A month exploring Germany's major cities and countryside would not be sufficient. So make sure you budget time outside Berlin.
Next to Berlin, this is the city to visit in Germany. It delightfully and authentically lives up to its status as the capital of Bavaria. This wealthy city is an emblem of German tradition and stereotype, however, Munich simultaneously embraces contemporary cutting edge culture. Their avant-garde youth scene means there’s much to check out in the way of cool nightclubs, bars and restaurants. But no doubt you will inevitably (and happily) indulge in the more customary tourist scene. After exploring the many neighborhoods, museums and historical attractions, eat your fill of sausage and mustard, then wash it down with two…or three…or even four steins of beer. In fact, there are scores of beer halls, gardens and open-air markets packed with lederhosen-clad Germans drinking the day and night away listening to local oompah bands. This exciting atmosphere is so infectious that it’s no mistake that Munich is the site of many festivals such as Fashing and Oktoberfest. To See/Do: Alte Pinakothek (art collection), Hofbräuhaus (famous beer hall), Viktualienmarkt (open-air market) and the English Garden.
Capital of the eastern state of Saxony, Dresden is a city on the rise. The historical beauty and legacy of Dresden was disastrously bombed by the Allied forces in WWII. The tragic event, which spurred the Kurt Vonnegut novel, Slaughterhouse Five, not only destroyed beautiful and historical architecture, art and landscapes, but took the lives of tens of thousands of Germans. Post-war, many of the baroque buildings were restored, but today more than ever, the city is determined to recapture its legacy as the German “Florence” and is rebuilding many of its once glorious structures as well as encouraging tourism and cultural development. To See/Do: Stadtmuseum, Schloss (castle), Zwinger.
After Berlin and Munich, Hamburg is one of the most visited cities in Germany. Once known as “Sin City,” for its notorious red light district, today it is visited for its interesting arts scene, cool bars and cafés and vibrant youth culture. Whether you indulge in its harbor and canal atmosphere (sort of like Venice) or enjoy the contrasting park-like feel throughout the city, you will thoroughly enjoy your stay. To See/Do: Altstadt, Kunsthalle (museum), Deichstrasse (neighborhood).
The picturesque region of Baden-Württemberg is dotted with quaint villages, university towns and of course the industrial home of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, Stuttgart. Explore the nearby university town of Tübingen (30km south of Stuttgart). It is a beautiful little town with lovely architecture, a great student vibe and lots of charm and culture. Also close by is Heidelberg. Idyllic in setting, complete with castles, gothic architecture and also home to a thriving student population, Heidelberg is a traveler’s delight (although too many tourists often spoil its charm). To See/Do: Stuttgart: Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums; Tübingen: Rathaus, Schloss Hohentübingen; Heidelberg: Schloss, Universitätsplatz.
Germany’s financial capital is just that…a modern, thriving business center. Largely void of old world German charm in the way of architecture, art and personality, Frankfurt is sleek, wealthy and intellectual. The city recovered from WWII by pushing towards the future and economic success rather than preserving its rather large historical legacy. It did, however, retain a few pockets of preserved culture, such as the old quarter of Sachsenhausen and is a perfect and refreshing night’s stop after the medieval towns of the Romantic Road or before heading onto the less glamorous state of Saxony. To See/Do: Fressgasse (“Pig Out Alley”); Goethe’s Museum and House; Sachsenhausen (old quarter).
The Romantic Road is a heavily touristed route of approximately 290km between the German towns of Würzburg in the north and Füssen in the Bavarian Alps. In between are lovely medieval villages that are so picturesque it’s as if they leapt out of a fairytale. You can tour the route by way of bus tours, car, rail or bicycle and stop off at each town (note: Eurail and German Rail passes can be used). There are tourist info centers along the way, but a good place to start is in either Munich or Frankfurt. Of particular interest on the route is the town of Rothenburg. It is the most visited of all the towns for its picture-perfect medieval character. As with many of the most beautiful attractions, the Romantic Road and especially Rothenburg, get absolutely mobbed with tourists, particularly in the summer months.
Köln, or Cologne, is the German capital for mass media, music (nightlife), gay and lesbian life, and for its art scene. Because of Köln’s central location within Europe, it is the biggest hub in Germany with direct trains to/from Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Prague and Berlin. It also serves as a new hub for the low-cost airlines with cheap fares from many cities. To See/Do: Koelner Dom (Cologne Cathedral).