Germany things to see and do

Tourist offices

German National Tourist Office in the UK

PO Box 2695, London, W1A 3TN, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7317 0908.

German National Tourist Office in the USA

122 East 42nd Street, Suite 2000, New York, NY, 10168, United States
Tel: (212) 661 7200.

Things to see and do

Admire Dresden’s rise from the ashes

WWII left Dresden in a sorrowful state, but the city recovered sufficiently to become the spirited and arty destination it is today. It is handsome too, thanks in part to the Dresden Frauenkirche church, which was resurrected beautifully and restored as the skyline-dominating feature it deserves to be.

Cruise The Rhine

The Rhine (spelt Rhein in German) is one of the longest rivers in Europe, and one of its most impressive to boot. Take a cruise from Koblenz past fairytale castles, pretty villages and the imposing Lorelei Rock, legendary home of a siren said to have lured boatmen to their demise.

Cycle the Romantic Road

Germany has more than 200 long-distance cycle paths that spin from riverside routes and chocolate box villages to major cities and mountain-bike trails. Arguably the most picturesque of the lot is the 350km-long (220 mile) Romantic Road that stretches from Wurzburg (near Frankfurt) to the Austrian border. And yes, tandem bikes are available to hire.

Drink in Frankfurt’s medieval core

Frankfurt is best known as a financial centre (its gleaming office-block skyline has been coined 'Mainhattan') but there's much to draw cultural tourists too. Its historic core dates back to medieval times and several attractive landmark buildings remain, while its local tipple, ebbelwoi (applewine), should be experienced if not enjoyed.

Enjoy a beer at Oktoberfest

First held in 1810, Munich’s much eulogised festival is a 16-day celebration of Bavarian culture, with top billing afforded to local beers and belly-filling food. Expect fairground rides and live music too. However, if you’re planning a visit, be aware that the majority of the festival falls late September, despite its name.

Escape the past in Essen

Crowned the European Capital of Culture in 2010, Essen has grown from a staid mining city into remarkable example of how industrial infrastructure can be repurposed to artistic effect. Shaft 12 at Zollverein Coal Mine is now a Bauhaus-inspired, UNESCO-listed, design museum, while the city’s upcoming European Green Capital 2017 nod proves a past usurped.

Explore Neuschwanstein Castle

The archetypal fairytale palace, world-famous Neuschwanstein stands among Alpine foothills in Bavaria. It’s the most elaborate of King Ludwig II’s castles, with much of its design inspired by Wagnerian operas. And if you think the outside looks dramatic, wait until you see the gilded decor and furnishings that the interior serves up.

Fall in love with Germany’s most romantic town, Heidelberg

Boasting a glorious woodland setting on the broad Neckar River, Heidelberg draws large numbers of visitors for its formidable renaissance castle, cosy cafes and literature-culture with bookshops, poetry events and academic happenings. Germany’s oldest university town is also the birthplace of German Romanticism and is famed for its picturesque panoramas along the riverside Philosophers' Walk (Philosophenweg).

Find adventure in the Bavarian Alps

Forming a long natural divide along the Austrian border, the Bavarian Alps are a strikingly attractive spectacle. Easily reachable from Munich, outdoor enthusiasts will be in their element here with plenty of skiing, hiking and canoeing options. Those more intent on relaxation can unwind and unknot in a slew of top-notch spas.

Find history and hedonism in Berlin

Blessed with the Brandenburg Gate, Charlottenburg Palace and Reichstag building, Berlin is rich in history, including volatile marks from the 20th century like the Führer Headquarters and Berlin Wall. But brightened by street art, sound-tracked by an underground dance scene and thriving creatively, modern Berlin shines for visitors too.

Find the beating heart of Hamburg

As Germany’s second largest metropolis, the northern port city of Hamburg offers rich pickings for tourists. Colourful and cosmopolitan, the city has music at its heart: retrace the steps of The Beatles along the Reeperbahn; enjoy the fervent live scene; or dance to DJs until the small hours. The Speicherstadt’s neo-gothic canals are best explored at night.

Indulge your intellect at Weimar

The 1,000-year-old city of Weimar has been home to many great writers, musicians, composers and poets, including Goethe, Luther, Bach, Liszt, Wagner and Schiller. An essential southern stop for any culture vulture, this creative centre experienced its golden age in the 18th and 19th centuries, and remains visually pleasing too.

Sample the Moselle Valley Vineyards

Getting to know the world-famous wineries of the Moselle Valley is a rewarding way to sample rural Germany. Aside the steep banks of the river Moselle, the culture remains traditional, pace of life slow and its scenery grandly evocative. The white wines here are well worthy of extensive acquaintance as well.

Take your time in the Black Forest

Few parts of Germany’s countryside are as storied as the Black Forest: a dense, green mountain range in the southwest. Hiking is the best way to explore the photogenic beauty and sky-high peaks of this national park, while the forest is also home to a large number of small character-rich towns, including Triberg im Schwarzwald, which is home to the world’s largest cuckoo clock.

Visit Cologne Christmas Market

The run-up to Christmas sees the towns and cities of the nation come alive with traditional street markets, and nowhere more so than in Cologne (Köln). Toys, gingerbread and handmade presents are among the countless festive items on sale, while warming glühwein (mulled wine) forms an integral part of the experience.

Walk the Rennsteig

With its mountain ranges, tidal shores and mighty forests, the size and scope of Germany makes it a hikers' paradise. The historical ridge walk known as the Rennsteig leads for some 170 km (106 miles) through forests and highlands in the centre of the country, and combines rich culture with even richer scenery.

Watch a football match

Germany's love affair with football reaches its pinnacle at the Allianz Arena, home of Bayern Munich. Snare a ticket and watch one of the continent’s top teams in action – other lively options include Hamburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Hertha Berlin, Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen. Many of the stadia are new, having been built for the 2006 World Cup.