Forested and hilly, the country of Germany, or Deutschland if you prefer, brings back memories of long walks in beautiful forests and visiting castles. In my younger days I’ve spent a lot of time in the country and really enjoyed all of it. Although when my parents made us do long walks on rainy days I remember being rather cranky.
Germany has a long and rich history and I’m sure you have heard of names like Albert Einstein, Ludwig van Beethoven and Karl Marx… but besides the cultural aspect of the country I’m sure many will also be envisioning a beautiful busty blond girl in traditional clothing that serves you half a liter of beer and a plate of bradwurst mit sauerkraut:P
But let’s get on with the top 25 things to do in Germany!
1. Hohenschwangau, southwest Bavaria: Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein)
Like a fairytale castle, the Schloss Neuschwanstein rises up above the Bavarian woods. In fact, the Bavarian ‘schloss’ served as a blueprint for the castle in Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty, and you will understand exactly why, given that its Germany’s most photographed building.
The castle is exquisitely designed, both in terms of architecture, and with respect to the regale adornment both on the exterior and within the interior. Ludwig II of Bavaria is responsible for commissioning the castle in the mid-nineteenth century to serve as a retreat, and due to his love for classical music conceived by Richard Wagner, he dedicated the castle to the composer.
Book a day trip from Munich: Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castle Full-Day
2. Berlin: Berlin Wall
On August 13, 1961, a dramatic turn of events shaped the cityscape of Berlin for many years to come. The Berlin wall, which was erected to impede the escape of East Berliners from the Soviet-regulated East German state, from that day forward served as a mainstay of disunity, fear, and of universal oppression.
Today, the remaining fragments of the Berliner Mauer are nothing more than graffiti-covered lengths of concrete and dilapidation, but still, the sight is enough to attract visitors by the thousands, irrespective there’s nothing attractive about it.
Recommended tour: Guided Bike Tour of the Berlin Wall and Third Reic
3. Berlin: Erholungspark Marzahn
The German authorities ambitiously undertook the creation of Erholungspark Marzahn, a public park in Marzahn, and it was completed in 1987. The result being a rather unique combination of an oasis of tranquility combined with cosmopolitan beauty, and all within a bustling urban reality.
The Chinese garden, which was completed exclusively by local landscape architects and artisans, represents the largest garden of its kind outside China. A visit to the gardens will allow you to witness ponds, pavilions, watercourses, traditional architecture, as well as ceremonies which are symbolic of countries such as Italy and Korea. Certainly a marvelous work of art that ought to be experienced by every visitor to Berlin.
: Berchtesgaden National Park
The Berchtesgaden National Park is representative of nature devoid of much disturbance by the human hand. In essence, the national park is a haven of lush forests, crystal clear lakes, steep rock faces, rolling meadows, and sleepy little villages.
Trails that are clearly indicated wind through the gorgeous scenery while they brim with opportunities for cycling, hiking, and Nordic walking. And do be sure to see lake Königssee, which rivals most Norwegian fjords for sheer beauty, the only difference being that the lake is far cleaner.
Book online: From Salzburg: Berchtesgaden and Königssee
5. Aachen: Aachen Cathedral
Finalized in 935, Aachen Cathedral, also referred to as the “Imperial Cathedral”, is the oldest cathedral in all of northern Europe. Between 936 and 1531, the establishment served as the church for the coronation of 30 German kings in addition to 12 German queens.
It was originally inspired by churches which were found in the Eastern Holy Roman Empire, and was developed throughout the Middle Ages while being further adorned by subsequent authorities thereby making it a complex and sophisticated masterpiece of architecture. It has inspired many other German constructions and is perhaps even more impressive in that it was chosen to be the final resting place for the eminent medieval ruler, Charlemagne.
6. Schleswig-Holstein: Sylt
The unusually named Sylt tends to epitomize much about Germany that people frequently feel is lacking – serenity, shifting sand dunes, nail-biting surf, a laid-back atmosphere, picturesque lighthouses, and plenty of sunshine.
Frequently referred to as the “St. Tropez of the North”, Sylt, which lies on an elongated piece of land on Germany’s northern coast overlooking the North Sea, is seen to be a fine combination of exuberant nature and world-class glamor, where high-class boutiques together with bustling restaurants and tranquil coves witness wave upon wave of tourists throughout the summer months. If nothing else, the vistas are enthralling.
7. Rhineland-Palantinate: Burg Eltz
Many who have visited Burg Eltz in Rhineland-Palantinate say that it’s Germany’s most beautiful castle and it typifies what historical courtyard romanticism should be about. It’s certainly true to say that the castle makes for a dazzling impression, and it is among the very few medieval fortresses in Europe to have remained completely intact.
The conical towers rise up gratifyingly from the lushness of the Elzbach valley, and the elaborate Gothic ornamentation is more than worthy of an arduous walk up the hill. Interestingly enough, the castle comes with a good number of 15th century lavatories that are fully flushable, which is in stark contrast to the sophisticated and enchanting Versailles which has none.
8. Herreninsel: Schloss Herrenchiemsee
King Ludwig II of Bavaria had the intention of creating a Royal Palace in the midst of Bavaria’s largest lake when he acquired Schloss Herrenchiemsee in 1873. It’s not a surprising choice either, given that the venue is most thoroughly breath-taking.
Schloss Herrenchiemsee, which translates to “New Palace”, was the king’s final and most grandiose project, draining more effort and money than either of his other two castles. Representing the epitome of overabundance, luxury, splendor, and vanity, and whilst being modeled on Versailles, the castle overflows with gold and really should not be missed, even for the wonderful setting for the palace alone.
Suggested tour: Herrenchiemsee Palace and Boat Trip Day-Tour
9. Würzburg: Würzburg Residence
Because of the Archbishop Johan von Schonborn’s insatiable and deeply curious requirements for a splendid construction, based on his obstinacy alone, the marvelous Würzburg Residence, which is in the Baroque architectural style, was completed.
Among those involved in its planning were the most distinguished architects from Germany, France, and Austria, and finally an imposing U-shaped palace was conceived, together with its 300 rooms. The luxurious innards are to be witnessed to be believed and the well-groomed gardens stretch around the palace in an all-encompassing fashion. The residence is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Related tour: Würzburg: Sightseeing Train Tour
10. Upper Middle Rhine Valley
The Middle Rhine Valley has for centuries facilitated cultural transitions between the north and the Mediterranean, acting as one of the most significant routes for transport in Europe. Yet it’s the upper 40 mile (65 km) stretch that has provided a limitless source of stimulus for artists.
Abundant in sun-drenched vineyards, historic towns, and idyllic castles, the area very aptly reflects the harmonious relationship that people can have with their surroundings. To experience and witness the area from the finest vantage point, it’s prudent to discover it by boat, and ideally aboard the last of the Rhine’s remaining paddle steamers – Goethe.
11. Saxony: Dresden Elbe Valley
Towering castles, bucolic villages, historic centers, magnificent churches, and colossal bridges all dot a small 12.5 mile (20 km) stretch of the Dresden Elbe Valley, where the natural and cultural values combine together, making it the ideal weekend getaway.
The valley is filled with unpretentious beauty while simultaneously being a throng of dramatic events, which work together to make it a stimulating and yet soothing landscape that offers plenty of interest to all its visitors. In spite of the tragic 1945 allied bombings, Dresden still represents a wonderful blend of culture, politics, education, and economics, thereby making a terrific base for traveling throughout the Elbe Valley.
Recommended tour: Dresden: Segway Tour Along the Elbe and Old Town
12. Köln (Cologne): Köln Dom (Cologne Cathedral)
Though Cologne Cathedral was under construction for around 600 years, the curious thing about it is that every added detail emulates the original design. In 1996, UNESCO added the cathedral to the World Heritage List, and for good reason as the construction is something of a masterpiece of engineering.
The cathedral sits on the site of a Roman temple from the 4th century, and houses three golden-crowned skulls which are thought to be from the Three Magi. The elaborate decoration of the cathedral and imposing façade invariably strike the unsuspecting visitor with awe.
Take a tour: City Highlights with Local Guide
13. Bavaria: Wies Church
Wies Church, which stands humbly in the midst of nowhere in particular, tends to pose questions among its visitors as to why it should have been erected in such a solitary place. Nevertheless, driven forth from the initial curiosity, upon entering the whitewashed building, they are often left speechless.
Where once a dilapidated wooden figurine stood – a crying portrait of the Scourged Saviour – now rises in its place a divine palace in all its fervent glory. And needless to say, fully deserved of its UNESCO status. The acute clash between the raw outer surroundings and the amazingly ornate interior serves to ignite the spiritual and uniquely aesthetical experience.
14. Berlin: Museumsinsel (Museum Island)
This cluster of 19th century buildings in the neoclassical style, which is regarded as among the world’s momentous museum complexes, is settled on the tip of an island in the Spree River. The museums, of which there are five, host splendid collections of ethnological and historical wares as well as a congregation of art pieces, including Byzantine and Late Antique works in addition to a variety of sculptures. The sheer vastness of the assemblage ensures that there is something for everyone.
15. Regensburg: Old Town of Regensburg
Regensburg was founded by the Romans in 179 A.D. and is now a thriving cultural and trading center. The old town bears witness to a plethora of exquisite marks of a wonderfully prosperous history, and as such, it has been bestowed with UNESCO World Heritage honors.
A stroll through the town provides for a sensory experience of German artistry and romanticism. Brilliantly preserved and entirely unscathed by countless wars, it’s not so much an urban hub as it is an outdoor museum. Countless monastic ensembles and churches make up a large part of the area, together with patrician houses and towers. Once there, it’s easy to imagine that you’ve embarked on a journey throughout the Middle Ages.
Useful tour: Regensburg: Sightseeing Train Tour
16. Potsdam: Sanssouci Park
Sanssouci (sans souci – without worries) Park in Potsdam was originally a simple terraced garden utilized by Frederick the Great as a way for him to relax from his royal burdens. However, the King realized that the location offered a magical ambience, after which, he arranged a sizable residence to be established, which more latterly was followed by one venue after another.
Thus, the original orchard was transformed into an extensive park, together with luxuriant palaces and lavishly landscaped gardens. Today, Sanssouci Park represents a sophisticated place which is fit for a taste of relaxation in a particularly royal style.
17. Quedlinburg: Old Town of Quedlinburg
Quedlinburg’s roots date back to the 9th century to the time of the Carolingian Dynasty. The town originally consisted of nothing more than a number of tiny villages, but today, these tiny villages make up a maze of cobblestoned streets that lead visitors past decorative exteriors of old-day tenements, multi-colored houses with small flower-laden gardens, and magnificently picturesque temples. There’s plenty of historical value and romanticism to be found in the Old Town of Quedlinburg.
18. Weimar: Weimar Museums
Once the stomping ground for the likes of Nietzsche, Liszt, Bach, Goethe, Schiller, and more, these days, Weimar is a hotbed for a tourist swarm with an intellectual orientation. The number of exquisite museums in Weimar reflects an atmosphere of real anticipation.
The 1,000-year-old town might not have you in raptures on account of its stunning architecture, but as the center for German Enlightenment, it will more than likely stimulate your mind and is certainly worthy of an extended visit.
19. Bamberg: Schlenkerla Brewery and Tavern
If you’re arriving in Germany for the beer and you’re not arriving in time for the Oktoberfest, then Bamberg’ Schlenkerla Brewery will definitely compensate you in every which way. You may think that going all the way to Franconia in order to get a few glasses of good barley beer is rather ill-advised, but if you’re keen on the concept of enjoying a smoke beer that’s been tapped directly from the barrel, a wooden barrel that is, then Bamberg, and in particular Schlenkerla, is the ideal choice.
Otherwise, however, the town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in that it has exerted a major architectural influence upon the country as a whole, and it’s also southern Germany’s Center of Enlightenment. Plenty enough reason to make the journey now?
Highlighted tour: Bamberg: 1.5-Hour Guided Beer Tour
20. Maulbronn: Maulbronn Abbey (Kloster Maulbronn)
Founded in 1137 by Cistercian monks, Maulbronn Abbey is among the best maintained medieval monastic complexes to be seen north of the Alps. Legend has it that during a lengthy journey from Alsace, the monks stopped to water their mules. Whilst there, they became enchanted with the place and opted to establish a settlement (in English, Maulbronn means “mule-well”).
The diligence of the monks brought the awareness of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who then welcomed the monastery under his auspices, which in turn led to a wealth of funding. Although development thrived, the Reformation halted the proceedings and the Maulbronn residents were rejected from the monastery.
Trier has a 2,000-year history which makes it the oldest town in the country. Nevertheless, it’s not merely worthy of exploration given its age. The town was home to no less than six different Roman emperors and has thus inherited an impressive array of ancient remnants, many of which are perfectly preserved.
The most impressive example is the Porta Nigra (Black Gate), which was once an important element within the city walls. The picturesque town of Trier is nestled into the Moselle river valley, and is crowned with a myriad of pastoral villages and vineyards. The hospitality and cuisine to be enjoyed is something never to be forgotten.
22. Rust: Europa-Park
As you’d likely expect, Europa-Park offers terrific fun while simultaneously providing an unobstructed and pleasurable learning experience. Located within the heart of a top-notch resort, the theme park resembles a pocket-sized version of the European continent.
Take a ride at the Silverstone Race Track in a Formula 1 racing car, visit the Russian MIR space station, enjoy freshly baked bread from the “Quartier Francais”, or pleasure from the charms of some of Italy’s hot spots. There’s truly something for everyone here, irrespective of age or gender.
Book online: Rust: Europa-Park Entrance Ticket
23. Berlin: Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)
It could be argued that the Brandenburg Gate is simply a gate like any other large gate in the world, and that’s true in terms of the superficial aspect. Nevertheless, there is a story behind this particular gate.
At one time, when the infamous Berlin Wall still stood in all its concrete glory, the 197 ft. (60 m) tall Brandenburg Gate, which was located towards the end of Unter den Linden, represented a part of the physical division and mental obstruction between the east and west sides of the city. Quite on the contrary, these days, the Gate is much more a towering symbol of unity and peace, not only for the German peoples but the world over.
24. Munich: BMW Museum
The structure of the BMW Museum in Munich is representative of cutting-edge architectural work, together with its distinctive configuration as a futuristic silver bowl. Once you enter into the dynamic interior, you’ll rapidly begin to realize that there’s a lot more to BMW automobile manufacturing than simply prestige.
It’s an artistic creation, a means of expression, and ultimately the product of a world where inspiration meets reality. Though you may not yet have much idea about the world of the motor car, upon leaving the BMW Museum in Munich, you’ll have a far deeper appreciation for the trade.
25. Hamburg: Modelleisenbahn Miniatur Wunderland
Upon making a visit to the Modelleisenbahn Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, you’ll be treated to 6.84 miles (11 km) of train track which winds around the huge floor space and travels through Scandinavia, the Swiss Alps, the U.S. and a variety of German destinations.
Everything is in great detail, from the trains themselves to the stations that the trains visit, to the trees that line the tracks. The $12.5 million enterprise is the largest in the world and without doubt deserves plenty of tourist attention.
Skip-the-line: Priority Entrance: Miniatur Wunderland