Eastern Germany boasts a rich history and stunning architecture that beckons travelers from around the globe. As you venture through this captivating region, you’ll encounter charming towns, time-honored landmarks, and a blend of cultures that creates a unique and unforgettable atmosphere.
Among many must-see destinations in Eastern Germany are Magdeburg, its awe-inspiring Lutheran Cathedral of Saints Catherine and Maurice, and Potsdam, where palaces and parks reminiscent of Prussian kings await your exploration. Further afield, Wernigerode tempts travelers seeking a quiet, picturesque town nestled amidst the scenic Harz mountains region.
You might also notice that the atmosphere has a distinctly different flavor than Western Germany, and there’s a good reason. It seems like ancient history, but less than 40 years ago, there was not just one Germany.
East Germany was known as the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) when it was occupied by the Soviets in the closing stages of World War II and throughout the Cold War from 1949 to 1990. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the country became reunited with West Germany (The Federal Republic of Germany).
Today, remnants of the past have shaped your experiences on this side of the country. Let’s see what it’s all about!
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Best Places to Visit in Eastern Germany
The German capital of Berlin is the epitome of an architectural marvel. It also epitomizes the East/West divide. Despite being in East Germany, during the Cold War, the city was divided into Eastern and Western halves, with the Soviets occupying the east and NATO in the west.
Relish in art and history at every corner and see the city’s story through its buildings and landmarks. Berlin has tons of museums and poignant World War memorials, but also plenty of lively things to do. Check out Prenzlauer Berg for its nightlife, just north of the Berlin city center.
Two days are adequate to see the most prominent tourist attractions on your trip to Berlin, but a long weekend is best. Sights worth visiting in the capital include the Reichstag Building, sections of the famous Berlin Wall, the Glienicke Bridge, and the Brandenburg Gate. Additionally, if you’re not pressed for time, visit the Academy of Arts, Museum Island, and Treptower Park.
If you stay in Berlin for a few days, stay at Meliá. The hotel is near the city center, train station, TV Tower, the Berlin Wall, and Berlin Cathedral. If you are on a budget, check the pricing for hostels on HostelWorld. You can also drive east from Berlin for roughly two hours to the Polish border for more adventure.
Dresden is the capital of the German state of Saxony. The area is renowned for its art and architecture, so if you want to visit Germany to take in outstanding and creative architecture, add Dresden to your list. Like Berlin, the city is also known for the devastation it endured during World War II.
Zwinger and the Royal Palace are some of the must-see places in Dresden. You can also take the hop on hop off bus tour to explore Dresden in one day, which makes it easier to craft an itinerary. Besides this, you can also enjoy a full-day Bastei Bridge and Tisa Walls Labyrinth Guided tour from Dresden – perfect for nature lovers and hiking beginners.
When looking for the best places to stay in Dresden, you’ve got plenty of areas to choose from. Depending on your itinerary, stay in Neustadt, Old Town, Radebeul, or Blasewitz.
Bautzen is an excellent day trip destination from Dresden. I’ve been here twice (once solo, once with the family) and just adored this little slice of heaven each time.
Situated on the banks of the River Spree, this beautiful toy-town city has oodles of medieval charm. It is famously home to Ortenburg Castle, Alt Wasserkunst, and St Peter’s Cathedral.
If you have kids with you, visit Sauierpark Kleinwelka Adventure Park too. This awesome park has replicas of dinosaurs for kiddies to get up close to! There’s no shortage of good hotels in Bautzen. The Best Western Plus is a cozy choice for the budget-savvy traveler.
See Related: How is World War II Taught in Germany?
Erfurt is the capital of the federal state of Thuringia and an old university city. This 1200-year-old city is known for its Augustinian Monastery and three-towered Gothic Erfurt Cathedral, constructed in the 12th to 15th century.
The Merchants’ Bridge on the Gera River is another crucial point of interest. It’s not often talked about, but this bridge is one of the most enchanting destinations in the entire world.
I first visited this bridge around Christmas time and reverted to a childlike state of wonder. I thought the festive decor may have had something to do with it, but on a return trip two summers later put that notion to rest. The “Krämerbrücke” is better than a fairytale – it’s real.
This 125 m long bridge was once made of wood but was rebuilt with stones in 1325. What makes it special is that it is lined with cute little buildings straight out of fairytale.
The bridge has cafes, boutiques, and galleries in cutesy cottages from the Middle Ages. It has the longest inhabited buildings in Europe, and you can also find some top-tier chocolate here. If you want the cream of culinary pleasure, taste chocolate at Goldhelm Chocolate Boutique.
Take a walking tour of the city’s Old Town to see the bridge and other top attractions. Some important tourist places in the city include St. Severus Church, Old Fish Market, Augustinian Monastery, and the Old Synagogue.
Erfurt has several hotels and guesthouses for any budget. If you ask me, Mr.& Mrs. President is a phenomenal apartment in a convenient location, just around the corner from the bridge.
See Related: Best Christmas Markets in Europe to Visit
Leipzig is another exciting city in North East Germany. Tucked away in the German State of Saxony, the town is known for its markets and fairs.
The city is also home to several famous publishing firms, including Spector Books, and Leipzig University is one of the oldest in Europe. The German National Library is also based in the city.
Leipzig has prominent churches like St. Thomas Church and St. Nicholas Church. History buffs will love the Monument to the Battle of the Nations.
Markt and Old City Hall is the central attraction in Leipzig. It is one of the most alluring Renaissance buildings in Germany, and you’ll want to snap a few photos of the intricate details.
You can get to know this magnificent city in East Germany with a walking tour through GetYourGuide. If you’re here for an overnight, stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel Leipzig for an awesome location. The University is nearby, and the area has some incredibly attractive botanical gardens.
Potsdam consists of a vast landscape of lakes and rivers, populated with some of Germany’s most stunning and intriguing architecture. This, the capital city of Brandenburg, is among the most beautiful towns in Europe. Situated about 24 miles southwest of Berlin, most of Potsdam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You must visit Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. This top UNESCO World Heritage Site is a single-story Rococo-style architecture building with a dome in the middle.
The Palace was built by Frederick the Great, the Prussian King. Additionally, you can take a walk in Sanssouci Park, which has breathtaking gardens and buildings.
Other points of interest in the city include the Barberini Museum, the Potsdam Museum, the Dutch Quarter, Cecilienhof Country House, and the New Garden. Hit them all up if you have the time.
Another good thing about Potsdam is that its top attractions are pretty tightly grouped. Stay at Kongresshotel Potsdam am Templiner See, and you’ll be close to a few of them.
See Related: Best National & City Parks in Germany to Visit
Criminally unknown to many, Zwickau is a totally charming city with a rich historical background. You’ll be captivated by its stunning architecture, lush gardens, many sights, close proximity to the stunning Saxon Switzerland region, and fascinating historical sites. Marvel at the beauty of the famed Bastei Bridge, which offers stunning panoramic views perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.
Marienkirche is an iconic Zwickau landmark. The magnificent Gothic cathedral has an 88-meter-tall Baroque spire. Inside, you’ll find priceless Late Gothic and Renaissance paintings and a beautiful organ.
Horch Museum is another must-see. Named after automobile pioneer August Horch, this museum in the former Audi plant showcases the history of Audi and other iconic German car brands.
Venture into the picturesque Altstadt, where you’ll discover the Priest’s Houses. They are among the oldest urban residential buildings in the city, showcasing intricate architectural details.
Musical types can pay homage to the birthplace of classical composer Robert Schumann. His former home, now a museum, offers a unique insight into his life and works.
With its captivating blend of history, culture, and nature, Zwickau is a truly remarkable destination in Eastern Germany. When I visited this hidden gem, I stayed at the First Inn Hotel in the historic old town, with nothing but good things to say.
Magdeburg, the capital of Saxony Anhalt (Sachsen Anhalt), dates back to medieval times. This city in East Germany holds immense significance in European history, where it played a pivotal role as a trading port in Saxony.
Magdeburg offers a unique blend of architectural marvels and beautiful landscapes. Take the time to explore the medieval fortifications and learn about the city’s turbulent past, including World War II events and Martin Luther’s influence on Christianity in the region.
One must-see landmark is the Cathedral of Saints Catherine and Maurice – the highest church in Eastern Germany, at 104 meters tall. This stunning Gothic cathedral takes you back with magnificent medieval artworks, intricate carvings, and striking twin church towers.
Visit the Grüne Zitadelle, a unique art gallery showcasing creative and diverse artistic styles. This noteworthy attraction is an eclectic space that serves as an artistic bohemia, offering a lively atmosphere and various cultural events for art enthusiasts.
Rotehorn Park, on the Elbe River, is one of Germany’s loveliest English landscape parks. Nature lovers can relax, enjoy scenic walks, or participate in outdoor activities amidst lush greenery.
The ibis Styles Hotel is a fine choice, with the Old Market in walking distance and a phenomenal breakfast. Immerse yourself in the rich German culture and historical background that awaits you while in the city.
If you’re looking to check off some of the major cities in Germany, visit Hamburg on your trip. The port city has a bumping nightlife, high-end shopping, and stunning architecture.
You’ll love walking past various canals and bridges as you scope the area. If you’re using public transport, Hamburg has an incredible train system.
Exploring the Alster Lakes or Garten der Gegenwart are great choices for a nature lover. Don’t fill up too much because you must try out a Hamburg Culinary Tour.
The Super 8 by Wyndham is an awesome choice for visitors on a budget. Be a part of all the action at the city’s center. The hotel offers a continental breakfast, and the staff speaks English and German.
Chemnitz holds a special place in my heart because my great-aunt lives there, and I spent a lot of summers visiting as a child. She’s close to the Freibad Gablenz, which we visited often. The bakeries have the freshest products and the best coffee.
A private walking tour helps you become familiar with the area. See the past at the Schlossberg Museum or admire the Wasserschloss Klaffenbach’s Renaissance-style architecture.
Before you head out, take a picture at the Karl Marx monument. Driving a half hour south to the Ore Mountains for basking in nature. Prague is also just a two-hour drive away if you want to visit the other side.
Biendo Hotel is an unbeatable accommodation if you’re staying longer. The train station, market square, opera house, and shopping are all within walking distance.
Map of Cities to Visit in Eastern Germany