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Our top 10 Germany destinations and an answer to the often-asked question, "I only have a few days, what should I see?"

Image of Beautiful Munich
Beautiful Munich

Rare is the Europe-bound traveler who doesn't have to deal with two limiting factors; time and money. "I only have a few days, what should I see?" is a question we often hear and one that has caused us to examine our own priorities. Just what are the essential places and sights for the traveler to Germany? A collection of essential classical music would, of course, include names such as Beethoven, Bach and Mozart; but how about Greig or Janecek? By the same token, everyone should probably see Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Munich, but do Weimar and Frankfurt belong on such a list of "essentials"? Judgments like these are extremely subjective. But as usual, we're ready to make them.

We've listed the destinations in order of our preference, as if we were advising a first-time traveler what to see. Here, then, is our Top 10 for Germany:

#1. Countryside of Southern Bavaria

To a friend who had never been to Germany, and who had only enough time to see a single city or region, we would recommend the countryside of Southern Bavaria. This region's culture is as different from our own as any part of Germany. Other strong reasons for the number one ranking are its extraordinary physical beauty, the presence of several Michelin three-star sights, and the fact that its hotel and restaurant prices are among the lowest in the country?

Best Towns

  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • Berchtesgaden
  • Mittenwald
  • Bad Reichenhall
  • Lindau

Top Sights

  • The Bavarian Royal Castles of Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee
  • The Wieskirche
  • The Abbey at Ettal
  • The Königsee
  • The Kehlstein and Obersalzberg

Suggested Activity

  • Drive the backroads, staying off the Deutsche Alpenstrasse as much as possible.

A Place to Stay

  • Gasthof Fraundorfer in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Ludwigstrasse 24, tel. +49/08821/9279, fax 92799, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Food Suggestion

  • Dinner at Gasthof Fraundorfer in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

#2. Berlin

A vast, vibrant, and diverse European capital whose last 100 years have been as eventful as any city's in the world. Great museums and orchestras, cutting edge architecture, huge parks, an amazing network of rivers and lakes, nonstop night life, the finest and most varied cuisine of any city in our three countries, and, with Munich, the best shopping in Germany. Best of all, it's half the price of Paris, London or Rome.

Top Sights

  • Potsdamer Platz
  • Berlin Film Museum
  • Jewish Museum
  • Checkpoint Charlie Museum
  • Kaiser-Willhelm Memorial Church
  • Topography of Terror
  • Soviet Memorial
  • Pergamon Museum
  • Gemldegalerie
  • Neue Nationalgalerie
  • Charlottenburg Palace
  • Reichstag
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Gendarmenmarkt
  • Tiergarten
  • Berlin Zoo
  • The Olympic Stadium
  • Airlift Memorial
  • Dahlem Museum

Suggested Activity

  • Walk east, down the fashionable Kudamm, passing the Memorial Church, and ending up for lunch on the food floor of the famed KaDeWe department store.

A Place to Stay

  • Hotel Art Nouveau, Leibnizstrasse 59, tel. +49/030/327 7440, fax 327 744 40.

Food Suggestion

  • Wegner & Lutter, Schlterstrasse 55, tel. +49/030/881 34 40

#3. Munich

All first-time Germany itineraries should include at least two full days in the Bavarian capital. This city will destroy any preconceived notions that Bavaria is nothing but ruddy-cheeked, fat farmers. Most Muncheners are fit and fashionable. Though its politics are different, Munich is every bit as sophisticated as Berlin.

Tourists love it for its great beer, Bavarian food, and upscale stores.

Top Sights

  • Marienplatz
  • Nympehenburg Palace (especially the Carriage Museum)
  • Englischer Garten
  • Deutsches Museum
  • The Residenz
  • Alte Pinakothek
  • BMW Museum
  • Asamkirche
  • Bavarian National Museum
  • The Hofbräuhaus

Suggested Activity

  • Have just one beer at the Hofbräuhaus. If you don't drink or even if you do, take a long walk in the Englischer Garten (beware of nude sunbathers).

A Place to Stay

  • Hotel Asam, Josephspitalstrasse 3, tel. +49/089/230 9700, fax 230 970 97.
  • Hotel Kraft, Schillerstrasse 49, tel. +49/089/594823-24 fax: 5503856

Food Suggestion

  • Spatenhaus an der Oper, Residenzstr. 12

#4. Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The quintessence of medieval, fairy-tale charm. This beautifully preserved city sits on a bluff in gorgeous countryside, its ancient walls following four bends in the Tauber River. Probably attracts as many tourists (mostly tour buses) per square foot as any town in Germany; still, if you haven't seen it you should. Stay overnight and avoid some of the crowds.

Top Sights

  • Tilman Riemenschneider's fantastic carved wood altarpiece in St. Jakobskirche
  • The Rathaus

Suggested Activity

  • Walk the town.

A Place to Stay

  • Hotel Reichs-Küchenmeister, Kirchplatz 8, tel. +49/09861/9700, fax 970409, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Food Suggestion

  • Eisenhut Hotel-Restaurant, Herrngasse 3-7

#5. Mosel River Valley

These are subjective choices and well no doubt hear some dissenting views, but we regard the Mosel as a quieter and prettier river than the more famous Rhine. We like the wine better, too.

Best Towns

  • Trier
  • Bernkastel Kues
  • Beilstein
  • Cochem

Top Sights

  • Miles of steep, terraced vineyards
  • Eltz Castle
  • The castle at Cochem
  • Porta Nigra
  • The Roman Baths and Amphitheatre.

Suggested Activity

  • Take a day or two to drive its length.

A Place to Stay

  • In Neumagen-Dhron, Gutshotel Reichgraf von Kesselstatt, Balduinstrasse 1, tel. +49/06507/2035, fax 5644, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • In Trier, Hotel Petrisberg, Sickingenstrasse 11, (tel. +49/0651/4640, fax 0651/46450)

Food Suggestion

  • Hotel Weinhaus Moselschild, Ürzig, tel. +49/06532/9393-0

#6. Heidelberg

This ancient university town's wondrous setting on the meandering Neckar river is perfected by the great castle which sits above it. The student population gives the Altstadt an atmosphere unique in Germany.

Top Sights

  • Heidelberg Castle

Suggested Activity

  • Don't miss the castle.
  • Take a Neckar boat trip.

A Place to Stay

Food Suggestion

  • One of the student bars, called Historischer Studentenlokal, such as Zum Roten Ochsen, Hauptstrasse 217.

#7. Bamberg

A relatively unsung city that approaches Rothenburg in medieval charm. The town is at its most enchanting at dusk when the illumination of the buildings and statuary is just beginning to take effect.

Top Sights

  • Domplatz
  • Dom
  • Altes Rathaus

Suggested Activity

  • Try a Rauchbier ("smoky" beer) at Brauerei Schlenkerla, Dominikanerstrasse 6, one of the city's 10 breweries.

A Place to Stay

  • Hotel St. Nepomuk, Obere Mühlbrücke 9, tel. +49/0951/98420, fax 984 2100, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Food Suggestion

  • Dinner just outside of town in Gaustadt at Brauereigasthof Kaiserdom, Gaustadter Haupstrasse 26, tel. +49/0951/965140, fax 9651444.

#8. The Black Forest

We include the Schwarzwald with the tiniest of misgivings. Though the region is very much on the beaten track, there are two towns, Freiburg and Baden-Baden, that shouldn't be missed. Another big plus is the wine of Baden-Württemberg, particularly the reds, which are largely underrated and unknown.

Best Towns

  • Freiburg
  • Baden-Baden
  • Triberg
  • Freudenstadt

Top Sights

  • The Hochstrasse (high road) from Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt
  • Freiburgs Cathedral.

Suggested Activity

  • Visit Triberg, a clockmaking village.

A Place to Stay

  • Hotel Dorer, tel. +49/07722/95050, fax 950530 in Schönwald in the heart of the region.

Food Suggestion

  • The Dorer

#9. Hamburg

Except for Berlin, few Americans venture north of Frankfurt and so miss this great port city. Like Berlin and Munich, Hamburg is full of fine restaurants, top-flight shops, theaters, museums, and concert halls. It has one of Europe's finest ballet companies.

Top Sights

  • St. Michaels Church
  • Fine Arts Museum
  • The Sunday morning Altona Fischmarkt
  • The Reeperbahn, the city's legal and lively "red light" district.

Suggested Activity

  • Go west along the north shore of the Elbe to Wedel. There you'll find the Schiffsbegrssungsanlage, a place where the many ships traveling the Elbe between the sea and Hamburg are saluted. As each ship passes this point, the flag of its home country is raised and its national anthem is played over a speaker system.

A Place to Stay

  • Hotel Abtei, Abteistrasse 14 , tel. +49/040/442905, fax 449820, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Hotel Hafen Hamburg, Seewartenstrasse 9 tel. +49/040 /31113-0, fax 311 13755, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

Food Suggestion

  • Fischereihafen-Restaurant, Grosse Elbstrasse 143 , tel. +49/040/381816

#10. Island of Sylt

Nature is the main attraction on this sliver of an island in the North Sea (reached by car train). It is a place of wind, sand dunes, heavy surf, sea birds, and fine hotels and restaurants. It has long been a hideaway for Germany's rich and is a complete change of pace from the rest of the country. Take warm clothing, even in summer.

Best Towns

  • List
  • Westerland
  • Keitum
  • Kampen

Top Sights

  • The sand dunes and beaches; Keitums Heimatmuseum

Suggested Activity

  • Beach walks and bike rides
  • Drive north to List, Germany's northernmost town

A Place to Stay

  • Hotel Benen-Diken-Hof, tel. +49/04651/938 30, fax 93 83183, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in Keitum

Food Suggestion

  • Restaurant Sansibar, Hörnumerstrasse, Rantum, tel. +49/04651/964646, fax 964647

(October 2001)