Historical Germany

Germany’s rich, lush landscapes and vibrant, buzzing cities are easy to get to by rail. Why not head to the vibrant capital Berlin, home of fascinating Communist relics; Checkpoint Charlie and cutting-edge club culture, or make your way south to the stunning Bavarian countryside surrounding Munich – perhaps even coinciding your visit with a trip to the legendary Oktoberfest?

top cities

Cologne

With more breweries than any other European city, it’s probably no surprise to discover that Cologne is a friendly place. There’s certainly a desire to enjoy life here on the river Rhine, evidenced by the huge carnival and a packed calendar of events, including no less than 7 Christmas markets. At the same time, Cologne is serious about its cultural reputation, boasting dozens of museums and over 100 art galleries. One of the oldest cities in Germany – it was founded by the Romans in 38 BC – Cologne has the confidence and open-mindedness that only comes with age.


 


Berlin

Germany's political and cultural capital has emerged from turbulent times to become a must-visit European city. It’s renowned for its international outlook, its tolerant, laid-back attitude, its lively nightlife, as well as hundreds of museums, palaces and historic sites.


 


Munich

Capital of Bavaria and Germany’s third largest city, Munich is a sophisticated place that combines a medieval heritage with a very modern outlook. Consistently cited as one of the top 10 cities for quality of life, it’s equally acclaimed as a tourist destination. As the home of BMW and the famous beer-fuelled Oktoberfest, the city’s full of attractions – including parks, palaces, museums and more. And that’s before you even step out of the city into the glorious countryside around it.


 


Stuttgart

Embedded between rich vineyards and Alpine forests, Stuttgart has a small town atmosphere. Home to the automobile, Stuttgart is affectionately known by locals as Benztown. Take a trip to Germany's sixth largest city and explore historic monuments, museums and classic architecture.

Particular must-sees are the Mercedes and Porsche museums, the Old Playhouse and the Old Town. Visit in August for the 10-day annual Weindorf. Local restaurants take over the Marketplatz to sell their wine and food. Think Oktoberfest but smaller.


Frankfurt

The financial and business hub of Germany, Frankfurt is dubbed Mainhatten (the river Main runs through it). For a great view of the city head to the Main Tower and climb to the viewing platform at the top.

It’s also proud of its cultural heritage – this is, after all, the birthplace of legendary writer Goethe. While many of the most historic buildings were destroyed during WWII, they’ve been carefully restored. The Ebbelwi-Express tram tour is a fine way to see the old town centre. Then contrast that with the contemporary architecture along the so-called Museum Embankment on the Main’s south bank.


Baden-Baden

A ski destination in winter, Baden-Baden’s famous spas and Belle Époque elegance make it a delightful destination at any time of year. Beautifully situated in a valley at the edge of the Black Forest, it has a sophisticated yet relaxed atmosphere. So don’t be put off by its historical status as the haunt of royalty and the wealthy – you really don’t have to spend a fortune here. There are tree-lined avenues to stroll down, swish boutiques to window shop and numerous charming parks in which to relax. Of course, it’s worth experiencing the thermal waters at least once – they’re claimed to have healing properties for numerous medical conditions.


 


Aachen

Germany’s westernmost city, Aachen is close to the spot (‘Dreiländerpunkt’) where the country meets Belgium and the Netherlands. The French know Aachen as Aix-la-Chapelle, a reference to its hot springs, in which visitors still come to bathe – more than 2,000 years after the Romans first did. The city is a pleasure to simply walk around, taking in the historical sights and enjoying its favourable location surrounded by woods and rolling countryside. After a short time here, you’ll understand why Aachen became a favourite place of the Emperor Charlemagne himself.


 


Koblenz

The 2000-year-old town of Koblenz straddles the River Rhine at the point where it meets the River Mosel. This historically strategic location is incredibly picturesque. Four low mountain ranges surround this small city, which marks one end of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley – a 40-mile (65km) UNESCO World Heritage Site. Koblenz has a host of attractions, from romantic river promenades to one of Europe’s most impressive fortresses. And, as an important centre for the region’s wine trade, this hidden gem’s friendly and relaxed atmosphere is sure to lift your spirits.