Home to buckets of unique, rich culture, lively locals, spirited cities, and fantastic beer, Germany is home to many captivating destinations. Whether you’re looking to soak up art, culture, or history, this country has something for just about everyone, no matter the kind of experience you’re looking for.
Sandy beaches and outdoor adventures? Check. Quaint towns, historic buildings, and cosmopolitan cities? Check. World-class art galleries and numerous museums? Check. Picturesque scenery and spectacular views of natural beauty? Double-check.
Whatever you’re into, there are tons of epic places to visit in Germany that will make for amazing excursions in Western Europe.
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Best Places to Visit in Germany
Like its British and French counterparts, London and Paris, Germany’s capital city of Berlin is an unmissable destination you should definitely visit in Germany. It’s a super eclectic city that has changed vastly since World War II but still retains a lot of its historic pre-war architecture and character.
Like any other large city, Berlin has something for everyone, from its thrilling nightlife full of fantastic food and countless places to grab a drink to beautiful parks and green spaces to give you a place to relax.
For the history buffs out there, there are homages to Berlin’s more somber past, like memorials to the Holocaust, the Berlin Wall Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, and the East Side Gallery, among hundreds of other museums and galleries throughout the city. There are many more to be enjoyed on Museum Island.
A personal favorite of mine is the DDR Museum, which shows what life was like in communist Eastern Germany during the Cold War. Then there’s the Berlin TV Tower, which affords breathtaking views of the city’s skyline.
The most famous and significant of all tourist attractions in Berlin is the magnificent Brandenburg Gate. A cultural and historical hub, hotels in Berlin are also pretty prolific and vary in price and theme. For a truly wicked stay, check out Hotel Berlin in the heart of the action.
Known best for its party spirit and upbeat attitude, those looking for a place to be wowed will love Cologne’s unfaltering positivity and energy, no matter the trip you want to experience.
This historic town effortlessly blends old with new, and history buffs will definitely want to visit the local UNESCO World Heritage site, the scarred Gothic Cologne cathedral. This enormous cathedral is one of the best places to visit in Germany for any fan of architecture.
A walking tour of this beautiful city is the best way to take it all in. You can also enjoy the art scene, local breweries, or many great museums that the city has to offer, such as the magical Cologne Chocolate Museum.
Accommodation is also reasonably priced in Cologne, with nightly rates averaging around $100. The colorful, modern art’otel cologne is a prime example, exuding all that upbeat energy for which Cologne is famous.
You can find this terrific hotel in Cologne’s old town on the Rhine River, next to the Cologne Chocolate Museum, and just a short trip from Cologne Cathedral.
Munich is the capital of Bavaria and a beautiful town that might be the most quintessentially German place on Earth. Every fall, visitors come to Munich attractions from all over the world to participate in the two-week-long festival featuring Germany’s best beers and bratwurst. I’m talking, of course, about the confusingly named September-based German Holiday, Oktoberfest.
Munich’s world-famous Oktoberfest is a huge reason to visit, but Munich offers so much more than just a single festival. It’s home to beautiful gardens (both beer and regular), exquisite churches, and interesting museums, all worth exploring.
It’s an urban wonderland, perfect for wandering around charming historic neighborhoods or spending some time in Marienplatz, a stunning central square filled with local shops that host a famous German Christmas market each year.
It’s also where you can find the New Town Hall and the beautiful Englischer Garten (English Garden) to enjoy a good stroll or a picnic. The most significant pull to Munich is the laid-back cafe culture and world-famous beer halls that encapsulate the best of Bavaria, all while being easy to navigate and built with short breaks so you can experience the city at your own pace.
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in Munich
Once the beating heart of the Holy Roman Empire (barely holy, Roman, or indeed an empire), this old imperial city is the second-largest city in Bavaria after Munich.
Perfect for those looking to indulge in winter wonderlands unlike any other, travelers should consider braving the cold conditions to experience Nuremberg during the Christmas season.
Nuremberg hosts an annual grand Weihnachtsmarkt (or Christmas market), Germany’s largest Christmas market and the country’s most-visited attraction.
The fantastic Christmas market makes it worth visiting in winter, but if you’re after more, many of Nuremberg’s top attractions are well protected from the elements, so if the chill is not quite your speed – don’t worry.
You can stay warm while perusing the galleries, museums, and churches, as well as the medieval Nuremberg Castle. Between the open-air markets, world-class museums celebrating local culture, and culinary specialties of sausage and gingerbread, this historic city has no shortage of things to do.
5. Zugspitze Mountain Range
For ski enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, the Zugspitze is a fantastic destination, whether you want to ski its famous slopes or just take in the gorgeous sights.
This is the highest mountain range in Germany, where, on a clear day, you can see Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. In the winter, of course, it’s home to fantastic ski slopes, but if you choose to visit in the summer, there are plenty of hiking and climbing opportunities.
Of all the terrific ski resorts located nearby (in Germany and each neighboring country), Zugspitze Ski Resort gives visitors incredible access to some of the finest ski slopes in the world.
6. Rothenburg ob der Tauber
As one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is an old Bavarian Imperial City and is considered one of the most picturesque towns in all of Germany. It’s a magical place to stop, retaining its old-world charm despite being rife with tourists.
The sheer beauty of this quaint town can sweep visitors off their feet, and has also become one of the most popular stops on the country’s Romantic Road tourist route. It’s one of only three historical towns in Germany that still has entirely intact city walls, with the other two being Nördlingen and Dinkelsbühl.
For those looking for a more private, secluded visit, you can book a room for the night and see the small town lit up and tranquil once the crowds and day-trippers disperse.
Perfect for architecture enthusiasts, this city is close to the Czech border and features many stunning architectural feats, unlike anywhere in the world.
You’ll have your pick of unique structures; most won’t miss the Dresden Zwinger, a Baroque palace, or Schlösserland Sachen, a stunning Renaissance palace featuring the world’s largest Porcelain mural.
If you prefer more modern structures, head to the Kunsthofpassage to see the quirky buildings that Dresen is famous for, one of which features singing drainpipes you certainly won’t want to miss on a wet day!
Another great activity in Dresden is cruising along the Elbe River, which gives great views of Dresden’s more contemporary and baroque architecture.
See Related: Day Trips From Dresden
Visitors looking to explore this charming city will be thrilled at all that Düsseldorf has to offer. There’s enough in the city to keep visitors busy for days – between the cultural hotspots, lively nightlife, events and festivals, multicultural cuisine, and much more.
Those looking for a jumping-off point for a European adventure will enjoy the central location of Dusseldorf. Many top tourist destinations in Eastern Europe and Central Europe are short trips from the Düsseldorf International Airport or the train station, including day outings or short-trip options, giving you greater flexibility.
But if you do plan to stay in town, you gotta check out Düsseldorf‘s cultural scene. Düsseldorf is the fashion capital of Germany, home to a substantial fashion and retail district. It’s also one of the most popular cities in Germany for live music performances.
Locals and tourists love this popular summer location, home to the ideal blend of local charm and top attractions. Meersburg features a meticulously kept medieval center with cobblestone streets, surrounded by picturesque terraced vineyards near the stunning Lake Constance.
While visiting Meersburg, wine lovers should visit the world-renowned wineries like Staatseingut Meersburg and cultural hotspots like the Magische Säule des Peter Lenk.
Make sure you visit the old town, or Altstadt von Meersburg, to see a unique perspective of medieval city life, as well as plenty of local shops and restaurants to indulge in.
Best known as the financial capital of the Eurozone and home to the European Central Bank, Frankfurt is WAY more than just some concrete jungle.
It’s also a highly tourist-friendly destination with attractions of all kinds. Here, you’ll find the famous Frankfurt Museum Embankment, a riverside perimeter with over a dozen museums, including the terrific Städel Museum.
Other sights of note include the city’s Old Town Hall, the Main Tower observation deck, as well as the Palmengarten, one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Europe. If nothing else, come for the most impressive skyline in all of Germany, which is something you can certainly write home about!
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in Frankfurt
11. The Black Forest
Known for its dense, evergreen forests and historic towns, it’s one of the best places to visit in Germany for lovers of the great outdoors. It’s also ideal if you’ve had your fill of German cities and want to see real rural life in South Germany.
This vast, stunning expanse of thick forest has inspired countless fairy tales, novels, poems, paintings, pieces of music, and so on for centuries – it may also do the same for you!
See Related: Things to Do in the Black Forest
Schwangau is a charming town in the Bavarian Alps that offers a lot for its small size. This village is well-loved for outdoor excursions. It is defined by its proximity to the Tegelberg mountain, with ski slopes and views over the surrounding area, and the Forggensee, a lovely Bavarian lake popular for water sports.
As much as Schwangau is defined for its stunning natural landmarks, it’s also well known for two nearby 19th-century fairy tale castles. The first is Hohenschwangau Castle, a stunning hilltop fortress that was once the childhood home of King Ludwig II.
It seems King Ludwig II loved Schwangau so much that he commissioned the equally beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle as a retreat in honor of composer Wilhelm Richard Wagner.
13. Rügen Island
I could go on for days about the harsh beauty and unique history of the German islands in the Baltic Sea, but the biggest of them all, Rügen Island, takes the cake.
With a grim history as the site chosen for an exclusive, anti-semitic resort town in the 1900s, Rügen Island is very popular for its (now definitely anti-Nazi) resorts and stunning scenery.
Germany’s largest island is also home to Jasmund National Park, where you can admire tall chalk cliffs, white sand beaches, and rolling grassy meadows.
The food and drink scene on Rügen Island is definitely worth investigating. The island has a wealth of fresh seafood, and many cuisines share some Scandinavian, Dutch, and British influences.
The most interesting culinary caper you can indulge in is the local tipple known as Sanddorn Likor. This sweet, bright orange liqueur is made from sea buckthorn; you can only find it on these islands.
One of the most captivating historic cities on the planet, Erfurt is famous for its chocolate and for one of Germany’s best landmarks, the Krämerbrücke.
The picturesque cobblestoned Krämerbrücke is a medieval arch bridge over the River Gera. Built during the 12th and 13th Centuries, it is lined with cute half-timbered buildings. Most houses and businesses have been originally inhabited for over 500 years.
If you’re in town for June, be sure to pay a visit to the Krämerbrückenfest – a local 3-day festival celebrating the bridge’s history.
While finding accommodation on the bridge properly can be a hassle, the pet-friendly Hotel Krämerbrücke Erfurt is your next best bet, featuring a bar and a Finnish sauna.
15. Rhine Valley
A trip along the Rhine Valley is one of the best ways to soak in Germany, and you’ll see the odd UNESCO World Heritage Site here and there!
See Related: Parks in Frankfurt to Visit
Do you suffer from Beatlemania? It’s an old condition, but it still affects millions of folks every year, and the best place to find a cure is Hamburg!
Believe it or not, the world’s most famous rock band would be nothing without Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city on the North Sea coast. The harbor town of Hamburg was where the Beatles found an international audience in the band’s infancy.
It was Hamburg where the hip new band from Liverpool tested their latest material. And famously, it was Hamburg where the Beatles played more gigs than any other city on Earth. Naturally, there are a lot of Beatles-related excursions to be had in Hamburg, including several top guided tours.
But if you’re (somehow) not a music fan, Hamburg is one of the best places to visit in Germany for foodies. The culinary scene in Hamburg varies from traditional to groundbreaking, and there’s something for every palate to enjoy.
It’s also a surprising hotbed of cool cultural attractions, museums, and galleries like the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the otherworldly Elbphilharmonie.
In keeping with the artsy scene in Hamburg, you’ll have the sleep of a lifetime at the 25hours Hotel Hamburg HafenCity, which features amazing decor and great access to the city’s top attractions.
If you’re planning your next trip to Germany, you’ll likely already have an itinerary brewing of places and sights you want to see – but make sure you don’t miss out on these world-renowned destinations.