I don’t believe that this bucket list about Germany is already the seventh post in my series “10 Best Places To Visit In…”. After the articles on France, Italy, Spain, England, Greece, and Portugal, here’s Germany, a country that unfortunately I only had the opportunity to visit once.
Located in Central Europe, Germany borders nine nations: Denmark, Poland, Czechia, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. And as a tourist destination, the country is highly sought after for its natural and cultural diversity, which includes historic castles, picturesque villages, forested areas, and large urban centers.
So, do you want to know more about the 10 Best Places To Visit In Germany (Besides Berlin)? Keep reading!
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Best Places to Visit in Germany
The capital of Germany is a city with a striking historical past that dates back to the 13th century. Long before the country, we know today existed, Berlin had already been the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia (1701), the German Empire (1871-1918), the Weimar Republic (1919-1932), and the Third Reich (1933 -1945).
Although World War II destroyed much of its infrastructure and triggered the Cold War – which led to the division of Germany into two states and the construction of the Berlin Wall – the city managed to recover. Today, Berlin is one of the largest and most important cultural, political, and technological centers in Europe. And there are so many things to see, do or visit that the hard part is finding time for everything!
First, the Brandenburg Gate is one of the main monuments of this German city and was built in the 18th century in a neoclassical style. Right behind, it’s inevitable not to mention the Reichstag, a building that is the current seat of Germany’s federal parliament. Not to be missed are also the various Holocaust and Cold War memorials, which are spread throughout the city.
The Island Museum is another of Berlin’s most visited attractions and probably the place I most want to visit when I travel to Germany again. This complex of five museums – Old Museum, New Museum, Old National Gallery, Bode Museum, and Pergamon Museum – was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1999!
Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany and has the second-largest seaport in Europe, after Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Antwerp (Belgium). It’s precisely in the Port of Hamburg that you’ll find the Speicherstadt (“Warehouse City”), the largest warehouse district in the world!
Both the Speicherstadt and the adjacent Kontorhaus business district (including the Chilehaus office building) were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2015. The port area also houses the Miniatur-Wunderland (a miniature exhibition about railways) and the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (a modern concert hall, built in an old warehouse).
Hamburg is also well known in Germany for its nightlife and entertainment for adults. On Reeperbahn street, there are numerous bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, as well as strip clubs, sex shops, and prostitution houses, similar to what happens in the Red Light District in Amsterdam.
Another place not to be missed is the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the most popular art museum in the city. Spread over three interconnected buildings, its collection is unique, covering more than seven centuries of art history, from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Did you know that Munich (in German, München) is closer to other major European cities – such as Zurich (Switzerland), Prague (Czechia), Vienna (Austria), and Milan (Italy) – than Berlin? The city is also the capital of the state of Bavaria, the largest in Germany.
Anyone visiting Munich, realizes almost immediately that the city is directly associated with the “most famous beer festival in the world” (Oktoberfest), as well as high-competition football (FC Bayern München) and the automotive industry (BMW).
This city in Germany has a historic center with several buildings in Gothic style, such as the Neues Rathaus (“New Town Hall”) and the Frauenkirche, which is also called Münchner Dom (“Munich Cathedral”). At Marienplatz – the main square in Munich where the Neues Rathaus is located – takes place the oldest and largest Christmas market in the city: the Christkindlmarkt.
Still, in the historic center, you can explore the Viktualienmarkt (a food market), the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl (an ancient brewery), and the Residenz (a former royal palace that now serves as a museum). Finally, try to include extra time to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle, on a day trip from Munich!
Cologne (in German, Köln) was one of the European cities I most wanted to visit and I finally realized that dream in late 2019. Located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, it’s the fourth most populated urban center in Germany, after Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich.
With more than 2000 years of history, this German city is mainly known for its Cathedral (the Kölner Dom, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996), University (the Universität zu Köln, one of the largest and oldest in Europe), and Christmas markets, which take place in the streets and squares of the historic center.
The Hohenzollern Bridge and the KölnTriangle building are two of the best places to watch the sunset, but you can always opt for a boat trip on the Rhine river for a special evening. If you want to feel like a local, be sure to visit the Belgian Quarter, with lots of shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes.
Cologne is also an important cultural center in this region of Germany, with several dozen museums and art galleries. The ones I recommend most are the Ludwig Museum, the Romano-Germanic Museum, and the Chocolate Museum. If you’re looking for historic tours, you can always add a day trip to see the Palaces of Augustusburg and Falkenlust in Brühl, which have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
Read my Cologne itinerary, one of the best places to visit in Germany!
Frankfurt (in German, Frankfurt am Main) may be Germany’s fifth-largest city, but it’s the largest financial center in Europe. This is because it’s the seat of institutions such as the European Central Bank, the German Federal Bank, and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
The German city also stands out in terms of transportation, whether by air or land. For example, the Frankfurt Airport is one of the busiest in the world, and the Frankfurter Kreuz is the most used highway intersection in the European Union.
With a strong heritage from the Middle Ages, Frankfurt has many monuments, houses, churches, and other buildings with the architecture of that time, especially in the historic center. This is the case with the Römer (the City Hall) and the Alte Nikolaikirche (“Old Church of St. Nicholas”), both located on Römerberg, the main square.
Very close to this tourist spot you’ll find the Frankfurter Dom, an imposing Gothic cathedral, as well as the Frankfurter Goethe-Haus. The latter is the house where the poet, novelist, and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born and which currently serves as a museum.
Düsseldorf is the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, the same state as Cologne and the most populous in Germany. Interestingly, the city is mostly on the right bank of the Rhine, while Cologne has developed more on the left bank of the river.
Despite having a medieval historic center, the most touristic point in Düsseldorf is the Königsallee (“King’s Avenue”), which was inaugurated in 1804. This avenue is considered one of the most elegant in Germany and has lots of designer stores, art galleries, and gourmet restaurants.
Museums are a constant in this German city, as exemplified by the Kunstpalast and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, as well as the parks and gardens. In this case, you can visit Nord Park, the Hofgarten, or the Wildpark Grafenberger Wald (the latter even has a zoo).
Still, the city’s landmark is the Rheiturm (“Rhine Tower”), an impressive concrete structure over 240 meters high! If you have the opportunity to include a day trip to the Schloss Benrath, enjoy it! This pink palace was built in the 18th century and is just 12 km from the center of Düsseldorf.
The city of Leipzig was founded in the 12th century as a center of commerce, through which two of the most important roads of the Holy Roman-German Empire passed: the Via Regia and the Via Imperii. Currently, it’s part of the federal state of Saxony, in eastern Germany.
From the 18th century onwards, Leipzig became a very important cultural and artistic center, especially concerning literature (thanks to Johann Christoph Gottsched, Christian Fürchtegott Gellert, Friedrich Schiller, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) and music (because of Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, and Richard Wagner).
Leipzig has two churches that are worth visiting: the Thomaskirche (where Bach’s remains are found) and St. Nikolaikirche (where the composer also worked). And like other cities in Germany, Leipzig gathers several art and music museums: Museum of Fine Arts, GRASSI Museum of Applied Arts, Bach Museum, Schumann House, and Mendelssohn House.
As for monuments, the most famous is, without a doubt, the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (“Monument of the Battle of the Nations”). Over 90 meters high, this structure commemorates the victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Leipzig (or Battle of the Nations) in 1813.
The city of Dresden is located about 110 km from Leipzig and less than 150 km from Prague, the capital of neighboring Czechia. Capital of Saxony and Slavic origin – the people who lived here were called the Drezdane – this city in Germany has been developing on both banks of the River Elbe since the 13th century.
In its historic center, the monuments in Baroque and Rococo styles stand out, although many were bombed during the Second World War. Still, they’ve been restored and/or rebuilt, as is the case with the Frauenkirche and Katholische Hofkirche, the most imposing churches in Dresden.
Another mandatory stop at this destination in Germany is the Dresdner Residenzschloss (“Residential Palace of Dresden”), where the Kings of Saxony and the Kings of Poland lived. And speaking of royal residences, the Zwinger is an 18th-century palace complex and another of the most visited attractions. This is because both palaces are home to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (“Dresden State Art Collections”).
Finally, the German city has celebrated the Striezelmarkt every year since 1434, which is considered the “first genuine Christmas market in the world”. With more than 200 points of sale, the market attracts around 3 million visitors per year!
I “go down” again to Bavaria, this time to talk about Nuremberg (in German, Nürnberg), one of the most iconic medieval cities in Germany. Like other parts of the country, Nuremberg was seriously destroyed in World War II, having restored its historic center in the following decades.
These reconstructions followed the original architectural plans of the Middle Ages. One such example is the Nürnberger Burg (“Nuremberg Castle”), one of several official residences of the sovereigns of the Holy Roman Empire.
In Nuremberg, there are several churches that you can (and should) visit: the Frauenkirche, the Sebalduskirche, and St. Lorenz, just to exemplify. And the same can be said about museums: there’s the German National Museum, the Albrecht Dürer House, or even the Toy Museum.
Nevertheless, I think that one of the best monuments in the city is the Schöner Brunnen (“Beautiful Fountain”), whose name speaks for itself. This 14th-century fountain, almost 20 meters high and in the shape of a Gothic church tower, adorns one of Nuremberg’s main squares and markets: the Hauptmarkt.
Heidelberg may be the smallest city on this list of “10 Best Places To Visit In Germany”, but it deserves a visit as much as the others. Situated on the banks of the River Neckar, it’s a tourist destination above all for its historic center and the ruins of Heidelberg Castle (in German, Heidelberger Schloss).
The landscape of this German city is also marked by its pedestrian bridge, opened in 1788: the Karl-Theodor-Brücke (“Karl Theodor Bridge”), better known as Alte Brücke (“Old Bridge”). Another experience not to be missed is the trip on the Heidelberger Bergbahnen funicular, which takes you up the Königstuhl hill, the highest point in the city.
In the historic center, you should visit the Heiliggeistkirche (“Church of the Holy Spirit”) and the University of Heidelberg, which has a second campus across the river. Founded in 1386, it’s the oldest university in Germany and one of the most respected in Europe in the areas of Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry.
Although you can visit Heidelberg on a day trip from Frankfurt, I recommend spending at least two or three days in this picturesque city in Germany. There are plenty of hiking trails in the vicinity that you should try, to enjoy the beauty of Heidelberg from all possible angles!
Map of the Best Places to Visit in Germany
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What Photography Gear Do I Use?
- Camera Body: Fujifilm X-T4 Mirrorless
- Camera Lens: Fujinon XF 18-55 mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS
- Tripod: Manfrotto Compact Action
- Small Tripod: Manfrotto PIXI Mini
- Smartphone Adaptor: Manfrotto PIXI Clamp
- Memory Card: SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO SDXC
This blog post uses stock photographs (Getty Images)