Looking to get off the beaten track? Bad Kreuznach is a relaxing spa town in Germany.
Things to do in Germany
Germany is a complex creature, and a beloved travel destination of mine. This western European country has so many sides to explore: You can find the jolly Germany of beer steins, bratwurst and dirndls in Bavaria; explore the artsy side of Germany of Berlin; hike in the Alps, visit castles, dive into its political history and more.
The country has a dark side, a light side and a thousand personalities in between. There are a million things to do in Germany and everyone will have their own bucket list sights, but here are a few of my top choices for Germany travel.
Ride the Romantic Road Bus along the Romantische Strasse
What? I'm recommending a bus trip? Strange but true. While not normally my favourite way of travelling, taking a bus along the Romantic Road is one of the most fun things to do in Germany. It's a hop on hop off type of travel and the journey covers one of the most scenic stretches of Germany, from Frankfurt to Füssen (or the other way). The bus company will even arrange accommodation for you if you choose to make stops. Highlights of the Romantic Road include visiting the beautifully-preserved town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (honestly, it's one of the cutest towns you ever will see and I recommend a stopover here), and fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle. (And I'm still mad I missed the Thimble Museum in Creglingen, because when else would you ever visit a thimble museum?)
Take a Rhine Cruise
For years I thought taking a Rhine Cruise meant investing in an expensive multi-day cruise on a luxury riverboat. Then, once I arrived in Germany, I found out that you can easily do a Rhine cruise for a day. One cruise company to check out is KD Rhine Cruises, but there may be other companies as well. Good starting points are Koblenz or Cologne, and what you want to do is cruise the Middle Rhine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where top highlights include cruising past Loreley Rock and plenty of castles.
Spa in Baden-Baden
If you read this blog enough you'll know that the spa town of Baden-Baden is one of my all-time favourite travel destinations - and I should probably shut up about it. But it's so grand and gorgeous with old-world hotels, healing hot springs and unsurpassed elegance. My top travel recommendation is to slap on your bathing suit and visit Caracalla Therme, a luscious public bathing complex with white pillars, indoor and outdoor pools and an extensive sauna area (where you'll have to slap off your bathing suit because saunas are generally nude in Germany).
Hike in the Alps
If you want a scenic destination it's hard to go wrong with hard-to-pronounce-but-lovely-to-see Berchtesgaden Land in the Alps at the south-eastern tip of Germany. There are plenty of things to do here such as take a boat cruise on Lake Konigsee in an electric passenger ferry, visit Hitler's high-altitude hideaway called the Eagle's Nest or tour a centuries-old salt mine, but the top activity is hiking. Berchtesgaden Land is home to Germany's third highest mountain, Mount Watzmann, but if you prefer a flatter hike I recommend hiking around Lake Hintersee, a spot so scenic it was a top destination for the artists of the Romantic era.
Get decadent in Berlin - at least in your head
What can I say? Berlin is an unparalleled city for energy and if you're looking for ultra urban things to do in Germany, visiting Berlin is practically a rite of passage. Stroll though artsy edgy Kreuzberg, bohemian Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg, or cruise the famous Kurfürstendamm Boulevard. Above all, before you go read Christopher Isherwood's Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin, semi-autographical novels of pre-Hitler Berlin. Remember that movie Cabaret? That's Isherwood. Read the books or see the movie, and you'll never look at Berlin the same way again.
Get religious in Erfurt
Erfurt, the largest city in the state of Thuringia, was part of East Germany before the reunification. A striking city of spires, churches, monasteries and chapels, Erfurt's most famous resident was Martin Luther, 16th-century champion of the Reformation. As a young man, he took vows and became a monk at the Augustinian Monastery and was ordained at Erfurt Cathedral. Best of all, you can stay at same Augustinian Monastery today. I did. It's spartan, but it was one of the most atmospheric sleeps of my travelling life.
Munich - to Oktoberfest or not to Oktoberfest?
Hm. Oktoberfest might be one of the most popular things to do in Germany, but I'm not sure whether to recommend visiting Munich during this world-renowned folk festival held every autumn or anytime other than during it. For beer and festivity, go for it. If you don't like crowds, maybe not. But Munich is a highlight of Germany travel, whenever you go. One thing you'll want to do there is visit a beerhall. Other attractions in Munich include the BMW Museum, the English Garden, the art museum Alte Pinakothek, Nymphenburg Palace and the Rathaus-Glockenspiel (the famous clock) in Marienplatz.
Remember the past in Dachau
Germany travel itineraries aren't only about beer, churches and nature - a well-rounded trip to Germany means diving into the past. And part of the past that can't be ignored is the Nazi regime. One of the most sobering reminders of this heavy chapter in history is to visit the concentration camp of Dachau - the Dachau Camp Memorial. It might be easily reached from Munich, but it's not an easy visit - it's a chilling look at the reconstructed barracks, gas chambers and cremation ovens where 31,951 Jewish prisoners were murdered.
Here’s what to expect at a German sauna, with tips on what – and what not – to do
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