Did you know that Germany has more than 25,000 castles to visit? If that excites you, it's only a matter of time before you're planning a trip to this culturally and historically thrilling country. Home to 84.4 million people, and the birthplace of various delicious beer brews and countless musical geniuses like Bach or Beethoven, your knowledge of Deutschland may only scratch the surface.
There's so much to figure out. It can all be intimidating, from where to go, to whether you'll need help from a Germany tour guide. Don't worry though! This comprehensive guide will start your journey on the right note, providing insights, highlights, facts, and figures. Let's delve into why Germany is so extraordinary, what to see once you're there, and how to properly prepare for this fascinating land that lies between technological marvel and historical richness.
Why We Love Germany
Germany is an enchanting mix of heritage and progress, where century-old traditions such as the Oktoberfest in Munich, celebrating its beer culture, meet cutting-edge engineering prowess such as the BMW tower. With nearly 40 million tourists in 2019, the country beat out major competitors like the United Kingdom, Japan, and Greece, making it the 9th most visited country in the world. A top destination for travelers!
So is tourism a thing in Germany? Absolutely! After a decline in 2020, with only 12.45 million visitors, tourism is again on the rise, marking an increase of +26.5% in overnight stays in March 2023.
So why is Germany one of the most visited countries? Its culture, cuisine, and landscapes will tell you more!
Germany's iconic culture (especially its delicious beers!) is celebrated worldwide, but that's only a fraction of the country's heritage, musical and festive traditions.
- Christmas market - These enchanting markets are cherished throughout the country and perfectly reflect the magical charm of the holiday season in Germany. If it's too cold, find the nearest bar and warm up with some "Glühwein" (mulled wine)!
- Beer Culture - A distinct symbol of craftsmanship and tradition, beer culture is a vibrant part of German identity. Sit in one of the country's beautiful beer gardens, or let a local guide give you tips on the most delicious beer.
Travel fact: Beer is also called "Liquid Bread" in Germany and is considered food in Bavaria. Also, Germans have specific glasses for specific beers.
- Outdoor Activities - With its countless scenic trails and beautiful nature, Germany is the perfect destination for nature lovers. Wander through the Harz Mountainfollow riverside trails, or cycle through sun-kissed vineyards - the possibilities are endless!
- Soccer Passion - Similar to beer, soccer (called Fußball) holds a special place in the hearts of many Germans (including myself!). Reflecting on the country's love for sports is the perfect way to experience the electric atmosphere in some of the most iconic soccer stadiums in the world, such as Signal Iduna Park.
- Castles & Palaces: Known for their rich cultural heritage, these iconic landmarks are spread throughout Germany and are ideal destinations for photographers and knowledge-hungry explorers. The Nymphenburg Palace is just one of countless architectural marvels.
Similar to its numerous cultural aspects, German cuisine is equally rich. Here are some mouth-watering meals you have to try out!
- Bratwurst - With over 40 varieties of preparation, the Bratwurst holds a special place in German culinary tradition. Usually made out of minced pork or beef, recipes differ depending on region, making each encounter slightly different.
- Schnitzel - Admired for its simplicity and deliciousness, the German Schnitzel is a typical dish in restaurants and beer gardens. Having its origins in Vienna, Schnitzel has become a staple in the nation's culinary repertoire.
- Pretzel - Immediately recognizable due to its unique shape, pretzels are a typical German baking tradition. Whether enjoyed as a breakfast snack or after a coffee break, pretzels remain a beloved treat you shouldn't miss.
- Maultaschen - Loosely translated as "Mouth Bags", this culinary fusion of pasta dough, spinach, and minced meat is a must-try, especially if you're in the Swebian region!
- Black Forest Cake: Also called "Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte", this iconic German dessert combines mouthwatering taste, a visually appealing presentation, and cultural heritage.
With its ancient castles and dense forests, Germany's landscape is a sanctuary for those looking to connect with nature. These scenes are whimsically worth your time:
- The Moselle Valley - This picturesque region in Western Germany allows you to stroll through renowned vineyards or lose yourself in historically rich cities such as Trier.
- Bavarian Alps - A historical landmark in Germany, the Bavarian Alps are perfect for outdoor activities, wellness, and relaxation. No matter what you do, don't miss out on this breathtaking piece of the German countryside.
- The Black Forest - There is much to discover in the deep valleys, extensive hiking trails, and scenic lakes of the Black Forest. This South-West region offers plenty, from family-friendly wildlife parks to the beautiful Lake Titisee.
- The North Sea - Do you consider yourself a nature lover and beach enthusiast? Then the North Sea's beautiful coastal lines, sandy dunes, and varieties of water sports activities are perfect for you!
- The Saxon Switzerland National Park: This region features one of Germany's most spectacular landscapes. With easy accessibility and a wide range of diverse flora and fauna, it is no wonder that this beautiful piece of land has been the center of numerous artistic works. Truly picture-like!
Who Else Loves Germany?
So how does Germany perform internationally in the tourism market? Well, according to the World Economic Forum, the country ranked 3rd out of 140 countries in 2019. Interested in which countries like Germany the most? Let's take a look:
- Netherlands - With a staggering 10.3 million tourists in 2022, Germany's neighbors are the most prominent group of visitors.
- Switzerland - Another neighboring country, 5.8 million visitors from Switzerland touched down in 2022.
- The United States - Interested in how many U.S. citizens visit Germany? In 2022, 5.4 million Americans traveled overseas to see the country.
- Austria - Behind the U.S., 3.6 million Austrian people visited their neighbors in 2022.
- Poland - Similar to "Österreich", 3.6 million Polish visitors found their way into the country.
Germany At A Glance: Planning The Perfect Trip (Where, When & How)
The famous German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said: "Travel far, travel wide, for in every journey, you'll find a piece of yourself left behind, and a new one to be discovered".
To ensure you won't get lost while traveling far, let us be your compass to navigate the nation's enthralling places and make the most of your journey!
Where To Go: Germany's Top Destinations
- Berlin - Germany's capital is the ideal spot to immerse yourself in the country's rich cultural heritage and explore architectural landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate. Alongside a divine cuisine and plenty of parks and gardens, a guided tour might be the perfect opportunity to get a feel for this magnificent city.
- Neuschwanstein Castle - The most prominent castle in Germany and the inspiration for Disney's Cinderella castle, this fairytale-like scenery will enchant you, guaranteed!
- Hamburg - One of Germany's major port cities, Hamburg is known for its thriving cultural and musical scene, with countless museums, art galleries, and musical venues. Whether you book a tour or walk alongside the Elbe River, Hamburg has something for everyone!
- The Harz Mountains - This is the ideal spot to get out of the city and delve into scenic valleys and dense forests. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to many medieval towns, wellness resorts, and local cuisine. It has its own inimitable charm.
- The Baltic Sea Coast - This beautiful S-shaped coastline unites charming seaside towns with sandy beaches, making it an ideal place for retrieval and relaxation. And if you're already there: try out the locally caught seafood. Delicious!
- Heidelberg - Located in the heart of Germany, this beautiful old town enchants you with its romantic setting and historic charm. Try out flavorful regional dishes on the market square, visit Germany's oldest university, or walk the majestic Heidelberg castle - there's plenty to choose from!
- Trier - Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the oldest city in Germany holds up a delightful atmosphere perfect for strolling through the narrow streets and renowned vineyards. And if you're not in the mood for walking, a bike tour through the city is equally fun!
- Cologne - Home of the Cologne Cathedral, this masterpiece of Gothic architecture is a true traveler's magnet! Need more sightseeing? Taking a walk at the lovely Rhine River promenades or immersing yourself in the city's fascinating history makes for an outstanding visit!
See a tour option that you like? Talk to a local expert guide and get the best of Germany!
When To Go: Germany's Four Seasons
Now that you have an overview of what places to visit, let's dive into Germany's seasonal cycle. Despite the country's distinctive four seasons, the weather does get unpredictable from time to time. When is the best time to visit Germany, you ask? Let's find out together:
- Winter (December-February): Winter in Germany is the time of intensive frost, but also, many festivities, such as the Cologne Carnival or the Berlin International Film Festival. Though arctic air from the North can bring snowfall and frigid temperatures, it is ideal for winter sports activities, such as Skiing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Average temperatures: -3-4°C
What to bring: be sure to pack thermal underwear, a hat, and a pair of gloves!
Travel tip: the mountain areas are much colder, so keep that in mind before traveling!
- Spring (March-May): The tourist season slowly begins with increased temperatures. However, because of the low air humidity, spring comes a little later than in other countries of Europe bringing with it an unpredictable mix of rain, sunshine, and chilly mornings/evenings. Typically, May is the month in which it gets increasingly warmer.
Average temperatures: 7-18°C
What to bring: a warm jacket is recommended! If the weather surprises you, wear layers you can easily strip off, and don't forget sunglasses!
- Summer (June-August): During summertime, nature presents itself from its most beautiful side, and the calendar is filled with a wide range of musical and cultural festivals. In the Western part of Germany, temperatures may rise significantly, while in Southern regions, it is slightly lower.
Average temperatures: 21-23°C
What to bring: summer shorts, sandals, and a swimsuit! A light sweatshirt is recommended since weather changes are possible.
- Autumn (September-November): Typically, autumn is the rainiest season in Germany. Nevertheless, these months are also filled with cultural events such as the legendary Oktoberfest or St. Martin's Day. If you don't mind a little shower from time to time, this could be your ideal travel window.
Average temperature: 10-20°C
What to bring: Long sleeves and jackets are a good place to start, plus some shoes for a rainy day.
Fun Fact: Oktoberfest is the only time of the year in which you will find Germans walking around in Dirndl and Lederhosen.
Overall, Spring and Summer (especially May!) are ideal periods to visit Germany due to its blossoming nature and pleasant temperatures. However, with each season's charm, Germany can be a perfect destination throughout the year, depending on your preferences.
How To Get There: Navigating Germany's Transport System
Traveling in Germany is convenient due to its efficient and well-connected transportation network. Here are some options to choose from:
- Travel by Train - Due to Germany's extensive train system, traveling the country has never been more convenient. The high-speed InterCity Express connects major cities and offers an efficient travel experience.
Travel truth: As much as German trains are famous for their punctuality, reality sometimes looks different. Expect occasional delays…and Germans complaining about it.
- Travel with Public Transport - Need to get somewhere quickly? Germany's public transport offers a practical way to quickly shuttle between cities and regions.
- Car Rental - If you want to be more flexible, renting a car gives you enough freedom to explore the country at your own pace. Also: Germany's highways provide a great network that makes long-distance travel faster.
Travel tip: If you want to explore major cities, public transportation might be more suitable since finding available parking space can be quite a hurdle.
- Cycling - Using a bike is the ideal way to experience Germany's natural beauty. Cycling is a family-friendly activity that can be excellent for exploring diverse routes and cultural landmarks. Also: a Jetbike can be a fun alternative for cruising around cities!
What To Expect: Life In The Land Of Poets & Thinkers
It is safe to say that Germany is generally open-minded. However, you should know some rules and regulations when embarking on your journey. Here are some helpful do's and don'ts.
Travel truth: WWII and Nazi Germany are still a sensitive topic in the country, so be aware before engaging in a conversation.
Safety In Germany
Overall, Germany is safe to visit, with only moderate crime rates, especially compared to other European countries such as France, the UK, or Italy. That being said, road traffic injuries are, despite increasing safety measures, still a primary threat to personal safety in Germany. As with all travel destinations, always watch your valuables, beware of pick-pocketing, and cross the street safely!
If you've made it this far, it's clear you're eager to explore the wonders of Germany!
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