Though it remains far less well known or understood by foreigners than some other European countries, since reunification Germany has gained a higher profile as a travel destination.
The most popular destination is Berlin, one of the most fascinating capitals in Europe. Many of Germany’s other major cities have proud histories as independent city states or as capitals of kingdoms in their own right.
But the tourist attractions in Germany are by no means limited to the cities and many other great attractions can be found in every part of the country.
The ultimate fairytale castle, Neuschwanstein is situated on a rugged hill near Füssen in southwest Bavaria. It was the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castles in the Disneyland parks.
The castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria who was declared insane when the castle was almost completed in 1886 and found dead a few days later.
Neuschwanstein is the most photographed building in the country and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Germany.
2. Heidelberg Old City
Located in the Neckar river valley, Heidelberg is one Germany’s most popular tourist destinations. During WWII, the city was almost completely spared by allied bombings which destroyed most of Germany’s larger inner cities.
As a result, Heidelberg has retained its baroque charm of narrow streets, picturesque houses and the famous Heidelberg Castle.
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3. Cologne Cathedral
Easily the greatest Gothic cathedral in Germany, Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) has been Cologne’s most famous landmark for centuries.
Construction of the Cologne Cathedral began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, more than 600 years to complete. It is dedicated to the saints Peter and Mary and is the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne.
4. Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
The Brandenburg Gate is the only surviving city gate of Berlin and symbolizes the reunification of East and West Berlin.
Built in the 18th century, the Brandenburg Gate is the entry to Unter den Linden, the prominent boulevard of linden trees which once led directly to the palace of the Prussian monarchs.
It is regarded as one of the most famous landmarks in Europe.
5. Holstentor in Lübeck
The Holstentor is one of the two remaining city gates of the city of Lübeck. Built in 1464, the gate now serves as a museum.
Because of its two captivating round towers and arched entrance it is regarded as a symbol of Lübeck. Together with the old city center (Altstadt) of Lübeck it is one of the top tourist attractions in Germany.
The Oktoberfest in Munich is the largest Volksfest in the world with over 6 million visitors annually. Despite the name, the Oktoberfest starts at the end of September until the first weekend in October.
An important part of Bavarian culture, the festival has been held since 1810. Visitors enjoy a wide variety of traditional fare such as Hendl, Schweinebraten, Würstl, Knödel and large quantities of German beer.
7. Frauenkirche in Dresden
Located in Dresden, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is a Lutheran church that was completely destroyed during WWII. The church reconstructed using original plans from the 1720s and reopened in 2005.
The city of Coventry, which was raided by the Luftwaffe donated the golden cross for the dome of the church. Since its reopening, the Frauenkirche has been a hugely popular tourist attraction in Dresden.
In 2009 the church was visited by President Barack Obama.
The historic city Lindau is located near the meeting point of the Austrian, German and Swiss borders in the eastern part of Lake Constance (Bodensee).
The city is connected with the mainland by bridge and railway and has about 3,000 inhabitants. Full of medieval and half-timbered buildings, Lindau is quite a popular tourist attraction.
9. Black Forest
The Schwarzwald, or Black Forest, can be found in the southwestern corner of the country. The name comes from the thick tree canopy, and the forest is a mecca for those who love beautiful scenery and outdoor recreation.
Hiking, swimming in chilly Alpine lakes and mountain biking are popular pastimes, but the Black Forest also has some urban alternatives.
Within the forest are several towns and cities. Baden-Baden is a world-famous spa retreat perfect for relaxation, and Freiburg is a bustling university town with amazing cuisine and nightlife.
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10. Romantic Rhine
The Romantic Rhine is the most famous section of the Rhine, running between from Koblenz to Bingen. The river Rhine carves its way here through steep vineyard-covered hills topped with countless castles and ruins.
The river has been an important trade route into central Europe since ancient times and a string of small towns has grown up along the banks. Constrained in size, many of these old towns retain a historic feel today.
11. Reichstag in Berlin
The capital city of Berlin is filled with historic buildings, but one of the most important is the Reichstag.
Although originally dating back to the 19th century, the Reichstag got a major renovation in the 1990s after being severely damaged in WW2.
Following the end of the Cold War, Berlin was chosen as the overall capital, and the Reichstag became the official seat of government in Germany.
It now boasts an incredible glass dome that offers views over the city and looks stunning when illuminated at night.
The highest mountain is Germany is the Zugspitze, located above the town of Garmisch. Although the peak is a world-renowned spot for serious skiers, a trip to the top is worthwhile whatever the season.
From a lake at the base of the mountain, hop aboard the Zahnradbahn, a cogwheel train that heads partway up the mountain.
Then, it’s onward on the cable car called the Eibsee-Seilbahn. At the summit, it is possible to view the landscape of four countries at once.
13. Rothenburg ob der Tauber
A true storybook village brought to life is Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Straight from the pages of a fairy tale, this Franconian town has a remarkably well preserved medieval center.
Overlooking the Tauber River, many of the churches and residences date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. A highlight of the town is the Market Square, which is flanked on one side by the 13th century Town Hall Tower.
In Southern Bavaria, right up to the Austrian border, is the small mountain town of Berchtesgaden. Despite its size, Berchtesgaden played a significant role in the shaping of German history.
Known throughout history for its salt mines, Berchtesgaden is now better known for being the summer retreat of Adolf Hitler.
Most visitors come to see the Kehlsteinhaus, or Eagle’s Nest, at the top of Berchtesgaden. Even after the end of World War II, the structure was saved and now operates as a museum.
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15. Schwerin Castle
Schwerin Castle in the city of Schwerin is one of the most significant attractions in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
The castle is situated on an island in the middle of the Schweriner See, adding to its unusual appeal. Built in the 14th century, Schwerin Castle is now a seat of government, and it is open for guided and self-guided tours.
The castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of a creature called Petermännchen, and these legends bring in a number of curious visitors each year.