If there’s any single country I could credit with sparking my never-ending obsession with Europe, it’s Germany. It was right here that I first found myself outside of an English-speaking country, one of those true shocking moments that’s both unnerving and joyous at its core.
Even as my infatuations move further east, I’m positive that this country at the heart of Central Europe will play a part for the rest of my days. Every time I set foot in Germany—from moving to Munich for a summer to dragging my family to Berlin to let them experience it for themselves—it feels as if I’m doing it with new eyes. Everything changes while at the same time still feeling like a small slice of home.
Not sure how to start planning your trip? Get started with this Germany travel guide!
When to visit Germany
Before I go an spout off what an amazing travel destination Germany is, there’s one thing I need to get out of the way: the weather. Spoiling an otherwise perfect European experience, the weather in Germany isn’t exactly all sunshine and rainbows.
But it’s truly not that bad either.
Germany sports a four-season continental climate swaying between hot & humid summers to cold & wet winters. Throughout the year, expect the unexpected. At seemingly any given moment, sunny skies can turn to rain showers (or snow in winter) and back in no time flat.
Overall, the best time to go to Germany is in the spring and fall, particularly May & October. During both these months you’ll get to experience warm weather without the crowds and the heavy rainfall of the peak summer months or the chilly windy day of winter. The spring and fall shoulder seasons also provide the best value to travellers in terms of both airfare & accommodations deals.
Where to go in Germany
There’s this silly notion out there that a backpacking adventure to Europe should mean hitting up every possible place on a massive time-crunch. If there’s any country that could prove just how entirely wrong this approach is, it’s Germany.
As you make your way through the country—from its biggest cities to its smallest countryside towns—you’ll quickly realize just how much there is to see in this vast Central European country.
Whether you’re craving fairytale castles built by mad kings, quaint villages ripped straight from medieval legends or cities beset by ghosts of modern history, let Germany transport you there.
Need some ideas? Here are some Germany trip planning resources to start out with:
It’s no secret around here: I simply love Berlin. Sure, Germany’s capital is hardly the prettiest city in Europe (I mean it is Europe we’re talking about here!—the competition is kinda stiff), but there’s hardly a more intriguing place on the planet.
Perhaps it’s because of growing up in the Cold War era that Berlin always has such an impact on me whenever I visit. Whether it’s seeing the famous mural “The Kiss” at the East Side Gallery, watching a Trabi tour chug by or walking past the few remaining graffitied slices of the Berlin Wall strewn about the city, Berlin never ceases to take me back to those few impactful childhood moments of witnessing the fall of an era and the dawn of a new one.
Even beyond it’s reputation as the arguably most important city of the twentieth century, Berlin is simply one of Europe’s hippest cities. It’s ripe with eye-popping street art, cool cafés, restaurants & bars, and more than its fair share of quirky venues for relaxation & entertainment.
Simply put: Berlin isn’t a city you’ll want to take lightly or gloss over. Spend at least few days here to let its alternative charms slowly unfold, and I can guarantee you’ll want to be back for more.
Ready to start planning a trip to Berlin? Here are some resources:
- 24 Hours in Berlin: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Day Trips from Berlin: A Complete Guide
- Things to Do in Berlin: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- When is the Best Time to Visit Berlin?
- Where to Stay in Berlin: The Best Hotels & Neighbourhoods
Although it doesn’t crack European itineraries as often as other German cities, Cologne, backed up by over 2,000 years of history, isn’t exactly a place where you’ll ever run out of ideas for exploring.
The experience of letting the immensity of Cologne Cathedral overtake you as you emerge from the Hauptbahnhof is reason enough for a visit. Nearly anywhere you walk in this city, the church’s 157-metre-high spires seem to poke their way into view. It’s simply spectacular.
And if carving out some time to revel in one of Europe’s bonafide must-sees isn’t quite enough, Cologne offers a barrage of interesting museums (umm chocolate, anyone?), Roman ruins, postmodern quirks, and typical traditional German architectural charms in its lovely Altstadt—all washed down with a crisp mug of wonderful Kölsch alongside the Rhine River.
Ready to start planning a trip to Cologne? Here are some helpful resources:
- One Day in Cologne: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Cologne: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Cologne: The Best Hotels & Areas for Travellers
If there’s any destination in Germany that’s gonna surprise you in the best way possible, it’s Dresden. Famous for the WWII firebombing that left it razed to the ground, Dresden pushed forward in the postwar years with a reconstruction project that’s been nothing short of epic.
Today, as you wander around its atmospheric Altstadt, it’s hard to believe that a half a century earlier, it was little more than rubble. Under the leadership of the DDR, many of the city’s most exquisite old palaces, churches, and grand towers were returned to life, brick-by-brick, creating a skyline that’s nothing short of swoon-worthy.
For those who are tired of German old towns (although, trust me, this one’s in a league of its own!), Dresden’s Neustadt provides an interesting counterweight to Altstadt’s elegance. It’s chocked full of vintage clothing & record shops, street art, edgy bars, and hip restaurants along with a handful of historical sites worth a peek.
Ready to start planning a trip to Dresden? Here are some helpful resources:
Hosting one of Europe’s busiest airports, Frankfurt is a destination that most travellers quickly get in and out of rather than savour. It’s definitely a huge mistake because, despite its reputation as a boring city where money rules the roost, there’s plenty of charm around Frankfurt when you go searching for it.
Buried amidst the glass skyscrapers that define Central Europe’s finest modern skyline is a delightful Altstadt (Old Town) that’s got all the traditional German architectural prowess you’ve come to know and love in this country. The Sachsenhausen area on the south side of the Main offers much of the same atmosphere with a little twist of hosting the world’s highest concentration of apple cider taverns for your drinking pleasure.
Elsewhere in Frankfurt, you’ll find a slew of interesting museums—some of Germany’s best, in fact—covering everything from film to dinosaurs to modern art along with one of Europe’s top botanical gardens.
Ready to start planning a trip to Frankfurt? Here are some helpful resources:
- Best Things to Do in Frankfurt: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Frankfurt: The Best Hotels & Areas for Travellers
Even if it doesn’t get the same name recognition of other German destinations, Hamburg isn’t a place you should leave out of your itinerary. As one of the world’s most important port cities since it’s medieval heyday as the Hanseatic League’s beacon of progress, Hamburg’s full of unique corners that reflect its maritime past & present.
The city’s ever-international outlook has made Hamburg one of the most important cultural centre of Germany, spawning the likes of famous classical composers like Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn along with playing a pivotal role in catapulting The Beatles into rock royalty.
Even if its musical history doesn’t tickle your eardrums, Hamburg’s modern-day cultural scene might. Hamburg has become one of Germany’s top cities for gastronomy and nightlife. In each of Hamburg’s unique neighbourhoods, you’ll never have a problem finding a raucous nightclub or a chilled-out place to enjoy a pint of local beer or marvel at a culinary creation that’ll make you second guess the country’s reputation for bland & boring food.
Ready to start planning a trip to Hamburg? Here are some helpful resources:
- One Day in Hamburg: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Hamburg: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Hamburg: The Best Hotels & Areas for Travellers
In contrast to edgy Berlin, the Bavarian capital of Munich feels far more sober at first glance. That is, of course, until you recall the city’s beer-swilling reputation and its notoriety for hosting the world-famous Oktoberfest.
Munich’s penchant for beer is inescapable. Nearly anywhere you turn, you’ll stumble upon a bräuhaus or beer garden serving litres upon litres of perfect German brews.
Of course, there’s more to Munich than just drinking.
The city’s oldest quarter, Altstadt, is full of superb architecture from the stunning Gothic stylings of Neues Rathaus at Marienplatz to the distinctive double domes of Frauenkirche. As a city notorious for giving birth to the Nazi movement and the former seat of Bavarian royalty, you’d better believe that there’s a whole lot of history to uncover here, too, ranging anywhere between regal palaces to a horrific concentration camp located just beyond the city limits.
Ready to start planning a trip to Munich? Here are some resources:
- 24 Hours in Munich: A Complete Itinerary
- Things to Do in Munich: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Munich: The Best Hotels & Neighbourhoods
…more destinations to come!
What to eat in Germany
No one would dare argue that the German cuisine is as refined as other European culinary destinations like Italy, Spain or France. Nonetheless, there’s a handful of must-try dishes in Germany, tending towards heavy & hearty rather than light & springy.
Here are few German foods to keep on the lookout for:
- Currywurst: A street food favourite consisting of a sausage topped with curry ketchup and curry powder. Visit the Turkish restaurants of Kreuzberg in Berlin for some of the country’s best.
- Leberkäse: Its literal translation of “liver cheese” doesn’t do much to inspire a taste test, but the popular street food of leberkäse (closer to a bologna meatloaf than either liver or cheese) is far more flavourful than it sounds. Grab a slice on a bun at Viktualienmarkt in Munich to find it at its best.
- Käsespätzle: Quite possibly my favourite German meal overall, this next-level mac-and-cheese dish mixes soft egg noodles with Emmentaler cheese and caramelized onions for creamy savoury goodness that’s out of this world.
- Döner kebab: Although hardly German, the Turkish döner kebab—a pita stuffed with juicy lamb meat, vegetables and a special garlicky sauce—is one of the most famous late-night snacks in Germany.
- Schwarzwälder kirschtorte: I couldn’t leave this list without at least mentioning one of Germany’s favourite desserts, Black Forest Cake. Featuring layers of chocolate cake, cherry torte & whipped cream, and topped with cherries and chocolate shavings, this Bavarian classic is a must-have.
Transportation in Germany
By air: There’s a number of important international airports scattered throughout Germany including Frankfurt (FRA), Munich (MUC), Düsseldorf (DUS), and Berlin Tegel (TXL). Several airlines operate flights from abroad to these destinations including the German flagship carrier Lufthansa, Condor, Air Canada, United Airlines, Ryanair, and easyJet.
By land: Germany shares land borders with a number of countries including France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland. In most cases, travelling to Germany by train is the quickest & most convenient option.
By train: With Germany’s incredibly efficient & extensive train network, it’s hard for me to recommend any other way of getting around Germany. High-speed intercity routes operate between major German cities, cutting down travel times significantly over equivalent bus routes—albeit at slightly higher prices.
If you’re planning to travel extensively by train in Germany, picking up a German Rail Pass will save you some serious Euros.