Situated in the heart of Europe, and bordering nine other countries, Germany is an established and rewarding destination on any tour of the subcontinent. Its land is wide and varied, with turreted castles nestled below snow-capped mountains, lush river valleys, dark and mysterious forests, and bustling medieval villages. This is the land of fairy tales, where farmland minstrels headed to Bremen to become musicians, where Sleeping Beauty was woken and Little Red Riding Hood ventured into the woods.
Despite the beauty and romantic associations of the German countryside, most first-time visitors head straight for one of the country's famous cities. Germany's big cities each have something unique to offer the visitor. Each year millions of litres of beer are consumed in Munich during the city's Oktoberfest, where locals and visitors discover true German revelry and (a word the locals use to describe a comfortable, sociable environment). Berlin promises an abundance of attractions for sightseeing, from the iconic Brandenburg Gate to the path of the old Berlin Wall, and the capital's vibrant nightlife is still evocative of its height in the 1920s and 30s, as characterised by the songs of Marlene Dietrich, the theatre of Brecht and the Film Cabaret. Frankfurt is Germany's financial powerhouse, promising business opportunities and great shopping and dining experiences. Hamburg offers a picturesque urban experience, full of canals, parks and gardens.
Discover the country that gave us Beethoven and Bauhaus, Goethe and Glühwein, Lager and Lederhosen - Germany seldom disappoints!
Germany remains one of the world's top sightseeing destinations by virtue of its unique and important historical attractions, charming medieval buildings, varied and beautiful landscape, and legendary cultural events. The country has played a leading role in world history and many of its attractions, varying from the celebrated to the infamous, are connected to this colourful legacy.
The major cities, such as Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, are attractions in themselves, each jam-packed with historical treasures and sites of interest. Dachau and Checkpoint Charlie are remnants of more troubled periods, while the magnificent Rhineland and Garmisch-Partenkirchen region offer enough natural splendour to please even the most demanding outdoor enthusiasts. Munich is home to one of the world's biggest parties, the legendary Oktoberfest, while the Romantic Road between Berlin and Frankfurt is a self-drive tourist classic that never fails to delight with its perfectly preserved old towns and villages.
Germany is certainly a year-round destination, although be warned that the European winters (December to February) can get very cold. The best way to travel around the country is by train as the network is comprehensive, very reliable and safe, and decent value for money. Another good option is to rent a car and drive between attractions on the extensive network of autobahn freeways.
The Eschenheimer Turm is one of the few remaining towers of the medieval fortifications that once encircled the city of Frankfurt. The 154-foot high (47m) Gothic tower was built as part of the medieval wall which encircled the city in the 15th century, when approximately 60 towers surrounded the city. Citizens used to build high walls and watchtowers to protect Frankfurt from danger. The tower is both the oldest and the most unaltered building in the largely reconstructed city centre of Frankfurt and it is a striking landmark of the city. The tower has eight levels and four smaller side-turrets and looks rather like something out of a fairy-tale.
There is a weather vane perched on the very top which is the subject of a local myth: apparently a convicted poacher shot the vane nine times and so impressed the city authorities that they set him free. You can clearly see nine bullet holes if you get close enough to the vane, but it is definitely not still the same one from the story. Now a popular tourist attraction in Frankfurt, there is a restaurant and bar at the base of the Eschenheimer Turm that offers a good place to people-watch in the busy plaza surrounding the tower.
The impressive and symbolic Brandenburg Gate that lay forlorn for so long in the no man's land behind the Berlin Wall, is now once again renovated and accessible, along with the newly reconstructed Pariser Platz that links the gate to the beautiful Unter den Linden Boulevard. The Brandenburg is Berlin's only remaining city gate, built of sandstone between 1788 and 1791, with 12 Doric columns according to a design by C.G. Langhans. Six columns support a 36-foot (11m) transverse beam, similar to the propylaeum of the Acropolis in Athens. The massive gate is topped with a stunning statue of the Goddess of Victory facing east towards the city centre, which was added in 1794. The gate is closed to traffic, as is the adjacent Pariser Platz, a gracious square that was once surrounded with beautiful buildings sadly destroyed in the Second World War. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall new buildings have been built to designs closely following those of the originals.
It is easy to hire a guide for the area and it is worthwhile because the Brandenburg Gate has an intriguing history and a special place in the German culture. Hearing about its significance and past from a local greatly enriches the visit.
The infamous border crossing point in the wall dividing West and East Berlin has now become a shrine to the wall's memory with the addition of a museum, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. For nearly three decades, between 1961 and 1990, Checkpoint Charlie in the Friedrichstrasse was the only crossing point between East and West Berlin. While the original metal shed is now on display at the Allied Museum, the soldier's post can be visited, and tourists can be photographed under the border sign. The museum's permanent exhibition dates back to the building of the Berlin Wall, and charts the lifespan of the wall, including its erection, its demolition and an intriguing collection of objects used to escape over, under, and through it, and the stories of those escapees who risked their lives to win their freedom. The museum is also generally concerned with human rights. The Checkpoint Charlie Museum houses temporary exhibits, and hosts lectures and film screenings; check the website for schedules.
The remains of the infamous Berlin Wall have now become the largest open-air art gallery in the world. The longest section of the wall, which has been preserved, stretches from Ostbahnhof station to the Oberbaumbrucke, and has been given over to graffiti artists from around the world. About 118 artists from 21 countries have demonstrated their skills on the 4,318 foot (1,316m) long section of the wall, and this collection has become a Berlin landmark and a tourist attraction. Some of the best known paintings are Dimitri Vrubel's 'Brotherly Kiss' and Gunther Shaefer's 'Fatherland'. The gallery is billed as an international memorial for freedom and the art reflects the idealism and excitement of 1989 and 1990 when the wall was pulled down.
Parts of the wall have been or are being restored to reverse the damage done by time, weather and vandals because some of the once colourful murals created in 1989 and 1990 are now very faded. The images are restored in most cases by the original artists themselves and this ongoing project of restoration is special in itself because it keeps the wall alive in the public imagination.
Since opening in 2001, the Berlin Jewish Museum in Lindenstrasse has gained an international reputation for its significant architecture and unique exhibitions that bring history to life. The bulk of the museum is housed in a windowless and doorless steel-clad, silver building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, situated alongside the yellow Baroque edifice of the Berlin Museum. The building is remarkable and designed to be intimidating. Visitors enter the Jewish Museum through the Berlin Museum to explore the exhibition rooms, which are clustered around a main axis void, designed to signify the empty and invisible aspects of Jewish history. The whole museum is beautifully designed and the exhibitions can be quite overwhelming emotionally, although this is to be expected for a museum showcasing such tragic history. The collection is a good mix between personal stories and mementos and more formal history; it is also quite interactive. The collection is extensive and will require at least a few hours to see in its entirety, particularly as the gardens are also worth a stroll.
One of the most popular art galleries in Berlin is housed in a former train station. The historic Hamburger Bahnhof, built in 1846 at the Tiergarten, was badly damaged during World War II, but has been restored and reopened as an exhibition venue for an extensive contemporary art collection. The former station now offers 107,639 square feet (10,000 sq metres) of space filled with works by the likes of Andy Warhol, Josephy Beuys and Roy Lichtenstein. The basis of the exhibition is the Marx private collection, but there are changing exhibitions and good examples of the Italian Transavanguardia and minimalist art on show too. The gallery holds regular free guided tours for the public. To find out when these are being conducted consult the 'events' section of the website.
Potsdamer Platz is the heart and soul of the 'New Berlin', which has emerged since the fall of the wall in 1989. The original square was once one of the busiest junctions in Europe, with a major train station situated on it. However, after damage during the Second World War and being cut through by the divisive wall, it became a decayed wasteland. Since the fall of the wall, however, a building boom has been taking place around the Potsdamer Platz. The square now plays host to an exciting mix of restaurants, shopping centres, hotels, a casino, theatres and cinemas that draws both Berliners and tourists seeking good food and recreation.
The focus of the square is the 22-storey Debis Haus, designed by Renzo Piano, featuring an atrium with cathedral-like dimensions, and its neighbouring Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, a shopping mall with an Imax cinema. The Sony Centre is the most recent addition, consisting of seven buildings around a light-flooded arena, which also houses Berlin's popular Film Museum. The Kollhoff building features a panorama platform, reached by Europe's fastest express elevator, which offers views of the city.
The Marienplatz is the heart of Munich and the site of its most important historic buildings. The square is dominated by the Neo-Gothic Town Hall featuring its famous Glockenspiel, both built in the 19th century, although they look authentically Gothic. The Glockenspiel delights visitors when it chimes the hours every day at 11am, 12pm and 5pm with its 43 bells, accompanied by moving clockwork figures that display vignettes from Munich's history. The Town Hall has a tower that can be accessed by a lift and from the top you get wonderful views of the city.
The centre of the square, once a vibrant farmer's market, features a statue of the Virgin Mary after which Marienplatz was named. Visitors can also explore a toy museum in the Old Town Hall on the square, and the Frauenkirche, Munich's cathedral, dating from the 15th century. The square is full of great shops and pleasant outdoor eating areas where you can sit under trees, refuelling, and watch the world pass by. The Marienplatz is still a social gathering place for locals, just as it has been throughout its long history, and although it can get a bit crowded it is an un-missable attraction in Munich, and a must for photographers.
Munich's massive Olympiapark complex was constructed for the 20th Olympic Games in 1972, but remains a marvel of modern engineering. Its main stadium is like an enormous tent, which can seat close on 70,000 spectators, and is topped by one of the largest roofs in the world, extending for 720,000 square feet (66,890 sq metres) and made of tinted acrylic glass. The roof collects rainwater which is used to fill the adjacent Olympic lake. Tent roof tours (with or without an abseiling option) are on offer. Visitors to the site can enjoy a spectacular view from the revolving restaurant and observation terrace which tops the 950-foot (290m) high Olympic Tower. Near the tower is the BMW Museum, which displays the history of Germany's famous automobile manufacturer and is in itself a popular attraction. Far from being a remarkable 'white elephant', the Park is still in constant use not only by tourists but by locals who use it as a lively leisure and recreational centre in the city. On more than 200 days of the year it is the venue for rock and pop concerts, sports events, exhibitions and trade fairs. Check the website to see what's happening at the venue during your stay.
About five miles (8km) from the city centre, accessible by tram and bus, is the interesting Schloss Nymphenburg, originally a summer home for Munich aristocracy. The palace has been expanded, altered and fitted with various eccentricities by succeeding owners over the centuries since building began on it in 1664. Today it is a delight for tourists who revel in exploring the villa and grounds. Inside there are some interesting frescoes in the main hall. An arcaded gallery features a collection of 36 provocative paintings ordered by King Ludwig I showing the most beautiful women of his day. The surrounding park has some surprises too, with some interesting pavilions hidden among the English-style gardens. There are also collections of Ludwig's elaborate coaches on display, and a porcelain museum. There is information provided in the palace on its history but there are also audio guides available which greatly enrich the experience. Although you have to pay to enter the palace you can wander around the lovely grounds for free.
Munich's art museum houses one of the most important collections in Europe on two floors of a large neo-classical building. Roughly 700 paintings are on display, featuring the work of many of the greatest European artists from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Highlights include works by Dutch and Flemish masters, as well as the Italian masters such as Botticelli, Raphael and Titian. Famous masterpieces in the permanent collection include Rembrandt's 'Self-Portrait' (1629), Raphael's 'The Canigiani Holy Famliy' (1505), Guido Reni's 'The Assumption of the Virgin' (1642), and Francois Boucher's 'Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour' (1756). The gallery is massive, consisting of dozens of rooms, and requires a great deal of time to explore thoroughly. Bags and handbags are not allowed in the museum but there are storage facilities. Photography is allowed but only without a flash. There is a restaurant at the museum.
There are actually three art museums in the location and you can get a discounted rate if you plan to visit all of them in one day.
The fairy-tale castle built by King Ludwig II (known as 'Mad King Ludwig' until his death in 1886) has become the trademark of the German state of Bavaria, with its Gothic wedding-cake tiers and towers. Day tours to the castle are available from Munich, or self-drive via Garmisch. From the parking lot there is a steep half-mile (1km) climb to the castle, but one can ride in a horse-drawn carriage. The interior of the castle is as extravagant as its outer aspect, particularly the King's apartments, which are decorated entirely with hand-embroidered silk, elaborate wall and ceiling paintings, and carvings. The rooms can only be visited as part of a guided tour and no photography or filming is allowed in the castle.
The house where Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany's world-famous poet and writer, was born in 1749 is now a shrine to his memory, preserved as an example of how the well-to-do lived in Frankfurt in the late Baroque era. The house, which is a reconstruction because the original was destroyed during the Second World War, consists of two neighbouring half-timbered houses in Grosser Hirschgraben, and is situated next to the Goethe Museum, which contains a huge library of books, documents and graphics relating to the poet. Although the appeal of Goethe-Haus is self-evident for those that love his work, even if you are not particularly interested in Goethe this attraction provides welcome insight into 18th-century Frankfurt. All the rooms are beautifully decorated and furnished and many of the objects have recorded stories and associations from the Goethe family. Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair or baby carriage access to the house.
The well-ordered and interesting Botanical Garden in Frankfurt is administered by the university and is really a beautiful place to spend a few hours. The gardens are designed to take visitors on a journey through different areas of the plant kingdom, from the hardwood forests of North America to the barren savannah of Africa. The gardens cover more than eight hectares (20 acres) and contain more than 6,000 different botanical species, from exotic rainforest flowers to European weeds. There are many enclosed greenhouses so there is still lots to see in winter. Aside from admiring the flora, there are fun family activities like miniature golf and boat hire to enjoy, as well as a gift shop and cafe. The botanical garden is a great attraction for the whole family and if you're travelling with kids in Frankfurt its a nice break from more traditional sightseeing. There is a playground in the gardens to amuse little ones.
St Bartholomews Cathedral, or Dom Sankt Bartholomäus, dominates the Frankfurt skyline with its imposing 311-foot (95m) spire, contrasting sharply with the modern skyscrapers in the downtown area. The cathedral was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, and has seen the crowning of kings and emperors. St Bartholomews has been rebuilt several times, once in 1867 after a fire, and again in the 1950s following damage suffered in World War II. The architecture is traditional Gothic. The cathedral boasts some artistic treasures and the carvings are particularly striking. You can climb the winding spiral stairs to reach the bells in the tower for some spectacular views. There is a small museum and shop inside. You can get information booklets at the door which are quite informative and tell you a bit about the church's history and the artefacts on display. As the cathedral is still an active place of worship it is partially closed to tourists at times for services.
Tourists are drawn to the German city of Trier for a taste of ancient Rome. Trier is 120 miles (193km) southwest of Frankfurt and was founded as a colonial capital under Roman Emperor Augustus in 16 BC, making it Germany's oldest city. The city became an important political and cultural centre, and many Roman buildings and monuments remain to be explored by visitors. In fact, the city has at least five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: St Peter's Cathedral, a remarkable 11th-century church holding several significant tombs; The Black Gate (Porta Nigra), the only remaining ancient gate into the city, which dates back to about 180 AD; The Imperial Roman Baths, 2,000-year-old ruins of a bath complex once frequented by Constantine; the Church of Our Lady, another beautiful old church adjacent to the cathedral; and the Amphitheatre, an enormous ruin dating back to the 2nd century. The Hauptmarkt, or central square, has great markets and is especially jolly over the Christmas season when it hosts one of Germany's famous Christmas markets.
Trier is also a good starting point for trips into the Mosel Valley, Germany's main wine-producing region and a good area to explore if you want to visit vineyards and wine cellars. Another popular excursion from the city is a cruise on the scenic Mosel River.
The world's oldest warehouse complex, built of red brick with Gothic gables and turrets, is a century old and still in use for storing exotic goods from around the world, like tea, cocoa, silk and oriental carpets. Known as the Speicherstadt in German, this historic section of the Free Port between the Deichtorhallen and Baumwall has been turned into a tourist attraction by the addition of an open air theatre, spice museum, miniature exhibition and an old Russian submarine open for exploration as well as a few other little museums and some regular art exhibitions. Another popular attraction in Speicherstadt is the 'Hamburg Dungeon', an interactive museum showcasing the more unpleasant and gory aspects of the city's history.
Just wandering through the narrow cobblestone streets and exploring the small waterways lined by old warehouses is fun, and taking a boat out into the harbour is also a treat. The Speicherstadt is illuminated at night by light shows which create an enchanting spectacle, particularly viewed from a boat on a harbour night tour. The harbour has played a huge role in Hamburg's identity and history and exploring this area is insightful.
Hamburg's premier art gallery offers the chance to view works across the time spectrum from the Middle Ages through to the present day. The Kunsthalle's main aim is to educate about art, rather than showcase particular art treasures (although treasures abound), and exhibitions are constantly changing to introduce new forms of art to the public. The museum now actually occupies two buildings. The Galerie der Gegenwart, a modern structure, exhibits the modern and contemporary art. The famous old building, a feature in its own right, showcases the older works, most of which date back to the 14th, 16th and 17th centuries. There are several cafes in the gallery, including a bistro with a nice view of the Binnenalster. Seeing everything in this gallery will probably only take about two hours if you don't dawdle but there are lovely spots to sketch and write which may prolong the visit.
The Hamburg Museum gives a detailed description of the city of Hamburg from the 8th through to the 20th centuries. Scale models have been used to illustrate the changing shape of the city's famous harbour. Exhibits also include reconstructions of various typical rooms, such as the hall of a 17th-century merchant's home to an air raid shelter from World War II. Actual features from old buildings have been moved into the museum creating an exciting architectural space. The museum is housed in an impressive building crowned by a tower designed to look like a lighthouse and dating back to 1922 when the museum opened. It was built on part of the former fortifications of the town of Hamburg, details of which can be found inside. The gorgeous central courtyard has recently been covered with a glass ceiling and the space is now used for exhibitions, concerts and other events. To see what's on when you're visiting check the website.
Hamburg's notorious red light district, to the east of the city centre in the St Pauli zone, has become one of its greatest tourist attractions. The Reeperbahn (Rope Street) is where rope used to be produced for the ships in the harbour. It is now a half-mile long street which, along with its cross-streets, is filled with bright lights and flirtatious prostitutes, crammed with bars and establishments offering erotic entertainment. The Reeperbahn became the neighbourhood where sailors of old were encouraged to seek entertainment after they were banned from invading the city's more respectable areas in the 19th century. The district also boasts an Erotic Art Museum (at Nobistor 10A), which is privately owned and restricted to persons over 16. The Beatles used to play in a club in the area which is now a Pizza Hut and there is a tribute to them called the Beatlesplatz where there are aluminium silhouettes of the band as they looked when they played in Hamburg.
Although the district is extremely popular it will not delight everyone and you should not visit if you are offended by prostitution. It is better to explore on foot because parking is very expensive and hard to come by. There is a possibility of petty crime in the area so travellers should remain vigilant.
The Legoland Discovery Centre is the first indoor Legoland in the world and provides an interactive journey through a land of colour, creativity, learning and play. Kids will love themed areas like Dragon Quest, Jungle Adventure, Merlin's Apprentice, Princess Palace and Pirates Splash Battle. There is a fun factory where real Lego bricks are made, a 4-D cinema show, opportunities for visitors to make their own creations, Miniland Berlin, a themed ride, and much more all under one roof. This is one of the most fun attractions for the whole family in Berlin and endlessly popular with kids. It's also a great place to celebrate birthdays as there are special birthday party rooms for hire and all sorts of exciting extras. The park is designed mainly for kids aged between three and 10.
Known for its Black Forest cake and cuckoo clocks, the beautiful city of Freiburg has plenty to offer. The recommended way to explore the town and surrounds is by bicycle (there are plenty for hire) along more than 93 miles (150km) of bicycle paths. Visitors will find a wealth of ancient history, some delicious food and wine, and breath-taking natural beauty in Freiburg. The city (really a large town) is known for its university, magnificent cathedral and medieval treasures, and a somewhat bohemian vibe with its street musicians and pavement artists.
The Altstadt (Old City) is picturesque, featuring canals and dozens of historic buildings. A cable car carries passengers on scenic trips up the Schauinsland Mountain from the Stadtgarten to enjoy the view from the mountaintop restaurant. Visitors very much enjoy the local Black Forest cuisine on offer in Freiburg's restaurants, and the local wines produced in the region surrounding the city. The weather in Freiburg is renowned to be sunny and warm compared to other parts of Germany, and the city takes full advantage of this to host several festivals throughout the year. There is a music festival in mid-June each year, followed by a wine festival at the end of June and a wine-tasting festival in mid-August.
One of Berlin's most popular attractions, this unusual exhibition recounts the history of the German capital city from its foundation until the fall of the Wall in 1989. The Story of Berlin is divided into 25 themed rooms and pays attention to the feelings, thoughts and living conditions of common Berliners. The museum is impressively well designed and compelling with modern multimedia technology in every room and a good mix of historical fact and more personal, anecdotal detail. History buffs may be disappointed that the exhibits don't go into more detail but the museum covers about 800 years of history and is understandably superficial in some respects. Its strength is the recreation of atmosphere and mood in different eras and its visual representation of each period. One of its main attractions is the nuclear bunker that was built during the Cold War in the 1970s and the admission price includes a guided tour through this nuclear bomb shelter. Guided tours are available every hour, starting in the foyer.
Founded by the Romans as a mercantile centre on the northern edge of the Black Forest, Pforzheim, at the confluence of the Wurm, Enz and Nagold Rivers, is today the centre for traditional jewellery and clock-making in Germany. The town is home to the fascinating Technisches Museum, commemorating the important role time-keeping has played in Pforzheim's history. The museum features a reconstruction of a clock-making studio in the 19th century, among other things. Jewellery is also important in the town and the Schmuckmuseum collection features pieces dating from the 3rd century BC through to modern times. Pforzheim also has an interesting Alpine Garden which has 100,000 or more varieties of high-altitude plants growing in a natural setting beside the Wurm River.
Tragically, about a quarter of Pforzheim's population was killed in air raids during World War II and up to 80 percent of its buildings destroyed so today it looks much more modern than one would expect for an ancient settlement. Visitors can still see some charming 1950s buildings from the rebuilding project though and some historic structures have survived. The town's involvement in the war is interesting, particularly for military history buffs. On a lighter note, the famous rock band Fool's Garden originated in the town.
Another charming village in the Black Forest, Triberg has a lot to offer visitors and is something of a cultural centre. The true spirit of the Black Forest is brought to life in the Schwarzwald-Museum of Triberg, which documents the old traditions and lifestyle of this unique region, with displays of costumes, handcrafts (including clocks, naturally) and furnishings. It also boasts Europe's biggest barrel organ collection. Another of Triberg's most interesting attractions is the pilgrimage church called Maria in the Fir, an 18th-century, Baroque church.
Nearby Gutach, a popular excursion from Triberg, contains original Black Forest homes up to four centuries old at the Freilchtmuseum Schwarzwalder. An exceptional waterfall at Gutach, one of Germany's highest waterfalls, drops down the mountainside in seven stages, accessible by a lovely walking trail. South of Triberg, a huge variety of elaborate Black Forest clocks are on display at the German Clock Museum, to be found at Gerwigstrasse in the village of Furtwangen. The Baden Black Forest Railway, which runs through spectacular mountain and forest scenery, winds and tunnels through the area around the town.
Said to be one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, the Gendarmenmarkt is certainly one of the most impressive in Berlin, created as a marketplace in the 17th century. During World War II most of the buildings surrounding the square were destroyed, but have since been reconstructed and returned to their former glory. The square is dominated by the beautiful Konzerthaus (concert house), which is home to the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and a special place to catch a performance. The other famous buildings on the square are the twin churches of Deutscher Dom and Franzosischer Dom, identical German and French cathedrals, which are well worth a visit.
The square stays busy even in winter, when Gendarmenmarkt is host to Berlin's best Christmas market and various concerts. Surrounding the plaza are a number of cafes and restaurants where visitors can rest their feet and get a good view of passers-by. It is a popular area for locals to enjoy their lunch breaks. There are usually musicians performing in the square as well which adds to the atmosphere. The Gendarmenmarkt is also really lovely at night, when the buildings are illuminated.
Schloss Charlottenburg is the largest and oldest palace in Berlin. The 18th-century Baroque structure was originally constructed as the summer home for Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Elector Frederick III who became the first Prussian king. The splendid interiors are festooned with art masterpieces, including the largest collection of 18th-century French paintings anywhere outside of France. The surrounding gardens contain a mausoleum, pavilion and the Belvedere, which houses the porcelain museum. For centuries the best artists, architects and landscapers were commissioned to improve and enrich the palace and it shows. The gardens are lovely and just as worthwhile in their own way as the palace itself. Like many attractions in Berlin, the Charlottenburg Palace was badly damaged in World War II but has since been reconstructed.
Although it is a fairly long walk from the train station it is worth doing if you can manage it because your first view of the palace over the lake is really striking.
The Berlin Cathedral was built between 1895 and 1905 and is a magnificent basilica that stands on the site of several earlier structures. It is the largest church in the city and is an active Protestant church that holds services, concerts and tours as well as a number of other events. Inside, the crypt contains over 80 sarcophagi of Prussian royals, while other areas of interest are the pulpit, the organ, and the stained glass windows. Visitors can climb the dome, which is decorated with intricate mosaics. The cathedral has a gift shop with books, CDs, and other souvenirs available. The cathedral is closed to tourists during religious services and visitors are asked to be respectful in the place of worship at all times. Guided tours are available and there are good-quality audio guides in multiple languages for hire.
The huge Pergamon Museum has three main departments: the Antiquity Collection, the Islamic Art Museum, and the Middle East Museum, that house parts of reconstructed monumental buildings transported from excavation sites in foreign lands, or faithful replicas thereof. The Antiquity Collection contains the Pergamon Altar from the second century BC, as well as the Market Gate of Miletus from Roman antiquity. The main attraction in the Islamic Art Museum is the Mshatta façade originating from a Jordanian desert palace. The Middle East Museum houses the Ishtar Gare and the Procession Way of Babylon, as well as the throne room façade of Nebuchadnezzar II.
This museum is consistently ranked by visitors as one of the top attractions in Berlin and it is extremely special to visit all the ancient sites preserved in its halls. Everything feels enormous and although many of the exhibits feature reconstructions rather than originals everything feels extremely authentic. There is a free audio guide available which is hugely informative.
Situated on the south bank of the river Main, the Liebieghaus was built in 1896 for Czech Baron Heinrich Liebieg, but today is the home of Frankfurt's Museum of Sculpture. The building itself is gorgeous and castle-like and adds a great deal to the atmosphere and appeal of this interesting museum. Exhibits include sculptures from ancient times, covering art from Sumeria, Egypt, Greece and Rome as well as more modern Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance examples. A range of Asian pieces also feature in the collection as well as a few works by world-renowned artists. There are about 5,000 pieces in the collection and the museum feels intimate and is usually less crowded than other big art museums in Frankfurt. The Liebieghaus also puts up some great temporary exhibits showcasing modern sculptors - check the website to see what is currently on show. Labels and tours are in multiple languages and there are audio guides available. The cafe outside in the courtyard is charming.
The Historical Museum (Historisches Museum) has many permanent exhibitions featuring objects and works of art ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. The museum's changing exhibitions cover a range of themes such as cultural history, art history and general history. Collections feature examples of gold and silver crockery and jewellery; pottery and porcelain; paintings and photographs; and scaled-down models of the Altstadt (Frankfurt old town) at various periods of its development. The museum is useful for giving visitors an idea of what Frankfurt looked like before the damage of World War II when it was quite a different city in some regards.
The Children's Museum, which lies adjacent to the Historical Museum, features a variety of special offers and exhibitions for youngsters of all ages. The museum has recently undergone extensive renovations and has been greatly improved.
Frankfurt's most important art gallery is the Städel Gallery which contains a fantastic collection of most European schools of painting. The first floor features the works of German painters of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as famous French Impressionists such as Renoir and Monet. The second floor offers visitors the pleasure of viewing an outstanding collection of Flemish primitives, 17th-century Dutch artists, and 16th-century German masters such as Dürer, Grünewald, Memling, Elsheimer, and many others. One of the most impressive paintings is Jan van Eyck's 'Madonna' (1433). The gallery also puts up regular temporary exhibitions of very high quality and it is worth checking the website to see what's on during your visit. The gallery has a restaurant, a coffee shop and a bookstore which has a selection of great gifts. This gallery is consistently ranked very highly as an attraction in Frankfurt by tourists.
The Frankfurt Zoo, located in Ostend, was almost completely destroyed in World War II, with only 20 animals surviving. It was rebuilt in the early 1950s and since then has grown to include several innovative new sections such as the highly popular Big Cat Jungle, and the Exotarium which houses fish, insects, reptiles and penguins, all kept in their natural surroundings. The Frankfurt Zoo is home to more than 3,200 animals, from about 600 species, and is renowned for keeping them in environments that closely resemble their own natural habitats. A major draw card for the zoo and one of its most unique features is Grzimek House which is home to nocturnal animals who think it's night-time during the day. Other popular animals include the tigers, rhinos, lions, crocodiles and hippos, among many others. The zoo has a reputation for being one of the most attractive, pleasant and popular zoos in Europe. Away from the fauna there are two restaurants as well as a terrace to enjoy in the summer months.
The symbolic heart of Stuttgart, the Schlossplatz or Palace Square, is a popular meeting point for locals and travellers alike, with the beautifully Baroque New Palace providing a majestic backdrop. The former residence of kings, the New Palace was built between 1746 and 1806 and is now a base for the state government of Baden- Wurttemberg. If the New Palace feels a bit French it's because the Duke Carl Eugen of Wurttemberg wanted to create a Versailles in Stuttgart. The König Wilhelm Jubilee Column, rising in the fore, was erected in 1841 in honour of King Wilhelm's silver jubilee (25 years of reign). The statue of Concordia, the Roman goddess of harmony at the pinnacle, was added in 1863. The two fountains were built at the same time, with the eight cherubs each representing one of Wurttemberg's rivers.
There's always something going on in the square. It is a popular hangout for locals and there is usually a musician or two busking. Those lucky enough to visit over the Christmas season should make sure to visit the Christmas market at the Schlossplatz.
It is possible to catch the hop-on hop-off tour bus from the square, which is a popular starting point for explorations of the city.
Built between 1838 and 1843 under King Wilhelm I of Wuerttemberg, the Old State Gallery in Stuttgart features a prestigious range of paintings, drawings, sculptures, watercolours and prints from the 14th to the 19th centuries, with Jerg Ratgeb, Canaletto, Memling and Rembrandt taking centre stage. Connected to the Old State Gallery, on the same level, is the New State Gallery, dedicated to the art of the 20th century. Looking at important schools within various art movements like Fauvism, German Expressionism, Die Brucke and Cubism, the New State Gallery includes works by masters such as Picasso, Beckmann, Schlemmer, Beuys, Kiefer and Klee. A common criticism of this otherwise very popular gallery is that there isn't much seating available in the actual exhibition rooms, but if you need a break the museum has a restaurant and a cafe that serves lovely light meals and refreshments. There is also a gift shop.
Centrally located, Kunstmuseum Stuttgart is a work of art in itself. Its modern cuboid design transforms from a glass hexahedron during the day to reveal a colourful skeletal interior when lit up at night. Opened in 2005, the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart is renowned for its prestigious collection of work by Otto Dix, the famous German artist remembered for his realistic depictions of Weimar society and the brutality of war. The colourful and abstract art of Willi Baumeister and the mixed media work of contemporary artist Dieter Roth are also on display at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, along with ever-changing international exhibitions. Don't miss the museum shop and bookshop, or have a light snack at the onsite restaurant.
Opened shortly before the start of the Football World Cup in Germany, the impressive Mercedes-Benz Museum is housed in a slick, contemporary building, an icon of modern architecture. With an exhibition space of almost 182,986 square feet (17,000m/sq), filling seven levels, the museum takes visitors on a chronological journey through the history of the Mercedes automobile, combining world events occurring at the same time as Benz breakthroughs and displaying more than 160 different vehicles from racing cars and concept cars to the pope mobile and airplane engines. Automobile aficionados will be in heaven but even for non-petrol heads there is a lot to see in this world-class museum which covers a lot of interesting history through the lens of the automobile. Visitors take the elevator to the top of the building and then wind their way down chronologically on a spiral until they reach the ground and the present day. There is a museum shop, a restaurant and a cafe/bar to be enjoyed on the premises. An audio guide is available.
Europe's only combined zoological and botanical garden, the Wilhelma Zoo never fails to leave a lasting impression on the hearts and minds of all who explore it. Initially built as a Moorish garden for King Wilhelm I in the 19th century, the beautiful botanical garden is extraordinary all year round. Countless exotic plants, a range of climatic biospheres in magnificent greenhouses, a petting zoo, insect exhibit, aquarium with crocodile hall, modern ape house, bear facilities, walk-in bird flight facility and wild animal enclosures are some of the exhilarating sights to be enjoyed. The Wilhelma Zoo is home to about 8,000 animals, including polar bears and elephants, and 5,000 different species of plants. The gardens are also interspersed with lovely historic buildings. Ideal for children and adults, there are a host of ice cream stands, cafeterias and playgrounds to keep the whole family entertained for the entire day. The covered walkways make it possible to visit even when the weather is bad.
Sitting on one of the largest mineral water reserves in Europe, the inhabitants of Stuttgart have been enjoying its liquid vitality for more than two millennia and the famous mineral baths of Stuttgart are a major tourist attraction for the city. Nineteen natural springs pump something like 22 million litres of mineral water into Stuttgart on a daily basis so there is no shortage of this resource. Relaxing in a hot, steamy mineral bath is a good way to spend some of your down time and the water is thought to help with skin ailments and respiratory and heart problems; of course, relaxation brings with it a swathe of health benefits as well. Das Leuze, Mineralbad Cannstatt and Mineral Bath Berg all feature hot and cold mineral baths, saunas, hot tubs and swimming pools. Das Leuze is geared toward families with its playground, children's pool and bright colours, while Mineralbad Cannstatt caters more for adults looking for a haven of relaxation. Mineral Bath Berg is a 1950s gem, its iron-rich waters recognised by the state as a 'heilbad' for its medicinal properties.
Be warned that generally the Germans don't see a need for clothing of any kind at these establishments so some nudity should be anticipated.
The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart is a retrospective of more than 75 years of Porsche engineering and memorabilia. Porsche is both the smallest independent German automaker and the world's most profitable automaker. This museum is extremely popular with petrol heads but will also interest those who are not obsessed with cars as there is a lot to entertain and inform visitors. Although there used to be a much smaller Porsche Museum, the company wanted an inspiring place in which to display their corporate history and built and inaugurated an extraordinary building which opened to the public in 2009. The new Porsche Museum, which has become a city landmark, displays all the historical and contemporary knowledge about the Porsche brand as well as housing a collection of about 80 cars as well as a number of smaller exhibits. They also put up regular special exhibitions and you can check for details on these temporary treats on their website. The museum offers free audio guides which are available in numerous languages and there is a special version for children.
Boasting more than 30 million objects throughout its geological, paleontological and zoological collections, the Museum of Nature in Berlin is the biggest of its kind in Germany and one of the five largest in the world. Children of all ages, and adults, will enjoy discovering the extensive treasures of this incredible museum and learning while they wander around the exhibition halls, which take up a massive 71,000 square feet (6,600sq/m). Apart from the ever-popular dinosaur skeleton exhibit, highlights include sections on evolution, domestic animals, the cosmos and solar systems, minerals and much more. There are also temporary exhibitions on show - check the website for details on what is being exhibited currently. The museum is very well-organised with labels in multiple languages and audio tapes available in about 10 languages. They also organise activities and holiday schools for enquiring young minds. It is easily one of the most popular attractions if travelling in Berlin with children. It is a traditional museum but there is lots of interactive stuff to keep little ones amused.
Children and families love nothing more than trips to the zoo or the aquarium, and Berlin's stunning Zoo-Aquarium combines both. The facility is one of the most popular zoos in Europe, entertaining millions of visitors each year. It offers visitors the opportunity to marvel at some spectacular animals, and with immense biodiversity children of all ages will love getting a close look at everything from rhinos to sharks to monkeys to penguins to pandas. Feedings take place daily at half-hour intervals between 10.30am and 4pm; for details on the feeding times of specific animals check the website. You can also take specialised thematic tours like South America, Asia, Africa, and Animals of the Bible. The zoo and aquarium often put on special tours for events during the year, like Halloween, Easter and Christmas, so keep a look out for these if you're travelling in Berlin with kids.
The world's largest inner-city park, Tiergarten, adjoins the zoo and a visit is pleasantly combined with a stroll or a picnic in these beautiful gardens.
One of the biggest natural history museums in Germany and housed in a building which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History in Frankfurt features extensive exhibits showcasing biodiversity and the evolution of the planet and of life on earth. A popular attraction of the museum is the fascinating palaeontology exhibit which features fossils that date back over 50 million years; dinosaurs simply never go out of fashion with kids. There is also a huge collection of stuffed animals on display.
Children of all ages, and adults, will love exploring this fascinating museum and learning about the solar system and the evolution of life. Some of the labels and descriptions are only in German which is a disadvantage. Despite this, the museum is consistently rated highly as an attraction in Frankfurt by visitors and it is one of the best places to bring kids in the city. There is a nice museum cafe on the top floor where you can get refreshments and light meals.
The capital of the Rhineland, Mainz is a bustling city with a curious but exciting mixture of medieval architecture and gleaming office blocks. The city is over 2,000 years old and mixes the old and the new with alacrity. The Dom und Diözesanmuseum dominates the skyline in the centre of town, and St Stephen's Church, with its original Chagall stained-glass windows, is a popular attraction in the Old Town, as is the Schillerplatz square. The Kaiserstraße boasts an attractive pedestrian boulevard and church. The city is compact enough to enjoy walking tours around town or along the Rhine.
Mainz is also the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, making books a popular souvenir from the city. The museum dedicated to Gutenberg is a highlight if you are interested in the revolution sparked by the printed word. The museum includes a working replica of Gutenberg's printing press and is housed in a beautiful old building. Mainz is close enough to Frankfurt for a quick day trip and one only needs a few hours to stroll around the historic Old Town and enjoy one of the city's great restaurants or cafes. Equally, Mainz could occupy travellers for a whole holiday.
Bonn is dominated by the Rheinische Friedrich Wilhem University, with a student population of about 25,000. The city has several beautiful churches, including the Kreuzbergkirche, Doppelkirche, and Das Bonner Münster Basilica, and other interesting buildings ranging from medieval to modern. Bonn also has many museums, including art museums, history museums, and a zoological museum. On nice days, visitors can enjoy spending a few hours in the Arboretum or Botanical Garden, or any of the other pleasant parks in Bonn. There is also an extinct volcano to climb on the border with Wachtberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. The city is small enough to explore on foot, but there is an excellent public transport system.
Despite these pleasant and worthwhile attractions, Bonn is most widely known as the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven, and there are many attractions in Bonn relating to the famous composer. The Beethoven House, located at Bonngasse 20 in the house he was born in, has the world's largest collection of Beethoven artefacts and memorabilia, including several of his pianos and a collection of busts. Nearby is the chamber music hall (Kammermusiksaal), where there are regular performances of Beethoven's works.
The Deutches Museum is a great stop for families exploring Munich. It is the world's largest technology and science museum, with roughly 28,000 artefacts on display in exhibits dedicated to themes like Energy, Transport, Natural Science, Communications, Musical Instruments and New Technologies. The museum is located on a small island in the Isar River, with additional facilities outside of Munich and in Bonn.
There is a section especially dedicated to children which is called Kid's Kingdom and features 1,000 fun, interactive activities including things like a giant guitar to be played, enormous building blocks, and a fire department. It is aimed at kids aged three to eight and all children must be accompanied by an adult. For the grown-ups there is a wealth of interesting information and exhibitions on topics like astronomy, chemistry, pharmaceutics, electricity, computers, microelectronics, hydraulic engineering and astronautics. The museum is designed to be accessible and entertaining and even those who have little understanding of technology and science should be enthralled.
Occupying an abandoned movie theatre, the Allied Museum is located on the former US Army Europe's Berlin Brigade headquarters, and houses exhibits and displays detailing the history of the Allied forces in Germany in World War II and up until 1994. Three-quarters of the museum's collection was entrusted to Germany by the Allied forces when they departed after nearly 50 years of occupation. The museum's collections include all kinds of military memorabilia: airplanes and motor vehicles, weapons, uniforms, documents and files, photos and other artefacts, including the original Checkpoint Charlie shed.
The permanent collection has three main sections. The end of the war and the famous Berlin Airlift are covered in the exhibition on the years 1945 to 1950. An outdoor exhibition featuring large artefacts like planes and sections of the Berlin wall illustrates the history of West Berlin as an island in the Soviet zone. A permanent exhibition on the years between 1951 and 1994 covers Germany's experience of the Cold War. The museum also organises periodic events like lectures and film screenings, as well as special, temporary exhibitions - check the website for specific dates.
The Reichstag is one of Berlin's most famous buildings. The seat of Germany's parliament since 1894, the building has had a volatile history, being damaged in World War II, wrapped in a sheet by conceptual artist Christo in 1995, and massively reconstructed in the late 1990s. The reconstruction saw the building gutted, leaving only the facade, and the addition of a glass-domed atrium that provides panoramic views of Berlin. The views from the dome are stunning and it is well worth the visit.
Note that although entrance is free the rooftop terrace and dome of the Reichstag are closed to visitors without pre-booking. There is an Arts and Architecture tour or a general tour of the Reichstag (if Parliament is not in session) available and you must contact the Reichstag directly and request a visit. Although the office is helpful there are thousands of people making this request so make sure you plan in advance (six months as a guideline) to avoid disappointment. There are free audio tapes available in a number of languages. There is also a rooftop restaurant which is very popular but for this too you will need a reservation.
The magnificent castle at Hohenzollern is perched on a hilltop 31 miles (50km) outside of Stuttgart. The current structure was built in the 15th century, although mention of a castle on the site dates back to 1267. The second Hohenzollern Castle, which stands proud today, was constructed in 1454 to be bigger and more heavily fortified than before. During the Thirty Years War, it was used as a fortress, changing hands between several families. Since the maintenance of the building was neglected, it dilapidated and turned into ruins by the beginning of the 19th century, only to be renovated and rejuvenated from 1850 onwards. The castle is incredible, with a fairy-tale neo-Gothic facade set against spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding countryside of the Black Forest. It is widely acknowledged as a triumph of 19th-century military architecture and its many towers are one of its most striking features. The castle hosts a number of attractions and events, including an open-air cinema, museum, and seasonal Christmas market.
Although you may find yourself inundated by cuckoo clocks everywhere you look in the Black Forest, the German Clock Museum's large collection of timepieces is the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, and offers over 8,000 examples of clocks which have been collected over the last 150 years. Cuckoo clocks have been made in the Black Forest region since the early 18th century, and much of their development occurred there. It is remarkable how much you can learn about the region's history and culture by browsing through the clocks, which have come to define the Black Forest in the global imagination. The museum doesn't only exhibit local clocks though, it has many pieces from overseas. One of the highlights is an electrical clock made by Alexander Bain in London in about 1845.
Mapping the advances in the craft of clock-making is very interesting and while some of the pieces are very beautiful others are remarkable because they are so original; for instance, there is an ingenious alarm clock designed for a deaf couple in 1942 which uses a flashing light instead of a bell. Tours are conducted by appointment, and there are English guidebooks available.
In the middle of Hamburg is an oasis of green lawns and trees, with colourful flowers and fountains providing a lovely backdrop to relax in. You can stroll around the Japanese garden and enjoy the tropical flower collections and teahouse. It is easy to find a pretty spot to have a picnic or read a book as the gardens are extensive and full of little nooks. Children will enjoy the range of attractions including playgrounds, pony rides, miniature golf, and a roller rink and ice skating rink. There are also concerts and theatrical performances on a regular basis - check the website for details on what will be happening during your visit. In the summer months there are evening concerts with light shows at the fountains which are wonderful to attend. The park is also beautiful in autumn and spring though, when the colours are spectacular. As the park is right in the heart of Hamburg it is very easy to access as an area to allow the kids to blow off some steam and for the whole family to take a break from the city and traditional sightseeing. If you're looking for an open area to do some jogging or walking Planten un Blomen is ideal.
St Michaelis began as a humble little church, which was extended in 1600. In 1647 construction began on the grand building that stands today as possibly Hamburg's most recognisable landmark. Like many important buildings in Germany, the church suffered major damage in World War II. Michaeliskirche offers tours of the 270 foot (82m) tower; the crypt, which contains the bodies of Johann Mattheson and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach; and an interesting presentation on the history of Hamburg including a film. The tower has a magnificent viewing platform which can be reached either by elevator or by climbing the 452 steps. The advantage of taking the steps is that you get to see the bells and the famous clock machinery on your way up, but it is quite a climb.
As the church is still an active place of worship it is closed to visitors during services and events and at all times tourists are expected to show respect. There is a small chapel on the side that is almost always open for prayer and contemplation.
Train enthusiasts will love Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg, but so will almost everybody else. With more than 4,000 square metres of floor space, there is much to see with tiny models of various regions, both local and international. The largest of its kind in the world and the most visited permanent exhibit in Northern Germany, there are 900 trains with 12,000 carriages, as well as 300,000 lights, 200,000 trees and 200,000 human figures. Sections include Southern Germany and the Austrian Alps, Hamburg and the Coast, America, Scandinavia, and Switzerland. There is so much detail in the model world that you can examine it for hours and never get bored - some of the scenarios are very amusing and the little people are portrayed doing all sorts of things.
The place is very popular for people of all ages and it can get a bit crowded inside, especially in the peak summer months. It is best to book your ticket in advance online to avoid waiting.
The largest city in the Black Forest region of Germany, Freudenstadt is a great place to start a holiday in the Black Forest, and a popular base from which to explore the stunning region. The town is known for its sunny, warm weather, meaning visitors can enjoy its many outdoor attractions. One of these is the lovely central town square which is home to the largest marketplace in Germany and a great place to do some holiday shopping. Most buildings in Freudenstadt were flattened in World War II. However, there are still several interesting sites, including the Stadtkirche, which dates back to the 17th century. Visitors to Freudenstadt also enjoy the many good restaurants which serve up tasty local cuisine.
While a holiday in Freudenstadt is worthwhile and the city attracts many people in its own right, most visitors come to enjoy the surrounding region, which boasts some of the best skiing, hiking and camping in the Black Forest. The Parkwald, Germany's largest nature reserve, is nearby, and has many miles of hiking trails. Fruedenstadt is conveniently situated on the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse highway, which stretches to Baden-Baden and meanders past many quaint shops and cafes, as well as popular ski slopes.
A popular starting point for the Romantic Road, Würzburg is nestled in a picturesque location in the heart of the Franconian wine region, with rolling hills, pretty vineyards, and many beautiful buildings. The town is famous for its '100 churches', and the Residential Palace (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Other attractions include the Alte Mainbrucke, an old pedestrian bridge which provides great views of the river, the castle and the cityscape in general, a wonderful vantage point from which to take photographs and also a spot where you can hire a boat to take a cruise down the river. The castle, called the Marienburg Fortress, dates back to the 12th century and boasts lovely gardens as well as housing a museum and restaurant. The Saint Kilian Cathedral, one of the largest Romanesque churches in Germany, is also worth a visit.
Far from being a sleepy historical town, Würzburg is home to some 50,000 students who keep the nightlife jumping. A number of excellent German restaurants and colourful wine festivals add to the appeal. Located at the very northern tip of Bavaria on the Main River, Würzburg is linked to cities like Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich by train and makes an excellent excursion or weekend trip, even if you don't take the Romantic Road south.
Known as the best-preserved medieval town in Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (or just Rothenburg) is an absolute must-see for anyone travelling on the Romantic Road. The 13th-century fortified walls are undamaged, and encircle a quaint city centre with a number of interesting buildings and museums. For the best view of the city, head to the top of the tower at the historic Town Hall. You can also walk along the old walls which is a great way to first orientate yourself in the city and see many of the most attractive buildings. There is a Medieval Crime Museum in Rothenburg which is very popular with visitors and one of the top activities is the Night Watchman's Tour which is a fun way to explore. St Jacob's Church is also a must for those interested in medieval art and architecture. The wood carvings and stained glass in this wonderful old church date back to between 1300 and 1500 and are truly remarkable. The town's walled garden, the Burggarten, is a lovely place to stroll, relax or picnic and affords stunning views of the cityscape as well.
Rothenburg's only negative is its popularity, which sees it often completely overrun by Romantic Road tourists, particularly during the peak tourist season.
A less-crowded alternative to Rothenburg, Dinkelsbühl is another scenic medieval town on the Romantic Road. Surrounded by 16 towers along its fortified 10th-century walls, the town centre is lined with picturesque 16th-century houses and churches and a few good historical museums. A lovely way to see the city is on an evening tour led by the town's night watchman. The cobbled streets are a delight to explore and another great way to familiarise yourself with the place is by taking a stroll along the perimeter of the fortified old town. There is a nice little park to relax in if the weather is good, and bicycles can be hired.
The town museum in the town hall (which also happens to be the tourist bureau) gives a good overview of the town's long history. One of the main highlights of a visit to Dinkelsbühl is the massive 15th-century St George Church where entry is free and a quick climb up the tower will afford amazing views over the town. In fact, the whole village is a photographer's dream. No visit to Dinkelsbühl is complete without sampling the locally-made gingerbread, a town specialty.
The largest city along the Romantic Road, Augsburg is also among the oldest cities in Germany with a history stretching back 2,000 years. It was established as a Roman trading post and garrison camp in 15 BC and the city has been an important site for religion, politics and the military throughout its life. Augsburg has many interesting buildings, including several ornately decorated churches and Baroque houses. Some of the city's most impressive old architecture includes the 9th-century cathedral, the Town Hall built in 1620, the Perlachturm bell tower built in 989, and the Schaezlerpalais which is a mansion dating back to 1765.
Other popular tourist attractions in Augsburg include the Augsburger Puppet Theatre and Museum, the Augsburg Zoo, and the botanical garden. Augsburg is also known for its traditional German restaurants, and is a popular stop both on the Romantic Road and on journeys to the Bavarian Alps in the south. This ancient city is picturesque and atmospheric and its popularity with visitors seeking out Germany's ancient history and bygone folk traditions never wanes; it is also a modern city with all the desired amenities and some good shopping opportunities and great hotels.
The playground of Europe's royalty and aristocracy in the early 1800s, Germany's famed holiday resort town of Baden-Baden, in the heart of the Black Forest, still draws thousands of tourists who come to relax in the waters and gamble in the casino.
With a name that means 'Bathing Bathing', it's not hard to work out the prime attraction of the town. The Friedrichsbad bathhouse has been the scene of much pampering for more than 120 years. Those seeking rest and recuperation on holiday still enjoy its steamy marble confines, soaking in mineral water in the nude. Male and female facilities remain separate, and the roughly three-hour bathing routine follows a strict regimen of showers, hot-air blasts, steam baths and massages.
Nearby are the equally famous Baths of Caracalla, which feature indoor and outdoor waterfalls, swimming pools and hot tubs. The complex houses a 2,000-year-old Roman bath, once used by the Emperor Caracalla.
The Baden-Baden casino was built in the 1850s in the style of the Palace of Versailles, and is worth seeing while on holiday, even for those who do not gamble. Baden-Baden is also home to several art museums, a concert hall, and the Castle Hohenbaden.
German Phrase Book
|auf wiedersehen||goodbye||alf vay-ders-hen|
|mein Name ist...||my name is...||mine naam isst...|
|wieviel ist...?||how much is...?||vie-feel isst...?|
|wo ist...?||where is...?||vo isst...?|
|sprechen sie Englisch?||do you speak English?||spre-chen see Englisch?|
|ich verstehe nicht||I dont understand||each verst nicht|
|ein, zwei, drei, vier, fünf||one, two, three, four, five||ine, zveye, dry, feer, funf|
|ich benötige einen doktor||I need a doctor||each be-neu-t-ga ean dok-tor|
Germany has very changeable weather. Extremes in temperature are rare but visitors should be aware that the weather changes fast and there can be rain at any time of year. The seasons are also slightly unpredictable in that the weather is not the same from year to year. There is a variation in climate according to region in Germany. The coastal regions have a temperate climate with warm summers and mild, cloudy winters. Inland, the climate is more continental with warmer summers and colder winters. The alpine and upland regions have cooler weather and more rain.
In spring (March to May), the weather is at its most unpredictable and can bring rain, sun or wind, but it is a pretty time of year to visit Germany. Summer (June to August), is warm and generally sunny but it is also the season with the most rainfall and humidity. Autumn (September to November), usually begins very pleasantly but becomes grey and misty later in the season. Winter (December to February), is cold and temperatures can drop well below freezing at night. Snow usually falls in December, January and February.
The best time to visit Germany really depends on what you are planning to see and do. Each season has its own charms. The peak tourist season is summer so everything tends to be a bit more expensive and crowded.
This unique restaurant serves food in completely dark rooms by blind waiters. The idea is that diners will concentrate more on the taste of the food if other senses are deprived, and it seems they are right. The unseen food is delicious and the unusual sensation of eating in the dark is novel and fun, with plenty of giggling in the restaurant.
One of the latest 'in' places to dine in Berlin is the Dachgarten in the rooftop dome of the new futuristic Parliament building (the Reichstag). From the dome, in the historic centre of Berlin, there are amazing views across the city. The menu is delightful too, including healthy traditional cuisine like the light fish and venison dishes. Reservations are vital unless you wish to join a long queue, and your best bet of getting a table is at breakfast.
An elegant and opulent dining experience, Heising serves up high-quality French cuisine. All meals are served on KPM porcelain and beautifully presented. The restaurant is open daily for supper, from 7pm. Reservations are recommended.
Haveli is consistently rated very highly by tourists and is a great option for those seeking out good-value Indian food. The restaurant is family-run, the portions extremely generous, and the food delicious.
Emulating a Paris bistro the Weinhaus Huth is an interesting dining venue not because of its décor or a particularly outstanding menu, but because the building which houses it is the only original standing building left on the Potsdamer Platz, having survived the ravages of war and the demolition of the Berlin Wall. It is now surrounded by the shining new Sony centre and draws tourist interest. Highlights on the menu include tarte flambee and fresh oysters.
You cannot beat the thin base pizzas that keep customers flocking to this lively restaurant in Charlottenberg. The XII Apostel is trendy and popular because of its novel idea of offering 12 pizza varieties, one named for each apostle of Jesus Christ. The biggest and tastiest is reputedly the Judas. The décor is flashy Italian Renaissance and the atmosphere is usually busy and bustling.
This historic establishment off Alexanderplatz should be on any visitor's sightseeing list not only for its hearty German comfort food (like Eisbein, potato dumplings, suckling pig and red cabbage) and tankards of beer, but also because it is the oldest restaurant in Berlin, documented as far back as 1525. The name, Zur Letzten Instanz, was inspired by a nearby courthouse and means 'without further appeal'. Napoleon is said to have dined here. The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday, 12pm to 1am.
Traditionally a popular if not fashionable spot to dine after the theatre, Ganymed has been around for decades serving good food in generous portions, gamely continuing to do business in East Berlin throughout the Cold War years. There are two formal dining rooms, one overlooking the Spree. Examples of menu highlights are goose liver terrine, Eisbein, schnitzels, mussels in Choron sauce and pheasant breast wrapped in Black Forest ham.
This huge, wood-panelled old apple wine tavern is a classic that produces hearty German dishes, which are better than the many other similar taverns in the popular Sachsenhausen area. Dishes like the pork shoulder with sauerkraut, and liver dumpling can be enjoyed with a slow glass of apfelwien, or a choice of beer or cider. There is also a Menu of the Week with a special dish of the day each day. The atmosphere is fun, boisterous and crowded. Seating is at communal tables with a mix of locals and visiting German businessmen. Open daily from 11am until midnight.
Erno's is one of the best restaurants in town and something of a Frankfurt culinary institution offering classic French cuisine such as lobster broth, quail spit and fresh fish dishes. There is an excellent wine list to make the meal even more memorable, as well as some sensational desserts. Erno's is a chic gourmet rendezvous that is always busy, so reservations are essential. Closed weekends.
This upmarket restaurant is presided over by chef Werner Döpfner who serves contemporary dishes in a candlelit setting. Maingau Stuben is famous for its fresh fish and game meat that is carved at the table, and the cellar is full of rare German wines. Closed Monday. No lunch Saturday, and no dinner Sunday.
This stately Michelin-starred restaurant is very conscious of upholding the high standard of the five-star hotel that it complements. It is an ideal venue for a special occasion with a quiet and sophisticated atmosphere, elegant furnishings, attentive service and high quality food that is beautifully prepared and presented. The menu offers international fare that is light and French-inspired with delicacies such as quails in champagne and grape sauce. Open Monday to Friday. Reservations required.
Located in the Westend, the Alte Kanzlei is one of those restaurants that evokes a deep sense of history, and the mahogany wooden interior coupled with the crisp linen tablecloths and fine silverware creates a sophisticated, yet romantic ambience. Established in 1974, this classic Italian eatery specialises in serving authentic Italian fare from the region of Calabria. The menu changes daily, but highlights include the spaghetti with prawns and lobster sauce or the veal fillet in pepper crust served with a chive sauce. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday dinner only. Closed Sundays. Reservations essential.
Located on the first floor of the Old Opera House, there's no need to guess where this restaurant gets its name. With a wonderfully historic and ornate décor and exciting and traditional cuisine, this restaurant has become one of Frankfurt's most popular. Diners can sample delicious Asian fare such as the Teriyaki from Yellowfin tuna on fried vegetables with Asian egg noodles or a traditional German Milchkalbrücken wiener schnitzel served with fried potatoes or potato salad and fresh leaf salad. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended.
One of Frankfurt's favourite Indian eateries, Jewel of India prepares traditional Indian cuisine and does not disappoint. The warm interior with burnt orange and yellow tapestries adorning the walls, juxtaposed by the cream linen tablecloths creates a warm and cosy dining environment. With favourites such as the Chicken mango curry, Rogan Josh and lamb Vindaloo, lovers of classic Indian cuisine will find themselves returning again and again. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner, and Saturday and Sunday dinner only. Reservations recommended.
This Spanish eatery has earned a reputation as one of Frankfurt's most popular restaurants with both young and old. The terrace affords patrons the opportunity to dine and the friendly waitstaff are attentive and helpful. The tapas served here is delicious! Try the Spanish omelette for breakfast or the tagliatelle with mozzarella and parma ham for a heartier meal. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
For breath-taking views of Munich, the ideally situated and aptly-named Café Glockenspiel overlooks the famous Glockenspiel clock. With friendly and efficient wait staff and delicious, wholesome fare, the café is one of the most frequented in Munich and is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike and a great location to enjoy a spot of people watching either over a meal, sunny breakfast, coffee or after work drinks. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bookings recommended.
A popular beer garden that sees locals mingling with international visitors, Hirschgarten is the largest open-air restaurant in Munich featuring hunting lodges and lakes and is an ideal location for tourists to mingle with the locals over a couple of pints. Start off with potato, marjoram and bacon soup followed by prime boiled beef with fresh horseradish and salted boiled potatoes, or the mouth-watering roast venison from the haunch with a mushroom and cream sauce, Swabian egg pasta and lingonberries. For something sweet try caramelised pancake slices with raisins and apple sauce. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner; 9am to midnight. The beer garden is open from 11am until midnight.
Serving some of Schwabing's finest haute cuisine, and boasting one of Munich's best chefs, the exterior of this restaurant is misleading, but step inside and you are magically transported into another world where fine wines and décor are accentuated with tantalisingly tasty and attractive dishes. The menus can cover three to eight courses and are offered for lunch and dinner. Try the terrine of duck liver with braised figs and roasted duck breast, or the medallion of young venison saddle with red cabbage and semolina dumpling, and let your taste buds be thrilled by the chocolate soufflé with marinated port wine figs and vanilla-brittle ice cream. Perfection! Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations essential.
Beer has been swilled at this world-famous tavern site in the centre of Munich since it became a royal brewery in 1605. Equally famous is the Bavarian jollity and conviviality, known as 'gemuchtlikheid', which has emanated directly from the Hofbrauhaus in Munich along with the beer which flows freely there each day, served by robust rosy-cheeked young women clad in Bavarian dress in litre-sized beer steins. The cheerful atmosphere that reigns constantly in the establishment's different halls is helped along by the foot-tapping strains of traditional Bavarian 'oom-pah' bands and drinking songs. When the beer becomes too much, soak it up with a delicious salty pretzel or a German speciality from the menu, such as liver dumplings, potato soup or a variety of delicious sausages.
Gasthof Weichandhof is less of a tourist destination and more of a local favourite. Situated in an old farmhouse near the autobahn, the restaurant serves traditional Bavarian cuisine like pork knuckles, suckling pig, and strudels. The atmosphere is always lively, and there's a quaint vine-covered terrace open during summer months. Gasthof Weichandhof is open Sunday to Friday from 11am to midnight, and Saturday from 5pm to midnight. Reservations are recommended.
The unit of currency is the Euro (EUR), divided into 100 cents. ATMs and exchange bureaux are widely available. The major credit cards are widely accepted in large shops, hotels and restaurants, although Germans themselves prefer to carry cash. The quickest and most convenient way to change money is to obtain cash from one of the ATMs that are ubiquitous features on all German streets. Banks are closed on weekends, but exchange bureaux at airports and main railway stations are open daily.
German is the official language. English is also widely spoken and understood.
230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months after the period of intended stay in Germany. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
British passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, only need to be valid for period of intended stay in Germany. All other endorsements require at least three months validity beyond the period of intended stay in Germany.
A visa is not required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 190 day period for holders of passports with any other endorsement.
Holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authorities, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom', do not require a visa to visit Germany.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Germany. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Germany. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the intended period of stay, and a valid Schengen visa, to enter Germany. Note that Temporary passports will not be recognised.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival in Germany. A visa is not required.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months after the period of intended stay in Germany. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Germany. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Additionally, non-EEA members require proof of (i) onward or return tickets, (ii) the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and (iii) sufficient funds to support themselves while in Germany. Note that citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the USA are exempt from the requirement to hold onward tickets.
It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
There are no serious health risks for visitors to Germany and no vaccinations are required. The German health service is excellent. There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK and most EU countries, whose citizens are entitled to free medical and dental treatment on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Nationals of other countries should take out medical insurance.
German law stipulates that all prices, menus and bills include both tax and a service charge, so tipping is not necessary in restaurants. Cleaning staff, hairdressers, taxi drivers etc. appreciate small tips.
A visit to Germany should be trouble free, but take normal precautions to avoid mugging, bag-snatching and pick-pocketing, especially at airports, railway stations and markets in the large cities.
Visitors are not required to carry their passports with them at all times in Germany, but carrying some form of identification is advised. Smoking in public places such as bars and restaurants is illegal.
In Germany, business is conducted in a very formal manner. A conservative, formal dress code is the norm. Punctuality is vital at all meetings and it is considered rude to be late. Germans love titles: men are referred to as 'Herr' and women as 'Frau', followed by their last names, until otherwise specified. Meetings are often purely business and may not occur over lunches, which are generally more social. Shaking hands at the beginning and end of the meeting is common. The exchange of business cards is also common but there is no accompanying ritual. Decisions are often made behind closed doors. Business hours are generally 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, with an hour taken over lunch.
The international access code for Germany is +49. Telephone numbers in Germany can range from four to nine digits. There are surcharges on international calls made from hotels; it is often cheaper to use public telephone boxes in post offices, which use phone cards, or to purchase a local SIM card. Free wifi is available in most hotels, cafes, restaurants and similar establishments.
Passengers arriving from non-EU countries, over the age of 17, can enter Germany without paying duty on the following items: 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g smoking tobacco. 4 litres of wine and 16 litres of beer and 1 litre of spirits over 22 percent volume or 2 litres of spirits under 22 percent volume. Other goods to the value of €430 for travellers arriving by air or sea, and €300 for travellers arriving by land.
German National Tourist Board, Frankfurt: +49 (0)69 751 903 or www.germany-tourism.de
German Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 298 4000.
German Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7824 1300.
German Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 232 1101.
German Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 427 8900.
German Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6270 1911.
German Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 269 3011.
German Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 6063.
United States Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 83050.
British Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 20 4570.
Canadian Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 203 120.
South African Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 220 730.
Australian Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 880 0880.
Irish Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 220 720.
New Zealand Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 206 210.
The name Berchtesgaden is most closely associated with Adolf Hitler's country house, but it is in fact a delightful Bavarian alpine village with ancient winding streets and a medieval marketplace, popular as an excursion from Munich. Hitler's holiday house, the Berghof, is actually at Obersalzberg about half a mile (2km) up the Kehlstein Mountain. Afternoon bus tours to the Fuhrer's playground can be undertaken from the tourist office in the village, but there is little to see besides some underground bunkers, which are open to the public. Most tourists, however, do delight in visiting the Kehlsteinhaus (or Eagle's Nest), a remarkable building perched precariously atop the mountain, originally commissioned by Martin Bormann as a 50th birthday present for Hitler (although the notorious Nazi leader seldom visited it because of his fear of heights). Today it is the site of an excellent Bavarian restaurant and provides breath-taking views at the end of a stunning winding mountain road.
The town of Berchtesgaden itself has some interesting attractions, besides its 16th-century architecture and enticing inns. There is a small wood-carving museum at Schloss Aldelsheim which can be viewed on a guided tour. Wood sculptures, Renaissance furniture and some art works are worth seeing at the Konigliches Schloss, which was originally an Augustinian monastery. The most fun to be had, however, is in the salt mines to the east of the town, which offer guided tours. Visitors wear protective clothing and ride on wagons to the mine, then explore the mine on foot and ride miner's slides, finishing with a trip on the salt lake ferry. The mine has been in operation since 1517. Berchtesgarten also boasts a world-class ice-skating rink, the Eisstadion, which is sought after by winter sports enthusiasts in the winter months, along with the skiing opportunities in the surrounding area.
About 10 miles (16km) to the northwest of Munich on the Stuttgart Autobahn is the town of Dachau. Once a quiet artists' community, it became the site of the first notorious Nazi 'death camp', where thousands of perceived enemies of the Third Reich were imprisoned, starved, and killed between 1933 and 1945. The camp has now been turned into a memorial museum to the prisoners (67,000 were liberated alive by the US Army on April 28, 1945). The museum contains three memorial chapels. The Lagerstrasse, the main camp road, still exists, lined with poplar trees, but only two of the original 32 barracks that lined it remain, having been rebuilt to illustrate the conditions endured by the prisoners. The original kitchen, laundry and shower block is now a museum containing exhibits, photographs and documents depicting the persecution of Jews and other prisoners. The exhibitions are often very personal and include the accounts and stories of prisoners. The memorial is a sobering experience, and may not be suitable for young children.
One of the most beautiful lakes in the Bavarian Alps, Chiemsee boasts two islands and is lined with resorts. A popular weekend excursion in Germany, it can be reached by train from Munich in an hour, or by road via the A8 Autobahn. Visitors can take a steamer cruise around the lake from Prien on the west shore to explore the islands in the lake. The scenery is breathtaking and in summer there is great swimming and sailing to enjoy. Even in winter the lake is beautiful, and much less crowded.
Frauenchiemsee is the smaller island and the site of a quaint fishing village with some colourful traditional customs, and a Benedictine nunnery known for its liqueur. The larger island, Herrenchiemsee, bears one of King Ludwig's famous fairy-tale castles. This one was never completed, but was intended to be a replica of the palace of Versailles. The centre of the palace still stands, complete with a splendid hall of mirrors and surrounded by gardens and woodland. It is an extremely popular tourist attraction with its gaudy splendour and picturesque location.
The historic university town of Heidelberg, about 55 miles (89km) south of Frankfurt, is billed as a city of music and romance. It is one of the few German cities that escaped relatively unscathed from air raids during World War II, and still has numerous buildings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to explore, including some beautiful historical churches. The university was established in 1386, and features some picturesque buildings on its campuses. A good way to enjoy scenic views of Heidelberg is along the Philosopher's Walk, a path alongside the Heiligenberg, so named because university professors would walk along the path when they needed to think.
The city is built along the banks of the Neckar River, and has a vibrant atmosphere thanks to its large student population, particularly in the student quarter with its narrow streets and lively inns. The modern part of the city, around the Bismarckplatz, has some good hotels and restaurants, and enticing shopping plazas. The weather in Heidelberg is famously sunny and warm compared to much of Germany, and this is a major draw for the millions of tourists who visit each year.
This quaint town on the steep Elbe hillside was once a fishing village favoured by retired ship captains. Today it has become popular with locals as a weekend excursion from Hamburg. Foreign visitors also throng the narrow alleys between picturesque houses packed together on the cliffside. The village offers an abundance of cafes and restaurants where patrons can relax and watch ships steaming in and out of the harbour, and there are more than half a dozen pretty parks in which to spend a few hours on a nice day. The stunning views from the river-facing portions of Blankenese have resulted in many beautiful homes and hotels being built on the steep hillside, much of which is inaccessible to cars and has tiny pedestrian-only streets which are very charming - there are also 4,864 stairs. There are two lighthouses on Blankenese. Other attractions include a Roman garden, a doll museum and numerous parks and walking trails.
There is a ferry service to Blankenese from St Pauli-Landungsbrucken in Hamburg's Free Port and the Blankenese waterfront is serviced by various other water shuttles as well. There are many buoys in the river to help guide all sizes of watercraft, since this part of the river has many sandbars and is subject to tidal shifts.
The island of Sylt is Germany's most northern point, lying off the northwestern coast in the North Sea. The island boasts some lovely sandy beaches and stunning views, and its main town, Westerland, has become a popular seaside resort. Other sought-after villages are Kampen and Wenningstedt-Braderup. In recent years Sylt has become the seaside destination of choice for the German rich and famous and celebrity spotting is a regular activity for some tourists. The island has miles of bicycle paths meandering through pine forests and is a popular place for horse riding too.
Sylt offers plenty of entertainment for tourists, including shops, spas and exclusive restaurants. There are also a number of golf courses. The Ellenbogen Nature Reserve is a lovely area for walking and there are two lighthouses to explore as well as wonderful dunes. Although most visitors come to enjoy the beaches and outdoor activities in pretty Sylt, other popular tourist attractions include the Sylt Aquarium, which is a good place to take children, and the small but historically interesting Saint Severin Church. Sylt is easy to get to and trains arrive several times a day from Hamburg. The island is connected to the mainland by the six-mile (10km) Hindenburgdamm Bridge.
Hameln, the famous town of the Pied Piper tale told to children around the world, is a popular tourist destination in Lower Saxony, northern Germany, lying beside the River Weser. The old town centre has been reconstructed with several Renaissance buildings, and some wood-frame historic buildings, all adding to the fairy-tale atmosphere that brings alive the legend of the piper who offered to rid the town of rats, and ended up stealing all the children. A short musical version of the story is performed each Wednesday in the old town between May and September at about 4.30pm, and the Pied Piper himself conducts tours around the town.
Most of the tourist attractions in Hameln are close together, so it's easy to see everything on foot, before enjoying a meal at one of the town's many cafes and beer gardens. The main attraction of the village is its old-world fairy-tale appeal and the feeling that you have stepped back in time. Hameln also hosts a popular Christmas market from late November through December which is a great place to do some shopping for those back home. The town in situated in beautiful mountainous scenery, on the river, and is a great base for excursions out into the countryside.
Lübeck lies 41 miles (66km) northeast of Hamburg, close to the Baltic coast. Not only is this historic town the home of a couple of noted Nobel Prize winners, but as a living monument to the wealthy Hanseatic merchants of the 13th century it sports some architectural treasures that have ensured its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town's famous sons are Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971, and Thomas Mann, whose novel Buddenbrooks won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929. As far as the architecture goes, the town is known for its steeples and spires, high-gabled houses, strong towers and massive gates.
The town is also billed as the world capital of marzipan, having been the spot where this delightful confection was first devised (there is a legend attached, of course). Samples of marzipan are freely available in Lübeck, along with tastes of wine from the region. There are also some great cafes and restaurants to enjoy in this beautiful town which feels quite unlike any other. If you only have time for a quick visit spend a few hours strolling the Lübeck Altstadt (Old Town) where many of the most striking buildings are gathered.
The Fairy-Tale Road follows a meandering 370-mile (595km) route that traces the path of famous storytellers the Brothers Grimm. Many people don't realise that the Brothers Grimm didn't simply invent their famous stories, but recorded and collected local legends and folk tales from their homeland near Frankfurt. Between charming villages and well-preserved medieval towns, Germany's Fairy-Tale Road wanders through lush forests and 'gingerbread' houses that inspired the worlds of well-loved characters like Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel.
Starting in the town of Hanau, where Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were born, visitors can explore attractions like the Brothers Grimm monument in the town square, the Puppet Museum at Williamsbad, the Marienkirche where Jakob was married, and the Phillippsruhe Palace, which hosts performances of the fairy-tales (though mostly in German).
The next town on the journey is Steinau, where the brothers spent their youth; and Marburg, a university town where they began to research local legends for their collection. Further on the town of Kassel is home to the Brothers Grimm Museum. Nearby Baunatal was the home of Dorothea Viehmann, who told the Brothers Grimm many stories, and visitors can have a beer in the Knallhüt brewery, which occupies the building she was born in.
From there the Fairy-Tale Road follows the Weser River to Hameln, the famous town of the Pied Piper. In nearby Bad Oeynhausen travellers will find the Fairy-Tale Museum. The road ends in the town of Bremen, home of both the mythical Little Nienburg Girl and the very real Rathaus, a vibrant marketplace filled with town musicians and the famous Ratskeller Restaurant.
Wiesbaden is arguably Germany's most favoured spa resort and it lies about 25 miles (40km) west of Frankfurt in a valley between the Rhine River and Taunus Mountains. This charming and ancient town makes for the perfect excursion from Frankfurt. The town has been a spa resort since the time of the ancient Romans, with its 26 hot springs averaging temperatures of around 122°F (50°C).
Besides being known for its luxurious spa hotels, Wiesbaden is also a cultural centre, its events being concentrated around the major Kurhaus concert hall complex. The complex includes a casino and restaurant, conference and exhibition facilities. There are many quality restaurants in the village and Wilhelmstrasse is a good starting point for explorations of the town because it is the best shopping street and boasts some striking architectural landmarks. A walking tour is a nice way to take in the historical and cultural attractions of Wiesbaden. Another great activity is a visit to the Greek Orthodox Church on the hill which has beautiful views and can be reached by the Nerobergbahn, a water-powered train which has been running since the late 1800s. There are also obstacle courses, a swimming pool and a cafe on the top of the hill.