Germany is a country filled with incredible things to see and do. This isn’t a place that’s solely about beer gardens and World War II history. This region has centuries of history spanning one of Europe’s largest countries. If you’re a culture junkie, there are world-class museums no matter what city you plan to visit, and we can’t forget about the castles.
German culture is incredibly unique, and there’s something to discover no matter where you are. The locals are friendly, the food is amazing, and the landscapes will take your breath away. If you’re considering visiting Germany, here are several things you need to know to ensure a successful trip.
Best Things to Do in Germany
Explore the Romantic Road
If you’re looking for a romantic vacation in Germany, the Romantic Road in Bavaria is the perfect route to explore some of the country’s most beautiful villages and snow-covered mountains. The area can be pretty touristy, but it’s still a fantastic destination. You’ll find several historic towns along the way, making it an excellent opportunity to soak up some history and culture while enjoying the stunning scenery.
Hike the Black Forest
The Black Forest gets its name from the dense growth of dark green pine trees. This region covers a vast area of 2300 square miles and is an excellent destination for nature lovers. You’ll find plenty of hiking trails to explore and enjoy the stunning scenery.
The area is also known for its charming towns, where you can browse shops and sample delicious German food. Don’t forget to check out the famous cuckoo clocks the region is renowned for.
Visit the Christmas Markets
During the festive season, nothing captures the magic and spirit of Christmas time better than visiting the traditional German Christmas markets. Germany is renowned for these markets, which turn cities and towns into glittering wonderlands of festivity, offering an excellent opportunity to roam around, purchase unique gifts, and savor delectable food and drinks.
The air is filled with the aroma of baked goods, hearty food, hot Gluhwein, and an unmistakable hint of merriness that seems to settle over the market. Drinking Gluhwein, a German mulled wine, is a favorite winter tradition, and a Christmas market wouldn’t be complete without it.
It’s served hot and provides a comforting warmth amid the winter chill. Going to the Christmas markets in Germany is not just about shopping. It’s a rich cultural experience where you can witness the Christmas traditions and rituals that make German Christmas time unique and special.
Visit the Berlin Wall
Visiting the Berlin Wall is a profound experience that takes you back to a pivotal chapter in world history. Established in 1961, this significant piece of history once stood as a barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin during the Cold War. Today, it offers great insight into the city’s turbulent past. Wandering along the remnants of the wall, the graffiti-covered stone slabs paint a vivid picture of Berlin’s fight for freedom.
As a historical landmark, the Berlin Wall presents a powerful tale of resistance and revolution, its iron rods and cement still echoing the clamor for unity. Much more than just another item on your bucket list, it stands as one of the most recognized landmarks in Berlin and continues to attract millions of visitors each year. It is a poignant reminder of Berlin’s resilient spirit and an iconic symbol of the human yearning for freedom.
Go to Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle, located in the serene region of Bavaria, Germany, is a renowned place to visit, especially for those seeking a picturesque fusion of history and architecture. The castle, widely recognized as a fairytale castle due to its majestic charm and allure, is one of the most famous castles in the world. It embodies a romantic embodiment of the medieval era, with its towering turrets, sweeping spires, and stunning mountain backdrop.
For visitors to Munich, a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle promises a memorable escape from the city. Just a few hours’ drive away, the journey unravels into a spectacle of lush landscapes and profound tranquility. The castle itself, with its breathtaking views and intriguing history, continues to captivate the hearts of countless travelers each year, making it a must-stop destination when you visit Germany. The undeniable enchantment of Neuschwanstein Castle indeed justifies its fame and popularity amongst globetrotters.
Cologne Cathedral is one of the most iconic landmarks in Cologne, Germany. This impressive Gothic church has a rich history dating back to the 13th century and has survived several wars, including significant damage from World War II. The restorations alone were an impressive feat allowing this to become even more of a significant tourist destination. The towering twin spires of the cathedral dominate the city’s skyline, and it is duly recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside, the cathedral is as captivating as its exterior, filled with artistic treasures and impressive architecture.
Apart from its religious importance, the Cologne Cathedral also implicitly serves as a social and cultural hub, hosting various events throughout the year. The annual Christmas market is one of the most notable events held in its vicinity. This bustling market, set against the dramatic backdrop of the cathedral, is an experience in itself, offering an array of homemade gifts, food, and drink, amidst a festive and warm atmosphere, making it an unmissable gem during the holiday season.
Berchtesgaden National Park
Berchtesgaden National Park, located in the southeast of Germany, is one of the most magnificent national parks in the country. It encompasses over 210 square kilometers and has stunning natural landmarks, including towering alpine peaks, deep valleys, serene lakes, and dense forests. With an altitude varying from 540 to 2,713 meters, the park is known for its seasonal beauty, which includes snow-capped peaks during winter and flower-studded meadows in summer.
It offers various outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts, such as hiking, mountaineering, wildlife viewing, and boating in the crystalline Konigssee Lake. The park’s commitment to environmental preservation is evident through its well-maintained tracks and stringent regulations. Berchtesgaden National Park is not just about its breathtaking natural beauty but also about the wealth of experiences it offers its visitors, making it a must-visit spot for anyone who cherishes the natural environment.
Explore Lake Constance
Located on the southern border of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria lies Lake Constance, Germany’s most populous freshwater lake. For those interested in exploring the lake’s beauty, a visit to Mainauer Island, also known as flower island, is a must-do.
This island is home to a variety of gardens, baroque architecture, and a large butterfly house. Additionally, numerous medieval villages and castles are worth exploring nearby. This incredible area remains an underrated gem in all of Europe. To make the most of your visit, stay in Konstanz for a centrally located experience around the lake.
Dresden, the capital of Saxony in Germany, is a vibrant city located near the borders of Poland and the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, during World War II, Dresden was the target of a devastating bombing that destroyed over 90% of the city and caused the loss of thousands of civilian lives at the hands of Allied forces.
Despite this tragedy, the city was reconstructed after the war, with notable landmarks such as the Frauenkirche church, Neumarkt historic district, Zwinger Castle, King’s Palace, and Semper Opera House being restored to their former glory.
Where to stay in Germany
When considering where to stay in Germany, you have numerous options. Hotels are the most popular choice for visitors, offering comfortable and convenient lodging at various prices. Vacation rentals are also a great option if you’re looking for a home away from home atmosphere with plenty of amenities and privacy.
Major German cities have many vacation rental options, ranging from budget-friendly apartments to luxurious villas. Additionally, numerous campsites and hostels are available in Germany, which offer affordable accommodation for those traveling on a budget. Here are some of the best places to stay in Germany:
- Grand Hotel Heiligendamm
- The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin
- Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin
- Hilton Munich Park
- Sofitel Munich Bayerpost
How to Get Around in Germany
Germany is a country that’s known for its efficient and reliable transportation system. If you’re planning a trip to Germany and want to explore all the country has to offer, you’ll need to know how to get around.
One of the easiest and most convenient ways to get around in Germany is by using public transportation via the national train, the Deutsche Bahn. The country’s extensive railway system connects almost every major city and town.
You can purchase tickets online using Trainline to get the best possible price or at the train station; discounts are often available if you book in advance. Another popular way to get around Germany is by using the bus. Many private bus companies operate nationwide, providing affordable and comfortable transportation to various destinations. The buses usually run on a fixed schedule, and you can book your tickets online or at the bus station.
If you prefer more flexibility, renting a car is an excellent choice, and we recommend using RentalCars.com, which allows you to compare dozens of rental car companies to get the best possible price. Germany has an extensive network of well-maintained roads, and driving can be a great way to explore the countryside and smaller towns. Due to heavy traffic and narrow streets, driving in bigger cities like Berlin and Munich can be challenging.
Another great way to get around Germany is by using a bike. Germany is bike-friendly, and many cities have dedicated bike lanes and paths. You can rent bikes from many shops or even use bike-sharing services like Nextbike or Donkey Republic.
Finally, public transportation like buses, trams, and subways in a larger city like Berlin, Cologne, or Munich can be used. These systems are easy to use and a great way to get around quickly and affordably.
Travel Tips for Visiting Germany
This huge country offers spectacular scenery in nearly every region. Visiting each state or area can almost be a completely different experience. Northern Germany features port cities, waterways, and islands, while Southern Germany is a sprawling mountain range with classic Bavarian culture. These are some of the best tips for traveling to Germany.
Embrace Travel Safety
Traveling to Germany can be an exciting and enriching experience. It’s important to prioritize safety and health while exploring this beautiful country. Like visiting any international country, to stay safe it’s crucial to have comprehensive travel insurance that includes healthcare coverage during your stay in Germany.
Check with your insurance provider to ensure you have adequate coverage or get a travel insurance policy that fits your needs by using VisitorsCoverage, where you can compare different policies to find the one that fits you best.
When traveling to Germany, stay alert and mindful of your surroundings. Keep a close watch on your belongings, especially in crowded spaces and while using public transport. Respect and adhere to local laws, regulations, and cultural norms.
Be mindful of traffic rules, as jaywalking can lead to fines. Germany boasts a well-developed transportation system with trains, buses, trams, and reputable taxi services.
For your safety, it’s best to stick to these reliable modes of transport. It’s prudent to store your passport securely, credit cards, and other valuables, perhaps in a hotel safe, and refrain from carrying large sums of cash. Even in a safe country like Germany, pickpocketing can occur in crowded areas.
Ensure you have a dependable means of communication. Keep your phone charged, save emergency numbers, and consider buying a local SIM card or activating international roaming. Travel smart and enjoy your German adventure!
Embrace the Language
When heading to Germany, it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the German language and customs of communication. This section offers tips for overcoming language barriers and ensuring effective communication during your trip. By learning a few essential German phrases, you can significantly enhance your travel experience.
- Guten Tag (Good day) and Bitte (Please) are essential greetings and polite expressions.
- Danke (Thank you) and Entschuldigung (Excuse me) are also commonly used.
- Wie geht es Ihnen? (How are you?) and Ich komme aus… (I am from…) can help facilitate conversations.
- Und bitte (And please) and Auf Wiedersehen (Goodbye) are useful phrases for wrapping up interactions.
To facilitate communication, consider using technology and language apps:
- Google Translate: This versatile app can quickly translate written or spoken words, helping you communicate effectively.
- Babbel: A popular language learning app that offers German courses for beginners.
- Phrasebooks: Offline phrasebooks are handy for quick reference when you don’t have access to the internet.
These are some key etiquette tips to know when you visit Germany:
- Formality: Germans tend to be polite and address each other formally, using titles such as Herr (Mr.) and Frau (Mrs./Ms.) unless invited to use first names.
- Punctuality: Being on time is highly valued in Germany, so arriving a few minutes early is best if you have scheduled appointments or meetings.
- Handshakes: A firm handshake is the customary greeting in Germany. Maintain eye contact while greeting others.
- Quiet Conversations: Germans generally speak softly and expect others to do the same, especially in public places.
Check with your mobile service provider to ensure international roaming is activated if you plan to use your phone abroad. Alternatively, consider purchasing a local SIM card for your unlocked phone to have affordable access to calls, texts, and data.
Cash is Common in Germany
When planning a trip to Germany, it’s important to understand the country’s currency and how to manage your money. Germany uses the Euro (€) as its official currency, which makes it easy for travelers from many countries to navigate financial transactions. Here are some tips for understanding and managing money in Germany.
The Euro is the official currency of 19 out of the 27 European Union member states, including Germany. It is represented by the symbol € and is divided into 100 cents. The Euro comes in different denominations of banknotes and coins, ranging from €5 to €500 for banknotes and 1-cent to 2-euro coins.
It’s worth noting that while the Euro is widely accepted across the country, some establishments, particularly in rural areas or at local markets, may only accept cash. Therefore, having money for these instances is always a good idea.
Tips for Managing Money in Germany
Here are some useful tips for managing your money while traveling in Germany:
- Currency Exchange: Before your trip, consider exchanging some currency for Euros to have cash on hand for small purchases or to use in establishments that don’t accept cards. Currency exchange offices can be found in airports, banks, and major tourist areas.
- Credit Cards and Debit Cards: Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Germany, especially in larger cities and tourist areas. Ensure you inform your bank or card provider of your travel plans to prevent potential transaction issues.
- ATMs: locally known as “Geldautomaten,” can be found throughout Germany. They are a convenient way to withdraw cash in Euros. However, some ATMs may charge a fee for international transactions. Check with your bank about any additional fees or charges that may apply when using foreign ATMs.
- Tipping: Tipping is customary in Germany. It’s common to leave a tip of around 5-10% in restaurants, cafes, and bars if you’re satisfied with the service. You can usually leave the tip in cash or add it to the total amount when paying by card.
- Budgeting: Like any travel destination, it’s important to set a budget for your trip to Germany. Research the average accommodation, meals, transportation, and attractions costs to help plan your expenses accordingly.
- Safety and Security: While Germany is generally safe for travelers, it’s always wise to take precautions with your money and valuables. Keep your cash, cards, and travel documents secure, and know your surroundings, especially in crowded areas.
Learn and Embrace the Culture
When traveling to a new country, it is important to familiarize yourself with the local customs and etiquette to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience. Germany, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and culture, has its own customs and traditions that visitors should be aware of. Here are some essential German customs and etiquette tips to help you easily navigate your trip.
- Greetings: When meeting someone in Germany, greeting them with a firm handshake and direct eye contact is customary. Address people using their titles or surnames, and wait until you are invited to switch to a first-name basis.
- Punctuality: Germans value punctuality highly, so it is important to arrive on time for appointments and social gatherings. Being late is considered disrespectful and may leave a negative impression.
- Table Manners: During meals, keeping your hands on the table but not your elbows is customary. Remember to say “Guten Appetit” (Enjoy your meal) before eating. When finished, place your knife and fork parallel to each other on your plate to indicate that you have finished.
- Respecting Personal Space: Germans value personal space and privacy. Avoid standing too close to someone unless you have a close relationship with them. It is also common to maintain a quiet and reserved demeanor in public places.
- Small Talk: Germans appreciate meaningful conversations and tend to engage in more serious topics rather than small talk. Be prepared to discuss current affairs, literature, and other intellectual subjects.
German culture and traditions are deeply rooted in history and should be respected during your visit. Germany has numerous historical landmarks, including castles, museums, and concentration camps. When visiting these sites, show respect and honor the significance of what you are witnessing.
Germans are known for their commitment to environmental sustainability. Take part in their recycling efforts by sorting your trash into the appropriate bins. Most households have separate bins for paper, glass, plastic, and bio-waste.
Also, Germans generally dress conservatively and smartly. Avoid wearing casual or revealing clothing in formal settings and religious sites. When visiting churches, dress modestly and cover your shoulders and knees.
Many German cities and towns have designated quiet hours called “Ruhezeit.” During these times, noise should be kept to a minimum to respect the peace and tranquility of residential areas.
Try the Excellent (And Underrated) Cuisine
When traveling to Germany, one of the highlights is undoubtedly experiencing the country’s delicious cuisine and dining culture. German dishes are known for their rich flavors and traditional recipes, from hearty sausages to mouthwatering pastries. Here are some must-try German dishes and drinks, as well as tips for dining out in Germany.
- Bratwurst: Bratwurst is a popular German sausage made from minced pork, beef, or veal. It is typically seasoned with spices like nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom and served with sauerkraut and mustard.
- Schnitzel: Schnitzel is a breaded and fried meat cutlet, usually made from pork or veal. It is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and it is often served with potato salad or fries.
- Pretzel: Pretzels are a staple snack in Germany. These twisted breads are sprinkled with coarse salt and baked to perfection. They are best enjoyed with a cold German beer.
- Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage often served as a side dish in German cuisine. It has a tangy flavor and pairs well with sausages and other meat dishes.
- Black Forest Cake: Black Forest Cake is a deliciously indulgent dessert made with layers of chocolate sponge cake, cherries, and whipped cream. It is a must-try for any chocolate lover.
To fully immerse yourself in Germany’s food culture, it’s worthwhile to try the local cuisine in each region, as there are unique culinary specialties to be discovered. Germany is renowned for its beer and wine, with exceptional quality and a wide variety of options available. Wine enthusiasts have plenty to enjoy, with Germany’s wine-growing regions producing excellent Rieslings and other white wines. While dining out, it’s customary to leave a tip of around 5-10% of the total bill.