Germany is, quite simply, a fantastic place to go on holiday. It has it all: hot summers, snowy, atmospheric winters, buzzing cities, gorgeous countryside and, of course, plenty of beer. With all that on offer, it can be hard to narrow down your destination choices. Our list of a few of the country’s most beautiful, interesting or otherwise special places might help you make some decisions. Read on for mountains, markets, and more…
Sometimes, it’s nice to start big. The sprawling German capital has lots to recommend it; Young creative types from all over flock here like moths to a flame, but the city has appeal that extends far beyond just one group.
The streets are steeped in history, most clearly seen in iconic attractions as varied as the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate and the splendid Reichstag. The art scene is one of the most vibrant in the world, with massive art museums and tiny independent galleries offering up a visual feast. And you’ll never feel hungry or thirsty for long here, with more renowned restaurants and enticing little bars than you could ever hope to have the time to visit.
Christmas in Germany is one of those things that you just have to try and experience at least once in your life. No-one does festive quite like the Germans, and although there are wonderful Christmas markets all over the country, there are a few that are particular stand-outs. The Christmas market in Nuremberg is often credited with being the best in the land, and when you visit it you’ll quickly see why.
Dating back to the 17th century, the market still retains its old-fashioned charm in spades, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic version of Christmas in Germany. Warm yourself up with some Glühwein (mulled wine) as you browse the beautifully illuminated stalls selling traditional ornaments and tasty treats such as gingerbread.
If you’re looking for classic Germanic architecture, Heidelberg is a good destination to choose. Unlike many other German cities, it largely escaped damage in WWII, and many of its buildings have been standing for hundreds of years. Expect winding streets, pretty, colourful houses, and a very impressive castle.
You probably wouldn’t have picked Germany out as a beach destination – but that’s where so many visitors to the country go wrong! Rule out Germany’s beaches and you rule out stunning Sylt, a northern island fringed with beautiful stretches of sand. Scattered with old-fashioned thatched cottages and picturesque lighthouses, this is a wonderful place for a tranquil getaway, especially in the warmer months.
The Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg
The famous Black Forest is far less sinister than it sounds. It’s “black” because the trees are so leafy that they can block the light in places; but this is exactly what makes this incredible place such a haven for wildlife. The scenery in this part of the country is breath-taking, with glistening lakes and hidden waterfalls just waiting to be discovered.
This is certainly the most famous German forest, but there’s far more to the area than trees. You’ll find plenty of urban life here too, with the spa town Baden-Baden and the youthful Freiburg drawing visitors from far and wide.
The Romantic Rhine Valley, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse
The Rhine has countless appealing spots along its winding course, but if you must pick just one section to see, it has to be the Romantic Rhine Valley. Imagine the Germany of postcards and you are probably imagining this UNESCO-listed region, which spans three German states, taking in the area between Koblenz and Bingen. Think castles perched atop dramatic mountains, lush greenery and tiny, picture-perfect towns – they don’t call this place romantic for nothing.
Harz Mountains, Lower Saxony
It’s easy to see how the Harz Mountains provided inspiration for the Grimm Brothers’ original fairy tales. This gorgeous mountain range is sure to stimulate the imagination just as much as the eyes. It’s a popular destination for outdoorsy travellers, but there’s lots to do here for those favouring a less active getaway too. A steam train still runs here, and it’s well worth buying a ticket. Take in sweeping views of typically German forests, high peaks and lush valleys as you chug your way through some of the country’s most impressive scenery.
Although Germany in general is famed for its beer, one destination is the beeriest of them all: Munich. Oktoberfest is probably the best-known beer festival anywhere on the planet. Don’t be misled by its name, however; the fun actually begins in September. At this time of year, you’ll see people turn out to eat, drink and sing vast beer tents in droves, often attired in traditional lederhosen and dirndls. Beyond Oktoberfest, this city is a fascinating destination in its own right, and is increasingly admired for its dining and bar scenes.
It may not seem like much, but this little village surely occupies one of the most impressive locations in the entire country. It sits between two of Germany’s most photographed and most visited castles, Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle. Both were built in the 19th century and look like they came straight from a storybook. Close by is the Marienbrücke, a narrow bridge across a deep gorge. It’s not for the faint of heart, but brave it and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views. Another of the area’s great attractions is the Alpsee, a peaceful lake that’s perfect for swimming, boating or just relaxing.
Of all the German states, Bavaria has featured most heavily on this list, but with good reason. It really does have an incredibly varied range of offerings for the traveller. Take Lindau, for example. This city has plenty of merits, but is perhaps most special for the fact that it sits where Germany, Switzerland and Austria meet. Its location means you can easily make international daytrips if you’re based here. And the place itself is quite lovely, filled with characterful medieval buildings.