From the jagged peaks of the Bavarian Alps to the brooding castles of the Rhine, Germany has a wealth of cultural sites and spectacular natural beauty. Outdoor enthusiasts head to the Black Forest, the Bavarian Alps, or Lake Constance to hike, bike, ski, and swim. City-lovers seek out the museums, opera houses and historical sites of Cologne, Munich, and Berlin. Romantics flock to the mystical Rhine River Valley or the fabled landscapes of Bavaria with its charming medieval towns, fairy tale castles, and boisterous festivals. And everyone finds time for a stop at a Biergarten or Bräuhaus for some pure German beer paired with time-honored local favorites such as wurst, sauerkraut, and schnitzel. Where medieval meets modernity, lederhosen meets BOSS, wurst meets Michelin star dining, and fairy tale meets reality, Germany has something for everyone.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification in 1990, Berlin has reinvented itself as the cultural capital of Germany. Home to renowned orchestras and museums, dynamic nightlife, and vibrant contemporary art scene, Berlin is a laid-back blend of history and innovation. Check out UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Museum Island or the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, or simply revel in the abundance of cafés and bierhauses. A third of the city’s area is made up of forested parks, gardens and lakes, so there are plenty of places to relax after a night on the town.
Forming the border between Austria and Germany, the Bavarian Alps are a majestic mountain range dappled with rolling pastures and emerald-green alpine lakes. With tours of remote monasteries and towering castles, the Alps offer an intriguing dose of history paired with panoramic views. Towns like Garmisch-Partenkirchen are a base to access the soaring peaks for skiing in the winter and trail hiking in the summer. An alpine paradise of delicious regional cuisine, folklore and tradition, a visit to Bavarian Alps will make you want to stay forever.
The Black Forest
An enchanting landscape of meadows, lakes, and thick-canopied coniferous forest, the Black Forest is a natural playground. Boasting a network of 14,000 miles of combined hiking, bicycling, and skiing trails, this region is absolutely crisscrossed with paths. A favorite place among locals for 150 years, the Black Forest has innumerable attractions; from valleys to peaks, kayaking to skiing, there is an activity for every season. Many small towns dot the region, and you will find no shortage of traditional food and charming lodging as you travel throughout the Black Forest.
After being almost completely destroyed by Allied bombs in WWII, Dresden has made a remarkable recovery. Parts of the Old Town have been assiduously reconstructed to reflect the baroque grandeur that once earned Dresden the title of “Florence on the Elbe.” Destroyed in WWII, the 18th-century Frauenkirche lay in ruins for 50 years as a war memorial before being rebuilt after the reunification of Germany. Using as much of the original stone as possible, the Frauenkirche is one of the crowning achievements of Dresden’s restoration. Head to the New City on the other side of the Elbe for a lively night out.
An epicenter of beer-brewing, and host to a two-week long Oktoberfest of epic proportions, the capital of Bavaria has much more to offer than beer. Wander through the Old Town and visit the landmark Frauenkirche cathedral and the bustling Marienplatz square, or head out to Maxvorstadt to enjoy a host of world-class art galleries and museums. Munich is a pleasant mix of major metropolis and easy-going small town. While a visit to the famed Hofbräuhaus beer hall might feel mandatory, be sure to check out the Gothic churches and neoclassical mansions before heading off to the Bavarian Alps.
Rhine River Valley
With imposing medieval castles looming over lush forests, the Rhine River stretches from the Alps in Switzerland to the mouth of the North Sea. The Rhone gorge of the Middle Rhine Valley, between Koblenz and Mainz, cuts through the Rhenish slate mountains and forms a dramatic riverscape of craggy cliffs and terraced vineyards. Take a river cruise and float by idyllic villages of timber-framed houses, and watch for the steeples of Gothic churches and the turrets of fairy tale castles.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
With tall half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, and medieval walls complete with ramparts and towers surrounding the city, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a gem of medieval architecture along Germany’s Romantic Road. Though the city has a storybook feel all year-round, the Christmas and holiday markets in December bring out its true charm. Visit in the fall and winter months for a quieter trip, or plan to stay overnight in one of the many delightful boutique hotels and walk the streets under the yellow glow of lamplight.