Germany travel guide


2 MINUTE SUMMARY

You know when you spontaneously walk into a church in a foreign land and not know what to expectÖ then suddenly you hear an organ strike up and a choir burst into ethereal song, and you start to tingle all over? Well, that is what Germany is like. You could easily walk past, assume it might be lacking in Ďfuní, and overlook the beauty that lies within.
A good starting point is to just simply remember the composers that came out of Germany, and youíll realise itís worth opening that door. Bachís romantic, baroque beauties evoke images of castles and palaces that are omnipresent. Robert Schumannís song cycles, who came from the stunning Thuringian Forest region in Saxony, are famously inspired by nature. And Richard Straussí dramatic, romantic yet independent streak must have been inspired by his Bavarian background.
This Germany travel guide aims to show you that this country is, surprisingly and delightfully, not only music to your ears but a veritable symphony of surprises.

What we rate & what we don't


Our best & worst of Germany vacations

Underrated

The Coast National parks Barrier free tourism Family travel

The Coast

Yes it has a coastline, and it isnít just the port of Hamburg either. The Baltic Islands are another world of sand dunes, traditional resort architecture and cycling trails, RŁgen being the largest, with 10km of chalky cliffs and ancient beech forests just part of the beauty of Jasmund NP. Or the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site, where floating sea grasses, dunes and wetlands are bursting with birdlife.

National parks

They donít roll off the tongue, but there are some truly great ones here, all with superb infrastructures to hike, cycle, horse ride, swim, sailÖ you name it, Germans love the outdoors, so you got it. Bavarian Forest NP boasts bison and wild horses. Eifel NP is pure volcanic virtuosity. Lower Saxon Wadden Sea NP on the North Sea is a wetland and bird watching wonder of coastal wilderness.

Barrier free tourism

Way ahead in terms of catering for travelers with special needs, Germany is breaking barriers. The has ĎBarrier Free Tourismí on the homepage, and many regions are becoming specialists in catering for all needs. Deutsche Bahn, the national rail network, has a dedicated mobility hotline, and activities from hiking to biking, kayaking to ziplining are adapting and connecting.

Family travel

Not top of the list for family vacations? Think again. Trains are great value, with children under 15 often traveling for free. Family friendly cycling routes abound, such as round the castles of Muensterland or Lake Constance, as do accommodation and companies to transport bags. The food is superb, forest vacations are the business, and being outdoorsy as a family is second nature here. Itís just like joining a lovely club.

Rated

Waymarked ways Bavarian Alps Lake Constance Winter

Waymarked ways

Yes, they have a reputation for being organised. But this is to the hikerís benefit on the countryís superb network of waymarked ways. From the ancient and iconic Rennsteig, the towering Rheinsteig that follows the Rhine from an exquisitely elevated position, to the 120km King Ludwig Trail in Bavaria. The term Ďwanderlustí comes from Germany. In terms of waymarked ways, you gotta lust it.

Bavarian Alps

So often overlooked by peak seekers or piste posers, the Bavarian Alps are iIndependent, inviting and innovative in terms of small, rural ecotourism. This is hikersí heaven in spring, summer and autumn, and cross country skiing or snowshoeing sublimity in winter. Throw in a romantic Christmas market for festive perfection.

Lake Constance

Itís chocolate box, itís cheesy, itís charming and itís circumnavigable by bike. In the foothills of the Alps, this turquoise treat of a lake is blissfully beautiful. Music the main town of Konstanz , swimming beaches, Seewein (Lake Wine) vineyards, or architectural delights like Meersburg Castle. Indulge in obligatory Ďkaffee und kuchení and then do it all again the next day. One of the worldís most sublime circuits.

Winter

Already the most famous of European Christmas markets, which are indeed glorious, donít forget that Germany is also gorgeous in the snow. Go snowshoeing along 24,000km of trails in the Black Forest or many more in the Bavarian Alps. Or come in January or February to enjoy winter walking along the Rennsteig Trail or in the Bavarian Forest National Park, far from the madding ski crowds of other countries.

Overrated

Stereotypes Narrow view of history Beer over wine Flying & driving

Stereotypes

Germany is about so much more than lederhosen and beer festivals, Christmas markets and city breaks. And Germans are also so much more than their serious stereotypes. Wanderlust is in the genes, green and sustainable development is too. They care about their landscapes, culture and communities Ė and it shows. In their well managed national trails, local markets and low carbon transport systems.

Narrow view of history

ĎDonít mention the warí is not only an insensitive clichť, it is shortsighted. Apart from the fact that Roman, medieval, Prussian and many other historical influences can be seen throughout Germany, so can its steps towards truth and reconciliation. Camps such as Bergen Belsen and Dachau are open to the public. And Berlinís Jewish Museum is painfully poignant, as is its Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Beer over wine

Beer is everywhere but with 13 wine regions, six of them in Rhineland-Palatinate, fine wines are omnipresent and thereís nearly always a vineyard nearby with a vintnerís history to be told. Ahr Valley, Baden, Franconia and the Saxonian wineyards, as well as just about everywhere along the Rhine or the Mosel, are a sommelierís seventh heaven. Seek out wine trails to hike or bike along, or just enjoy raising a glass.

Flying & driving

German trains and the network are just superb. The national rail company Deutsche Bahn is second to none, and really good value. Regional networks offer great deals such as the Konus Card giving free travel to visitors on Black Forest vacations. Or the Rhineland-Palatinate ticket, just Ä24 per day for unlimited travel, but up to four other people traveling with you only pay Ä5 and children under 15 go free.

Food, shopping & people


DISCOVER GERMANY LIKE A LOCAL

Eating & drinking in Germay


In the Black Forest, donít just have your cake and
eat it. Smoked ham, trout and mushrooms are
also local specialities.
Saarland is dairy central and, therefore,
one big wine and cheese party.
Franconia not only pumps out plenty of
artisan beer, but also superb local sausages.
In the northern coastal areas of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein area, smoked eel, pickled herring and Schiller-Locken (a smoked fish fillet) are menu favourites.
There is a saying in Germany that you should breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a King and dine like a pauper. Not sure where Kaffee und Kuchen fit in, but we like it. 

People & culture


Anyone who has downed a litre of beer with them has seen their ďover earnestĒ stereotype instantly subside. Germans speak good English and consider it polite to respond in English even if you try to speak German. But will also admire it if you give German a go. Expect tricky dialects in Bavaria, Saxony and Baden. In Saxony and Brandenburg you may also meet people of Slavic origin, who speak Sorb. Frisian people on the west coast speak ĎNorth Frisianí particularly on some islands.

Hallo Ė Hello (GrŁss Gott in Bavaria)
Danke schŲn Ė Thank you
Bitte schŲn Ė You're welcome
Bitte Ė Please
TschŁss (pronounced chooss) - Bye

Gifts & shopping


Glass has been handblown in Bavaria since the 15th century. Bodenmais is its heart of glass.
Hohner has been making accordions and harmonicas since the 1850ís. Still classics.
Wooden, handmade toys are very traditional in Germany. Check they are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.
There are mineral and thermal springs all over the country. Many have their own range of products, from body creams to bath salts.
Thereís always room in a checked in bag for a bottle of Riesling, Weissburgunder or
GewŁrztraminer.

Fast facts



Germans used to be very formal, with everyone using ĎHerrí and ĎFrauí. It is more laid back these days, and the use of ĎFrauleiní (Miss) has been officially banned since the 1970s.

How much does it cost?


Loaf of rye bread (Roggenbrot): £2-3

Fresh fish roll on RŁgen Island - £2.20

Hiring a bike: £8/day Electric bikes: £20/day

Half litre of local beer - £1.50-2.50

Konus travel Card in Black Forest Ė Free

Train Frankfurt to Berlin Ė From £15 one way

A brief history of Germany


We could have brushed over the history section of this Germany Travel Guide, buying into that Ďdonít mention the warí mentality, but that would not only be naÔve, but also irresponsible. From Romans to Prussians, Napoleon to Hitler, Germanyís history not only stretches way back before the twentieth century, but is also fascinating in terms of its impact on culture and tourism. So do please read more here. Read more ▼
Uneasy no settle would like to thank the German National Tourist Board for their sponsorship of this guide
Photo credits: [Top box image: Pierre BŁro Gaff Adenis] [The Coast: M-H-R] [National parks: RŁdiger Biehl] [Barrier free tourism: Dirk Topel Kommunikation GmbH] [Family travel: Ernst Wrba] [Waymarked ways: Daniel Schlesinger] [Bavarian Alps: thoughtbecontact] [Lake Constance: Rob Migiel] [Winter: Daniel Zimmermann] [Stereotypes: momentcaptured1] [Narrow view of history: Chripps] [Beer over wine: Megan Cole] [Flying & driving: David Short] [Eating & drinking: jacinta lluch valero] [People & language: Merten, Hans Peter] [Gifts & shopping: Vincent Tcheng Chang] [Fast Facts: ] [How much does it cost?: Eric Kilby] [help desk box: gags9999]
Written by Catherine Mack
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