Germany. The country is synonymous with beer, sausages, “seriousness,” incredible hiking, majestic castles, and wild techno parties.
It’s huge, diverse, and amazing.
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.
Whether you are backpacking, traveling on a mid-range budget, or have an unlimited spending account, traveling around Germany is going to be a wonderful travel experience.
The more I visit Germany, the more I fall in love with it.
It’s a huge country so don’t rush. Take your time.
There’s a lot to see — and it’s all worth seeing.
And Germany is a budget-friendly country so it’s a good place to save some extra Euros!
This Germany travel guide will help you figure out what to do, see, how much things cost, ways to save, stay safe, and show you everything you need to have the experience of a lifetime!
Table of Contents
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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 in Germany
1. Explore Lake Constance
Lying along the country’s southwestern border with Switzerland and Austria, Lake Constance is Germany’s largest freshwater lake and the third largest in Central Europe. 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 13 EUR ($15 USD).
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 and worth a visit.
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 ($4.50 USD). A guided tour through the castle itself is only 9 EUR ($10 USD).
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 ($34 USD), 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.
For more information on specific cities in Germany, check out these guides:
Germany Travel Costs
Accommodation – Accommodation in Germany is quite cheap compared to other Eurozone countries. Hostels are plentiful and range from about 10-22 EUR ($11-25 USD) per night for a dorm room. For a private room, expect to pay around 40-50 EUR ($45-57 USD) per night. Free WiFi is standard and many hostels also include free breakfast. Budget hotel prices begin in the same price range, so expect to pay between 45-65 EUR ($51-71 USD) for a small double room with a private bathroom, closet, and maybe a desk. Airbnb is another great option for as well (one I use often) with shared accommodation going for as little as 30 EUR ($34 USD) per night and an entire apartment or home starting at 50 EUR ($57 USD). While wild camping is illegal, there are a ton of campsites around the country. Expect to pay 5-20 EUR ($6-23 USD) per night for a basic plot.
Food – Food in Germany is very cheap (and hearty). You can eat out from outdoor vendors for around 2-4 EUR/$2.50-5 USD (great sausages and bratwurst). Meals at many of the beer halls around the country cost only 9-15 EUR ($10-17 USD). Pre-made sandwiches cost around 5 EUR ($6 USD). Fast food (think McDonald’s) will cost around 7 EUR ($8 USD). Beer usually costs 4-5 EUR ($4.50-5.70 USD) for a nice pint. If you eat in the beer halls, a traditional German meal plus a beer will cost around 14-18 EUR ($16-20 USD). Turkish, middle eastern, and Asian food can be found for as little as 5 EUR ($6 USD), while a nicer meal at a sit-down restaurant will cost just over 20 EUR ($23 USD). If you plan on cooking for yourself, a week’s worth of groceries will cost around 35-65 EUR ($40-74 USD).
Transportation – High-speed trains, which are popular in Germany, are very expensive — Berlin to Munich can cost over 180 EUR ($205 USD)! Most of the other (slower) intercity trains cost between 40-70 EUR ($46-80 USD) 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 ($17-34 USD). 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 ($21 USD).
Activities – Museums cost between 1-15 EUR ($1.15-17 USD). Bike tours and river cruises can cost 24-40 EUR ($27-46 USD). Most city tours are between 12-25 EUR ($14-29 USD). Renting a bike costs about 18 EUR ($21 USD) per day, though prices will vary in each city.
Backpacking Germany Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Germany, my suggested budget is 40-60 EUR ($46-68 USD) per day. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel dorm, cooking all of your meals but occasionally enjoying some German street food (like wurst), and using local transportation but mostly walking everywhere. You can also visit some museums or enjoy a walking tour every now and then.
On a mid-range budget of 115 EUR ($132 USD) per day, you can stay in a private hostel room or a budget hotel, enjoy fast food or the occasional meal with a stein of beer at a beer hall, take the bus between cities, and do more walking tours.
With a luxury budget of 285+ ($325+ USD) per day you can afford a nice 4-star hotel, travel between cities via train, eat out at restaurants for all of your meals (including a beer with dinner), and you can enjoy more attractions like day trips and river cruises.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style (prices are in USD).
Germany Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Overall, Germany is not an expensive country to visit. Yes, river cruises are expensive. There’s plenty of high-end cuisine throughout the country. Frankfurt, the capital of finance, will cost you a pretty penny too. But those are exceptions to the rule. Germany is incredibly cheap for a Eurozone country and you’ll find incredible bargains throughout the country.
If you’re looking to save a few Euros, here are my tips for saving money in Germany:
- Eat at the street vendors – Throughout Germany, you’ll find cheap outdoor sausage vendors. These quick eats will only cost you 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 ($6 USD). 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 walking tours. They are a good way to see the city, learn about the history, and get your bearings without spending money. Sandeman’s has some of the best free walking tours. Just make sure to tip your guide!
- 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 Couchsurf. 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!
Where To Stay in Germany
Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Germany:
- St. Christopher’s (Berlin)
- Circus Hostel (Berlin)
- Wombats (Munich)
- Jaeger’s Hostel (Munich)
- Five Elements Hostel (Frankfurt)
- Frankfurt Hostel (Frankfurt)
- Meininger (Hamburg)
- Generator Hostel (Hamburg)
- Station Hostel for Backpackers (Cologne)
- Black Sheep Hostel (Cologne)
- Lollis Homestay (Dresden)
- Hostel Mondpalast (Dresden)
- A&o Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof (Nuremberg)
- Five Reasons Hostel (Nuremberg)
How to Get Around Germany
Public Transportation – Germany has some of the best public transportation in the world. After all, they created the first highway system ever! All the cities and larger towns have public transportation that is reliable and efficient. In cities like Berlin and Munich, all of the various networks are integrated: one ticket gives you access to buses, trams, U-Bahn trains (subway), and S-Bahn trains (above ground). Fares are determined by zone, but generally a one-way fare starts from 2.90 EUR ($3.30 USD). You can get a one-day unlimited pass for 7 EUR ($8 USD), or three days for 17 EUR ($19 USD).
Another great way to get around is by bicycle. Germans love their bicycles! Most cities have well marked bicycle lanes, making it easy to navigate even the busiest streets. You can find bicycle rentals for around 18 EUR ($21 USD) per day in most places. Some hostels even have a rental program in place.
Taxis are expensive and not recommended, especially since the public transportation is so good. All taxis are metered. The base rate is around 3.70 EUR ($4.20 USD) plus an additional 1.90 EUR ($2.15 USD) per kilometer. It’s not worth it! Uber is not used in Germany, but if you want to order a taxi, you can use the MyTaxi app.
Train – Train travel is an incredibly efficient way to get around Germany, albeit not the most cost effective. Germany’s main rail system is Deutsche Bahn, which has both high-speed trains and regular trains. The high-speed trains are an quick way to get around but are usually much more expensive.
For example, a high-speed train from Berlin to Munich can cost as much as 190 EUR ($216 USD), but you can also find seats for 20 EUR if you have a more flexible itinerary. Last minute tickets from Berlin to Hamburg can cost 50 EUR ($57 USD), but advance bookings start around 20 EUR ($23 USD). Frankfurt to Cologne is also around 20 EUR ($23 USD).
It’s always best to book in advance when possible, otherwise you’ll pay the price for last-minute bookings. You can track schedules and fares on the Deutsche Bahn website.
A Eurail Pass, which allows travelers to explore Europe by providing a set number of stops in a specific time period, might also be a good option if you’re doing some country hopping. For more information, here’s a detailed breakdown of how Eurail passes work and can save you money.
Bus – Other than hitchhiking or ride-sharing, buses are the cheapest way to get around Berlin. The service is usually punctual, although not as efficient as the train. Buses are comfortable with reclining seats, air-conditioning, rest stops, and sometimes even free WiFi.
There are a few major bus companies servicing Germany, including:
I recommend Flixbus for the cheapest rates and most comfortable buses. You can get from Berlin to Dresden for as little as 8 EUR ($9 USD), or Berlin to Munich for 25 EUR ($28 USD). Munich to Hamburg is also around 26 EUR ($30 USD).
Ride-sharing – Ride-sharing in Germany is very common. Ride-sharing means you travel as a passenger with someone in exchange for payment toward fuel costs. It’s cheap, and you’ll meet some interesting characters! BlaBlaCar and Mitfahren are the two most popular ride-sharing websites.
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in Germany is very safe, but it’s not for everyone. HitchWiki is the best website for hitchhiking info.
When to Go to Germany
Germany is a year-round destination.
Summer tends to be the most popular time to visit – temperatures are hot, and everyone’s outdoors enjoying it. People flock to beer gardens, or to the lakes for some swimming. This is also the peak season, when prices are much higher than usual. During this time, average temperatures are around 75°F (24°C) or higher but can soar well into the high 80s°F (30s°C).
Temperatures warm up fast in spring, and the season is marked by the arrival of cherry blossoms. By May it’s warm enough to walk around in t-shirts and shorts. May 1 (Der Erste Mai) is Germany’s Labour Day, and the country breaks out in full celebration. If you’re lucky enough to be here during this time, take to the streets with your fellow Germans and enjoy the live music, drinking, dancing, and general mayhem.
Thanks to famous Oktoberfest, autumn is also a very popular time to visit Munich. From the end of September to early October, millions of people flock here from all over the world to enjoy the most epic beer-drinking festival in the world. The weather during this time is usually just as pleasant as summer. If you’re planning on attending Oktoberfest, book your accommodations in advance. Way, way in advance.
An autumn visit to Germany is overall a great idea, especially in Bavaria when the foliage in the hills and mountains makes for some amazing photography. Temperatures can sometimes be chilly, but light layers will be fine.
Winter in Germany can be cold (with temperatures as low as 14°F/-10°C), but Germany is well known for its Christmas spirit and the markets all over the country are well worth your time, especially in Munich, Berlin, and Dresden. Pack some warm clothes. Otherwise, let delicious glühwein (mulled wine) warm you up.
How to Stay Safe in Germany
Germany is an incredibly safe place to travel. There are few pickpockets and violent crimes here. However, due to a few high-profile terrorist attacks in the country, and ongoing media coverage, I often get asked if it’s safe to travel to Germany.
So I wrote a whole article about how Germany (and Europe) is safe to visit! Check it out.
Hereyou just want to watch out for scams and petty crime you should watch out for anywhere (especially in Berlin late a night). Guard your stuff in crowded places and watch out for people offering you stuff. You can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Germany!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Germany Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Germany. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engine which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Eurail – If you are going to Europe and taking a lot of high speed or long distance trains, get a rail pass. I’ve used a rail pass three times and saved hundreds of dollars each time. The math just works.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Germany, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – German based Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR ($6 USD)! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, and up to three 3 free bags.
- Bla Bla Car – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Germany Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Germany Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
When in Germany, Do as the Germans Do, by Hyde Flippo
This light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek read will have you feeling confident about fitting into Germany! (Or at least you’ll have some good laughs in the process.) It’s like a crash course in German tradition and customs so you can navigate Munich (and the rest of the country) without embarrassment. Topics include appropriate small talk subjects, how to tell the difference between sausages, and also more practical things like what to do in case of an emergency.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
This book was an instant classic when it came out, and now it’s a movie. It’s about Liesel Meminger, a young girl living just outside of Munich in 1939. Nazi Germany is in full force, and little Liesel manages to keep herself alive by stealing. There’s one thing she can’t resist, though: books. She learns to read and then shares her stolen books with neighbors during air raids…as well as the Jewish man hidden in her basement. This book will stay with you long after you’ve finished it.
The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass
The Tin Drum is a huge deal in Germany, and it’s definitely considered a classic there. In short, it’s about Oskar Matzerath: a young boy who stops growing when he’s a child and takes up drumming instead. This is Oskar’s narration from an insane asylum as he recounts his life of a young boy who stands up against the Nazis – armed only with his tin drum and his piercing voice. Using his drum, he recalls memories from the past – including the strange death of his mother, and his equally strange deaths of his father(s). It’s dark, twisted, and so very weird.
Two Brothers, by Ben Elton
This is the heart-wrenching story of two brothers growing up under the shadow of the Nazi regime. Both born in Berlin in the 1920s, the boys are raised by the same parents…but one is Jewish, and his adopted brother is German. This doesn’t matter to the two boys at first, but as the Nazis grow in strength, the boys and their family are forced to make some difficult decisions with terrible consequences. Two Brothers is a really unusual book about Nazi Germany and makes for a great travel read.
Alone in Berlin, by Hans Fallada
Here is one of my favorite reads from a German author. It follows the story of Otto, an ordinary, play-by-the-rules kind of guy who lives in a rundown apartment with his dear wife and tries to stay out of trouble with the Nazis. When he learns his only son has died in combat, his grief turns to resistance: he starts dropping anonymous postcards defaming Hitler all over Berlin. He knows he faces execution if he’s found out, but he doesn’t stop. A Gestapo officer Escherich catches wind of the postcards and sets out to find the perpetrator. This is a real page-turner!
Germany Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Germany and continue planning your trip: