1.Berlin, the city of cool
Exciting and vibrant, Berlin is the capital of Germany and the centre for all that is hip in art, fashion, music and design, packed with amazing architecture, art galleries, museums and restaurants. You can also find some of the wildest clubs in Berlin and many quirky activites off the tourist track. Take a stroll down Unter den Linden, where you’ll find museums, the cathedral, opera house and the Brandenburg Gate, which was impassable during the days of the Berlin Wall and now symbolises German reunification. Other must-sees include UNESCO World Heritage site Museum Island, the Jewish Museum, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall Trail to get you started. You can read more about the top things to do in Berlin and where to stay in Berlin.
2.Drive the Autobahn
Germany’s famous toll-free Autobahn highway snakes its way across the entire country, attracting petrol-heads and anyone who fancies exploring the country efficiently. Parts of the highway have no speed limit, but be careful not to let that inner speed demon loose and always drive carefully – check out the rules of the road before you go. Watch out for the phrase bei Nässe on road signs, indicating that a speed limit applies when the road is wet – other areas may have enforced speed restrictions to help reduce noise pollution. Caution is a must, but if you’re planning on hitting several German cities during your holiday, this can be one of the quickest and most fun ways to travel.
3.A walk in the Black Forest
Bordering the Rhine to the west and undulating farmland to the east, the Black Forest region covers 11,000 square kilometres of peaks and valleys, vineyards, lakes and nature reserves to explore on foot, bike or horseback.
But there’s plenty more to persuade even the most amateur of hikers to visit Germany. It’s also where you’ll find the world famous thermal spa town of Baden-Baden, dating back more than 2,000 years. It’s where the Romans came to bathe and was also Europe’s summer capital for the rich at the turn of the 19th century. The mineral enriched waters continue to bubble up from 12 thermal springs for today’s visitors.
4.Kiel: the capital of sailing
Kiel is the capital of the Schleswig-Holstein state, and a key waterway from Germany to the Baltic. Its strategic position in the homonymous gulf allowed it to become the center of shipbuilding and navigation during the 19th century. Today, the city is known as the ‘Capital of Sailing’ as it is the proud host of the ‘Week of Kiel,’ the greatest sailing event in the world and the largest summer festival in northern Europe. The protagonist of the events is the ‘Gorch Fock,’ the legendary training ship and one of Kiel’s main attractions. The ‘Laboe Naval Memorial’ standing between Kiel and the neighboring town of Laboe is a magnificent dedication to sailors in the world wars. The view from the top is worthwhile, since the landscape of Kiel is relatively flat. Even though maritime tradition seems to dominate the stage, the city has much more to offer. This includes the historical Eggerstedtstrasse, which has undergone serious reconstruction after the war, the square of the ‘Old Market,’ the posh ‘Danish’ shopping street and the beautiful neighborhood of Marinenviertel next to the port. There, you can try Kiel’s local specialty, kieler sprotte, smoked fish that is meant to be eaten whole, until the last bone.
5.Heidelberg castle and old town bridge
The partially ruined yet still magnificent red-sandstone Heidelberg Castle towers over the city of Heidelberg and is one of the most famous landmarks in Europe, and among Germany’s places to visit. Built as a fortress around 1300, it grew to symbolise the power of the Electors, whose statues appear on the façade of the Freidrich building. Don’t miss the glorious Renaissance fireplace in the Ruprecht wing, the ornate Otto-Heinrich wing, the castle church and the Hortus Palarunus pleasure garden, which although never completed was once considered the eighth wonder of the world. The old bridge in the town centre crosses the Neckar River, and provides a great view of Heidelberg’s scenic riverside location in southwestern Germany.
Cologne’s famous cathedral, the epitome of Gothic architecture, dominates the skyline and contains the world’s oldest large-scale sculpture – the Ottonian Gero Cross – and a window designed by 20th-century icon Gerhard Richter. Cologne also has major museums, theatres and loads of great restaurants and bars, making it one of the more vibrant places to see in Germany. Check out those around Alter Markt and Heumarkt squares, plus the brewery taverns in the old quarter where waiters refill your glass with Kölsch beer until you put a beer mat over the top to say ‘no more’.
Cologne’s is also Germany’s carnival capital with a ‘fifth season’ of celebrations lasting from November through to Lent. Sweet-toothed visitors will love the Chocolate Museum with 2,000 exhibits – including a 3m high chocolate fountain into which you can dip a waffle – covering 3,000 years of chocolate history.
7.The ‘mad’ king’s castles
Close your eyes and imagine a romantic fairytale castle and chances are your image will look like Schloss Neuschwanstein – the castle was reputedly the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flew over it in the film. The castle’s confection of turrets sits atop a craggy, wooded hilltop in southern Bavaria, which was built by ‘Mad’ King Ludwig II in the 19th century as a retreat to escape after losing the throne of Bavaria. The king lived as a recluse in a fantasy world of myths and legends in his magnificent castle, with its golden double height, galleried throne room, Hall of the Holy Grail, swan-shaped taps and grotto. From the hilltop, you can also admire Bavaria’s lakes and countryside.
8.The Upper Middle Rhine Valley
Lined with castles, palaces and vineyards, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status – and you’ll quickly see why a top 10 Germany list isn’t complete without it. The Rhine cuts through a stunningly beautiful valley from the Roman town of Koblenz past the famous Loreley rock, a slate cliff over the narrowest point of the river. Legend has it that a beautiful siren called Loreley would sing and lure sailors to their death on the rocks.Travelling down the Rhine takes you past the pitcturesque towns of Bingen and Rudesheim and vineyards lining the steep hills with rows of grapes grown for the Rhine’s famous wines. Wine tasting, in particular the local Riesling and Pinot Noir varieties, is a great attraction when visiting this top German destination.
9.Munich: the village of the world
Munich is the Bavarian capital built on the shores of Isar, the biggest tributary river of the Danube. The first inhabitants of the city were Benedictine monks, after whom the city is named. The Oktoberfest celebrations and the gigantic brezels are just stereotypes of the city. For some this is the least appealing side of it, as the prices rocket and more than three million tourists swarm the city looking for beer-tasting experiences. Munich is generally a quiet city with a history that goes back to the 12th century. Since then, it has managed to develop a multicultural personality and become a ‘village of the world,’ (Weltdorf for the locals) . Here the latest technology in automobiles and multi-ethnic corporations go hand in hand with the pervading history and Bavarian rustic style. It has wonderful parks and gardens, great museums and a big selection of cuisines and markets, varying from massive department stores to doll-like flea markets. Unfortunately, the historical center was badly damaged during the war, but it was reconstructed to be remarkably similar to the original. Characteristic examples are the Frauenkirche and the City Hall with the famousGlockenspiel, the clock with the statues that come to life on the mark of each hour.
10.Freiburg: a sunlit porch in the south of Germany
There’s a riddle spoken about Freiburg and it goes like this: ‘Are the citizens of Freiburg so content because the sun shines above their city, more than in any other place in Germany; or have they been granted with the gift of abundant sunlight because of their kindness?’ Who knows? The sure thing is that a visit to Freiburg is always a wonderful experience, even on those rare occasions when the sun doesn’t shine. Freiburg is one of the oldest cities in Germany. It therefore carries a big historical and cultural past. The city is filled with cafes, breweries, and restaurants run by locals, where you can enjoy the traditional cuisine. The vibrant, historical city center manages to stand out thanks to the 116-meter-tall gothic tower of its cathedral. The cathedral’s square is also the largest in the city, and it is where the weekly market takes place. The farmer’s stands line the northern side while the merchant’s stalls line the southern. Last but not least, the city offers a huge variety of festivals, which take place all year round. The festival season starts in January with theInternationalen Kulturbörse and finishes in December with an extravagant Christmas market.