Europe has so many exciting destinations deciding on one for your first visit can be baffling. Make the choice easy and settle for Germany. Nowhere else will you find better examples of old-world charm mixed with cosmopolitan cities. Visit the three largest cities of Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg for first-rate travel destinations stuffed with cathedrals, castles, and museums. Venture out to smaller cities like Nuremberg with its walled old town, or Bonn that straddles the Rhine River.
For outdoorsy types, the scenery in Germany is breathtaking from the Wadden Sea to the Bavarian Alps. The terrain offers hiking in deep forests, paddling on alpine lakes, and skiing in the Alps. Germany is a gastronomical paradise and the calendar stays filled with happenings from festivals to Christmas Markets. Let this list of what Germany is famous for further convince you to put Germany at the top of your travel list.
Germany is a very safe country to travel in, another good reason to make it your first European destination. The country has an abundance of laws that are strictly enforced. Even crossing the street on a red light for pedestrians can result in a fine. Social upheavals are dealt with by a division of the government known as Ordnungsamt or Office of Order. Although over-regulation may seem to create staunch and unyielding citizens, the result is security and one of the world’s most highly-efficient societies. This sense of security creates trust, and a German friend will be loyal and friendly.
Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are household words for car enthusiasts around the world. Germany is the country of origin for these car makes and models, and you’ll find several car museums to visit. Trace the history of the BMW in Munich and admire 160 cars and 1,500 exhibits at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart. Most car factories offer tours.
Ironically, despite Germany’s tough stance on law and order, German highways are the only ones in the world with no speed limit (well, there are some very out-of-the-way exceptions like the Isle of Man in the UK, but this is a very populated country).
Called autobahns, you may encounter cars traveling as fast as 250 kilometers per hour (155 mph)! There is a catch though. You can only speed legally when there is a sign that says “unlimited speed”.
If you love bread (and who doesn’t) forget counting carbs while in Germany. Bread making here is more of an art than cooking, and each region has its own specialty using different ingredients and techniques. Some experts claim the country has over 300 styles of bread. The loaves in the northern region tend to be dark and heavy while light wheat breads are a specialty in the south. Five Seed Bread is one of the most popular. Called Fünfkornbrot, it’s made of oat, rye, wheat, barley, and maize grains.
All those delicious breads in Germany accompany dishes that are replicated in restaurants around the world. While in Germany, you’ll get the Real McCoy for dishes like sauerbraten, a hearty pot roast stew served with red cabbage, and boiled potatoes or dumplings. The German’s have a long history of sausage making and over 1,500 types exist. Bratwurst, the most popular, is made of fresh pork and veal season with nutmeg, ginger, and coriander. Sausages are often eaten as street food but are also served in restaurants with sauerkraut and mustard.
Germans have long been known for their intellect and creativity. The list of famous German is long and includes scientists, writers, philosophers, and musicians. Albert Einstein was the father of quantum physics, J.S. Bach and Ludwig Van Beethoven revolutionized classical music, Karl Marx was a noted author and philosopher, and Martin Luther was a protestant reformer. Physicists Werner Heisenberg and Max Plank were instrumental in the age of space flight, and the world’s food supply is better thanks to Carl Bosch and Fritz Haber’s discovery of synthesizing ammonia fertilizer.
Football is to Germany what baseball is to America, a national sport. Germans play it well, carrying a total of four World Cups so far, the last one in 2014. Football games in Germany are huge affairs with crowds in enormous stadiums cheering wildly in support of their team. When national games are played, restaurants, bars, and even municipalities erect large screens to show the game. Everyone from the kids to Grandma join in the excitement, drinking beer and eating sausages.
Germans love brewing beer almost as much as drinking it. As many as 5,000 brands are brewed each year at around 1,300 breweries nationwide and all are brewed according to Reinheitsgebot, a set of laws governing the ingredients. These breweries produce around 115 hectoliters of beer each year. The brands are all so varied some claim it would take 15 years to taste them all with one brew tasted a day. Beck is a popular brand of German beer brewed in St. Louis, Missouri. Some popular brands to try that you can only get in Germany include Hefeweizen, a Bavarian-style wheat brew, and Erdinger Kristall, a crystal-clear version of Hefeweizen.
One morning in August of 1961, Western and Soviet Berliners awoke to find a barbed-wire barrier imprisoning those on the eastern side. The barrier would later become a concrete wall 96 miles long and 16 feet high, and a symbol of communist oppression. In 1987, Ronald Reagan, an American actor turned President, visited the site and made that famous declaration, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The wall came down on November 9, 1989. Very little is left at the original site but portions have been restored as monuments. Tours are available that teach the history behind the Wall and the Cold War.
Located on the tip of an island on the scenic Spree River, the Museumsinsel (Island of Museums) is a group of five museums housed in an 18th-century building holding some of the world’s oldest and most magnificent artworks. The museums are a must-see for art and history aficionados. One museum features the bust of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, the Pergamon Altar, and the stunning Ishtar Gate. The museums, featuring works from ancient Egypt, Berlin, and Byzantine were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.
Oktoberfest, the world’s largest folk festival, is celebrated in Munich each year beginning in mid-September and lasting until the first Sunday in October. If your mental image of a German is dressed in leather trousers or dirndl dresses while eating sausages and drinking lots of beer, you’ll find this exact scenario at Oktoberfest – multiplied by 1000.
The festival includes rides, games, shops, and plenty of traditional Bavarian food, and beer, of course. The fall festival is so popular, other countries host a version of Oktoberfest, but nothing like Munich’s original folk festival.
It is extremely popular and busy so it pays to plan your Oktoberfest visit, especially if you have never been before. Tents get absolutely packed out and tables booked months in advance. So, don’t end up disappointed.
On the weekend before Ash Wednesday, including Rose Monday is another time to celebrate big in Germany. Also called Fifth Season, Karneval takes place in cities and regions around the country, especially in the south and southwest. It’s a time when the stereotypical prim Germans turn party animal with themed parades, wild costumes, marching bands, and plenty of beer. Cologne is a good city for experiencing Karneval.
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to visit Germany. The fabulous Christmas markets are open all through the Advent season. It’s a chance to buy handmade decorations, dolls of German Saints, and gifts for everyone. Browsing the markets while sipping warm mulled wine is a tradition, and sausages, gingerbread, and other foodie treats are sold. Music, crafts, and nativity plays are also featured. The markets take place in all of the larger German cities. The one in Nuremberg is a good choice.
Bonn is a smaller German city situated on the scenic Rhine River. Considered the capital of West Germany, the city has a population of around 300,000 and is best known as the birthplace of Ludwig Van Beethoven. The city has a large student population and a vibrant culture with lots of outdoor cafes and beer gardens. Bonn is a good base city for a Rhine River cruise and for visiting Cologne and Dusseldorf.
Escape to peaceful Mosel Valley, one of Germany’s most stunningly beautiful landscapes with picturesque terraced vineyards, quaint villages, and hilltop castles. The flowing of the Rhine’s tributary between the towns of Trier and Koblewz creates fertile land for producing wine. Visit the idyllic villages in the valley, go wine tasting, and get immersed in the local culture. Wine festivals with live music and street parades are held in the region in late summer and early fall.
The lofty Bavarian Alps stretch from the remote southwestern corner of Germany to the Allgäu region forming a spectacular divide along the Austrian border. The foothills rise dramatically to tall peaks with higher ranges in the south. In addition to stunning scenery, the area provides outdoor adventures from hiking to skiing among cozy villages, spas, and health resorts. Ski or snowboard from late December to early April and hike or kayak from May to November. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is one of the most popular resorts for urban Bavarians.
Located in the northern region of Bavaria, Bamberg is a prototype of a central European town built on an early medieval plan with a few surviving structures from the period and features a building in the middle of a bridge. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Southern Germany’s Center of Enlightenment because of the link between agriculture and distribution. Beer aficionados will want to visit the Schlenkerla Brewery for beer tapped directly from a wooden barrel.
The Romantic Road runs between Würzburg and Füssen for Germany’s most scenic drive. It’s the perfect way to explore the culture and scenery of Bavaria. The road passes through some of the region’s best attractions including the Neuschwanstein Castle, the preserved medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and the enchanting countryside villages of the Pfaffenwinkel region. The road trip is a wonderful way to enjoy local hospitality, culture, and natural beauty.
Exploring Germany’s fascinating castles is one of the country’s best activities, and there are as many as 25 thousand to choose from. In addition to the Neuschwanstein Castle you’ll see in Bavaria, the Wartburg and Heidelberg Castles are at the top of the list for the best ones to visit. The Sleeping Beauty Castles at the Disneyland Resorts in Anaheim, California, and Paris are modeled after the Neuschwanstein Castle. The Hohenzollern Castle served as a home for the Royal Family until 1918. Some of Germany’s castles date back to 1,000 years ago while others were 19th-century homes for the Royals.
The Black Forest is an enchanting expanse of nearly 100 miles of mysterious beauty. The forest gets its name from the dense canopy of evergreens. While hiking the forested trails, you’ll half-expect to see a wicked witch or Hansel and Gretal following a trail of bread crumbs. The region stretches from the town of Baden-Baden all the way to the Swiss border. Tour the area by hiking, biking, or by car along winding roads. You’ll go past trickling waterfalls, quiet meadow, and stout timber farmhouses.
Even the serious-minded Germans need a great summer getaway. Often called the “St. Tropez of the North”, Sylt is a long stretch of land along the northern coast by the North Sea. The Germans come here to experience an ambiance that is lacking in the other parts of the country. The shifting sand dunes are serene, the surf is nail-biting, and the sunshine plentiful. The touristy area features world-class restaurants and high-end boutiques.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.