Journey through Germany’s cities and you’ll experience vast urban areas bursting with culture and history, romantic palaces atop hills, vast swathes of stunning scenery and diverse architecture ranging from Gothic, baroque and Romanesque.
Experience the Berlin Wall Memorial
Start your journey in Germany’s capital city of Berlin and take in the sombre Berlin Wall Memorial and museum. For 28 years the wall divided Berlin in half and separated West Berlin from what was East Germany, as well as East Berlin. Located at Bernauer Strasse, the visitor center is free to enter and although the exhibits are in German, the moving images and films on display make translation superfluous. The whole world watched on 9 November 1989 as the wall was finally torn down. Berlin was the fourth European Capital of Culture in 1988.
Immerse yourself in the Oktoberfest Beer Festival in Munich
Time your visit to the Bavarian city of Munich, aka Munchen, for late summer and you’ll be in for a real treat! Whether you’re a beer drinker or not, you’ll appreciate the lively and colorful traditional Oktoberfest beer festival. For 16 days each year in late September/early October, the stunning Munich architecture takes a back seat to locals dressed in traditional Lederhosen and dirndls. Authentic Bavarian food as well as regulation beer (around 6% alcohol) is served. First held in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of King Ludwig I, the festival has been missed due to cholera and war. In fact 2013 is the 180th Munich Oktoberfest! Don’t miss the Frauenkirche Church (pictured above with the two towers) which was built in 1240 and the Gothic revival New Town Hall which was started in 1867.
Admire the rich architecture of Hamburg
Germany’s second city is an important harbour and port and has firmly established itself as an international city, thanks to its rich mercantile history (pictured above). Lying on the River Elbe, this is reflected in the city’s architecture, when Hamburg made its fortunes from the many merchants that plied their trade locally. As well as the Hamburg Town Hall which is actually a palace, there are neighbourhoods filled with opulent houses and expensive villas. The Town Hall, aka Rathaus, is larger than London’s Buckingham Palace, and just as opulent. With ornate Gothic architecture, the Rathaus opened in 1886 and rises to 367 feet (112 meters) at the central tower spire. Hamburg is also a former European Green Capital City in 2011.
Discover the sublime classical music of Leipzig
The Saxony city of Leipzig is the classical musical heart of Germany, thanks to the myriad of composers that were born and worked here, including Bach, Wagner, Schumann and Mendelssohn. Leipzig has a dynamic arts scene with plenty of opera houses, theatres and modern nightclubs. Johann Sebastian Bach conducted the choir at St Thomas Church for 27 years and the composer Richard Wagner was born in the city. Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn also both honed their musical trades in Leipzig. Don’t miss the Bach Museum and catch a classical music performance at the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig. Wander the Augustusplatz square (pictured below).
Discover the automotive heritage of Stuttgart
In southern Germany is the country’s sixth largest city Stuttgart, which was founded in the tenth century. Its most famous for being the home of the luxury end of the automtove industry. After all, both Mercedes Benz and Porsche are based here. The newly built Mercedes-Benz Technial Museum is a must for all petrol-heads, as is the Porsche Museum which has 80 exhibits including many rare and historically-important models. There are lots of things to do in Stuttgart, but the automotive museums are definitely one of the star attractions.
Admire the Frankfurt skyline
It’s said that Frankfurt has a skyline to rival that of Manhattan in New York (pictured at sunset below). And the financial capital of Germany is also home to the third largest airport within Europe. The city boasts some of the highest buildings on the continent and best places to view the impressive modern skyline are from the Eiserner Steg, aka the Iron Bridge and from the Schweizer Platz. The Commerzbank tower is the tallest office building in Europe although very few of the high rise structures are actually open to the public. Travellers can admire the skyline from the viewing deck of the Main Tower. Other impressive high rises include the European Central Bank, the Henninger Turm and the Art Nouveau examples.
Gawp at the tallest church in the world in Ulm
The Bavartian city of Ulm in southwest Germany is home to Ulm Minster, which stands at a mighty 531 feet (162 meters) tall. This makes it the highest church in the world. The Lutheran church is loacted on Ulm’s Münsterplatz and opened in 1420. In a bold case of one-upmanship, Ulm surpassed neighbouring Colohne Cathedral in height by just 14 feet. Ulm Minster took 513 years to build and had yet to be seriously challenged for the world’s tallest title. Vositors can climb the 768 steps up the tiower for a spectacular voew over the landcape, as far as the Alps on a clear day.
Explore the Roman past of Trier
The oldest city in Germany, Trier, dates back to the Roman period. As you’d expect there is a wealth of Roman ruins and architectural legacies, such as the Roman amphitheatre which used to seat 20,000 and the traditional Imperial Roman baths at the Kaiserthermen. The Rhineland Museum has exhibits on the culture and history of both Trier and the surrounding Mosel Valley. The impressively ornate Black Gate (Porta Nigra) also dates back to the Roman period.
Discover Dresden’s most famous landmark
Saxony Dresden is located on the banks of the River Elbe and actually used to be called the ‘Florence on the Elbe’. Dresden can trace its roots back over 800 years although much of the historic city center was lost to extensive bombing during World War II. And the most notable landmark within Dresden is the newly rebuilt Frauenkirche Church. Completely destroyed in WWII the Church of Our Lady has been painstakingly restored to its former glory. Coventry in the UK donated the gold cross which sits atop the dome and visitors can climb the tower for panoramic views over the city. The Dresden Elbe Valley is also only one of two locations in the world to lose their UNESCO World Heritage Status.
Soak up the history of Cologne
Western Germany is home to the large city of Cologne which sits on the River Rhine. Cologne was founded over 2,000 years ago by the Romans and boasts a large cathedral, opulent Romanesque churches and important archaeological sites. The Kölner Dom, aka Cologne Cathedral, dominates the skyline which its two towers. The Roman Catholic masterpiece is Gothic in style and is today listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction began in 1248 and if you have an hour to spare, climb the 509 steps up the south tower which rises to 515 feet (157 meters).
Immerse yourself in fashionable Dusseldorf
The lively city Düsseldorf on the Rhine is best known for its arts and culture scene. With an annual carnival, thriving nightlife and bold modern architecture, Dusseldorf has also carved a niche as the country’s capital of fashion. Trendy modern fashions can be found in the Flingern creative district, which is said to rival Berlin. Also check out Pempelfort and Bilk districts which are known for their burgeoning international fashion scene.
Learn the history of Nuremberg
The city of Nuremberg in Bavaria is known from history as the site of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds (the Reichsparteigelande). Much of the old town has been carefully reconstructed and at the very heart sits the impressive Gothic Kaiserburg Castle. Many travellers come to learn of the historical sites and can visit the Nazi party former rally grounds which can into use in 1933, the Documentation Centre and the venue for the Nuremberg Trails at Courtroom 600.