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Lonely Planet Germany

Lonely Planet Germany

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Lonely Planet Germany

ratings:
3/5 (26 ratings)
Length:
2,358 pages
20 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 1, 2019
ISBN:
9781788685290
Format:
Book

Description

Lonely Planet: The world's number one travel guide publisher*

Lonely Planet's Germany is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Explore the glamour and grit of Berlin, tour hilltop castles in the fairy tale Black Forest and sail along the romantic Rhine - all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Germany and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Germany:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sightseeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights provide a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, people, music, landscapes, wildlife, cuisine, politics
  • Covers Berlin and around, Saxony, Munich and Bavaria, Stuttgart and the Black Forest, Frankfurt, Cologne, the Rhineland, Lower Saxony and Bremen, Hamburg and the North, Central Germany and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet's Germany is our most comprehensive guide to Germany, and is perfect for discovering both popular and offbeat experiences.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Berlin for an in-depth look at all the capital has to offer, or our Munich, Bavaria & the Black Forest regional guide.

About Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is a leading travel media company and the world's number one travel guidebook brand, providing both inspiring and trustworthy information for every kind of traveller since 1973. Over the past four decades, we've printed over 145 million guidebooks and grown a dedicated, passionate global community of travellers. You'll also find our content online, and in mobile apps, video, 14 languages, nine international magazines, armchair and lifestyle books, ebooks, and more.

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves, it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

*Source: Nielsen BookScan: Australia, UK, USA, 5/2016-4/2017

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Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

Publisher:
Released:
Mar 1, 2019
ISBN:
9781788685290
Format:
Book

About the author

Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 100 million books. The guides are printed in nine different languages; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and get to the heart of a place via guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet, an award-winning website and magazine, a range of mobile and digital travel products and a dedicated traveller community.

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Lonely Planet Germany - Lonely Planet

Germany

Contents

Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Germany

Germany’s Top 18

Need to Know

First Time Germany

What’s New

If You Like

Month by Month

Itineraries

Germany Outdoors

Eat & Drink Like a Local

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road

BERLIN

History

Sights

Neighbourhoods at a Glance

Tours

Festivals & Events

Sleeping

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

AROUND BERLIN

Potsdam

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Spreewald

Brandenburg an der Havel

Frankfurt (Oder)

Chorin & Niederfinow

HAMBURG & THE NORTH

Hamburg

Around Hamburg

Stade

Lüneburg

Schleswig-Holstein

Lübeck

Travemünde

Kiel

Laboe

Schleswig

Flensburg

Glücksburg

Husum

Sylt

Helgoland

Schwerin & the Mecklenburg Lake Plains

Schwerin

Güstrow

Neubrandenburg

Ludwigslust

Müritz National Park

Neustrelitz

Coastal Mecklenburg – Western Pomerania

Rostock

Warnemünde

Bad Doberan

Baltic Coastal Resorts

Wismar

Stralsund

Rügen Island

Greifswald

Usedom Island

Hiddensee Island

CENTRAL GERMANY

Fairy-Tale Road

Hanau & Steinau

Fulda

Marburg

Nationalpark Kellerwald-Edersee

Kassel

Göttingen

Bad Karlshafen

Hamelin

Bodenwerder

Thuringia

Erfurt

Weimar

Gotha

Kyffhäuser Mountains

Mühlhausen

Thuringian Forest & the Saale Valley

Eisenach

Jena

Harz Mountains

Bad Harzburg

Brocken & Torfhaus

Goslar

Quedlinburg

Thale

Wernigerode

Saale-Unstrut Region

Freyburg

Naumburg

Saxony-Anhalt

Dessau-Rosslau

Gartenreich Dessau-Wörlitz

Halle

Lutherstadt Eisleben

Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Magdeburg

SAXONY

Dresden

Around Dresden

Meissen

Saxon Switzerland

Bastei

Königstein

Bad Schandau

Leipzig & Western Saxony

Leipzig

Chemnitz

Freiberg

Eastern Saxony

Görlitz

Zittau

Bautzen

Herrnhut

MUNICH

History

Sights

Activities

Tours

Festivals & Events

Sleeping

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Around Munich

Dachau

Schleissheim

Starnberger Fünf-Seen-Land

BAVARIA

Bavarian Alps

Füssen

Oberammergau

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Mittenwald

Oberstdorf

Bad Tölz

Chiemsee

Berchtesgaden

The Romantic Road

Würzburg

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Dinkelsbühl

Nördlingen

Donauwörth

Augsburg

Landsberg am Lech

Nuremberg & Franconia

Nuremberg

Bamberg

Bayreuth

Coburg

Altmühltal Nature Park

Eichstätt

Regensburg & the Danube

Regensburg

Ingolstadt

Freising

Landshut

Passau

Bavarian Forest

Straubing

Romantic Residences

Small-Town Charmers

STUTTGART & THE BLACK FOREST

Stuttgart

Ludwigsburg

Swabian Alps Region

Tübingen

Burg Hohenzollern

Schwäbisch Hall

Ulm

The Black Forest

Baden-Baden

Karlsruhe

Freudenstadt

Kinzigtal

Freiburg

Schauinsland

St Peter

Breisach

Feldberg

Titisee-Neustadt

Schluchsee

Triberg

Martinskapelle

Villingen-Schwenningen

Rottweil

Unterkirnach

Lake Constance

Konstanz

Meersburg

Friedrichshafen

Ravensburg

Lindau

FRANKFURT & SOUTHERN RHINELAND

Frankfurt Region

Frankfurt am Main

Wiesbaden

Mainz

Darmstadt

Around Darmstadt

Heidelberg Region

Heidelberg

Speyer

Mannheim

Worms

German Wine Route

Neustadt an der Weinstrasse

Deidesheim

Bad Dürkheim

Romantic Rhine Valley

Rüdesheim Region

Bingen

Burg Rheinstein

Burg Reichenstein

Bacharach

Pfalzgrafstein

Oberwesel

Loreley & St Goar Region

Boppard

Braubach

Koblenz

Moselle Valley

Alken

Burg Eltz

Cochem

Beilstein

Traben-Trarbach

Bernkastel-Kues

Trier

Saarland

Saarbrücken

Architectural Icons

COLOGNE & NORTHERN RHINELAND

Cologne

Northern Rhineland

Brühl

Bonn

South of Bonn

The Ahr Valley & the Eifel

Aachen

Düsseldorf

Niederrhein (Lower Rhine)

The Ruhrgebiet

Essen

Dortmund

Bochum

Duisburg

Münster & Osnabrück

Münster

Osnabrück

Ostwestfalen

Soest

Paderborn

Historic Marvels

LOWER SAXONY & BREMEN

Hanover & the East

Hanover

Celle

Bergen-Belsen

Hildesheim

Braunschweig

Wolfenbüttel

Bremen & the East Frisian Coast

Bremen City

Bremerhaven

Worpswede

Oldenburg

Emden

Jever

East Frisian Islands

Understand

Germany Today

History

The German People

Food & Drink

Literature, Theatre & Film

Music

Visual Arts

Architecture

Landscapes & Wildlife

SURVIVAL GUIDE

Directory A–Z

Accessible Travel

Accommodation

Climate

Customs Regulations

Discount Cards

Electricity

Embassies & Consulates

Food

Health

Insurance

Internet Access

Legal Matters

LGBTIQ+ Travellers

Maps

Money

Opening Hours

Photography

Post

Public Holidays

Safe Travel

Telephone

Time

Toilets

Tourist Information

Visas

Volunteering

Work

Transport

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Language

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to Germany

Prepare for a roller-coaster ride of feasts, treats and temptations experiencing Germany’s soul-stirring scenery, spirit-lifting culture, big-city beauties, romantic palaces and half-timbered towns.

Bewitching Scenery

There’s something undeniably artistic in the way Germany’s scenery unfolds; the corrugated, dune-fringed coasts of the north; the moody forests, romantic river valleys and vast vineyards of the centre; and the off-the-charts splendour of the Alps, carved into rugged glory by glaciers and the elements. All of these are integral parts of a magical natural matrix that’s bound to give your camera batteries a good workout. Get off the highway and into the great outdoors to soak up the epic landscapes that make each delicious, slow, winding mile so precious.

Pleasures of Civilisation

You’ll encounter history in towns where streets were laid out long before Columbus set sail, and in castles that loom above prim, half-timbered villages where flower boxes billow with crimson geraniums. The great cities – Berlin, Munich and Hamburg – come in more flavours than a jar of jelly beans but all will wow you with a cultural kaleidoscope that spans the arc from art museums and high-brow opera to naughty cabaret and underground clubs. And wherever you go, Romanesque, Gothic and baroque classics rub rafters with architectural creations from modern masters such as Daniel Libeskind, David Chipperfield and Frank Gehry.

Gastro Delights

Experiencing Germany through its food and drink will add a rich layer to your memories (and possibly to your belly!). You’ll quickly discover that the local food is so much more than sausages and pretzels, schnitzel and roast pork accompanied by big mugs of foamy beer. Beyond the clichés awaits a cornucopia of regional and seasonal palate-teasers. Share the German people’s obsession with white asparagus in springtime, chanterelle mushrooms in summer and game in autumn. Sample not only the famous beer but also world-class wines, most notably the noble Riesling.

High on History

Few countries have had as much impact on the world as Germany, which has given us the Hanseatic League, the Reformation and, yes, Hitler and the Holocaust, but also the printing press, the automobile, aspirin and MP3 technology. It’s the birthplace of Martin Luther, Albert Einstein and Karl Marx, of Goethe, Beethoven, the Brothers Grimm and other heavyweights who have left their mark on human history. You can stand in a Roman amphitheatre, sleep in a medieval castle and walk along remnants of the Berlin Wall – in Germany the past is very much present wherever you go.

The Black Forest | PHOTO BY STEFFEN EGLY/GETTY IMAGES ©

Why I Love Germany

By Kerry Christiani, Writer

My first trip to Germany some 20 years ago sparked a lifelong love affair. The snowbound spruce forests and castle-topped villages of Bavaria and the Black Forest were more ludicrously beautiful than my wildest childhood dreams. I was so smitten with the south of the country that I spent six years living in the depths of the Black Forest: hiking, cycling and berry picking in summer, mushrooming in the crisp days of autumn, and cross-country skiing in winters where the landscape was transformed into a Christmas card scene. Still today, when I return to the Schwarzwald, it’s like coming home.

For more, see Our Writers

Germany’s Top 18

Berlin

Berlin’s alternative edge, exciting food scene, palpable history and urban glamour never fail to enthral and enchant. More than a quarter century after the Wall’s collapse, the German capital has grown up without relinquishing its indie spirit and penchant for creative improvisation. There’s haute cuisine in a former brewery, all-night parties in power stations and world-class art in a WWII bunker. Visit major historical sights – including the Reichstag, Brandenburger Tor and Checkpoint Charlie – then feast on a smorgasbord of culture in myriad museums.

Fernsehturm | CANADASTOCK/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Munich

If you are looking for Alpine clichés, Munich will hand them to you in one chic and compact package. But the Bavarian capital also has plenty of unexpected trump cards under its often bright-blue skies. Here, folklore and age-old traditions exist side by side with sleek BMWs, designer boutiques and high-powered industry. The city’s museums showcase everything from artistic masterpieces to technological treasures and Oktoberfest history, while its music and cultural scenes are second only to those found in Berlin.

Museum Brandhorst | CHRISTIAN BEIRLE GONZáLEZ/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Schloss Neuschwanstein

Commissioned by Bavaria’s most celebrated 19th-century monarch, King Ludwig II, Schloss Neuschwanstein rises from the Alpine forests like a storybook illustration. Inside, the make-believe continues, with chambers reflecting Ludwig’s obsession with the mythical Teutonic past – and his admiration of composer Wagner – in a confection that puts even the flashiest oligarch’s palazzo in the shade. This folly is said to have inspired Walt’s castle at Disney World; now it inspires travellers to make the pilgrimage along the Romantic Road, which culminates at its gates.

© BAYERISCHE SCHLöSSERVERWALTUNG – WWW.SCHLOESSER.BAYERN.DE - NATALIA KABLIUK/SHUTTERSTOCK

Top Experiences

The Black Forest

Mist, snow or shine, the deep, dark Black Forest is just beautiful. If it’s back-to-nature moments you’re after, this sylvan slice of southwestern Germany is the place to linger. Every valley reveals new surprises: half-timbered villages looking every inch the fairy-tale fantasy, thunderous waterfalls, cuckoo clocks the size of houses. Breathe in the cold, sappy air, drive roller-coaster roads to middle-of-nowhere lakes, have your cake, walk it off on trail after trail, then hide away in a heavy-lidded farmhouse. Hear that? Silence. What a wonderful thing.

Schiltach | MATT MUNRO/LONELY PLANET ©

Top Experiences

The Romantic Rhine

As the mighty Rhine flows from Rüdesheim to Koblenz, the landscape’s unique face-off between rock and water creates a magical mix of the wild (churning whirlpools, dramatic cliffs), the agricultural (near-vertical vineyards), the medieval (hilltop castles, half-timbered hamlets), the legendary (Loreley) and the modern (in the 19th-century sense: barges, ferries, passenger steamers and trains). From every riverside village, trails take you through vineyards and forests, up to panoramic viewpoints and massive stone fortresses, and back to a romantic evening spent sampling the local wines.

CSP/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Heidelberg

The 19th-century romantics found sublime beauty and spiritual inspiration in Germany’s oldest university town and so, in his way, did Mark Twain, who was beguiled by the ruins of the hillside castle. Generations of students have attended lectures, sung lustily with beer steins in hand, carved their names into tavern tables and, occasionally, been sent to the student jail. All of this has left its mark on the modern-day city, where age-old traditions endure alongside world-class research, innovative cultural events and a sometimes raucous nightlife scene.

Universitätsbibliothek | G215/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Bamberg

Often overlooked by travellers but actually one of Germany’s most attractive towns, Bamberg is a medieval and baroque masterwork chock-full of Unesco-listed townhouses that were mercifully spared the destruction of WWII. Half of the Altstadt’s beauty comes from its location straddling two waterways, the River Regnitz and the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal. Away from the urban eye candy, lower-brow entertainment is provided by Bamberg’s numerous brewpubs, which cook up the town’s unique Rauchbier (smoked beer) – some say it tastes a bit like bacon.

Schlenkerla tavern | EMILIO VILLEGAS/500PX ©

Top Experiences

Trier

There was a time when Trier was the capital of Western Europe. That time was 2000 years ago, when Emperor Constantine ruled the fading Roman Empire from here. Nowhere else in Germany has the Roman legacy survived as beautifully and tangibly as in this charming town with its ancient amphitheatre, thermal baths and Porta Nigra city gate – Unesco noticed, designating nine World Heritage sites. Today, Germany’s oldest city is as unhurried as the Moselle River it sits on, within a grape toss of the country’s finest – and steepest – vineyards.

LIANEM/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

German Food & Drink

If you crave traditional German comfort food, you’ll certainly find plenty of places to indulge in a meat-potato-cabbage diet. These days, though, ‘typical’ German fare is lighter, healthier, more creative and prepared with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. The cities especially brim with organic eateries, gourmet kitchens, vegan bistros and a UN’s worth of ethnic restaurants. Talented chefs have been racking up the Michelin stars, especially in the Black Forest. And then there’s German beer and bread. Is there any other country that does either better?

MARK READ/LONELY PLANET ©

Top Experiences

Potsdam

We can almost guarantee that your camera will have a love affair with Potsdam’s marvellous palaces, idyllic parks, stunning views, inspired architecture and tantalising Cold War sites. Just across the Glienicke ‘spy bridge’ from Berlin, the state capital of Brandenburg was catapulted to prominence by King Frederick the Great. His giddily rococo Schloss Sanssouci is the glorious crown of this Unesco-recognised cultural tapestry that synthesises 18th-century artistic trends from around Europe in one stupendous masterpiece.

LEO SEIDEL/STIFTUNG PREUSSISCHE SCHLÖSSER UND GÄRTEN BERLIN-BRANDENBURG ©

Top Experiences

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

With its jumble of neatly restored half-timbered houses enclosed by sturdy ramparts, Rothenburg ob der Tauber lays on the medieval cuteness with a trowel. (One might even say it’s too cute for its own good, if the deluges of day trippers are any indication.) The trick is to experience this historical wonderland at its most magical: early or late in the day, when the last coaches have hit the road and you can soak up the romance all by yourself on gentle strolls along moonlit cobbled lanes.

ZOOM-ZOOM/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Hamburg

Anyone who thinks Germany doesn’t have round-the-clock delights hasn’t been to Hamburg. This ancient, wealthy city on the Elbe traces it roots back to the Hanseatic League and beyond. By day you can tour its magnificent port, explore its history in restored quarters and discover shops selling goods you didn’t think were sold. By night, some of Europe’s best music clubs pull in the punters, and diversions for virtually every other taste are plentiful as well. And then, another Hamburg day begins.

HafenCity | IGOR TICHONOW/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Dresden

The apocalypse came on a February night in 1945 – hours of carpet-bombing reduced Germany’s ‘Florence on the Elbe’ to a smouldering pile of bricks. The dead Dresden’s comeback is nothing short of a miracle. Reconstructed architectural jewels pair with stunning art collections that justify the city’s place in the pantheon of European cultural capitals. Add to that an energetic pub quarter, Daniel Libeskind’s dramatically redesigned Military History Museum and a tiara of villas and palaces lining up along the river and you’ve got one enticing package of discovery.

NESSA GNATOUSH/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Nuremberg

Capital of Franconia, an independent region until 1806, Nuremberg may conjure visions of Nazi rallies and grisly war trials, but there’s so much more to this energetic city. Dürer hailed from the Altstadt, his house now a museum. Germany’s first railway trundled from here to neighbouring Fürth, leaving a trail of choo-choo heritage. And Germany’s toy capital has heaps of things for kids to enjoy. When you’re done with sightseeing, the local beer is as dark as the coffee and best employed to chase down Nuremberg’s delicious finger-sized bratwurst.

SEANPAVONEPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO ©

Top Experiences

Cologne Cathedral

At unexpected moments you see it: Cologne’s cathedral, the city’s twin-towered icon, looming over an urban vista and the timeless course of the Rhine. And why shouldn’t it? This perfectly formed testament to faith and conviction was started in 1248 and completed six centuries later. You can feel the echoes of the passage of time as you sit in its soaring stained-glass-lit and artwork-filled interior. Climb the 95m-high tower for views of the surrounding city that are like no others.

PHOTOSOUNDS/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Saxon Switzerland

Isn’t nature incredible? This is the first thought that springs to mind when you clap eyes on the sandstone wonderland of the Sächsische Schweiz, just south of Dresden. A bizarre rockscape of pinnacles, buttresses, mesas and spires, this national park – a favourite of 19th-century Romantic artists – is arrestingly beautiful. And its beauty, some say, is best appreciated by hitting one of the many hiking trails leading deep into thick forest or to medieval castle ruins. Free climbers are in their element in these rugged heights.

MAKS ERSHOV/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Oktoberfest

Anyone with a taste for hops-scented froth knows that the daddy of all beer festivals, Oktoberfest, takes place annually in Munich. The world’s favourite suds-fest actually begins in mid-September and runs for 16 ethanol-fuelled days on the Theresienwiese (Theresa’s Meadow), with troops of crimson-faced oompah bands entertaining revellers; armies of traditionally garbed locals and foreigners guzzling their way through seven million litres of lager; and entire farms of chickens hitting the grill. So find your favourite tent and raise your 1L stein. ‘O’zapft is!’ (The tap is in!).

F.CADIOU/GETTY IMAGES

Top Experiences

Frankfurt

Germany’s financial capital, Frankfurt may first appear all buttoned up, but behind the corporate demeanour lurks a city brimming with cultural, culinary and shopping diversions. The best way to discover the city’s soul is to head away from the high-rises. It’s easy to join Frisbee-tossing locals in the grassy parkland along the Main River, grab an espresso at an old-time cafe, go museum-hopping along the riverbank and sip tart Ebbelwei (apple cider) while tucking into hearty local fare at a wood-panelled tavern.

JULY7TH/GETTY IMAGES ©

Need to Know

For more information, see Survival Guide

Currency

Euro (€)

Language

German

Visas

Generally not required for tourist stays up to 90 days (or at all for EU nationals); some nationalities need a Schengen Visa.

Money

ATMs widely available in cities and towns, rarely in villages. Credit cards are not widely accepted.

Mobile Phones

Mobile phones operate on GSM 900/1800. If you have a European or Australian phone, save money by slipping in a German SIM card.

Time

Central European Time (GMT/UTC plus one hour).

When to Go

High Season (Jul–Aug)

A Busy roads and long lines at key sights.

A Vacancies at a premium and higher prices in seaside and mountain resorts.

A Festivals celebrate everything from music to wine and sailing to samba.

Shoulder Season (Apr–Jun, Sep–Oct)

A Expect smaller crowds and lower prices, except on public holidays.

A Blooming, colourful flowers in spring and radiant foliage in autumn.

A Sunny, temperate weather that’s ideal for outdoor pursuits and exploration.

Low Season (Nov–Mar)

A No queues but shorter hours at key sights, some of which may close for the season.

A Theatre, concert and opera season in full swing.

A Ski resorts busiest in January and February.

Useful Websites

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/germany) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

German National Tourist Office (www.germany.travel) The low-down on every aspect of travel in Germany, with handy maps and a personal travel planner.

Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com) The latest news in English.

Facts About Germany (www.tatsachen-ueber-deutschland.de/en) Reference tool covering all aspects of German society.

Deutschland Online (www.magazine-deutschland.de) Insightful features on culture, business and politics.

Online German course (www.deutsch-lernen.com) Brush up on your Deutsch with free online lessons – from beginners to advanced.

Important Numbers

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than €120

A Hostel, camping or private room: €15–30

A Low-cost meal or self-catering: up to €8

A Day ticket on public transport: €5–7

Midrange: €120–200

A Private apartment or double room: €60–120

A Three-course dinner at a good restaurant: €30–40

A Couple of beers in a pub or beer garden: €8

Top end: More than €200

A Fancy loft apartment or double in top hotel: from €150

A Sit-down lunch or dinner at top-rated restaurant: €100

A Concert or opera tickets: €50–150

Opening Hours

The following are typical opening hours; these may vary seasonally and between cities and villages. We’ve provided those applicable in high season.

Banks 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday, extended hours usually Tuesday and Thursday, some open Saturday

Bars 6pm to 1am

Cafes 8am to 8pm

Clubs 11pm to early morning

Post offices 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 9am–1pm Saturday

Restaurants 11am to 11pm (food service often stops at 9pm in rural areas)

Major stores and supermarkets 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Saturday (shorter hours outside city centres)

Arriving in Germany

Frankfurt Airport S-Bahn train lines S8 and S9 link the airport with the city centre several times hourly for €4.90 (11 minutes). Taxis make the trip in 20 to 30 minutes and average €30.

Munich Airport The S1 and S8 trains link the airport with the city centre in 40 minutes (€10.80). The Lufthansa Airport Bus (€10.50) departs every 20 minutes and takes about the same time as the train. A taxi costs about €60.

Getting Around

Germans are whizzes at moving people around, and the public transport network is one of the best in Europe. The best ways of getting around the country are by car and by train.

Train Extensive network of long-distance and regional trains with frequent departures; fairly expensive but numerous deals available.

Car Useful for travelling at your own pace or for visiting regions with no or minimal public transport. Cars can be hired in every town and city. Drive on the right.

Bus Cheaper and slower than trains and with a growing long-haul network. Regional bus services fill the gaps in areas not served by rail.

Air Only useful for longer distances, eg Hamburg to Munich or Berlin to Munich.

For much more, see Getting Around

First Time Germany

For more information, see Survival Guide

Checklist

A Make sure your passport is valid for at least four months

A Make advance bookings for events, travel, accommodation and sights

A Check the airline baggage restrictions

A Alert your credit-/debit-card company

A Organise travel insurance

A Check your mobile/cell phone restrictions

A Find out what you need to hire a car

What to Pack

A Good walking shoes and a daypack for mountain and forest trails

A Travel adapter plug

A Umbrella/raincoat

A Bathing suit

A Sunhat and sunglasses

A Ski gear and multiple layers (in winter)

A Pocket knife

A Curiosity and a sense of humour

Top Tips for Your Trip

A As much fun as it is to tear up the rubber on the autobahn, make sure you get onto some country roads to sample the sublime scenery.

A Go local. A destination’s spirit best reveals itself to those leaving the main sights and walking around a neighbourhood.

A Don’t be shy about chatting to strangers. Most Germans speak at least a few words of English. Ask locals for recommendations.

A Make the most of local money-saving guest cards; look out for the Sparpreis (saver fare) when you book with Deutsche Bahn in advance.

What to Wear

Anything goes, but if you want to blend in, remember that Hamburg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Munich are considerably more fashion-conscious than Berlin, Cologne or Dresden. Since the weather is unpredictable, even in summer, bring layers of clothing. A waterproof coat and sturdy shoes are a good idea. Winters can get fiercely cold, so pack gloves, a hat, and a heavy coat and boots. For evening wear, smart casual is the norm, but upmarket places may insist on shoes (not trainers) and trousers or dresses instead of jeans. Jackets and ties are only required in casinos and at the most formal establishments.

Sleeping

Outside of high season, around holidays and during major trade shows it’s generally not necessary to book accommodation in advance.

Hotels Range from mom-and-pop joints to restored castles and international chains.

Hostels Both indie hostels and those belonging to Hostelling International are plentiful.

Ferienwohnungen Furnished flats and holiday homes, particularly prevalent in rural areas. Inexpensive option for families and groups.

Gasthäuser/Gasthöfe Country inns, often in lovely locations, offer cultural immersion and a restaurant.

Pensionen The German version of B&Bs is prevalent in rural areas and offers good value.

Money

Germany is still largely a cash-based society and credit card use is not common. International hotel chains, high-end restaurants, department stores and fancy boutiques usually accept credit cards, but enquire first. Mastercard and Visa are more widely accepted than American Express and Diners Club. ATMs are ubiquitous in towns and cities but not usually in rural areas. ATMs do not recognise PINs with more than four digits.

For more information, see here.

Bargaining

Gentle haggling is common at flea markets; in all other instances you’re expected to pay the stated price. In hotels, you may get a better rate if you’re staying more than one night.

Tipping

Hotels €1 per bag is standard. It’s nice to leave a little cash for the room cleaners (€1 or €2 per day).

Restaurants Bills always include Bedienung (service charge); most people add 5% or 10% unless service was truly abhorrent.

Bars About 5%, rounded to nearest euro. For drinks brought to your table, tip as for restaurants.

Taxis Tip about 10%, rounded to the nearest euro.

Toilet attendants Loose change.

Language

In all but the most off-the-radar places, it is perfectly possible to travel in Germany without speaking a word of German, but life gets easier – and more enjoyable – if you master a few basic phrases. People are more likely to speak English in big cities, the western part of the country and in tourist hot-spots. Things get a little trickier in rural areas, especially in the former East Germany.

Etiquette

Germany is a fairly formal society; the following tips will help you avoid faux pas.

Greetings Shake hands and say Guten Morgen(before noon), Guten Tag(between noon and 6pm) or Guten Abend(after 6pm). Use the formal Sie(you) with strangers and only switch to the informal duand first names if invited to do so. With friends and children, use first names and du.

Asking for Help Germans use the same word, Entschuldigung’, to say ‘excuse me’ (to attract attention) and ‘sorry’ (to apologise).

Eating & Drinking At the table, say ‘Guten Appetit’ before digging in. Germans hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. To signal that you have finished eating, lay your knife and fork parallel across your plate. If drinking wine, the proper toast is ‘Zum Wohl’, with beer it’s ‘Prost’.

What’s New

Elbphilharmonie

The icing on the cake of Hamburg’s revamped HafenCity waterfront district is this architecturally striking concert hall and performance space, courtesy of Pritzker Prize winning architects Herzog & de Meuron.

Swabian Alps

Cue prehistory: the cave-riddled Swabian Alps are having a moment after snapping up Unesco World Heritage status in 2017 for their peerless stash of ice age art, dating from 43,000 to 33,000 years ago.

Urban Nation

Click into Berlin’s ever-evolving street art scene at this museum bringing urban artists with attitude and edge to the fore. Even the facade itself is a giant canvas.

Bauhaus Museum

Weimar’s new Bauhaus Museum is set to open just in time for the seminal artistic movement’s centenary in 2019.

Weissenhof Estate

The clean-lined aesthetic of Le Corbusier’s modernist residential buildings shine at the newly reopened Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart. Unesco approved.

Pergamon Panorama

Unveiled in summer 2018 in a space opposite the Pergamonmuseum, Yadegar Asisi’s mind-blowing 360-degree panorama wings you back to Ancient Greece.

Dresden’s Zwinger

Dresden’s number one baroque palace is undergoing a major revamp and is set to shine again in all its lavish glory when it reopens in 2019.

Gin Monkey

The global thirst for quality craft gins shows no sign of waning, and Monkey 47 is swinging with its Black Forest botanicals and distillery tours (free but make sure you book well ahead).

Testturm

Going up… Rottweil’s futuristic, 246m-high Testturm, open to the public since late 2017, has Germany’s highest lookout platform and ravishing views of the Black Forest.

Hochmoselbrücke

Straddling the Moselle Valley, this 1.7km new road bridge is slated to open in late 2018, linking Ürzig and Zeltingen-Rachtig and providing speedy links to the Frankfurt area and beyond.

Museum Barberini

Opened in 2017, this outstanding Potsdam museum lodges in a replica baroque Roman palazzo. The collection of old and modern masters was bankrolled by billionaire software magnate Hasso Plattner.

For more recommendations and reviews, see lonelyplanet.com/germany

If You Like…

Castles & Palaces

Over centuries, Germany has collected castles and palaces the way some people collect stamps – a legacy of the feudal system that saw the country divided into hundreds of fiefdoms until its 1871 unification.

Schloss Neuschwanstein Germany’s most famous palace was the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle.

Wartburg Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German while hiding at this Eisenach medieval castle.

Schloss Heidelberg Destroyed repeatedly throughout the centuries, there’s still a majesty surrounding this red-sandstone hilltop Gothic pile.

Burg Hohenzollern Every inch the fairy-tale dream, this castle’s the ancestral seat of the Prussian ruling family.

Romantic Rhine Castles More than a dozen medieval robber-baron hang-outs straddle craggy hilltops along this fabled river stretch.

Schloss Sanssouci Frederick the Great sought solace amid the intimate splendour of his Potsdam summer palace.

A replica of Martin Luther’s desk at Wartburg | MATT MUNRO/LONELY PLANET ©

Churches & Cathedrals

More than places of worship, Germany’s churches and cathedrals are also great architectural monuments often filled with priceless treasures reflecting artistic acumen through the ages.

Kölner Dom The riverside twin spires of the Germany’s largest cathedral dominate Cologne’s skyline.

Aachener Dom Some 30 German kings were crowned where Charlemagne lies buried in an elaborate gilded shrine.

Schlosskirche Martin Luther is buried inside the church where he pinned his 95 theses in 1517.

Wieskirche Rococo church rising from an Alpine meadow where a miracle-working Jesus statue was found.

Frauenkirche Dresden’s harmoniously proportioned church rose from the ashes of WWII with this spitting-image replica.

Ulmer Münster The world’s tallest steeple tops this Goliath of cathedrals, which took 500 years to build.

Enchanting Villages

There’s no simpler pleasure than strolling around a charismatic village laced with time-worn lanes, peppered with ancient churches and anchored by a fountain-studded square.

Quedlinburg Drift around this medieval warren of cobbled lanes lined by more than 1400 half-timbered houses.

Lindau Pastel-painted Lindau has a 9th-century pedigree and a to-die-for location on a Lake Constance island.

Bacharach Pint-sized medieval Moselle town flanked by vineyards and lorded over by a mighty castle.

Schiltach In the Kinzig Valley, this romantic Black Forest town oozes history from every flower-festooned facade.

Görlitz Germany’s easternmost town is so pristinely preserved that it’s often used as a film location.

Celle A radiant old-world gem with colourfully painted and ornately carved half-timbered buildings.

Cochem Petite, pretty Moselle town with a hilltop castle and pastel houses.

WWII Sites

Shudder at the atrocities committed by the Nazis, then honour those who gave their lives to rid the world of the Third Reich at these original sites.

Berchtesgaden Alpine town home to Hitler’s southern headquarters at the Dokumentation Obersalzberg, and the ‘Eagle’s Nest’.

Concentration Camps WWII’s darkest side is commemorated at Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mittelbau Dora, Sachsenhausen and Neuengamme camps.

Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz Nazis plotted the ‘Final Solution’ – the systematic deportation and murder of Jews – at this villa.

Historisch-Technisches Museum The deadly V2 rocket was developed in a Usedom Island research facility, now this museum.

Nuremberg See the site of Nazi mass rallies at the Reichsparteitagsgelände, then visit the Nuremberg Trials courtroom.

Laboe Clamber around WWII-era U-Boat 995 in this town on Kiel Firth.

Denkort Bunker Valentin This former submarine factory, built with slave labour, was one of Nazi Germany’s largest military projects.

Topographie des Terrors The site where the Gestapo headquarters and SS central command once stood.

Hamburg A window into Nazi horrors at Bullenhuser Damm Schule and former concentration camp Gedenkstätte Neuengamme.

The entrance to the Gedenkstätte Buchenwald outside Weimar | IURII BURIAK/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Jewish Sites

Jewish history in Germany is often equated with the Holocaust, but not even the Nazis could wipe out 1600 years of Jewish life and cultural contributions to this country.

Holocaust Memorial Peter Eisenman poignantly captures the Holocaust’s horror with this vast undulating maze of tomb-like plinths.

Jüdisches Museum Extraordinary zinc-clad building that’s a powerful metaphor for Berlin’s chronicle of Jewish life in Germany.

Ulmer Synagogue Ulm’s architectural showstopper sits near where the former synagogue was destroyed during Kristallnacht in 1938.

Judenhof The oldest, largest and best preserved Mikwe (ritual bath) north of the Alps.

Museum Judengasse This recently revamped museum traces Jewish life, with remains of Frankfurt’s former ghetto.

Stolpersteine Blocks embedded in pavements throughout Germany marking the last residences of Jews deported by Nazis.

Alte Synagoge Dating partly to the 11th century, this synagogue in Erfurt is one of Europe’s oldest.

Train Journeys

Slow travel was never more fun than aboard Germany’s historical trains, some of them more than 100 years old and pulled by steam locomotives.

Zugspitzbahn Have your breath literally taken away on this pulse-quickening journey up Germany’s tallest mountain.

Molli Schmalspurbahn This pint-sized train has shuttled through gorgeous scenery from Bad Doberan to Heiligendamm since 1886.

Harzer Schmalspurbahnen The mother lode for narrow-gauge train fans traverses the Harz Mountains on three scenic routes.

Lössnitzgrundbahn The most scenic approach to Moritzburg Castle near Dresden is aboard this historical steam train.

Chiemseebahn Dating from 1887, this is the world’s oldest narrow-gauge steam train.

Schwarzaldbahn The Black Forest opens up like a kids’ picture book on this scenic ride between Konstanz and Offenburg.

Harzer Schmalspurbahnen | MICHAEL715/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Breweries & Distilleries

Beer is as popular as ever, natürlich, but muscling in on the action are craft microbreweries and distilleries quenching the thirst for small-batch spirits.

Monkey 47 For German craft gin, this Black Forest distillery is at the top of the tree.

BRLO One of Berlin’s foremost craft breweries – head straight for the beer garden in summer.

Zum Uerige Pull up a chair in this old-world Düsseldorf boozer for hoppy, malty Altbier brews.

Jägermeister Factory Tour Learn all about the famous green herbal liqueur at the HQ in Wolfenbüttel.

Brauerei zur Malzmühle A Cologne brewpub classic, where you can quaff malty Mühlen Kölsch.

Beck’s Brewery Factory Tour Tours and tastings at one of Germany’s most internationally famous breweries.

Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan The world’s oldest operating brewery, rolling out the barrel in Bavaria since 1040.

Wine Tasting

Estate tastings, vineyard hikes, cellar tours or wine festivals; an immersion in German wine culture should be part of every itinerary.

Rüdesheim Sample the renowned Rieslings of the celebrated Rheingau region.

Kaiserstuhl Sun and fertile soil create ideal conditions for Spätburger (Pinot Noir) and Grauburgunder (Pinot gris).

Deutsche Weinstrasse The bucolic German Wine Route is famous for muscular Rieslings and robust Dornfelder reds.

Moselle This meandering region grows light-bodied whites and has a wine-growing tradition rooted in Roman times.

Mittelrhein Wine tasting here is as much about the romantic Rhine Gorge setting as the wonderful vintages.

Freyburg This lovely riverside town is the home of Rotkäppchen, Germany’s largest producer of sparkling wine.

Historisches Museum der Pfalz The world’s oldest wine is among the fascinating exhibits at this well-curated museum in Speyer.

Great Outdoors

Germany is an all-seasons outdoor playground – whatever your adrenaline fix, you’ll find it here.

Black Forest Fir-cloaked hills, steep gorges, misty waterfalls and sweeping viewpoints await in this fabled region.

Spreewald Dip your paddles into this timeless warren of gentle waterways near Berlin.

Altmühltal Radweg Stop at a pebbled beach after pedalling past rock formations carved by this Bavarian river.

Saxon Switzerland Rock hounds can choose from hundreds of climbs on soul-stirring cliffs and rockscapes.

Zugspitze Only seasoned mountaineers should make the breathtaking ascent to the ‘roof’ of Germany.

Oberstdorf Downhill, cross-country or boarding: this pretty region has a piste with your name on it.

Kellerwald-Edersee Immerse yourself in the ethereal wilderness of ancient beech forests in this national park.

Islands

For an authentic experience off the usual tourist track, catch a boat to these offshore escapes.

Rügen Germany’s largest island has sandy beaches, white chalk cliffs and historical resorts.

East Frisian Islands There are more seals than people on these flat-as-a-pancake islets in the North Sea.

Mainau This garden island has an enchanting profusion of tulips, dahlias, roses and orchids.

Sylt Big wind and waves translate into world-class windsurfing on this North Sea island.

Hiddensee For a genuine sense of happy isolation, visit this car-free Baltic island in the winter.

Herreninsel This island in the Chiemsee is home to Ludwig’s II grandest palace, Schloss Herrenchiemsee.

Norderney The most accessible of the East Frisian Islands has enough soft white sand for everyone.

Month by Month

TOP EVENTS

Berlin Film Festival February

Karneval/Fasching February

Kieler Woche June

Oktoberfest September

Christmas Markets December

January

Except in the ski resorts, the Germans have the country pretty much to themselves this month. The short and cold days make this a good time to make in-depth explorations of museums and churches.

2 Mountain Madness

Grab your skis or snowboard and hit the slopes in top resorts that range from glam (Garmisch-Partenkirchen) to family-friendly (Bavarian Forest). No matter whether you’re a black diamond daredevil or Sesame Street novice, there’s a piste for you.

February

It’s not as sweltering as Rio, but the German Carnival is still a good excuse for a party. Ski resorts are busiest thanks to school holidays; make reservations.

3 Berlin Film Festival

Stars, directors and critics sashay down the red carpet for two weeks of screenings and glamour parties at the Berlinale, one of Europe’s most prestigious celluloid festivals.

z Karneval (Fasching)

The pre-Lenten season is celebrated with costumed street partying, parades, satirical shows and general revelry. The biggest parties are along the Rhine in Düsseldorf, Cologne and Mainz, but the Black Forest, Munich and samba-crazy Bremen also have their own traditions.

March

Days start getting longer and the first inkling of spring is in the air. Fresh herring hits the menus, especially along the coastal regions, and dishes prepared with Bärlauch (wild garlic) are all the rage.

z Cebit

Geeks, suits and the merely tech-curious all converge en masse on Hanover’s fairground for the world’s largest digital trade fair.

April

Come April, there’s no escaping the Easter Bunny in Germany. Meanwhile, nothing epitomises the arrival of spring more than the first crop of white asparagus. Germans go nuts for it.

1 Maifest

Villagers celebrate the end of winter on 30 April by chopping down a tree for a maypole (Maibaum), painting, carving and decorating it, and staging a merry revelry with traditional costumes, singing and dancing.

1 Walpurgisnacht

The pagan Witches’ Sabbath festival on 30 April sees Harz villages roaring to life as young and old dress up as witches and warlocks and parade through the streets singing and dancing.

May

One of the loveliest months, often surprisingly warm and sunny, perfect for ringing in beer garden season. Plenty of public holidays, which Germans turn into extended weekends or miniholidays, meaning busy roads and lodging shortages.

1 Labour Day

Some cities host political demonstrations for workers’ rights on 1 May, a public holiday in Germany. In Berlin, protests have taken on a violent nature in the past, although now it’s mostly a big street fair.

z Hafengeburtstag

Hamburg lets its hair down in early May at this raucous three-day harbourside festival with a fun fair, music and merriment.

1 Vatertag

Father’s Day, now also known as Männertag (Men’s Day), is essentially an excuse for men to get liquored up with the blessing of the missus. It’s always on Ascension Day.

3 International Händel Festival

Göttingen rocks with baroque at its International Händel Festival in mid-May, with a formidable line-up of opera, oratorios and concerts.

1 Muttertag

Mothers are honoured on the second Sunday of May, much to the delight of florists, sweet shops and greeting-card companies. Make restaurant reservations far in advance.

z Karneval der Kulturen

Hundreds of thousands of revellers celebrate Berlin’s multicultural tapestry with parties, exotic nosh and a fun parade of flamboyantly dressed dancers, DJs, artists and musicians shimmying through the streets of Kreuzberg.

z Wave-Gotik-Treffen

Thousands of Goths paint the town black as they descend upon Leipzig during the long Whitsuntide/Pentecost weekend, in what is billed as the world’s largest Goth gathering.

2 Stocherkahnrennen

Tübingen’s traditional punting boat race pits rivalling student fraternities against each other in a hilarious and wacky costumed spectacle on the Neckar River.

June

Germany’s festival pace quickens, while gourmets can rejoice in the bounty of fresh, local produce in the markets. Life moves outdoors as the summer solstice means the sun doesn’t set until around 9.30pm.

z Africa-Festival

Europe’s largest festival of African music and culture attracts an estimated 100,000 people to Würzburg with concerts, foods and crafts.

2 Kieler Woche

Around half a million salty types flock to the Baltic Sea each summer when Kiel hosts the world’s biggest boat party, with hundreds of regattas, ship parades, historical vessels and nonstop week-long partying.

3 Bachfest

This nine-day music festival in Leipzig celebrates not only the work of Johann Sebastian Bach but also of other major composers.

z Christopher Street Day

No matter your sexual persuasion, come out and paint the town pink at major gay-pride celebrations in Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg.

July

School’s out for the summer and peak travelling season begins. Pre-book accommodation whether you’re headed to the mountains or the coast. Swimming is now possible in lakes, rivers, and the Baltic and North seas.

3 Samba Festival

This orgy of song and dance in Coburg attracts around 100 bands and 3000 performers from a dozen nations, and up to 200,000 visitors.

3 Schlagermove

Hamburg’s St Pauli quarter reverberates with 1970s disco-pop fun and fashion at this flamboyant street parade reaching from the port area to the Reeperbahn.

3 Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival

Leading international musicians and promising young artists perform during this festival, in castles, churches, warehouses and animal barns throughout Germany’s northernmost state. Held from mid-July until August.

August

August tends to be Germany’s hottest month but days are often cooled by afternoon thunderstorms. It’s the season for Pfifferlinge (chanterelle mushrooms) and fresh berries, which you can pick in the forests.

z Stuttgarter Sommerfest

More than half a million people come out to Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz and Eckensee Lake for this chic four-day festival with open-air concerts, entertainment and culinary treats.

1 Kinderzeche

Dinkelsbühl, on the Romantic Road, hosts this 10-day festival featuring children performing in historical re-enactments, along with a pageant and the usual merriment.

3 MS Dockville

This happening music festival hits the south bank of the Elbe in Hamburg in mid-August, with established and up-and-coming musicians in the mix.

3 Wagner Festival

German high society descends upon Bayreuth to practise the art of listening at epic productions of Wagner operas staged in a custom-built festival hall. Mere mortals must hope to score tickets via a lottery system.

1 Museumsuferfest

Some 2.5 million culture vultures descend upon Frankfurt’s Museum Embankment in late August to nose around museums, shop for global crafts and enjoy concerts and dance performances along the Main River.

1 Shooting Festivals

More than a million Germans (mostly men) belong to shooting clubs and show off their skills at marksmen’s festivals. The biggest one is in Hanover; the oldest, in Düsseldorf.

6 Wine Festivals

Grapes ripen to a plump sweetness, and the wine festival season starts, with tastings, folkloric parades, fireworks and the election of local and regional wine queens. The Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt is one of the biggest and most famous of these festivals.

September

Often sunny but not too hot. The main travel season is over but September is busy thanks to lots of wine and autumn festivals. Trees may start changing colour towards the end of the month.

1 Erntedankfest

Rural German towns celebrate the annual harvest with decorated church altars, Erntedankzug (processions) and villagers dressed up in folkloric garments.

2 Berlin Marathon

Sweat it out with more than 40,000 runners or just cheer ‘em on during Germany’s biggest street race, which has seen nine world records set since 1977.

6 Oktoberfest

Dust off your Dirndl or squeeze into a strapping pair of Lederhosen for Munich’s legendary beer-swilling, stein-swinging party. There’s no beer fest bigger than this one.

6 Cannstatter Volksfest

Stuttgart’s answer to Oktoberfest, this beer-guzzling bash, held over three consecutive weekends, lifts spirits with oompah bands, carnival rides and fireworks.

3 Reeperbahn Festival

Live music of every imaginable genre cranks up at St Pauli’s venues – from nightclubs to churches – at Hamburg’s biggest bash.

October

Trade-fair season kicks into high gear, affecting lodging prices and availability in cities including Frankfurt, Cologne, Berlin and Hamburg. Tourist offices, museums and attractions start keeping shorter hours. Some close for the winter.

7 Frankfurt Book Fair

Bookworms invade Frankfurt for the world’s largest book fair, held over five days and featuring 7300 exhibitors from more than a hundred countries.

November

This can be a dreary month mainly spent indoors. However, queues at tourist sights are short and theatre, concert, opera and other cultural events are plentiful. Bring warm clothes and rain gear.

1 St Martinstag

This festival (10–11 November) honours the 4th-century St Martin, known for his humility and generosity, with a lantern procession and re-enactment of the famous scene where he cut his coat in half to share with a beggar. It’s followed by a stuffed roast-goose feast.

December

Cold, sun-deprived days are brightened by Advent, four weeks of festivities preceding Christmas celebrated with enchanting markets, illuminated streets, Advent calendars, candle-festooned wreaths, home-baked cookies and more. Ski resorts usually get their first snow dusting.

1 Nikolaustag

On the eve of 5 December, German children put their boots outside the door hoping that St Nick will fill them with sweets and small toys overnight. Ill-behaved children, though, may find only a prickly rod left behind by St Nick’s helper, Knecht Ruprecht.

7 Christmas Markets

Glühwein (mulled wine), spicy gingerbread biscuits, shimmering ornaments and decorations – these and lots more are typical features of German Christmas markets, held from late November until late December. Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is especially famous.

z Silvester

New Year’s Eve is called ‘Silvester’ in honour of the 4th-century pope under whom the Romans adopted Christianity as their official religion. The new year is greeted with fireworks launched by many thousands of amateur pyromaniacs.

Itineraries

Top of the Pops

2 WEEKS

Bookended by great cities, this road trip is a fine introduction for first-timers that lets you sample the best of German culture, character, architecture and landscapes.

Kick off in Berlin to sample its top-notch museums, old and bold architecture and nice-to-naughty nightlife. Next, drive to showstopping Dresden, sitting proud and pretty in its baroque splendour on the Elbe River. Push south to Nuremberg, with its evocative walled medieval centre, and on to Munich to wrap up a day of palace- and museum-hopping with an evening in a beer garden. Head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to breathe the fresh Alpine air on an exhilarating train-and-cable-car trip up the Zugspitze, then get up early the next day to beat the crowds swarming ‘Mad’ King Ludwig II’s Schloss Neuschwanstein in Füssen. In the afternoon, point the compass north for the Romantic Road, possibly overnighting in Dinkelsbühl or Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Next, cut west to historical Heidelberg, with its romantically ruined fortress, then north to Worms and Mainz with their majestic Romanesque cathedrals. After a night in enchanting Bacharach, follow the Romantic Rhine through fairy-tale scenery before winding up in cosmopolitan Cologne for church-hopping, great art and rustic beer halls.

Zugspitze | MILDAX/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Itineraries

Biggest Hits of the South

2 WEEKS

Follow this driving route linking the most storied stops in the south, including majestic mountains, legendary rivers, historical towns, half-timbered villages and lordly castles.

Start in Frankfurt, where you can soak up culture in world-class museums, apple wine in traditional taverns and skyline views from the Main River promenade. Steer northwest to Koblenz, the gateway to the Romantic Rhine, a scene-stealing combo of steeply terraced vineyards, lordly medieval castles and higgledy-piggledy villages. Say hello to the legendary Loreley as you follow the western river bank south, perhaps stopping in postcard-pretty Boppard and fairy-tale-like Bacharach, or fancying yourself knight or damsel for a night in a luxurious castle hotel. The next morning, make a quick stop in Mainz, where Johannes Gutenberg ushered in the information age by inventing moveable printing type.

Next, follow in the footsteps of Mark Twain in bewitching Heidelberg, Germany’s oldest university town, with its imposing hilltop castle. Take a day’s break from culture in Baden-Baden, the legendary spa resort where royals, celebrities, politicians and mere mortals have for centuries frolicked in elegant bathing temples. From here, go cuckoo for the Black Forest, an intoxicating mosaic of forest-cloaked hills, glacial lakes, snug valleys and half-timbered villages such as Gengenbach, Schiltach and Triberg. Build in at least a half-day in student-flavoured Freiburg, with its imposing minster; it’s the place to enjoy crisp local wine al fresco amid tangled cobbled lanes.

From here, cut east to Lake Constance and follow its scenic northern shore, perhaps stopping in pretty Meersburg, at the prehistoric Pfahlbauten (pile dwellings) or in Friedrichshafen, the birthplace of the Zeppelin airship. Overnight in lovely Lindau, a teensy, alley-laced island. You’re now in Bavaria, en route to the fabled Schloss Neuschwanstein in Füssen and on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where a train-and-cable-car combo delivers you to the top of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest Alpine peak. Come back down to earth in a beer hall in Munich before wrapping up your journey with a couple of days of oohing and aahing your way up the Romantic Road. Essential stops include Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Würzburg, from where it’s a quick drive back to Frankfurt.

Bacharach | SAIKO3P/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Itineraries

Tour de Germany

4 WEEKS

With a month at your disposal, this epic trip offers the mother lode of soul-stirring landscapes and villages but also lets you experience urban edginess in Germany’s top cities. It’s best done by car but a train-and-bus combo is also an option.

Base yourself in Berlin for a few days and add a one-day excursion to park-and-palace-filled Potsdam. Putter around, preferably in a kayak or canoe, the canal-laced Spreewald before embarking on a quick detour to Görlitz on the Polish border, one of Germany’s best-preserved small towns. Set aside two days to get properly acquainted with the cultural riches of Dresden, then continue on to Weimar and Erfurt to walk in the footsteps of Germany’s greatest intellects – from Luther and Goethe to Gropius.

Spend the next three days exploring a trio of evocative medieval gems: compact Bamberg with its romantic old town; the powerhouse of Nuremberg that is also (in)famous for its Third Reich legacy; and Regensburg, a lively university town studded with medieval townhouses overlooking the coursing Danube. Wend your way towards Munich via the enchanting Altmühltal Nature Park, best savoured slowly, on foot, by bike or by boat.

Make a study of Munich for a few days, with day trips up the Zugspitze and to King Ludwig II’s Schloss Neuschwanstein. Continue west to Lake Constance, where stops should include enchanting Lindau and picture-perfect Meersburg. Revel in the youthful university spirit of ancient Freiburg for a day, then steer north for scenic drives through the Black Forest, ending in Baden-Baden for the night. Relax in the town’s thermal spas before moving on to Heidelberg, with its ancient student taverns and charismatic ruined castle. Cut across the Rhine to Speyer for a spin around its Romanesque cathedral, then compare it to its upriver cousins in Worms and Mainz.

You’re in the heart of wine country now, so sample the local tipple in idyllic villages such as Bacharach or Boppard as you follow the Romantic Rhine north through dramatic castle-studded scenery. Your grand tour culminates in Cologne; its magnificent cathedral will come into view long before you’ve reached town. Its great museums, Romanesque churches and Rhenish joie de vivre will easily keep you entertained for a day or two.

Itineraries

Hanseatic Highlights

1 WEEK

This itinerary hops around northern Germany to delightful cities shaped by the sea and a long mercantile tradition rooted in the medieval Hanseatic League. You can drive it, but it’s just as easily done by train.

Kick off in cosmopolitan Hamburg, a maritime city that cradles an elegant historic centre, a converted docklands quarter, the red-brick Speicherstadt (warehouse district) and a gloriously seedy party and red-light district under its self-confident mantle. Venture on to enchanting Lübeck, where the landmark Holsten Gate is a shutterbug’s favourite. Try the delicious local marzipan before heading to pastoral Schwerin, a cultural hub hemmed in by crystalline lakes; sitting pretty on an island in one of them is the much-photographed, golden-domed Schloss Schwerin. Carry on to Bremen, the northern terminus of the ‘Fairy-Tale Road’. After greeting the statue of the Town Musicians, check out expressionist architecture, mummified corpses and the Beck’s brewery before partying until dawn in Das Viertel. Steer north to Bremerhaven, the port of dreams for millions hoping for a better life in the New World. The superb German Emigration Centre tells their story.

Itineraries

Romans, Rivers & Rieslings

1 WEEK

This scenic journey folds grand architecture, absorbing history, world-class art and fine wine into once enticing package.

Start in Cologne, where you can stand in awe of the twin-spired Kölner Dom, explore museums dedicated to chocolate, contemporary art or sports, and guzzle Kölsch beer in a Rhenish tavern. Head to Aachen to walk in the footsteps of Charlemagne and to munch on a Printen cookie, then travel back in time another few centuries in storied Trier. More than 2000 years old, it’s home to some of the finest Roman monuments north of the Alps. The following day, mosey along the Moselle River, which runs its serene, serpentine course past steep vineyards to meet the Rhine at Koblenz. En route, swoon over crisp Riesling in half-timbered Bernkastel-Kues or fairy-tale Beilstein, then compare it with wines grown in the slate-rich Rhine soil. Follow the Rhine south from Koblenz as it carves past picture-postcard villages including Boppard and Bacharach, craggy cliffs crowned by medieval castles and near-vertical vineyards. Wrap up in Mainz with its grand cathedral and fabulous museum dedicated to moveable type inventor and local boy Johannes Gutenberg.

Plan Your Trip

Germany Outdoors

Rain or shine, Germany’s outdoors is nothing short of extraordinary – whether you’re hiking in dark forests ripe for a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, diving into a gem-coloured Alpine lake, cycling along mighty rivers and lake shores, or schussing down slopes backed by mountains of myth.

Best of the Outdoors

Best Skiing

Bavarian Alps A holy grail for downhill and cross-country skiers, with titanic peaks, groomed slopes and an impeccable snow record.

Best Hiking

Black Forest Mile after pine-scented mile of trails weaving through forests, mist-enshrouded valleys and half-timbered villages, freshly minted for a fairy tale.

Best Climbing

Saxon Switzerland Sandstone wonderland with an exhilarating 1100 peaks and scenery that moves the soul.

Best Canoeing

Lake Constance Kayak over to Switzerland or Austria and glimpse the Alps on the horizon as you paddle.

Best Cycling

Altmühltal Radweg A ‘Best of Bavaria’ bike ride, taking in river bends and dense forests, ragged limestone cliffs and castle-topped villages.

Hiking & Mountaineering

Wanderlust? Germans coined the word. And their passion for Wandern (walking) is unrivalled. High-altitude treks in the Bavarian Alps, Black Forest hikes over wooded hill and dale, Rhineland vineyard strolls – this country will soon have you itching to grab your boots and stride its 200,000km of well-signposted trails, some traversing national and nature parks or biosphere reserves.

Local tourist offices can help you find a route to match your fitness and time frame, and can supply you with maps and tips. Many offer multiday ‘hiking without luggage’ packages that include accommodation and luggage transfers between hotels.

The Bavarian Alps are Germany’s mountaineering and rock-climbing heartland, whether for challenging ascents, day treks or multiday hut-to-hut hikes. Before heading out, seek local advice and instruction on routes, equipment and weather, as trails can be narrow, steep and have icy patches, even in summer.

The Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV; www.alpenverein.de) climbing association is a goldmine of information and maintains hundreds of Alpine huts, where you can spend the night and get a meal. Local DAV chapters also organise courses and guided treks. Membership can yield a 30% to 50% discount on huts, and other benefits.

Hiking in the Black Forest | JUERGEN WACKENHUT/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Rock Climbing

Clambering around steep rock faces is popular in the crag-riddled heights of central and southern Germany. Rock hounds test their mettle on limestone cliffs in Bavaria’s Altmühltal Nature Park, with climbs from grades 1 to 10. Another klettern (climbing) hotspot, particularly among free climbers, is Saxon Switzerland, with 1100 climbing peaks, routes graded 1 to 12, and exhilarating views over bizarre sandstone rock formations. Most towns have climbing walls where you can limber up. For information see www.dav-felsinfo.de, www.klettern.de or www.climbing.de.

Rock climbing, Saxon Switzerland | JONATHAN STOKES/LONELY PLANET ©

Best Walks for…

Alpine trekkers

Colossal mountains and jewel-coloured lakes in the Berchtesgaden National Park; a summit ascent to Zugspitze (2962m).

Family ramblers

Red squirrel-spotting on the trail shadowing Triberger Wasserfälle (163m), Germany’s highest waterfall.

Beachcombers

Bracing sea air atop the wild limestone cliffs of Rügen’s Stubbenkammer; dune walking on Sylt; walking across mudflats to the East Frisian Islands.

Culture cravers

The 410km Lutherweg

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