If you’re planning an upcoming trip and looking for the best cities to visit in Germany, the options can be overwhelming. Do you want gorgeous views of the Alps in southern Germany? The capital city and artistic vibes of Berlin? A quick stopover in Frankfurt before setting off on a road trip?
Part of planning a great trip to Germany is picking the right cities for your hubs while you explore, and this guide will help you do just that. Whether you’re visiting Germany for the beer and brats or you’re there to get a glimpse of the deep history of it’s past or just looking for some unique cities in Germany to visit – I’ve got you covered.
BEST FOOD CITIES IN GERMANY
Rich hearty food. Large steins of beer. Delicious pretzels. Fancy cakes and candies. Germany has legendary food, and if you’re hoping to find some of the best you’ll want to make sure that Munich, Berlin and Hamburg are all on your list! They;’re some of the best food cities in Germany (and have lots of other amazing things to do and see as well!)
You don’t have to wait for Oktoberfest to get the best beer in the world. The same breweries that fill seats at the famous festival are open year round, and many operate their own restaurants and cellars. If massive beer halls aren’t your thing, there are plenty of cozy restaurants to tuck into in Munich. Also make time to get Munich’s famous morning meal – the weisswurst. Your waitstaff will happily pair it with a pretzel and a stein of beer.
Berlin is famous for its street food. You’ll absolutely want to make time to tuck into some of the delicious street offerings here, and if you’ve never had a currywurst Berlin is THE place to try it. As the capital city there’s also dozens of Zagat rated restaurants to try. Pair both in a day and you’ll be experiencing Berlin like a local.
Hamburg is the up and coming foodie capital of Germany. Increasingly well known for it’s up and coming chefs and avant-garde menus, Hamburg is the new place to go to try Germany’s modern cuisine.
BEST WALKING CITIES IN GERMANY
Munich is one of the best walking cities in Germany thanks to its old city. Inside the remnants of the old city walls you’ll find dozens of museums, delicious restaurants and beer halls, a massive shopping district and even some of the cities best breweries. The U-bahn makes the city even more walkable as the underground tunnels allow you to easily navigate between different parts of the city center with ease. Read my guide to the best things to do in Munich to help you narrow down what to see while you’re there!
Dresden’s city center is another one of the most walkable cities in Germany. Some of the city’s best sites like the Zwinger, Frauenkirche, and Semperoper are only a short distance from one another. A shopping district in the center of town will also help you pick out some souvenirs and maybe even pick out some clothes you didn’t know you needed. Cute cafes line the cobblestone streets, and if you’re in need of more history the old churches are never more than a few steps away. Check out this guide to the best things to do in Dresden to get you started.
Berlin is another of the most walkable cities in Germany. You can visit Checkpoint Charlie, and then head over to the Modern Art Museum or the Jewish Museum only a few blocks away. In the center of the Spree, you’ll find the massive museum island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that will allow you to walk between thousands of years of history in less than a day. (Check out this guide to the best museums in Berlin to help you plan). The city’s U-Bahn and S-Bahn will also allow you to hop on and off easily between the different neighborhoods, making places like Kreuzburg a quick hop and skip away.
BEST SMALL CITIES TO VISIT IN GERMANY
Quedlinburg is an adorable small city in northern Germany. Walking the streets with it’s half-timbered houses makes you feel like you’ve traveled back to the middle ages. Large portions of the town were deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the castle and abbey are a prominent feature of the city’s skyline.
Dinkelsbuhl lies along the famous Romantic Road in Germany as part of the northern portion of the route. It’s pastel colored historic buildings make for beautiful sightseeing, and the city has a number of churches and museums that can help satisfy your curiosity about this unique little town.
Lying at the foot of the alps this pair of towns features all the attractions a ski-town can offer from yummy food to quaint shops. The towns also have beautiful architecture and the area is steeped in history. Take a trip down Ludwigstrasse to snap some gorgeous pictures.
Nestled in the Alps not far from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Oberammergau is most famous for passion play which takes place every ten years. The story goes that when the town was spared from the plague, the townspeople promised to put on a regular reenactment of the passion to give thanks for their lives. Ever since the 17th century the townspeople have kept true to their promise, only stopping once due to WWII. The next play is in 2020. If you’re planning to go, you’ll need to hurry as the performances and hotels sell out quickly.
BEST MODERN CITIES IN GERMANY
While most people think of half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets and cute flower boxes when they think of Germany, the country also has a vibrant economy and a number of sprawling metroplises that rival those in any other. If you’re looking for a more modern vibe in your trip hub, these are some of the best modern cities to visit in Germany.
Travelers will be familiar with Frankfurt as the site of a massive airport hub, not just for Germany but for most of Europe. The city, rebuilt in a different style after WWII than many of the other cities in Germany, is a beautiful mix of architecture. Some of the historic buildings were reconstructed in the old fashion, while gleaming new skyscrapers were created in other parts of the city. Known as a global city, Frankfurt is a buzzing metropolis and the banking center of Munich. If modern fast-paced cities are your thing, Frankfurt is definitely a German city you’ll want to visit.
One of the largest cities in Germany, Cologne is most famous for its massive historic cathedral. The city has plenty to do beyond the cathedral, however. From dozens of museums and historic sites to delicious food to one of the highlights of the city – Phantasialand. A German theme park, Phantasialand is filled with all of the usual rides and entertainment you’d expect – just with a German twist.
Sitting just inland from the mouth of the Elbe River, Hamburg was an industrial powerhouse in the 19th century. The city’s Speicherstadt, or warehouses, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a favorite site for photographers. The city is also home to beautiful sprawling parks, museums on the city’s maritime history, and boat tours of the harbor.
BEST CITIES FOR HISTORY IN GERMANY
Germany is one of the richest countries for history in Europe, in addition to its central role in two World Wars, it was also the epicenter of the Holy Roman Empire and a key player in European politics for centuries. While it’s hard to go wrong with any city for history and museums, there are a few that stick out among the rest.
Berlin is brimming with museums, and has an entire island dedicated to them. While there is plenty of German history to be found, Berlin, much like London, has museums full of history, art, and archaeology from all over the world. Additionally, the city’s division after World War II means it’s rich with history from the Cold War. While some of it might be a little kitsch, like Checkpoint Charlie, there are plenty of museums and historic sites in the city that dive deep into the history of the wall and the eventual reunification of Germany in 1990.
Munich is another history rich city, not just for its museums but for its role as the center of the Bavarian monarchy. Bavaria was a proudly independent state, and the largest in Germany for hundreds of years before the unification of Germany. The city is also home to the Deutsches Museum, a truly massive museum that rivals the Smithsonian in terms of size and scope. Expect to spend at least one day here. Munich is home to several massive art and archaeology collections that rival those in Berlin. You can get more details by reading up here on historic things to do in Munich.
Nuremberg has a rich history – from being an imperial city during the Holy Roman Empire to the site of the Nazi Rally Grounds to holding the Nuremberg Trials at the end of World War II. It’s difficult to turn a corner in Nuremberg without seeing history, and there are plenty of museums and historic sites ready to give you the rich back stories. (Here’s a guide to the best things to do in Nuremberg, filled with historic things to see and do!)
Battered by bombings during World War II, Dresden survived and rebuilt. The legacy is a city that’s filled with centuries’ worth of changing architectural style and culture. The Zwinger is a beautiful palace that houses several museums, but the best museum in the city has to be the Military History Museum which covers the entire history of the German military from ancient to modern day. Read more on historic things to do in Dresden, and get a detailed guide to what to see and where to go!
Famous for its cathedral, the city of Regensburg is dominated by it’s old world architecture and the cobblestone streets that make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. A short trip down the river will take you to Walhalla, a massive temple-esque house of German historical figures. Locals are also to point out one of the oldest fast food joints in the world, a wurstkuchl that served the bridge builders hundreds of years ago.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Many times when vacationers think of quintessential Germany they think of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Cobblestone streets. Half timbered homes. The Night Watchman still roaming the streets. You can climb the walls of the city to feel like you’ve traveled back in time and get a bird’s eye view of the historic architecture. Just beware that everyone wants to visit Rothenburg during the summer, and you’ll have to be clever to get photos that don’t contain throngs of tourists.
Trier is packed with history stretching all the way back to Roman times. You’ll want to make time to take in the Porta Nigra, a Roman gate that’s still frozen in time. Then you’ll want to head over to the Cathedral of Trier, a stunning example of an early 11th century church. The Aula Palatina in Trier was home to Emperor Constantine’s throne during his reign. And, speaking of homes, Karl Marx’s home is also preserved in Trier.
Charlemagne found his final resting place in Aachen, so it’s no surprise that the city is brimming with history. From the town hall to the iconic UNESCO World Heritage cathedral, you can’t get far in the city without bumping into history.