Join me as I take you on a captivating journey of fascinating city breaks in Germany, through West Germany, East Germany, South Germany, and North Germany. Discover the unique charms of each region, from historic cities to stunning landscapes. Get ready to indulge in delicious cuisine, explore iconic landmarks, and immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture. Let this guide be your passport to unforgettable experiences and the best of Germany’s city break destinations!
In a nutshell: My top 3 Germany city break destinations
- Erfurt: Located in Thuringia, the capital city offers a captivating highlight with its Krämerbrücke. The medieval old town and the vibrant Christmas market are also must-see attractions.
- Bamberg: Tucked away in Franconia, Bamberg shines as a hidden gem. Its exquisite old town hall stands out as a sight to behold. Moreover, beer enthusiasts will delight in the abundance of delicious brews available in Bamberg.
- Lübeck: Situated in the northern region, Lübeck is renowned for the iconic Holsten Gate, showcasing the city’s rich history. Additionally, the charming old town is a picturesque beauty in itself.
City Break in East Germany
When it comes to city breaks in Germany, many travelers tend to overlook the captivating cities of East Germany. However, having personally explored these hidden gems, I am here to tell you that the East has so much to offer! Let’s embark on an exciting journey as I guide you through the enchanting cities of Erfurt and Weimar.
Erfurt: A Timeless Beauty
As I step into Erfurt, I must admit that Erfurt is undeniably one of the most picturesque cities in Germany, always worth a visit. Its medieval old town, lovingly preserved, exudes an indescribable charm.
One cannot miss the highlight of Erfurt: the Krämerbrücke. A fully built and inhabited bridge, it stands as a testament to the city’s unique character. I find it fascinating that, apart from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, this type of architectural wonder is truly one of a kind in Europe.
Beyond its architectural marvels, Erfurt offers a vibrant living experience. The city center boasts a plethora of delightful pubs, enticing restaurants, and a thriving cultural and music scene. One of Erfurt’s most beloved musical talents is none other than the sensational singer, Clueso.
And let me not forget to mention that Erfurt hosts Germany’s most enchanting Christmas market. The atmosphere at the cathedral square is simply magical, providing a cherished memory for all who visit.
My hotel recommendation for Erfurt:
For your convenience, I recommend staying at the Hotel Domizil. Its prime location in the city center ensures quick access to Erfurt’s old town and all its remarkable attractions.
Best Places to visit in Erfurt
Weimar: A Cradle of Culture
As we continue our exploration of East Germany, let me introduce you to Weimar, a city located just a short train ride away from Erfurt. Though smaller in size, Weimar holds a significant place in German history and culture.
Weimar is renowned as the home of two of Germany’s most influential poets, Goethe and Schiller. Stepping onto its cobblestone streets, I can’t help but feel the presence of their creative spirits lingering in the air. But Weimar’s legacy extends beyond poetry; it is also the birthplace of the influential Bauhaus movement, making it an absolute must-visit destination for architecture enthusiasts.
During your stay in Weimar, I recommend the vibrant and colorful Grande Albergo Giancarlo as your accommodation of choice. Its unique interior design adds a touch of whimsy to your experience while ensuring utmost comfort.
Delve into the wonders of Weimar, from exploring the grand City Palace to discovering hidden gems that lie off the beaten path. With each step, you’ll uncover the city’s rich heritage and immerse yourself in its captivating ambiance.
My hotel recommendation for Weimar:
A hotel with a slightly funky and very colorful interior, but also just as comfortable: The Grande Albergo Giancarlo.
Best Places to visit in Weimar
Dresden is no longer a well-kept secret, but it remains an absolute must-visit destination. Its fame extends far and wide, thanks to the iconic landmarks that adorn its historic Old Town, such as the breathtaking Frauenkirche, the world-renowned Semperoper, and the impressive Zwinger. However, Dresden’s allure extends beyond these well-known attractions.
One of the true delights of Dresden is the picturesque Elbe River, which offers a tranquil and enchanting setting. Particularly during the summer months, it becomes the perfect place to leisurely stroll along its banks, soaking in the pleasant atmosphere and finding moments of relaxation.
But that’s not all—let’s not forget about the vibrant Neustadt district. Though the term “scene district” may be overused, it truly encapsulates the lively ambiance of this neighborhood. Here, you’ll encounter a dynamic blend of cozy pubs, trendy bars, pulsating clubs, students immersed in their studies, health-conscious moms savoring their Bio-Soja-Chai-Lattes, and curious tourists. And yes, you’ll even find those charming late-night convenience stores known as “Spätis.” The Neustadt strikes a perfect balance, somewhere between the vibrancy of Kreuzberg and the charm of Prenzlauer Berg—undoubtedly deserving of a visit.
To truly experience Dresden from a different perspective, I highly recommend embarking on a canoe or boat tour along the Elbe River. It provides a unique vantage point, allowing you to appreciate the city’s beauty from a whole new angle.
My hotel recommendation for Dresden:
When it comes to accommodations, I suggest staying in Dresden’s Neustadt. This lively neighborhood offers an array of options, ensuring you won’t go hungry with its diverse selection of bars and restaurants. One notable recommendation is the Chateaux Bülow Palais, a beautiful hotel that embodies the essence of the Neustadt with its unique charm and warm hospitality.
Best Places to visit in Dresden
Now, let’s turn our attention to Leipzig, as it undoubtedly deserves a place on our itinerary. Though Leipzig may no longer be a hidden gem, it often remains underestimated by many travelers.
In the city center, a multitude of renowned attractions eagerly await your visit. The Thomaskirche, Auerbachs Keller, Panorama Tower, and Panometer are just a few examples of the captivating landmarks that will leave you in awe. For those fascinated by the great Johann Sebastian Bach, Leipzig offers the opportunity to follow in his footsteps, retracing the paths where he lived, studied, and composed his magnificent works.
Venture into Leipzig’s Südvorstadt district, and you’ll discover a different side of the city altogether. Here, an alternative flair permeates the streets, accompanied by a vibrant and thriving creative scene. It’s a neighborhood that exudes a distinct hipness, captivating visitors with its artistic expression and forward-thinking atmosphere.
In the charming Plagwitz neighborhood, you can enjoy a leisurely paddle along its picturesque canals, indulging in the industrial charm that defines this area. There’s a tranquil beauty in observing the city from the water, offering a unique perspective that truly sets Leipzig apart.
If time permits, I highly recommend venturing beyond the city limits to explore the verdant countryside. The Leipzig Neuseenland, with its beautiful lakes, offers a serene retreat, inviting you to immerse yourself in nature, enjoy moments of relaxation, and partake in a plethora of exciting water sports activities.
My hotel recommendation for Leipzig:
When it comes to accommodations in Leipzig, I have a wonderful suggestion: the Hotel Fregehaus. This charming establishment, nestled in the heart of Leipzig, seamlessly combines historic flair with heartfelt hospitality, creating a truly memorable and delightful experience for every guest.
Best Places to visit in Leipzig
Berlin, you are truly magnificent! It’s no secret that our capital city is hip, cosmopolitan, and the largest in Germany. With an abundance of attractions, you could easily spend months here without running out of things to explore.
But let’s get serious for a moment: despite the influx of hipsters in neighborhoods like Friedrichshain, Berlin has a rich historical past that is still palpable throughout the city. Walking in the footsteps of history is a fascinating experience.
Beyond its historical significance, Berlin offers an unparalleled diversity. From an array of international cuisines to a thriving cultural scene that spans from prestigious art galleries to vibrant street art in hidden courtyards, the city has something for everyone. And let’s not forget the numerous beautiful parks and green spaces, perfect for relaxation and recreation.
My hotel recommendation for Berlin:
My recommendation for a hotel in Berlin is Garden Living, a place where you can surround yourself with nature even in the heart of this bustling metropolis.
Best Places to visit in Berlin
Potsdam, though no longer a hidden gem, often gets overshadowed by its proximity to Berlin. This is truly unfortunate because Potsdam is an incredibly beautiful city, known for its youthful and modern atmosphere as one of the most popular student destinations.
The iconic landmark of Potsdam is undoubtedly its expansive parkland, adorned with magnificent palaces. Among them, Sanssouci Palace stands out as a testament to architectural brilliance. While exploring the entire complex would require days, a leisurely stroll through the grounds is a delightful introduction.
Potsdam also boasts the renowned Babelsberg Film Studios, where scenes from Hollywood movies like Inglourious Basterds and Bridge of Spies were filmed, adding a touch of glamour to the city.
Moreover, Potsdam’s old town exudes charm with its picturesque white houses, inviting cafes, and restaurants. The ambiance is simply delightful and makes for a pleasant experience.
If you’re visiting Potsdam with children, I highly recommend a visit to Extavium, a place where science comes to life through interactive exhibits that engage all the senses.
My hotel recommendation for Potsdam:
For a unique stay in Potsdam, consider the enchanting Villa Monte Vino, a hotel housed in a villa with a tower, offering stunning views and a touch of fairy-tale charm.
Best Places to visit in Potsdam
City Break in Northern Germany
When you think of Northern Germany, images of the sea, fish sandwiches, and beach chairs likely come to mind. While these coastal delights are certainly a highlight, the region also boasts several charming cities that are well worth exploring.
Allow me to introduce you to some of these hidden gems in Northern Germany.
Lübeck boasts a truly picturesque old town in the typical North German style. The entire historic center is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, and rightly so. The most famous landmark is undoubtedly the Holsten Gate, although we didn’t find it as spectacular as expected.
If you’ve had your fill of ancient architecture, take a detour to the Museum Harbor. Located right next to the old town, you’ll find many historic ships docked here.
My recommendation for Lübeck is to head to the observation platform at St. Petri Church for the best view of the Holsten Gate and the old town. Once you’ve seen it all, make sure to stop by one of the cozy restaurants and try Labskaus. This traditional dish made from beef, beets, herring, and fried egg may look unusual, but it’s absolutely delicious.
My hotel recommendation for Lübeck:
For your stay in Lübeck, I suggest the Fisher’s Loft Hotel. As the name suggests, it exudes style with its modern decor featuring elements of wood and stone.
Best Places to visit in Lübeck
Maritime flair and vibrant city life await you in Bremen! While the sea may not be right in the city, the North Sea coast and the islands are not far away. But don’t worry, Bremen has its own beaches, allowing you to enjoy a mini summer vacation within the city.
The Hanseatic city also offers numerous attractions. The historic old town is filled with magnificent buildings such as St. Petri Cathedral, the grand Town Hall, and the iconic Böttcherstrasse. And of course, the Bremen Town Musicians make appearances in various forms throughout the city.
My tip for Bremen is to visit the Windmill in the Wallanlagen for the best coffee in town! This charming windmill is located in the green spaces of the Wallanlagen and now houses a café.
My hotel recommendation for Bremen:
For your accommodation in Bremen, consider the Monopol Boutique Hotel. It is a lovely small hotel located in a quiet neighborhood with beautiful villas, and it’s only a 10-minute walk to the city center.
Many people are unaware that Hannover has a beautiful old town. If you’re looking for a young, international city where festivals are held regularly, then Hannover is the perfect choice!
Hannover doesn’t have the reputation of being a particularly remarkable city, but that is completely unjustified. Firstly, Hannover is one of the greenest cities in Germany. Additionally, it has a charming old town with a multitude of unique restaurants offering cuisine from around the world.
Moreover, there are several events that take place throughout the year, such as the Fête de la Musique music festival in summer, which also happens in Berlin, or the Medieval Christmas Market in winter. Still not convinced? Take a look at the best insider tips from a local in Hannover.
There is also plenty to do outside the city. For example, near Hannover, you’ll find the largest lake in Lower Saxony, the Steinhuder Meer. Here, you can enjoy beaches, rent boats, and savor culinary specialties.
My recommendation for Hannover is to make sure you visit the dome of the Rathaus (City Hall) for a panoramic view of the city!
My hotel recommendation for Hannover:
For your accommodation in Hannover, I suggest staying in the Mitte district, such as the Kastens Hotel Luisenhof, for your first visit.
Hamburg is the city with the most bridges in Germany, boasting an incredible 2,500 bridges! It may be an odd fun fact, but the truth is, with its numerous canals, Hamburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, and a harbor tour is a must for every visitor.
Furthermore, there are many other activities in Hamburg that are worth exploring. How about an evening at a musical? Hamburg is no longer a secret—it’s the musical capital of Germany. And while we’re on the topic of music, one of the top attractions in Hamburg is, of course, the enormous Elbphilharmonie concert hall.
Overall, Hamburg offers everything a tourist could desire: picturesque waterways, a wide range of cultural offerings, and historical buildings. Additionally, there are many great things to do with children in Hamburg, such as visiting the world’s largest model railway.
If the typical rainy weather is deterring you from a city trip to the Hanseatic city, we can reassure you that Hamburg often enjoys good weather. And if not, you can always visit one of the many museums in Hamburg.
And if you’ve already been to Hamburg, be sure to check out our insider tips for Hamburg. There, you’ll surely discover some hidden corners of the city that you haven’t seen before.
My hotel recommendation for Hamburg:
For your accommodation in Hamburg, with its vast selection of hotels that can make it overwhelming to choose, one of our favorites is the Hotel Tortue.
For the longest time, Lüneburg wasn’t even on our radar. We were familiar with the Lüneburg Heath, but we had no idea how beautiful Lüneburg itself is.
The city is located near Hamburg and impressed us so much that we eventually even moved there. The old town is one of the most stunning in Germany, and thanks to its large number of students, the city is simultaneously youthful and vibrant.
My hotel recommendation Lüneburg:
For your stay in Lüneburg, it’s best to book a hotel directly in the old town. A lovely hotel option is the Hotel zum Heidkrug.
Best Places to Visit Lüneburg
City Trip in Western Germany
In western Germany, there are many cities that you probably recognize, and some of them are among the most popular city destinations in Germany. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Düsseldorf has a reputation for being a boring, snobbish city. I actually believed that for a long time, but it’s complete nonsense.
Düsseldorf is much more exciting than its reputation suggests, making it an excellent choice for a weekend city trip. You’ve probably heard of the Medienhafen (Media Harbor), and from the Rheinturm (Rhine Tower), you’ll have the best view of the city.
Furthermore, we have to admit, Alt beer tastes much better than Kölsch.
My hotel recommendation for Düsseldorf:
For your accommodation in Düsseldorf, we recommend the B Hotel. It offers modern and stylish rooms, a quiet location, and yet it’s still centrally situated.
Deep in the west, Aachen is located at the tri-border area with Belgium and the Netherlands. It’s a fantastic destination if you want to combine your city trip with day trips across the border.
Aachen is a great combination of a picturesque old town and a vibrant student city, and with a population of 330,000, it’s not that small.
Among the attractions in Aachen that you shouldn’t miss are the Cathedral with its treasury, the historic Town Hall, and the Elisenbrunnen.
My hotel recommendation for Aachen:
Our hotel recommendation for Aachen is the Innside Hotel, which is perfect as a starting point for excursions to Belgium and the Netherlands.
Okay, Trier is not really an insider tip. The romantic city on the Moselle River is the oldest city in Germany and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful.
Trier has been around for over 2,000 years and was founded by the Romans. The city boasts nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, and its city center resembles an open-air museum.
In addition, the beautiful Moselle Valley is just around the corner. Trier is a great choice for a weekend trip or a longer vacation.
Our tip for Trier: Take a walk to the Mariensäule on the Markusberg. From here, you’ll have the most stunning view of the city.
My hotel recommendation for Trier:
For your accommodation in Trier, the Hotel zur Glocke is located close to the most popular attractions in Trier, such as the Porta Nigra.
Best Places to Visit Trier
The enormous cathedral, the festive crowds in costumes during carnival, and the abundance of brewpubs serving Kölsch beer – Cologne is the city I’m referring to. And there’s no doubt that all of these elements are a must-see when visiting Cologne, but there’s also so much more to explore.
As a city with Roman origins, Cologne boasts a history that dates back to ancient times, and many historic buildings still bear witness to that today. Additionally, there are some truly fascinating museums that offer experiences unrelated to dry history. One notable example is the Chocolate Museum, a delightful treat for the senses.
In addition to the museums, Cologne offers a plethora of fantastic activities. How about taking a boat ride on the Rhine or embarking on a thrilling adventure on the cable car? Either way, I thoroughly enjoy the relaxed and open-minded atmosphere in the city, which reaches a peak of exuberance during carnival.
My hotel recommendation for Cologne:
For your accommodation in Cologne, I recommend the Urban Lofts. These accommodations perfectly match the modern, friendly, and slightly eccentric character of the city.
Best Places to Visit in Cologne
Among the many well-known cities like Cologne and Düsseldorf, Münster often slips under the radar. However, it’s time to change that perception!
Münster is renowned as the ultimate bicycle city, and that characteristic truly adds to the city’s charm. Here, things are more laid-back, and most of the beautiful spots can be easily reached without a car. It’s the perfect destination if you’re seeking a less bustling atmosphere compared to cities like Berlin or Munich.
The top attractions in Münster that you definitely shouldn’t miss during your city trip include the St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Church of St. Lamberti. Moreover, the park surrounding Lake Aa was awarded the title of the most beautiful park in all of Europe back in 2009. Need I say more?
Furthermore, a leisurely stroll along the Prinzipalmarkt with its vibrant shopping street, charming cafés, and colorful houses is an essential part of any visit to Münster.
My hotel recommendation for Münster:
For your accommodation in Münster, I suggest the Hotel Mauritzhof, an elegant 4-star design hotel. It even features a tranquil green terrace where you can unwind and relax.
City trip in southern Germany
When you think of southern Germany, you immediately envision the Alps, rugged mountains, green meadows, and happy cows. However, the south is also home to some beautiful cities, and we’d like to introduce them to you now.
Located in Upper Franconia, Bamberg is synonymous with beer, basketball, and its old town. The Bamberg old town is one of the best-preserved of its kind in Germany and is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Old Town Hall, in particular, is simply a picturesque sight.
If you enjoy beer, then Bamberg is the perfect destination for you. In the past, there were a staggering 68 breweries here, although today there are still eleven. Especially in the summer, it’s worth exploring the beer cellars and beer gardens throughout the city and enjoying a “Seidla” (a local beer) here and there.
My tip for Bamberg: Drink beer. What else?
My hotel recommendation for Bamberg:
To ensure you can quickly return to your accommodation after an evening of beer, we recommend the Hotel Wohnbar in the heart of Bamberg.
Best Places to Visit in Bamberg
Heidelberg is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany and is also highly popular among international tourists. The city has a special romantic flair with its winding alleys, local legends, and spectacular viewpoints.
It’s almost impossible to explore Heidelberg in just one or two days because there’s so much to see here. In the past, the city has been an inspiration for writers, painters, and poets, and its reputation as the most romantic city in Germany extends as far as Asia. In fact, when many Asians think of Germany, Heidelberg is often the first thing that comes to mind!
My tip for Heidelberg: Heidelberg is incredibly romantic. Visit the city with your significant other!
My hotel recommendation for Heidelberg:
A suitable hotel for your trip to perhaps the most romantic city in Germany is the Boutique Hotel Heidelberg Suites.
Freiburg is known for its small streams, the Black Forest, and the Münster, a unique Gothic cathedral in Germany. And why the streams? Well, the entire city is crisscrossed by small streams that provide refreshing coolness in the summer. Moreover, Freiburg is one of the warmest cities in Germany.
Located in the deep south, Freiburg is ideal for a proper summer vacation because here you can not only explore the old town but also take trips to the Black Forest or even to France. In fact, the French border is only 30 kilometers away.
My tip for Freiburg: Take a trip to the Schlossberg. Up there, you’ll find many beautiful hiking trails, and you’ll have the best view over Freiburg!
My hotel recommendation for Freiburg:
Right on Münsterplatz, you’ll find the Hotel Rappen. In addition to the warm hospitality of Baden, the Rappen is known for its delicious regional cuisine served in the hotel’s restaurant.
Best Places to Visit in Freiburg
Augsburg, with its population of less than 300,000, is often considered the little neighbor of Munich or even completely overlooked. However, in my opinion, that would be a great loss because Augsburg is small but beautiful.
Do you know Urmel from the Ice or Lukas the Engine Driver? Both are Augsburg originals from the Augsburger Puppenkiste, the world’s most famous marionette theater. It may sound like a slightly strange attraction at first, but the theater has a cult following!
But even just taking a stroll through the streets is worth it because Augsburg is one of the oldest cities in Germany, and you can see the passage of time in the various buildings – it’s super beautiful! There are also great cafes and restaurants.
My hotel recommendation for Augsburg:
At Hotel Maximilian’s, classic elegance meets modernity. Delicious breakfast and a central location are included.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the tallest in the whole land? The Ulm Minster! In fact, the church tower in Ulm, at 161.53 meters, is even taller than the Cologne Cathedral. If you brave the 768 steps to the top, you’ve certainly earned the incredible view over Ulm.
A stroll through the old town of Ulm also awaits you with many charming half-timbered houses. One of them even has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most crooked hotel. Crazy, right?
Additionally, Ulm is practically right on the doorstep of the Alps. So you can easily combine your city trip with a nature excursion, especially if you enjoy hiking and cycling, it’s ideal.
My hotel recommendation for Ulm:
We already mentioned the crooked house, but there’s also the narrow house where you can stay very comfortably.
Oktoberfest and the high society? Admittedly, there is a kernel of truth in the reputation of Munich as a snobbish city, but apart from that, Munich has an incredible amount to offer.
Castles, churches, and other fancy buildings, Munich probably has more than one could ever list. The Frauenkirche is probably the most famous among them. The image of the two church towers against the typical Bavarian blue sky is Munich’s symbol.
In addition, Munich also has many green spaces, such as the English Garden or the Olympic Park. There are also really cool museums in Munich. In the Pinakotheken, you’ll find various types of art spread throughout the city.
You can also enjoy good beer in Munich. Many breweries in Munich have a long-standing tradition and are very cozy.
For those who prefer something alternative and relaxed, I can recommend the Schwanthalerhöhe district. And if you want to experience something completely different, why not visit the surfers at the Eisbach wave?
My hotel recommendation for Munich:
In Munich, you have a wide choice of hotels. The Rocco Forte The Charles Hotel is a cool design hotel in the popular Maxvorstadt district with a spa and everything you need.
Germany offers a plethora of captivating cities for unforgettable city breaks. From the historic charm of Berlin to the romantic allure of Heidelberg, each destination boasts unique character and attractions. Whether you’re drawn to vibrant cultural scenes, picturesque landscapes, or rich history, Germany has something to offer every traveler. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the captivating cities, and embark on a journey of discovery in Germany.