Located in the very heart of Europe, Germany is a diverse country with a rich history. The more you visit Germany, the more you want to explore it, learn about its culture and discover most hidden corners. Germany played a substantial role in shaping the cultural development in Europe. Once a confusing crazy quilt of states, now a prosperous country with a list of beautiful cities offering so much to do and see.
Germany has everything a backpacker may need – cheap food, beer, castles, great nightlife and all year round festival season. Since the country is quite big, there is little chance of seeing everything at once. Take your time, just pick the region you love the most and start with it. All major cities in Germany have their own charm and character. Thus, Frankfurt am Main boasts its lovely bridges and skyscrapers, Munich is a city with tiny streets, great beer halls, and amazing food, Berlin has lots of festivals, night clubs and historic sites. There is also a German hinterland, with quiet and picturesque towns, where people gather together for a chat in kneipe to get their pint of beer. Germany is on almost every traveler’s bucket list, and it’s totally worth it.
Accommodation in Germany
Since Germany is the birthplace of a hostel, there are plenty of affordable options all over the country. Prices depend on the location and services and usually vary from 10-25 EUR per night for a dorm room. Private rooms in hostels start around 45 EUR per night. In small towns, located in tourist areas, there is always a chance of finding an entire apartment or home with prices starting from 50 EUR. It might be more difficult to find cheap accommodation in major cities.
The extensive network of hostels in Germany (Jugendherberge) means cheap accommodation for every member of the German Youth Hostel Association. The most attractive feature is that hostels usually located in old castles, beautiful mansions or any other historic buildings. While Youth Hostels are open to everyone, they give second priority to guests over 27. Camping is another great option to save on accommodation. With more than 2000 campgrounds around the country, expect to pay 4-15 EUR average per night.
Food in Germany
Street food in Germany is cheap. Most meals like currywurst, bratwurst or rostbratwurst come for 2-5 EUR. Most fast food meals cost between 6-10 EUR. Dinner with beer will set you back 20 EUR as most mains cost around 16 EUR. Beer at the traditional Brauhaus or Кneipe will usually cost around 4-5 EUR. For a meal at mid-range Restaurant, expect to pay around 25 EUR. When buying your own groceries, expect to spend at least 45-70 EUR per week on food. To save on food, stick to local supermarkets like Rewe, Real, Lidl or Netto.
Getting Around Germany
Germany is synonymous with highways and rail network density. ICE (InterCity Express) and IC (InterCity) high-speed trains are quite popular but really expensive. The one-way ticket price can be as high as 150-170 EUR. These trains usually run between the largest German cities and make a small number of stops. Slower regional RE and RB trains connect local towns with larger cities. Expect to pay around 45-65 EUR for a second class ticket. Discounts are usually available for youth, seniors, and families.
Buses are omnipresent in Germany. Some bus stops in Germany are marked with a green “H” symbol (Haltestelle) and usually equipped with displays to present bus arrival information at stops. Night buses as well as sightseeing tours are available in major cities. Rapid transit systems like U-Bahn (Untergrundbahn) and S-Bahn are reliable with prices around 1-3 EUR per single ticket. You can always cut down your transportation expenses by purchasing day-passes with a better rate. While some cities have narrow cobbled streets, it is quite easy to find great cycle routes. Expect to pay between 9-25 EUR for daily rental depending on the location.
Get Your Train Ticket In advance
To save extra money on transportation (up to half price) just book it in advance. Such trains like ICE are great but can add up quickly, you have to be flexible with your dates as these tickets have a limited availability.
Attend Free Tours
The free guided walking tours in Germany are available in all major cities. These tours offer a great chance to learn more about German history and heritage, take lovely photos, hear many thrilling stories without spending extra money.
Stick to Tap Water
Once your bottle is empty, refill it with tap water (Leitungswasser). The water in Germany is safe to drink. However, some restaurants may refuse to serve tap water. By drinking tap water you save the environment and your money too!
Everyone wants a freebie, especially in Germany. There are several museums in Germany with no admission fee or offering free admission on certain days. One of my favorite places in Berlin is the the rooftop terrace of the Reichstag Dome with a stunning panoramic view. You just have to register online in advance for a set time. Munich and Dusseldorf provide free museum admission for kids and teenagers under 18 years old, while adults pay some little money.
The vast majority of parks, gardens, and reserves in Germany doesn’t charge entrance fees. The Tiergarten is a great park to escape the hustle and bustle of Berlin. Heading from Central Berlin down the Spanische Allee, this park seemed like a popular place to spend a relaxing holiday away from the crowds. Once an airport, now a popular public park, Tempelhofer Feld has everything for cycling, skating and jogging. In summer, the former airport is a lovely spot for families going on a picnic there.
Check The Berlin Wall
The Wall was erected in 1961 and divided Berlin into the eastern and western sides. All attempts to cross the concrete Wall, moving from East to West Berlin, were brutally suppressed. In 1990, after the destruction of the Wall, only a small part of it remained as a reminder. When you reach the symbol of the Cold War, one can understand the feelings of thousands of people with their hope to leave the socialist paradise. With the popular museum located nearby, it has an informative exhibition telling stories of people’s lives, the way the Wall had influenced them and how they sometimes managed to get over it.
Discover Neuschwanstein Castle
Despite the fact that King Ludwig’s aspirations were not fully realized, now the Schloss Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular and well-recognized landmarks in Bavaria. It has never been used for defensive purposes as the castle was primarily built as an illustration or theatrical scene for Richard Wagner’s operas. Located in the southwest of Bavaria near the Austrian border and the Hohenschwangau castle, it embodied king Ludwig’s ideas and fantasies about the German Middle Ages and elevated this romantic image. Neuschwanstein castle is great and one of my favorite in Europe. Make sure to get there as early as possible to avoid crowds.
Explore The Romantic Road
One of the most famous tourist routes in Germany. It stretches from Wurzburg to Fussen and passes through numerous picturesque villages and towns, allows you to discover valleys, lakes, and hills of Bavaria. While passing the medieval churches, rural hotels, and half-timbered houses, you’ll feel immersed in an ancient German culture. A great route to go as a couple or family.
When going up or down the Romantic Road you just can’t miss Augsburg, a city founded by the Romans and named after Emperor Augustus. With so many historic sites all around like St. Anne’s Church where Martin Luther was hiding and the Town Hall of Augsburg with its Goldener Saal, Augsburg is one of the oldest cities in Germany and amazing urban destination.
A lot less touristy city than Munich or Berlin, Cologne is big but not overwhelming. With a convenient U-Bahn system, it is quite easy to discover its hidden corners. To experience the nightlife is great in the Cologne Old City (Altstadt). You shouldn’t miss bars and clubs located in the Belgian Quarter, Ehrenfeld and around Rudolfplatz and of course the Old Cathedral. Being the Germany’s fourth largest city, travelers usually stick to the Altstadt, while skipping unconventional places with street art and tasty cheap food. Cologne is a diverse city and certainly not to be missed.
The Bodensee (Lake Constance) is the right place to connect with nature. Located in the country’s southwest, the largest lake in Germany has much to offer for travelers. The area around the lake has a rich culture, villages steeped in history and great opportunities to sail along the border with Switzerland and Austria. This is an important region for fruit production. So foodies and wine enthusiasts won’t want to miss Lake Constance. Apart from a broad range of wines, the island of Reichenau is famous for its ancient monastery, while the island of Mainau has hosted a butterfly nursery and a botanical garden with exotic plants.
Explore Schwarzwald (The Black Forest)
Once inspired Wilhelm Hauff and Brothers Grimm to write their fairy tales, now Schwarzwald inspires everyone hiking its numerous hiking trails. Schwarzwald got its name because of the thick canopy of evergreens that are dense that the sun can’t penetrate them. It created so many myths and legends. Home to famous cuckoo clocks and the Schwarzwald Torte (cake) the entire region is especially beautiful in the fall. Located in Baden-Wurttemberg, The Black Forest region has many cultural traditions, historical sites, and distinctive towns.
My hometown and the capital of Saxony, the Florence on the Elbe, the city of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, burnt to the ground at the end of War, and a vibrant city today – all these epithets are about Dresden. The city of the magnificent baroque of the XVII century and the typical DDR blocks, the city of quiet parks and buzzing youth parties in once abandoned buildings, the city of the Bunte Republik Neustadt festival, when each house becomes an open air gallery. A very friendly city that interacts with its residents and travelers. Dresden is quite an underrated destination, but totally worth visiting.
The most famous beer festival in Germany is also worth to be listed among the top cultural events in Europe. The festival takes place in Munich, in mid-September and lasts more than two weeks. During these days you can enjoy German beer from huge steins and lots of entertainment. Oktoberfest is so popular that it is considered the largest Volksfest in the world. All guests can enjoy mounted processions at the solemn opening ceremony of the first beer barrel, which is held by the head of the city. It is usually followed by a parade with participants dressed in a German outfit.
If you find yourself there, make sure to grab the famous Bavarian sausages and fried chicken. You can easily get some beer with a variety of salads and roasts. With so many people attending Oktoberfest, capacious tents are built to accommodate everyone. Each tent has its own spirit with unique beers from oak barrels and chefs offering snacks. Every time I visit Oktoberfest I really enjoy it and already planning my next trip.
Stand in awe of Bastei Bridge
The Bastei Bridge is considered a miracle of the early 19th century and a recognized historic monument. Located in the Saxon Switzerland national park it crosses the Elbe river in around 50 km (31 mi) from Dresden. The Bastei bridge hovers at an altitude of 200 meters among the sandstone cliffs. The first wooden bridge was built here in the middle of the 19th century, and was rebuilt from stone a little later. The Bastei bridge consists of seven arches that span a 40 m deep ravine. From the very beginning, the bridge attracted travelers, hikers, photographers and climbers. Being quite a popular tourist destination and having several hiking trails, it also has an observation deck with the stunning views of the surroundings. There is also a Konigstein Fortress – the biggest castle in Saxon Switzerland – with a museum dedicated to military history.
Located half an hour’s train ride from Munich, Dachau concentration camp is notorious for cruelty and associated with the strong emotions. It is hard to express the range of feelings when you walk along the former electric fence with preserved watch towers. The Memorial Site has lots of documentary films testifying to the most tragic chapters in modern history. The entire place should reminds us that the past can never be undone, but it should never be repeated. You can visit the memorial site with no admission fee.
Take Awesome Photos at Checkpoint Charlie
The Wall construction meant not only a tragedy for German people but a necessity to establish checkpoints for controling. Located between the famous Friedrichstrasse and Zimmerstrasse, Checkpoint Charlie and a large area around it was a demarcation point between the US sector and the Soviet sector. With the end of the crisis the original shack was replaced with a replica and a few sandbags near it. While taking photos with cheesy dressed up guards may be overpriced, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (Mauer Museum) has fascinating insights into the Cold War. Use your Berlin Pass to get free admission.
No trip to Dresden would be complete without visiting Zwinger. The palace is among the nicest examples of Baroque architecture in Dresden. The palace complex impresses with its size and was originally conceived and built by Augustus the Strong as a warehouse for his huge artwork, armor and porcelain collection. He didn’t plan to live there. Due to the fact that sandstone was one of the most common construction materials in Saxony, Zwinger’s architecture is particularly distinctive. Once inside you can enjoy a nice collection of sculptures and paintings, as well as one of the most extensive porcelain collections. It has several festivals held annually. With the six pavilions connected by large galleries, I would suggest inspecting Zwinger clockwise. Inner court is a great place for strolling.
Get lost in Nuremberg’s historic rock-cut cellars
The rock-cut cellars are steeped in history and date back as far as the 14th century. An extensive network of cellars was used for storing beer and its fermentation, making it one of the largest Medieval beer warehouses in Europe. During the War the rock-cut cellars were used as a shelter against air-raids. While only a part of extensive tunnels are available for travellers, Nuremberg Historic Art Bunker reveals how the Nazis protected the most valuable artworks. You can visit rock-cut cellars with no admission by using Nuremberg Pass.
Figuring the best time to visit Germany is all about finding a balance between weather and crowds. Whether you’re heading for the local festivals and cultural events, find out when to go with my post to the best time to visit Germany.