Land of black forests and rugged coastline, Lederhosen and sausage, sparkling Schlösser and the best wheat beer to be found on the continent, why would you not visit? Here we have put together a list of places to visit and things to do in Germany.
‘Berlin, du bist so Wunderbar’, runs the tagline of the beer Berliner Kindle. We share the sentiment. Playing central stage to the turbulent upheavals of the 20th century, in 2015 Berlin still shows the scars of its past and retains that sense of dancing on the brink. Today, the city’s international flavour, both on the streets and in the hostels and hotels in Berlin, make up its vibrant character and charm, and renders it the most exciting place to visit in Germany.
So what are the best things to do in Berlin? Districts like Neukölln are peppered with independent art galleries and the hippest hostels in Germany; Prenzlauerberg to the north is awash with Third-Wave Coffee outlets (a good place to start if you are not sure what to eat in Germany); and further west one can stay in some of the plushest hotels in Germany and visit the glittering Ku’damm and the resplendent KaDeWe (offering some of the most expensive but also some of the best German food), Berlin’s less-saccharine answer to Harrods. Cheap, liberal, and home to the greatest nightlife in Europe, a visit to the Hauptstadt is one of the most memorable things to do in Germany.
Sightseeing in Berlin
When it comes to sightseeing in Berlin, East Side Gallery is a good place to start. The gallery is situated upon the remains of the Berlin Wall just over the Spree. Along the Wall, both professional artists and amateurs have created murals, most of a political nature (‘Ja!’ to peace, ‘Nein’ to borders, etc.) You will also likely find scrawled accolades of love to Justin Bieber and Zac Efron. A walk along the wall-cum-gallery is one of the most worthwhile things to do in Berlin, if one wishes to get a proper taste of the city. For more information on visiting Germany’s capital, EXBERLINER has some interesting insights on what’s currently on in the city.
Leipzig is regularly heralded as the ‘Little Berlin’ or indeed, ‘New Berlin’, and is becoming a more and more popular place to visit in Germany. The city is full of students and all that comes with them: bicycles, cheap cafes and a general air of freedom and procrastination. So what things to do in Leipzig are there? And is it really the New Berlin? Some say that Leipzig is a victim of its own hype (‘Hypezig’, if you will), and that it has been labelled as ‘has been’ before it ever was. Not true! Outside Berlin and Hamburg, Leipzig has some of the cheapest hostels in Germany, fosters the most dynamic music and arts scene in the country, and like the capital, in terms of sightseeing in Leipzig, its charm and attraction lies not in the central roads and squares, but in the back streets and hidden quarters. If you have time, try and book tickets to see either the Gewandhuasorchester, one of the world’s top classical orchestras, or the 800- year-old Thomanerchor. Hotels in Leipzig are becoming more more prolific, while there are already plenty of cosy hostels in Leipzig.
Trains from Berlin to Leipzig and then further on can be researched here.
Sightseeing in Leipzig
At the centre of Leipzig sits Augustsplatz, as grand as its name suggests; a visit here is one of the nicest things to do in Leipzig. The square is lined by the city’s most important buildings including the opera house, the 11-story Kroch-Haus and the university church.
A visit to Bavaria is one of the most popular things to do in Germany. There is a splendid choice of luxurious hotels in Munich, and cheap hostels in Munich are becoming more common. If Berlin is poor and sexy, then perhaps Munich is best described as rich and handsome. This city is the antithesis of Berlin, and a visit to just one or the other will leave you with a lopsided impression of Germany.
Lederhosen – those tight fitting leather shorts clasping rotund Teutonic behinds – Weissbier and German food such as sauerkraut are all to be found in abundance in Munich. It is is also arguably the most beautiful city in Germany, and sightseeing in Munich will take you more than one day. Visitors to the city should commence with the mammoth Frauenkirche, Cathedral of our Blessed Lady, which has space for an astounding 20,000 people.
Munich is stunning in December with the Christmas lights and market. The city hosts some of the finest hotels in Germany, but naturally rooms are harder to come by at this time, so do book in advance.
Sightseeing in Munich
So after the architectural sightseeing, what other things to do in Munich are there? Well, there is fantastic beer to be sampled here, with most pubs serving their own brews. Not sure what to eat in Germany? In most of these establishments the staff can recommend which German food goes best with each beer. The British writer Patrick Leigh Fermor wrote a memorable account of his visit to the famous Munich Hoffhouse when he was just 18. He describes the locals he sat amongst with hands ‘like bundles of sausages [flying] nimbly, packing in forkload on forkload of ham, salami, frankfurter, krenwurst and blutwurst’, in between gulps from black stone tankards of wheat beer, ‘cool and marvellous, a brooding, cylindrical litre of Teutonic myth.’ Indeed, with such scenes to be had, it is no wonder that eating and drinking are two of the most culturally important things to do in Munich.
Up out of Bavaria we head northwest to the city of Cologne. Cologne is situated on the Rhine and is the fourth biggest city in Germany. The Old Town of Cologne is charming, with narrow cobbled alleyways, breweries serving frothy bevvies and pubs with the traditional Halver Hahn sandwich. Besides the famous cathedral visitors to Cologne should stop by the City Hall, Great St Martin Church and the Heinzelmännchen (Cologne elves) fountain.
The most popular thing to do in Cologne is visit the carnival, which is in fact one of the most exciting things to do in Germany in general, commencing on the Thursday before Rose Monday (the last Monday before lent, falling on February 8th next year). Street theatre, live music and costumes galore! The best of German party spirits come out, and the Kölsche beer flows like water. Hotels and hostels in Cologne will fill up fast, so be sure to book in advance.
Sightseeing in Cologne
Those keen to go sightseeing in Cologne should begin with the city’s Cathedral, or Kölner Dom, the most striking landmark of the cityscape. It is well worth clambering up the 509 steps to the summit of the Southern Tower. Tours cannot be taken when a service is in session, but all are naturally welcome to join for mass on Sunday mornings, one of the more tranquil things to do in Cologne.
Hamburg was for a long time an independent state from the rest of Prussia, only joining the rest of Germany in 1871. It’s official name today remains Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg (Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg) and locals like to emphasize their distinctness from the rest of the countrymen. Connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River, Hamburg is Germany’s biggest maritime city, and is made up that which makes all port cities so exciting – fish and ethnic diversity. Hostels in Hamburg can be found at competitive prices, and the hotels in Hamburg are similarly reasonably priced. For those with a musical ear, there are plenty of things to do in Hamburg. In fact, from the 17th – 18th century, across Europe the city was primarily known for its musical output. The Hamburg State Opera played in Germany’s first public opera house opening in 1678. The new opera house in one of the finest examples of modern architecture in Germany today. Whereas techno is Berlin’s baby, Hamburg has a thriving rock scene, and for live-music nuts, Hamburg remains the best place to visit in Germany.
Sightseeing in Hamburg
Sightseeing in Hamburg climaxes with the city’s Fischmarkt, reportedly attracting over 70,000 visitors every Sunday morning. Located down at the docks, between bawling hawkers one can not only sample fresh catch (high on the list of what to eat in Germany) but also fruit and veg, flowers, and clothes. With live music on offer, the market hosts a heady mix of the dregs who have made it out of the clubs the night before, now chewing on Hering im Brott, as well as families and oldies who have woken up early to haggle for the best Schnappchen they can get. A visit here is one of the most memorable things to do in Hamburg, and no trip to the city is complete without it.
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