Heidelberg Castle is one of the most popular attractions in Germany. These romantic ruins, which overlook the Neckar river, are quieter than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Imperial Hall, Great Heidelberg Tun and the castle gardens are receiving only half of their usual 4,000 daily visitors.
“Visitors can enjoy a more individualised experience,” said Michael Bös, head of the castle’s management team.
Guests only have to queue to access the German Pharmacy Museum located within the castle. The tube-like shape of the museum makes it difficult to adhere to social distancing regulations. As a result, the number of people able to view the laboratory equipment, medicine cabinets and various medicines has been reduced to 40 at any one time.
Some visitors have been able to obtain a free entry ticket without having to queue. Even the famous curved escalator has been spotted without tourists from time to time. The Elbe Philharmonic recommends booking online in advance.
Social distancing regulations mean that fewer visitors are allowed than usual. From the reopening of the viewing platform on May 25th to August 12th, there were only around a third as many guests compared to the same time last year (331,048 compared to 895,944).
Visiting the Cologne Cathedral is often more difficult now than it was before the pandemic. But once you are inside, hygiene restrictions have made the experience all the more overwhelming.
At the moment only 300 visitors are allowed in the cathedral at any given time. This can lead to long queues, especially at the weekend, but it means you can enjoy the largest church in Germany relatively undisturbed.
In the silence, the sound of the old cathedral clock as it strikes the hour is downright deafening. But before the pandemic, you couldn't hear it at all – the sound was drowned out by the noise of thousands of visitors.
Those wanting to climb the tower should also expect long waiting times. A one-way system which switches direction every 20 minutes ensures that visitors ascending and descending do not come into contact on the narrow spiral staircase, allowing social distancing regulations to be observed.
From the roof terrace of Berlin’s famous Reichstag building, you can admire the Government Quarter and the Brandenburg Gate, or look down into the Parliamentary Chamber through the glass roof – but at the moment access is limited.
Individual visitors are welcome to the Reichstag dome, designed by architect Norman Foster, if they book in advance.
Visitors can now sit in on plenary sessions or go on a tour of the building one more. The dome is also open to a limited number of visitors every evening (from 6:30pm to 9:45pm). People are still visiting in good numbers despite coronavirus restrictions, according to the Bundestag.
Berlin Museum Island
There are also fewer people visiting museums in Berlin, because access to museums like the Pergamon Museum and the Neues Museum remains limited and is only possible if you book a certain time slot in advance.
This means, however, that visitors finally have a chance to see attractions such as the Nefertiti bust without having to contend with swarms of tourists.
Many visitors are enjoying the extra space afforded to them by social distancing regulations, according to the executive board. “Generally, the need to comply with our current hygiene regulations is making people more considerate.”
Visitor numbers in 2020 will still be considerably lower than in previous years, however. Currently, estimates suggest that there will be about 30 percent of the 4.2 million visitors seen last year.
Mainau Flower Island
Acres and acres of flowers – and some peace and quiet. The Flower Island on Lake Constance is seeing fewer visitors coming from abroad and by bus, according to a spokesperson.
“In recent years we have been receiving 7,000 to 8,000 visitors on a day with good weather”, said a spokesperson. They normally see around 1.2 million visitors a year. “This year we won’t see the same numbers”, she said.
For visitors, however, that means a more relaxed experience, allowing them to admire the arboretum in peace, explained the spokesperson. Their historical tree collection, which boasts giant sequoia trees over 45 meters high, has more than enough space for visitors. Even when temperatures are warm the island remains pleasantly cool.
After eight weeks of closed doors, the Dresden Frauenkirche reopened to visitors in mid-May. However, access to the dome and the church for private prayer, church services and concerts has been significantly reduced.
Only 50 people can visit the dome at any one time, capacity in the church has been limited to 40 and at concerts only about 350 of the 1,660 seats can be used. The Frauenkirche Dresden Foundation expects only half the amount of guests this year.
The world-famous 18th century church, which was destroyed at the end of the Second World War and meticulously restored after the reunification of Germany, only received a third of its normal number of visitors in the first half of this year.
“Visitor numbers significantly improved in June, July and August”, said director Maria Noth, with more German and European tourists coming than usual. “The church is spacious and well ventilated, which does put us at an advantage”, she said.
King Ludwig II was an unsociable type and sought solitude in Neuschwanstein Castle. Shortly after his death in 1886, the castle was reopened to visitors, bringing life back to his former refuge.
The ‘fairy-tale king’s’ castle, situated in southern Germany’s Allgäu region, would attract up to 6,000 tourists a day during peak season in previous years. During the pandemic their daily figure has still reached around 1,080, according to the Bavarian Palace Administration in Munich, with people needing to book a ticket online in advance.
Neuschwanstein is particularly popular with tourists from abroad. Normally, 28 percent of tours are conducted in English, with 19 percent in German and 19 percent in Mandarin. At the moment, however, 69 percent of tours are being conducted in German.
For the castle director, Patrick Korb, the ‘corona season’ has been an interesting experience. He never imagined that one day he would be leading tours with just 10 participants.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
This small medieval town in the Franconian district of Ansbach is home to around 10,000 people and attracts an estimated 1.9 million visitors every year. The town – known for its half-timbered houses and its Christmas market – relies quite heavily on tourism.
According to a city spokesman, around 560,000 overnight stays were recorded in 2018 and 2019. The spokesman estimates that the pandemic will lead to a 30 percent decrease in bookings this year.
Since overnight stays were allowed again they have received a steady stream of tourists, but far fewer of them are coming from abroad.