A wealth of history, artistic flair and diversity await you on your city break to Germany. You might be marvelling at Munich’s magnificent baroque palaces one day, and wandering around Hamburg’s trendy, redeveloped HafenCity the next. Meanwhile, in hip Berlin historic sites like the Brandenburg Gate blend effortlessly with contemporary art galleries.
Here are 10 of the top places in Germany for a city break:
The capital is perhaps Germany’s most popular city break destination. Since Germany’s reunification in 1990, Berlin has emerged as a cosmopolitan and exciting city, packed with inspiring art, architecture, and entertainments. History is an important part of Berlin’s identity – don’t miss the symbolic Brandenburg Gate and the Jewish Museum which are poignant reminders of the Cold War and World War II.
Berlin is a wonderful place to wander around at leisure, and walking is the best way to soak up the atmosphere. Every district in and around the city centre has its own identity – from Mitte with its must-see sights and markets to trendy Kreuzberg, with its abundance of bars and restaurants. Tiergarten is dominated by the green park of the same name while Charlottenburg is a popular retail district and home to Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest royal palace in Berlin complete with beautiful gardens and woodland.
Airport: Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL) is located 5 miles from the city.
Bavaria’s capital is the gateway to the Alps and makes a good city break before setting off to the mountains offering world-class museums, castles and traditional German architecture too. For a taste of Munich’s hospitality and world-renowned beer, a visit in October for the world-famous Oktoberfest is a must. While reservations for the festival are advisable, you can get a seat ad-hoc at off-peak times like weekday mornings
Other attractions include the Deutsches Museum (Transport Museum), the Residenzmuseum, home to Bavaria’s Wittelsbach rulers from the early 1500s, the Schönheitengalerie (Gallery of Beauties) for portraits, in addition to the endless shopping and dining opportunities that Munich has to offer.
Airport: Munich Airport (MUC) is 18 miles from the city centre.
Frankfurt is the financial centre of Germany, which accounts for its concentration of gleaming skyscrapers. But Frankfurt is historic too and a cruise down the River Main gives a good perspective of the city’s progression, past the modern sprawl and onwards to the traditional buildings of the city’s Museum Embankment.
Museums abound – Städel, Historisches Museum, Jüdisches-Museum, Senckenberg Naturmuseum, Geldmuseum der Deutschen Bundesbank to name but a few – while other cutting-edge artistic attractions like the Orfeos Erben independent cinema help define Frankfurt as a modern and innovative city.
Frankfurt boasts plenty of all-night fun, from trendy cafes and bars to clubs with jazz and dancing to keep you entertained well into the small hours.
The nearby vineyards and spa towns like Wiesbaden are easy to reach, making Frankfurt ideal if you want to stay around for more than just a short city break.
Airport: Frankfurt Airport (FRA) is 8 miles from the city centre.
Germany’s second largest city boasts one of the biggest ports on the planet, earning it the nickname ‘Gateway to the World’. Amazingly, Hamburg also has more bridges than Amsterdam and Venice put together, thanks to several waterways running through its centre.
Hamburg is the nation’s greenest city with two thirds of its area covered by lakes or parkland, ideal for walking and cycling. Head to the vast Planten und Blomen botanical gardens and admire their abundance of fountains, lakes, lawns and flowers. Greenery aside, Hamburg’s Reeperbahn is where the Beatles played in the 1960s and its nightlife and live music scene is still renowned today.
You will find UNESCO wonders in Speicherstadt and the nearby Kontorhaus district, the largest historic development of port warehouses in the world. Meanwhile, the innovative, sustainable all-wood Wälderhaus (Forest House) is a shining example of Hamburg’s environmentally sound outlook.
Airport: Hamburg Airport (HAM) is just 5 miles from the city centre.
Founded by the Romans, Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities. The iconic filigree spires of its famous UNESCO-listed cathedral, Kölner Dom, soar elegantly over the city.
From beer gardens and river cruises to Cologne Zoo and Cologne Aquarium, there’s plenty to keep you busy. If you prefer a leisurely stroll through the city, you’ll come across the ancient Roman wall and an abundance of medieval churches as well as magnificent avant-garde edifices and contemporary art.
There’s an abundance of museums and galleries too: the Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum); the Roman Germanic Museum and its Roman mosaics and relics; the German Sport and Olympic Games Museum; the Cologne Museum of Applied Art; and the Holography Museum are some of the most popular.
Airport: Cologne-Bonn Airport (CGN) is also known as Konrad Adenauer Airport, is 10 miles from the city centre.
Otherwise known as ‘Florence on the Elbe’, Dresden sits majestically alongside the River Elbe. Its skyline is blessed with so many spires, towers and domes that it’s difficult to imagine it was wiped out during the Allied bombings of 1945. Landmarks have since been rebuilt beyond their former glory with no expense spared. The most famous reconstruction in the city centre is the magnificent baroque dome of Dresden Frauenkirche which dominates the city centre.
The baroque style Old Town (Altstadt) and contrasting New Town help make Dresden a fascinating place to visit. Sightseeing highlights include: medieval Stolpen Fortress featuring a prison and torture chamber; Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) dating back to the 18th century; the 12th century Residenzschloss (Dresden Royal Palace); baroque Zwinger Palace; and the beautifully landscaped Grosser Garten (Great Garden) and zoo.
Airport: Dresden International Airport (DRS) is situated in Klotzsche, a district 6 miles from the city centre.
A favourite for young creatives, Leipzig is also a city of significant historical and cultural interest, partly due to its connection with the lives and works of Bach, Wagner, Mendelssohn and Goethe.
One of the world’s top classical ensembles (the Gewandhausorchester) and the oldest and finest boys’ choir (the 800-year-old Thomanerchor) delight audiences in Leipzig. Meanwhile, for over a decade, the New Leipzig School of contemporary German painting has kept up with the international art world through protagonists like Neo Rauch and Tilo Baumgärtel.
You can easily see the sights in a day or two, but Leipzig is worth a little more time. Linger longer to discover the best beer drinking spots on the Karli and go antique shopping in Plagwitz or simply take in the creative atmosphere of Leipzig’s everyday life.
Airport: Leipzig/Halle Airport (LEJ) is 9 miles from the city.
Beautiful Heidelberg is one of the few German cities that managed to avoid being destroyed in World War II so original old world charm abounds in the narrow cobbled streets of its baroque Altstadt (Old Town). Take a wander through the streets and squares, packed with cafes and shops and climb the church spire of the Gothic church on the Marktplatz. The ruins of Heidelberg Castle, the country’s oldest, most famous university, and its idyllic riverside setting also help make Heidelberg one of the most attractive cities in Germany.
The River Neckar is a perfect getaway from the crowds in town. Make your way to the riverside park for a picnic, stopping near the Theodor Heuss Bridge, a popular spot with locals looking to relax.
Heidelberg’s rich literary history and thriving contemporary scene which encompasses prominent authors, publishing houses, bookshops, translators, libraries and festivals earned it the title of UNESCO City of Literature in 2014.
Airport: Mannheim City Airport (MHG) is 15 miles from the city.
Historic, cultural Weimar was home to many of the nation’s thinkers and artists – Goethe, Bach, Schiller, Liszt and Nietzsche to name but a few – many of whom have museums in the city dedicated to their works. Weimar is also where the Bauhaus movement began and revolutionised 20th century art and architecture.
A walk through the Old Town takes you to over ten UNESCO-listed historic buildings from the Classical Weimar period, including the royal stables, the neo-Gothic Town Hall and Baroque Duke Palaces.
Airport: Erfurt–Weimar Airport (ERF) is 30 miles from the city.
From traditional breweries and the Old Town to futuristic architecture by Ghery and Chipperfield, art galleries and luxury shopping, Düsseldorf can’t fail to keep you entertained.
Düsseldorf is a wealthy, smart and modern city but it knows when to let its hair down: Altstadt is dubbed the ‘longest bar in the world’ while the redeveloped harbour area, Medienhafen, hosts an annual festival of avant-garde architecture. And if you can’t make to Cologne’s carnival, Düsseldorf’s carnival in February is the next best thing.
Airport: Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS) is 4 miles from the city centre.