Are you looking for inspiration for your travel to Germany? Germany has a lot to offer to visitors. History buffs will enjoy guided tours in Berlin and Dresden. Children (and those at heart) will marvel at Schloss Neuschwanstein. Scenery lovers will appreciate Rothenburg and the Black Forest. Here is our list of the best things to do in Germany.
The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Germany, your essential guide for visiting Germany.
Mad King Ludwig’s maddest creation combines Wagnerian inspiration with a superbly dramatic alpine site to create a romantic fantasy from the age of chivalry. This makes Schloss Neuschwanstein is the ultimate fairy-tale castle. In general, there is no shortage of castles and palaces in Germany - each with its own style, so you can be sure to find one that will amaze you.
Set deep among the Ammergebirge Alps to the east of Neuschwanstein, Schloss Linderhof is perhaps the most appealing of Ludwig’s creations, an elegant white villa standing on the mountainside among lovely terraced gardens.
Discover the splendid castles of Ludwig II, King of Bavaria. Visit fairytale Neuschwanstein, intimate Linderhof and scenic Hohenschwangau, before travelling through the little town of Oberammergau on the Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castle Full-Day Trip.
This iconic white building of this museum in Munich is a temple to modernism, from the classics of modern art to masterpieces of furniture and automotive design. Visiting this place is sure among the things to do in Germany if you are interested in modern art.
The Pinakothek der Moderne contains four galleries. The Bavarian State Gallery of Modern Art has a superb collection of 20th- and 21st-century work, ranging from German Expressionism and European Surrealism to American Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. A whole room is devoted to Picasso.
The Neue Sammlung presents what is claimed to be one of the most comprehensive collections of design objects anywhere, ranging from car design to computers. The Graphische Sammlung has more than 400,000 drawings and prints.
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Spa culture has a long standing history in Germany (as well as FKK (Freie Körper Kultur, aka skinny-dipping). Soak, sweat and rejuvenate in one of the many saunas and spas in Germany. You will find one in every city, some of them with amazing design.
Baden-Baden is the queen of all spa towns. Set in a lovely wooded valley, the town’s springs were discovered by the Romans, and one of the spas – with state-of-the-art buildings and facilities – is named after the Emperor Caracalla who spent time here.
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Germany has a large and well-signposted network of footpaths, particularly well developed in the mountains and nature parks. Cyclists are also well catered for, both in towns and in rural areas, and it is easy to find bikes for hire.
Long-distance routes for walkers and cyclists criss-cross the country; among the most popular cycling routes are those along the Rhine, Mosel and Altmühl, while the Rennsteig ridgeline path in the Thuringian Forest is justly famous. In-line skating has risen dramatically in popularity and provision is steadily increasing; for instance, a 100km (60-mile) route crosses the Fläming area south of Berlin.
This tailor-made trip to the Best of Germany truly has something for everybody!
Christmas cheer the way it’s been for centuries - gingerbread, mulled spicy wine, hearty food and locally crafted Christmas presents and decorations. Most German cities have a Christmas market starting in December. Among the most famous ones is the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg. Or is Saxony home to the best German Christmas markets?
Christmas markets, such as the ones in Nuremberg and Dresden, are full of atmosphere as well as good places for presents. Museum shops are well-stocked, often with original items unobtainable elsewhere. Consider adding visiting Christmas markets to your list of things to do in Germany if you are planning your winter holidays here.
Get into the spirit of the season with this app-based walking adventure in Dresden. Explore the Christmas markets and the city centre as you solve challenges, puzzles, and Christmas-themed tasks.
Rhine-side castles and vineyards along the romantic Rhine passage show a picture-postcard side of Germany.
Rhine has synonymous with the smart white pleasure steamer, the robber baron’s crag-top castle, and the vineyard clinging to a precipitous slope. The general revelry filling the cobbled streets and wine taverns of one pretty wine village after the other makes its contribution too.
The most glamorous stretch of the Rhine begins just upstream from Bonn, where the rounded hills of the Siebengebirge (Seven Mountains) include the Drachenfels (Dragon Rock) where heroic Siegfried is said to have slain his fire-breathing adversary.
Visit the UNESCO world heritage site of the Rhine Valley, its vineyards, and picturesque little towns and villages. You'll taste the local wines on site, see the mighty mediaeval castles – and maybe even the "Lorelei", the legendary maiden of the Rhine with this Rhine Valley Day Trip.
The world’s biggest excuse for a beer – and it comes in big measures, too. Bring your lederhosen and Dirndl to drink a "Maß" or two at the Octoberfest. Oktoberfest is a 2-week festival held in Munich/Germany. The first weekend of October is traditionally the last weekend of the festival, so plan accordingly.
In general, German beer comes in a great variety - if you are not sure which one might fit your taste check out this overview of German beer. But what is certain is that tasting German beer is one of the best things to do in Germany.
Our tailor-made trip to Octoberfest in Germany and beer culture in Austria & Czechia will give you some more insights into European beer culture.
Explore the variety and flavours of original Düsseldorf Altbier and become an expert. Visit all 5 microbreweries in this historical city and taste the beers on offer on this exciting walking tour.
In the years following the fall of the Wall, a sense of Ostalgie – nostalgia for the East (or rather Nostalgie for the Osten) – began to emerge in certain quarters of the old East Germany.
The sentiment originated with those for whom memories of the collapsed country remained vivid, though this nostalgia for the iconography of communist East Germany also proved immensely popular with visitors, spawning a mini-industry in Berlin which still shows no sign of abating.
In Berlin, you can take a city tour by Trabbi car, or visit the GDR museum to get a taste of live in separate Germany, behind the iron curtain. You can also dine on East German fare like Eisbein (pickled ham hock) and schnitzel in this GDRthemed restaurant.
The most extravagant alfresco ballroom Germany ever built is found at the Zwinger in Dresden.
The Zwinger, perhaps the most stunning group of baroque buildings in Germany. Arranged around a spacious courtyard with lawns, pools and fountains, the Zwinger was built from 1709 onwards by Augustus’s architect Pöppelmann to house the spendthrift monarch’s collections and to be an appropriate setting for ostentatious pageants and festivities.
The collections include the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters’ Gallery), which houses some of the world’s finest paintings including Raphael’s emblematic Sistine Madonna; the fabulous Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection) and the rüstkammer (Armoury).
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Explore the historic city of Dresden and enjoy a guided tour of the Semperoper. Visit Frauenkirche, the Procession of Princes, Dresden Castle, and the Zwinger. Learn more about the city's history. Or embark on an exploration tailor-made tour through Saxony starting in Dresden. A 5-day “taster journey” combines cultural highlights and romantic spots in and around the state capital and make your way to Leipzig. The ideal tour for a perfect "first impression".
Take a Disney-like Bavarian road-trip on the romantic road, where the steep roofs and ancient towers are real. There is an abundance of historic town centres, like these pretty romantic German towns. So even if you are not in the south of Germany you are likely to find one close by.
Beautiful Bamberg – located in northern Bavaria – is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval towns in Germany. It is an incredibly scenic place, from its original layout complete with city walls to its individual religious and civic buildings. In its heyday, from the 12th century onwards, it served as an example for towns across northern Germany and Hungary.
Immerse yourself in the exciting history of beer and discover the art of brewing in Bamberg on a guided tour. Learn more about the importance of beer over the centuries, explore the interesting sights in the town, and sample beer in the Ambräusianum.
Currently listed are a whopping 46 UNESCO world heritage sites in Germany - covering a diverse range from architecture, intellectual achievements or significant history, nature, landscape and parks to some highly original and unusual places.
While you are travelling in Germany, exploring the culture and history of the country is among the best things to do in Germany so be sure to visit some of the local heritage sites. To make it easier for you to fit them into your Germany trip, we have compiled a Rough Guide to World Heritage Germany with background information and practical tips. You can download it here for free.
Explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites across different German states. This self drive tailor-made trip allows you to design your own days with recommendations stated for each day.
Cologne is an easy-going, liberal, cosmopolitan metropolis with two thousand years of art and history, a world-famous cathedral and a cozy beerhall culture - plus the famous Cologne Carnival festivities. It is also one of the most beloved tourist destinations of Germans within Germany - and by some deemed as the coolest city in Germany.
A great city in Roman times, and, in the Middle Ages, Germany’s largest, Köln (Cologne) is dominated by its glorious twin-towered cathedral, one of the supreme achievements of Gothic architecture. It’s a lively, humorous, rather disrespectful place, best experienced – for those with stamina – during the merrymaking of Karneval time.
The historic core of Cologne is large, bounded by the semicircular boulevard of the Ring running along the line of the old city walls, but the epicentre of city life is in the busy squares around the cathedral and the main railway station.
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Glide down the Rhine River and see Cologne’s most spectacular landmarks on a winter boat cruise with live music and your choice of mulled wine, coffee, or hot chocolate.
Germany is famous for its sausages, and they come in over 1.500 varieties - from pale, lemony Weisswurst to Currywurst with ketchup and curry powder.
The German term Imbiss was originally coined for little food stalls at medieval markets, and Berliners are certainly past masters in serving inexpensive food for eating on the hoof. The city’s immigrant population has built on the tradition, adapting recipes to produce quick portable meals.
The simple sausage has traditionally been the most popular Imbiss item and in Berlin it’s been transformed into the local speciality Currywurst – a chubby smoked pork sausage smothered in curried ketchup – often served with French fries (pommes frites).
Electronic dance music rules in Germany, but there’s plenty of room for quirkier sounds too.
High culture prospers in Germany, not least because of generous subsidies; cities compete with one another in terms of cultural offerings, a situation which has resulted in the country having well over 100 opera houses.
But popular culture and entertainment is vibrant as well; committed ravers will find their needs satisfied, particularly in the big cities and above all in Berlin, where clubs and other venues cater for every taste.
Clubs and discos abound, some of the best in university cities, where there may be a popular student gathering place like the Moritzbastei in Leipzig. Sharp and witty cabaret is a German speciality.
The Ruhr’s reinvented industrial heritage offers some of Europe’s most original travel experiences. If you are a fan of industrial heritage, you. will find many great places in Germany to visit.
Covering some 5,000 sq km (1,800 sq miles), the vast conurbation of the Ruhrgebiet (Ruhr Area) has lost most of the coal mines and steelworks which made it the industrial powerhouse of Germany, but has valiantly attempted to turn its industrial heritage into visitor attractions.
But the Ruhr offers much more. Far from being just a sprawling collection of industrial suburbs, it’s a constellation of real cities and lesser towns, all proud of their identity and many with cultural institutions – theatres, opera houses, galleries – of the first order. Essen is a cathedral city, and the Schatzkammer is full of fabulous treasures.
Bavaria’s heavenly church interiors pair élan with excess. One famous example is the Wieskirche - one of the many spiritual UNESCO world heritage sites in Germany.
All the images that foreigners think most typically Bavarian accumulate in profusion in the region south of Munich, where “Mad” King Ludwig’s palaces preside over dramatically scenic alpine settings. Here, onion-domed church towers rise above brilliant green meadows, impossibly blue lakes fringe dark forests and the sparkling snow-capped peaks of the Bavarian Alps define the southern horizon.
Edged by white cliffs, Germany’s largest island remains a gentle, pastoral place where it’s easy to escape the crowds.
Rügen, which is reached from Stralsund, is Germany’s largest island, with a wealth of things to visit, among them the Nationalpark Jasmund, with its gorgeous forests of beech and the sparkling white chalk cliffs immortalised in a painting by the early 19th-century artist Caspar David Friedrich.
Uncover a true gem of North Germany and explore Hiddensee island. Travel by ferry from Schaprode and be amazed by the island's natural beauty and Viking heritage on the Rügen: Daytrip to Hiddensee Island and Cruise.
High local demand means that many German tipples barely leave the valleys where they are grown. Go for a wine-tasting and a walk through the wine yards at the Deutsche Weinstraße and you'll see why it's considered one of the things to do in Germany.
Established in 1935 as a way to boost local wine sales, the 85km-long Deutsche Weinstrasse meanders almost due north from the French border at Schweigen-Rechtenbach, connecting picturesque wine-growing villages that dot wooded hills of the Pfälzer Wald and the broad, flat Rhine valley.
Not surprisingly, wine is the main attraction; much of it dry, white and made with Riesling grapes, though reds made with Pinot Noir are increasingly attracting praise.
Alongside the lively and attractive “capital”, Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, the neat spa town of Bad Dürkheim is the main urban focus, though the region’s real charm is in its villages: alongside viticulture, a refined culinary scene has emerged in places like Deidesheim and the little walled town of Freinsheim.
Find out how Germans like their wine on an exclusive tasting with a Local Wine Expert. Visit 2 cozy wine bars in Frankfurt and taste 4-5 German wines. Extended option: try traditional wine appetizers.
Soak up the views from high-altitude pistes, or brave the fearsome Kandahar World Cup Run in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Germany’s glamorous winter sports centre at the foot of the country’s highest peak, the Zugspitze (2,962m/9,718ft), is also much in vogue for summer holidays, with endless opportunities for walkers and climbers in the glorious country all around.
Partenkirchen is the older of the two merged towns, its main street lined with colourfully painted houses. Garmisch has a picturesque old quarter too, but its centre is more characterised by sophisticated shops and boutiques.
It’s also easy to ascend the Zugspitze, by cable car or rack railway. A clear day attracts a capacity crowd to gaze in awe at the amazing views over much of the Alps as far as 200km (125 miles) away.
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Aachen’s ancient cathedral is a taste of Byzantium in the heart of the city.
The Aachener dom incorporates one of the great monuments of early medieval Europe, the wondrous octagonal chapel built by the emperor and consecrated in 805. Using bronze, stone and marble taken from Roman remains, and graced with a superb 12thcentury chandelier, it is still a breathtaking space.
The Gothic chancel added later contains Charlemagne’s gilded shrine, and also on view is the simple marble-and-wood throne used by emperors during their coronation ceremony. The cathedral treasury is one of the most richly endowed in Europe.
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Berlin’s and Cologne’s massive lesbian and gay communities know how to throw a party. Check the dates in June to join them for their celebration of life. Berlin’s Christopher Street Day – otherwise known as Berlin Pride – is a gay pride parade and festival, usually in June, that was originally held as a tribute to the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York.
An annual fixture since 1979 – and with a different LGBT theme each year – the march traditionally draws around 700,000 people for the main parade. Known as the CSD Demo, the parade starts on Ku’damm and winds its way to the Brandenburger Tor for the final rally (CSD Finale).
The parade usually anchors a series of events and parties around it (some on the same evening).
While in Berln consider staying in the Propeller Island City Lodge which is truly one of the weirdest hotels in the world. Or find your best accommodation option in Berlin with our guide to the best places to stay in Berlin.
Idle in escapist Strandkörbe seats or skim across the sea on a kite-surf in one of the many small sea resorts on the North Sea. Particularly in the North Frisian islands.
For centuries these storm-battered, separate worlds eked out a living from farming and fishing, their thatched villages hunkered down behind sand dunes in defence against waves that occasionally washed away whole communities.
Tourism replaced agriculture as the premier source of income decades ago, yet even on Sylt the scenery is overwhelmingly bucolic-seaside. There are the same dune seas of marrum grass and vast skies that captivated artists in the early 1900s; the same thatched villages, even if many house boutiques and restaurants rather than fisherfolk.
This may be Germany’s coastal playground, but it is more Martha’s Vineyard than St Tropez. Sylt is the most popular and developed of the islands, centred on thr main town Westerland. Föhr and especially Amrum are peaceful rural islands of homespun charm.
Enjoy the alpine scenery, clean air and moderate to challenging hikes in Bavaria’s beautiful south.
Füssen os in a beautiful setting on the River Lech. The town is dominated by its Late-Gothic Schloss Neuschwanstein and by the impressive buildings of the former Benedictine abbey of St Mang.
No mere tourist spot, Füssen is also a garrison town, home to a couple of battalions of the German army’s mountain troops. With a direct rail connection from Munich, moreover, it’s the most practical base from which to explore the sights of the eastern Allgäu.
It likewise makes an ideal base for hikers and cyclists, with an extensive network of walking and bike trails fanning out into the surrounding district, including some that cross the border into Austria.
The most spectacular peaks are those of the Bavarian Alps, but mountains and upland massifs cover much of the country, where there are endless opportunities for hiking. Lakes abound, the largest, Lake Constance, is a veritable inland sea shared with Austria and Switzerland.
Attractive small towns abound, too, none prettier than the medieval university city of Tübingen, where students punt along the river. With its medieval walls and towers intact, rottweil is also worth a detour.
But most visitors passing this way are heading south to the Bodensee (Lake Constance), the great body of water shared with Austria and Switzerland and bounded to the south by the Alps. Fed by the Rhine, the lake enjoys a balmy climate and, lined with orchards and vineyards as well as fascinating towns and villages, is an ideal holiday destination.
Visiting the only remaining completely preserved section of the Wall forms part of a memorial to all the suffering caused by Berlin’s division is one of the things to do in Germany.
A short walk north of S-Bahn Nordhof is the first of several buildings dedicated to the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial), the most moving of the city’s Wall memorials and the only one where it’s still possible to gain a true sense of how it divided the city.
Over the years, the facades of these buildings were cemented up and incorporated into the partition itself, until they were knocked down and replaced by the Wall proper in 1979.
A visit to the Berlin Wall is one of the free activities in German capital. Find even more free things to do in Berlin on our list.
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Würzburg is the starting point of the Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse). This path is a signposted holiday route which leads southwards through tranquil countryside and a succession of historic towns to the foot of the Alps. The one essential stop along the way is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, its quaint name matching the little medieval city’s perfect state of preservation.
By blanking out the crowds of visitors wandering the streets, relaxing in the main square, or filing along the sentry walk running the whole length of the 2.5km (1.5- mile) fortifications, it’s easy to imagine oneself transported magically back into an idealised Germany of the Middle Ages.
There’s a wonderful overall view from the tall tower of the Renaissance Rathaus over Rothenburg’s red-tiled rooftops to the lovely Franconian countryside.
Visit the delighted city of Heidelberg, known as one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. Then explore the best-preserved medieval town in Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber on the Heidelberg & Rothenburg Full-Day Tour.
The best-known of all Germany’s upland massifs, the Black Forest or schwarzwald extends for about 160km (100 miles) southwards from Karlsruhe to the Swiss border. Its blackness is attributed to its dark forests of spruce and fir, but as well as woodland there are mountain pastures, rushing streams and crashing waterfalls, magnificent timber farmhouses and living folkways.
The highest point of the Black Forest is the Feldberg at 1,493m (4,898ft), a flattened mountain whose summit can be easily reached from the car park. On clear days the view extends to the far-away Bernese Alps.
Wander around the Black Forest in the wintertime, guided through some of the most magical parts in one of Germany's most recognized national parks on the Guided Snowshoeing Tour in the Black Forest.
Once a favourite summer retreat of the Bavarian royal family, the delightful small town of Berchtesgaden and its surroundings encapsulate all the attractions of the Bavarian Alps. Painted houses, a little royal palace and wonderful views contribute to the allure of the town, which is also the home of the national park-Haus, the interpretive centre for the national park which protects the area’s sublime but vulnerable landscape.
The town’s ancient prosperity depended on salt, and visitors can enjoy a thrilling trip into the depths of the old salt mines, the salzbergwerk. Another trip is up the mountain road to the Kehlsteinhaus, also known as the ‘Eagle’s Nest’, Hitler’s perch atop the 1,834m (6,017ft) Kehlstein, and now a panoramic restaurant.
Marking the western boundary of the city when it was built in 1791, the Brandenburger tor A is Berlin’s last remaining gateway. The scene of many a military parade in past times, the gate is now best remembered as the backdrop to the ecstatic scenes which took place following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The famous Quadriga, a statue of Victory driving her four-horse chariot, is a replica, the original having been destroyed in World War II. The design of the Brandenburg Gate was inspired by the Propylea, the grand entrance to the Acropolis in Athens, and was originally called the Friedenstor (Gate of Peace).
The prettiest of a series of fine Potsdam palaces that lie an easy day-trip from Berlin.
Stretching west out of Potsdam’s town centre, Park Sanssouci was built for Frederick the Great as a retreat after he decided in 1744 that he needed a residence where he could live “without cares” – sans souci in the French spoken at court.
The task was entrusted to architect Georg von Knobelsdorff, who had already proved himself on other projects in Potsdam and Berlin. Schloss Sanssouci, on a hill overlooking the town, took three years to complete, while the extensive parklands were laid out over the following five years.
Lovingly rebuilt after wartime devastation, the Altstadt in Nürnberg (Nuremberg) conveys the atmosphere of the archetypal German medieval city, with formidable defensive walls, streets lined with red-roofed old buildings, squares presided over by great Gothic churches and fabulous fountains.
Overlooking it all from rocky height is an Imperial castle. The unchallenged capital of northern Bavaria, Nuremberg is associated not just with emperors and Wagner’s Mastersingers, but also with some of the grimmer aspects of Nazism, in particular the ostentatious pageantry of party rallies and the post-war trials of the leaders of the Third Reich.
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Few sights in Germany are quite as romantic as Heidelberg and its castle, especially when the rambling red sandstone ruin high above the town and the River Neckar is seen bathed in late afternoon light against a background of glorious wooded hills.
This image, together with Student Prince memories of roistering, duelling students in fraternity uniforms, brings millions of visitors every year to the undeniably picturesque university town.
Heidelberg’s Schloss can be reached by steps or funicular. A wonderful conglomeration of building styles from the 13th to the 17th centuries, it houses a fascinating pharmaceutical museum as well as the truly gigantic Grosses Fass, a monster barrel filled annually with that portion of the wine harvest compulsorily delivered to the castle.
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Discover the picturesque old town of Heidelberg and its castle ruins on this private 3-hour historical walking tour. Stroll along one of the longest pedestrian zones in Germany, admire the beautiful Old Bridge, and see the Church of the Spirit.
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Top image: Neuschwanstein Castle - shutterstock