The Ultimate Germany Travel Guide

I spent four months living in Germany and traveling all around Europe! I made it to some pretty significant places in Germany and checked a ton of items off my bucket list!

Even though I spent so much time here, I honestly only scratched the surface of what this country has to offer. I traveled around quite a bit of Southern Germany, but I haven’t made it to the north part of the country, to cities like Hamburg or its islands like Rugen.

If you’re planning a trip this is what you need to know before you go.

The Basics

Official Languages: German & Frisian
Common Foreign Languages: English & French
Currency: €1.00 Euro = $1.10 USD
Climate: Germany’s climate is classified as Temperate. It has warm and humid summers, but grey, cloudy and cold winters. It experiences all four seasons for a relatively similar amount of time each year.
Travel Docs: Passport (up to 90 days)

Common Phrases:
Hello – Hallo, Guten Tag
Goodbye – Auf Wiedersehen (formal), Tschuss (informal)
Please/You’re Welcome – Bitte
Thank You – Dankeschon
Do you speak English? – Sprechen Sie Englisch?
No – Nein

When to Travel to Germany

I always say there’s not a bad time to travel to Europe! However, there are two distinct times I recommend you travel to Germany in particular: September & December.

First, I recommend these two months because you’re avoiding most of the summer high season. The second reason is because the best festivals and cultural events occur during these months!

September

There are two great festivals worth noting in September. First is the wine fest, Bad Durkheim. This takes place mid-September. The second festival starts at the end of September and is one of the most famous festivals in the world. You guessed it, Oktoberfest!

Read More: Biggest German Festivals

Bad Durkheim

December

Christmas time in Europe is just magical, but it’s extra special in Germany once the Christmas markets open! They’re located all around the country and are an absolute joy, so you need to add visiting a few to your bucket list.

Read More: Two of the Best German Christmas Markets

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

What to Eat in Germany

When I travel anywhere I am always excited to check out the local cuisine. Germany had some ups and downs for me, mostly because I’m not a big fan of pork and they eat a lot of it, but there are some real gems here!

Bratwurst
  • Sauerbraten – This pot roast is the national dish of Germany!
  • Schnitzel – This is probably the most well-known German food, and I actually don’t like it! But my opinion is an unpopular one. This is a friend pork patty and it comes in a variety of styles and sauces.
  • Spaetzel – This is another dish I personally didn’t like! But others love it. This is an egg noodle pasta dish and it was the texture I didn’t enjoy.
  • Bratwurst – You can’t go to Germany and not try a bratwurst! It’s the perfect festival food that you can carry around with you while you browse craft stalls or drink a beer.
  • Currywurst – This unique take on a bratwurst adds a curry sauce to it. It is delicious and was one of my favorite foods!
  • Potato Pancake – I tried some of these at Oktoberfest (Berlin) and they were to die for! Only difference, I thought of them as a good salty snack with ketchup, but the Germans opt for apple sauce instead!
  • Doner – You will find cheap doner shops all over Germany. This is like the German-style gyro and I loved it. Add spicy sauce to it every time.
  • Spaghetti Ice – This is such a simple, but fun frozen treat. Vanilla ice cream shaped into spaghetti noodles topped with strawberry sauce & white chocolate shavings. Delicious every time!
  • Kinder Eggs – Do you remember those chocolate eggs with toys on the inside? While you can’t legally have them in the United States, they’re still available in Germany so you can bring back some childhood memories with this treat!
  • German Roasted Almonds – One of my all-time favorite snacks is a German-roasted almond. These candied nuts are just wonderful.
  • German Gingerbread – The Germans invented gingerbread, so you know it’s good! You’ll find lots of gingerbread at Christmas Markets.
  • Bakeries – I’m grouping all baked goods in this category, whether it be a soft pretzel for an afternoon snack or a croissant for breakfast. I love European breakfasts because I can find a tiny cafe and grab a baked good and a cappuccino then be on my way!
  • Gluhwien – If you’re visiting in the fall or winter get ready to put a deposit down on a souvenier mug and enjoy Germany’s famous mulled wine. It’s spiced, warm and delicious.
German-roasted almonds
Currywurst
My favorite breakfast routine: croissant & cappucino
Gluhwein at a Christmas Market

Can’t Miss Restaurant: Paulaner Munchen
While I was in Berlin I ate at the best restaurant of the semester. There were five of us at dinner and everyone’s meal was to-die for! The wait staff was top-notch and the prices were spot-on, so I couldn’t have been more grateful. If you spot this brewery on your trip make sure to grab a seat and a beer and settle in for the evening.

Veggie dinner at Paulaner Munchen

Where to Travel in Germany

Berlin

Start off your trip by flying into Berlin. This incredible city holds so much history and culture, and it’s the nation’s capital, making it the perfect place to start off your trip.

How long to stay: 4-5 Days
How to get around: The Underground (7 Euros Day Pass)
Where to Stay: I stayed in a hotel near Tiergarten and loved it! It’s in the heart of the city and it is so easy to hop on the Underground and go anywhere. Good breakfast cafes in the area too!

Berlin Cathedral

Top Things to Do:

  • Checkpoint Charlie Museum
  • East Side Gallery
  • Berlin Zoo
  • Museum Island
  • Tiergarten
  • Alexanderplatz
  • Monkey Bar
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe
  • Soviet War Memorial
  • Berlin Cathedral
  • Berlin Wall Memorial
  • Berliner Fernsehturm
  • Spree River
  • & so much more!

Read More: How to Spend 3 Days in Berlin

The Monkey Bar, Berlin

Nuremberg

This stop is a MUST for anyone traveling through Germany in December or on a Christmas Market trail. Nuremberg is home to one of the best Christmas Markets in the entire country!

It has a massive plaza where the Christmas Market stalls fan out around an old church, and there will be musicians playing Christmas Carols on the street. It’s an absolute joy.

How Long to Stay: 1-2 Days
How to get around: Walking
Where to Stay: Local hotels

Gorgeous Christmas Market

Munich

How long to stay: 2-3 Days
How to get around: Public Transit (U-Bahn or S-Bahn)
Where to Stay: My best advice for you, especially when traveling during Oktoberfest, is to know that train times are double what they normally are. So if you’re in an AirBNB just outside the city it can take 45min-1hr to get downtown. It’s expensive & busy so plan ahead.

Oktoberfest biergarten

Top Things to Do

  • Oktoberfest (September–October
  • Marienplatz & Town Hall clock tower show at 12pm
  • English Garden
  • Victuals Market
  • Numerous Museums
  • Church Spotting (There are tons of gorgeous churches scattered throughout Munich!)
    Karlsplatz

Read More: Germany’s Biggest Festivals

Marienplatz

Berchtesgaden

Berchtesgaden is one of the most beautiful areas in south Germany. It’s in an area known as Bavaria and its filled with mountains and fun outdoor activities.

How long to stay: 4 Days
How to get around: Public Busses, taxis
Where to Stay: Lodges around the area, or in Salzburg, Austria which is just a 45 minute bus ride away!

St Bartholomew’s Church courtesy of Paige M.

Top Things to Do

  • Konigssee Lake – This charming lake rests on the cutest little tourist town. There are delicious food stands and souvenir shops lining one little street. The lake itself is huge and you can take a boat ride around it, where you’ll see the famous St Bartholomew’s Church. You can also take a ski lift up into the mountains and hike around!
  • Eagle’s Nest – Adolf Hitler frequented this building hidden up in the mountains, and now you can go see it too.
  • Berchtesgaden National Park – You just won’t want to leave this area. The national park is so beautiful, surrounded by the Alps. There is tons of hiking and camping in the summer as well as skiing and ice skating in the winter.
  • Salt Mines – This is a really fun attraction for people of any age! Many families bring their kids here, as you go inside a salt mine and learn about how it’s harvested and used.

Read More: Day Trips from Salzburg

Hiking in Berchtesgaden
Riding a cable car

Neuschwanstein Castle

What may be one of the most iconic symbols of Germany is located in the very southern border of Bavaria and Austria. This castle was made famous by Walt Disney, because when he visited it inspired him to create Cinderella’s castle that is not the iconic symbol of Disney World!

This castle has a really neat history, and the location actually has two castles sitting right next to each other, as well as a beautiful lake called Alpsee. It comes from run-off from the Alps and is known for its beautiful blue color.

How long to stay: 4-6 Hours
How to get around: Walking
Where to Stay: Hotel Villa Ludwig

Schloss Neuschwanstein

Top Things to Do

  • Schloss Neuschwanstein
  • Schloss Hohenschwangau
  • Alpsee
  • Restaurants

Read More: Fairytale Castles

Schloss Hohenschwangau
View of the Alpsee from Schloss Hohenschwangau

Zugspitze

This is the highest peak in Germany! It gives you one of the best-ever views of the German Alps at 2,962 meters tall.

How long to stay: 2 Days
How to get around: Cable Cars, Hiking
Where to Stay: Lodges & Resorts

German Alps; Photo provided by Marisa B.

Top Things to Do

  • Ride Cable Cars
  • Lookout at the top of the mountain
  • Skiing
  • View glaciers
Ski Resort; Photo provided by Marisa B.
Top of Zugspitze; Photo provided by Marisa B.

Heidelberg

Heading back up north, the next town you need to check out is Heidelberg. This charming town draws in visitors because of its medieval architecture, castle and cafes.

How long to stay: 1 Day
How to get around: Walking
Where to Stay: City-center hotel

Heidelberg Castle; Photo provided by Marisa B.

Top Things to Do

  • Heidelberg Castle
  • Church of the Holy Spirit
  • Old Bridge
  • Parks
  • University Prison
  • Marktplatz
  • Christmas Markets (in December)
View from the castle; Photo provided by Marisa B.

Trier

Close to the border with France & Luxembourg is a Roman-built medieval city called Trier. It’s little, charming and the oldest city in the entire country. It’s located in the middle of the Moselle Wine Region so it attracts many tourists looking to try delicious German wine.

How long to stay: 2 Days
How to get around: Walking
Where to Stay: Local hotels/apartments

Church (source)

Top Things to Do

  • Port Nigra
  • Rheinisches Landesmuseum (archaeological museum)
  • Roman Baths
  • Trier Cathedral
  • Hauptmarkt (city square)
  • Churches & basilicas
  • Palace & gardens
Main Market (source)

Cologne

Cologne is the 4th largest city in the country and has so many fun things to do, especially if you love museums. It’s located on the Rhine, has a famous local beer & is the birthplace of perfume.

How long to stay: 2 Days
How to get around: Walking & taxiis
Where to Stay: Hotels in the Old City or Neustadt- Nord neighborhood

View of the river & bridge from top of the cathedral

Top Things to Do

  • Cologne Cathedral – Make sure to climb all 509 steps to the top!
  • Chocolate Museum
  • Fragrance Museum
  • Try a Kolsch Beer
  • Museum Ludwig
  • Hohenzollern Bridge
  • Brühl Castle
  • Rhine River boat cruise

Read More: Cologne in a Day

Chocolate Museum

Rhine River Cruise

If you want a bit of luxury, you won’t want to skip a Rhine River Cruise. These happen year-round, and it’s special at Christmas time because you can find cruises that make stops at specific towns known for their charming Christmas Markets.

How long to stay: Anywhere from a day trip to 10+ days
How to get around: Cruising & walking in port cities
Where to Stay: On board

The Rhine; Photo provided by Paige M.

Top Things to Do:

  • Spot ancient castles
  • Explore port cities
  • Explore Christmas markets (December only)
  • Travel between the Netherlands & Switzerland
  • Relax
Spotting castles from the boat; Photo provided by Paige M.

Honorable Mentions

I explored so much of Germany but it still feels like I only scratched the surface. Other places worth mentioning that are still on my bucket list are:

  • Rügen’s Cliffs (Top of my bucket list!)
  • Hamburg
  • Baden-Baden
  • The Black Forest
  • Dresden
  • Edelweiss Lodge and Resort
  • Driving the Fairytale Route
Thanks to my fabulous roommates for giving me their suggestions & recommendations for this travel guide!