Not only is Germany the economic powerhouse of the European Union (EU), it just so happens to be one of the best places to visit for those seeking an authentic, exciting vacation on the “continent.” Thanks to the superb network of highways (autobahns) and railways that crisscross this central European country, Germany’s cities and towns, big and small, are easy to access.
Whether you’re planning on being based in a single location, such as the magnificent capital of Berlin, or a historic city, such as Munich – or perhaps even embarking on a road (or rail) trip to smaller must-visit places in Germany, like the beautiful spa town of Baden-Baden in the Black Forest or the medieval fortress town of Rothenburg – the list of things to do here is limitless.
Boasting a vast variety of incredible scenery, Germany encompasses a little of everything. From the beautiful valleys of the Rhine and Mosel rivers to the majestic mountains of the Bavarian Alps, the awesome shorelines of Lake Constance, and the rugged coastlines along the Baltic and North Sea, there’s something nice to see at every turn.
Whatever you’re looking for – be it a vacation full of incredible cultural experiences or fun outdoor adventures – plan your trip to this wonderful European travel destination with our list of the best places to visit in Germany.
If you’re only ever able to make a single trip to Germany, you’ll want to spend at least a few days in Berlin. The country’s capital is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic and vibrant cities in Europe, as popular for its superb dining experiences as it is for its shopping and entertainment.
Berlin is also considered one of Europe’s top cultural destinations, home to numerous excellent art galleries and museums just waiting to be explored. Some of the best of which are located on Museum Island, a must-see destination that alone can take days to explore.
And after these attractions have closed, fun things to do at night include enjoying concerts by the renowned Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, perhaps taking in a performance by Berlin Opera, or simply wandering the always-interesting avenues and boulevards in the Mitte District, where you’ll find famous landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate.
Other areas you’ll want to explore include Charlottenburg. Generally a little quieter than the busy Mitte area, it’s home to many pleasant parks and gardens including the Zoological Garden.
The capital of the state of Bavaria and one of Germany’s largest cities, Munich owes much of its popularity as a tourism destination to its location on the outer edge of the beautiful Bavarian Alps. Although not one of Germany’s oldest cities – its roots can be traced back to a settlement of monks pre-dating its official founding in 1158 – Munich has played a major role in shaping the country’s cultural and political make-up.
The city’s rapid growth saw it develop into an important center for arts and trade, as well as a religious center. These days, in fact, no visitor can fail to notice the city’s many surviving churches, including Peterskirche, the old inner-city church built during the 1300s, the iconic cathedral, the Frauenkirche (also the city’s most recognized building), and the large Renaissance-era Michaelskirche.
Another reason Munich has attained a place as one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations is its historic city center. It’s a delight to explore on foot, with the fun centered around the city’s large open square, the Marienplatz. Here, you can explore delightful old architecture dating all the way back to medieval times, including the Old and New Town Halls.
Be sure to also visit the attractive pedestrian areas around the banks of the River Isar, as well as the numerous parks and green spaces the city’s known for. Of these, by far the most popular is the lovely Englischer Garten, or English Garden, the largest such urban public park in the world. Add this to the long list of other top attractions, museums, and galleries, and it’s easy to see why Munich requires more than a day to explore in its entirety.
3. Medieval Rothenburg
If there’s a single travel destination in Germany that encapsulates all that’s wonderful about this amazing country, it’s the old town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Located in the heart of beautiful Bavaria and an easy drive from some major cities such as Frankfurt, Rothenburg, as it’s most often called, boasts superb photo opportunities everywhere you look.
Located high above the River Tauber, Rothenburg escaped the ravages of war that devastated so many other old medieval towns and cities, and as such has retained the majority of its many authentic medieval buildings in their original form. As a result, stunning old structures such as the 13th-century Town Hall, or Rathaus, remain much as they would have been over the centuries. Equally well-preserved structures include the magnificent Imperial City Museum, set in an old convent, and the historic Castle Gardens, which remain pretty much unchanged since being established in the 17th century.
For a real treat, try to book a night or two’s stay in the medieval old town center. You’ll then be perfectly positioned to explore the magnificent Old Town Walls later in the day, after the majority of the crowds of day trippers have dispersed. Although this takes a little over a half hour, you’ll want to make stops along the way to catch the spectacular views over the old town, an effect that is heightened as the sun sets.
Afterwards, head back down to the picturesque Plönlein, an intersection that is much photographed for the famous skinny half-timbered building that splits two equally attractive streets lined with similar old homes, and find a great restaurant or café patio, where you can relax and unwind after exploring one of the most attractive and authentic places to go in Germany.
Cologne is another of those wonderful old German cities that has managed to preserve its past for modern generations to enjoy. Originally settled by the Romans, Cologne was for centuries an important religious center and a place of pilgrimage.
These days, the best places for visitors to go in Cologne are located in and around the Old Town, home to 12 classic old churches, including the famous Cologne Cathedral. Expect to spend hours exploring this magnificent structure and the surrounding former merchant homes, many of them now bustling with modern trade, including art galleries, boutique shops, and cafés.
Cologne’s reputation as a center of trade and commerce has never diminished, with visitors drawn to its shopping areas and traditional marketplaces to purchase locally produced goods, from fashion and fragrances to food stuffs (you haven’t lived until you sample some original Cologne-made chocolate, available in many locations around the Old Town). Other fun things to do in Cologne include exploring its ancient Roman remains, magnificent Baroque palaces, and countless museums and art galleries.
The city is also a popular stop in Germany for its location on the Rhine River, which slices through the city. The riverfront is not only a wonderful area to explore on foot, but also serves as a major embarkation point for Rhine river cruises that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
5. Koblenz & the Rhine Valley
If you do partake in one of the increasingly popular week-long river cruises down the Rhine, you will at some point find yourself docked in the beautiful city of Koblenz. However you arrive, though, be sure to make your first stop the magnificent Deutsches Eck, or German Corner. It’s here you’ll witness one of the most incredible natural phenomena in the country – the meeting of the Rhine and Mosel rivers, overlooked by the huge Memorial to German Unity, an impressive equestrian statue of King Wilhelm I.
Watching these two mighty rivers meet is a sight to behold. If you time it right, you can even enjoy a summer evening classical music concert at the same time. Great views of the German Corner and the two rivers can also be enjoyed by taking the Koblenz cable car up to spectacular Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.
Koblenz also serves as a superb jumping-off point for explorations of the beautiful Rhine Valley. The Middle Rhine Valley, or Rhine Gorge, is so important that its entire length from Koblenz south to Mannheim has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you’ll have the chance to see picture-book Germany, with scenery so spectacular you’ll be forgiven for thinking it’s straight out of a book of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm.
Dotting the river banks are numerous quaint old towns and spectacular old castles, fun to explore on a hop-on, hop-off day pass on regular ferry services, or as part of a longer river cruise that takes in other parts of the Rhine, or even by car or bicycle. However you get here, top places to go in the Rhine Valley include the towns of Bingen am Rhein and Bacharach, each offering enough adventure to keep you busy for hours.