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. I don’t recommend trying to see the whole country in one trip, though it is possible to see a part of Germany in a week.
Table of Contents
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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 the city, and learn what makes it so unique in Germany. A week isn’t even long enough to see it all, but it’s 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.
Spending longer in Munich? Check out how to spend a week 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.
Rhine and Moselle Valley – 2 days to 1 week
The Rhine is Germany’s longest river and the focus of the country’s wine country. It is also home of a high concentration of castles. You could spend just a few days seeing the highlights or a whole week to just deeply explore the area with a glass (or two) of wine every night.
- Rhine Cruise – The stretch of the river between Bingen and Koblenz takes about 3 hours to see on a boat and has a large concentration of castles perched on the steep cliffs. If you want this highlights, this is the tour to take.
- Koblenz – Koblenz is a small town, but is a perfect base to explore the area. It is at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers, the end of the castle tour (with a castle of its own) and a decent transport hub.
- Moselle River – The Moselle river runs west from the Luxembourg border to meet the Rhine at Koblenz. Some of the most famous wines in Germany come from this region and although not as dense with castles, is not barren. Check out Burg Eltz for a cool looking castle.
- Trier – Trier was once a far northern outpost of the Roman empire and the ruins of a Roman gate still stand in the city.
- Cologne – If you want to see a big city and a huge cathedral, take a train to Cologne. It is mostly a big city, but has some nice churches and museums as well as more restaurant and shopping options than the smaller towns. Also check out the local Kolsch beer.
If you are interested in this area, check out our in depth guide on how to spend a week in the Rhine Valley.
Getting To Germany
If you are in central Europe already, trains to Germany should be easy to find. If you are flying, Germany is pretty well connected.
Internationally, Frankfurt is the biggest airport, though Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg are reasonably well connected. There are several smaller airports scattered across the country, but check times and compare with the trains. Sometimes it can be faster to take the train.
Transport in Germany is nearly synonymous with the train system. Deutsche Bahn runs trains to nearly every nook and cranny of the country. If you buy tickets ahead of time (usually 3 days) you can get some decent deals.
If you want super cheap and have time to spend, look into the buses well. They can take a lot longer and are not as comfortable, but you can sometimes find seats for 19 Euros or less, depending on the route. GoEuro is a good site to book tickets, check routes, and compare buses, trains, and even flights.
Within cities, public transport is pretty common. A combination of trains, trams, and buses cross every large German city. You may not need it though. Most of the historical centers are small and totally walkable. Transport is on the honor system with big penalties if you are caught without a ticket, so make sure you buy one before getting on a tram or bus.
Check out a full in depth post on transport in Germany.
One Week in Germany
If you only have a week in Germany, try to restrict yourself to two cities and a couple of day trips. Train travel between major cities is pretty fast, but will still account for half a day to switch bases. Here are a few ideas for 7 days in Germany.
Berlin and Munich
Munich(4 days) – This is probably want you think of as German: pretzels, beer, castles. Explore the city, but also get out to Neuschwannstein to brush the Alps. Full guide to Munich here.
Berlin(3 days) – Berlin is a very different kind of city than any other in Germany. The history is very prevalent and each neighborhood s different. Different people, different vibe, and different food. Whether you hunt clubs or museums, Berlin has it. Berlin guide is here.
River to River
Koblenz and the Rhine(4 days) – Base in Koblenz and explore the Rhein and Moselle valleys. See castles and enjoy wine country. Full guide of the Rhine area is here.
Hamburg(3 days) – Then head north to the Hanseatic City of Hamburg to experience a very different end of the country. Here beer is king and the architecture is very different. Don’t forget to make a day for Miniatur Wunderland. Hamburg guide is here.
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.
Germany travel planning and inspiration
Hopefully our Germany itinerary and ideas for planning one week in Germany have been helpful. The following posts provide more in-depth information about Germany travel, tours in Germany, and specific cities and regions. And if you’re looking for a little inspiration, be sure to check out the books and movies recommended below.
Read more about traveling in Germany:
- Castles and Wine: 1 Week Itinerary in the Rhine Valley
- Black Forest & Beyond: 1 Week Itinerary in Germany
- A Week of Things to do in Munich: An Itinerary
- Things to do in Hamburg
- Things to do in Berlin
- Understanding Germany’s Food Culture
- Understanding Food and Beer in Munich
- Transportation in Germany
Germany tour reviews
Germany reading, guidebooks, and movies
- Lonely Planet Germany
- Rick Steves Germany
- German Men Sit Down to Pee and Other Insights into German Culture: A humorous, though often accurate, look at German culture for anyone moving to or even just visiting Germany.
- Good Bye, Lenin!: A touching, humorous, and at times emotional story of a woman and her son when the Berlin Wall came down. She has just fallen into a coma, and when she wakes up months later, the wall has come down. But since she was loyal to the East, her son shields her from the shock of the new world outside by pretending nothing has changed. In German with English subtitles, but really worth it.
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