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Germany Destination Guide—Tips and Highlights

With medieval castles, baroque churches, and picturesque villages, Germany boasts a vibrant historical legacy. Germany exemplifies natural beauty, culture, history and art. Here’s a destination guide for your trip to Germany.

Top Highlights of Germany

With over 2 millennia of history, Germany is one of the world’s most dominant economic powers, whose cultural influence has shaped the European landscape. One of the top attractions of Germany is the Bavarian countryside, home to the 19th-century fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle. The Bavarian region also houses Germany’s most popular auto touring route, the Romantic Road, weaving through spa towns like Baden-Baden, and well-preserved medieval towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Two of Germany’s most outstanding cathedrals are located roughly an hour away from each other. One of Europe’s largest cathedrals, the Cologne Cathedral is a stunning example of High Gothic architecture. It is also Germany’s most visited landmark. Built by Emperor Charlemagne, the Aachen cathedral served as the seat of coronation for 31 German kings and 12 queens. It is known for its exquisite mosaics decorated with gold leaf and precious stones.
Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is easily one of Germany’s top destinations. Located in Berlin, it is home to some of Germany’s oldest museums such as the Pergamon and the Neues Museum. Visitors can admire unique treasures including the bust of Queen Nefertiti, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, as well as the world’s largest collection of Etruscan art.

Geographical Landscape

Being Europe’s seventh largest country, Germany’s geography is extremely variegated and diverse. Towards the north lies the North European Plain, characterized by flat, low lying areas filled with bogs, rivers and streams. It is now used predominantly for agriculture.
The coastline along the North Sea is full of marshes, wetlands, mudflats and islands. But Germany’s largest island Rugen is found off the Baltic Sea coastline. The area is a lot hillier than the North Sea coastline and has many steep and jagged cliffs.
During the last Ice Age, the glaciers retreated extensively, leaving behind dry and sandy terrain and a great number of small lakes. Lying south of Berlin, this topography rises to form giant landforms such as the volcanic Harz Mountains, the forested Rothaargebirge Mountains, and the Rhine River Valley.
The Rhine River is Germany’s longest river. At the southwestern border of the Rhine River with France lies the Black Forest. The river Danube rises in the Black Forest, travels across central Europe, and ends in the Black Sea.
Along the southern border with Austria, the highest mountains of Germany are found, the Bavarian Alps. Germany’s highest point, Zugspitze, is also found here.

Things To Know Before Visiting Germany

Best Time to Visit

While May through September is peak tourist season, the best time to visit Germany for those seeking the outdoors and less crowds is April and October. Winter is also popular for its beautiful Christmas markets and alpine skiing adventures.

Weather

Germany has a temperate seasonal climate characterized by warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, more prominently in the summers.

Languages Spoken

The official language of Germany is German, but most locals study English as their foreign language of choice. French is also a common second foreign language.

Currency

Germany’s official currency is the euro. Germany is one of the most cash-intensive countries in the world. From parking and gas stations to museums and restaurants, cash is the preferred and sometimes the only mode of payment.

Electricity

The electrical sockets in Germany are of type F. The standard voltage is 230 V, while the standard frequency is 50 Hz. If traveling from the US, visitors will need a combined power plug adapter and a voltage converter.

Traveling around

Germany is known for its extensive and efficient public transportation. The high-speed trains can cost a bit, and it is recommended to book in advance or opt for the slower, intercity trains. Visitors have to both pay and validate their tickets. There is €60 fine for not doing so. Note that while there is no security personnel or gate at train station entrances, there are ticket checkers in plain clothes.
The widespread train network means that visitors can explore the other wonders of Germany. While big cities like Berlin and Munich attract the most crowds, Germany is a country of many treasures. With a valid EU driver’s license or International Driving License, visitors can also choose to rent a car and hit the beautiful countryside and historic towns.

Visitor Facilities

Like many countries in Europe, toilets in Germany are pay-to-use. Pay toilets average around 0.50 to 1 euros. It is also not uncommon to find attendants of the opposite gender in the toilets.

Opening Hours

Germany has some of the strictest laws in Europe regarding opening hours. While eateries like cafes and restaurants are open throughout the week, other places like stores, supermarkets and pharmacies are closed on Sunday. This concept of making ‘taking a day off’ a legal requirement is dear to the Germans, who call it ‘Ruhetag’ (resting day).

Respect the Rules

Germans are known for following the rules. Behavior which is common in other countries (example: jaywalking, cutting in line, arriving late, etc.) will earn tourists disapproving looks and nods.

Food

Germany is the ideal destination to try unique cuisines. German dishes are traditionally heavy in meats, sugar and breads. Local favorites include schnitzel (breaded and fried veal), weisswurst (white sausage), apfelstrudel (apple strudel), currywurst (grilled sausage), spargel (white asparagus), and Schwarzwälder kirschtorte (Black Forest cake).

Oktoberfest

Held every year in Munich, Oktoberfest is the world’s most popular beer festival. The huge beer halls, most famous of which is the Hofbräuhaus, attract tourists from all over the world. Men and women are dressed in Bavarian Lederhosen and Dirndl, and there is live music, parades, and traditional German cuisine.

Christmas Markets

Dating back to the Late Middle Ages, Christmas markets radiate the festive spirit of the holiday season. The beautifully decorated stalls are lined with local handicrafts and woodwork such as the famous nutcracker. Visitors can also savor German beer, as well as the delicious aromas of baked goods like stollen (fruit bread) and lebkuchen (gingerbread). There are more than 150 markets in Germany alone, but the Christkindlesmarkt of Nuremberg and the Striezelmarkt in Dresden are the most popular.
Germany is a country whose roots travel far beyond the Middle Ages. The landscape is steeped in history, as reflected in its many museums, monuments, and squares. It is also a country of natural beauty as can be witnessed in the green valleys of the Rhine River and the majestic snowy caps of the Alps. It is also a country of wonderful cultural traditions, as can be savored in locally brewed beer, delicious cuisine, and handcrafted woodwork, textiles, and pottery. All of this together makes Germany one of the top destinations in the world.

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A Foodies’ Guide to Street Food in Germany

What better way to discover a country than through its food? Let’s be honest: if trying out the most authentic food possibilities for your next destination is not on your radar, your taste buds are missing out. Eating new cuisines your trip might just be the best part. If you love food as much as we do, and you’re planning a trip to the old country, you should know about the types of food you can get that truly reflect your experience. Consider this your foodie’s guide to street food in Germany.

The Basics: Pommes, Rot Weiß

As is the case for most of the western world, french fries form the basic street food of Germany. Here, they’re known as Pommes, a short version of the French pommes frites. For anywhere between 2 and 3 Euros, you can get them on almost any street corner, often without any addition.
Germans use a special seasoned salt for their french fries, giving them a bit more spice than you might be used to. Ketchup is the most common condiment, but don’t sleep on the Mayonnaise, which comes in as a close second. In fact, the most common way to order fries in Germany is Pommes Rot Weiß, or red-white french fries—hinting at the delicacy of combining both condiments on a single plate.

The Many Faces of Currywurst

You can easily get Currywurst on any street corner, and it’s so famous that no less than three regions of the country are fighting for the right to call themselves its origin point. The essence of Currywurst is simple. As the name suggests, we’re talking about a typical Bratwurst, with a ketchup-based curry sauce and yellow curry sprinkled on top. The dish is typically served with french fries or Pommes, which also happen to taste great dipped into the sauce.
Beyond that, the details vary based on your region. In the North and Hamburg specifically, the Currywurst is a type of brat reminiscent of the Polish Kielbasa. In Berlin, it’s your typical German sausage. That’s the case in the Western-German Ruhrgebiet as well, but here pepper and onion dices are mixed into the sauce.
Which of the three areas first came up with the general concept is the subject of much dispute. Berlin has perhaps the best case, with a Currywurst Museum to show for it. Regardless of its origin, Germans enjoy no less than 800 million individual Currywurst dishes every single year.

Get Your Döner in a Fladenbrot

Foodies might have heard of Döner Kebab, the Turkish street food that has rapidly spread around the world since its invention in the early 70s. Americans know a similar but different version of it under the name of Gyros, but there’s nothing quite like the original, and that happens to be found in Germany.
There’s a reason for that: The Döner was actually invented by Turkish immigrant in Berlin. It’s kebab meat, typically veal or chicken put in a freshly baked Turkish flatbread. Add a salad and some vegetables like tomato and onion, along with either a yogurt or spicy red sauce, and your Döner is ready to eat. Alternatives include the Dürüm Döner, which substitutes the flatbread for a wrap for easier eating on the road.
A pro tip here: don’t fall for the wrap. Döner is best consumed in the flatbread, which absorbs the sauce just enough to become immensely flavorful in its own right. It might seem like your average New York City street food but if you leave Germany without having tried at least one original Döner, you’ll likely regret it.

The Southern Charme of Leberkäs

Döner, Currywurst, and Pommes Rot Weiß are popular across the country. Once you get to the south, though, you almost cannot leave without trying a local specialty: Leberkäs. Literally translated as liver cheese, it is much more flavorful than its name suggests.
Despite its name, this local delicacy contains neither liver or cheese. Instead, it’s ground-up pork, bacon, and corned beef, baked in an oven until its crust is crispy brown. You can get it in many restaurants, but it’s typically served with or on a fresh German roll on the street.
Leberkäs summarizes the beauty and delicacy of Germany’s south. It tastes a bit like Bologna, but richer. Try it with either mustard or pickles (or both) while exploring the streets of Germany.

Looking for a Laugenbretzn?

Think you know German soft pretzels? You don’t, at least not until you’ve had a freshly baked version of this delicious snack from a southern German street vendor. The standard seasoning is salt and is typically served without the dipping sauce you might be used to from the United States.
You won’t miss the dipping soft when eating a German soft pretzel since a Laugenbretzel has plenty of flavor and texture of its own. The inside is delightfully light and soft, while the crust is crispy. The dough, of course, is the same as a pretzel in the United States, but this German street food is still worth a try.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth With Schmalzgebäck

At any fair, major outdoor areas, or any type of large intersection, you will find a vendor for Schmalzgebäck. And once you try it, you’ll be hooked. You might even come back to Germany for another taste!
In its essence, Schmaltzgebäck is fried dough. It’s similar to Italian Zeppoli, but covered in powdered sugar for that extra little bit of sweetness. The result is an incredibly sweet, soft, and rich baked good that becomes especially popular around Christmas. You will eat it out of a bag with a type of toothpick, but you’ll likely use your fingers to get to the food more quickly.
Regular tourists go to Germany for its history, landscape, and people. However, a true German experience is not complete without its local cuisine. The above, of course, are only a few examples of the countless types of street food you will experience while in the country. Some options, like the Northern German pickled herring Fischbrötchen, only fit refined pallets. Others, like the basic Bratwurst, will leave a familiar taste in your mouth.
All of them add to the rich culture of this beautiful country. And when you pair the various types of Pilsner and Hefeweizen beers with the food, your trip will be one that your taste buds won’t soon forget.
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