The great thing about visiting Germany is that, compared to North America, it’s quite compact and yet you can still visit 16 little mini-kingdoms each with their own traditional food, architecture, customs, and dialects. That said, once you get here, you quickly realise that things aren’t that close together. We’ve put together a one-week itinerary that assumes you’re flying in to Munich, out of Berlin, and travelling everywhere by train. For a longer stay, check out this add-on for a two-week tour of Germany.
Arrive early in the morning at Munich airport, drag yourself to your hotel and try not to take a nap. Eat something as close to German lunchtime as you can, as it will help you get over your jet lag quicker. Resist the urge to nap. Instead, go to Marienplatz and join one of the many free tours of the Munich Altstadt. It will help you get your bearings and learn a bit about the city while also keeping you awake. The tour will probably finish somewhere around 5pm, at which time you can stop for a coffee at one of the many lovely cafés in the centre of town. Buoyed by all the strong European espresso.
You’ll probably be up ridiculously early, so take advantage of that and get breakfast at Cotidiano in the cool Glockenbach neighbourhood, or any of other excellent places to get breakfast in town. Properly fortified, now is the time to relax. Head to the Blue Spa at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof and steam and sauna your post-flight skin back to its normal, glowing state. If the weather is nice, continue relaxing on the rooftop terrace through the afternoon. If it’s a bit miserable, then head to one of Munich’s many fine museums (art, technology, natural history – dealer’s choice) before getting a grown-up dinner at Theresa Grill Bar.
Get your fix of half-timbered houses, window boxes, and crooked, narrow little streets in the Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Just two-and-a-half hours by train from Munich Central station, have a look around town and then go for a leisurely, late lunch at the Altfränkisch Weinstube before getting on the mid-afternoon train to Leipzig.
One of Germany’s most ancient university towns, and for most of the 20th century practically falling apart, Leipzig is now one of the hottest places in the country – the words ‘New Berlin’ have been whispered. Sure, it’s the birthplace of Bach, but thanks to the recent start-up boom, there’s a lot of 21st-century fun to be had. You will have arrived in town the previous evening, so now, properly cured of your jet lag, you can head for a Euro breakfast at Milchbar Penguin. After that, a walk around town is in order, followed by a decision: explore Leipzig’s street art for the afternoon, head to its world-famous zoo or take a trip around the world at the Grassi museum. In the evening, party like it’s 1984 at one of Leipzig’s fantastic electro clubs, or go hear their world-class orchestra.
The train ride to Berlin is only 90 minutes, and there is at least one an hour all day, so there’s time to nip over to the Spinnerei before you leave town, a former cotton spinning factory in west Leipzig that is now full of galleries, artist ateliers, and cafés.
Once you’re in Berlin, get situated and head to Santa Maria for tacos in the so-hip-it-hurts neighbourhood of Kreuzberg in the eastern part of the city. While you’re over there, before or after eating depending on the daylight situation, take a Trabant tour – it’s ridiculous and informative. In the evening, get a water’s-eye view of the neighbourhood on a kayak tour.
The next day, get a good breakfast in at the brunch spot closest to your hotel and head to the Museum Insel for a dose of art, culture, science, and/or dinosaurs. After schlepping around the whole day, recharge at the Ampelmann restaurant and Biergarten. In the evening, either relax at a concert, the opera, or deep-dive into the electro scene in one of Berlin’s many techo clubs.
The last day in Berlin is for relaxing. Either spend the day with the cool kids at the Badeschiff on the banks of the Spree, recharge at Liquidrom, or head south of the city to Tropical Island indoor beach resort and marvel at what a time it is to be alive.
Tip: If you’re staying in Germany for longer than a week, check out the second week of our itinerary here. It finishes the loop back in Munich.