mid to late September, but if you’ve missed the date you can still get an Oktoberfest- like experience at the Hofbrauhaus — Munich’s most famous beer hall.
Go back in time
The old town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber transports travellers back to the Middle Ages. Situated on the aptly-named Romantic Road in Bavaria, Rothenburg is the best-preserved medieval town in Germany. Take a leisurely walk past half-timbered old houses, secluded squares and through the tucked-away corners of the Old Quarter, where towers, taverns and town gates alternate with fountains, fortifications and former storehouses. You’ll also find the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum, which has a large and grisly display of torture equipment.
Become the Stig
Fans of the TV show Top Gear will know the Nurburgring — the Grand Prix racetrack built beside a medieval castle in the Eifel Mountains. Part of the track is open to the public, so anyone with a street legal vehicle can pay a toll and test their driving skills (and in case you’re wondering, ‘street legal’ means people can even race a registered bus, campervan or scooter around the track). But be warned — drivers who crash are liable to pay for any damage that they cause to the track and other vehicles, as well as cover the costs of vehicle recovery and towing. Racing-related injuries and vehicle damage may also not be covered by travel insurance.
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