It’s one of Europe’s largest countries, as well as one of its most historically and economically significant, so how do you begin to get under the surface of Deutschland? Here are all the tips and travel hacks you need for visiting Germany.
Plan your itinerary
Call us obvious but plenty of people book last-minute flights to Munich or Berlin without giving a moment’s thought as to what happens when they’re out there. Of course, like most European cities, you could easily spend a plan-less day or two wandering around either, exploring independent shops, parks and traditional German taverns. The thing is with Germany is that there’s always something different going on under the surface. Berlin in particular is a breeding ground for sub-cultures and underground activities that can elevate a travel experience. That’s just sticking to one destination, too. Germany is so easy to get around. If you plan ahead you could tick multiple destinations off your bucket list in one fell sweep.
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Itinerary planning and logistics not your strong suit? That’s where Culture Trip comes in to save the day. Our small-group trips are immersive, authentic experiences that blend sightseeing musts with hidden discoveries, natural phenomena and foodie delights. Our Travel Experts are loaded with first-hand experiences and insider tips, and our Local Insiders will be your private guide, armed with unrivalled local knowhow, cultural insights and the lowdown on the best bratwurst in town. Accommodation, activities and domestic travel all sorted in one press of a button. All you need to do is turn up and be ready to explore.
Travel by train
If one German stereotype is true, it’s efficiency. Even locals will often make a light-hearted joke about their proficiency for being on time. It makes the country wonderful to get around, with one of Europe’s best rail networks – and most affordable, too. The German Rail Pass offers unlimited rail travel across the entire country (and even a few border-crossing routes too) at pretty reasonable traveller rates.
This means you don’t have to choose between the Rhineland’s cultural strongholds and the trendy cities of East Germany. Bavaria and the Black Forest is on the cards, as is Hamburg in the far north. You can get across the entirety of this huge country quickly, comfortably and relatively cheaply.
Our Travel Experts created our incredible Rail Trips as an homage to the joys of train travel, and our Berlin to Budapest: The Best of Central Europe by Train trip is the ultimate example of a European rail adventure. You’ll start with a deep dive in the German capital before visiting Prague, Vienna and Bratislava en route to Budapest. Not bad for just 10 days.
Explore beyond the major cities
Germany is a dream destination for city break lovers. There’s the ultimate cool of Berlin and the underrated style of Leipzig. Dresden and Cologne are easy on the eye, while Munich exudes the friendly Bavarian spirit. Don’t forget to venture a little further off the beaten track, though. This country has one border with Scandinavia and another on the Alps, so the variety of natural landscapes is as vast as Europe gets. It is, without doubt, most famous for luscious green forests. The Black Forest is one of most picturesque and explorable regions on the whole continent, while Baden-Baden’s rural wellness culture is not to be missed.
It isn’t just about natural splendour, either. Germany’s towns and villages are every bit as charming as the cities. Picture fairytale churches and old medieval streets, with rickety cobblestone roads and old-fashioned pubs on the corner. Koblenz on the Rhine is magical, especially during Christmas when the market pops up and the town light up – Germany is the best Christmas destination on Earth, by the way. Altenburg, in the eastern region of Thuringia, is a surprise foodie haven with a gorgeous old market square. Hop on a regional train, a bus or rent a car and stop at whichever pretty little town catches your eye the most – you’ll be sure to find some delicious cakes there, at the very least.
Sample local cuisine
Speaking of food, German cuisine is as hearty as indulgent as it gets. Sure, it’s not as beloved as Greek or Italian, nor as revered as French, but we think it’s about time German food got the attention it deserve. There’s the tangy tastiness of currywurst in Berlin – home of the doner kebab,too – and Bavarian bratwurst down south. There’s pretzels, schnitzels, sauerkraut and potato salad. Then there are the sweet treats, from apple strudel to Black Forest gateau, plus a never-ending variety of delicious baked goods in every local bakery.
Culinary culture here is all about food for the soul. It’s warming, comforting and often a little bit indulgent. Usually washed down with the local brewery’s beer, which more often than not is among the finest you’ll ever drink. German wine is underrated too, particularly white varieties along the Rhine. So if beer is a little heavy for you, and the local liquors are a bit scary, then opt for a lovely little glass of riesling instead.
Experience traditional festivals
Germany’s culture is rich, expressive and community based, which means festivals are used as a way for everyone to get together and have a great time. Oktoberfest is the nation’s most famous celebration and, while you will find festivities across the entire country, the pilgrimage to Bavaria and a big weekend in Munich is a cultural experience like no other.
There are countless other beer, folk and art festivals happening across the country all year round. Film fans shouldn’t miss Berlinale, while cities like Bonn and Leipzig celebrate their classical music exports on an annual basis.
Let’s not forget Christmas, either. Germany invented the Christmas market, and nobody has topped it since. Experience the soul-warming cheer as you stroll across a city lit up with festive lights, towered over by giant Christmas trees and surrounded by stalls selling beautiful hand-made baubles and fine leather goods. Grab some hearty snacks and a warm cup of gluhwein (mulled wine) for the most authentic December evening imaginable.
Travel with Culture Trip!
We might be bias, but the best way to see the German capital is with Culture Trip, and our Berlin to Budapest Rail Trip offers you an immersive, authentic train travel experience like no other. Our Local Insider will take you on a private guided tour of Berlin’s most incredible sites, taking you under the skin of a city that has seen more history than anywhere else in Europe. You’ll get your own U-bahn ticket so you can discover hidden gems across the city free of cost, and we’ll dine in an authentic local restaurant for proper German grub washed down with a refreshing stein of beer.
That’s just the beginning! We’ll leave Germany behind to explore the rest of Europe, stopping at capital cities like Prague, Vienna and Bratislava, before reaching our final station, the beautiful city of Budapest.
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