I’m sometimes asked why I visit Germany so often, and the reason is simple: I just love Germany! Contrary to a common perception of Germany as being somewhat staid, the country is very diverse, both geographically and culturally, and it’s this great diversity that I find so appealing. There are countless interesting places to visit in Germany; from the sandy beaches of its North Sea islands to vibrant cities like Berlin and Hamburg, picturesque medieval towns, the Rhine Valley with its vineyards and castles, and the majestic Alps in the south, Germany is a multi-faceted destination that never ceases to amaze. Add to that a centuries-old cultural legacy, friendly, hospitable people and fantastic food and wines (and beer!), and you get a plethora of reasons to visit Germany.
Memories of Germany
I first visited Germany about thirty years ago, when, as a teenager, I embarked on an unforgettable Rhine River road trip, starting in the Netherlands and following the river past cities like Cologne, Bonn, Heidelburg and Freiburg. Since that first trip, I’ve done this route a few more times by car, train and boat (it never gets boring)!
My second trip followed a year later, in 1991: I went on a road trip to explore East Germany. The Berlin Wall had fallen and the reunification of West- and East Germany was starting to gain momentum. It was a remarkable trip in which I visited cities like Jena, Weimar, Erfurt, Eisenach and Dresden. It was an extraordinary time, when the pothole-filled roads were packed with rickety Trabants, the towns were covered in soot and Soviet soldiers still patrolled the region.
Yet, change was all around and the excitement of the people was tangible. I vividly remember sitting in a square in Jena, surrounded by dilapidated buildings and being served a West German beer by a visibly proud café owner. Or my stay at the historic Wartburg Castle (where Martin Luther once stayed and now a UNESCO World Heritage site), which was hastily being converted into a hotel – I was perhaps one of the first guests there and had the entire castle to myself!
Since then, I’ve travelled to Germany many times – it’s less than a two-hour drive or train ride from my home in Amsterdam – often for a city break but I’ve also done numerous road trips throughout the country. I’ve racked up many more fabulous memories of Germany and I can’t wait to return and see more of the country. If you’re wondering why you should consider Germany as your next holiday destination, here are ten great reasons (including ideas for where to go in Germany):
1. It’s so easy to get around
Lying in the heart of Europe, Germany has one of the most extensive road and rail networks in the world. With its famous autobahn and efficient ICE high-speed trains, it’s incredibly easy to explore Germany by car or train.
2. Scenic road trips
I love going on a road trip in Germany and there are many routes to choose from. The Rhine River route from Cologne via Koblenz to Freiburg (at the edge of the Black Forest in southern Germany) is one of my favourites. In this land of the Riesling, you’ll pass many castles, picturesque medieval towns and mile after mile of vineyards. Make sure to stop at towns such as Rüdesheim, Bacharach and St. Goarshausen.
From Koblenz, another route that’s absolutely gorgeous follows the Moselle River. This region of forested hills, vineyards and quaint villages is perfect for great food, wines and leisurely hikes.
One other route I’ve driven several times follows Highway 4 from Eisenach (the birthplace of Bach) past historic cities such as Gotha, Erfurt (with its incredibly preserved medieval centre), Weimar (the home of Goethe and Schiller) and Dresden, and ends at Görlitz at the Polish border.
Another stunning Germany road trip is the Romantic Road. Starting in Würzburg, the 400km route passes charming towns, verdant forests and dozens of historic monuments, and ends at the world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle.
One route that’s high on my list is the German Alpine Road which skirts the northern flanks of the Alps. This 450km route passes incredible Alpine scenery, glistening lakes and beautiful castles.
Talking about castles, there’s also a Castle Road! This 1,200km-long route stretches from Mannheim right into the Czech Republic and passes many medieval castles, palaces, abbeys and historic towns.
3. Vibrant cities
I’m a big fan of Germany city breaks! Berlin, the capital of cool, in itself represents one solid reason to visit Germany, but other cities like Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Leipzig and Dresden are great destinations too. They offer a broad array of attractions and sights to keep visitors occupied for at least several days.
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When you stroll around any of the cities, keep on the lookout for great street art. Street art in Germany is absolutely amazing!
4. Nature – islands to forests, lakes and mountains
Germany is home to an incredibly diverse array of natural attractions. The country counts no less than 106 nature parks, 16 national parks and 16 UNESCO Biosphere parks! In the north, the Wadden Sea islands such as Amrum and Baltrum offer expansive dunes, sandy beaches and colourful fishing villages. Another nature park in the north is the Bourtanger Moor-Bargerveen International Nature Park which extends from the Dutch province of Drenthe and continues into Lower Saxony, and consists of wild moorlands and sandy dunes.
In the south, you’ll find one of Germany’s largest nature parks: Altmühl Valley Nature Park. Located in Bavaria, this 3,000 square kilometer nature park is home to numerous hiking and cycling paths, the Danube Gorge and the oldest brewery in the world!
Also in the south, you’ll find the Berchtesgaden National Park, the only German national park in the Alps, and the world-famous Black Forest.
5. Historical attractions
Germany’s long and often tempestuous history provides the backdrop for an enormous variety of historical attractions: from the castles of King Ludwig and centuries-old monasteries, to the Reichstag in Berlin and the industrial legacy represented by the Völklingen Ironworks. There are more than 40 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany, making it a haven for history and culture enthusiasts.
6. Amazing museums
Through the centuries, German artists have played an important role in art movements, classical and modern music, design and architecture. This rich history comes to life in its more than 6,000 museums.
The Museum Island in Berlin – with its eight world-class museums is itself a UNESCO World Heritage site – is perhaps the most famous but there are numerous museums across Germany dedicated to art, WWII, technology, architecture, design, the automotive industry, and even breadmaking!
Read about my visit to Miniatur Wunderland.
7. Charming medieval towns
This is one of my favourite reasons to visit Germany! There’s no shortage of fairytale-like medieval towns and villages in Germany. It’s simply a joy to stroll around these towns and soak up the delightful atmosphere.
Some of my favourite medieval towns in Germany include Tübingen, Monschau, Bamberg, Erfurt, Marburg, Alsfeld and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
8. From operas to Oktoberfest
Germany’s culture is incredibly diverse and this is best showcased in its many opera houses, concert halls and festivals across the country. Fans of ‘high culture’ will be spoiled for choice at the opera houses of Dresden, Berlin, Bayreuth or Munich, and the philharmonic halls of Hamburg or Berlin.
Germany’s diversity is also reflected in its festivals. Germans love them and this is evident by the countless number of festivals held in the country throughout the year. Oktoberfest in Munich is the most famous festival but there are many other music, art, wine, beer and food festivals to experience.
Some of the best German festivals worthy of any bucket list include the annual Karneval in Cologne (perhaps the most colourful and boisterous), the Asparagus festival (Spargelfest) in Schwetzingen (I love asparagus!), Reeperbahn music festival in Hamburg, and the Medieval Festival in Selb. If you love sausages and wine, you shouldn’t miss the Wurstmarkt, held every September in Bad Dürkheim!
During the holiday season, Germany puts on a fabulous array of Christmas Markets that never fail to get everyone into a festive mood! The markets are absolutely magical with lots of opportunities to try different foods, buy Christmas ornaments and of course sip on delicious glühwein! Some of the best Christmas Markets can be found in Munich, Nuremberg and Dresden.
Read more about the Christmas markets in Dresden.
9. Wellness spas and health resorts
Germany also has a long tradition in wellness – Germans frequently visit a health resort or wellness spa to relax and recharge. These can be found across the country, from the islands to lakeside locations or up in the mountains. So, if you’re looking to slow down and rejuvenate, while feeling pampered in beautiful natural surroundings, there’s a wide choice of health resorts and spas to choose from.
10. Food, beer and wine!
You didn’t think I would leave these out did you? 😉 Germany isn’t widely known for its culinary prowess. Ask anyone about German food and they’ll probably say sausages, dumplings and potatoes. This may have been true fifty years ago but these days, that’s another misconception.
Nowadays, Germany counts more than 300 Michelin-starred restaurants! But you don’t need to go high-end to enjoy German cuisine. Across the board, Germany has truly elevated the quality and depth of its culinary offerings, making it a terrific foodie destination. From the beer halls to vaulted restaurants and street stalls, there are many places to experience wholesome German cuisine.
Germany is perhaps most well-known for its beer, of which there are thousands of varieties, but as you explore the country, you’ll get to know its diverse wine offerings beyond Riesling and Gewürztraminer in the country’s wine regions.
There you have it: ten great reasons to travel to Germany! Though, to be honest, this list barely scratches the surface of what this amazing destination has to offer to visitors. I guess the best thing to do is to visit Germany yourself and discover its many facets!
Note: this post was brought to you in partnership with the German National Tourist Board for the Duitsland Dichtbij campaign. All views mentioned above, including my unbridled enthusiasm, are mine.