In a country overflowing with fascinating history, engaging culture and diverse landscapes, narrow down your bucket list with these top places to visit in Germany. From the fairytale heights of Neuschwanstein Castle to the heartbreaking lows of Dachau Concentration Camp, these essential sights and experiences will help you dive deep into Germany past and present.
As an Australian that lives in the U.S. (i.e. used to big, spread out places), I thought covering the best places to visit in Germany was going to be a one-week snap! Turns out there’s much more to see and longer distances to cover than I once thought. So here is a breakdown of the essential sights and experiences for a first-time visitor to Deustchland.
Table of contents
- Is Germany worth visiting?
- Places to visit in Germany
- Munich Alt Stadt
- Munich Residenz
- Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
- Neuschwanstein Castle
- Bavarian Alps
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber
- City of Nuremburg
- Reichstag Building
- Berlin’s Museumsinsel
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
- Checkpoint Charlie
- Brandenburg Gate
- Berlin Wall and Eastside Gallery
- More things to do in Germany
Is Germany worth visiting?
Yes, Germany is definitely worth visiting. The country is filled with historic landmarks, beautiful architecture, and a diverse range of cultural experiences. From the formerly divided streets of Berlin to the charming rural towns of Bavaria, there is something for everyone in Germany.
One of the key reasons to visit Germany is the significant role it has played in shaping European history. Exploring historic sites from the Munich Residenz to the Reichstag, the Berlin Wall to Dachau Concentration Camp, can provide a deeper understanding of Germany’s past.
In addition to its history, Germany is also known for its cultural offerings. The country is home to numerous world-class museums, none as densely concentrated as Berlin’s UNESCO World Heritage Museum Island. As Europe’s sixth largest country by area and second largest by population, Germany offers a variety of landscapes and regional cultures to explore.
Places to visit in Germany
Munich Alt Stadt
Munich Old Town (München Alt Stadt in German), is a must-visit destination in Germany. Although it is largely reconstructed due to WWII bombing raids, there are some original buildings and many essential sights within these historic streets.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Munich Old Town is the Frauenkirche, or Cathedral of Our Dear Lady. Its towering twin towers dominate the city’s skyline and you can scale the South Tower for expansive views of the city.
Another highlight of München Alt Stadt is Marienplatz, the central plaza. Here, you can witness the famous Glockenspiel, a mechanical clock with 32 moving figurines and 43 bells. The Glockenspiel’s daily performances at 11-am, 12-noon and in summer, 5-pm, attract the gaze of visitors from all over the world.
No visit to Munich Alt Stadt would be complete without a stop at the legendary Hofbräuhaus. This historic beer hall has been serving up traditional Bavarian beer and food since 1589. It’s not just for tourists either! There are many regulars, each with personal beer mugs, you can see on display under lock and key in the tavern. Therefore, the lively beerhall is where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy am authentic atmosphere.
Another standout Munich Old Town attraction that deserves a call out is the Munich Residenz. The impressive former palace offers a glimpse into the grandeur and opulence of Bavarian royalty. It showcases stunning architecture, exquisite interiors, and a rich history that will leave you in awe.
As you explore the Munich Residenz, you’ll be transported back in time to the era of the Wittelsbach dynasty. The palace that began as a medieval fortress, is home to over 130 rooms, many of which are adorned with intricate details and lavish furnishings.
Highlights include the Antiquarium, the largest Renaissance hall north of the Alps and home to extradorinary artworks in paint and sculpture. Also, the stunning Versailles-level Royal Apartments that exhibit the luxurious living quarters of the kings and queens.
One of the most captivating features of the Munich Residenz is the Treasury, which houses a vast collection of royal jewels, precious artifacts, and priceless works of art. Here, you can marvel at the Crown Jewels, including the famous Bavarian Crown, as well as exquisite pieces crafted by renowned goldsmiths.
Oktoberfest is an annual celebration of Bavarian culture that began as a wedding reception. While it is widely known for its beer consumption, there are plenty of reasons why you should experience Oktoberfest even if you don’t drink beer.
First and foremost, Oktoberfest is a cultural event that offers a unique glimpse into Bavarian customs and cuisine. From traditional music and dance performances to colorful parades and traditional attire, the festival showcases the rich heritage of the region. You can immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere and witness the Bavarian spirit firsthand.
The festival also features a wide variety of delicious Bavarian cuisine, including pretzels, sausages, pork knuckles, oxen and traditional pastries. You can indulge in these culinary delights and savour the flavours of Bavaria while enjoying a range of entertainment options and people watching.
Lastly, Oktoberfest is a great opportunity to socialise and meet people from Germany and far beyond. The festival attracts millions of visitors each year, creating a diverse community. You can make new friends, share experiences, and celebrate together in the spirit of Oktoberfest.
Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
A visit to Germany cannot go without acknowledgement of the the atrocities of WWII. Visiting Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, just 30-mins drive from Munich, allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the brutality of this period in Germany’s history.
Dachau was a prototype and training ground for other Nazi concentration camps. It played a pivotal role in the regime’s systematic persecution and extermination of political opponents and minority groups. Walking through the camp’s solemn grounds, you can witness the remnants of the barracks, gas chambers, and crematoriums. A short film, exhibits and documentation center offer a comprehensive overview of the camp’s history and valuable insights into the experiences of the prisoners.
A visit to Dachau Concentration Camp is an educational experience that serves as a reminder of the consequences of hatred and discrimination. It highlights the importance of promoting tolerance and understanding in our world today. By visiting Dachau, you can pay tribute to the victims and ensure that their stories are never forgotten.
One of the most popular places to visit in Germany is Neuschwanstein Castle—you know the one, with its Alpine backdrop and enchanting good looks. As one of of “Mad” King Ludwig II’s various palatial abodes, Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein in German) offers a captivating blend of architectural grandeur and fairytale charm. In fact, it was this castle that is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty castles.
Set in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, the castle possesses dramatic mountain and lowland views. Its white-washed exterior, skyward-reaching towers and neo-gothic ornamentation, reflect Ludwig II’s romantic vision and love for medieval architecture.
Inside the castle, you’ll find lavishly decorated rooms. The opulent Throne Room, adorned with intricate frescoes and gilded decorations, is a sight to behold. The King’s Bedroom, with its richly carved woodwork and luxurious furnishings, offers a glimpse into Ludwig II’s extravagant taste.
Exploring the castle’s grounds is equally enchanting. Take a leisurely stroll through the along the external walking paths to enjoy the castle’s different viewpoints and natural surroundings. You can also hike up to the nearby Marienbrücke, a bridge that offers one of the best castle views.
The Bavarian Alps offer breathtaking natural beauty that is worth exploring during your visit to Germany. With its stunning alpine vistas, hiking opportunities, and charming historic towns, the German Alps provide an unforgettable experience.
The region is known for its castles, picturesque landscapes, towering mountains, lush green valleys, and crystal-clear lakes. Whether you’re an avid hiker, winter sports enthusiast or simply enjoy being surrounded by nature, the Bavarian Alps offers a variety of places to see and things to do in Germany.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a town that should not be missed during your visit to Germany. The shining star of the somewhat overrated Romantic Road, Rothenburg is a place so charming you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. With its well-preserved medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, and colourful half-timbered houses, Rothenburg exudes a romantic atmosphere.
One of the highlights of Rothenburg is its well-preserved city walls, which offer stunning views of the town and surrounding countryside. Take a leisurely stroll along the walls and immerse yourself in the history and beauty of this enchanting town. Everywhere you go in Rothenburg you’ll find a postcard-worthy photo opportunity. None more so than the iconic Plönlein. This is arguably the most photographed street in Germany, replete with half-timbered house, fountain and tower.
In addition to its beauty and charm, Rothenburg offers a variety of museums, shops, and restaurants to explore. Learn about the town’s history at the Rothenburg Museum, browse the unique shops for souvenirs and local crafts, and indulge in delicious German cuisine at one of the traditional restaurants.
Rothenburg is also famous for its Christmas market, which attracts visitors from all over the globe. During the holiday season, the town transforms into a winter wonderland, with festive decorations, twinkling lights, and the aroma of Glühwein (German mulled wine) filling the air. It’s the perfect place to experience the magic of Christmas.
City of Nuremburg
Nuremburg is the home of Nuremburger Rostbratwurst, lebkuchen, and the artistic genius, Albrecht Durer. The city offers a unique blend of history, culture, and culinary delights alongside a darker history.
One of the must-visit attractions in Nuremburg is the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Explore the remains of the monumental Congress Hall, to learn about this period of German history. Additionally, Nuremburg is famous for hosting the post-World War II Nuremburg Trials, where prominent Nazi officials were held accountable for their crimes. You can visit Courtroom 600 where the original Trials were held to learn more.
Apart from its historical significance, Nuremburg is also a city of art and culture. Visit the Albrecht Durer House, the former residence of the renowned German painter and printmaker. Explore the museum dedicated to telling the story of his life and works, and gain a deeper understanding of his artistic contributions.
Nuremburg is also known for its charming old town, with its picturesque streets blending old and new architecture. Take a walking tour, visit the hilltop Nuremburg Castle, wander its beautiful gardens and don’t miss the Craftmen’s Courtyard. Located just inside the 14th-Century Frauentor (Women’s Gate Tower), the Craftmen’s Courtyard recreates the city’s medieval vibes. This cute corner offers restaurants and shops featuring Franconian cuisine and locally made artisan crafts.
One of the top things do to in the German capital of Berlin is visit the Reichstag Building—German parliament building. The iconic German government building holds historical significance and offers a unique experience for visitors with the ability to explore its rooftop terrace and impressive glass dome.
The dome, designed by architect Norman Foster, provides panoramic views of Berlin’s cityscape while simultaneously overlooking the politicians in parliament. As you ascend the spiral ramp inside the dome, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the history and architecture of the building through informative displays and an audio guide.
The rooftop is a great spot to take memorable photos and appreciate the beauty of the city from above. In addition to its architectural beauty, the Reichstag Building holds historical significance. It has witnessed key moments in German history, including the burning of the Reichstag in 1933, which played a pivotal role in the rise of the Nazi regime.
Today, the building stands as a symbol of democracy and serves as the meeting place for the German Bundestag (government). Visiting the Reichstag Building allows you to admire far-reaching views of Berlin from the rooftop, while gaining insight into the country’s political system.
Berlin’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is a key destination for art and history enthusiasts. Located on an island in the Spree River, this UNESCO World Heritage-Listed Site is home to a collection of world-class museums housed in some extraordinary architecture.
One of the highlights of Museumsinsel is the Pergamon Museum, which houses ancient Greek, Roman, and Islamic art. Here, you can marvel at the impressive Pergamon Altar, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, and the Market Gate of Miletus. The museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the ancient civilizations that shaped our world. Unfortunately, it is closed now for the foreseeable future, for renovations.
Never fear, another remarkable institution on the island, the Neues Museum is renowned for its collection of Egyptian artifacts, including the iconic bust of Nefertiti. The museum features exhibits of prehistoric objects and classical antiquities from the furtherest reaches of the European continent.
Furthermore, art lovers will be captivated by the Alte Nationalgalerie, which showcases a vast collection of 19th-century artworks, including paintings by renowned artists such as Adolph Menzel, Caspar David Friedrich, Auguste Renoir and Eduard Manet. The museum’s neoclassical architecture adds to the overall charm of the experience.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin is a powerful and poignant tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. This monument, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, is located in the heart of the city and serves as a reminder of the atrocities committed during World War II.
Visiting this memorial is a moving experience that allows visitors to pay their respects and reflect on the brutality of the Holocaust. The memorial consists of 2,711 concrete slabs of varying heights, arranged in a grid pattern on an undulating field.
Walking through the maze of oversized, tombstone-like blocks, evokes a sense of isolation and disorientation. This was intended to symbolise the chaos and loss experienced by the Jewish people. The memorial also includes an underground information center, which provides further insight into the Holocaust through personal stories, photographs, and historical documents. This educational centre adds depth to the experience and helps visitors understand the magnitude of crimes against humanity.
Checkpoint Charlie is one of the most iconic landmarks in Berlin and holds great historical significance. It was the main crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, symbolizing the division between the communist and capitalist worlds. Today, you can see a re-creation of the original, which was dismantled with the Berlin Wall. It stands as a reminder of the city’s tumultuous past and the struggle for freedom.
Visiting Checkpoint Charlie allows you to imagine the realities faced by Berliners during the Cold War. The checkpoint itself has been reconstructed to resemble its original appearance, complete with the famous sign that reads “You are leaving the American sector.” This sign serves as a powerful symbol of the divided city and the restrictions imposed on its residents.
Checkpoint Charlie is rampant with commercialization and tourist traps including a McDonalds, pickpockets and scammers (don’t engage in card games/gambling on the street). However, most visitors to Berlin wouldn’t dream of skipping this essential sight.
Brandenburg Gate is a landmark of Berlin and Germany. Located in the heart of the capital, this iconic structure has witnessed significant events throughout the years.
Built in the late 18th-century, the sandstone columns and crowning sculpture “Quadriga” were inspired by the Propylaea in Athens. During the Napoleon Bonaparte-led occupation of Prussia, Quadriga was dismantled and sent to Paris as a symbol of victory. It was later recaptured and sent home. However, it became a symbol of division during the Cold War when it stood in “no man’s land” between East and West Berlin. Today, it stands as a powerful reminder of Germany’s reunification and the triumph of democracy.
The Gate’s Neoclassical design and imposing presence make it a sight to behold. Whether you visit during the day or at night when it is beautifully illuminated, Brandenburg Gate will be teeming with visitors but it is worth visiting all the same.
Berlin Wall and Eastside Gallery
The Berlin Wall and Eastside Gallery offer a unique glimpse into the country’s history and artistic expression. The Berlin Wall, which once divided the city into East and West, is a powerful symbol of the Cold War era and the division of Germany.
The Eastside Gallery, a section of the wall that has been transformed into an open-air art gallery. It’s surface showcases over 100 murals painted by artists from around the world. Each mural tells a story and reflects the spirit of freedom and unity.
Visiting the Berlin Wall and Eastside Gallery allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s street art scene. The colourful and thought-provoking murals are a testament to the city’s creative spirit. They serve as a platform for social and political commentary. Walking along the gallery, you can admire the diverse range of styles and messages conveyed by the artists.
Nearby, you’ll also see the distinctive 19th-century Oberbaum Bridge. This Gothic-style, red-brick crossing over the River Spree became a border crossing during the city’s decades of division. Post-Berlin Wall, it once again links the boroughs of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg.
More things to do in Germany
Got more time? Here some more things to do and places to visit in Germany. We didn’t get to these cities and sights, but you can bet we’ll be back to do them on a second visit:
- Explore Germany’s musical heritage in Leipzig.
- See the cultural treasures of Dresden.
- Glide by riperian castles on a Rhine River Gorge cruise.
- Hike Bastei Bridge (Basteibrücke) and Saxon Switzerland National Park.
- Go green in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald).
See this Germany itinerary to see how we put all these sights and experiences together into a 9-day trip. More in-depth guides to Germany’s top sights and a comprehensive packing guide coming to Duende soon.
Peace, love and pretzels,