Snow, glorious snow! Germany has lots of it and hundreds of years of experience finding fun things to do with, in and on it. Here are our picks for the best places in Germany to enjoy a winter wonderland.
Located just south of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Bavaria, Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain peak, standing 2,962 metres (9,718 feet) above sea level. There are numerous smaller mountains surrounding the Zugsptize and every year thousands of people come to enjoy all manner of winter sports. Skiing and snowboarding, sure, but also sledding, cross country skiing and weird things like Bavarian curling (give Eisstockschießen a google.) It’s also perfectly acceptable to just sit in the chalet with some Schnapps and admire the view.
The Partnach Gorge is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful of Bavaria’s natural wonders. The 80-metre (262-foot) waterfall freezes in winter and leaves a jagged curtain of icicles. Evening hikes lit only by torches make the place even more magical.
If life is better with a pair of narrow, six-foot boards strapped to your feet, then the Allgäu is for you. Located in the southwest of Germany, the Allgäu includes adorable villages like Oberstdorf and Oberstaufen (ober meaning over’) and more than 500 kilometres (311 miles) of ski slopes. Pronunciation note: Allgoy, like boy.
Cologne Christmas markets
You can’t turn around in Germany in December without running into a Christmas market. All the same, when the city’s main squares are swathed in twinkly lights and bellies are full of Glühwein, it is undeniably magical. Cologne gets a special recommendation both because the city itself is well worth a visit and the twinkling lights set against the menacing hulk of the Kölner Dom make for a great photograph. You can even go skating!
Winter in Dresden is all about Stollen and properly cold weather. The cake can be bought all over Germany, but it is best tried in its hometown. Dresden is a gorgeous city at anytime of the year, but in winter, with snow rendering everything quiet and still, it feels like a magic fairyland. Instead of walking around, try a paddle steamer tour of the city along the Elbe River.
If you’re a fan of extreme winter sports, Baiersbronn in the Black Forest is for you. A hard day’s work on one of the hundreds of dedicated trails for cross-country skiing and winter hiking can be rewarded with at a meal at one of the eight Michelin-star restaurants in the area.
The Harz mountains
Go to the Harz mountains in north-central Germany and ride the nostalgia train – literally. The villages of Wernigerode, Nordhausen and Quedlinburg are connected by the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen, a proper steam train. The primary purpose of the train is to help local residents get around, but other approved uses include cramming in as much chocolate-box adorability as possible in one day and then killing it on Instagram.
Schönau am Königssee
For those who favour the romantic winter holiday experience, try Schönau am Königssee, just a few kilometres over the Berchtesgaden Alps from Austria. The long, thin Königssee turns from its summer-time green to a shimmering, frozen ice rink. More than 20 km (12 miles) of skating tracks are available for regular and speed skating. If that’s not enough excitement, Schönau am Königssee is also home to the oldest permanent bobsled, luge and skeleton track in the world.
Worth a visit at any time of the year, Heidelberg never disappoints. Mix that with a dusting of snow and the cosiness that comes from only eight hours of daylight and you’re only a sleigh ride away from this secret winter hideaway. If you’re in Heidelberg during any of the five weeks before Christmas, familiarise yourself with the many stupendous Christmas markets. After that, just walk around and soak in the atmosphere. When you get cold, pop into a café for a restorative coffee and some delicious torte.
Trier is the oldest city in Germany, dating back to the first century BC. Roughly 180 km (112 miles) from Cologne, the city is positioned right up against the Luxembourg border. The trip is especially rewarding for those who love Roman history, as Trier is home a number of Roman ruins, including an original Roman court and a second-century bridge.
The Eifel region in the northwestern state of Nordrhein Westphalia is rural and extremely beautiful. Monschau is a small resort town 30 km (19 miles) south of Aachen, right on the Belgian border, that looks as if it has been frozen in time. Visit the coffee roaster, the mustard mill and one of the many fantastic bakery-cafés or take a walk into the snow-dusted forests in every direction.