25 Things to Do in Germany

Ah, Germany. Everyone knows it’s there, but few people put it on the top of their travel list, preferring the standard France, Italy or Greece, or going more exotic to eastern Europe or up to Scandinavia. And that’s a pity because there is just so much to see and do in Germany. I lived there for two and a half years (and married a German, so we return regularly) and still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. In case you need more convincing, here are 25 tips for what to do in Germany to prove that there is definitely something for everyone. Some are very well-known activities like Oktoberfest in Munich or visiting the Berlin Wall remnants; others are well off the beaten tourist track; but all of them are well worth a look.

A view of Bacharach along the Rhine by Jeremy Branham

The Berlin Wall

I could write a book about the Berlin Wall, but instead I’ll just heartily encourage you to take advantage of any Berlin Wall-related sightseeing spots in Berlin. The Eastside Gallery is a great way to see some of the famous artistic moments of the wall, and the Topography of Terror exhibition located at the old SS headquarters gives some scary history from those times. My favourite Berlin Wall attraction is probably the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum which includes incredible stories (and artefacts) about those who escaped or attempted to escape into the west.

what to do in Germany

Haus am Checkpoint Charlie exhibit by boreritos

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Cologne Cathedral

Without the cathedral, Cologne is a pretty city on the Rhine with some interesting museums. But being home to Koelner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) makes it a must visit. This is a towering cathedral that must surely impress everyone, and both inside and outside it’s utterly photogenic. I first visited as a teenager and have been captivated by it ever since.

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Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau

One of the most well-known castles in Germany is Neuschwanstein, near the town of Füssen in Bavarian, south-east Germany. Many say it’s even the model for the famous Disneyland castle and there are definitely similarities. It can be, in my opinion, a little too overrun with tourists and the tours through the castle whisk you through at quite a cracking pace – so my suggestion is to spend more time at its “brother” castle Hohenschwangau , walking distance from Neuschwanstein, and take a walk around the grounds of both, because it’s really a picturesque area.

what to do in Germany

Hohenschwangau Castle by Amanda Kendle

Eagle’s Nest and Berchtesgaden

You can’t go too far in Germany before World War Two history confronts you. One fascinating place I visited was Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) near Berchtesgaden. Just getting there is interesting as you end up taking a lift up through the rock to the top of a hill and the views are fantastic. Built as a retreat for Hitler, he apparently didn’t end up going there much and since it wasn’t such an important Nazi site it wasn’t destroyed at the end of the war. Nowadays there is a restaurant up there, and you can take some great hikes, but for me it was still a little spooky to think of Hitler having been there at all.

Sanssouci Palace

A popular day trip from Berlin is a visit to Schloss Sanssouci in Potsdam. This palace was the summer residence for Frederick the Great and you can take a tour of the inside or simply enjoy exploring the gardens and other features around it.

what to do in Germany

At Schloss Sanssouci by Amanda Kendle

Oktoberfest in Munich

Mention Germany and many people will want to time their visit for Oktoberfest, with the biggest festival happening in Munich. (Remember, though, that most of Oktoberfest actually happens in September!). Central Munich is home to the Hofbrauhaus and regardless of what time of year you arrive, you can pop in there for a beer and some good German food and get some of the Oktoberfest atmosphere.

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber

If you’re after a picture-book German town, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the one to visit. The only drawback is a lot of tourist buses stop there – but that’s because it is so typically German-looking and photogenic – so it might be better to spend the night there and take a good look around earlyin the morning or late in the evening when it’s a little emptier. And if you’re there at night you can also try the Night Watchman’s tour.

what to do in Germany

View to Rothenburg’s main square by Amanda Kendle

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Off the Tourist Track in Dinkelsbühl

For those who prefer to stay off the beaten track, a similar typically German experience can be had by visiting a town like Dinkelsbühl in the south of Germany. With plenty of Fachwerk-style buildings and little shops to explore, you may not find too many tourists but you will find olden days Germany!

What to do in Germany

Fachwerk houses in Dinkelsbuehl by Amanda Kendle

Frankfurt Book Fair

If you’re a book lover, I can’t recommend strongly enough that you time a trip to Germany to coincide with the Frankfurt Book Fair. I’ve managed to get there a couple of times (so far!) and it is incredible! It’s usually held in October and two of the days (usually the weekend) are open to the general public. You’ll see new books before anyone else, get all kinds of free giveaways (haunt the cook book section when you’re hungry!) and be thoroughly entertained.

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Bodensee – Lake Constance

The Bodensee, or as we English speakers refer to it, Lake Constance, is one of the jewels of Germany, and is a popular holiday destination for the locals as well. Apart from the scenic nature of the lake there are some other interesting attractions there too, like the Lake Dwelling museum and the Zeppelin Museum. It’s also popular to do a cycling tour around the lake and it’s a great place for it.

what to do in Germany

Lake Dwelling Museum on Lake Constance by Amanda Kendle

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Rhine Cruise to Bacharach

The towns along the Rhine River are particularly beautiful parts of Germany and a good base for exploring some of these is Bacharach. From here you can take a cruise on the Rhine and you also have easy access to many nearby castles.

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg is a very pretty city on the River Neckar, and the centrepiece is the Heidelberg Castle (or at least its remnants) which sit a little way up a hill above the main shopping area. You can also get great views to the castle from the other side of the river, by taking a stroll on the Philosopher’s Walk.

View to Danube from Heidelberg Castle by Amanda Kendle

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Rhine River in Dusseldorf

If you’re looking for a busier place to appreciate the Rhine, try visiting Dusseldorf. As one of the financial centres of the country it’s bustling with all kinds of people and the promenade along the Rhine is an interesting way to see the river and the people who live and work near it.

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Ulm Cathedral

The south-west city of Ulm is another great place for a visit and the highlight for me is the Ulm Cathedral. This Gothic building is the tallest church in the world! If you make it to the top (there are quite a few stairs!) you’ll have great views over Ulm and the Danube River and you’ll deserve a tasty treat when you get back to ground level.

what to do in Germany

View from Ulm Cathedral by Amanda Kendle

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Becks Beer in Bremen

Obviously, there are plenty of places to get a good beer across Germany, but one of the best is Bremen, the home of Becks beer. Quite apart from the beer, Bremen is a lovely town to visit. If you remember your fairy tales and know about the Musicians of Bremen, you’ll be rewarded with a cute statue of the four animals involved (rub the lucky hoofs!).

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Lubeck Marzipan

I’m not even a fan of marzipan but I became a convert when eating original Lübecker Marzipan. You can visit the spot in Lubeck where it’s made and stock up on all your favourite marzipan treats – it definitely tastes superior to pretty much any other marzipan I’ve ever eaten! There are also lots of other reasons to have a short break in Lübeck now that it’s very easily accessible.

what to do in Germany

Town Hall in Luebeck by Amanda Kendle

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Holocaust Sightseeing in Berlin

There are an enormous number of sightseeing spots in Berlin that I think you can’t miss, but some of the most important are those related to the holocaust. The Jewish Museum is the first of these – although the Holocaust is only a small part of this museum, the rest is also incredible and you will learn a lot, as well as be fascinated by it. It’s one of my favourite ever museums! The relatively new Holocaust Memorial is also an important place to visit and have a quiet reflective moment. Finally, there is also an Anne Frank Museum which is especially suitable if you have children travelling with you.

Dachau Concentration Camp

You may not want to visit a concentration camp but I think it’s a useful and important experience. The Dachau Concentration Camp just outside Munich can be somewhat overwhelming but the history you find there should not be forgotten.

what to do in Germany

Entrance to Dachau Concentration Camp by Amanda Kendle

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

An alternative is the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp just outside Berlin. It is smaller and usually less crowded than Dachau, but will have a similar effect on you.

Bad Wimpfen Christmas Markets

I’m a huge fan of European Christmas markets and perhaps the loveliest I’ve ever experienced are those held in the village of Bad Wimpfen in south-west Germany. This is a picturesque medieval town where the market stalls are set up along windy cobblestone alleyways, with an emphasis on authentic, traditional gifts and food. Even if you miss the November/December Christmas market weekends, I thoroughly recommend stopping by Bad Wimpfen in any case.

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Christmas markets in Bad Wimpfen by Amanda Kendle

Nuremburg Christmas Markets

A good alternative – and a bigger set of markets – can be found at the Nuremberg Christmas markets. They have great food stalls with all the traditional German foods available and the possibilities for shopping are incredible, as the Nuremburg Christmas markets are said to be the largest in the country.

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ZKM in Karlsruhe

If you’re in the south-west of Germany, a stop in at the ZKM Museum in Karlsruhe is an interesting distraction. This gallery includes a range of interactive art installations which gave me hours of amusement, I have to admit!

ZKM Exhibit in Karlsruhe by Amanda Kendle

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Fraueninsel in Bavaria

Bavaria (or Bayern as the Germans say) is a popular destination for a German holiday and one of the prettiest parts is a beautiful lake, the Chiemsee, not far from Munich. Visiting one of its islands, the Fraueninsel, makes for a fantastic day trip.

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Blühendes Barock in Ludwigsburg

Garden lovers need to swing by the small town of Ludwigsburg, just north of Stuttgart, to check out the Blühendes Barock – home to beautifully kept gardens along with a special section highlighting fairy tales we all know and love. My husband enjoyed visiting this as a child, but as an adult the gardens are just as impressive.

what to see in Germany

Gingerbread house at Bluhendes Barock by Amanda Kendle

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Currywurst in Koblenz (or anywhere!)

I don’t think it matters where you try a Currywurst – the famous German snack of sliced up sausage covered in a curry sauce, and usually served with chips – but my recent experience was in Koblenz, a charming city that’s not too big and not too small – and I can vouch for the fact that there is delicious Currywurst there!

Your German tips

I could go on and list a hundred things to do in Germany instead of twenty-five, but I’ll stop there! What’s your favourite place to visit in Germany? Let me know in the comments.