What shouldn't we miss in Deutschland?
April 30, 2009 1:09 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are looking for recommendations on what to see and where to go on a three-to-four day trip to Germany. More details inside.

In early September, we'd like to take 3 or 4 days out of a European trip to visit Germany. The problem is, we have no idea what part of the country to visit. We could do a whirlwind tour of it all, but both of us prefer to pick a city, settle in for a few days and really get to know the area a little bit.

Some things that we're looking for:

- Art museums aren't really our style, but we love history. Making it to a few WWII/Cold War sites would definitely be great, especially if they're accessible to english speakers. (It's been nearly a decade since I took high-school german) Touring a castle would also make my wife's day.

- We're not big on clubs or the party scene, but it'd be nice to spend at least one afternoon in an area with some quirky shops, hole-in-the-wall bars, and a generally young, hip vibe.

- We'll be there at the beginning of September, which is too early for Oktoberfest, but if there are other festivals or cultural events going on, we'd be interested in checking them out.

- I'm definitely looking for someplace beautiful, whether it's from the amazing architecture or the great natural scenery.

Any suggestions from someone who's been there? Should I be looking into Berlin? Munich? Dresden? Somewhere else entirely?
posted by chrisamiller to Travel & Transportation around Germany (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Berlin is definitivly a city you can easily spent three days. I very much liked the mixture of history, new architecture and a very relaxed atmosphere. Don't forget the parts of Berlin a little out of the center. It is a very easy city to move around, speaking no german is not a problem, very good (and cheap) public transport! And to see the city a bit differently I suggest you rent a bicycle and cycle around for an afternoon.
posted by PaulZ at 1:22 AM on April 30, 2009

Dresden is a beautiful city, especially the parts left standing from pre-WWII. It has enough good restaurants and bars to satisfy your second bullet. The inner city is gorgeous, as is the surrounding countryside.

I also enjoyed the porcelain museum in Meissen, a small town about an hour drive from Dresden. The museum is kind of a curiosity but really cool, and the rest of the town, though small, is charming.
posted by bargex at 1:52 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Heidelberg. I'd sacrifice treasured parts of my anatomy to go back to Heidelberg. Strolling down the Hauptstrasse towards the castle overlooking the town, wandering back along the river to Theodore-Heuss-Brucke to wach the rowers, stopping for a drink at a cafe in a side street. It's got the lot. On top of that, you're quite close to the Schwetzingen and the Schlossgarten, about the same distance from the cathedral town of Spier, and a couple of hours from the Black Forest region.

We went twice in winter and once in Spring, and the place never let us down (it helped that we stayed with my fiance's aunt in Walldorf). Winter was spectacular with the bitter cold and fog (very atmospheric, very Ye Olde Europe). I'm not sure about September, but you might get either autumn trees or winter cold and fog. Either one will be amazing.

Also; seconding Berlin. It's an incredibly friendly city with a great vibe. Plenty to see and do...after all it was the centre of some of the most monumental events of the 20th century.

As always with very subjective experiences, do your research, and YMMV.
posted by ihunui at 1:59 AM on April 30, 2009

Crap. Schwetzingen is a town, not a thing. Stupid non good grammar.
posted by ihunui at 2:01 AM on April 30, 2009

I lived and worked in Frankfurt a few years ago while I was with Deutsche Bank. Frankfurt is a very, very nice city, with lots to do in and near it.

First of all, you're not going to need to speak German, but like in most other countries, trying will be appreciated. In fact my biggest problem while living there was convincing Germans to please let me practice my German!, 'cause they were all practicing their (often much, much better than mine) English on me.

Apfelwein, or Apple Wine, is a regional drink, and I spent a many pleasant evenings just at pubs that feature Apple wine (Apfelweinwirtschaft)); almost every night the entire tavern would break out in song, especially after the wine had been flowing for several hours.

There are lots of vineyards close to Frankfurt, and a wine tasting (weinprobe) is a very interesting way to see the countryside and learn about that areas history.

I went to a weinprobe in a small town about thirty minutes from Wiesbaden. The weinprobe was held on the grounds of a family owned vineyard, and had been in business for a little over seven hundred years.

Our host that evening was quite proud of his German heritatge, his industrys history and, of course, his product.

We sampled about twenty different types of wine that evening, all produced on this vineyard or another that they also owned several kilometers north. Each type of wine was introduced with a funny story about it's origin, some of which were quite involved. A few were a little bawdy and they seemed to get funnier as the night wore on.

Frankfurt's got a fairly nice zoo ( Zoologischer Garten), the Museum district (Museumsufer) has lots to offer and the Natural History Museum (Naturmuseum Senckenberg) claims to be the "most modern natural history museum in Europe".

On preview I noticed that ihunui has already metioned Heidelberg, which is very close to Frankfurt. Amazingly beautiful town, lots to do and not to be missed if you're in that part of Germany.

Finally, please don't try to see all of Germany in just four days. Even if you were spending a week or more, I'd suggest staying in one place. There is just too much to take in and do, and rushing about will just detract from your holiday.
posted by Mutant at 2:11 AM on April 30, 2009

I would suggest Köln
The cathedral is germany's number one tourist location, and rightly so. Its also the cultural capital in germany.
The difference between Cologne and the rest of germany is immense. Its just a completely different lifestyle here. People are more relaxed, friendly and open-minded. Also we have the best beer in the world, Kölsch (coming from a globetrotter who has tried everything)

Theres the standard reportoire of museums, for example the Chocolate Museum, and you wouldnt want to miss visiting a kneipe (which you'll find en masse).

I'd also suggest travelling to the nearby rival city Düsseldorf the next day to compare and contrast, as the two cities are worlds apart.
posted by freddymetz at 2:35 AM on April 30, 2009

Best answer: All Americans I know absolutely love my home town, Munich. Actually everyone I know loves Munich, except some people from Berlin.

Early September is very nice here; although you'll miss out on Oktoberfest, it is perfect for going to one of the dozens of Biergärten in or around Munich. Munich is interesting not only for the city itself, but also for the extremely nice landscape that surrounds it (pic from Murnau).

For the castle tour, I'd suggest Herrenchiemsee (or Neuschwanstein, even).

For a young/hip vibe, you can go to my neighborhood Maxvorstadt/Schwabing (this used to be the bohemian quarter and is situated right next to Englischer Garten), or Glockenbach around Gärtnerplatz (probably even more trendy than Schwabing nowadays). There is a common misconception that Munich is somehow less "international" and "modern" than e.g. Berlin. In fact, we have the highest rate of foreigners of all German cities (24%), have a vibrant cultural scene, and are very open to international visitors.

If you're interested in more recent history, you could go to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. A completely new exhibition was opened there in 2003, I've heard that it's very good.
posted by The Toad at 2:54 AM on April 30, 2009

You're into history? Then:
Oldest city in germany - or so it claims - and riddled with roman ruins.
Nice, medieval towncentre.
Good beer as always in Germany.
posted by Thug at 5:11 AM on April 30, 2009

Seconding The Toad.

Yes, the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial is well worth the visit. Also, visit Marienplatz for a wonderful stroll amongst shops, cafes, Glockenspiel, the excellent Viktualienmarkt - even the somewhat raunchy 400 year old Hofbräuhaus is an interesting stop.

BUT - my favorite thing to do while in Germany is to drive the Munich/Garmisch autobahn as fast as the car I'm in will allow. If you are a good, confident driver, I recommend doing this either during the middle of a work day (this autobahn (and most others in Germany) have killer traffic on weekends and rush hour) when the weather is dry. It is, IMHO, the best highway in Germany - if you are going over 130 m.p.h., the gentle curves start to become really fun to maneuver. Even BMW uses this highway as a sort of "test track" in the middle of the night. Plus, you can take this autobahn when you are on the way to Neuschwanstein.

Have fun. I will. Next week. Can't wait.
posted by walleeguy at 5:33 AM on April 30, 2009

2nding Koln, or Bonn. That area of the Rhine has a lot to offer. Between Koln ,and Remagen, you have Bonn, Bad Godesberg, and across the river you have Konigswinter and the Drachenfels castle.

Kolner Dom, of course, in Bonn there's Beethoven haus, in Bad Godesberg there's La Redoubt, and the Godesburg itself has a nice restaurant in it.
posted by Gungho at 6:03 AM on April 30, 2009

Best answer: Thirding The Toad !

freddymetz says of Köln "The difference between Cologne and the rest of germany is immense. Its just a completely different lifestyle here. People are more relaxed, friendly and open-minded. Also we have the best beer in the world." Really, that applies to München even more. Bavaria and the rest of southern Germany tend to be more relaxed and welcoming than the rest of the nation - they make a big deal about their bayrische Gemütlichkeit - and it is, of course, hard to top for beer. Not just the big six that you see at Oktoberfest and that get exported to the rest of the world. Try some of the great local stuff that doesn't get exported! Kloster Andechs makes some of the best beer in my opinion (though the only place in Munich proper where it's on tap is Andechser-am-Dom), and the Unionsbräu is a small independent brewery/restaurant.

As long as the weather's decent, it's definitely worth it to head to the Alps for an afternoon. Do a little hiking, take the trip to the top of the Zugspitze near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, etc. Back in Munich, take a stroll in the Englischer Garten (bigger than Central Park!) and maybe grab a beer by the Chinesischer Turm. If you don't want to head all the way over to Neuschwanstein, the Residenz is in the middle of the city and is both bigger and less of a zoo. If you wife is interested in crazy Baroque architecture, a lot of churches may also be worth visiting - check out the Asamkirche. (The city overall is much prettier and less generically urban than many parts of Frankfurt or Berlin, because after WWII, they rebuilt the Munich in a fairly traditional style, and they've kept skyscrapers out of the city center.)
posted by ubersturm at 6:19 AM on April 30, 2009

Best answer: Fourthing The Toad.

We (me, husband, then-two-year-old son) lived in Munich for almost 7 months (it was supposed to be a year but my husband's work contract was cancelled) a while back and LOVED IT. It's a lovely, friendly city with great architecture.

Along with what The Toad, walleeguy and ubersturm have said, try to throw in a visit to the Frauenkirche, which is just beautiful and simple.

I highly recommend Neuschwanstein for your castle-loving wife. If you do go, make sure you see the Marienbrucke. There's a little path near it that goes down to the creek; don't miss that. You'll also get the best view of the whole castle from the bridge. There's a smaller castle - Hohenschwangau - on the grounds, too, so you get two for one on that trip! The village of Schwangau is just ridiculously lovely. We stayed there for a night (at Gasthof Hanselewirt - it has views of the castle and it's a very nice place) when we visited the castle for the first time.
posted by cooker girl at 8:48 AM on April 30, 2009

Heidelburg is adorable, has a lovely castle with ruins on the hill overlooking the city and lots of cute shops, and is the perfect size for 3 days, depending on how much walking you can do.

I'm going to get clobbered for saying this but Berlin was, next to Dallas, one of the ugliest places I've ever been. I know it's got great city culture, fantastic museums, etc. but for an American looking for beautiful old city it would be dead last on my list.

Since you likely may fly into Munich and you're interested in history, do try to go to Dachau. It's really a stunning experience, the evil is palpable. It can be a quick visit, but memorable, and then go have a beer somewhere friendly and cozy to recuperate.
posted by tula at 9:57 AM on April 30, 2009

posted by tula at 9:58 AM on April 30, 2009

Best answer: - Art museums aren't really our style, but we love history. Making it to a few WWII/Cold War sites would definitely be great, especially if they're accessible to english speakers.

Berlin Walks has a great "Discover Berlin" tour in English that will bring WWII and the Cold War alive. On Museum Isle, there are still structures with bullet holes in them. Then see the Pergamon museum for some Greek and Middle East architecture.

Also in Berlin are the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Seeing it at night was very cool. The walk includes Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, but if you don't do the walk, make sure to see the memorial. It's no too far from the Bradenburg Gate and the Reichstag.

Dresden is not far by train, and it was beautiful when I took the train through it on the way to Prague. Munich was very Bavarian and it was a nice drive from Dresden to Munich.

If I had four days to spend in Germany, I'd spend two in Berlin, one in Dresden and one in Munich. But given you want just one city, three in Berlin with a day trip to Dresden is my suggestion.
posted by soelo at 11:12 AM on April 30, 2009

Best answer: If you're interested in WWII and cold war history and you only have 4 days, why wouldn't you see Berlin? That's the center of both of those conflicts.

This year is also the 20th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall. There's also the Jewish Museum, the Holocaust memorial. The DDR museum. Really, there is more than 4 days worth of history to see.
posted by cotterpin at 11:21 AM on April 30, 2009

Definitely Munchen. All of the things listed above -- Dachau, Marienplatz, the autobahn to Garmisch, Garmisch itself. I'm jealous just thinking about it!
posted by Alexdan4 at 1:46 PM on April 30, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to all. You've given us a lot of great starting points!
posted by chrisamiller at 4:32 PM on April 30, 2009

- I'm definitely looking for someplace beautiful, whether it's from the amazing architecture or the great natural scenery.

For amazing architecture, I suggest you have a look at Bamberg.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:06 PM on April 30, 2009

If you can find a way to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber, I think you would like it. Its not fast to get to and may blow your schedule, but its one of the most perfectly preserved medieval spots in Europe. I found it very quaint and interesting, if a little Disneyfied.
posted by jefficator at 9:48 PM on April 30, 2009

Also, if you go to berlin you can always hop just out of town to Potsdam for your castle fix.
posted by cmyr at 2:10 PM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all. I think we've decided to split our time between Munich and Berlin, and just bought our plane tickets into MUC tonight. If anyone is still following this and has more specific recommendations about either city, I'd love to hear them.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:02 PM on May 3, 2009

Make sure you take the train between Munich and Berlin. Rail travel in Germany is an experience in itself. Don't miss the Berliner Dom--the Protestant St. Peter's. Beautiful.
posted by jefficator at 7:34 AM on May 5, 2009

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