Home to majestic castles, the speed-limit free Autobahn, historic cities and plenty of beer, Germany has something to offer for every travel style. To help you choose just the right Germany tourism package for you, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite things to do in the land of beer, wurst and sauerkraut.
Germany’s capital is a time capsule for both the country itself and the world. Ravaged by two wars, then divided by communism versus capitalism – with parts of the graffitied Berlin Wall remaining as a reminder, Berlin has emerged from its dark days as a compelling city to visit. Rebuilt monuments and wartime memorials are reimagined next to cosmopolitan life, making it a must if you like history reborn.
Drink some ‘bier’
Germans average 107 litres annual consumption of the magical golden nectar, making beer indisputably the national drink. From bottles of Becks to 1 litre Maß (‘mass’), and the hundreds of brews that plead allegiance to the 1516 Reinheitsgebot purity law – all contribute to the inebriated swaying to oompah bands in celebrated cellars of the Hofbräuhaus.
Magnificent Schloss Neuschwanstein
Mad King Ludwig never knew that his extraordinary palace nestled in alpine scenery would become the inspiration for every child’s fantasy of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle centuries later. The interior isn’t so spectacular, but outside lies a photo stop more than worthy of your camera shutter.
Grand architecture and beer halls in Munich
Even when there’s no beer festival, Munich shines as a clean and beautifully manicured city where centuries-old town halls and churches stand alongside regal treasures of the Bavarian dynasty. The Glockenspiel daily clock tower performance might be overrated, but visitors regularly chime about a city unexpected of so much praise.
Devastation and rebuild in royal Dresden
Dresden was the royal courtyard of Augustus the Strong, King of Saxony, who ushered in the 17th-century artistic period of the Zwinger Fortress and ‘Sistine Madonna’. During WWII, over 3,000 tons of incendiary bombs were dropped, bringing the city to its knees. From rubble to restoration, Dresden rebuilt itself with the Frauenkirche rising from the ashes, and brought the Baroque skyline back like the proverbial phoenix from the flames.
Stein after stein at Oktoberfest
Munich’s famous beer-slugging festival, which actually starts in late September, continues to draw crowds in their millions toasting ‘Prost!’ to the very best of German entertainment. Specialised tours cover the tricky logistics for you, while year-round tours often include the two-week festive period on their itinerary. Don’t forget your stain-soaking lederhosen or dirndl before you dance on the tables.
Yule time at Christkindlmarkts
Sipping hot glühwein, eating gingerbread and browsing market handicrafts are all crucial elements of surviving the chilly December in Germany. Tree decorations and ice rinks pop up across the authentic homeland of Christmas markets and draw crowds to their festivities. Frohe Weihnachten!
Cruise the Rhine Valley
Germany’s portion of the 1,200km Rhine river presents valleys of steep-sided fairy tale castles and nests of Riesling grapes. Sip a glass of the unique Eiswein on a boat cruise past slow-paced medieval settlements. Your camera will thank you afterwards!
The iconic cathedral of Cologne
Nothing typifies Cologne more than a glass of Kölsch overlooking the spires of the resilient 13th century Kölner Dom. After WWII bombs flattened the city, this remarkably tough cookie was the only structure left standing. The cathedral’s stunning Gothic style means it remains Germany’s most visited landmark.
Meat, meat and more meat
If you’re a bona fide carnivore, there are plenty of treats awaiting you in Germany. Crispy Schweinshaxe knuckle and over 1,500 types of wurst sausage, often straddled next to some sauerkraut pickled cabbage. Some village communities still organise Schlachtfest – literally slaughter festivals. Vegetarians beware!
Dock at the city built around the port, where the affluent shipping harbour served as a founding member of Hanseatic League trading. When night falls, follow the sailor roots to the neon-lit racy Reeperbahn.
Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC