When you think of Germany, you probably think of beer, lederhosen, and Neuschwanstein Castle. Maybe pretzels and sausages too. But there’s so much more to Germany than that little slice of Bavaria. Each region has its own differences. Food, accents and dialects, traditional dress and more vary from one part of the country to another. That’s why it’s important to explore different parts of the country on your Germany itinerary, though I don’t recommend trying to see the whole country in one trip.
Berlin – 4 days to a week
Berlin is a must on any Germany itinerary. Germany’s capital is packed with culture, history, and delicious international food. Explore the history of World War II, the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall era, try food from the different cultures that shape this international city, and learn what makes this city so unique in Germany. A week isn’t even long enough to see it all, but it will give you a good start.
Plan on exploring a lot of Berlin in a few days? Consider getting a Berlin city pass, which gives you transportation as well as entry to dozens of museums and other attractions.
- East Side Gallery – When the Berlin Wall came down, this section was left standing and is now covered in paintings with strong messages. Words can’t describe it. Take your time and admire the art.
- Bernauerstrasse – One section of the wall divided a street and a neighborhood. People were moved from their homes, and even an entire cemetery was moved to accommodate the wall. The open air museum/memorial that stands here today is one of the best places to learn about the history of the Berlin Wall Era. The visitor’s center shows two free 15 minute films, in English and German, about the wall that are well worth watching. See here for more info.
- Mauer Park – Literally translated as Wall Park, the Berlin Wall once ran through this area. Today the park is a popular place to hang out on Sundays where you’ll find a huge flea market as well as food and drink stalls.
- Reichstag building – This glass-domed building houses the Germany government. Take an audio tour inside the dome itself for some great views and interesting information. You must register ahead of time to take the tour, so click here for more info.
- Checkpoint Charlie Museum – Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous crossing point between East and West Berlin. The museum explores the history of the Berlin Wall as well as freedom and human rights issues. Info here.
- DDR Museum – This interactive museum shows what life was like in former East Germany. Info here.
- Stasi Museum – This museum is all about the actions of the authorities in East Germany against those who dared to disagree and refused to conform. Info here.
- Holocaust Memorial – A major part of Germany’s history, this memorial honors the Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Be sure to visit both the inside and outside sections. Info here.
- Museum Island – Five museums are located on an island in the Spree River: Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum, Neues Museum, Altes Museum, and Alte Nationalgalerie. These house art and artifacts from different periods in history. The Pergamon Museum receives more visitors than any other museum in Berlin.
- Berliner Dom – This is Berlin’s most famous cathedral, and it’s quite impressive to see. You can climb to the top as well for great views of the city.
- Brandenburg Gate – One of the old city gates, the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburgertor in German) has become the symbol of the city.
- Charlottenburg Palace – This is the largest palace in Berlin, and the only surviving royal residence in the city. It was built in 1699.
- TV Tower – Located near Alexanderplatz, the TV Tower (Fernsehturm in German) is the best place in Berlin for views of the city from above. The line can be quite long though, so book your ticket ahead of time and skip the lines.
- Boat trip on the Spree – The Spree River meanders through the city, and a boat tour is a fun way to see some of the sights along the way.
- Walking tour – Walking tours are a great way to explore a section of the city and its history. Try a walking tour that focuses on World War II and the Cold War. Take a walking tour that explores East Berlin and its history. Or take a stroll and learn about modern day Berlin.
- Day trip to Potsdam – The most famous sight here is the Sanssouci Palace, inspired by Versailles. There are several other palaces to visit in the city, as well as Roman baths and old architecture. Consider a guided tour of Potsdam from Berlin so you can learn the history of the royal palace and you won’t have to worry about getting lost.
See here for more things to do in Berlin.
Munich – 4 to 5 days
Each region of Germany has its own traditional clothing, but the images you’ve seen are most likely from Munich and Bavaria. More people here still wear the traditional clothing than anywhere else in the country. You’ll also find giant pretzels and beers here more often than in other parts of the country. Include Munich on your Germany itinerary for a completely different view of German culture than what you’ll experience anywhere else.
- Rathaus – Munich’s Rathaus (city hall) is a detailed and gorgeous building located in Marienplatz. Its famous Glockenspiel chimes one to three times a day depending on the time of year.
- St. Peter’s Church – This church is opposite the Rathaus, and you can climb the stairs in the tower for some amazing views of the Rathaus and the rest of Munich.
- Frauenkirche – The two towers of the most well-known cathedral in Munich shape the city’s skyline.
- Beer gardens and markets – There are markets and beer gardens throughout the city, which are very enjoyable on a sunny day. Right near Marienplatz is a big market and a rare city-owned beer garden (most are owned by individual breweries) that has different beer each month. Have a beer and soak up the atmosphere. Or visit the famous Hofbrauhaus, the most well-known brewery in Munich.
- Day trip to Dachau – The mistakes of the past should not be forgotten. Visit Dachau on a day trip from Munich for a somber look at one of the most well-known concentration camps.
- Day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle – This is the most famous castle in Germany, and it’s the one you most often see on postcards. You can’t go in without paying for their 35 minute guided tour. It’s possible to get to the castle on your own, but it’s much easier with a day tour from Munich.
See here for more things to do in Munich.
Hamburg – 4 to 5 days
Hamburg doesn’t receive as many tourists as Berlin and Munich, but it’s well worth including on your Germany itinerary. The city is located close to the sea, and as a result Hamburg has its own unique maritime history. The city also has quite a few interesting museums, a variety of architecture styles, and quite a vibrant music scene.
- Speicherstadt – Due to Hamburg’s rich maritime background, there is an area of warehouses called Speicherstadt that now houses museums and and is full of history about the city. Canals run between sections of the warehouses. This is an interesting area to explore on a tour to get a feel for what Hamburg was once like.
- Miniatur Wunderland – This is the world’s largest model railway exhibit, although it’s so much more than model trains. The displays include entire cities and even a fully functional airport all made to scale. The details are impressive, and it’s well worth spending a few hours here. I’ve been there twice and spent about 4 hours each time. It’s a good idea to book your tickets ahead of time. See their site here for more info.
- Harbor – Explore the harbor area that has had such a strong influence on the city, and take a boat tour for a closer look.
- Beatles history – The Beatles played in Hamburg early in their career and have left their mark. Go see the clubs they played at in the Reeperbahn neighborhood.
- Rathaus – Hamburg’s Rathaus, or city hall, is an impressive building in the center of the old town.
- St. Michael’s Cathedral – This cathedral offers amazing views of Hamburg from its tower.
- Walking tour – Hamburg has a lot to offer, and each neighborhood is distinctly different. To see the highlights in a short amount of time, consider taking a guided walking tour of Hamburg.
- Art museums – Hamburg has quite a collection of art museums. The most famous is Kunsthalle because of its large collection of permanent art as well as special exhibits that come and go throughout the year.
- Fish market – Fish plays a big role in Hamburg’s cuisine due to its location on the water. Visit the fish market early on Sunday morning and take in the lively atmosphere, and try a fish sandwich almost anywhere in the city.
See here for more things to do in Hamburg.
Black Forest and nearby – 3 days to a week
The Black Forest is famous for its dense trees, ham, cake, cuckoo clocks, hiking, and as the setting of the Grimm fairy tales. Explore some of the smaller cities in this area as well as Germany’s outdoors. Nearby, but not quite in the Black Forest, is the popular city of Heidelberg with its impressive castle. How long you spend here really depends on how much of the area you’re interested in seeing.
- Baden Baden – This is a smaller city that was once a Roman bath town. Today it’s popular with tourists who want to enjoy thermal baths and spas.
- Freiburg – At the south end of the Black Forest, this city has a youthful atmosphere due to its university. Wander through the old town, and use Freiburg as a base to explore the surrounding nature.
- Mountains and lakes – Feldberg and Schauinsland are two of the highest peaks in the Black Forest. Titisee and Schluchsee (“see” means lake in German) are two popular lakes for swimming and other water activities.
- Heidelberg – While not actually part of the Black Forest, Heidelberg is just a little ways north of the forest and well worth a visit. The remains of its castle are impressive, and you can get wonderful views of the city and the river from the castle.
See here for more on how to spend a week in the Black Forest.
This itinerary takes you from one end of Germany to the other and still doesn’t cover many other worthwhile parts of the country. It’s a country full of diverse regions, each with its own history, culture, and food. To see the places I’ve listed here, I’d suggest at least three weeks, so don’t rush.
Germany has lots of cities, outdoor activities, culture, history, and food just waiting to be explored. Decide what aspects of the country are important to you, and start planning your Germany itinerary.
Read more about Germany:
- Black Forest & Beyond: 1 week itinerary in Germany
- Castles and Wine: 1 Week Itinerary in the Rhine Valley
- A Week of Things to do in Munich: An Itinerary
- Understanding Food and Beer in Munich
- And check out the full Germany section here