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15 Best Places to Visit in Northern Germany

15 Best Places to Visit in Northern Germany

Northern Germany is an incredibly diverse and historic region that welcomes millions of visitors each year. Heading north of the classics like Munich and Stuttgart leads to historic sights of the Second World War, seaside resorts on the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, medieval buildings and gothic architecture across the countryside, and much more.

There really is something to see for every type of traveler in this part of Europe. And that’s all besides the awesome sausage and beer!

Looking at the map, you may be intimidated by the vast size of Northern Germany and all there is to see in this wonderful place. Here, we’ve compiled some of our top picks of the best attractions in Northern Germany and the most fun places to stay.

Read on to get a better idea of where are the best places to visit in Northern Germany and our top tips for a great vacation.

German Flag in Platz der Republik Berlin, Germany

1. Berlin

For a first trip to the north of Germany or just an all-around good place to see, look no further than Berlin. It is the country’s largest city with an incredibly rich history and is a top destination in Europe in general.

Especially for those who love history, Berlin has loads of significance from World War II. The iconic Berlin Wall, the site of the last major battle of the war, and the place of Hitler’s death can all be seen here. Even besides this part of history, the nation’s capital has plenty more in terms of culture and sights to see.

Aside from the dining scene (which is out of this world ensure you add these top Berlin restaurants to your itinerary), here are some of the top attractions in this fantastic place, among many:

  • Admire the landmarks such as the concert hall and the French and German churches at Gendarmenmarkt, the city’s market square
  • Take in views of the city from the Berlin Fernsehturm, an enormous TV tower and the highest structure in Germany, with an observation deck and restaurant up top. Book a tour and get your admission ticket here.
  • Visit the Pergamonmuseum to appreciate the art and history beginning from long before the Second World War; get your admission ticket here.
  • Stroll through one of the most interesting parks you’ll ever find, Tempelhofer Feld; a former airport with huge green space around the runway
  • Pass through the Brandenburg Gate and admire Germany’s most famous landmark
  • Take the kids to the Labyrinth Kindermuseum, which encourages them to explore and discover
Historc Brandenburg Gate

Where to Stay in Berlin

See related: 3 Days in Berlin Itinerary: How to Spend Your 72 Hours

2. Bremen

Towering Buildings and Street in Downtown Bremen

A port city surrounded by the rich farmland of the Lower Saxony region, Bremen is a wonderful place to visit in general but especially our pick for budget travelers.

This is thanks to its inexpensive accommodation options and its easy access to the surrounding towns.

From medieval times through today, Bremen has always had strategic importance for maritime trade, with its easy access on the river out to the North Sea.

Travelers enjoy the unique architecture of the old town, dating back hundreds of years, including the city hall which is an attraction itself.

Here are a few great things to do in Bremen.

  • Visit the gothic town hall, which while might not sound exciting, is a super-beautiful 600-year-old building with pieces of art and a gourmet restaurant inside! You can even take a guided tour.
  • Climb the tower of St. Petri Dom, just across the street from the above, to get views of the city and a look at this amazing 11th Century basilica.
  • Walk the street of Böttcherstrasse and in the neighborhood Schnoor, to see the historic architecture of this medieval city.
  • Try some authentic northern German cuisine at a place like Gasthof zum Kaiser Friedrich.
  • Walk the ruined old city walls in Wallanlagen Park, following the moat around the city and now dotted with sculptures.

Where to Stay in Bremen

3. Rügen Island & Hiddensee

Aerial View of Aedenlife Hotel & Resort Rügen

If you are looking to get out of the city or just prefer a beach destination in general, you’ll be pleased with Rügen Island and nearby Hiddensee Island. They are located in the east of this region, just off the Baltic Coast.

The islands are home to some of Germany’s seaside resorts which, yes, do exist! In fact, the beaches in the north of the country are a ton of fun in the summer and a famous destination among local tourists. We’ve designated these islands as the best spot for luxury travelers in Northern Germany.

Rügen is a large island connected by a bridge to the mainland, with many towns and infrastructure. Hiddensee is an island strip of land off its west coast that is car-free, leaving you the options of hiking, boating, or riding on horseback around!

  • Walk across the locally-famous Sellin Pier for great views, a diving spot, and a tasty restaurant.
  • Swim in the Baltic Sea at a beach like Thiessow, where you can also camp nearby if you’d like.
  • Visit the Oldtimer Museum Rügen to appreciate an awesome collection of vintage German cars and more.
  • Hike the trails of the Jasmund National Park to some secluded beaches, chalky cliffs, and perfectly silent forests.
  • Rent bikes from a small shop on Hiddensee like Freizeitladen and tour the peaceful island on wheels.

Where to Stay in Rügen Island & Hiddensee

4. Kiel

Kiel Germany

Kiel is one of the main cities of the Schleswig Holstein region and is home to a very large German naval base. It has a port-town, maritime vibe rather than giving the feeling of being in a large city.

It is located on the Baltic Seaside, not far from the border with Denmark. Kiel has a reputation as a maritime center due to its strategic location and its famous Kiel Canal, the busiest man-made waterway in the world, connecting the North and Baltic Seas.

There are plenty of nautical-themed things to do around Kiel as well as historical and cultural sights to see – like some of these;

  • At the end of June, enjoy Kiel Week, when thousands of sailors bring their historic boats from around the world for all kinds of marine-themed activities and entertainment.
  • Visit the U-995, a real German submarine that fought in World War II, which is now on the beach, and a museum for machine geeks.
  • Climb the tower of the local town hall for awesome views of the city and the sea.
  • Get your shopping done at the fascinating shops of Holstenstrasse, the main pedestrianized commercial street.
  • Taste the flavors of northern Germany at a restaurant like Lüneburg-Haus.
  • Bring the kids to the Wildpark Schwentinental, an animal park with trails and even a pool.

Where to Stay in Kiel

5. Wolfsburg

Without a doubt, Wolfsburg has to be the destination for families in the northern territory of Germany thanks to the tons of unique, fun activities in the area. But adult-only travelers, don’t count it out – these activities are super fun for everyone!

Wolfsburg is best known as the home of Volkswagen, and as you can imagine there are car-themed activities like a museum and race track. Besides that, expect things like water activities, science centers, and fun parks from this small city among the fields and forests.

Some things not to miss in Wolfsburg:

  • Enjoy all things Volkswagen at the Autostadt, a super-center with all kinds of auto experiences plus restaurants.
  • See the classics at the separate Foundation Auto Museum Volkswagen.
  • Cooldown, or warm-up, at BadeLand Wolfsburg; an indoor-outdoor waterpark with saunas and hot springs as well.
  • Shoot for the stars at the Planetarium Wolfsburg, which also has great children’s programs.
  • Take a day trip to nearby Brunswick, less than 20 minutes by train, to see another wonderful little city with all its culture, identity, and restaurants.
Car Display in a Museum

Where to Stay in Wolfsburg

See Related: 9 Best Car Museums in Germany

6. Hamburg

Buildings by the Canal in Hamburg, Germany

Central and scenic, Hamburg is a major city in the north of Germany located just about in the middle of it all. It’s for that reason, along with its convenient transport links and short drive times, that we’d call it the best place to stay for access to the rest of the region and beyond.

Hamburg is a very historic town that was once a major center of the Hanseatic League; a very old maritime trade route running across the seashores of the northern continent.

This rich history, plus the old town’s medieval buildings and gothic architecture, plus the new town’s modern feel makes Hamburg a really great place to base yourself around here. With its combination of both old and new, the accommodation in Hamburg is some of the best that the country has to offer.

Before you go flying around the autobahn to the other destinations we’ve mentioned, don’t forget to see some of the top attractions in Hamburg:

  • Salute the history of the sea at the International Maritime Museum, which has over 40,000 pieces and over one million photographs. Get your museum entrance ticket now. Book a guided boat tour from the river.
  • Admire St. Michael’s Church, an iconic landmark of the city with a great view at the top of the tower; which you can even take an elevator to.
  • Explore the exhibits of Miniatur Wunderland, an attraction with miniature replicas of railways and airports, totaling over 1,000 rail cars and over 16,000 meters of track. You can also play a fun Miniatur Wunderland scavenger game here too!
  • Don’t forget to try an authentic hamburger where the dish actually originates from- there are plenty of burger restaurants, such as Hans Im Glück Burgergrill & Bar.
  • Party the night away on the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s entertainment district and nightclub center.
  • Take the kids to see animals you normally wouldn’t find in Germany at the Tierpark Hagenbeck zoo.

Where to Stay in Hamburg

See Related: 14 Most Famous Historical Landmarks in Hamburg, Germany

7. Heligoland

Heligoland Germany panoramio 1

If you are really looking to get away from the typical continent and do something unique, Heligoland is a very cool experience. With its sister island Düne, the archipelago is located much further off the coast of Northern Germany than any of the others, putting it in a very remote position in the North Sea.

The Heligoland archipelago has been a strategic possession for centuries and has changed hands as a war prize over time. Travelers love it for its scenic disposition great for photography, and the fact that it is mostly car-free making for a peaceful stay.

While you will probably see it all thanks to the small size of Heligoland, here is what you should plan to see:

  • Visit the Heligoland Museum for a lesson on this overlooked island’s history and to see its iconic lighthouse
  • Get a photograph of Lange Anna, a natural rock formation on the coast that has become symbolic of Heligoland
  • Relax on the secluded beaches of Düne to separate yourself even further from civilization and enjoy the rare phenomenon of the region of crystal-clear seawater
  • See the historic bunkers throughout the island commemorating its military history

Where to Stay in Heligoland

8. Rostock

rostock germany P5QTMXL

Rostock is a beautiful little city on the Baltic Coast, which despite taking some heavy hits during World War II has retained a ton of history and charm.

One piece of Rostock’s pride is its university, founded all the way back in 1419. Travelers love to start in the old town, tucked a bit further back on the Warnow River, known for Gothic architecture and cobblestone streets. For a sunny day, the seaside boasts one of the best beaches in Germany.

Don’t miss these attractions during your time in Rostock:

  • Spend some time in Neuer Markt, the main town square, for a classic old-town experience with plenty of dining and shopping
  • Visit the Gothic-style St. Mary’s Church, nearly 800 years old with its massive organ and astronomical clock
  • Head to the other side of town for Saint Petrikirche, another historical cathedral, with its incredible view over the city
  • Relax at Warnemünde Beach, a local favorite on a warm summer day, with its old lighthouse
  • Take the kids to the Rostock Zoo for a day of wild fun

Where to Stay in Rostock

9. Lübeck

lubeck cathedral in germany WMLDEC2

This strategically-located city was once the capital of the Hanseatic League, making it a significant center of influence during medieval times. Therefore, Lübeck is home to the European museum of this League; along with plenty more relics from the past: so many that the old town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The iconic symbol of Lübeck is the Holstentor, its red-brick city gate which stood in defense of the Alstadt (old town). This historical center is located on a large island on the River Trave, eventually leading to the Baltic Sea just downstream.

There is plenty to do in Lübeck, and here is what we’d recommend you don’t miss:

  • See the medieval entrance to the city at the Holstentor, today also serving as a museum
  • Admire the other symbol of the city, Marienkirche cathedral, which was once regarded as a sign of the city’s prosperity and influenced church design across Northern Europe
  • Visit the Willy Brandt House Lübeck in honor of the late politician who was born in the city and had a considerable impact on German history
  • Enjoy a unique type of museum at the Lübeck Museum of Theatre Puppets

Where to Stay in Lübeck

10. Hanover

hanover germany

Depending on the map you are looking at, you might also see the capital of Lower Saxony spelled Hannover. It’s just a bit west of Wolfsburg and Brunswick, bringing us back inland from the northern coast.

Being a regional capital, you’ll find a good range of dining, shopping, and entertainment in Hanover. But it is also an important cultural center with great history and lots of fun. It is even home to one of Germany’s most famous Oktoberfest celebrations, which could be an interesting alternative for those who have already stumbled their way around Munich!

Here are just a few of the main attractions to enjoy in Hanover:

  • Admire the Marktplatz and Marktkirche, because as usual, seeing the old town and its picturesque surroundings is all but obligatory in European destinations
  • Stroll through the Herrenhausen Gardens, a massive complex of botanical creations kept through the centuries since the time of the Kings of Hanover
  • Spend a day on the lake of Maschsee with plenty of options for watersports and rental gear
  • Take a trip just a bit south to Marienburg Castle, a fairytale castle that offers guided tours

Where to Stay in Hanover

11. Harz Region

Harz National Park Germany

Heading further south from Hanover and approaching the central part of the country, you’ll find the Harz and its National Park out in the countryside. The Harz National Park and the villages in and around it are a great region for many types of travelers, not just hikers.

The Harz Mountains is made up of mostly spruce and beech forests on mountainous terrain. Villages like Wernigerode, Goslar, and Quedlinburg are good ones to put on your itinerary or to stay in. Besides the mountain trails and natural wonders, you’ll find castles, old towns, and those beautiful half-timbered houses throughout this wild region.

Harz is a big place and more than just one town, but some top attractions to put on your list are:

  • Goslar village, which itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its thousands of half-timbered houses and unique stone buildings
  • Castle Wernigerode, along with the village it sits above, for its picturesque alleyways that wind through the town and fairytale-like setting
  • Quedlinburg, for a beautiful medieval village where you can hop on a train through the region along cliffs, meadows, and forests

Where to Stay in the Harz Region

12. Norderney Island

Norderney Island Germany

If the islands are your favorite part of this list, consider Norderney for your trip to Germany’s north. While perhaps not as well-known as Rugen or Heligoland, this is a quiet, relaxing, and unique place for a peaceful stay.

Norderney is the last of the islands in Germany’s northwest before the maritime border with the Netherlands; whose own North Sea islands are just waves away. Ferry service connects the island with Norddeich on the mainland and will bring you to this long and sandy stretch off the coast.

For an off-the-path German island, hop on the ferry and do a few of these island activities:

  • Have a local specialty spa treatment at the Badehaus Norderney, where Thalasso seawater treatments are the top choice
  • Bike, hike, or off-road to the eastern end of the island to see the famous shipwreck
  • Take in the island and ocean views from the historic lighthouse
  • See seals and rare waterbirds in their natural habitat on and around the island

Where to Stay in Norderney

13. Wismar

Wasserkunst Wismar

Here we have another member of the ancient Hanseatic League and therefore a coastal city of Northern Germany. Once under Swedish rule, this rich history gives Wismar some incredible architecture and unique identity.

The great state of preservation of the old town has scored Wismar a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List as well. Visitors love the red brick buildings and the scenic central square with its water fountain.

To make the most out of your stay in Wismar, here are our top recommendations:

  • Start in the old town, Am Markt, to see the historic town hall and the famous Wasserkunst spring well
  • Visit the Old Harbor, or Alter Hafen, which was a historically important place for trade with the Nordic countries and today still has the same design and appearance since the 1200s
  • Admire the Gewölbe, an old building protected by the city that cannot be entered but is beautiful to see
  • View the several amazing churches around town such as St. George, St. Mary’s, St Nicholas, and the Church of the Holy Spirit

Where to Stay in Wismar

14. Stralsund

Stralsund Germany

Stralsund is a port town just across the channel separating the German mainland from Rügen, making this an easy stop if you planned to visit the island as well.

But, the city is not necessarily one to just stop for lunch before crossing the bridge: it is another historically and culturally significant place on the Baltic Coast with impressive sights to see.

As usual, you will find a charming old town with well-preserved Gothic, medieval buildings; like the town hall and various cathedrals. One of the city’s most popular attractions, however, is the Ozeaneum Stralsund: a giant aquarium full of the life of the Baltic Sea.

Whether you are just making a stop or a full destination out of Stralsund, here are some things to put on your list:

  • The Ozeaneum is a great way to really appreciate the Baltic and North Seas that we have already talked so much about on this list
  • Take a harbor cruise for some scenic views of Rügen and the mainland, especially for sunset
  • Visit the Gorch Fock I, a ship docked in Stralsund with a unique story: built in 1933, then sunk, then raised again, it was used by the Russians in WWII
  • Visit the Stralsund Museum of Cultural History to appreciate the town’s identity

Where to Stay in Stralsund

15. Schwerin

Schwerin

We’ve seen islands, port towns, and mountain regions in Northern Germany, but Schwerin is a different one: it sits among several lakes. This different type of waterfront placement is just what makes the town so appealing.

Schwerin is the state capital of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region. However, it’s certainly not a big city like Berlin or Hamburg. This peaceful medieval town is built on the bank of Lake Schwerin and is surrounded by several smaller lakes.

The main attraction is definitely the Schwerin Castle, built on a tiny island in the lake and connected via a bridge. This neo-Renaissance palace is a sight to behold, with its beautiful backdrop and manicured gardens, and is today home to the state parliament.

Here are some of the top attractions in this lake town:

  • Admire the grounds, take a tour, and dine at the restaurant in Schwerin Castle
  • Visit the Schwerin Cathedral and take the steps to the top for a view of town from above
  • Enjoy some outdoor activities on the lake: swimming, paddling, hiking, biking, and much more are all available in this land of lakes
  • Take a trip just outside the city to see some more castles such as Ludwigslust Palace or Güstrow Palace

Where to Stay in Schwerin

See related: 20 Best Castles in Germany to Visit

Getting Around Northern Germany

As mentioned, Northern Germany is a quite developed place and therefore the transportation infrastructure is excellent. You’ll be able to get around to all major cities and sights on most budgets, via rail, road, or sea.

Trains in Germany’s North

Deutsche Bahn (DB) is the local rail operator in Germany. The major hubs of connection in the area are Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, and Hanover. You can reach any of these from each of the others in a matter of 1-2 hours, and make further connections to smaller destinations.

The DB app is an awesome tool for planning train travel not only in Germany but actually in most countries around Europe. Download it to see routes, timetables, and buy tickets.

Cars on a Wide Road and Trees on the Side

Buses in Germany’s North

If a particular train journey is just too expensive, a cheaper alternative can be to take a coach bus. Companies like Flixbus have extensive route options in this area and around the rest of the continent, and you might be shocked at how cheap it can be.

Especially great for budget travelers, use the website Omio or its app to search bus connections as well as trains.

Car Rental and Self-Driving in Germany’s North

Sometimes, it’s just perfect to have a car and therefore your own freedom at your destination.

You will find plenty of car rental agencies across the cities of Northern Germany like Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, as well as Kayak and Sixt which is my personal favorite and based in Germany.

Your US driver’s license is usually valid in Germany, and you’ll get the chance to drive on their famed autobahns. Done correctly, self-driving doesn’t have to be an expensive idea.

Ferries in Germany’s North

Finally, since we are talking about islands and neighboring countries across the sea, you may find yourself in need of a ferry. I know it can be tough to find good information about these boats, where to get them, how much they cost, and how often they go.

My favorite solution for this is DirectFerries. Think of it as a Kayak or Skyscanner for ferry connections. You’ll be able to take trips from Northern Germany to the unique Heligoland islands all the way to Denmark, Norway, and even further.

Related Resources:

FAQ

Where is a good place to stay in Berlin near the Berlin Wall?

The Berlin Wall stretched across a good portion of the city but today only certain sections stand. You can stay at the Grand Hyatt Berlin for easy access.

What is the best area to stay in Hamburg?

Hamburg is a pretty large city, and most visitors prefer staying close to the center. Good hotels would be the Hotel Atlantic or the Westin Hamburg.

What are the best neighborhoods to stay in Bremen?

Bremen has a reputation as one of the safest cities in Germany and is also our pick for budget travelers. To find the best accommodation in Bremen, check areas like the Schnoor neighborhood or most places within the ruined walls and moat.

Related Resources

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