Germany is synonymous with a lot of things — beer, food, sausages, “seriousness”, hiking, castles, and wild techno parties. Yet there way more to modern Germany than that. There’s a vibrant international, art, and music scene in Berlin; beautiful forests in the west; great cathedrals; picturesque “sound of music” cities in the south; and overlooked historic cities and beaches in the north. Germans are often thought of as serious people. While they may be serious and focused, they are also some of the nicest, most helpful people I’ve come across. They are always up for a beer. The more I visit Germany, the more I fall in love with it. It’s an ancient region with more to do than one can imagine. Don’t rush the country. Take your time. There’s a lot to see – and it’s all worth seeing. (And Germany is super budget friendly too so it’s a good place to save some extra Euros!)
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Germany
1. Get lost in Berlin
3. Hang out at Oktoberfest
4. The Romantic Road
5. Hike the Black Forest
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Explore Lake Constance
Lying along the country’s southwestern border with Switzerland and Austria, Lake Constance is Germany’s largest freshwater lake. The area around the lake and up the lower Rhine valley has a very mild, amiable climate and fertile grounds, making it the country’s most important area for wine and fruit production.
2. Visit Hanover
Hanover is not a typical European city. Don’t expect to see beautiful centuries-old buildings; this city was one of the hardest hit during World War II, leaving it with only a few historical landmarks. This area is surrounded by gray 1950’s buildings that give a somewhat heavy atmosphere to the streets. But what I loved about Hanover were large green areas, with forests and big parks, the Leine river going through the city, and the Sprengel Museum. Not many people visit here but I think it is one of Germany’s most underrated destinations.
3. Hike Berchtesgaden National Park
This national park is an alpine heaven of lush forests, steep rock faces, crystal clear lakes, sleepy villages, and rolling meadows. It’s just you, the chirping of birds, and cows ringing their brass bells. Well-marked trails wind through the spectacular scenery, which brims with opportunities for hiking, and cycling.
4. Check out Trier
This is the oldest town in the country. With a 2000-year-old history, Trier was home to six Roman emperors and contains a number of impressive ancient ruins. The most outstanding example is by far the Black Gate — a monumental structure that was once part of the city walls. Nestled in the Moselle river valley, picturesque Trier is crowned with myriad vineyards and pastoral villages. It is very much an off-the-beaten-path destination.
5. Visit Dresden
Explore the treasures and grand buildings of this baroque beauty, which is bisected by the majestic Elbe River. This city was completely rebuilt after the war and today is one of the biggest nightlife spots for young people.
6. Spend a day in Cologne
A historic city with a great cathedral, Cologne is a great place to stop in west Germany on your way to or from the Netherlands. The cathedral is the most popular landmark in the city (and one of the most popular in the country), there’s a vibrant art scene, incredible international restaurants, and lots of riverside cafes and pubs.
7. Neuschwanstein Castle
This is a 19th-century neo-romantic palace perched on a rugged hill near Füssen. The palace was commissioned by “crazy” Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner. It’s the model for the Disney castle, and definitely a must on any Germany bucket list. Admission is 12 EUR.
8. See Frankfurt
Another great city of Germany, Frankfurt is home to many different restaurants, historical sights, and mentally-stimulating attractions. There is a great exhibition hall — one of the largest in the world — and several science museums to check out. It’s less expensive compared to other cities in Germany, and a great airport hub to fly in and out of.
9. Visit Olympia Park
Located in Munich, this massive complex was originally constructed for the 1972 Olympic Games. It is topped by the largest roof in the world, which spans over 700,000 feet. There is a great restaurant here and the tour is pretty awesome. The BMW Museum is also nearby.
10. Head to Schloss Colditz
Originally built to be a Renaissance palace, this interesting structure has a long, bizarre history. At various points in history, it’s been a hunting lodge, a poorhouse, and even a mental hospital. It is most famous for being a prison during WWII. There is a museum within the palace as well, with tickets costing 4 EUR. A guided tour through the castle itself is only 9 EUR.
11. Visit Hamburg
Located in northern Germany, Hamburg is Germany’s second-largest city. This port city, home to the second-busiest port in Europe, is famous for its parks and canals. Near its core, Inner Alster lake is dotted with boats and surrounded by cafes. The city’s central boulevard connects the Neustadt (new town) with the Altstadt (old town) and is home to landmarks like 18th-century St. Michael’s Church. It’s an eclectic city.
12. Tierpark Hagenbeck
Located in Hamburg, this open enclosure is over 60 acres and is home to more than 2,500 animals. In addition to the classic attractions, there is a petting zoo, a miniature railway, pony rides, a great playground for the kids, and a Japanese garden for the adults. Combination tickets for the zoo and aquarium are 30 EUR, with discounts available for families and children.
13. Take a break in Bremen
Located in the north (near Hamburg), Bremen is a smaller city worth exploring. The charming Schnoor district makes for a great stroll, and there is a beautiful cathedral in the market square. If you are looking for a city less visited, Bremen is it.
Food – Food in Germany is very cheap (and hearty). You can eat out from outdoor vendors for around 2-4 EUR (great sausages and bratwurst). Meals at many of the beer halls around the country cost only 9-15 EUR.Pre-made sandwiches cost around 5 EUR. Fast food (think McDonald’s) will cost around 7 EUR. Beer usually costs 4-5 EUR for a nice pint. If you eat in the beer halls, a traditional German meal plus a beer will cost around 14 EUR. Turkish, middle eastern, and Asian food can be found for as little as 5 EUR, while a nicer meal at a sit-down restaurant will cost just over 20 EUR. If you plan on cooking for yourself, a week’s worth of groceries will cost around 35-65 EUR.
Transportation – High-speed trains, which are popular in Germany, are very expensive — Berlin to Munich can cost over 180 EUR! Most of the other (slower) intercity trains cost between 40-70 EUR for a second class ticket. It’s cheaper to take a slow regional train or overnight bus. Most intercity bus tickets cost between 15-30 EUR. In Germany, the earlier you book tickets, the cheaper it is so if you have set dates, don’t wait! For public transportation, city transit systems are reliable and cost around 1-3 EUR per single ticket, though you can usually find day-passes that will get you a better rate. If you want to explore via bicycle, most cities offer daily rentals for around 18 EUR.
Activities – Museums cost between 1-15 EUR. Bike tours and river cruises can cost 24-40 EUR. Most city tours are between 12-25 EUR. Renting a bike costs about 18 EUR per day, though prices will vary in each city.
Suggested daily budget
40-60 EUR / 42-62 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Eat at the street vendors – Throughout Germany, you’ll find cheap outdoor sausage vendors. These quick eats will cost a couple of Euros.
- Eat cheap ethnic food – Some of the best and cheapest food in Germany is the Turkish and Middle Eastern food. You can get a lot of meals for under 5 EUR. It’s delicious, filling, and cheap and what I mainly eat while in Germany.
- Take the free tours – The bigger cities in Germany have free sightseeing tours. They are a good way to see the city, learn about the history, and get your bearings without spending money.
- Book your train early – Trains in Germany are expensive but you can get a saver ticket that is around 40-50% off the standard fare if you book at least a week in advance. These tickets have limited availability, so be flexible with your travel plans.
- Rideshare – If you’re flexible in your schedule, use the ridesharing service BlaBlaCar and catch rides with locals between cities (or countries). You save money and get to spend time with locals. Drivers are verified and it’s perfectly safe (though sometimes rides don’t show up, which is why you need to be flexible).
- Couchsurf – While accommodation in Germany is pretty cheap, if you want to get some local insight into the country, you should couch surf. Not only will you save money on accommodation but you’ll meet locals who can help get you off the tourist trail and show you around!
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