20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Germany
Whether the beauty of its landscape, the character of its people, or its unmatched artistic heritage, Germany is one of the world's leading travel destinations. It's no wonder so many tourists return to Germany again and again. Its cities – including the iconic cities of Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg – are densely populated with beautiful architecture, as well as cultural landmarks and museums.
And, although the culture and natural beauty of Germany are well known, many tourists don't stop to explore the lesser-known treasures of this magical country. The country is filled with remarkable towns and villages and timeless towns and cities, many of which are seldom visited.
Discover the best places to visit in Germany, and learn how its landscapes and culture attract so many visitors to this small but mighty country.
Kicking off its Oktoberfest this year, Germany's second-largest city, Munich, is set for some big crowds and bigger beer. Stretching from the Landshuterstrasse and the Residenzstrasse in the east to the Olympic Park and the Marienplatz in the west, the city has undergone a modern face-lift. Although almost every building in the city is beautiful and unique, each should be on your list of what to see. At Munich's majestic Residenz Castle, you'll see rooms rich with ornate gilding and patterns. From here you can also walk to nearby Alter St. Veit with its colorful geometric frescoes and the Innsbrucker Turm, whose 90m-tall medieval spire can be viewed from various spots in the Old City. Munich's cultural life is no secret. You'll find the Frauenkirche, the Dom and the Gasteig in the heart of the city. While there are many sights worth seeing within walking distance, it's worthwhile to take a cab or a short taxi-trip away to St. Paul's Church in Englischer Garten, the impressive Villa Stuck in Maxvorstadt and the BMW museum in south Munich.
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Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, is a wonderful blend of picturesque baroque and the ornate rococo. An imposing castle stands at the heart of the city, flanked by beautiful half-timbered houses that form part of Dresden's World Heritage-listed Altstadt (Old Town). The city's baroque style was created by an army of Renaissance, baroque and rococo architects, who used as their inspiration Classical, Renaissance and Italian baroque works of art. Dresden's most famous landmark is its domed twin churches, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) and the Zwinger Palace, home to an excellent art museum. Other highlights include the elegant Hotel am Taschenberg, the New Town, and the peaceful Residenzpark. For shopping, you will find plenty of outlets selling everything from upmarket designer wear to locally produced silverware and, for souvenirs, the famous Schwarzwaldswälder cheese and Prussian Punch in the town's Saxon Chocolate Factory.
As the gateway to West Berlin, Brandenburg Gate (Berliner Tor) was constructed in 1791 and is the second-largest equestrian statue in the world. With a horse length of 19.6 meters, it is the only monumental equestrian statue in the world that still has its horses, harnesses and reins. It stands on a majestic 8-meter pedestal of the the four famous orders. Adjacent to the main building is the Belvedere, a museum that contains two museums: one displaying the art of the Brandenburg Palaces, the other the history of the fortress. There are also rooms dedicated to the Princely Court of Berlin, the Imperial Enameling Factory, and a Small Jugendstil Palace. It also hosts temporary exhibitions by private and public institutions. Brandenburg Gate is in the western part of the city center and a 15-minute walk from Berlin's Alexanderplatz. Its elevation is 53 m above ground and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Frankfurt is a major center of commerce and finance in Germany, and many of the city's five million inhabitants come to work in one of its banks, stores or insurance firms. There are also plenty of cultural attractions and performances to keep you entertained. The symbol of Frankfurt's ongoing gentrification process is the new Frankfurter Inn. A distinctive 1920s building located on the Werkstättenstrasse, it was, at the time of its construction, one of Europe's most innovative and exotic hotels. It is well worth visiting the original Frankfurter Inn to see how it used to be. Just a short stroll from the Rathaus, the former site of the inn was once the working-class quarter and has a range of nice bars and cafés.
Trier is located in northern Germany in the Moselle Valley at the confluence of the Moselle and the Meuse rivers. As Germany's oldest city, it dates from more than 2,500 years ago. Archaeological remains have revealed a number of Roman monuments, and the famous Roman Triumphal Arch, the landmark of this beautiful city. The famous Hallstatt Museum highlights artifacts from the Roman era, including many well-preserved mosaics. These remarkable pieces of art come from an ancient villa in the Moselle Valley that was excavated some 25 years ago. The ruins of ancient Roman temples have been discovered in the immediate vicinity of Trier. The town also boasts a splendid cathedral and splendid medieval fortifications, as well as many impressive sites and museums, including a number that focus on European art and civilization. Sightseeing options in Trier include the Trier Roman museum and the Domplatz, or Town Hall Square. It's possible to take a walk along the hillside between the cathedral and the Moselle River. Once a major site of pilgrimage for Rome's Christian community, the relics of St. Maximin are said to have been buried here in the 7th century. The golden-robed relics, on display at the Basilica of Maximin, contain the loincloth of Jesus Christ.
Berlin is one of the most popular destinations in Germany, with plenty of visitor attractions from the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Martin Luther-Church, the Holocaust memorial to Nazi genocide, and the Fernsehturm, a revolving television tower. Like all modern European cities, Berlin has undergone constant changes and improvements since the end of World War II, and it's now home to many international fashion and design studios and artists' ateliers. It's also one of Europe's most liberal cities, and a Mecca for trend-following, alternative subcultures from all over the world. When visiting Berlin, try to avoid the Berlin Wall, even if you're able to glimpse its rusting remnants, and the East Side Gallery, a covered (and sometimes decaying) wall-top gallery housing a colorful array of graffiti. And if you're determined to glimpse this world-famous relic, make sure you respect its privacy and do not climb on the wall. Also see our top list of the most fascinating Berlin neighborhoods. Germany is the place to visit if you want to see extensive megalithic monuments, such as Stonehenge in England or Baalbek in Lebanon.
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Hamburg is home to a growing number of contemporary art galleries, stylish cocktail bars and restaurants, famous for its beer gardens and parks. The downtown, or Reeperbahn, with its casinos, trendy pubs and trendy shops has been the center of cultural life for some years and is made up of the Isar River, Birkenwerder and Hafenmauer, which runs from the river to the main railroad station. However, a visit to the beautiful Lohbruecke should not be neglected. The 'bridge of boats' from the Marktplatz to the Alster, with its numerous boat and paddle boats, can be considered as one of the highlights of this walk, which begins from the Hauptbahnhof and ends near the famous Adlon Hotel. The area between Hamburg's historical sights, called St. Pauli, has a nightlife that continues well after sunset. Many nightclubs are open until the early hours and, with several large theatres, it is possible to party all night. The Reeperbahn and several squares on the river can be reached on foot. However, for those looking to explore the city more efficiently, there are a number of interesting transport links including the U-Bahn, the U-Bahn (underground), which can take you between several stations in the city, and an extensive tram system.
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Wiesbaden is a vibrant city nestled in the foothills of the Jura Mountains at the crossroads of important trading routes. Its fame derives from a period in the 14th century when the Margraviate of Baden was briefly a sovereign state. Wiesbaden's best feature is its historical center, with some nice streetscapes and an abundance of attractive houses and chalets set around charming parks and boulevards. The most interesting sections of town are a half-mile along the Rhine and within the old town, the Oosheim, whose streets are filled with beautifully restored late-19th-century and early-20th-century buildings. Wiesbaden is close to the German Wine Route. Some of the best wines can be found in the Grundherberg neighborhood just to the east of the city.
Regensburg, on the Danube River, is an ancient city of numerous attractions. A major focus is the former nunnery and monastery now converted into the city museum. The ornate buildings, with their painted, gilded wooden interiors, are an outstanding example of German Gothic architecture. The tradition of horse racing is very important in Regensburg. The main race is on the first Sunday of August. Regensburg also has an opera festival that takes place every two years.
Nuremberg, Germany's oldest and largest city, is situated at the heart of the Upper Franconia region and has long been known as the land of breweries, wine, wurst, and pretzels. The town has grown in prominence as the historical center of German Christian resistance to the rise of Protestantism in the 16th century. Some of the city's most remarkable historical structures include the Michelbeu House, the St. Lorenz Church, the Frauenkirche (Frauenkirchen) church, the Collegienkirche, and the Franziskanerkirche. There are also several museums and galleries and the world's largest brewery, Paulaner, is housed in a magnificent medieval building. The town, which is a popular tourist destination and boasts a rich heritage, is surrounded by several hiking trails, particularly in the nearby towns of Linderhof and Ludwigsburg. Nuremberg is well-served by rail and bus and there is a regular high-speed train service to Hamburg.
One of Germany's most charming small towns, Erfurt attracts people from all over Europe. Its well-preserved medieval old town, with its 15th century cathedral and a number of impressive buildings and squares, has the air of an "age-old" city. Erfurt's past is well documented, as it is home to the city's earliest cathedral. Visiting it's possible to see remnants of the Roman city of Eriua, built on the river Isar, which was first founded in the 4th century. More ruins can be found near the main square in Sünnerdorf, another small village that was burned to the ground in 1542. Located at the head of the Thuringia state, Erfurt is close to some of the best ski slopes in the country.
With some 500 miles of land border, Berlin has always been prone to surveillance. By the time the Wall was finally demolished in 1989, around 270,000 people had been killed by machine guns, grenades, and flamethrowers. Today, most of the original Wall has been replaced with a wall of fences and watchtowers, and the few places that remain have signs that say: "Behind this fence there is a death camp". For most people, Berlin is a wall-less place, a welcome departure from the can't-get-out security concerns of places like New York City, London, and Paris. But if you do choose to venture out, there are a few things to consider. The car is probably the most useful, with long streets and lots of signs; remember that in Germany, on the right-hand side of the road you must give way to traffic in your own lane. For destinations not located in the Eastern part of the city (in the general vicinity of the former Wall), it is important to note that the bus system is notoriously crowded. When the city announces "we are running late", that doesn't necessarily mean that we will be home in 15 minutes. When taking a bus to western areas of the city, it's a good idea to pay more attention to the next landmark and double-check your landmarks when returning.
On the way from Munich to the Alps in Southern Germany, one might take a side trip to the famous Schloss Neuschwanstein. Measuring 1000 meters from front to back and set in a mountain clearing, this chateau was the heart of Ludwig II of Bavaria's obsession with castles. The last building he created before being jailed for insanity in 1882, the palace is famous for its famous ceiling frescoes and baroque mosaics. On a visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein, the main draw is the guided tour that begins in the breakfast room. Led by an English-speaking guide, visitors see the magnificent Ludwig II and Nefertiti Hall, decorated with more mosaics and featuring the King and his Queen-to-be. The tour then takes you to the other rooms, where a presentation explains Ludwig's designs, his love of Greek and Egyptian art, and the bizarre childhood story he would often relate about his tutors' attempts to make a German out of him. His famous education was largely self-inflicted.
Worms, with its clean, well-planned center and elegant Art Nouveau surroundings, is a city that was spared any substantial bombing during World War II. It's a delight for anyone interested in architecture, boasting the largest public fountains and most thoroughfares in the nation. Highlights include the Art Nouveau arcades that follow the city's streets as well as the Blutenburg Cathedral and its Neoclassical facade. Strolling along the promenade, you'll pass the terraced mansions and merchant palaces that still house bars, jewelry shops and antiques dealers.
Heidelberg is a beautiful city with a lovely historic town center and old center of gothic architecture. A walk through the narrow, cobbled lanes of this medieval district is quite a thing to do. Although this part of town has been constantly rejuvenated since the 19th century, it retains a very distinctive identity. As Germany's oldest university city, Heidelberg is an educational, intellectual and spiritual center for the nation. Highlights of the city include the town's magnificent castle, the oldest castle in the world still in use. In the castle, visit the impressive glass and copper museum, which showcases collections of ancient Greek, Roman, medieval and modern-day German art. The city's historical importance is reflected in the universities, which include the Heidelberg University, a department of the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (FWU), the oldest in Germany. History buffs will enjoy the city's historic sites, including the German Archaeological Institute, Museum für Islamische Kunst, and the Friedenskirche. When to visit: Mid-April to October are the best months to visit.
Cologne is well known for its huge cathedral, rebuilt following a fire in the 14th century. Its magnificent, neo-Gothic architecture is second only to Paris. Cologne also has a modern heart: the river Rhine is the city's raison d'être. Its main attraction is the Gothic Cologne Cathedral, with its massive towers and two-tone stonework. Two tours are available for seeing the main sights of Cologne: a free city tour and a gothic city tour for 30€. Other attractions include the Museum Ludwig, Cologne's collection of art (including the Raphael Cartoons), the Bell Tower, and the Bonn Zoo, with its cafés, shops and fine restaurant. The beautiful 12th century castle, Kölner Römisch-Deutsches Museum, sits on a hill opposite the city center and provides great views of Cologne.
Berlin's zoo is an attraction which many visitors fail to explore. Located next to the Zoo Palast in the Tiergarten park, the Primate House is a wonderful interactive exhibit which offers visitors the chance to view chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and other species from around the world through over two dozen glass-enclosed areas. Additional exhibits to check out include the Serpentarium, the Nekobesuche, the Centaurs and Saurierhof (tame crocodiles), and a Japanese garden with a koi pond. Most impressive is the Lion House which displays over 50 species of the big cat in spacious enclosures, including European, Indian, and African lions, African servals, Asiatic lions, caracals, panthers, leopards, cougars, pumas, and tigers. A highlight of a visit is feeding time at 9 AM each morning. The zoo also maintains a robust education program for visitors interested in zoo conservation.
Stuttgart is a large, lively and prosperous city in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. It is a major transportation hub for the region and offers the traveler a variety of options to explore a wide array of places. First-time visitors might want to head to Stuttgart Zoo, which has around 1,000 animals. There are also numerous other attractions including: the modern House of Art (Ausstellungshalle); the State Theater (Schauspielhaus), which is one of the finest in Germany; the only visible bit of Stuttgart Cathedral, known as the Schwabinger Dome; and, the Württemberg State Museum (Württembergischen Staats- und Stadtmuseum). For traditional German food, traditional German games, beer gardens and woodsy forests, Stuttgart is the perfect place to while away a few days.
A leafy and modern city on the banks of the Rhine River, Karlsruhe attracts travelers with its pleasant parks, fine museums, romantic old buildings and the location, just 10 kilometers from the French and Dutch borders. The town is also the center of the Karlsruhe Messe, one of Europe's largest exhibition centers. The hall of the Messe is available for large-scale events, such as trade shows, concerts, and the International Automobile Exhibition (IAA), which is held every two years. There are many hotels and restaurants in the city center. Local specialties include sauerbraten (sauerkraut with roast pork) and wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet). The city also has a famous museum, the Staatliches Museum der Schaumburgischen Kultus- und Museen, which is notable for its paintings of impressionist masters and interesting regional artifacts and cultural exhibits.
Lake Constance is one of the most fascinating and beautiful places in the world. The German lakes stretch more than 100 kilometers in a remarkable circle around the city of Lake Constance (Bodensee) and contain about 12 percent of Europe's fresh water. In contrast to its peaceful appearance, the region is famous for its many wars and long history. Emperor Charlemagne was a founder of the imperial state and the lake played a central role in the Thirty Years' War (1618–48). This area is also famous for its glorious Baroque palaces, especially in the Austrian part of the lake area. The German lakes are also a great tourist destination as they are surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes, particularly on the north-western side, where the Rhine, Tübingen and Baden regions meet. For information on what to do and see in the area, see Travel Guide: a brief description of Lake Constance.