Germany may be smaller in land mass than my home state of Texas, but it sure packs some punch in terms of places to visit. From the Bavarian Alps, Black Forest, and beer festivals of the south, to the wine growers of the west, the artistic birth of the east, and the beaches of the North, there’s diverse culture and landscape to explore and I’m still far from seeing it all. Leipzig, Sylt, Berchtesgaden, Würzburg, and Bamberg are just a stand out few places I’ve yet to visit. Nevertheless, here are my top 5 places to visit in Germany (in no particular order).
It’s no secret that Munich is my favorite city in Germany. It’s rich history goes much further than its significance in World War II, when a bridge was built over the Isar River in 1158 to and two centuries later became a wealthy city due to its positioning near Salzburg as a critical salt transport route. If history isn’t your thing, the pristine architecture, sprawling city green spaces, and lively beer gardens should still be enough to suck you right into the Munich vibe. It’s location directly in the heart of Europe is also tough to beat. Munich residents love living in the city, not only for the city’s booming culture, but for its proximity to escape the city life by easily hopping on a train to the mountains and lakes of Southern Bavaria. The city’s mix of ancient-and-modern aspects influence its personality. Some people just feel the Munich vibe, and when you do, you can’t get enough.
Dresden is super cool, and not Berlin cool, because if I’m being honest Berlin is a little too cool for me. Someone once told me that if you think you’re underdressed/strangely-dressed in Berlin, you’ll still be overdressed. While I am not one to dress up, I’m also by no means a hipster, and Berlin exceeds hipster. Dresden, alternatively, does hip just right with cool cafés and tiny eateries serving up delicious food and drink at just the right price. The colorful city center is still being rebuilt after utter destruction in WWII, so it’s impossible to not realize WWII’s impact on this East German city, whether it’s seeing how new every thing is, or how some areas remain untouched. Dresden is a city of potential and you can feel it amongst the young, vibrant population in the city. Dresden, in fact, is a polar opposite to the aforementioned long-established, wealthy Munich, and that’s precisely where the excitement lies.
The Bodensee in German, or Lake Constance in English, is shared by both Switzerland and even a sliver of Austria, lying on the border of the three nations. Although I’ve yet to go myself, I know this lake is going to awe me. It’s Switzerland without the Swiss prices: a large lake with a view of the Alps. What else do we really need in life? The sprawling lake has sleepy towns like little Lindau or more lively student cities like Konstanz, and all along the edge are hotels, spas, and boat rental activities, whether you like sailing, kayaking, or water skiing, there’s somewhere to do it. I’m a total lake rat and Lake Constance is the essence of all things lake in Germany.
I suppose it’s safe to say that a nation’s wine region is a popular spot in any country, but I think Germany’s is far too underrated. I was never a Riesling drinker because all of the U.S.’s Riesling imports are super sweet variants. However, Germany offers a range of Rieslings and I can’t get enough of the dry, or Trocken, variety. If Riesling isn’t your jam, there are indeed other grapes grown throughout the region, which lies in the most western edge of Germany, along the French border and onwards up the Rhine until you hit the big cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf. Heck, even if you aren’t a wine drinker, the scenery is gorgeous with the rolling hills dotted with castles. From the Weinstraße to the Moselle Valley to the widely known Rhine Valley, there is a ton to explore with car, river boat, bicycle, and/or foot via the countless hiking trails sprawled across the area. The wineries offer little shops in town to taste the varieties, and unlike in Napa or Champagne, you will not be forking over a ton of money to do it. In fact, most bottles will cost under €10. Every wine maker offers it differently, whether through a shop in town or on their properties, so just look for signs that say Wein Probe. You may even get to taste some local Schnapps, too!
In September, the region hosts countless wine festivals where wine is served in 0.5L glasses for about €3-4. I highly recommend them all. For beginners, look at the Bad Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt.
Germany almost meets landlocked status, but the ubiquity of lakes and rivers makes it hardly noticeable, that is until you reach the port city of Hamburg. Hamburg is actually the favorite city among most Germans. Many deem Munich too snobby or Berlin too strange, while Hamburg embodies the essence of German efficiency and cleanliness, while embracing the outdoors like Germans so love to do. For me, Hamburg is to Germany what Seattle is to the U.S., a cool, expensive city with thriving businesses and people living life to the fullest. The famous Hamburg fish market (Fishmarkt) is yet another parallel. But enough with Seattle comparisons, because Hamburg is a city of its own. Hamburg has over 2300 bridges throughout the city, which is more than Venice and Amsterdam combined, and like in those more visited cities, Hamburg can also be explored from its waters. The water, combined with the likes of the green space, shopping, and food, make Hamburg a wonderful, city-less-visited, for non-German tourists. Oh, and I have to mention Minatur Wunderland, the largest model railway in the world.
Where would you visit in Germany?