Places To Visit in Germany
Germany is a Western European country with a landscape of forests, rivers, mountain ranges and North Sea beaches. It has over 2 millennia of history. Berlin, its capital, is home to art and nightlife scenes, the Brandenburg Gate and many sites relating to WWII. Munich is known for its Oktoberfest and beer halls, including the 16th-century Hofbräuhaus. Frankfurt, with its skyscrapers, houses the European Central Bank.Popular destinations are Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Passau, Nuremberg, Cologne, Hamburg and Dresden.
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Berlin, Germany’s capital, dates to the 13th century. Reminders of the city's turbulent 20th-century history include its Holocaust memorial and the Berlin Wall's graffitied remains. Divided during the Cold War, its 18th-century Brandenburg Gate has become a symbol of reunification. The city's also known for its art scene and modern landmarks like the gold-colored, swoop-roofed Berliner Philharmonie, built in 1963.
The Tiergarten district, near the Brandenburg Gate, houses a massive park and the 19th-century Reichstag, Germany’s parliament. Museum Island, in the Spree River, features the Neues Museum, with its comprehensive Egyptian collection. Its Pergamon Museum’s archaeological masterpieces include Greek, Roman and Islamic works. Nightlife ranges from Mitte quarter’s hip restaurants and bars to the cavernous techno clubs in the city’s industrial neighborhoods. Shopping includes high-end boutiques along Kurfürstendamm, department stores on bustling Friedrichstraße and vintage shops in bohemian Kreuzberg.
Munich, Bavaria’s capital, is home to centuries-old buildings and numerous museums. The city is known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration and its beer halls, including the famed Hofbräuhaus, founded in 1589. In the Altstadt (Old Town), central Marienplatz square contains landmarks such as Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall), with a popular glockenspiel show that chimes and reenacts stories from the 16th century.
Other notable sites include the 12th-century St. Peter’s Church and iconic 15th-century Frauenkirche cathedral, with its twin bell towers. The neoclassical National Theater and the rococo Cuvilliés Theater (in the opulent Residenz palace and museum) host performances by the State Opera and the State Ballet. Highlights of the Museum Quarter include Pinakothek museums exhibiting everything from Old Masters to modern art. Maximilianstrasse offers fashion boutiques and restaurants, and the bustling Viktualienmarkt sells produce, cheese and sausages. The Englischer Garten is a large park popular for sunbathing.
Frankfurt, a central German city on the river Main, is a major financial hub that's home to the European Central Bank. It's the birthplace of famed writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose former home is now the Goethe House Museum. Like much of the city, it was damaged during World War II and later rebuilt. The reconstructed Altstadt (Old Town) is the site of the Römerberg, a square that hosts an annual Christmas market.
The Altstadt features a row of traditional half-timbered houses and Gothic Frankfurt Cathedral. The Römer, a trio of medieval patricians' homes, have served as city hall since the early 1400s. The Bankenviertel district is filled with towering skyscrapers. The Zeil, lined with department stores, is the city’s main shopping street. The Sachsenhausen district on the south side of the river is connected to the Altstadt by a pedestrian bridge. It features the Goethe Tower and the Museum Embankment, site of many museums, including the Städel fine art museum and the Deutsches Filmmuseum, dedicated to cinema history.
Passau, a German city on the Austrian border, lies at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. Known as the Three Rivers City, it is overlooked by the Veste Oberhaus, a 13th-century hilltop fortress housing a city museum and observation tower. The old town below is known for its baroque architecture, including St. Stephen's Cathedral, featuring distinctive onion-domed towers and an organ with 17,974 pipes.
Nuremberg, a city in northern Bavaria, is distinguished by medieval architecture such as the fortifications and stone towers of its Altstadt (Old Town). At the northern edge of the Altstadt, surrounded by red-roofed buildings, stands Kaiserburg Castle. The Hauptmarkt (central square) contains the Schöner Brunnen, the gilded “beautiful fountain” with tiers of figures, and Frauenkirche, a 14th-century Gothic church.
The products most associated with the city are gingerbread and handcrafted toys. They are sold at Christmastime in the Christkindlesmarkt (in the Hauptmarkt) or year-round in the Handwerkerhof, a picturesque collection of artisan workshops. Other shopping highlights include the upscale boutiques along Kaiserstrasse and the funky shops of the bohemian Gostenhof district. The massive art nouveau Staatstheater hosts opera, dance, drama and concerts. The Germanisches Nationalmuseum offers art and culture exhibitions. The Documentation Centre at the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds examines Nuremberg’s pivotal role in the Third Reich.
Cologne, a 2,000-year-old city spanning the Rhine River in western Germany, is the region’s cultural hub. A landmark of High Gothic architecture set amid reconstructed old town, the twin-spired Cologne Cathedral is also known for its gilded medieval reliquary and sweeping river views. The adjacent Museum Ludwig showcases 20th-century art, including many masterpieces by Picasso, and the Romano-Germanic Museum houses Roman antiquities.
Old town’s other highlights include the circa-1861 Wallraf-Richartz Museum, with a vast collection of 13th- to early-20th-century artwork, as well as celebrated contemporary art galleries. The Schnütgen Museum displays medieval religious art within St. Cecilia’s Church, one of old town’s 12 Romanesque churches. The waterfront Schokoladen Museum honors the art of chocolate-making, while the Fragrance Museum marks the 1709 birthplace of eau de Cologne. The Zoological Garden and neighboring Botanical Garden occupy parkland near the Kölner Seilbahn, a cable car running across the Rhine.
Hamburg, a major port city in northern Germany, is connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River. It's crossed by hundreds of canals, and also contains large areas of parkland. Near its core, Inner Alster lake is dotted with boats and surrounded by cafes. The city's central Jungfernstieg boulevard connects the Neustadt (new town) with the Altstadt (old town), home to landmarks like 18th-century St. Michael’s Church.
The Museum Mile begins with the Hamburger Kunsthalle, a museum that specializes in European painting. It ends with the Deichtorhallen, a contemporary art museum. The Hamburgische Staatsoper, where the state opera and ballet perform, is located just north of Jungfernstieg, Hamburg’s most premier shopping boulevard. Specialist boutiques line pedestrianized Colonnaden street, and Spitalerstrasse has department stores. Nightlife centers around Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli quarter, home to bars and a red light district. Oysters and traditional Aalsuppe (soup) are local food specialties.
Dresden, capital of the eastern German state of Saxony, is distinguished by the celebrated art museums and classic architecture of its reconstructed old town. Completed in 1743 and rebuilt after WWII, the baroque church Frauenkirche is famed for its grand dome. The Versailles-inspired Zwinger palace houses museums including Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, exhibiting masterpieces of art like Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna.”
Dresden Castle, another palace turned museum complex, is known for the Neues Grünes Gewölbe, displaying precious jewelry and other objets d’art dating to the 1500s. Nearby are the baroque landmarks Dresden Cathedral and opera house Semperoper. The popular promenade Brühl's Terrace overlooks the Elbe River and passes the Albertinum museum, within which lie 19th- and 20th-century fine art at the Galerie Neue Meister. Pillnitz Castle, once the royal summer residence, is on the Elbe’s east bank. The expansive Grosser Garten, founded in 1676, contains a zoo and botanical garden.