Germany is one of the world’s great travel destinations. There are so many pleasures and treasures to be found in its incredible cities, towns and countryside that a list of the best things to see in Germany could have 100 entries or more! When my husband and I lived in Italy for over three years, we had the chance to get to Germany regularly. Even after returning to the U.S., we’ve made several trips back to this incredibly fun and fascinating country.
The country’s appeal is no great mystery given its storybook villages, moody forests, Alpine peaks, half-timbered houses and major cities with modern vibes. So, sit down, pour yourself a halbenliter, and journey with us to our favorite places to visit in Germany. Though there are countless, these are our favorites.
- Neuschwanstein Castle
- Berlin’s Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and Brandenburg Gate
- Travel the Romantic Road
- German Spas
- Visit During Oktoberfest
- Dachau Concentration Camp Site
- Heidelberg Castle
- Ascend the Zugspitze
- Cologne Cathedral
- Ulmer Munster
- The German Fairytale Route
- Sip a Smoked Beer in Bamburg
- Explore the German Wine Route
- Nuremberg’s Nazi History
- Rügen Seaside
- Swim in the Königsee
- Berchtesgaden National Park
- Visit the Cuckoo Clock Makers of the Black Forest
- Black Forest Waterfalls
- Eltz Castle
- Pilgrimage Church of Weis
- Old Town of Regensburg
- Lake Constance
- Dine on Authentic German Fare
The stuff fairy tales are made of. This 19th century castle in southwest Bavaria is stunning and one of the most visited castles in Germany – one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe for that matter.
Its beauty is almost indescribable and a hike to the castle is a must. The closer you get, the more excited you become to see this incredible palace perched on a rugged hill surrounded by a landscape you’d believe is an absolute piece of heaven.
Berlin’s Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and Brandenburg Gate
Once considered a gritty, and before that decadent, Berlin continues to evolve into one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in Europe. No visit there would be complete without seeing the murals of the Berlin Wall, once a heavily militarized concrete barrier separating it from East Berlin, the border crossing known as Checkpoint Charlie, and the impressive Brandenburg Gate.
Travel the Romantic Road
You’ll need a car to travel the 350 kilometers of Germany’s Romantic Road stretching between Würzburg and Füssen at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. The area is dotted with lovely medieval towns and so many ‘stop the car’ moments, you’re likely to lose count.
For a quintessential German experience, Germany’s spa towns of Baden-Baden, Wiesbaden, and Aachen are among the best. These seaside and inland resorts offer bathing, steaming, schvitzing and swimming, all warmed by thermal waters and a wide variety of spa treatments. Bottom line: Germany loves its spas.
Visit During Oktoberfest
Visitors to Germany have many sites around the country to celebrate Oktoberfest which takes place late September through early October, but Munich is the most popular and most fun. Why? Because this is where Oktoberfest was born!
The yearly event is considered the world’s largest Volksfest, or beer fest and fun fair. There’s nothing like experiencing Munich during Oktoberfest.
Dachau Concentration Camp Site
Yes, it’s grim and almost unbearable, but every visitor to Germany should take advantage of visiting Dachau, near Munich. As one of the most important Holocaust sites in Germany, this horrid camp was in operation the longest during the Nazi regime.
Initially a camp for political prisoners, Dachau evolved into a death camp where countless thousands of Jews died from malnutrition, disease, overwork, or execution. In 1965, a memorial site was created on the grounds of the former concentration camp allowing visitors to tour historic buildings and view poignant exhibits related to Dachau’s dark and ugly history.
Situated on a hill surrounded by a verdant forest, this castle’s ruins synonymous with Romanticism are among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. Though the castle has only partially been rebuilt since its demolition in the 17th and 18th centuries, it still attracts over a million visitors each year from all over the world.
Ascend the Zugspitze
The tallest mountain in Germany soars at 9,700 feet above sea level, luring view-seekers up its craggy slopes on a thrill ride via cog railway and cable car that gives new meaning to the notion that getting there is half the fun. Views from the top over the undulating Alps will literally take your breath away.
As the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, this impressive architectural marvel has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Germany’s most visited landmarks attracting an average of 20,000 visitors a day.
The cathedral, a work of creative genius, is the tallest twin-spired church in the world and unbelievably took over 600 years to complete in its several stages.
If you love cathedrals and religious history, a visit to this tallest church in the world soaring 530 feet is an absolute treat. Unlike the Cologne Cathedral which is Roman Catholic, this structure belongs to the Lutheran faith.
The German Fairytale Route
If you’ve ever heard of Snow White or Cinderella, or know about the Brothers Grimm, you know these well-known tales were so popular that Disney adapted them into movies.
Visitors can find where these fairy tales happened, or at least where they were inspired. With over 600 kilometers of places to see, the Fairy Tale Route will bring you where the Brothers Grimm lived, worked and had important moments in their lives along with where other characters’ inspired stories.
Sip a Smoked Beer in Bamburg
It’s not hard finding beer in Germany, but for something a little different, head to the Franconian town of Bamberg. The entire old city district with its half-timbered tavern and small quaint breweries and famous smoked beer is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to legend, the smoked beer known as Rauchbier was invented by accident, following a fire in a brewery, but it soon became a popular local tipple. Today, you can find Rauchbier all over town along with dishes that use the beer, such as pork-filled roasted onion served with mashed potato.
Explore the German Wine Route
Beer is still a favored drink in Germany, but German wines are a close second. The Deutsche Weintrasse winds its way through the Pfalz, German’s wine-growing region. Beginning near the French border, the 53-mile route connects countless wineries through picturesque towns and many Michelin-starred restaurants.
Though the region produces reds and lesser-known whites, Reisling is definitely the favorite.
Nuremberg’s Nazi History
The city’s imposing buildings bear witness to the megalomania and events of the evil Nazi regime. After World War II however, the city became known as the site of the Nuremberg Trials where party officials and high-ranking officers answered for their crimes through the institution of international criminal law.
An informative documentation center of the trials can be found on the top floor of the famous courthouse where the trials took place.
Most people don’t think of Germany as a beach destination, but with its white sandy beaches, national parks and stunning coast, the area of Rügen definitely exudes a Mediterranean charm.
Beloved by Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein, Rügen is Germany’s largest island with chalky white cliffs, beautiful shorelines and a bygone seaside grandeur.
Swim in the Königsee
Freshwater paddling is one of Germany’s pleasure sports and there are so many places within Germany to have this experience. Königsee in Bavaria’s Berchtesgaden Land is a pristine location flanked by stunning mountain ranges.
Berchtesgaden National Park
Located on the border with Austria, this national park located in the German Alps is filled with crystal clear lakes, lush forests, sleepy little villages, and breathtaking landscapes as far as the eye can see.
Historically, this was also the site of the Kehlsteinhaus, known as the Eagle’s Nest, a Third Reich-era building erected atop the summit of Kehlstein, used exclusively by Adolph Hitler and members of the Nazi Party for government and social meetings.
Visit the Cuckoo Clock Makers of the Black Forest
Though it’s not known who actually invented the cuckoo clock, it is believed that it was first crafted in Germany’s Bavarian Black Forest region. These clocks, dating back to the 1700s, are known for their intricate carvings and ornamental details along with their quality and longevity, and of course, the bird which provides the infamous cuckoo sound. Visitors will find a plethora of these handcrafted works of art in the town of Triberg.
Black Forest Waterfalls
Speaking of Triberg, this town is famous for Germany’s highest waterfalls with drops of 163 meters over seven cascades.
The best way to see these magnificent waterfalls is by hiking through the Black Forest, an awe-inspiring 1.1 mile out and back trail to these impressive gifts from Mother Nature. Once you visit the Black Forest, you’ll understand why this region inspired a thousand fairy tales.
Many actually consider this Germany’s most beautiful castle. It is one of the few medieval fortresses in Europe to have remained completely intact.
An arduous 45-minute guided hike to the castle is so worth it due to the lushness of the surrounding Elzbach Valley and the incredibly elaborate Gothic architecture, crowned with several towers and turrets.
Pilgrimage Church of Weis
This fabulously ornamental church is so fascinating as it’s located in a remote area at the foothills of the German Alps. Why such an impressive structure was erected in such a solitary place is part of its mystery.
The oval Rococo church designed in the late 1740s has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is most known for the tears seen on a dilapidated wooden figure of the Scourged Savior which resulted in a pilgrimage rush to see the sculpture.
Old Town of Regensburg
Founded by the Romans in 179 A.D., this charming town is filled with German artistry and romanticism. Despite countless wars and bombings, Regensburg was preserved and entirely unscathed.
A visit here in eastern Bavaria will make you feel as if you’ve embarked on a journey through the Middle Ages.
Bordering Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Lake Constance remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in Germany – and for good reason. One being that the view of the Alps from the shoreline is absolutely incredible.
Nature lovers will find plenty of diversity on its islands and preserves. Water and land activities abound for the sports’ lovers with sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, or swimming. Hopping on a boat will take you to the lake’s scenic islands and towns filled with baroque castles, churches and monasteries.
Dine on Authentic German Fare
No matter where you travel in Germany, if you keep in mind its most authentic traditional German cuisine, you’re in for a special treat.
Bratwurst, Schnitzel, Spätzle top the list followed by such sweet delights as Bavarian Crème and Apple Strudel. And don’t forget that on a cold wintery day, a cup of hot spiced Gluehwein will put a glow on your cheeks.destinationhistoricsmall townwine