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Christmas Markets of Germany, Switzerland & Austria14 days from $2,259 (USD)
Uncover the stunning scenery and seasonal traditions of three countries.
Wines of Eastern Europe: Vienna, Budapest & Prague11 days from $2,559 (USD)
Get a taste of Eastern Europe’s most dynamic cities.
Willkommen in Deutschland! The seventh-most visited country in the world enchants millions of visitors each year. While certain images come instantly to mind when thinking of Germany (the traditional Bavarian dress, the sausages, the national love affair with cars, the gorgeous mountain views), the country is not nearly as much a monolithic entity as visitors might assume. It is a federal republic, and therefore greatly decentralized. Consequently, the culture and experiences you take in will vary widely depending on where you visit. No matter what you choose, your German getaway is sure to be one you cherish for a lifetime!
Eastern Germany, for instance, is known for its eccentric flair and rich history. Called “Florence on the Elbe,” the region encompassing Berlin and Dresden is known to be gregarious, artsy, and liberal. Southern Germany, on the other hand, is the home of Bavaria and the seat of much of the “traditional” German culture for which the country is renowned. There are several factors that hold common throughout the country, of course. A pervasive Old World charm and welcoming atmosphere dominate, and Germany is regarded as a premier travel destination for families. The food is delicious. Schnitzel, bratwurst, and spätzle are indeed menu mainstays, and this is to say nothing of the large, magnificent diversity of German breads and baked goods. Germans are proud and fond of their domestic wines and beers, and with good reason. You won’t lack for a hearty meal here! You can work it off after with a vigorous hike or bike ride, as outdoor activities are a big deal. Or, if you like your travel fast, consider renting an exotic sports car for the sheer thrill of flying down the Autobahn with no speed limit to rein you in. You can visit countless museums, tour by boat, bus, or foot, or relax at length in a luxury spa. The arts thrive—musicals and theater are beloved by the population, and the classical music tradition is considered unrivaled in Europe.
Top Germany Sights
Berlin is a huge city! It might surprise you, then, to discover that one of the best ways to fully take advantage of its loveliness is by bike. You can also spend a relaxing afternoon drifting down the Spree river, touring Berlin by boat. Those who are fascinated by history and the arts will find no end of activities to keep them busy here. The East Side Gallery is not only a monument to great art, it’s a piece of living history. Artists were invited to paint a large standing section of the Berlin Wall with images of hope and violence. The size and significance of the wall segment, to say nothing of the moving quality of the paintings, makes this a must-see stop. History buffs will also want to check out Checkpoint Charlie, situated at the site of the infamous East Berlin-West Berlin crossing, and the Holocaust Museum with its enormous, unsettling memorial and comprehensive museum.
Whiling away a warm summer in Frankfurt is a delight not to be missed! A soaring, futuristic skyline welcomes you to the cosmopolitan financial capital of continental Europe. The continuous parade of trade shows rolling through the enormous Messe Frankfurt each year brings with it a steady train of visitors. The largest of these events is the annual Motor Show. The world’s biggest book fair is also held here. The old city center of Römerberg features stunning 15th- and 16th century architecture, as well as a number of cozy restaurants. The Dom is the massive Gothic cathedral where heads of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned as recently as two hundred years ago. Locals can be found spending quiet afternoons along the river Main playing frisbee, walking their dogs, or simply enjoying a peaceful lunch. Grab a glass of ebbelwei—the ubiquitous apple wine of the Hesse region, which is usually enjoyed with sparkling water—and enjoy!
Considered one of the gems of Germany, Dresden is a landmark of some significance for WWII history buffs. The Baroque buildings lining the Elbe still bear scars from bombings seventy years ago. There is a strange beauty in their blackened exteriors so long after the violence that created them—nowhere in the world is the damage of this point in history still so visible. The Semperoper theater is another landmark that was destroyed by the ravages of war, but the place where Strauss and Wagner once premiered their works has been restored to glory. Today, patrons dress in their finest to watch the opera here. The Military History Museum, one of Germany’s largest, delivers a striking exhibition on the history and impact of German wars. The Neustadt, or “new neighborhood” (as of the 19th century, that is) is the center of Dresden’s quirky counterculture, and a great place to find an eccentric little cafe and partake of some quality people-watching.
The central square of Marienplatz is the heart of Munich, and a great place for visitors to view the historic Old and New Town Hall where the 43-foot Glockenspiel, or carillon, is the star of the show. The bells chime at 11a.m. and noon, triggering thirty-two life size figures to reenact historical Bavarian events. Also in Munich are the acrylic peaks of the 1972 Olympic stadium, which was considered state-of-the-art for its time. Some of Germany’s best beer halls are within the city, luring one in for a pint (or several!) accompanied by the boisterous sound of oompah music. Oktoberfest, the world’s largest fair, is synonymous with amazing brews and takes place in Munich each fall. A more sobering experience, albeit one that beckons many, is a visit to the Dachau concentration camp some ten miles north of the city proper. Those touring the site of Nazi wartime atrocities follow “the path of the prisoner,” experiencing the same walks through the camp as those through which prisoners were corralled.
The castle-studded Rhine region follows the river as it wends through western Germany. Outstanding winemaking, rustic medieval villages fresh from a fairytale, top-notch hiking trails, and general beauty combine to make this a premier destination for romantic holidays. No trip is complete without a slow cruise down the river, wine glasses in hand, your loved one by your side. This is the part of the world where Christmas trees were first decorated, and where the tradition of exchanging gifts beneath the tree was first established. Today, the picturesque charm of the Rhine makes for an unforgettable visit. Folks come here simply to soak up beauty—and, for that, let’s again mention the castles. Many tours are dedicated solely to floating by as many of these late-nineteenth century regal homes as possible.
The second-largest city in Bavaria is typically linked to two things: the famous Nuremberg Trials following the second World War, and the world-renowned Christmas market! During Advent, Nuremberg comes to life with the smell of gingerbread, stalls of handmade toys, and everything merry and bright. Holidaymakers looking to revel in the spirit of the season will not be disappointed. The town is equally enjoyable during the other eleven months of the year, however. For hundreds of years German kings kept the royal jewels in Nuremberg, and today guided tours of the eponymous castle and city walls are perennial favorites. The toy museum, Nuremberg Trials courtroom, medieval dungeons, and Albrecht-Dürer-Haus are all popular stops as well.
|Primary Airports: Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Munich Airport (MUC), Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL)|
|Government: Federal Republic|
|Currency: Euro (EUR)|
|Population: 82,401,000 (2007 est.)|
|Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European, Schuko)|
|Time Zone: UTC +1|
Germany Travel Reviews
My husband and I decided to visit Bavaria, Germany for our anniversary. We timed our trip to coincide with the celebration of Oktoberfest in Munich. The festival was incredible! If you are planning a trip to Germany, make sure to fit Oktoberfest into your plans, as it is a once in a lifetime experience. We managed to pick up some authentic beer steins and taste test several local, Bavarian brewed beers. Being history buffs, we made sure to visit the Old Town in Nuremberg. The Imperial Castle was breath-taking. Although stunning, the Imperial Castle didn’t hold a candle to Neuschwanstein Castle. Buried in the Bavarian Alps, Neuschwanstein will make you feel as if you stepped into a fairy tale. It is a must-see for anyone traveling through Germany. If you are able to ride a horse, there are equestrian tourist groups that will lead you on a trail ride through the Bavarian Black Forest. It was a long ride, but we had astounding views of the Alps, the castle, and the surrounding forest landscape. The group stopped for lunch at a traditional inn buried in the countryside. The food was delicious and the view was priceless, making the sore legs the next day well worth it. We also visited the Dachau concentration camp, taking the “path of the prisoner” tour. It was heartbreaking, but extremely informative. I would definitely recommend taking the time to visit one of the camps as it is part of the country’s history.
Art Lovers' Paradise
My partner and I are both art enthusiasts and decided to take our first trip to Germany. We started off in Berlin, and enjoyed ambling through the DDR Museum, which was incredible. East Berlin and its history are definitely fascinating. We went to various open artist studios and there was so much to take in. The city is super accessible, especially if you are a biker. We then took a morning train to Munich. Oktoberfest is incredible. The vibe is very different from Berlin, but super fun, energetic, and, of course, full of boisterous, beer-swigging crowds. My partner is a Medieval Studies professor so going to the Alte Pinakothek Museum was a must. We saw masterpieces by Rembrandt and Durer and then had the famous "Munich veal" at a nearby restaurant. We caught an exhibition with Yael Bartana, one of my favorite video artists, before heading to Kassel for Dokumenta, an international art exhibition that happens every five years. Kassel was lovely, though the art at Dokumenta was, admittedly, a bit over my head. We loved every city we visited and are eager to do more exploring during our next visit. Germany is definitely one of the most culturally rich countries we have ever visited. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Of course, the beer, chocolate, and bratwurst were a lovely addition to a phenomenal trip.
Touring Southern Germany
A few years ago, my wife and I were able to take a second honeymoon to Germany. We had met while stationed there with the army. After flying into Stuttgart, we traveled around to see places we were familiar with in southern Germany. These included Schwaebisch Hall, Wurzburg and Munich for Octoberfest. In addition to St. Michael’s Church, Schwaebisch Hall is home to the original covered bridge replicated in Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It spans the Kocher River that bisects the picturesque old town. In Wurzburg, we toured the hilltop Marienberg Fortress with it museum and panoramic views of the city and Main River. We also strolled through the Residenz, a magnificent Baroque style palace that was home to the prince-bishops of Franconia. The day we spent celebrating Octoberfest was as much fun as we remembered. In a contrast of images, we spent one day touring the remains of the Dachau concentration camp followed by spending the next day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a medieval walled city that is a Christmas market year round. During our trip around Bavaria, we enjoyed sauerbraten, pretzels and apfelstrudel as well as jagerschntzel, bratwurst and several local beers and wines. We opted to stay in small gasthauses we found along the way. The only disappointment was that some stretches of the autobahn now have a speed limit.
Schweinfurt and Würzburg: Traveling in Franconia, Germany
This past autumn, a good friend of mine invited me to spend a few weeks with her in Schweinfurt, Germany. This was my first trip abroad, and I enjoyed it immensely!
I found Schweinfurt to be a really neat city. Though Schweinfurt is lesser-known than nearby Würzburg, it's packed with great things to do.
Schweinfurt is very walkable. The city is packed with bakeries and quaint local shops, too. I'd definitely recommend enjoying a delicious slice of cake and some coffee at Bort Café und Konditorei, which is located near the Stadtgalerie, the city's mall. I also loved visiting the weekday markets near the historic city Rathaus, a beautiful building that was constructed in the late 1500's.
If you have kids or simply enjoy getting some fresh air, I highly recommend visiting the Schweinfurt Wildpark, which is a fun (and free!) way to spend the day. You can walk around feeding tons of animals, including a stunning white deer. If the weather's good, be sure to visit the Baggersee (a local lake), too. There's swimming, volleyball, playgrounds, and a fun ropes course in the trees by the lake! If you're in the city during the colder months, be sure to visit the Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas Market) to enjoy some Lebkuchen cookies and hot mulled wine.
Würzburg, located about 30 minutes from Schweinfurt, is packed with culture and history. Visitors absolutely must stop by the museums at Fortress Marienberg. You can even go on an English-language walking tour of the fortress, which covers the castle, a beautiful old church, and more. The Mainfränkisches Museum at the Fortress also offers an awesome peek into the history of the Franconian region of Germany, which I found particularly fascinating. For a hearty German meal in a pub environment, I'd recommend visiting the Schelmenkeller. This old-world pub is a fun place to enjoy a great schnitzel and a pint of beer.
Though lots of tourists stick to major German cities like Frankfurt and Munich, I really enjoyed the time I spent "off the beaten path" in Deutschland. If you're looking to visit Germany, consider adding Schweinfurt and Würzburg to your itinerary. You won't regret it!
Germany: The land of fairy tale castles and beer!
When I was a senior in college I realized my lifelong dream of traveling to Germany. I flew into Berlin where I toured some very famous landmarks such as the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which is kept in a perpetual state of disrepair from damage sustained in World War II. I also toured the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, built in 1699. A landmark not to be missed is, of course, the Berlin Wall. They maintain parts of it throughout the city, and the sections that have been taken down are commemorated throughout the streets by a line of brick, so you can see how the wall divided the city.
I left Berlin on a train bound for Munich in southern Germany, belly full of the best strudel a girl could hope for. My first stop in Munich was at the Hofbrauhaus, one of the oldest beer breweries in the world, where I had to have a giant stein of beer with some of the very friendly locals. I then toured the Deutsches Museum and walked through the Marienplatz in time to catch the ringing of its famous clock tower. Of course, to me no trip to Munich would be complete without seeing Neuschwanstein Castle. Nestled in the Black Forest, it has breathtaking views from its perch high on a mountain top, and an even more interesting history inside. Overall, Germany did not disappoint me. It was 5 star trip, without a doubt.
Five Must Do's for Germany
My husband and I went to Germany in early July to celebrate a milestone anniversary. We spent 10 days visiting Munich, Berlin, Garmish-Partenkirchen, the Rhine Valley and Friedrichshafen. We made all the arrangements ourselves. We relied on rail and walking to get around. We treated ourselves to a short cruise on the Rhine River on the stretch between Cologne and Rudeshiem. Breathtaking! While in Cologne, make an effort to walk to the Lindt Chocolate Museum for a tour and a sample. Boppard is a good place to use as a base; it has easy access to much. Berlin was a surprise as to how cosmopolitan it is. Historic sites are well marked. Be prepared for many crowds. Though not visiting Munich during Oktoberfest, we got a good flavor of the city and people. The city center, the gardens, churches, beer halls and gardens were all exciting and easily accessible. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is enchanting. The city is easily traversed by foot; but also has good bus service. Take time to visit through the neighborhoods, as many of the homes and businesses have beautiful artwork on their outer walls. Make time to go to the Zugspitz, reaching the top either by rack rail or by cable car. Its many hiking trails on the lower levels make for a pleasant outing. Another can’t miss place is a visit to the Boodensee area. We visited Friedrichshafen and took advantage of taking a cruise across to Romanshorn, Switzerland. The food, the people, and the ease of getting around made for a most extraordinary visit.
Return to Ramstein
As the child of a USAF veteran, my family lived in Germany for three years when I was growing up. My husband and I recently took a trip to my old stomping grounds in Germany, and found ourselves back in Ramstein and the surrounding area, which is still the headquarters of the United States Air Force in Europe.
The city’s historical past has been preserved in spite of the marketing and industrial growth it has experienced as the largest American community outside of the United States. The people in Ramstein are friendly, fun-loving and eager to share information about the town. Most of them speak English fluently, but they love to hear visitor’s speak their language, so they can make the necessary corrections!
We walked around the town, stopping to admire the beautiful rose gardens, and sample the local beer as we searched for the house I lived in as a child. Located in the middle of old town, stands the Old City Hall, the oldest building in Ramstein. The building was used as a pub and later a brewery, before it became city hall. We ate a delightful meal of Bratwurst and Brochen, purchased from a street vendor as we soaked up the culture from our seats on the edge of the fountain at the Ramstein market square. We couldn’t leave town without taking a few photographs of St. Nikolaus Catholic Church, where I spent many a Sunday morning! As the sun set over my past, we hopped in our car and headed the short distance to the banks of the beautiful Rhine River; but that’s another story!