WHAT ARE THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN GERMANY?
Germany, the most populous country in the European Union, is a destination with many great places to discover, from picturesque medieval villages, beautiful mountainous landscapes and lakes, modern but culturally interesting cities with a crazy nightlife, festivals and Christmas markets with a wonderful atmosphere, majestic castles, and excellent cuisine (pretzel, beer, delicatessen…).
Although there is a ton of things to see and do in Germany, this selection focus on the best places to visit and includes the country’s most emblematic sites as well as lesser known places that are worth visiting.
In addition to these 10 best places to see, you will also find at the bottom of the page even more points of interest not to be missed in Germany if you can stay several weeks there. This comprehensive list should help you prepare the ideal itinerary for your trip to Germany.
Where is Germany located? Germany is located in the heart of the European continent and extends from the Bavarian Alps (in the south) to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. It shares its borders with nine countries. Its highest peak is the Zugspitze in Bavaria (2,962 metres). The Rhine is the longest river and serves as the border between Germany and France.
When to go to Germany? The best time to visit Germany is during summer, which is the perfect season for nature excursions and water sports, but also to visit the cities as Germans go on holiday in July and August and make way for tourists (some stormy showers to be expected). The months of June and September are calmer and may be a good time if you can travel during this time. Winter will appeal to winter sports enthusiasts when the peaks are snow-covered.
Here are 10 must-see places during a trip to Germany:
Germany’s lively capital, with its superb museums, modern architecture, trendy nightlife and superb restaurants. The main historical sites not to be missed are the Reichstag, Brandenburger Gate and Checkpoint Charlie, among others. You will find several museums in Museumsinsel (or Museum Island).
The Berlin Wall can still be visited in some parts of the city, including the East Side Gallery. If you can, try to attend a performance by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. More info about Berlin here.
- Book your hotel in Berlin on Booking.com
2. COLOGNE CATHEDRAL
Germany’s most visited monument, Cologne cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Very impressive with its 157 meters high, it’s one of the largest cathedrals in the world. It’s also the third largest Gothic cathedral (after Seville Cathedral and Milan Dome).
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and admission is free. Don’t miss the visit of the tower to enjoy the panorama.
- Book your hotel in Cologne now on Booking.com
Munich is known as the origin of the famous beer festival, the Oktoberfest. This tradition began in 1810 as a wedding celebration. Today, it’s a festival that attracts millions of visitors from all over the world every year. Hotels increase their prices accordingly, so book your accommodation well in advance! Despite its name, the beer festival begins in mid-September and continues until the first weekend of October.
Outside of this festival, Munich is a very beautiful city to visit, with excellent museums, baroque palaces, superb churches, friendly open-air brasseries and beautiful parks.
- Book your hotel in Munich now on Booking.com
Located on the banks of the Elbe, not far from the Czech border, Dresden is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. Rebuilt after the Allied bombardments in 1945, the city nicknamed “Florence of the Elbe” has managed to preserve the Baroque architecture of its old town made of superb towers and palace domes. In Dresden, don’t miss the Church of Our Lady of Dresden & the zwinger.
Dresden is also the starting point for excursions to discover the surrounding area, full of beautiful landscapes (see point 5 below!).
- Book your hotel in Dresden now on Booking.com
5. SAXON SWITZERLAND NATIONAL PARK
You can see superb rock formations, in particular the very touristic Bastei (the bastion in German) which offers a spectacular panoramic view of the river and mountains of the Elbe. In addition to the bastei, you can hike in the park, mountain bike or climb. The park extends as far as the Czech Republic, but the Czech part is called differently (Bohemian Switzerland National Park).
The Bastei site is accessible by train from Dresden to Kurort Rathen station.
6. HEIDELBERG CASTLE
Located an hour’s drive south of Frankfurt, it’s a partially ruined but magnificent castle, which offers a superb view of the old town and the Neckar River. It’s accessible on foot or by funicular with a ticket coupled with a visit to the castle.
Outside the castle, don’t miss a visit to the old town of Heidelberg, with its narrow streets and picturesque squares, as well as Germany’s oldest university, which is located just below the castle. If you have time, go and see the panorama from the top of the Königstuhl mountain to enjoy a magnificent view of Heidelberg and the surrounding area. A tip to park cheaper: go to the Kaufhof car park and walk through the city.
- Book your hotel in Heidelberg now on Booking.com
7. NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE
The most photographed castle in Germany! Nestled in the Bavarian Alps near Füssen, it marks the finish line of the Romantic Route and seems to come straight out of a fairy tale; Walt Disney would even have taken inspiration from it for Sleeping Beauty.
King Ludwig II launched the construction of his dream castle in 1869 and instead of an architect, he hired a theatre designer to design it. The place is very touristy, remember to book your tickets online well in advance and visit the place in low season to avoid the crowd (from November to March).
- Official website
- Book your hotel in Füssen now on Booking.com
8. ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER
A beautifully preserved medieval village, well maintained and very photogenic (come out of season to avoid tourists). Don’t miss the visit of the ramparts to have a great view! Rothenburg ob der Tauber is located on the Romantic Road, a 410 km long scenic route which was founded in 1950 to stimulate tourism in post-war Germany, and passes through some of the best places to visit in the country.
Würzburg, a very nice university town, is the starting point of the romantic route, and it ends in Füssen (not far from Neuschwanstein Castle, see photo above).
- Book your hotel in Rothenburg ob der Tauber now on Booking.com
9. THE RHINE VALLEY
With a total length of 1320 kilometres, from Switzerland through Germany to the Netherlands, the Rhine is the most important waterway in Europe. The Rhine section between Koblenz and Mainz is by far the most interesting to explore, whether you are driving or taking a cruise. You can see many castles and medieval towns (such as Bacharach and St. Goar where you can visit the fortress of Rheinfels) in spectacular cliff landscapes and green vineyards.
A slightly more peaceful alternative to the Rhine Valley is the Moselle Valley between Trier (where Roman remains can be seen) and Koblenz (where the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle is located), where you can visit picturesque villages with half-timbered houses such as Cochem, Beilstein, Bernkastel-Kues or the photogenic Eltz castle (official site). Do not miss the Moselle curve at Bremm.
10. THE TOP OF THE ZUGSPITZE
Germany’s highest mountain, with an altitude of 2962 metres, located in the Bavarian Alps near the Austrian border. It’s very touristy and can be reached by the Zugspitze railway and cable cars on either the German or Austrian side. From the top, the view extends over four countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy). Remember to take warm clothes even in summer!
The summit can be reached by cable car from the hamlet of Eibsee or by the rack railway from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From there you can also hike to the summit via the 800-metre deep Partnach gorge (Partnachklamm).
MORE THINGS TO SEE IN GERMANY
It’s impossible to limit this selection to ten because there are so many things to do and see in Germany! Here are some others to visit that are worth a look and that you can place on your travel itinerary:
- Schwerin Castle, Hohenzollern Castle, Wartburg Castle, Königstein Fortress…
- Aachen Cathedral: the oldest cathedral in Northern Europe (UNESCO World Patent)
- The lakes: the Königsee, a beautiful Bavarian lake surrounded by high mountains; the beautiful Lake Obersee; Lake Eibsee
- The rock formation of Externsteine, near Horn-Bad Meinberg
- The Black Forest: follow the scenic Bundesstraße 500 (or B500) from Baden Baden to Freudenstadt (about 60km), a must if you want to see the Black Forest landscape (great viewpoint at the Aussichtsplattform Ellbachseeblick).
- The Nuremberg Christmas Market (or Christkindlesmarkt): the most beautiful of all Christmas markets in Germany.
- The eagle’s nest in Berchtesgaden
- Harz National Park: the highest suspension bridge in the world, the Titan RT (439 metres long)
Towns and villages
- the medieval old town of Regensburg (UNESCO world heritage site)
- The island of Lindau, located on the Obersee, upper part of Lake Constance
- The city of Monschau (Montjoie in french)
- Quedlinburg (in the Hartz Mountains)
- The village of Ramsau (the church, the Wimbachklamm Gorge, Lake Hintersee)
Other places to visit in Germany
- The Rakotzbrücke semi-circular bridge (Rhododendronpark Kromlau)
- The Maulbronn Monastery, founded in 1147 in the city of Maulbronn, is the most complete and best preserved medieval monastic complex north of the Alps (UNESCO World Patent).
- Wilhelmshöhe Park in the city of Cassel (UNESCO world heritage site)
- The Geierlay suspension bridge (360 metres), in Moersdorf
- The picturesque city of Wertheim am Main
- In Erfurt: see Krämerbrücke bridge
- The statue of Hermannsdenkmal
- The Lake Constance region: Mainau, the monastery island of Reichenau, and the prehistoric pile dwellings of Unteruhldingen
- The Roman ruins of Trier
- Europa Park (a great amusement park, one of the best in Europe)
- Admire the panorama from the viewpoint in Drachenfels
- Sanssouci’s Palace in Potsdam
- The panorama from the Alpspix
- Finally, if you have time, make a detour to Salzburg (Austria)
BEFORE GOING TO GERMANY
- Book your hotel in Germany now on Booking.com
- Buy the Rick Steves German Travel Guide on Amazon.com
ALL THE PLACES NOT TO BE MISSED IN GERMANY ON GOOGLE MAP
You will find all the places mentioned in this article on Google Map: