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Guten Tag! Are you ready to experience culture amidst the charming and historical beauty of Germany? Located in central Europe and sandwiched between nine countries, Germany is a hotspot for beer lovers, history buffs, hiking enthusiasts, and soccer fans. The land features picturesque sights like rolling hills, towering churches and cathedrals, enchanting forests, and majestic medieval castles.
I grew up with German culture and am very proud of my heritage. Growing up, I visited the east side of the country quite often. I love spending summers in Europe surrounded by culture, architectural masterpieces, and charming towns. Don’t even get me started on the food! I’m pretty sure I’ve spent my life savings in German bakeries and cafes.
For optimal weather, visit Germany from May to September. Extending your stay into the fall will let you partake in the iconic Oktoberfest. If you visit during the holidays, it’ll be frigid and snowy, but you’ll experience authentic German Christmas markets.
While the east side of Germany is just as spectacular, let’s explore some of the best West German cities to visit. Ignore any silly stereotypes about Germans being unfriendly; just don’t forget to say “Danke,” and let’s get to it!
|Frankfurt||Financial Hub, Largest Airport, and Michelin Star Restaurant||Big City, blending Old and New|
|Cologne Cathedral||World Famous Gothic Cathedral with Twin Towers||Historical Site|
|Hamburg||International Maritime Museum and Mini World||Port City|
|Heidelberg||Heidelberg Castle, Bridge Gate, German Apothecary Museum||Historical Old Town|
|Wacken Open Air||World Famous and World’s Largest Heavy Metal Festival||Music Festival|
|Neuschwanstein Castle||World Famous Castle and Hiking Region||Iconic Castle|
|Trier||Germany’s oldest city||Old Town with Roman Ruins|
|Rhine Valley||Wine towns and cities along the Rhine River||Wine and River Cruises|
|Düsseldorf Altstadt||Has 300 bars and clubs in one square kilometer||Nightlife and Shopping|
Best Cities & Places to Visit in Western Germany
Money talks in Frankfurt as it’s the financial center of Germany and home to the European Central Bank. Frankfurt is quite the tycoon and has the largest stock exchange in Germany and the largest airport in the country, Frankfurt International Airport.
If you’re traveling into Germany by plane, you’ll likely be flying into this enormous airport. There’s excellent access to the city with the superb public transportation system, but you can always rent a car if you intend to explore more of Frankfurt solo. Pro tip: Get yourself a Frankfurt Card to see Frankfurt’s most iconic attractions and top museums for cheap!
When you visit this bustling city in West Germany, journey down to the Main Tower, home to a Michelin Star Restaurant. Main Tower Restaurant & Lounge doubles as an observation deck. Enjoy panoramic city views while indulging in a fancy meal or cocktail, or catch it on a city tour.
2. Cologne Cathedral
Address: Cathedral Square 4, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia 50667, Germany
Cologne is the oldest city along the Rhine River and is filled with historical sites, galleries, museums, and a chocolate factory! Kölner Dom (or Cologne Cathedral) stands tall with its stunning Gothic architecture. It’s also one of the largest cathedrals in the world, and in 1996, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s one of many famous sights in West Germany and a top-priority attraction. The sky-high twin towers stand approximately 157 meters tall and overlook the city’s old town.
Cologne Cathedral was hit fourteen times with bombs during World War II but didn’t collapse. Now that’s impressive.
If you can’t get enough of the cathedral’s unique, shrapnel-scarred architecture, stay overnight at the Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom for a room with a view. The train station is a short walk from the hotel for more adventures in western Germany.
The Cologne historic town hall is a picture-worthy stop. Before heading home, try their local brew, Kölsch. If you want to explore more epic cathedrals, check out the Aachen Cathedral, only an hour’s drive away.
See Related: 17 Things to Do in Aachen, Germany
Contrary to popular belief, hamburgers are not made from people from Hamburg. Located in Northwest Germany, Hamburg is Germany’s second-largest city after the capital of Berlin. Many consider Hamburg to be Germany’s “Gateway to the World” since it connects Germany to the North Sea.
Being the largest port city in Germany, a visit to the International Maritime Museum should be on your list of things to do. Since 2008, the museum has held a spectacular collection of nautical artifacts and exhibits.
You can also spend the day at Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model train exhibit. It’s the perfect spot to let your inner child out. Adults and children of all ages will thoroughly enjoy the impressive and realistic displays.
This lively metropolis will give you endless activities, but it’s also a great base to enjoy more of the region. Why not kick off your West Germany itinerary with the famous Rick Steves’ 13-Day Tour through Germany? Experience historic Bavaria, the romantic Rhine region, and even see what inspired the Brothers Grimm fairytales.
See Related: Most Famous Historical Landmarks in Hamburg, Germany
Located on the Rhine River, the charming old town of Heidelberg is one of the few major German towns that wasn’t completely annihilated during World War II. This was mostly thanks to its primarily residential nature and limited strategic value. This is just as well because this southwestern German town will make it feel like you’re stepping back in time with its abundance of charming medieval architecture.
Spend the day venturing to many historical sights open to the public. Take photos of the magnificent Schloss Heidelberg or stop by the Bridge Gate, which still guards the city today.
Walk along the cobblestone paths as you check out the shops and cafes in the old town. If you’re looking for something different, check out the German Apothecary Museum for a unique experience. Dive into the history of pharmaceuticals from ancient times to the present day.
Enjoy a unique and scenic stay at the City Partner Hotel Holländer Hof, located in Heidelberg Old Town.
5. Wacken Open Air
Address: Norderstraße., Wacken 25596, Germany
Since 1989, the small village of Wacken has been bringing together metalheads from across the globe. This annual music festival in northwest Germany is hosted in Schleswig-Holstein near Denmark. Musical acts feature many subgenres flowing from hard rock to heavy metal.
Not only is the festival one of the largest in the world, but it’s also one of the largest open-air festivals in Germany. While the music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s still one unique and epic experience you can add to your list. Who knows, it might even open your mind to a whole new genre of music. Rock on!
See Related: Best Resorts in Germany
6. Neuschwanstein Castle
Address: Neuschwanstein Straße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany
While Germany’s famous for homing many castles, this one is a definite must-see when you visit West Germany. Located at the foothills of the Alps, the surrounding region also has plenty of picture-worthy hiking opportunities.
Jump into a fairytale as you admire the world’s most photographed castle. If there’s a majestic building featured on a calendar or desktop wallpaper, it’s more than likely an epic photo of Neuschwanstein Castle.
The castle originally served as a private residence for the king, but it opened to the public shortly after his passing. Be sure to plan, as this attraction is extremely popular and will get crowded.
Step back in time and explore Trier, Germany’s oldest city. Located on the banks of the Moselle River, Trier is a hotspot for archaeological ruins and artifacts. The region sports many ancient Roman ruins, including the Porta Nigra, The Imperial Baths of Trier, and The Roman Bridge over the Moselle River.
Prefer to be on the water? Coast along the rivers with a cruise or boat excursion. Afterward, you can check out the Karl Marx Haus or shop through the Hauptmarkt.
Trier is near Luxembourg if you’d like to see more of Europe. Visit by bus, tram, train, or car to leave western Germany and check out the other side. If you’re tired after that giant adventure, enjoy a comfortable stay at the Best Western Germany in Trier.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Southern Germany
8. Rhine Valley
Germany and beer go hand in hand, but did you know the Rhine Valley region in western Germany is a hotspot for wine towns? Enjoy a glass of world-famous Riesling while partaking in a tasting or wine tour.
Embrace your love life with a romantic stay in the Rhine region. Enjoy romantic river cruises while coasting down the Rhine River. These iconic river cruises are world-famous and adored by many.
Venture through Europe on the open waters as you visit many German cities, such as Koblenz and Heidelberg. Depending on the length of your Rhine cruise, major cities, such as Cologne and even the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, may also be a part of the trip.
9. Düsseldorf Altstadt
Düsseldorf is the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the Altstadt (or Old Town) is referred to as the longest bar in the world. This historic city in West Germany is known for its energetic nightlife.
Eat, drink, and dance the night away as you walk around 300 bars and discos in one square kilometer! Relax in the cozy atmosphere at Bar Alexander, try the Altbier at Brauerei Ferdinand Schumacher, or take a tour of some local breweries.
Don’t forget to check out Königsallee to shop until you drop. This famous shopping street in West Germany is lined with luxury fashion boutiques.
Shop until you drop or until your credit card is maxed. Purchase stunning pieces and accessories from Prada, Gucci, Chanel, or Miu Miu.
If you want to see the Rococo and Baroque architecture, head to Würzburg. It’s renowned for its picture-perfect churches, wines, and cuisine. You can participate in a wine rally in Wurzburg and do a wine tasting.
If you visit the city during the festive season, do not forget to visit the Christmas market near the Marienkapelle church. Würzburg Residence Palace is a prominent architectural landmark in the city. The palace was constructed in the 18th century for the local prince and bishops.
The Martin von Wagner Museum is another point of interest in the city. Founded in 1832, the museum showcases the University of Wurzburg art collection. It also has some rare antiquities and a collection of graphic art.
Marienberg Fortress, Würzburg Cathedral, New Munster Collegiate Church, and The Old Main Bridge are other prominent attractions in the city. You can stay in the Maritim Hotel to see eye-appealing views of the Marienberg Fortress.
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- About the Author
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Since both of her parents are German immigrants, Lisa grew up with a lot of German culture. In fact, she’s more familiar with German traditions as opposed to the North American way of life. Growing up, she was fortunate enough to spend many summers in Germany with her family and she is fluent in German. Lisa is also quite the expert on Caribbean cruises, and has been to almost every island. She was also fortunate enough to work at a travel agency for almost 2 years to learn some of the ropes of the industry, and she’s happy to share her experiences, tips, and travel hacks with her readers.
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