Germany

Germany

From the louche decadence of Berlin to the quiet academia of Heidelberg, Germany is a country of delicious contrast. Where elite culture meets frothy topped beers and chocolate box timber houses are just a short drive from some of the most thrilling cityscapes on the planet. Welcome to modern Germany; creative, charming and effortlessly cool.

 

With 82 million people and at 357,021 km2, Germany is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Almost a third of the country is covered with rich forests and woodlands.

The German working week includes Saturday.

The Weihenstephaner Brewery in Freising has been operating since 1040, making it the world’s oldest brewery.

What to see

Berlin

Berlin is Germany’s multicultural and dynamic capital city – and boasts one of the youngest populations of any European city. Forever associated with the liberalism and decadence of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s, Berlin is unmatched when it comes to contemporary arts, cabaret, kicking nightlife and fascinating history.

Munich

Think traditional Bavarian beers and sausages and you’re halfway to describing the charms of Munich, Germany’s third most visited city. Located north of the Bavarian Alps, in southern Germany, the other side of Munich is a surprisingly prosperous 21st-century hub. A lively cultural scene, chic shopping and flash nightclubs are in plentiful supply.

Cologne

Cologne is a stunning city filled with Romanesque churches and traditional breweries. The museums are excellent and feature fascinating Roman remains. The main attraction is Cologne’s famed gothic cathedral, known as the Dom – Germany’s most visited attraction. Visit the city during November or just after New Year and you can experience the Cologne Carnival – a street festival of parades, pageantry and live performances.

Gamisch-Partenkirchen

Germany’s most popular ski resort, sometimes referred to as Gamisch for short, is a pretty town with painted buildings located in the Bavarian Alps, near the Austrian border. The only German resort to have staged the Winter Olympics, Gamisch’s 30,000 permanent residents make it feel much larger (and livelier) than most ski-resorts.

Top experiences / sites of particular interest

The Bavarian Alps

Dividing Austria from Germany, the soaring Bavarian Alps offer plenty for outdoor fanatics including world-class hiking, skiing and kayaking. Relaxation-junkies will also adore the upmarket spas with their array of luxury treatments.

Christmas Markets

Forget the influx of Christmas markets to the UK; in Germany you will find the original and the best. Streets spring to life in advent with stalls piled high with hand-made toys, culinary goods artisan gifts and glühwein.

Weimar

Weimar boasts a cultural heritage like no other. This 1,000-year-old town has been at the spearhead of most significant shifts in art, religion, politics and progressive thinking and counts many great minds, including Luther, Liszt, Schiller and Wagner among its former citizens.

The Black Forest

Lush, dark and dense, the beautiful Black Forest is located within an awe-inspiring mountain range in the southwest of Germany. Remember to take your camera for the endless photo-opps its characterful towns and peaks provide.

Documenta

Head to Hassel in northern Germany for the landmark Ducumenta Art Exhibition. Held every five years, with the next event scheduled for 2012, it’s one of the most significant exhibitions in the modern and contemporary art world.

When to go

Weather and Seasons: Germany enjoys a temperate climate and is a year-round destination. Winters are cold, with average January temperatures of around three degrees, and summers are pleasantly warm, with July averages of 22 degrees. The most popular time to visit is from May to September, although the Christmas markets also make December one of Germany’s busiest times.

Important Dates and Festivals: Festivals are a big part of German culture, with notable events held year-round. February is Carnival month, with celebrations in most major cities including Aachen, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Munich. Berlin’s Spandau Spring Festival is held in March, while FilmFest and International Dance Week in Dresden are among April highlights. July sees many music festivals across the country, and August is popular for beer festivals. The biggest and best has to be Oktoberfest, held in Munich from late September until the first week of October, attracting over five million people every year for beer tasting, music and street parties.

Getting there / around

Flights: London to Frankfurt (Germany’s busiest gateway) is one hour 30 minutes and to Berlin it’s 1 hour 50 minutes.

Rail: You can take the Eurostar from St Pancras International and get to Paris or to Brussels in roughly two hours. You can then take the Deutsche Bahn high speed train to all major cities – and thanks to the TGV the journey from Paris to Frankfurt clocks in at less than four hours. A direct route from London to Frankfurt is scheduled to open in 2013.

Boat: Germany’s main ports include Bremen, Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Rostock and Kiel.

Rail: As you might predict, the Germany rail network is one of the most efficient and punctual in Europe. It’s also one of the most extensive, serving over 7,000 cities and towns. Try to buy your ticket before you board, as passes sold on the train will incur a small service charge – it’s one of the most affordable ways to whizz around the country.

Car: Hiring a car makes an excellent way to see the infinite variety offered by Germany at your own pace. Bundesstrassen (B roads), landstrassen (country roads) and autobahns (motorways) are well maintained and there are plenty of service stations and restaurants en route. Rates will vary depending on the model and pick-up location you choose.

Bus: Keep your costs down on the backpacker-bus, Busabout. It’s a ‘hop on and hop off’ service that includes stops at Berlin, Dresden, Stuttgart and Munich.

Potential itineraries

Short Trips: In a week you should have plenty of time get a taste of both city-life and countryside charm. Spend a few days in Berlin or Munich before taking one of Germany’s Deutsche Bahn high speed trains for a quick link to the castle-topped hills of the scenic Mosel Valley.

City Break: At less than two hours away, Berlin, Munich and Cologne are all excellent destinations for a weekend city break.

Longer Trips: In a month you can really get to know this diverse country. Starting in Hamburg, head south to Berlin and then on to Dresden, a fascinating city that’s been rebuilt with spirit and poise post WWII. From here you can hit Frankfurt, before taking an internal flight or train to the Bavarian Alps, for a week spent on the piste or exploring charming half-timbered houses.

Our Recommendations

Guides
Best For Title Publisher RRP. Our Price Buy
  1. Inspirational Germany Traveler Guide National Geographic Society £19.99
    BUY
  2. Culture Germany - Culture Smart! Kuperard £6.95
    BUY
  3. Berlin Berlin City-Lit Oxygen Books £9.99
    BUY
Maps
Best For Title Publisher RRP Our Price Buy
  1. Road Maps Germany: Marco Polo 200K Regional Road Maps MairDumont
  2. Backpackers Germany Flexi Map Insight Guides £6.99
    BUY
  3. Rail Map Germany: Rail Travel Map Kummerly + Frey £14.50
    BUY

Local Dishes

Traditional German fare is hearty and in plentiful supply. Prepare to feast on bratwurst, eisbein mit sauerkraut (pork and mashed potatoes) and Eierpfannkuchen (pancakes), washed down with the obligatory glass of beer. Keep a lookout for the delicious apple wine, Ebbelelwoi, found in Hessen and the countless varieties of lip-smacking schnapps. Breakfasts are a tempting spread of cold cuts, honey, cheese, fruit and eggs and you’ll find an eclectic mix of international restaurants including Vietnamese, Greek and Turkish in Berlin and most major cities.

Nightlife

From beer-swilling singalongs to achingly hip hotspots, German nightlife offers something for everyone. The definitive after-hours city is Berlin, with a world-renowned reputation for electronic music and hip-hop clubs. High culture is always on offer in major cities, with notable venues including the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Dresden's Semperoper and the National Theatre in Munich. For the traditional tankard-clinking experience you’ll need to head to the rural areas of the south, in particular the Rhineland Palatinate, Franconia and Baden regions.

Pre-Trip Practicalities

Language

German.

Currency

Euro (€).

Visas

Three-month visa-free stays are available to EU citizens.

Health issues

No particular vaccinations are recommended.

Safety, FO travel advice

Generally safe.

Useful Telephone Numbers

German country representatives can be found

in the UK at

23 Belgrave Square, Belgravia, London, SW1X 8PZ. Tel:- 020 7824 1300

and in the US at

4645 Reservoir Road, NW Washington, DC, District of Columbia. Tel:- 202 298 8140.

There is a tourist board

in the UK at

P.O. Box 2695, London, W1A 3TN. Tel:- 020 7317 0910.

For more information visit: www.london.diplo.de, www.germany.travel.

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