Germany offers limitless opportunities for exploration. Get to know its world-class cities, among them the avant-garde Berlin, the high-powered Frankfurt and the beer-soaked Bavarian capital of Munich, and find history and culture at every step. The country’s natural assets, from the genteel scenery of the Black Forest to the epic wilderness of the Alps, are equally diverse and impressive.
The cliché of Germans as pathologically punctual is one that, at least when it comes to public transport, tends to ring true. Bigger German cities have interconnected underground, train, tram and bus networks as well as extensive cycle lanes. A highly regulated taxi industry means you’re unlikely to be taken for a ride here, though taxis can be expensive.
High up on most travellers’ bucket lists is Munich’s world-famous Oktoberfest. It’s little wonder why. With lederhosen, oompah music and full-to-the-brim steins, the annual festival really does offer a rollicking good time. Outside of Oktoberfest season, the raucous good vibes still linger at the city’s Hofbräuhaus, while serene lakes encircled by rearing peaks are just a short train ride away.
In Berlin, visitors can find remnants of the graffiti-covered wall that once divided the city and country, as well as a rake of excellent museums. When night falls, Berliners throw themselves into the open-minded culture and nightlife scene, which encompasses everything from orchestral music and opera to risqué cabaret and legendary techno clubs.
The country’s third major urban highlight is Frankfurt, a city that blends commerce and continental culture. Beyond its glimmering skyscrapers is the restored medieval Altstadt (Old Town) where you’ll find jazz clubs, intimate taverns serving Apfelwein (apple wine) and charming cafés. If you’re in need of some rest and relaxation, join the stressed-out stockbrokers searching for relief in the soothing hot springs of nearby Wiesbaden.
Beyond the big cities, the hinterland harbours all kinds of appealing destinations that rarely make it onto traveller’s itineraries. Just north of the Harz Mountains, for instance, lies Quedlinburg, a town whose half-timbered, red-roofed houses are a delight for the aesthetically minded, while the city of Trier in the west of the country has a fine collection of ancient Roman ruins, including baths and a 25,000-seat amphitheatre.
Far in the northeast of Germany is another often overlooked gem: Rügen Island. This beautiful patch of wilderness first shot to prominence when German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich painted its startlingly white chalk cliffs.
German food deserves a better reputation than it has. Hearty, filling offerings featuring sausages, dumplings and meats such as pork knuckle are commonplace, particularly in beer halls, but they aren’t the sole culinary output here. More delicate dishes as well as superb seafood plates are commonly produced in Germany’s kitchens too.
Beer is omnipresent and there are hundreds of different types to try, from Kölsch to Altbier to Hefeweizen. German winemakers are putting out increasingly well-regarded Spätburgunders (pinot noirs) as well as the classic Rieslings for which Germany is already famed.