My recent visit to Germany reminded me of just how much we enjoy the country every time we’re there. We’ve traveled to Germany almost five times now, visiting different cities and during different seasons on each occasion. Germany never failed to surprise us with its historical sites, baroque castles and delicious traditional German food, often overlooked by many, made it all the more special. As a tribute to Germany, here are some of my favorite places to visit in the country including some recommendations on what to see and do there.
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Best Places to Visit in Germany: Munich
My personal favorite city in Germany has got to be Munich, for its old world flair and traditional Bavarian architecture. Despite being the third largest city in Germany, it still has that small-town feel and rustic atmosphere. Munich was founded in 1158 as a medieval town, characterized by clock towers, brass domes and terracotta roofs which still stand today in its old town.
We rang in the new year in Munich in 2010 and the city’s main square, Marienplatz, was filled to the brim with people and the entire sky was lit up with colorful fireworks and rattling firecrackers.
Don’t miss: The Frauenkirche is the most famous building in the city centre and serves as the cathedral. My favorite place to go for food and beer in the city is the Hofbräuhaus, one of Munich’s oldest breweries with giant beer steins and pork knuckles and a raving atmosphere. If you’re not a fan of meat, don’t fret as there are also plenty of vegan restaurants in Munich.
Best Places to Visit in Germany: Neuschwanstein Castle
Possibly the most famous attraction in Germany, the Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace perched on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau in southwest Bavaria. Said to have inspired Walt Disney in the design of the castle, Neuschwanstein is definitely one of the most beautiful man-made attractions in Europe.
The shy King Ludwig II had built the castle in order to withdraw from public life – now vast numbers of people came to view his private refuge. Today, Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular of all the palaces and castles in Europe. Every year 1.4 million people visit “the castle of the fairy-tale king”. In the summer around 6,000 visitors a day stream through rooms that were intended for a single inhabitant.
Best Places to Visit in Germany: Berlin
Funky, artsy and alternative, Berlin has a personality unlike no other cities in Germany. As the capital city of Germany, it’s a melange of glamor and grit, gourmet restaurants and streetside snack shacks, hipster and high-street fashion. Perhaps it’s because of the tragic historical events that took place here during World Wars I and II, Berlin is now exploding with so much energy and vigor.
There are plenty of things to do in Berlin: from the famous landmarks like Reichstag to the Brandenburg Gate. We barely scraped the surface during our visit in 2007 but we definitely hope to return!
Don’t miss: Take a crash course in history at Checkpoint Charlie, the gateway between the two Berlins when they were divided, as well as the Holocaust Memorial dedicated to the murdered Jews. What’s left of the Berlin Wall is a powerful reminder of what happened during those days. One of the most famous restaurants in Berlin is the Brauhaus Mitte, a modern edition of the traditional breweries.
Best Places to Visit in Germany: Dresden
As a relatively small city in Germany, Dresden is charming and eclectic, with an infectious atmosphere and a touch of history. For centuries, Dresden was the capital and royal residence of the Kings of Saxony, and it was known as the Jewel Box for its impressive baroque architecture. Sadly, the bombing of Dresden in World War II destroyed the entire city center but since then restoration work has given it a facelift.
We visited Dresden almost four years ago to spend Christmas with our dear friend Heiko who lives near there and we loved Dresden Christmas market, one of the best Christmas markets in Germany. Rows and rows of stalls selling mulled wine and bratwurst (German sausages), handicraft and candy – we spent hours lost in the labyrinth.
Don’t miss: The Hofkirche is a great display of the city’s excellent restoration work – this was also the church of the royal household. As it was the seat of the royal household for years, the buildings here are some of the most impressive in the country. The Dresden Castle and the Zwinger Palace are well worth visiting.
Best Places to Visit in Germany: Leipzig
Known for centuries as a trade city, Leipzig is an economic center in Germany and this can be seen from the thriving city center and developed infrastructure. Tracing its roots to the past, Leipzig played a significant role in instigating the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, through the 1989 Monday Demonstrations which took place in and around Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church).
Since the reunification of Germany, Leipzig has undergone significant change with the restoration of some historical buildings, the demolition of others, and the development of a modern transport infrastructure. Just two weeks ago, I spent a few days in Leipzig and it truly surprised me with its modern and clean look.
Don’t miss: If you get a chance to visit, be sure to visit the new glass-slated Leipzig University building that stands right in the heart of the city as well as the historic restaurant, Auerbachs Keller brewhouse. I also recommend staying at the quirky and eclectic Pentahotel, just a five-minute walk from the main square Augustusplatz.
Have you been to Germany? What are your favorite places to visit in Germany?