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BlogDestinationsThe ultimate Germany Travel Guide: the best things to do, see, and eat
Destinations

The ultimate Germany Travel Guide: the best things to do, see, and eat

Jan 10, 2024 by Thea Engst

If you want your next trip to be to a country that teaches you history, feeds you heartily, and shares its rich cultural roots with you, choose Germany. This nation has a little something for everyone, from hikes along alpine paths worn by years of exploration to ancient cobblestone streets lined with shops and restaurants. We love visiting Germany no matter the time of year, so we put together this ultimate Travel Guide to answer all your questions about this unique Central European country.

Jump ahead to...

The best time to go

What to see

What to eat and drink

What to do

Souvenirs to buy

What to pack

Germany Travel Guide Basics

Currency: Euro 

Language: While German is the national language, the country has several dialects that originated in different regions with influences from surrounding countries. Most people also speak English, especially in larger cities.

UNESCO-listed sites: Germany is home to an astounding 52 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but some of the most well-known are Cologne Cathedral, the Rhine Gorge, and the city of Berlin.  

Best way to get around: There’s nothing more reliable than the German train system, or the Deutsche Bahn. Some of their trains travel at a regular pace and others are high-speed, getting you to your destination even faster. Either way, the Deutsche Bahn darts commuters and tourists alike to over 300 stations daily, both within Germany and to other countries like France and the Netherlands. So, whether you’re exploring a city or heading to a different part of Germany entirely, you won’t be disappointed (or late).

Phrases to know:

  • “Danke” means “thank you.” “Bitte” means “please.”
  • “Wo ist die toilette?” means “Where is the bathroom?”
  • “Sprechen sie Englisch?” means “Do you speak English?”

Fun fact: A very common response when being asked if someone would like to do one thing or another is “Ist mir wurst,” which translates to “This is sausage to me.” It’s a colloquial way of saying that you don’t have a preference.

When to travel to Germany

The ideal time to go on tour to Germany depends on why you like to travel and what you’re visiting Germany for. “My number one thing about Germany is there is no bad time to travel there. There’s something amazing to see in every season,” said staffer Shannon. Germany has four distinct seasons, each offering ample reasons to visit. If you’re trying to decide when to go, here’s just a glimpse into what you can expect for things to do in Germany depending on the time of year.

Visit in the fall for festivals and pleasant temperatures. If you’re wondering what to do in Germany between October and December, this time of year offers cooler temperatures, fewer crowds (we love a short line!), and, of course, Oktoberfest, which begins in September and ends after the first Sunday of October. Already heading to Germany on our Oktoberfest: Germany, Switzerland & Austria tour? Here’s everything you need to know.

Visit in the winter for the Christmas markets. You don’t need to be in a big city to stumble upon a Christmas market in Germany. Like most of Europe, the country explodes with these illuminated, joyous marketplaces come late November, and we consider visiting them one of the best things to do in Germany. “Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a quaint town in Germany that is straight out of a storybook,” said staffer Sarah. “While it’s beautiful any time of year, it’s particularly special around the holiday season.” Interested in going to a holiday market? Good news: We offer two tours that highlight Christmas markets in Germany. Check out our Christmas Markets of Historic Germany and Christmas Markets of Germany, Switzerland & Austria tours.

Visit in the spring for the blossoms and crisp weather. The country’s flora and fauna flourish in the spring, and hiking through the Bavarian Alps is brisk, scenic, and one of our favorite things to do in Germany this time of year. You won’t have to worry about overheating easily, so you can focus on spotting alpine snowbells, spring crocuses, and maybe even the rare edelweiss! If you’re looking to go hiking, one travel tip for Germany is to pack layers, as temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day.

Visit in the summer for long days of exploration. The longer, warmer summer days mean having more time to enjoy the best things to do in Germany. From swimming in pristine green lakes to tasting wine at vineyards along the Rhine, there are countless reasons why Germany bustles with travelers in the summer months. Visit Germany on tour during this season and see for yourself.

Enjoy any season in Germany

Things to see in Germany

In a country of 52 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you’ll have plenty of options for well-preserved history to admire and cultural experiences to enjoy, as staffer Shannon discovered when she visited. “There’s something for everyone,” she said. “You have the mountains down south with amazing skiing and hiking, castles and walled cities everywhere, and Berlin is especially great if you like museums.” That being said, here are some of our favorite things to see and do in Germany.

Neuschwanstein Castle. There’s no shortage of fairy tale castles to visit in Germany, but Neuschwanstein is one of the most famous. Built by opera enthusiast King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century, we consider it one of the most iconic things to see in Germany. Ludwig never got to see his Robert Wagner-inspired masterpiece completed, but you can view the ornate palace that inspired Walt Disney himself on nine of our tours to Germany. Thinking about traveling to Bavaria to visit this castle? Discover everything you need to know about Neuschwanstein Castle before you go.

The Black Forest. While this region’s name might sound a little intimidating, it’s quite the opposite. Full of year-round festivals, the craft of woodworking, and even luxury spas—Germany’s Black Forest is a must-see for anyone looking to visit an area that’s full of rich cultural traditions and warm hospitality. “Southern Germany is absolutely beautiful,” said staffer Aaron. “The Black Forest—where the Brothers Grimm’s fairy-tales are based, the namesake of culinary classics like Black Forest Cake and Black Forest Ham, and the native home of the cuckoo clock—and Freiburg, the sunniest city in all of Germany, are of particular note.” Read more about why we love to visit the Black Forest, and plan your trip with us on our Switzerland, Alsace & the Black Forest tour.

The Berlin Wall. Large pieces of the Berlin Wall—once a symbol of division, now one of reunification—still stand in the city. Berlin also commemorates its years spent divided with a brick line running through the city noting where the wall once stood. You can visit Checkpoint Charlie, a recreation of a border crossing between West and East Berlin. But beyond the wall, Berlin itself is worth a visit. The city today is akin to Paris in the ’20s—full of young artists, vibrant restaurants, and no shortage of activities from day to night. Check out more tips for traveling in Germany with our list of things to do in Berlin and don’t miss a thing in the iconic city when you go on our Historic Germany: Berlin to Bavaria tour.

Cologne Cathedral. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany, this Gothic cathedral took more than seven centuries to complete. Despite evolving styles and technology, the multiple builders stayed true to the medieval plans (written on parchment paper!), creating a cohesive, astounding triumph of architecture and faith. What’s even more notable? The cathedral still hosts active services, making it one of our favorite things to see in Germany.

Rhine Tower. Located in Düsseldorf, the Rhine Tower offers a remarkable view of the city and the Rhine River. Perhaps surprisingly, it also houses a Japanese restaurant. In the 1970s, several Japanese companies headquartered their European branches in Düsseldorf. The employees who immigrated to Germany for work laid roots there and created a unique cultural fusion with their German neighbors. Today, Düsseldorf has some of the best Japanese food you can get outside of Japan.

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What to eat and drink in Germany

No German travel guide is complete without mentioning of food. German cuisine is typically hearty, savory, and protein-packed, and enjoying it is one of the best things to do in Germany. The country’s heritage of craftsmanship and precision extends from its hand-carved cuckoo clocks to its handcrafted signature dishes. Here are just some of our favorite things to treat ourselves to when we’re on tour in Germany.  

Spätzle. Most akin to pasta, this German dish is simple, and generally made of flour, eggs, water, and salt. It’s cooked and seared to achieve a slight crispness on each side, like a tiny, salty, pancake. Spätzle is typically served as a side to a meat dish with a buttery, herbal sauce or tangy sauerkraut. Sometimes, cheese is added to make the spätzle less of a side dish and more of a main event. One of our Germany travel tips? Try multiple renditions of spätzle. (Thank us later.)

Bratwurst. Bratwurst is a fried sausage, which means it can be made with a variety of meats and different herbs. There are more than 40 different styles of bratwurst, so we won’t name them all. We will, however, recommend that, no matter where you are in Germany, you try a few different types.  

Blaukraut. This classic German side of braised red cabbage is sweet and sour, making it an ideal complement to many entrees. The bright taste cleanses your palate between bites and breaks up the rich meat it often accompanies. Duck and blaukraut, for example, are a common pairing for German holiday dinners.

Schnitzel. While schnitzel roots lead to Italy, Germany lays claim to some of the best in the world. Here, schnitzel is made with tenderized meat—usually turkey or pork—then breaded and fried. The main event for German schnitzel is the variety of sauces that you choose to top it with. And, if you’re thinking ahead, you can get a side of spätzle to soak up your remaining sauce.

A Pfannkuchen, Pfalz, Kreppel, Krampfen, or Berliner pastry. One pastry of many names, the Berliner is made of sweet fried dough filled with either jam or vanilla cream, dusted in powdered sugar or coated in a sweet glaze. One thing is certain: No matter how you refer to it, you’ll be calling it delicious.

Schnapps. We all know that Germany makes one-of-a-kind, regulated, delicious, beer. But not everyone knows that Germany excels in making other distilled delights like wine and schnapps. We love trying different schnapps when traveling the country because they’re made with natural, local produce and cover a range of sweet and savory flavors. This author found that a lot of Bavarians like to make (and share) their schnapps.

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What to do in Germany

There are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy when you’re on tour in Deutschland. Here are just a few of our travel tips for Germany.

Pay your respects at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. We couldn’t create a Germany Travel Guide without mentioning the country’s commitment to remembrance and respect. “The Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (a.k.a. Berlin Holocaust Memorial) is an abstract labyrinth of concrete, rectangular blocks of varying heights over multiple city blocks—the view from outside and within the memorial inspires and nearly requires reflection of the lives lost,” said staffer Jordan.

Go off the beaten path to the Moselle Valley. “One of the best trips I ever did in Germany was a visit to the Moselle Valley,” said staffer Michael. “It’s not a big expanse, but a narrow and winding river valley where some of the best and oldest riesling vines grow up on very steep slopes. It’s a part of Germany I suspect many people simply don’t know about, but it’s got a great service culture, beautiful little taverns, and grand country estates. The town of Koblenz is a great starting point for a trip down the Moselle: It’s where the Rhine and Moselle meet, and provides stunning vistas of both rivers. Further down the winding valley, many of its towns are like something out of a storybook. Towns such as Bernkastel-Kues and others are dotted along the river valley and are overlooked by expansive vineyards that date back centuries.”

Snack your way through Berlin. Berlin itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the city also has a lot of modern attractions to offer. Known for creative cocktail bars and five-star restaurants, the metropolitan, historic German capital has a little something for everyone (much like Germany itself). “The Berlin Wall is a must, but beyond that, there are many treasures to explore,” said staffer Libby. “I would suggest the waterfront bars and pools along the river that are popular in summer.”

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Best souvenirs to buy in Germany

Germany is known for well-crafted items, from beer to cars and everything in between. That brings us to our next travel tip for Germany: Save room for souvenirs. Here are some of our favorite things to shop for.

A cuckoo clock. Invented in the Black Forest of Germany, these quirky clocks elicit feelings of fairy tales and days past. Conveniently, for travelers who want to take one home, they’re made in a multitude of sizes.

Christmas ornaments. A Germany travel tip from us: Commemorate your time spent at the various Christmas markets with dressings for your tree.

Dirndl or lederhosen. The dirndl dress and lederhosen are traditional clothes that have been worn in Germany for centuries. These outfits are still donned for festivals, special celebrations, and, most notably, Oktoberfest.

Riesling wine. We could write a Germany Travel Guide solely about what wine to drink there. Instead, we recommend that you bring home one of the tastiest souvenirs possible—a bottle of German wine. The country may be known for its rieslings, but it produces plenty more delicious varietals, too. Try a blaufränkisch if you like a dark, peppery red wine, or go for a pinot noir from the Moselle Valley—which was once famous for white wines like rieslings and elblings but is now producing excellent full-bodied reds due to climate change.

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What to pack for Germany

Are you all booked and ready for your trip to Germany? Let’s talk about the most essential travel tip for Germany: what you need to pack.

Seasonal (and layerable) clothing. We recommend making sure you have a sweater or sweatshirt with you, no matter what time of year you’re there, for when temperatures cool in the evening. If you’re in Germany in the winter, temperatures will range between 30–40 F, so bring a hat, gloves, and winter coat.

Shorts, dresses, or skirts that cover your knees. Want a travel tip for Germany and beyond? Throughout Europe, you may be denied entrance into some churches or cathedrals if your knees are showing. If you’re visiting in the summer and want to explore these religious buildings, make sure your knees are covered.

Comfortable shoes. Whether you’re looking to hike or stroll city streets, one of our top travel tips for Germany is to make sure you pack shoes that are comfortable enough for all-day wear.

A European power adapter. You will need either a type C or type F adapter for use in Germany. We recommend the former; it works in many other European countries, too.

Reusable products. Germany has instituted strict single-use plastic bans, which means you won’t be able to find items like plastic straws, cutlery, or plates. One of the best Germany Travel Guide suggestions we have is to bring anything you normally reuse. This means you should bring your own reusable straw and shopping bag (you will be charged for any bags at stores—even though they aren’t plastic). We always suggest that you bring a refillable water bottle on your travels to help do your part in reducing single-use plastics as well. Want to do more? Get tips on how to travel more eco-friendly here.

Ready to plan your German adventure? Book your trip to Germany today.


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About the author | Thea Engst
Thea fell in love with travel as soon as she arrived in Venice, Italy on a family trip as a child. Since then, she has made having adventures around the world a priority, with trips like retracing her grandfather’s steps through WWII, climbing glaciers in Alaska, and horseback riding in Iceland. Thea is a nomad at heart, always planning the next trip. In her off-time she is working on a novel inspired by the woman she was named after, mixing cocktails, and watching any procedural crime show she can find.

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