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Things To Do

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Cities are listed in alphabetical order.  Find the city you are looking for and you will find a brief description of things to do in that city.  You will also notice a mileage and location at the end of each paragraph of each city.  This will give you and idea of where it is located.

AACHEN (Aix-la-Chapelle)

In this city (pop. 260,000) near the Belgian and Dutch borders, Charlemagne built the Aachener Dom, a beautiful palace and cathedral. Thirty Holy Roman emperors were crowned there between 936 and 1531. It’s fun to spend a few hours strolling the streets of the Old Town, lingering in the shops, quaint restaurants and historical ruins. We particularly enjoyed the venerable Alte Aachener Cafe, which has superb Pinten, a locally made gingerbread, and an interior out of the Brothers Grimm. Other attractions include mineral baths and year-round casino gambling, as well as an active concert and theater season. 35 mi/60 km north of Cologne.


This central Bavarian region is popular with hikers and cyclists. Altmuhl’s primary attraction is a network of footpaths that has linked area villages for centuries. You’ll pass Roman ruins, prehistoric caves (near Kelheim), medieval castles and walled towns (Berching). The trail is very scenic, winding along limestone cliffs and down the banks of the Altmuhl River, which connects a chain of pretty lakes and camping sites. Also running through the valley is the canal that connects Germany’s main rivers (the Rhine, the Main and the Danube Canal).


On the Romantic Road, Augsburg (pop. 258,300) was founded by Roman legions: The town name comes from the Emperor Augustus. This city merits a one-day visit to walk its medieval streets. Be sure to see the Fuggerei, the world’s first social housing project for the poor. (The rent is the same as it was when it was founded in 1519—only about 2 DM per year.) 30 mi/50 km northwest of Munich.


The most luxurious Black Forest spa, Baden-Baden is also an international meeting place for statesmen and politicians. It has many fine Old World-style hotels where visitors sometimes spend weeks relaxing and “taking the cure” from the town’s famed mineral waters. (Some of the thermal springs have water temperatures of up to 154 F/68 C!) There are also a casino and horse racetrack. Nearby are several old wine-producing villages that can easily be seen as day excursions for those with cars. 30 mi/60 km west of Stuttgart.


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This is one of the prettiest towns in Germany. Bamberg was founded in the 2nd century, but it didn’t come into prominence until the 11th century when the Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich II built his imperial cathedral there. The cathedral is a striking mix of Romanesque and Gothic and houses a number of graceful sculptures (including the 13th century Bamberg Rider). Bamberg also has one of the quirkiest town halls—its Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) sits in the middle of a bridge straddling the Regnitz River—and one of the world’s quirkiest museums—the Museum of Two-Headed Animals. Relax in the evening with the town’s distinctive Rauchbier (smoke beer). Warning: Bamberg is extremely popular in high season. Expect crowds and fleets of tour buses if you go in the summer. 31 mi/50 km North of Nuremberg.


For most travelers, this region of southern Germany bordering the Alps is the most quintessentially (and stereotypically) German. Bavaria is the land of lederhosen, wood carvers, giant maaskrugs (stoneware mugs) of dark bock beer and houses painted with colorful frescoes. One of the biggest attractions is Munich’s yearly Oktoberfest, but year round travelers can find festivals, great beer and lively music in the hundreds of villages scattered in the region. Several days could be spent just driving around, stopping wherever you come across something interesting. The main cities and towns with tourist attractions are Berchtesgaden, Coberg, Fussen, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Munich and Oberammergau, and it’s the locale for much of the Romantic Road.


Bayreuth (pronounced by-ROYT) is, in many people’s minds, synonymous with the composer Richard Wagner. Every year, beginning in late July, this historic town hosts the Wagner Festival, during which 10 of the composer’s operas are performed in the spectacular Wagner Festival Hall. Reservations should be made well in advance—the waiting list for tickets has exceeded a year. While there, you can also visit Wagner’s home, grave and countless shrines related to his life. 40 mi/65 km northeast of Nuremberg.


Located in the extreme southeastern tip of Germany, this Bavarian town and Alpine resort was known as Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat. Not much of Hitler’s building remains—only a few basement walls are left standing—but the scenery is the main draw: the narrow road winds ever higher toward the top of Mt. Kehlstein (it wasn’t called the Eagle’s Nest for nothing). Just below the site of Hitler’s retreat is the fjordlike Konigsee, one of the most spectacular Alpine lakes in the region. The lake was a popular getaway for Bavarian royals—plan at least half a day to explore it. (There are charming electric-powered boat trips across the lake and back, leaving at half-hour intervals throughout the day from the little village at the head of the lake.) Also in the area is a tour that goes deep into the side of a mountain salt mine, called Salzbergwerk, which was the source of the town’s prosperity as early as the 16th century. Visitors are given miner’s outfits and a leather seat for the long slide down a polished wooden ramp (the less adventurous can use the stairs). Berchtesgaden is usually visited on a day trip from Munich. 75 mi/120 km southeast of Munich.



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Berlin Sightseeing

Berlin Map

Map of the Districts of Berlin

Once again the capital of Germany and still the place where east meets west, Berlin continues to be the focus of the excitement and frustration that has followed the end of the Cold War. Simply put, this city—which thrives on excess—should not be missed.

Berlin (pop. 3,500,000) has always been on the cutting edge of something, and today it’s architecture and construction. Architects from all over the world have designed projects ranging from government buildings and corporate headquarters to luxury hotels and apartments. For the moment, though, cranes are the dominant feature of the city’s skyline. Even the famous Reichstag is being redesigned to make way for the Bundestag, or parliament, which is scheduled to move to Berlin in 1999. The bend in the river known as the Spreebogen is the site where the new chancellory and government offices are being built. Much attention is focused on Potsdamer Platz, too, where Mercedes Benz and Sony are locating their corporate headquarters.

With the infamous Berlin Wall gone, it’s not always easy to tell where the actual border was that once separated East from West. Most of the wall has been carted off, but a stretch still stands along Muhlenstrasse near the Hauptbahnhof. Another relic from that era, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, holds forth despite uncertainties over funding. The museum houses a remarkable array of devices used to escape over, under and through the wall. Some of its larger outdoor exhibits, such as a guard tower, have been moved to make room for the nearby American Business Center.

Near total destruction, division and rapid redevelopment have left Berlin with a less than harmonious appearance, and consequently it has very little of the romantic feel of other European capitals. Many of its monuments and principal sites are jarring juxtapositions: Bullet holes appear as acne on neoclassical facades, and an entire medieval quarter was reconstructed using prefab techniques. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, at the center of western Berlin, is another prime example: The neo-Romanesque church was all but destroyed in World War II, and its crippled spire was left standing as a reminder of war’s destruction. The adjoining modern bell tower and hall, with their 20,000 small, blue glass windows, stand in stark contrast to the damaged church.

The Kurfurstendamm, one of Europe’s great shopping streets, brims with excitement and elegance. Be sure to take a stroll down the street even if you’re not interested in buying—it’s fun to window shop or sit in a cafe on the boulevard and people watch. The Ku’damm is also a center of Berlin nightlife, with its theaters, clubs and cafes, and it remains busy into the wee hours of the morning.Between the Ku’damm and Tegel Airport is Schloss Charlottenburg, the baroque palace with English gardens that Frederick I built for his wife Sophie-Charlotte. Across the street is the fascinating Egyptian (Agyptisches) Museum, which houses the famous 3,000-year-old bust of Nefertiti.

Other cultural gems are concentrated in the Dahlem Museum complex and the Kulturforum. The Dahlem is located in a quiet southwest neighborhood and has art museums, with works by Old Masters, and ethnographic museums displaying artifacts from all over the world. The Kulturforum, in the district of Tiergarten, encompasses the New National Gallery, designed by Mies van der Rohe, the Museum of Decorative Arts (Kunstgewerbemuseum), Copper Engraving Museum (Kupferstichkabinett), New State Library and the Philharmonie. Other art museums worth visiting are Martin Gropius Bau, Museum of Contemporary Art in the Hamburger Bahnhof, the House of Contemporary Art and the Brucke Museum.

The true historical center of the city is in the eastern half. Probably the most easily recognized monument is the Brandenburg Gate, which was the main gathering place for celebrations following the fall of the wall in 1989. On its eastern side is Pariser Platz. Plans are under way to fill in the gaps around the square’s perimeter, primarily with new embassies for France, the U.S. and the U.K. The once majestic boulevard Unter den Linden is today an eight-blockstudy in overstated imperial grandeur and Eastern Bloc drabness. The most notable buildings are found at the eastern end, such as the Staatsbibliothek (State Library), Humboldt University, Neue Wache (national memorial), the Zeughaus (Museum of German History) and the grand Staatsoper.

Across the Schlossbrucke (Palace Bridge) is the Berlin Cathedral, whose crypt contains the remains of German kaisers. The cathedral sits on an island, whose north end, known as the Museuminsel, is home to the famous Pergamon Museum, as well as the Bode Museum, Altes Museum, Old National Gallery and Neues Museum (undergoing reconstruction). This group of neoclassical buildings is the reason Berlin is sometimes called “Athens on the Spree.”Directly south of the cathedral is the spot where Berlin’s city palace once stood. The East German government razed the damaged structure after the war and built the present Palast der Republik in its place. If history repeats itself—and there are proponents of this—this structure will meet a similar fate.What to do with this central, historic piece of real estate has been the subject of a longstanding debate at both the city and federal level.

Alexanderplatz, also known as Alex, is one of Berlin’s liveliest squares and public transportation hubs. Looming above it is a 1,200-ft-/365-m-high TVtower, the tallest structure in Berlin (you can go to the top for an excellent view of the city). Nearby is the Rotes Rathaus (Red Town Hall). To the north is the reconstructed gold-domed Neue Synagoge. Back to the west is Gendarmenmarkt, one of the city’s most attractive squares. The Schauspielhaus, which hosts concerts, is framed on both sides by almost identical domed churches (the Deutscher Dom and the Franzosischer Dom), giving the square anice symmetrical feel. One block west of the square is Friedrichstrasse, a bustling avenue with fashionable shops.

Berlin is justly proud of its unusual amount of undeveloped, open, natural space. The Tiergarten is the oldest and most popular park, stretching from the Zoologischer Garten (one of the largest zoos in the world) to the Brandenburg Gate. Treptower Park in the east stretches out along the Spree River and has the overwhelming Soviet Memorial dedicated to its fallen soldiers. Large lakes can be found at the city’s eastern and western edges: Muggelsee and Wannsee, respectively. Many smaller lakes are scattered throughout the city, and they are enjoyed by hordes of Berliners who flock to them for ice skating or swimming and sunbathing (often in the nude). The Grunewald and Tegeler Forst are large wooded areas with trails for hiking, cross-country skiing or horseback riding.Other sites in Berlin worth visiting are the Olympic Stadium, site of the 1936 Olympics (and Jesse Owens’ victories), and Rathaus Schoneberg, site of John F. Kennedy’s Ich bin ein Berliner speech. Design enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Bauhaus-Archiv, which traces the history of that famous movement. If time permits, visit the Brecht House (home of the writer) or the Friseur Museum—a museum dedicated to the history of hairdressing! And, after the sun sets, in addition to the dozens of nightclubs and cafes, the city offers a wide variety of concerts and other cultural events. Full-day trips could be made to Potsdam or Cottbus. Allow three days to see Berlin, more if you wish to see area sights.


The Black Forest region is a blanket of beautiful, rolling dark pine forest and small lakes. Dubbed the Home of the German Soul, its landscape rises to about 4,000 ft/1,200 m and drops off steeply into valleys. This is the area where cuckoo clocks are made and wood is carved the Old World way. Older homes in this area are very picturesque. The Black Forest is also very popular with hikers, cross-country skiers and ski jumpers.

Areas of interest include Titisee, Triberg (with a museum displaying local costumes), Gutach (visit the Vogtsbauernhof, an open-air museum) and Furtwangen (clock museum). The Black Forest is also noteworthy for a fine selection of upmarket country hotels. Try the Moenchs Posthotel in Bad Herrenalb, the Kurhotel Mitteltal or the Traube Tonbach in Baiersbronn, the Parkhotel Adler in Hinterzarten, the Parkhotel Wehrle in Triberg or theHotel Colombi in Freiburg. The region starts 80 mi/130 km south of Frankfurt and runs to the Swiss border.


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Bonn (pop. 294,300) is still the seat of government of the Federal Republic of Germany, though that is scheduled to change just before the new millennium, when the parliament, chancellor and certain ministries move to Berlin. This shift is proving an expensive process, and a change that Bonn property owners and business people have found disquieting. But the city will still attract travelers interested in visiting the city where Beethoven was born and in attending top-quality productions at its opera house. Beethoven’s home and a museum can be seen in the Bonngasse. Other sights include the Poppelsdorf Castle (in the botanical gardens), Bonn University (formerly a castle) and the Bundeshaus (Parliament House). At Remagen, south of Bonn, are the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Bridge. 100 mi/160 km northwest of Frankfurt.


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Bremen (pop. 533,000) is an old Hanseatic League trading city and Germany’s second-largest port. Although heavily damaged during World War II, it still retains a nice town square with an ornate Renaissance town hall and cathedral (don’t miss the mummies in the basement). Nearby is the life-sized bronze statue of the city’s most famous residents—the Bremen town musicians (a rooster, cat, dog and donkey), heroes of a Grimm Brothers’ story. The city deserves at least a half-day visit, just so you can walk around—be sure to stroll among the old houses and art galleries of the Botcherstrasse and Schnoorviertel areas. 55 mi/88 km southeast of Hamburg.

CHEMNITZ (Karl-Marx-Stadt)

This large town (pop. 291,400), in the beautiful setting of the Erzgebirge Mountains, merits two nights. The town’s most unusual sight is the 23-ft-/7-m-tall bronze bust of Karl Marx, generously donated to the town by the former Soviet Union. Equally perplexing are the 250-million-year-old petrified tree trunks outside the Theater Museum (ask inside for an explanation). Other sites include the new and old town hall, the museum at Palace Park and Rabenstein Fortress. 45 mi/75 km west of Dresden.


Coburg is a little visited but beautiful town on the edge of Bavaria. Be sure to arrive hungry—Coburg is famous for its bratwurst. Sites include the enormous Veste Coberg fortress as well as the Gothic Schloss Ehrenburg, birthplace of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. 50 mi/80 km north of Nuremberg.


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This delightful city (pop. 955,500) with Roman origins is the home of a stunning 13th-century Gothic cathedral. The twin-spired structure is supported by 56 pillars and highlighted by magnificent stained-glass windows. Art lovers won’t want to miss the museum complex between the Rhine and the cathedral. It contains paintings from Dutch and German masters (14th-16th century) and modern art in a beautiful setting (white walls, lots of windows and skylights, and long halls). If you have time, visit the Roman-Germanic Museum (3rd-century Dionysian mosaics). Cologne’s a scenic city with plazas, shopping and nightlife—well worth a one-night visit, especially during its famous Carnival celebrations. A boat leaving Cologne follows the Rhine to Strasbourg, France. The most scenic part of the route lies between St. Goar and Rudesheim (lots of castles, vineyards, hills, etc. There’s a pleasant train ride from Frankfurt to Cologne, passing Lorelei, the Rhine Valley and other pretty places.Rhine River Day Cruise
20 mi/32 km north of Bonn.


In Lower Lusatia, Cottbus (pop. 129,000) is the gateway to the Spreewald (Spree Forest). A boat tour through the small channels there is memorable. Sights include the 13th-century Klosterkirche (church), Branitz Palace, 12th-century Oberkirche (church) and the old town (fort and old buildings). Plan one night. This area can also be seen on a day trip from Berlin. 64 mi/103 km southeast of Berlin.


At least two nights should be reserved for this must-see city of 518,000. Utterly devastated in fire-bomb raids at the end of World War II, Dresden has been rebuilt and is once again a charming city. Be sure to visit Semper Opera House (if at all possible, attend a performance) and the Albertinum Gallery with its famous Green Vault, one of Europe’s most amazing treasuries. Also visit the Kreuzkirche (home of a famous boys choir), Zwinger Palace (which has impressive collections of porcelain and Old Masters). The suburb of Pillnitz contains the former summer palace of the Saxon royal family, while in nearby Moritzburg there’s a ducal hunting lodge in a large park, both of which make nice half-day trips from Dresden. 120 mi/195 km south of Berlin.


Dusseldorf (pop. 576,700) is a handsome, modern city along the Rhine River. It can be seen on foot in one long day. Attractions include Die Tonhalle (home to excellent cultural performances), the 200-year-old Academy of Art, the Art History Musem and the Rhine Tower (765 ft/234 m tall, with a revolving restaurant). The city parks—built on orders from Napoleon—provide a pleasant haven when your feet get weary. End your wanderings in Old Town (adjacent to downtown), which has been turned into a large, open-air pedestrian mall with restaurants, clubs and stores. Don’t miss the marionette theater. Other sights to see include Minidomm, which houses miniature models of German architectural achievements, and a zoo with a monorail.

Dusseldorf is also home to the largest Japanese population in Europe and boasts a number of excellent Japanese restaurants and shops and a striking Buddhist temple.

There are several old castles and churches in the area. Some are on pretty lake settings, some contain museums and others are in ruin. 20 mi/35 km northwest of Cologne.


The birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach and once home to Martin Luther, Eisenach requires at least two nights to see its sights. The main attraction is Wartburg Castle, where Luther translated the New Testament into German and composer Richard Wagner was inspired to write the opera Tannhauser. Also visit Bach’s home, Luther’s house and the Reuter House (interesting Wagner collection). 235 mi/375 km southwest of Berlin.


Eisleben is where Martin Luther was born; be sure to visit his parents’ home. The town can be toured in a couple of hours. 30 mi/50 km northwest of Leipzig.


One of the most attractive and well-preserved cities of eastern Germany. Erfurt (pop. 207,200) was spared massive destruction during World War II andhas rapidly revived after years of neglect under communism. The city’s 14th-century Gothic cathedral towers over the cathedral square, next to an equally lovely Gothic church, St. Severus. Visitors should visit the unique Kraemer Bridge, a Renaissance bridge with shops and homes, spanning the less-than-lovely Gera River. The St. Augustine cloister was the home of young Martin Luther when he was a monk. Also visit the Anger, a pedestrian street lined with restored Renaissance homes. But the best part of a visit to Erfurt is a chance to just wander the streets, soaking in the atmosphere. We suggest a minimum of two nights. 200 mi/320 km southwest of Berlin.


There are several towns in Germany in which fairy tales were set or were written. For example, “Snow White and Red Rose” took place in Muhldorf (halfway between Munich and Salzburg, Austria); “The Fisherman and His Wife” near Puttgarden in the Holstein hinterlands 60 mi/96 km east of Kiel; “The Hare and the Hedgehog” (similar to the tortoise and hare) in Buxtehude, a suburb of Hamburg; “Puss-in-Boots” on a farm outside of Berlin; “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in the town of Alfeld, 30 mi/48 km south of Hannover; “Sleeping Beauty” in Sababurg, halfway between Frankfurt and Hannover (you can even stay in the “Sleeping Beauty Castle Hotel”); “The Pied Piper,” of course, happens in Hameln, 30 mi/48 km southwest of Hannover; “Little Red Riding Hood” lived about 60 mi/96 km northeast of Frankfurt in Hesse, on the Schwalm River; “Hansel and Gretel” takes place near Marburg; and “Cinderella” occurs in Budingen, about 25 mi/40 km northeast of Frankfurt. “Rumpelstiltskin” was penned in the area of Miltenberg. Most of these sites can be seen on the Fairy Tale Trail that begins in Hanau on the River Main near Frankfurt, birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, and finishes 370 mi/595 km later beside the sea at Bremen.

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Although most international flights to Germany arrive in Frankfurt (pop. 647,200), don’t take that to mean that this is one of the country’s main cities of interest. Its emphasis on banking and commerce has resulted in such nicknames as Bankfurt or Mainhattan. Its reputation, however, as one of the dullest large cities in the country is misleading: It has serious drug problems, and it has one of the country’s highest crime rates. In all fairness, the city has plenty of cultural offerings, and nightlife, particularly during big trade shows, can be vibrant. But unless you’re staying in Germany for at least 25 days, or you’re visiting one of its trade shows or conferences, don’t plan more than one night there. It’s important for all travelers to keep in mind that when a big show is in town it’s virtually impossible to get hotel space—sometimes, the closest you can get is Dusseldorf! As a result, prebook hotels there as far in advance as possible, especially if Frankfurt is your gateway and you want to stay there the night before your departure.Rhine River Day Cruise
The downtown pedestrian mall has some interesting shops, colorful fruit stands and great bakeries. Among the buildings of historical significance are Katherinenkirche (where Goethe was christened), the Hauptwache (a coffeehouse built in 1730) and the Opera House (attend a performance if possible). Roam the area around the Romer Square, which has several 15th- and 16th-century Gothic buildings. If time permits and the weather’s nice, visit the 400-ft/122-m Henninger Tower on Sachsenhauser Hill (for the view), the Frankfurt Zoo (one of the finest in Europe) and the Palmengarten (with the largestcollection of tropical plants and flowers in Germany).

There are plenty of museums in the city to explore: the Historisches Museum (German historical displays), the Goethe House and Museum (reconstructed after the war), Museum fur Kunsthandwerk (arts and crafts of Germany), the Stadel (Flemish and German art) and the Naturmuseum Senckenberg (natural history). Look for signs on posts and kiosks telling what’s on display at some of the smaller galleries and what concerts are being held. If you like fleamarkets, you should try the Saturday market held along the south bank of the river. Some of the city’s best nightlife can be found in

Sachsenhausen—while you’re there, try the traditional apple wine.

Even though it sounds like there’s a lot to do, we still recommend a very short stay because most of what Frankfurt offers is similar to (and often not as nice as) attractions in other parts of Germany. If you’re interested in seeing some of the surrounding towns, try Kronberg to see a typical German village with castles and half-timbered houses, and Mainz, where Gutenberg was born (and where there’s a Museum of Printing, which displays a Gutenberg Bible). We recommend using the town of Wiesbaden, an old-fashioned resort on the Rhine River, as your base, rather than staying in Frankfurt. 75 mi/120 km southeast of Bonn.


A pleasant town near the French border in southwestern Germany, Freiburg (pop. 186,000) is a gateway to the Black Forest. Ruled for centuries by the Austrian Habsburgs, it maintains distinct cultural traditions—particularly visible during Carnival week. It is also a great place to taste the wines of theBaden region. For a fantastic view, climb the tall spire of the Munster, a beautiful Gothic cathedral with pretty stained-glass windows inside. Some old buildings remain in the Munsterplatz and around the town hall. The city’s university dates from the 17th century, and there are more than 20,000 students in town. For another fine view of the old town and minster, take a chair lift up the Schlossberg, a steep hill. Freiburg can easily be visited on a day trip or as a side excursion if you’re en route to or from Strasbourg, France, or Basel, Switzerland. 120 mi/195 km south of Frankfurt.


Located on the north shore of Lake Constance, Friedrichshafen has a relaxed, summer-resort atmosphere. A Zeppelin museum traces the development of those great air machines from first launching (on Lake Constance in 1900) to the Hindenburg disaster. Steamers can be taken across the lake to Switzerland (if you do this, be sure to take your passport!). 100 mi/160 km southwest of Munich.


These North Sea islands are reminiscent of the Cape Cod area in the U.S. or coastal Scotland—the sea is rough, it’s often foggy and there’s a certain crispness in the air. The islands are divided into two groups: the Eastern Frisians and the Northern Frisians. Both groups have tall sand dunes and long stretches of beach. The Eastern Frisians include Borkum and Norderney, which are the busiest, and Wangerooge, Langeoog and Juist, which are free of cars. The Northern Frisians include Sylt, Fohr and Amrum. Sylt is by far the most popular island, especially with uppercrust Hamburgers. Amrum has one of the widest beaches and, like most of the islands, is open to nude sunbathing and swimming (a practice known as FKK in German). The windy conditions and cold water might discourage some, though. Another popular activity is taking walks out on the wattenmeer (mud flats) once the tide has receded. A pair of rubber boots and an experienced guide are required. 100 mi/160 km northwest of Hamburg.

At the southern end of the Romantic Road, Fussen is near two 19th-century castles connected to King Ludwig II, Hohenschwangau (his boyhood home) and Neuschwanstein (his man-child creation). If the latter castle looks familiar, it’s because Walt Disney used it as a model for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland. Expect long waits and the kinds of crowds you’d find at Disneyland—more than a million people visit the castle every year. For the best view of the exterior, hike the short distance up to the Marienbrucke (Mary’s Bridge). 60 mi/95 km southwest of Munich.


This Bavarian alpine town is near the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain (9,700 ft/2,900 m). As can readily be imagined, it is a great ski area in winter and a nice retreat for hiking in summer. The region has four ski jumps, casinos and facilities for skating and curling (sort of like shuffleboard on ice). Hikers will enjoy the 24 mi/39 km of footpaths, while more sedentary types can take the mountain railway and enjoy magnificent views. There is an exhilarating hike that begins behind the Olympic ski jump and continues into the Partnachklamm Gorge (the trail passes along and underneath spectacularwaterfalls). We suggest a two-night visit. 50 mi/80 km southwest of Munich.


This picturesque old town (pop. 307,200) is where you’ll find the home of composer Georg Friedrich Handel, whose Messiah is probably the best known. Be sure to visit his monument and then spend a while walking around the outdoor shopping mall. 30 mi/50 km northwest of Leipzig.

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The port city of Hamburg (pop. 1,660,700), with more than 40 mi/64 km of canals and 2,500 bridges, has an independent, entrepreneurial spirit—it’s the closest thing to a city-state in Germany. It’s still exciting to watch enormous freighters move up the Elbe for loading and unloading.

Though commerce is Hamburg’s strength, it has its share of cultural attractions, as befits a town that was once the home of Johannes Brahms. Be sure to visit the cathedrals of St. Jacobi (where you can see a distinguished 15th-century altar) and St. Michael (baroque, with a 440-ft/134-m spire offering a great view of the city), as well as the unique Rathaus (city hall, supported by dozens of pillars—it’s really a grand building). Hamburg is also a fun city—make time to enjoy some of the beer halls, explore the St. Pauli district and the various parks (such as Alster Lake, downtown). Stroll through Hamburg’s famous fish market (which sells much more than fish).

The Reeperbahn is one of the most famous red-light districts in Europe. Although it once had a reputation for sleaze, it’s now closely patrolled and a big tourist attraction. Parts of it are family-oriented (video arcades, etc.), but parts are definitely for adults only. The X-rated area has ladies of the night lining the streets and live sex shows in the bars—if you venture there, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Female tourists may be subject to catcalls—and an occasional bucket of water—hurled by professionals sitting in windows.) The Museum of Erotic Art, on Bernard Nocht Strasse, has works by such famous artists as Delacroix and Picasso.

Hamburg has many shopping districts, including an antiques section in the Markthalle, near the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), and many upscale stores in the new Gansemarkt area. The granddaddy of all the shopping streets in Hamburg is the Monckebergstrasse, with more than 100 shops. There are also some unusual museums in town, such as the Museum of Arts and Crafts (Islamic, Asiatic and antique art and artifacts) and the Museum of Hamburg History (scale models and replicas of street scenes, ships, trains and even a South Pacific island in miniature—it’s world famous among model enthusiasts). Art lovers will enjoy Hamburg’s modern-art museum, in the Deichtorhallen (former flower-market buildings). A day trip can be taken to Lubeck. 160 mi/260 km northwest of Berlin.


Heidelberg (pop. 136,000) on the Neckar River is set among lovely hills. Its famous 600-year-old university (the oldest in Germany) has several Renaissance towers and turrets at the base of a hill near Heidelberg Castle. Be warned: It’s a draw for fleets of tour buses in the summer.

The best way to enjoy the town is to stroll along the Hauptstrasse in the old section, to mingle with the local crowds and to sit at one of the many student cafes or beer halls. (If you have a car, leave it at a parking garage on the outskirts or you’ll go crazy trying to find your way through the maze of small, one-way streets.) Also visit the Heidelberg Castle which changes colors with the different angles of the sun (take the cable car, near Kornmarkt, to get to the castle). View the city from the Karl-Theodor Bridge and the nearby Philosophenweg (a winding path with a great view of the city) and tour the Kurpfaelzisches Museum (Roman artifacts). Day trips can also be made to the castle and vineyards of the Neckar Valley. 55 mi/85 km south of Frankfurt.


Germany shares its largest lake with Switzerland and Austria. This area has one of the warmest summer microclimates in the country. An old-fashioned resort, Lake Constance is very popular with locals in summer, who dine in terraced restaurants as steamboats paddle across the water. There is plenty to do for the outdoor-minded, including water sports, sailing and hiking. There are lots of pretty resort towns along its shores, notably Meersburg, which is surrounded by vineyards and which has half-timbered houses and the oldest structurally intact castle in Germany. Because of its mild climate, the area also boasts many orchards.

Visit the island of Mainau (lush tropical vegetation) at the northern end of the lake or Lindau at the southern end, if you have a chance. There is ferry service across the lake from Friedrichshafen into Switzerland (don’t forget your passport if you make the trip), and in summer, there are dinner-and-dancing pleasure-boat trips out on the lake. 100 mi/160 km southwest of Munich.


This beautiful, not-to-be-missed city (pop. 507,800) with a longstanding musical heritage is the cultural center of the former Eastern Germany. Not only is it the home of the Thomaner Choir—one of the finest in the world—but it’s also the site of St. Thomas Church, where Bach worked for 27 years and was buried. Next door is the Bach Museum, opened in 1985 in a beautiful old house. Goethe fans should dine at Auerbachs Keller restaurant, mentioned in Faust. The city also has several fine museums, including ones focusing on Egyptology, arts and crafts, natural science, sports, musical instruments (almost 3,000 on display), fine arts (with excellent graphics collections) and ethnology (featuring exhibits from Asia, Africa, the Americas and the South Seas).

Civic pride, resurgent after Leipzig led the East German revolution of 1990, is celebrated at the Renaissance Rathaus (town hall), which contains an excellent city historical museum. Though the German Library is not for everyone, it does include more than nine million volumes, and its museum displays some of Germany’s most important books and letters. Leipzig is a great city just to walk around; be sure to at least drive by (and gawk at) the main train station, which is the largest terminal in Europe.

Leipzig has also been a major trade center since medieval times and now hosts a major international trade fair. The dramatic new fairgrounds, a testimony to the city’s new economic freedom, are located 3 mi/5 km north of the Hauptbahnhof on Tram 16. Be warned, however, that it is very difficult to get a hotel room during the fair. Plan at least two nights. 120 mi/195 km southwest of Berlin.


The central-northeast region of Germany, known as Lower Saxony, is a mixture of flatlands and mountains. The entire area along the Weser River is spectacular, with lakes, waterfalls, mountains, rivers and windmills. Three nights should be spent driving around the region.

Plan at least half a day in its capital, Hannover, to see the Herrenhausen Gardens (intricate flowerbed patterns and one of the largest garden fountains in Europe) and walk amidst clean “new German” architecture (almost all of the old city was destroyed by firebombing raids in World War II). Today nearly 60% of the city is preserved as parkland or forest. Goslar, about 45 mi/72 km southeast of Hannover (near the former East German border), is home to the Kaiserpfalz, which was an emperor’s residence; a tour of the structure takes about an hour. Goslar also has many medieval timbered homes that are still standing. Near Goslar is the town of Clausthal-Zellerfeld, which has the largest wooden church in Europe. Consider taking a cruise down the Weser River from Hannoversch-Munden to Hameln, south of Hannover (arrive at least an hour before the boat leaves Munden, to admire the splendid framework art of its buildings). The 90-mi/145-km trip takes about a day, passing through the area that inspired legends such as “The Pied Piper of Hameln” and several of Grimm’s fairy tales. In Corvey, stop to see the 9th-century Benedictine abbey, and its glorious frescoes.


Lubeck (pop. 209,000) has been an important port and city of trade since the 12th century (the city lies only a short distance from the Baltic Sea and is connected to it by the Trave River). The circular medieval town center was partially destroyed during World War II, but reconstruction has been fairly extensive (enough to make it a UNESCO heritage sight). Be sure to visit the old reconstructed cathedral. It’s as much an interpretation as it is a reconstruction, and elements of its destruction were symbolically included when it was rebuilt: The new stained-glass windows incorporate images of the shattered old windows, and the huge old church bells have been left where they fell, embedded in the floor by the impact of their landing and misshapen by the fire that swept through the church when it was destroyed.

The city’s huge gate (called Holstentor), which dates from 1477, is well preserved, as is the impressive town hall. Other city sights include the Museum of Puppet Theater and a new, modern cathedral. Also try the city’s world-famous marzipan, which comes in all shapes and sizes. North of the city is the popular Baltic resort town of Travemunde. Lubeck merits a half-day’s visit from Hamburg. 30 mi/48 km northeast of Hamburg.


Luneburg is an old Hanseatic League city that was very prosperous in the Middle Ages, and many fine old buildings and houses remain from the 14th and 15th centuries. Some of them have step-gable roofs and ornate facades. It’s simply a great place to spend an afternoon strolling the narrow streets and sampling the fare in its many pubs and restaurants. The Luneburg Heath, between Luneburg, Hamburg and Bremen, is best visited from mid August to mid September when the heather is in bloom. 35 mi/60 km south of Hamburg.


During Soviet times, Magdeburg (pop. 291,000), like many East German cities, was primarily industrial. It was also a major Soviet military center during the Cold War. But its strategic location on the Elbe River connects it to Hamburg and the North Sea, giving it an interesting history worth a day trip from Berlin. The composer Georg Phillipp Telemann was born here, and there is a magnificent Gothic cathedral. Also take a look at the town hall and two museums—Unser Lieben Frauen (formerly a convent) and a historical museum. 80 mi/130 km southwest of Berlin.


A medieval university town with one of Germany’s most important libraries, Marburg has lively musical and cultural life and a well-preserved Altstadt (Old City). Classic plays from German and other traditions are presented each summer at the Grauerholz Festival in the open-air theater on the castle grounds. The town is also an interesting stop for ceramic art collectors. 45 mi/75 km north of Frankfurt.


Located north of Dresden, which was decimated during World War II, Meissen escaped the destruction and remains a beautifully preserved old town at the center of a rich wine-growing region. Its magnificent medieval quarter, Albrechtsburg, has an impressive cathedral and ducal palace. The town is best known for its porcelain factory, created by Augustus the Strong of Saxony in 1710. The factory is well worth a tour, but wares must be purchased at a shop on the old market square. Allow a full day, if possible. 15 mi/25 km northwest of Dresden.


Miltenberg is a little village that looks just the way a fairy-tale German city should look—half-timbered houses, an old market square with a fountain, narrow streets and a city wall with gates and turrets. One of its attractions to us is that it’s very similar to Rothenburg, but with many fewer tourists. 30 mi/50 km south of Frankfurt.

MUNICH (Munchen)

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Sometimes called the Village of One Million, Munich (pop. 1,300,000) is a wonderfully charming southern city located near the Alps. This beautiful 800-year-old city is the capital of Bavaria and the home of the world-famous Oktoberfest. Despite its name, Oktoberfest starts in late September and spills into the first week of October—dancing, oompah bands and food dominate. Go prepared not only to drink, but to eat: You’ll have your fill of sausage, that’s for sure, but experiment a bit—whole oxen, for instance, are cooked on giant spits. While the food is good, fest goers never let it detract from the main focus of the festival: beer. The city is filled with thousands of casual and committed beer drinkers guzzling foamy brew for days on end. If this sounds like heaven, by all means go and enjoy it, but if it doesn’t, avoid Munich at all costs during this time. Book hotel space well in advance for Oktoberfest.

But don’t think Oktoberfest is the only time Munich celebrates. The pre-Lenten celebration of Fasching is equally popular. It goes on for days, with all sorts of costumed parties and festivities.

Munich is an important cultural center, with opera, theater, ballet and concert seasons. It also has museums on every imaginable subject (including one about unusual museums). Some interesting ones are the German Theater Museum, Museum of Mankind and Nature, the Residenz (Egyptian Art and the crown jewels) and the Museum of Erotic Art. The Deutsches Museum is the largest science and industry museum in Europe. The Alte Pinakothek and Neue Pinakothek (art museums) house extensive collections of medieval to modern European painting. The Lenbachhaus Gallery also has an exceptional collection of expressionist paintings (Kandinsky, Klee, Macke, Marc).

The Englischer Garten is a nice place to relax and watch the citizens of Munich take their walks or tan in the sun (often topless, sometimes wearing even less). In the midst of the gardens are the Kleinhesseloher See (a small lake with a cafe that serves refreshments), a Chinese Tower and Monopterus (a Greek temple).

The town itself is easy to get around, thanks to an excellent subway, tram and bus system. Visit the Nymphenburg Castle (large, baroque 17th-century palace that doubles as the Bavarian China Factory), the botanical gardens and the Olympic Center (north of Munich—built for the 1972 Olympics). Be sure to see Kaufingerstrasse (great shopping street stretching from Stachus to the Marienplatz) and the Schwabing District with its arty atmosphere, smart boutiques, antique shops, lively nightlife and a stellar selection of restaurants, bars and discos. Continue shopping at Viktualienmarkt, an open-air marketplace where everything from gingerbread cookies to fresh fish is available. Other attractions are the Hellabrunn Zoo, the city’s beer halls and beer gardens and the Rathaus, a 19th-century Gothic city hall with a glockenspiel (performances daily at 11 am, noon and, during May-October, 5 pm).

One of Munich’s most recognizable structures is the twin-onion-domed Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). The old exterior provides quite a contrast to the stark white interior, rebuilt after war damage gutted the church. BMW aficionados may want to make a pilgrimage to the BMW museum for some history of the company (after all, the B in BMW stands for Bavaria, and the corporate headquarters are in Munich).

Do spend a day driving around the countryside. Munich also has the airport closest to the German Alps (skiing and quaint Bavarian towns). Dachau is both a town and the site of the first Nazi concentration camp. The site of the camp (10 mi/16 km from Munich) can be visited, though it might be difficult to find—the route there is not well marked. Be prepared for an emotional experience—no one leaves unmoved, or unchanged, by a visit. Another day trip, relating to that era, can be taken to Berchtesgaden. Plan two or three days in Munich. 300 mi/480 km south of Berlin.


Naumburg is best known for the magnificent sculptures crafted by an anonymous 13th-century artist. Known as the Master of Naumburg, his greatest work is The Statue of the Founders, located in the cathedral. Naumberg can be seen as a brief stop while traveling between Leipzig and Weimar, or as a day trip from Leipzig. 30 mi/50 km southwest of Halle.

NUREMBERG (Nurnberg)

Nuremberg (pop. 494,900), founded in 1040, is an interesting mix of the quaint and the cosmopolitan. The Altstadt (Old City) is a medieval walled city with large pedestrian walkways graced by the pretty Pegnitz River. Spend the afternoon strolling the narrow streets and alleys, shopping for antiques, toys, crafts and jewelry. At Christmastime, the city’s main market turns into the famous Christkindlmarkt, an open-air Christmas Market that has spawned imitators throughout Germany. The main attractions are gluhwein (warm spiced wine) and lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread). Visit the city’s three churches (Frauenkirche, St. Lorenze Kirche, and St. Sebaldus Kirche) and the Albrecht Durer House, where the artist lived for 20 years. Before you leave, turn the gold ring at the Gothic Schoner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) for good luck, and taste the city’s unique spicing of bratwurst. 90 mi/150 km north-northwest of Munich.Castle/Hotel Colmberg


A typically Bavarian town south of Munich, this scenic village is home to a well-known version of the Passion play. In 1633, the town’s residents promised that if the plague passed them by, they would perform a Passion play yearly in remembrance. They were spared, but alas, promises were made to be broken: Now it’s performed once every 10 years, May-September in the first year of the new decade. The play is in German (an easy-to-follow English outline can be purchased) and lasts all day, breaking only for a long lunch. The whole town is involved in its production—when we saw it, the person who played Christ was actually a local wood-carver. Arrangements to see the play should be made at least a year in advance. Oberammergau also offers good cross-country and downhill skiing nearby in winter, side trips to the Ettal monastery and basilica (a short drive), Fussen and the Wieskirche to see a shrine and a Bavarian rococo church. 42 mi/68 km south-southwest of Munich.


This health spa high in the mountains of the Thuringian region features good hiking. Botanists (amateur included) can find more than 20 varieties of orchids in the area. In winter, Oberhof becomes a ski resort where Olympic-bound athletes train—there are ski jumps, bobsled and luge tracks and a half-mile-long toboggan course. Sleigh rides are also popular in the winter. Excursions can be made to Meiningen to see the castle or to Lauscha to see Thuringian glass being made. 140 mi/225 km south of Berlin.


Passau is located at the convergence of three rivers: the Danube, Ilz and Inn (you can actually see the different colors of the rivers coming together from high up the hill overlooking the city). Eight long-distance bike routes converge there as well, making it a perfect stopover for cyclists. The town dates from the Baroque rather than medieval era, and you can take a relaxed stroll—or ride—through the Old Town and monastic district to Ortspitze to get the best view of the rivers. The St. Stephen cathedral is home to the world’s largest church organ, and there are daily concerts in the summer. Passau is not really worth a detour, but it merits a brief visit if you’re traveling from Germany to Vienna, Austria. 95 mi/150 km east-northeast of Munich.


Surrounded by lakes, this city (pop. 143,000) on Berlin’s southwestern limits is filled with noble structures. It was also there that Churchill, Truman and Stalin met after the end of World War II and worked out the details that were to divide Europe for 45 years. The world leaders signed the Potsdam Agreement at Schloss Cecilienhof, an English-style manor—now a hotel—built in the early part of the century for the crown prince of Germany. (Even those who don’t stay in the hotel will want to visit and see the room where the document was signed.) The hotel is in a lovely park setting that includes the pleasant New Garden and a small lake.

Potsdam was relatively undamaged during the war, and the architecture of the large houses in its residential areas provides a welcome relief from Berlin’s grey compactness. By far, the city’s primary attraction is the Park Sanssouci, a must-see vast expanse of elaborate gardens and palaces. We especially enjoyed strolling in the park on a snowy day (not many tourists) and taking a coffee and cake break at one of the cafes.

Sanssouci Palace, which lends its name to the entire park and means “carefree,” was the ornate, much loved summer home of Frederick the Great (he’s buried just outside the palace next to his favorite hunting dogs; his wife is buried elsewhere). The exterior view of the palace and the terraced approach to it with espaliers of grape vines and fig trees is quite impressive. Even if you’re not particularly fond of rococo, you really should see the interior—every room is completely different with oddly styled furnishings and incredibly detailed designs on the floors, walls and ceilings. It’s a monument to excess, but still it’s much more personal than many of the other palaces on the grounds.

Just behind Sanssouci Palace is the Ruinenberg, an artificial hill with equally artificial ruins. Near the palace are also the Grosse Bildergalerie (Picture Gallery), Neptune’s Grotto and the Neue Kammern. Just beyond the Sicilian Gardens is the Orangery, a beautiful palace built in the Italian Renaissance style.

At the western end of the park’s main path is the largest and most imposing palace, the Neues Palais. The baroque structure, adorned with an incredible amount of sculpture, was built by Frederick the Great to serve as state guest quarters—an acceptable distance from his own residence. Behind the Neues Palais are outbuildings connected by a nice colonnade. Other structures in the park include the neoclassical Charlottenhof Palace, the Roman Baths, the gilded Chinese Teahouse (delightful) and the Dragon House.

Other sights in Potsdam include Nauen Gate and Brandenburg Gate (not the same as Berlin’s) and a pump house for the park’s gardens designed to look like a mosque (there’s no need to stop there—just drive by to see it). If time permits, take a boat trip along the Havel River (there are night cruises with music and dancing). You catch the boat at the Lange Brucke.


Located in Bavaria on a bend of the Danube River, Regensburg is a beautifully preserved medieval city (pop. 124,000). See the Dom St. Peter, a Gothic cathedral (nice stained glass) and the house at Keplerstrasse 5 where the astronomer Johannes Kepler lived, now a small museum. Near the train station are the Thurn und Taxis castle and the St. Emmeram Basilica, both baroque masterpieces. Cross the 12th-century Stone Bridge and spend time wandering through the streets around the old town hall—notice the fine houses of the old noble families. The city also is home to a modern university, designed to be a stronghold in case of Warsaw Pact invasion. You should allow at least half a day there, but spend more time if your schedule permits. 55 mi/90 km southeast of Nuremberg.


A beautiful, historic 217-mi/350-km drive, from Wurzburg in the north to Fussen in the south, the Romantic Road should be driven at a slow, relaxed pace. North to south, follow highways E70, 290, 25, 2 and 17—not the A7 autobahn. These roads pass through Tauberbischofsheim (medieval town), Bad Mergentheim (spa), Weikersheim (former palace), Rottingen, Feuchtwangen, Dinkelsbuhl, Nordlingen, Harburg (impressive castle), Schongau (700-year-old city), Augsburg and Rothenburg. We suggest taking at least three days to see this area, spending time anywhere along it that appeals.


This city (pop. 246,600) on the Baltic has a nice 13th-century church, good historical museum (Kropelin Gate) and a navigation museum. Sadly, Rostock has gained a reputation as a gathering point for neo-Nazis in their campaigns to rid Germany of foreign workers and refugees. Nearby is one of Germany’s largest beach resorts, Warnemunde—the resort retains its Baltic fishing village flavor and is a better place to stay. Plan one night in the area. 145 mi/235 km northwest of Berlin.

ROTHENBURG (Rothenburg ob der Tauber)

Ancient Rothenburg (pronounced ROE-ten-burg), founded in 5 BC, is famous for its art galleries, shops, cafes and pretty hotels. The town feels like the setting for a fairy tale—it’s surrounded by towers, ramparts and walls (don’t be surprised if various streets look familiar—they’re often photographed for tourism posters). Visit the town hall and its vaults, Mark’s Tower and Roder Arch, the Castle Gate and garden and the Medieval Criminal Museum. We found St. Wolfgang’s Church fascinating, especially the pagan altars in the cellar. Although Rothenburg is one of the most tourist-laden towns in Germany, we still recommend a visit. If you want a “fairy tale” town with considerably fewer tourists, try Miltenberg. 100 mi/160 km southeast of Frankfurt.Castle/Hotel Colmberg


Set along the scenic Drosselgasse River in the Rhineland, Rudesheim provides the perfect definition for the word “quaint.” Spend an afternoon walking the small, ancient streets of the older part of town, eating in its restaurants and pausing to look at the beautiful medieval houses. Visit Siegfrieds Musik Instrumente Museum, a display of various music boxes. A day trip north of town can be taken to visit wine cellars, Presberg (spa resort) and the Germania monument, erected by Otto von Bismarck to symbolize the first unification of Germany. Views from the monument are spectacular. 35 mi/55 km west of Frankfurt.Rhine River Day Cruise

SACHSISCHE SCHWEIZ (Elbsandsteingebirge)

This hilly region between Dresden and the Czech border is called the “Saxon Switzerland” because of its beautiful mountains, gorges, forests and rock formations. One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to see it is from the deck of one of the big paddle-wheel riverboats that ply the Elbe River between Dresden and Bad Schandau daily from mid April to mid December. Other sites worth seeing are the Bastei, a rugged area with great rock formations, and the Konigstein Fortress. Mountain lovers will enjoy a three-day stay in the area. 130 mi/210 km south of Berlin.


In the heart of the Black Forest, Schiltach typifies what is so appealing about this area of the country. The town has old half-timbered houses around a market square, a town hall with a nice painted facade, narrow medieval alleys and wonderfully crafted wrought-iron signs that hang outside the shops and inns of the town. Hiking trails lead into the mountains, and the entire region has several pretty drives and provides ample opportunities for relaxation. 90 mi/145 km south of Frankfurt.


The Schleswig-Holstein region, located on the isthmus connecting Germany to Denmark, has coastlines on both the North and Baltic Seas. This area has some of the most rural stretches of land in the country. Expansive, sandy beaches and flat pastureland characterize the North Sea side, and wide, short beaches and rolling hills define the Baltic coast. Castles, forests, dikes and quaint towns abound. Of most interest are the traditional bathing spots, such as Heilingendamm, Stralsund and Timmmendorfer Strand, and the island of Rugen, which has been a haunt for writers and artists and is now primarily a nature reserve, popular with bird watchers.

Unfortunately for tourists, the extensive sandy beaches are fenced off along most of the coasts, and people are charged for access to the water (which is cold, to boot!). The main city in is Kiel, a shipbuilding port of limited interest (its main attraction is the 13th-century St. Nicholas Church). Also in this area are the ancestral homes of ancient settlers of England and the Scottish lowlands, Schwansen and Angeln (the Anglo in Anglo-Saxon).


One of the prettiest towns in eastern Germany, Schwerin (pop. 123,000) lies in the middle of a beautiful lake district. It has an especially nice Gothic cathedral and the eclectically designed Palace on Burginsel. It’s full of 16th- and 17th-century half-timbered houses, and just outside the historic Schliefmuhle quarter is a zoo full of unusual animals (open May-September). You can see the town on foot easily in a day. 140 mi/225 km northwest of Berlin.


A Baltic Sea port and old Hanseatic city, Stralsund is home to the Gothic St. Mary’s Church, which yields a good view of the town from the church tower. There are historic and oceanographic museums, and boats cruise to Hiddensee and Rugen islands. 120 mi/195 km north of Berlin.


Things to do


Beautifully set in the Swabian Mountains and at the edge of the Black Forest, Stuttgart (pop. 583,700) is the home of the Mercedes. One highlight of the city is the fascinating Daimler-Benz Automobile Museum (the Mercedes-Benz factory is in the nearby town of Sindelfingen). While in Stuttgart, listen for the Swabian music from the glockenspiel at the Rathaus (city hall), visit Schillerplatz Square and its Collegiate Church, the Alte Staatsgalerie (collection of Rembrandts, Rubens and others) and the Neue Staatsgalerie (20th-century art collection). We enjoyed strolling the Killesberg Park, the Schlossgarten, Ludwigsburg Palace and the botanical gardens. Other sites of interest include the Old Palace, the baroque-style New Palace and the zoo.

Stuttgart can be easily seen on foot, and urban trekkers may want to take in the City Circuit walk, which begins at the Central Train Station (allow about two hours), and the two-hour Historic Stuttgart walk, which starts at the Altes Schloss at Schillerplatz. Yellow signs direct the walker to many modern and historical areas. The Mineralbad Leuze, Berg and other spas offer a wide variety of therapeutic pools and health facilities. 100 mi/160 km south of Frankfurt.


This beautiful recreational area on the former West/East German border, near the towns of Meiningen and Eisenach, is ideal for hiking, relaxing and taking a vacation from your vacation. Medieval buildings, castles on the Saale River, old monasteries, churches, the Slate Mountains and beautiful hills and valleys characterize this region. Among the important cities there are Muhlausen, with its medieval architecture, and Suhl, where guns with artistic engravings are manufactured. A weapons museum there displays some of the local handiwork. Other places of note include Eisenach, Erfurt, Oberhof and Weimar. Nature lovers will want to spend two or three nights in the region. 210 mi/340 km southwest of Berlin.


Trier is a 2,000-year-old Roman city near Luxembourg. It was home to six Roman emperors and has many ruins, including the impressive Porta Nigra, a four-story structure that was once part of the city’s walls. It is also the birthplace of Karl Marx and a university town with a lively nightlife and interesting Franco-German cuisine. It’s worth a day trip. If time permits, consider the boat trip up the Pfaizel to see the scenery. 110 mi/175 km west of Frankfurt.


One of Germany’s most important and famous university towns, Tubingen was built on a hillside above the River Neckar. The city itself dates from 1078, while the university was founded in 1477. For a picturesque view over the city, go across the river. Sights in the city include the market square and the 15th-century half-timbered town hall. 15 mi/25 km south of Stuttgart.


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Located halfway between Munich and Stuttgart, Ulm (pop. 101,000) features a Gothic church with the tallest spire in the world (525 ft/160 m). Some of the medieval city walls remain, and there’s a nice town hall with an astronomical clock that dates from 1520. Take the time to walk through the Fisherman’s Quarter to see half-timbered houses. Ulm is on the Danube and is a pleasant place to spend a few hours. (Albert Einstein was born in Ulm.) 80 mi/130 km northwest of Munich.


The capital of Germany between the World Wars, Weimar was home to both Goethe and Schiller. We recommend staying at least one night. Among the sights are the Goethe National Museum, the tomb of Goethe and Goethe’s Garden House. There’s also the beautiful Park an der Ilm along the Ilm River, just south of town, which was landscaped by Goethe himself. Places connected to Schiller include the Schiller House and the tomb of Schiller in the Alter Friedhof. There is also the Liszt House (where Liszt wrote his Hungarian Rhapsody) and Tiefurt Palace. Also nearby is the Buchenwald National Memorial, which marks the spot of another horrific Nazi concentration camp. 200 mi/320 km southwest of Berlin.


In the heart of the beautiful Harz Mountains, this little town has a castle, narrow streets, nice views and interesting framework houses. There are many other small villages and towns in the region that could be combined for a nice two- or three-night visit in the area. 120 mi/195 km southwest of Berlin.


Halfway between Rostock and Lubeck on the Baltic coast is the pretty 13th-century trading town of Wismar, once ruled by Sweden. Like so many German towns, it has a sad recent history—during World War II, two of its three great churches were razed, and in 1945, freezing citizens were forced to burn a medieval wooden statue of St. George and the Dragon in order to stay warm. Fortunately, many beautiful old houses remain, and the Renaissance-era Schnabbelhaus includes the town’s unique historical museum. It is also worth stopping to see the beautiful early-17th-century waterworks and the St. Nikolai Church. There are boats to the resort of Poel Island. 120 mi/195 km northwest of Berlin.

WITTENBERG (Lutherstadt)

This town is where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in 1517. He’s buried under the pulpit in the Schlosskirche (palace church). Also visit Luther Hall, his house and the Stadtkirche St. Marien (church). A full day could be spent there; at the very least, stop for lunch if you’re traveling between Leipzig and Berlin. 40 mi/65 km southwest of Berlin.


Along with Wittenberg, this Rhine River town (pronounced virms, rhymes with firms) can be said to be the birthplace of Protestantism. An assembly of churchmen, called the Diet of Worms, banned Martin Luther from the area in 1521. Their action helped bring about the Reformation and, consequently, the formation of Protestant churches. The town also contains the oldest synagogue and cemetery in the country and an impressive Romanesque cathedral. 35 mi/55 km south of Frankfurt.


At the northern end of the Romantic Road, Wurzburg is an old city worth a day’s visit. The city is dominated by the Marienburg Fortress, the home of the powerful Prince-Bishops of Wurzburg, who transformed the city into one of the 17th century’s finest. Inside the fortress is a museum and an 8th-century church. Catch the bus or climb the fortress’ steep vine-covered hill for a magnificent view of the city. When the Prince-Bishops arrived in Wurzburg, they built the Residenz, one of the finest baroque palaces in Germany. It is remarkable for its size, and the interior is incredibly ornate.

Also in town are the cathedral, St. Mary’s Chapel and the Old Bridge, which is lined with statues of saints. If time permits, take an afternoon boat trip to Veitshochheim, the Prince-Bishop’s hunting palace, which has one of the most outstanding rococo gardens in Europe. 60 mi/95 km southeast of Frankfurt.

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