For a country with so many natural attractions and so well linked from the UK (there are more than 20 flights to Germany per day from the London airports alone) it is a surprisingly under-visited place.
Germany boasts exciting cities, charming old towns (hosting those world-famous Christmas markets), fairytale castles, snow-capped mountains, seaside resorts, national parks and nature reserves. The roll call of notable Germans is impressive; the country's art galleries are world class.
The old towns of its cities, though damaged during the Second World war have been restored meticulously. The German reputation for innovation and technical expertise extends to its beer too. There are more than 1,200 breweries and a Purity Law, dating from the 1500s, that ensures the very highest standards. Munich holds the world's best beer festival each autumn: the Oktoberfest.
Berlin is capital, one of the coolest European cities, with a multicultural population and a thriving arts and entertainment scene.
Frankfurt is the centre of Germany's banking industry, but also the city that spends more on the arts than any other European city.
Hamburg, the ancient port city, is Northern Germany's commercial centre, capital of sports and home to the famous red-light district, the Reeperbahn.
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Germany’s seasons have distinct characteristics. It’s cold and wet during the winter and temperatures drop from near freezing to well below freezing the farther east you travel. If you make it to April and May, you can see all the fruit trees and flowers bloom. Summertime is warm, although you will encounter the occasional cloudy, rainy day. It doesn’t get too hot though. Temperatures range between 20 and 30 degrees.
When to fly to Germany
The busiest season for flights to Germany is May to late October. The weather is at its best, there are lots of tourist events and folk festivals, and prices are at their highest. In the more popular areas, such as Heidelberg, reservations need to be made in advance, and reservations for Frankfurt’s September auto show and October book fair are booked years in advance.
Although winter generally brings fewer visitors, it is becoming a popular time, especially for the ski areas in the Bavarian Alps. Christmas and New Year are typically busy, and Berlin’s Green Week in January is a big draw.
November to April is generally off season, but autumn and spring are pleasant times to visit. Germany flights and resort packages may offer cheaper shoulder-season rates.
Getting around Germany
Germany has an excellent rail and bus network for getting around the country, as well as major and regional airports. Another option is a cruise on the Rhine or Main River.
Some cities have areas that are best explored on foot, such as the historic districts in Berlin and Frankfurt. Public transport is the best way to get around a city. Berlin in particular has an excellent public transport system. Taxis are also available.
Although driving is possible in the cities, public transport is better as the rush-hour traffic is frustrating. In Berlin, parking is a problem, especially since parking restrictions are not always clearly marked. When parking in a garage, pay before going to your car. Insert the ticket into the machine, pay the amount, then retrieve the ticket. Go to your car and when you exit insert the ticket in the slot to raise the barrier. Rumour has it that there’s no Autobahn speed limit, but drivers have been stopped and ticketed. The German government recommends a speed limit of 130 kmph (80 mph).
Germany insider information
- Germany’s cultural centre is Berlin, with its museums, opera, dance, and theatre. The galleries, studios, shops, and bookstores make shopping irresistible. Berlin is also an architectural treasure trove: restored historic buildings, the Corbusier House apartment building on stilts, and the Hansaviertel rebuilt with designs from 50 world-renowned architects. The nightlife abounds with cabarets, bars, parties, and quiet cafes.
- Hamburg is a multi-faceted city. Its lake, Alster, is surrounded by stately hotels, stores, cafes, and mansions, and its infamous Reeperbahn red-light district parties all night. For the arts, stroll the Art Mile or take in the ballet and opera. Nearly destroyed by fire and then by WWII bombings, Hamburg is now a cosmopolitan, cultural city and the greenest city in Europe.
- Frankfurt provides more support to the arts than any other European city, ensuring you’ll see excellent exhibits and performances. Even the nightlife features jazz musicians from all over the world. The city also hosts festivals, music events, and fairs. WWII bombings destroyed nearly half the city, and Frankfurt rebuilt itself with skyscrapers and has Germany’s most spectacular skyline.
- One of the cities not flattened during WWII, Heidelberg’s Middle Ages and early Renaissance buildings are still standing. A university town since 1386, Heidelberg has produced poets, writers, composers, and philosophers. The markets have glass, crystal, and handcrafted goods, and the nightlife reverberates with student enthusiasm.
- Surrounded by forests and Germany's largest wine-growing region, Stuttgart is nearly two-thirds parks, gardens, and woodlands. Although historic landmarks and buildings did not survive the WWII bombings, Stuttgart is now a major industrial centre, home to corporations such as Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Stuttgart’s cultural attractions include the famous Stuttgart Ballet, opera, symphony, and an abundance of theatres, festivals, and museums.
- Trivago is a useful website for user reviews and recommendations on accommodation on Germany. Before you travel, take a look at suggestions for some of the main cities, including hotels in Berlin, hotels in Hamburg or hotels in Frankfurt.