The 36 Best Cities to Visit in Germany

The city skyline at Marienplatz new town hall in Munich, Germany.
The city skyline at Marienplatz new town hall in Munich, Germany. | © Noppasin Wongchum / Alamy Stock Photo
Marion Kutter

From the Berlin Wall and Cologne Cathedral to Oktoberfest and sailing regattas, here’s our guide to the best cities in Germany to enjoy open-air festivals, listen to street music or just sample some local beer.
In Germany, there are numerous captivating destinations to explore. Begin your journey in Berlin, where historical landmarks such as the Berlin Wall coexist with vibrant modern art scenes. Munich awaits with its rich cultural tapestry, especially during the lively Oktoberfest celebrations. Discover the medieval charm of Heidelberg, home to impressive architecture and the renowned Heidelberg University. Follow the Romantic Road to encounter picturesque towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Nature enthusiasts can explore the scenic beauty of the Black Forest, filled with lush landscapes and charming villages. “Where to go in Germany” opens the door to a diverse range of experiences, whether you’re drawn to bustling cities or serene rural retreats.

1. Heidelberg

Architectural Landmark

Heidelberg, Germany
Kankan / Unsplash

Heidelberg in southwest Germany is considered to be one of the most magical destinations in Europe. A source of inspiration for some of the most famous poets, painters, philosophers and writers, Heidelberg was an important centre for German Romanticism in the 18th century. Walking around its cobblestoned roads is the best way to experience the idyllic atmosphere that inspired Mark Twain. The writer spent a big part of his life in the city, where he finished writing the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The internationally known University of Heidelberg was the first to be built in Germany and today is ranked among the top universities in the world. The historical Alte Brücke bridge connects the two sides of the river Neckar that runs through Heidelberg, and used to be the main entrance to the city. A 2km (1.3mi) path starts from Neuenheim, the old town, crosses Alte Brücke and ends on the other side of the river. Here you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city. This route is known as “the road of the philosophers”, a path said to have been walked, at least once, by every single philosopher and professor from the University of Heidelberg.

2. Freiburg

Natural Feature

Cobbled street, Freiburg, Germany
Gadiel Lazcano / Unsplash

There’s a riddle spoken about Freiburg and it goes like this: “Are the citizens of Freiburg so content because the sun shines above their city more than in any other place in Germany; or have they been granted the gift of abundant sunlight because of their kindness?” Who knows? The sure thing is that Freiburg is one of the most wonderful places to visit in Germany, even on those rare occasions when the sun doesn’t shine. Freiburg is one the country’s oldest cities, too, and has a rich culture, filled with cafes, breweries and restaurants where you can enjoy the traditional cuisine. The vibrant, historical city centre manages to stand out thanks to the 116m (380ft) gothic tower of its cathedral. The cathedral’s square is also the largest in the city, and where the weekly market takes place. The farmers’ stands line the northern side while the merchants’ stalls line the southern side. Last but not least, the city offers a huge variety of festivals, which take place all year round, from January’s Internationalen Kulturbörse (the international culture exchange) to December’s extravagant Christmas market.

3. Hamburg

Architectural Landmark

Town hall, Rathaus, Hamburg, Germany
Mortiz Kindler / Unsplash
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and the third biggest port in Europe. Its story begins with the Romans; luckily we can still admire a big part of its original architecture, as the city managed to preserve its history during the raids of World War II. Today, it is a rapidly developing hub that has attracted the greats of the naval and aerospace industry, as well as publishing and communication companies. The City Hall (Rathaus), is the only palace in the city, a neoclassical building whose internal decoration reflects the pride of the city’s 19th-century middle classes. Walking through the open-air market and the elegant alleyways around the City Hall, you will come to the Binnenalster, the huge lake in the middle of the city that connects the port with the sea. Hamburg’s miniature museum, Miniatur Wunderland, is one of the most interesting and original the city has to offer and it hosts the most impressive model figure exhibition in Europe. The last stop on a night out in Hamburg should be the renowned fish market at the port, which opens its doors in the early hours of Sunday. Indie bands entertain the public there, so you can finish your night with a freshly cooked breakfast and live music.

4. Potsdam

Historical Landmark

Potsdam, Germany
Leon Seibert / Unsplash
Potsdam is the capital of the state of Brandenburg and is most famous as the historical seat of the Prussian government. The Prussian kings created a baroque dream, while their successors added neoclassical monuments. Since 1990, the cultural treasure of Potsdam, including the palaces of Sanssouci, Neuer Garten, Babelsberg, Glienicke and Pfaueninsel island, along with their palaces, have been recognized as Unesco World Heritage sites. You could begin your tour of central Potsdam at the Old Market, the main square of the city, where the church of St Nikolai, the Lustgarten and the City Hall form an aristocratic complex. The neighbouring Luisenplatz square connects the baroque Brandenburger Strasse to the tree-lined entrance of Sanssouci park and palace. Friedrich the Great designed his summer palace himself and it is today a perfect example of rococo architecture. He used to retreat to its premises to escape his worries, hence the palace’s name sans souci (without worry).

5. Cologne, Germany

Architectural Landmark

Cologne at night, Germany
Roman Bürki / Unsplash

Even if you are not a religious person, and no matter how many pictures of it you may have seen, the first time you lay eyes on the cathedral of Cologne, with its 157m (515ft) towers reaching for the clouds, you can’t help but stare up in awe. It’s part of what makes Cologne one of the most impressive cities to visit in Germany. It took more than 600 years for the church to be completed, and walking its perimeter can feel like it’s taking a similar period of time. The biggest gothic church in northern Europe, it survived 14 different bombings during World War II. And it is here where the bones of the three kings are kept – yes, those bearing the gifts for the newborn Jesus Christ. The old town spreads around the cathedral to the west shores of the river Rhine. It is perfect for endless strolls in the narrow, cobblestoned alleyways, the petite squares, the impressive, vividly coloured houses of the 19th century and the lively bars and restaurants that serve the fresh, local kölsch beer.

6. Kiel, Germany

Architectural Landmark

Kiel, Germany
Marvin Radke / Unsplash

Kiel is the capital of the Schleswig-Holstein state, and a key waterway linking Germany with the Baltic. Its strategic position on the Bay of Kiel allowed it to become the centre of shipbuilding and navigation during the 19th century. Today, the city is known as the Capital of Sailing and it is the proud host of the Kiel Regatta, the greatest sailing event in the world and the largest summer festival in northern Europe. The focus of the events is the Gorch Fock, the legendary training ship and one of Kiel’s main attractions. The Laboe Naval Memorial, standing between Kiel and the neighbouring town of Laboe is a magnificent dedication to sailors in the world wars. The view from the top is worthwhile, since the landscape of Kiel is relatively flat. Even though maritime tradition seems to dominate the stage, the city has much more to offer. This includes the historical Eggerstedtstrasse, which has undergone serious reconstruction since the war, the square of the Old Market, the posh “Danish” shopping street and the beautiful neighbourhood of Marinenviertel next to the port. There, you can try Kiel’s local specialty, kieler sprotte, smoked fish that is meant to be eaten whole, until the last bone.

7. Munich

Architectural Landmark

Marienplatz, Munich, Germany
Daniel Seßler / Unsplash
Munich is the Bavarian capital built on the shores of Isar, the biggest tributary river of the Danube. The first inhabitants of the city were Benedictine monks, after whom the city is named. The Oktoberfest celebrations and the gigantic brezels may be what immediately springs to mind, but for some this is the least appealing side of the city, as the prices rocket and more than three million tourists swarm the streets looking for beer-tasting experiences. Munich is one of the best cities to visit in Germany and is generally quiet, with a history that goes back to the 12th century. Since then, it has managed to develop a multicultural personality and become a “village of the world”. It has wonderful parks and gardens, great museums and a big selection of cuisines and markets, varying from massive department stores to tiny flea markets. Unfortunately, the historical centre was badly damaged during the war, but it was reconstructed to be remarkably similar to the original. Characteristic examples are the Frauenkirche and the City Hall with the famous Glockenspiel, a clock with statues that come to life each hour.

8. Dresden, Germany

Architectural Landmark

Dresdens historical city centre with steam boats on the Elbe river, Germany
Oliver Guhr / Unsplash

The distribution of artistic treasures amongst Germany’s cities wasn’t particularly fair – Dresden seems to have gathered the majority of them. The capital of the free state of Saxony charms its visitors with a mixture of tradition and scenic landscapes. A walk through the dreamy city centre, which used to be the seat of the rulers and kings of Saxony, reveals the beauty of Dresden, often characterized as the Florence of the Elbe. The architectural styles vary from Renaissance to baroque and neoclassical. The Frauenkirche, a pink and white church, the Zwinger Palace, and the Semperoper opera along with the city of gardens, Hellerau, are only some of the sights that demand attention. Picnics on the grass with a view of the palace and the cathedral, historical steamboats with Dixieland jazz music, castles that look on to the city from above and open-air breweries help make Dresden one of the best places to visit in Germany. The river landscape creates the perfect setting for many open-air activities, such as movie nights on the river bank, the open-air Elbhangfest and concerts in the romantic parks of the river castles.

9. Bremen, Germany

Architectural Landmark

People crossing cobbled street behind a tram in Bremen, Germany
Jahanzeb Ahsan / Unsplash

“I tell you what,” said the donkey, “I am going to Bremen, and shall be town musician there. Go with me and engage yourself also as a musician. I will play the lute, and you shall beat the kettle drum.” A Brothers Grimm fairytale, the Town Musicians of Bremen is set in the city and makes the street musicians its trademark. Bremen is relatively small and easily explored, with the majority of the tourist attractions located in the Old Town. Approximately 2,000 steel and copper nails mark the route from the Liebfrauen Kirche, the town’s oldest church, to the main square and further on to Bottcherstrasse, once the street of craftsmen. The glorious City Hall with its Renaissance architecture still remains today the main landmark of the city, as well as a tribute to Roland, protector of the Trade and the city’s founder. Here also stands the statue representing the animals from the Town Musicians of Bremen fairytale (a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster).

10. Berlin, Germany

Architectural Landmark

Berlin, Germany
Florian Wehde / Unsplash
The capital city of Germany is Berlin. Upon arrival, visitors have to forget anything they knew about a typical German city. Berlin is an assemblage of peoples and cultures, a historical and at the same time modern city. It also contains some of the finest examples of contemporary architecture in the country. The story of a whole nation is captured in the landmarks of Berlin, from the grandiose Brandenburg Gate to the 368m (1,200ft) TV tower at Alexanderplatz, offering one of the best views in the city. Also notable is the magnificent Reichstag, the German parliament with its glass dome, which is open to the public for free. Berlin creates the latest trends in lifestyle, music and art, attracting creatives from all over the world and offering the largest independent music and theatre scene in Europe. A night out in Berlin is a must, as the city nights are long throughout the week, with a huge selection of cosy bars, clubs and live stages, especially around the areas of Kreuzberg and Neukölln. Don’t miss out on a walk around the East Side Gallery, the longest preserved part of the inner Berlin Wall, covered with contemporary, and old, graffiti art.

11. Stuttgart

Architectural Landmark

Large palace, Stuttgart-Mitte, Stuttgart, Germany
Prerna Bhardwaj / Unsplash
Stuttgart is among the trendiest cities in Germany, consistently impressing travellers with its wide, diverse range of attractions. The city boasts sprawling squares spattered with gorgeous architecture, and a series of interesting museums and galleries. Anyone even mildly interested in automobiles will love the snazzy Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums in town. Stuttgart also earns major Brownie points with children, thanks to its awesome nature spots and museums that are especially designed for little guests. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

12. Ulm

Historical Landmark

Aerial view of Ulm, Germany
Aron Yigin / Unsplash
Ulm is best known for the tallest church steeple in the world and for being the birthplace of Nobel laureate Albert Einstein. Additionally, the dreamy setting of Fischerviertel (the Fishermen’s and Tanners’ Quarter) along the River Blau and the beautifully preserved medieval city walls surely make a stop at this rather unsung town worthwhile. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

13. Mannheim

Architectural Landmark

Mannheim University building, Mannheim, Germany
Lāsma Artmane / Unsplash
Mannheim is best known for being the starting point (or the end point) of Germany’s iconic Castle Road. However, the town itself has much to offer travellers. For instance, the sprawling Mannheim Palace, one of the largest and most beautifully conserved palaces in Europe, and the stunning Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau Wasserturm (water tower) in a gorgeous green plaza. Moreover, Mannheim has pristine, green oases and interesting museums. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

14. Wiesbaden

Architectural Landmark

Wiesbaden-Mitte, Wiesbaden, Germany
Folco Masi / Unsplash
Wiesbaden is the capital of Hesse and a renowned spa town thanks to its 14 hot springs. The towers of Marktkirche pierces the skyline of Wiesbaden. Other highlights in town include Kurhaus, the spectacular golden-domed Russian Orthodox St. Elizabeth Church, Biebrich Palace by the Rhine River, and uninterrupted views from Neroberg. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

15. Rostock

Architectural Landmark

Universitätsplatz, Rostock, Germany
Andrea Anastasakis / Unsplash

Back when Hanseatic League was in full swing, Rostock was among the most significant centers along the route for goods handling, a fact that earned it the title of ‘Gateway to Scandinavia.’ This 800-year-old picturesque port city and romantic seaside resort still retains much of its maritime charm. The Schiffbau und Schifffahrtsmuseum (Shipbuilding and Maritime Museum) is a great place to learn in depth about various aspects of shipbuilding and Rostock‘s rich maritime history. The town also hosts a massive maritime-themed festival every summer. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

16. Frankfurt

Bahá'í Temple

Frankfurt, Germany
Igor Flek / Unsplash
Though mainly known for one of the busiest airports in Europe, Frankfurt has a lot more to offer travelers. The historic square of Römerberg alone makes a stop in Frankfurt worth it. Additionally, the city boasts a series of amazing galleries and museums, beer gardens and a lot of entertainment options for families. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

17. Lübeck, Germany

Historical Landmark

Lübeck, Germany
Wolfgang Weiser / Unsplash

The 12th-century harbor town of Lübeck might be small but it packs a solid punch. It promises an array of stunning architecture, including the Holstentor, St. Mary’s Church, Rathaus and Salzspeicher, and interesting museums like Buddenbrookhaus, Günter Grass-House and European Hansemuseum. When in town, make a point to treat yourself to yummy marzipan goodies at the 212-year-old Café Niederegger. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Karlsruhe

In Karlsruhe, a range of amazing Neoclassical architecture, endless greenery, charming medieval squares, vibrant shopping streets and over 50 museums and galleries vie for your attention. The most noteworthy landmark in town is undoubtedly the spectacular 18th-century Karlsruhe Palace, from which 32 avenues fan out in beautiful symmetry. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Konstanz

Konstanz, the most popular stop along the famous Lake Constance, records hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, and certainly for good reason. This sunny town has a romantic Old Town, the iconic 11th-century Konstanz Minster, historic architecture like the Hohenzollernhaus and Rathaus, and several museums. However, what draws tourists the most to Konstanz is its ancient harbour, looking out onto the beautiful lake, as well as the opportunity for a leisurely river cruise. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Kassel

The riverside city of Kassel woos visitors with its globally-reputed art exhibition, Documenta (that takes place once every five years), the fairy-tale Löwenburg Castle, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (a UNESCO site), the 400-acre Karlsaue Park, and museums dedicated to the Brothers Grimm. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Weimar

Weimar is a charming historic town, famous for having been home to legends like Luther, Cranach, Bach, Goethe, Schiller and Nietzsche. Also, Weimar is agreed to be the cradle of the famous Bauhaus Movement. The most famous landmark in town is the 18th century Schloss and Park Belvedere, which houses a fantastic cultural museum, exhibiting diverse artifacts. Understandably, tributes to famous sons and daughters of the soil are scattered all over the city, in the form of museums and monuments. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Hanover

The world-famous Herrenhausen Palace and Gardens alone are worth making a trip to Hanover for. You can easily spend several hours admiring the four symmetrical, beautifully landscaped gardens that make up the parkland—the Great Garden (Großer Garten), the Berggarten, the Georgengarten and the Welfengarten. Each garden has a unique layout and is peppered with architectural landmarks, including the Herrenhausen Palace. Additionally, the palatial New Town Hall and the majestic ruins of Aegidienkirche add ample character to the skyline of Hanover. Hanover is also known for its vast swathes of greenery as well as the beautiful Lake Maschsee. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Erfurt

If stones and bridges could speak, the ones in Erfurt would tell a 1,270 year-old saga of heritage and prosperity, war and destruction. A walk across the easily navigable city will lead you past stunning architecture, like the richly ornate neo-Gothic Rathaus, the Evangelisches Augustinerkloster (Augustinian Monastery), limestone and sandstone Krämerbrücke (Merchant’s Bridge), Zitadelle Petersburg and, most importantly, the magnificent ensemble of St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Severus Church. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Ludwigsburg

The 18th-century city of Ludwigsburg might not be a tourist hotspot throughout the year, but that changes every September and October as the Largest Pumpkin Festival in the World kicks off in town, in the presence of hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over Europe. However, you certainly won’t regret your decision of stopping in Ludwigsburg at other times of the year. The sprawling Baroque Ludwigsburg Palace alone – housing a lovely ceramic museum and with the Blühendes Barock gardens wrapping it on all sides – make a visit to Ludwigsburg worth it. The town also preserves other noteworthy architecture, like Favorite Castle, Monrepos, the Evangelical city church, as well as a romantic old town. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Hanau

Hanau is the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, and the southernmost point of the iconic German Fairy Tale Route. The most significant sight in this town is the superb timber-framed Deutsches Goldschmiedehaus. Hessisches Puppen & Spielzeug Museum (Doll and Toy Museum) is a very popular family attraction. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Fulda

The baroque city of Fulda developed around a Benedictine monastery established in the year 744. Fulda has a lot of important architecture, including the 18th century royal palace, former residence of the Prince-Abbots, the neoclassical Orangerie and the ornate Fulda Cathedral. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Darmstadt

Darmstadt houses the famous Technical University and several aerospatial and engineering institutes, which earned it the title of ‘The City of Science’. Architecture enthusiasts are sure to be delighted by the sights of Darmstadt, especially the Russian Chapel, the ducal residence and the breathtaking architecture of the fairy-tale themed residential complex called Waldspirale. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Eutin

Eutin is wrapped by several lakes and verdant forests on all sides, which makes the town a sight that must be seen to be believed. The skyline of Eutin is dominated by the beautiful four-winged Eutin Castle. When in Eutin, make a point to visit the Bridegroom’s Oak, a tree that has been bringing singles together for over 500 years! Even if you are not looking for love, the tree is worth a visit for its sheer uniqueness and legendary status. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Eisenach

To many, Eisenach is known for being the birthplace of the Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach and the city where Martin Luther spent several of his early years. However, what attracts travelers most to Eisenach is the truly stunning hilltop Wartburg Castle, the first castle in Germany to make it to the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Other activities in Eisenach include exploring the surrounding verdant Hainich National Park and the many museums in town. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Braunschweig

Braunschweig, the land of iconic ruler Henry the Lion, is rather unsung but is nonetheless bathed in historic atmosphere. The 12th-century imperial castle of Dankwarderode, is the top attraction in town, and is worth a visit for its elegant architecture and interesting museum. The Residence Palace, crowned by the massive silicon-bronze Quadriga, is not to be missed either. The 12th-century old town, the heart of Braunschweig, still beats in a medieval rhythm. A stroll through this part of town will take you past stunning architectural specimens from various eras. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Hildesheim

Hildesheim is a place that will pull on the heartstrings of history and architecture enthusiasts. The two most famous landmarks in town, Mariendom and St. Michael’s Church, are both UNESCO sites. They are not only examples of medieval architectural genius but also specimens of substantial historical importance. Don’t forget to check out the miraculous 1,200-year-old rose bush clinging to the façade of Mariendom. Natural history aficionados can get their fill of culture at Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum, a museum of Egyptian and Peruvian art, German history, ethnology, etymology and archeology. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Saarbrücken

Saarbrücken, the capital of Saarland and a city dating back to the Middle Ages, has a sombre beauty partly owed to the fact that the Second World War left indelible marks on it. The tireless reconstruction of the city, though, has added immense character to its façade. Ludwig’s Church is not only the most famous landmark in town, but among Germany’s most important Protestant Baroque churches. On the other hand, Saarland State Theatre has attained international repute for superior performing arts. When in town, don’t miss the UNESCO site Völklinger Hütte, a massive ironworks that closed in 1986. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Lüneburg

Lüneburg, on the river Ilmenau, achieved the status of an important Hanseatic town and an economically-sound city owing to its high level of salt production in the Middle Ages. Most of the architecture of this historic city have been maintained in an almost-original condition, which gives the city an impression of being untouched by time. The German Salt Museum in Lüneburg is the perfect place to learn all about the rich history of salt production in town. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Wismar

Wismar is a former Hanseatic city on the Baltic coast with a unique maritime flair. The main attraction of Wismar is its red-brick Gothic architecture, a specialty of northern Germany. The most significant landmarks in Wismar‘s skyline include Wasserkunst (a beautiful Renaissance welling house), the Classicist city hall, remains of Baroque fortifications and beautifully-preserved merchants’ houses. The annual Harbor Festival celebrates and honors the admirable maritime history of the town. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Stralsund

When you visit Stralsund today, you can get a clear picture of what a prosperous Hanseatic city looked like many centuries back, as the city has remained largely unchanged in its layout and spirit since then. The medieval old town of Stralsund is a treasure trove of brick Gothic-style architecture. Being located practically on the water, the old town very much enhances the maritime feel of the city. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

Magdeburg

If you’re interested in ancient history, the 1,200-year-old former Hanseatic city of Magdeburg, perched by the River Elbe, is sure to appeal. The Lutheran Cathedral of Saints Catherine and Maurice, the highest (104-meter / 341 ft) church in East Germany and the oldest Gothic structure in the country, pierces the sky above this medieval city. Other significant landmarks in Magdeburg include Magdeburg Cathedral, Johanniskirche, Grüne Zitadelle, the old market square and the Kanalbrücke. Recommended by Anwesha Ray

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