From soul-stirring scenery of beautiful landscapes, fairytale castles and timber towns to a spirit-lifting culture and a sensory journey of feasts, treats, and temptations, Germany has it all. There are great cities like Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg with breathtaking architectural dichotomies where Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque classics rub rafters with modern masterpieces by Frank Gehry, David Chipperfield, and Daniel Libeskind. Here are the best things to do in Germany.
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The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is a resplendent 18th-century Neo-classical monument in the western part of Berlin’s city center in the neighborhood of Mitte, and it is one of Germany’s most iconic landmarks. Built on the site of what was once the city gate that marked the beginning of the road from Berlin to Brandenburg an der Havel, the Brandenburg Gate stands as a grand entry to Unter den Linden, the famous boulevard lined with Linden trees that led directly to the royal City Palace of the Prussian Monarchs.
The Brandenburg Gate has been used as a site for major historical events throughout its existence and is considered today as both a symbol of the turbulent history of Europe and Germany, as well as one of peace and unity in Europe.
Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin, Germany
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Hovering above the roofs and chimneys of Cologne, the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is a magnificent Roman Catholic Cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. Construction began on the church in 1248. However, it stopped in 1473, and the structure remained unfinished for more than four centuries.
Finally completed in 1880, the cathedral is today Cologne’s second tallest structure, next to the telecommunications tower, and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. The cathedral is a world-renowned monument of Gothic architecture and German Catholicism and an iconic hallmark of this city on the Rhine.
Dompropstei, Margarethenkloster 5, D – 50667 Cologne, Phone: +49-(0)-2-21-17-94-01-00
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Tucked into the forest-covered Königstuhl hillside above the city of Heidelberg, Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberger) is a breathtakingly beautiful castle with a history almost as old as the city itself.
Comprised of several buildings surrounding an inner courtyard, with each building highlighting a different period of German architecture, Heidelberg Castle was the residence for most of the Prince Electors until lightning permanently destroyed it in 1764. Among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps, Heidelberg Castle stands today as an iconic symbol of the city and boasts spectacular views of the Neckar River, the city of Heidelberg, and the Neckar Valley far into the Rhine plain.
Schlosshof 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany, Phone: +49-62-21-65-88-80
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Insel Mainau is an island on the south shore of the Überlinger See (Lake Constance) near the city of Konstanz in Baden-Württemberg. Owned by the Lennart Bernadotte-Stiftung, which was established by Prince Lennart Bernadotte, the Count of Wisborg, the island is maintained as a garden island, and it is a model of excellent environmental practices.
The island is home to exquisitely manicured flowering gardens, a greenhouse with tropical climate and thousands of butterflies, and beautiful park landscapes with glorious lake views. Mainau Bay is also the location of the university sailing club. Insel Mainau is one of Lake Constance’s most popular tourist attractions.
Schönau am Königssee, Bavaria
5.The Island of Rugen
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Rügen is a German island located off the Pomeranian coast in the Baltic Sea and a popular holiday spot. Forming part of the Jasmund National Park, which is famous for its white-tailed eagles and primeval beech forests, Rügen is renowned for its beautiful beaches and white chalk cliffs, including the viewing platform known as the King's Chair on the Jasmund peninsula.
In addition to the miles of white sandy beaches, Rügen is also home to several national parks, the popular white cliffs, sleepy fishing villages, and magnificent countryside and coastline that can be explored by hiking, bicycling, or sailing.
Pomeranian coast, Baltic Sea
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The Königssee is a natural lake within the Berchtesgaden National Park in the southeast Berchtesgadener Land district in Bavaria, and it is also Germany's third deepest lake. Situated within the Berchtesgaden Alps, just south of Berchtesgaden, the Königssee (literally translated as “king’s lake”) was formed by glaciers during the last Ice Age and is nearly five miles long and one mile wide.
Similar to a fjord and surrounded by magnificent 8,900-foot mountains, the Königssee is renowned for its picturesque setting, beautiful surroundings, and clear and clean water, which attracts hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts, adventurers, and tourists. Swimming in the Königssee is permitted except in the lock area at Seelände.
Schönau am Königssee, Bavaria
7.Mannheim Residential Palace
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Mannheim Palace (Mannheimer Schloss) is a Baroque palace in Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg. Once the principal residence of the Prince-electors of the Electorate of the Palatinate of the House of Wittelsbach and designed to highlight their importance in the Holy Roman Empire, Mannheim Palace is one of the largest palaces in Europe. Boasting five Baroque-style wings, a beautiful 400-meter façade fronting a vast courtyard, and a total floor area of six hectares surrounded by the Mannheimer Quadrate, or Mannheim squares that echo the layout of Mannheim’s city center, the palace has been described as one of the wonders of European architecture.
Visitors can explore the palace on guided tours of the reconstructed and restored Baroque palace, which features period furnishings, large tapestries, artworks, and silverware.
Bismarckstraße, 68161 Mannheim, Germany, Phone: +49-62-12-92-28-91
8.Mercedes-Benz Factory Plant Tour
© Mercedes-Benz Factory Plant Tour
The Mercedes-Benz Museum documents the history of one of the world’s most famous automobiles, displaying over 130 years of auto industry history. Spanning nine levels throughout a floor space of over 16,500 square meters, the museum is home to more than 1,500 exhibits with 160 vehicles, ranging from the SLK to the E-Class Coupé.
The museum offers a behind-the-scenes look at one of Germany's most modern car factories and witnesses the production of the SL, SLK, C-Class, E-Class Coupé and the GLK cars close at hand. A variety of guided tours through the various sections of the factory are also offered, including automobile, architectural, and electronic guided tours.
Mercedes-Benz Kundenzentrum, Mercedesstrasse 1 28190 Bremen, Phone: +49-71-11-73-00
9.The German Additives Museum
The German Additives Museum is one of Hamburg's most unique attractions, covering the history and development of chemical food additives. The museum, which was opened in 2008 by the Hamburg Food Foundation, explains the production methods and reasoning behind a wide variety of food additives and preservation substances, including stabilizers, emulsifiers, thickeners, flavorings, and dyes. Visitors can view a wall containing information on all E-numbered food additives, which are awarded by the EU's Scientific Committee on Food. Exhibits also explain the history of defunct and dangerous additives like arsenic and detail historic legislation preventing their use. Visitors should note that the museum's exhibit information is printed in German and should utilize translation services such as phone apps for English translation.
Auf der Brandshofer Schleuse 4, 20097 Hamburg, Germany, Phone: +49 40 32027757
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Hailed as one of the most beautiful valleys in Germany, the Moselle Valley (Moseltal) is a tripartite region in south-western Germany, north-eastern France, and eastern Luxembourg with the Moselle River Valley at its center. Bordering three countries, the Moselle Valley is a world-renowned white-wine-producing region, having produced high-quality Moselle wine since the 19th century and forming the heart of the Luxembourg wine industry.
Boasting a reputation as a rural idyll and a world-class Riesling producing region, the Moselle Valley has a healthy tourism industry and attracts thousands of visitors every year who want to experience the natural beauty of the area, which includes a myriad of castles towering over romantic wine villages, and outstanding wines of the region.
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Located on an island in the River Spree right in the heart of the city, Berlin’s Museum Island features an extraordinary ensemble of five world-renowned museums, and it is an inspiring work of art in its own right. Established in 1830 with the Altes Museum (after which point other institutions were built on the island), it reflects the evolution of modern museum design over more than a century.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Museum Island is home to five museums, including the Pergamon Museum, the Bode Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, and the Altes Museum. Some of the highlights of the island include the Pergamon Altar and the bust of Nefertiti.
Am Lustgarten 1, 10117 Berlin BE, Phone: +49-3-02-66-42-42-42
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Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein) is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace near Füssen in southwest Bavaria. Located on a rugged hill overlooking the picturesque village of Hohenschwangau, the castle was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria in honor of Richard Wagner and was opened to the public after his death in 1886.
Erected in the contemporary architectural style known as Castle Romanticism, Neuschwanstein Castle features only fifteen rooms and halls, boasting breathtaking interiors such as the Hall of the Singers and the Throne Hall. The castle has also appeared prominently in several notable movies, including The Great Escape and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. One of Germany’s most visited attractions, Neuschwanstein Castle sees as many as 6,000 visitors a day in the summer.
Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany, Phone: +49-83-62-93-98-80
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Located on the banks of the Lusatian Neisse River in the Bundesland of Saxony, Görlitz is the easternmost town in Germany and the capital of the district of Görlitz. Situated opposite the Polish town of Zgorzelec, Görlitz is the largest city in the former province of Lower Silesia and the most Silesian city regarding character, combining Lusatian and Silesian tradition as well as German and Sorbian culture.
This melting pot of culture and history also boasts a rich architectural heritage with more than 3,500 architectural monuments and grand old churches spanning 500 years. Görlitz is often used by film directors in movies as historical backgrounds, including The Book Thief, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Inglourious Basterds.
14.Rothenburg ob der Tauber
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Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a well-preserved medieval town in the district of Ansbach of Mittelfranken in the Franconia region of Bavaria. Once a Free Imperial City from the late Middle Ages until 1803, the old medieval town is Germany’s best-preserved walled city and forms part of the Romantic Road through southern Germany.
The picturesque village features medieval walls, turrets and clock towers, barns-turned hotels, and a quaint, medieval charm that makes it a popular destination for tourists from around the world. The best way to explore Rothenburg ob der Tauber is on guided walking tours, which visit the top attractions of Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum and St. Jakob’s Church.
15.Sanssouci Park and Palace
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The Sanssouci Park and Palace are the most visited attraction in Potsdam. Built between 1745 and 1747 by Frederick the Great, who steered the course of Prussia in the 18th century, Sanssouci Palace was built between 1745 and 1747 as his summer residence, and it still stands in all its grandeur today.
Located within the Park Sanssouci, the Rococo-style Hohenzollern Palace features rooms that have been beautifully preserved with their elegant and stylish period furnishings, and there are a variety of other buildings nearby, including the New Palace, New Chambers Palace, Charlottenhof Palace, Chinese House, and the orangery, as well as the famous vineyard terrace. The Sanssouci Park and Palace are the most visited attraction in Potsdam.
Maulbeerallee, 14469 Potsdam, Phone: +49-33-19-69-42-00
16.The Berlin Wall
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The Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) was once a concrete barrier that divided Berlin into East and West from 1961 to 1989. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic in 1961 and otherwise referred to as the “Anti-Fascist” Protective Wall, the wall completely cut off the western half of Berlin from the communist Eastern Bloc part of the city for twenty-eight years.
During this period, approximately 5,000 people attempted to escape over the wall, ending in more than 150 deaths. After a series of political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc in 1989, it was announced that GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin, after which the wall was broken down, an event that paved the way for German reunification.
Bernauer Str. 119, 13355 Berlin, Germany
17.The Black Forest
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Often associated with the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales, the Black Forest conjures images of chunky half-timbered farmhouses, outlandish traditional garb, cherry gateaux, and cuckoo clocks. The Black Forest (Schwarzwald) is a world-renowned forested mountain range in the state of Baden-Württemberg.
Bordered by the Rhine Valley to the south and the west, the dark evergreen forest is famous for its dense, evergreen forests and picturesque villages, as well as spas and the cuckoo clocks produced in the region since the 1700s. The largest town in the area, Freiburg, is filled with beautifully preserved Gothic buildings and award-winning Riesling-producing vineyards. Home to lovely, laid-back towns and villages, the Black Forest region is packed with things to see and do, from stunning natural scenery and grand old nineteenth-century architecture to an array of outdoor activities.
18.The Rhine Valley
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Tucked between the Rüdesheim and Koblenz, the Rhine Valley, also known as Oberes Mittelrheintal, is Germany’s breathtaking landscape at its most dramatic.
Cutting deeply through the Rhenish slate mountains and meandering languidly between forested hillsides alternating between craggy cliffs, near-vertical terraced vineyards of wine-producing grapes, and magnificent hillside castles, the Rhine Valley is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Rhine Valley is a favorite summer and early autumn tourist destination with Germans and visitors from all over the world.
19.The Thirsty Historian Day Tours
© The Thirsty Historian Day Tours
Discover Munich's beer and beer history with the Thirsty Historian Day Tours. The aptly named tour company takes visitors on a beer and history tour of Munich, where beer and the history of the brew are two of the city’s tourism cornerstones. Expert guides share the fascinating history of beer productions in Bavaria, and tours visit a brewery and a beer garden with an array of sampling products that have made Munich famous.
Tours include fully qualified local guides, a glimpse into history and stories about beer and brewing in Munich and Bavaria, a visit to at least one outdoor beer garden, a private tour of a brewery in Munich, and half a liter of beer and a snack.
Munich, Germany, Phone: +49-1-76-83-29-28-54
20.The Transparent Factory
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The Transparent Factory is a vast exhibition space in Dresden owned by German carmaker Volkswagen where VW fans can watch the manufacturer’s Phaeton luxury saloon being assembled by workers wearing white gloves in a glass factory.
Designed to make collecting the new Phaeton an unforgettable experience, the Transparent Factory has been carefully integrated with the local ecology and is a work of art in itself with a three-story collection tower that houses a life-size simulator where new owners can take a virtual test drive in front of a cinema- sized screen.
Lennestr. 1, 01069 Dresden, Saxony, Germany, Phone: +49-35-14-20-44-11
© Courtesy of Dialoghaus
Dialoghaus is a unique awareness-raising museum that has no exhibits. Instead, it has three experiential exhibitions – Dialogue in the Dark, Dialogue in Silence, and Dialogue with Time. Dialoghaus introduces to the visitors a world of complete darkness, of total silence, and of ageing, enabling visitors to experience life without sight, hearing, or youth and rich potential within them. In Dialogue in the Dark, blind guides take visitors through a room in total darkness, helping them to “see” by using their other senses and to experience what it is like to be blind. Dialoghaus offers not only exhibitions but also business workshops, birthdays, and group building exercises, and it also creates jobs for the blind, disabled, and disadvantaged and works on changing attitudes towards disability and diversity, while increasing tolerance for “otherness”. Dialoghaus has organized travelling exhibitions in more than 150 cities in 30 countries in America, Asia, and Europe.
Alter Wandrahm 4, 20457 Hamburg, Germany, Phone: +49 40 3096340
22.Alternative Berlin Tours
© Alternative Berlin Tours
Discover Berlin’s hidden treasures and off-the-beaten track gems on a guided tour with Alternative Berlin Tours. Established in 2006 and well connected to many local artists and organizations, Alternative Berlin Tours offers guests outstanding sightseeing opportunities and the chance to experience the artistic and eclectic side of the city. They also offer street art workshops, twilight, and urban culture tours, and fun-filled pub crawls.
Knowledgeable guides with an in-depth and personal understanding of Berlin’s art scenes and the city’s people and places lead the tours and share this knowledge and passion with guests. Free walking tours of the city start at 11:00 and 13:00 daily and depart from Alexanderplatz next to the television tower.
Danziger Str. 61, 10435 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-16-28-19-82-64
© Bite Berlin
Discover Berlin one bite at a time with Bite Berlin, a friendly tour company that offers culinary tours and unique Berlin food experiences. Bite Berlin offers two distinct tours, the Berlin Mitte Tour and the Neuköllen Supperclub Tour, both of which promise to satisfy both curiosity and appetites.
The Berlin Mitte Tour journeys from Berlin's old Jewish Quarter to the district of Prenzlauer Berg where guests will experience the city's rich and diverse history and multiculturalism through the diverse food scene. The Neukölln Supperclub Tour combines a food tour and a supper club, and participants will visit the vibrant Turkish market in Kreuzberg to collect ingredients for cooking up a German feast in the owner of Bite Berlin’s apartment.
Sonnenallee 63, 12045, Berlin - Ordnungsamt Neukölln, Phone: +49-1-76-83-20-23-30
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Located south of the town of Garmisch-Partekirchen, the Zugspitze Massif is the highest peak in the Wetterstein Mountains in Germany. Featuring three massive glaciers, the rugged flanks of the Zugspitze Massif attract mountain and ice climbers from all over the world who attempt the challenging summit climb.
Non-climbers can run to the top of the Zugspitze by three cable cars, namely the Tyrolean Zugspitze Cable Car built in 1926, the Bavarian Zugspitze Railway, and the Eibsee Cable Car, which between the three of them transport up to 500,000 visitors to the summit each year for sightseeing and skiing.
Tyrol, Austria, Bavaria, Germany
25.Zwinger Palace and Cathedral
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The Zwinger (Dresdner Zwinger) is a Rococo-style palace in Dresden that served as the festival arena, exhibition gallery, and orangery of Dresden Court. Designed by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, the Zwinger was formerly part of the Dresden fortress of which the outer wall is conserved.
Today, it is a museum complex that is home to the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery), the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments), and the Dresden Porcelain Collection (Dresdener Porzellansammlung). This Baroque gem that dates back to the time of Augustus the Strong in 1709 is famous for its beautiful architecture, remarkable sculptures, and world-renowned artworks. The Zwinger and Cathedral is one of Dresden’s main attractions.
Sophienstraße, 01067 Dresden, Germany
25 Best Things to Do in Germany
- Brandenburg Gate, Photo: Courtesy of andreykr - Fotolia.com
- Cologne Cathedral, Photo: Courtesy of Shchipkova Elena - Fotolia.com
- Heidelberg Castle, Photo: Courtesy of Elenarts - Fotolia.com
- Insel Mainau, Photo: Courtesy of peter knechtges - Fotolia.com
- The Island of Rugen, Photo: Courtesy of Manuel Scho¨nfeld - Fotolia.com
- Konigssee, Photo: Courtesy of Holger Schultz - Fotolia.com
- Mannheim Residential Palace, Photo: Courtesy of tichr - Fotolia.com
- Mercedes-Benz Factory Plant Tour, Photo: Mercedes-Benz Factory Plant Tour
- The German Additives Museum, Photo: Viktor/stock.adobe.com
- Moselle Valley, Photo: Courtesy of wsf-f - Fotolia.com
- Museum Island, Photo: Courtesy of s4svisuals - Fotolia.com
- Neuschwanstein Castle, Photo: Courtesy of JFL Photography - Fotolia.com
- Goerlitz, Photo: Courtesy of gabort - Fotolia.com
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Photo: Courtesy of pure-life-pictures - Fotolia.com
- Sanssouci Park and Palace, Photo: Courtesy of Mike Mareen - Fotolia.com
- The Berlin Wall, Photo: Courtesy of Brad Pict - Fotolia.com
- The Black Forest, Photo: Courtesy of laudibi - Fotolia.com
- The Rhine Valley, Photo: Courtesy of Stanford Lone - Fotolia.com
- The Thirsty Historian Day Tours, Photo: The Thirsty Historian Day Tours
- The Transparent Factory, Photo: Courtesy of Blickfang - Fotolia.com
- Dialoghaus, Photo: Courtesy of Dialoghaus
- Alternative Berlin Tours, Photo: Alternative Berlin Tours
- Bite Berlin, Photo: Bite Berlin
- Zugspitze Massif, Photo: Courtesy of Lena Balk - Fotolia.com
- Zwinger Palace and Cathedral, Photo: Courtesy of BRIAN_KINNEY - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of vichie81 - Fotolia.com
Miniatur Wunderland (“miniature wonderland”) is the world's largest model railway exhibition and one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions.
Located in the historic Speicherstadt in Hamburg, Miniatur Wunderland features a world-renowned model train and miniature exhibition consisting of over 50,000 feet of railway track and includes nine regions, including Austria, America, the Alps, Hamburg, Scandinavia, and Switzerland. Spanning more than 1,000 meters, the exhibit also includes a miniature model of an airport and the mountainous German region of the Har, as well as over 1,000 trains and carriages, approximately 385,000 lights, 130,000 trees, and 260,000 human figurines.
Kehrwieder 2-4/Block D, 20457 Hamburg, Germany, Phone: +49-4-03-00-68-00