As far as unique festival locations go, Germany’s Melt! offers quite the experience. The Ferropolis open-air museum is best described as a retirement home for disused industrial machines, and since the year 2000, the City of Iron serves as the surreal backdrop for this buzzing electronic music festival. Revellers dance all night to thudding beats, surrounded by giant steel structures which are lit up with neon lights after dark. For 2018, top international acts such as Florence & the Machine, The XX and Odesza have been confirmed.
One of the few inhabited bridges in Europe spans the Gera River in Erfurt’s city centre. The arched stone bridge dates back to 1325 when the Krämerbrücke, as it’s called in German, was part of an important trading route and merchants occupied the quaint half-timbered houses. Today, you can pass over the walkway and browse the many boutiques, speciality shops and cafés which line the bridge on both sides. For better views, climb the church bell tower of Agidienkirche Church on the eastern end of the bridge.
Krämerbrücke – Erfurt, Germany
This unique neighbourhood in Germany was also the world’s first social housing complex when it opened nearly 500 years ago. A wealthy Augsburg local named Jakob Fugger kickstarted the Fuggerei project and enabled more than 100 impoverished families and individuals to find a permanent home. Since then, the rent of €0.88 (USD$1) per month has remained the same. Tourists can tour the gated community of small mustard-yellow houses and tranquil courtyards for a small fee of €4 (USD$4.70) and peek inside one of the flats which has been converted into a museum.
Fuggerei – Jakoberstraße 26, Augsburg, Germany
If you’re headed to Germany, chances are Neuschwanstein Castle is already on your list. King Ludwig II – often referred to as the Mad King – envisioned an idealised version of a medieval castle to sit perched on a rock and shrouded by trees. He commissioned the fairytale mansion as a private hideout, and within weeks after his death in 1886, the lavishly decorated rooms were opened to the public. It quickly grew to be one of Europe’s most iconic sights, drawing millions of visitors from all over the world to southern Bavaria every year.
Neuschwanstein Castle – Neuschwansteinstraße, Schwangau, Germany
When tensions flared between post-war West and East Germany and people began to flee the GDR by the thousands, the East German government decided overnight to build an unsurpassable wall at the border. For nearly three decades, the imposing concrete barrier stood as a symbol of oppression and division, becoming one of the most iconic structures of the 21st century. The entire world watched and cheered when the wall finally came down in 1989. Today, you can still see parts of it at several spots across Berlin.
Several German cities boast historical sites dating back to the early Roman settlements 2,000 years ago, but none of them are quite as impressive as the Porta Nigra gate in Trier. The city’s most famous landmark was constructed around 180 AD from more than 7,000 individual sandstone blocks. The Roman gatehouse marked the northern end of the city, then over the centuries served as a monk’s residence and a church before Napoleon ordered it to be restored to its original form.
Porta Nigra – Porta-Nigra-Platz, Trier, Germany
During the last Ice Age, approximately 43,000 years ago, the first humans settled in Europe, and some of them sought shelter in the caves and caverns of the Swabian Alb near Ulm. After archaeologists unearthed a number of instruments and the world’s oldest figurative art made by humans, the caves were collectively added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can see the decorative figurines carved from mammoth ivory on display in museums in Ulm, Tübingen and Blaubeuren.