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Travel tips

14 incredible places to see in Germany

Dec 02, 2021 by Lindsay Day

Romantic, riverfront cities. Half-timbered towns teeming with charm. Grand, hilltop palaces. Poignant historical sites. An arrestingly beautiful river valley whose hillside vineyards yield some of Europe’s finest wines. You’ll find it all—plus time-honored traditions and festivals—in Germany.

The toughest thing about traveling to Germany? Deciding where to start. From hip, bustling Berlin to the craggy, karst landscape of Saxon Switzerland National Park, we’re sharing 14 incredible places to visit in Germany.


1. Berlin

Once divided by the Berlin Wall, Germany’s capital now buzzes with world-class restaurants, museums, and cultural sites. Still, reminders of the city’s storied past await at every turn. Here are a few highlights to check out while visiting Berlin on tour:

  • The Reichstag, which is home to Germany’s parliament
  • The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin’s only surviving historical city gate and a symbol of the city’s division into East and West
  • Checkpoint Charlie, the recreation of a border-crossing booth between East and West Berlin
  • The moving Holocaust Memorial
  • The Berlin Wall’s East Side Gallery, an open-air museum featuring more than 100 giant murals

Have free time to spend in Germany’s capital city? Check out the top 7 things to do in Berlin →


2. Potsdam

Situated on the banks of the Havel River, and just across the Glienicke “spy bridge” from Berlin, this historic city played host to the Potsdam Conference in 1945. That’s when U.S. President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Union Premier Joseph Stalin met to devise plans for Germany’s post-war administration. A few important Potsdam sites travelers on our Historic Germany: Berlin to Bavaria tour can visit include:

  • The Tudor-style Cecilienhof Palace, where the conference took place
  • The Rococo-style Sanssouci Palace, which served as former Prussian King Frederick the Great’s summer refuge
  • Sanssouci Park, which surrounds the palace and is resplendent with flowers, trees, and manicured hedges


3. The Black Forest

Situated in the southwest German state of Baden-Württemberg, the Black Forest—so called because of its dense canopy—is one of the country’s most awe-inspiring natural sites. While on our Switzerland, Alsace & the Black Forest tour, travelers can visit its Triberg Waterfalls (they’re among the highest in Germany), and experience the region’s culture and traditions at the Black Forest Open Air Museum.

Of course, no visit to the Black Forest would be complete without trying a slice of its popular, namesake cake. The decadent dessert is made with layers of chocolate sponge cake, silky whipped cream, and tart cherry filling. Lecker! (That’s German for scrumptious!)


4. Neuschwanstein Castle

Germany is home to a number of fairy-tale castles, but this hulking, hilltop palace—built by a shy King Ludwig II in the late-19th century as a place to retreat from public life—is arguably its most famous. On our Germany, Switzerland & Austria tour, travelers can walk a steep path (or ride a bus) to the hilltop on which the castle sits. Once there, visitors can explore the palace’s grotto and tour King Ludwig’s lavish state rooms and apartments.


5. Munich

Bavaria’s compact capital city packs a big punch when it comes to history, culture, food, and drink—especially beer. Every autumn, Munich famously plays host to Oktoberfest, the annual two-week-long festival that brings to town giant beer halls, musicians, dancers, and millions of revelers from around the world. (Together, they down nearly 2 million gallons of beer!) Travelers on our Oktoberfest tours get special admission to the festival’s massive tents, where locally made lagers and traditional Bavarian treats (think sausages, pretzels, and potato pancakes) await.

Not feeling Oktoberfest? Visit Munich any time of year to shop and watch street performers in Marienplatz square, or take a walk around Olympiapark, built for the 1972 Summer Olympics.

For more ways to explore the city, check out The Go Ahead Travel Guide to Munich →


6. Heidelberg

Located on the banks of the Neckar River in southwestern Germany, Heidelberg is home to the country’s oldest university. It’s also a playground for travelers who appreciate romantic cityscapes, baroque architecture, and historic city centers. While visiting Heidelberg on our Grand Tour of Germany, stroll through Old Town’s bustling Market Square, and take a funicular ride to the hilltop Heidelberg Palace for spectacular city views.


7. Saxon Switzerland National Park

An hour’s drive southeast from Dresden takes travelers to this national park, known for its rocky, fissured landscape and multiple microclimates. Visitors to the park can walk along 250 miles of hiking trails, pedal along 31 miles of bike paths, and access the Pflanzengarten Bad Schandau botanical garden. Visit during a free day in Dresden on our Historic Germany: Berlin to Bavaria tour.

Ready to explore Germany? Browse our tours


8. Hamburg

Proudly perched on the banks of the Elbe River, Hamburg is Germany’s second-largest city. You don’t have to be an architecture enthusiast to appreciate Hamburg’s diverse array of structures. Some standouts to see while exploring the sophisticated port city on tour include:

  • The Neo-Renaissance City Hall
  • The 19th-century floating jetty known as the Landungsbrücken
  • The ultra-modern Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, in the heart of Hamburg’s recently built HafenCity development project
  • St. Michaelis Church, the largest Baroque church in northern Germany
  • The Speicherstadt, Hamburg’s historic harbor district


9. Bamberg

If you love medieval architecture, wandering along picturesque riverfronts, and exploring sprawling palaces, we think you’ll fall in love with the Bavarian town of Bamberg. Things to do on tour in Bamberg include:

  • Strolling among the half-timber houses of Little Venice, Bamberg’s former fishing district
  • Visiting the city’s Old Town Hall, which was built in the middle of the Regnitz River
  • Admiring 17th- and 18th-century furnishings inside the stately and lavish New Residence


10. Rhine Valley

Flowing for 765 miles through six countries, the Rhine River is one of Europe’s most crucial waterways. Along its emerald banks in Germany’s Rhine Valley, visitors can find some of the country’s most dramatic natural scenery, plus near-vertical vineyards, looming hilltop castles and fortresses, and centuries-old villages filled with half-timbered houses. One of the best ways to take in sweeping views of the Rhine Valley’s scenery? By boat. Travelers on our tours through the Rhine Valley can do just that during a cruise along the Rhine that culminates with a tasting of some of the region’s top wines.

Savor even more flavors of Central Europe on our Food & Wine: Beers of Belgium & Germany tour →


11. Dresden

In February 1945, an hours-long carpet-bombing attack reduced Dresden—nicknamed “Florence on the Elbe”—to rubble. The city rebounded in subsequent decades, and today it’s celebrated for its collection of Baroque and Rococo buildings, its faithfully reconstructed historical sites, its grand palaces and cathedrals, and its hopping pub quarter. While on tour in Dresden, travelers can stroll through the streets of the Old Town, visit the renovated Semper Opera House, and wander through Zwinger Palace’s grand gardens.


12. Cologne

Like Germany itself, Cologne offers something to satisfy nearly any interest. Have an affinity for architecture? Head to the city’s twin-towered Gothic cathedral, construction on which began in 1248. Enjoy admiring modern art? Find works in abstract, surrealist, and other styles inside Museum Ludwig. Cologne is also home to a chocolate museum, an ancient Roman wall, and a bustling, modern city center—all situated on the banks of the Rhine River. Pursue your own interest in Cologne during free time in the city on our American WWII History: London to Berlin tour.


13. Rothenburg ob der Tauber

This village in the heart of Franconia is popular among travelers, and for good reason—it’s Germany’s most well-preserved medieval walled town. Travelers visiting on our Christmas Markets of Historic Germany tour can stock up on wood carvings, Christmas tree ornaments, beer steins, and other locally made gifts at its own holiday market. Hungry? Nibble on the town’s traditional pastry—the schneeball, or snowball—while wandering its cobblestone streets. For some history that’s served with a side of the macabre, pop inside the Medieval Crime Museum, where 50,000-plus torture and punitive devices from throughout Germany’s history are on display.

Traveling solo for the holidays? See why you should visit Europe’s Christmas markets on tour →


14. Frankfurt

For a taste of modern German life, few cities compare to Frankfurt, the country’s financial capital. Frankfurt is the starting point of many of our Germany tours, but travelers who want to fully immerse themselves in the city’s culinary, cultural, and entertainment offerings can ask our travel experts for help planning an independent pre- or post-tour stay in the city. Want to spend time like the locals do? Here are a few ways to do just that:

  • Grab a bite to eat at the 160-stall Kleinmarkthalle
  • Explore the institutions of Museumsufer, or Museum Embankment, which are devoted to art, film, and other subjects
  • Sip a mouth-puckering pint of apfelwein (apple wine) at a cozy tavern
  • Reflect on your trip to Germany while strolling through the tranquil Frankfurt City Forest

Ready to delve into Deutschland? Browse our Germany tours.

About the author | Lindsay Day
A devoted aisle seat-sitter, Lindsay first traveled overseas—to Italy and Greece—with EF as a high school sophomore. Since then, she’s visited nearly 60 countries on six continents (one of these days, Antarctica!). When she’s not in the office (or on the road), she’s probably cooking up a new plant-based recipe or biking on a local rail trail.

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