Five lesser known German summer destinations to visit this year

Want to avoid the crowds this summer? Here are five of the most underrated holiday destinations in Germany.

Five lesser known German summer destinations to visit this year
Meerberg's picturesque old town in May. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Kästle

Counties around Germany are starting to welcome tourists again. 

But avoiding big crowds is still a good idea this summer. Though the German government has downgraded the country’s risk status, they warn people to proceed with caution. We’re not out of the woods yet. 

READ ALSO: State by state: What are the new rules for tourism around Germany?

Luckily, Germany has loads of fantastic holiday destinations that are off the beaten track (and some are literally in the woods). These are usually overlooked for more popular destinations like Berlin and Munich and perfect for a safe summer getaway. 

Here are some of our top picks for the most beautiful lesser known holiday destinations in Germany. 

Heligoland, Schleswig-Holstein 

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Heligoland sounds like the name of a Dutch amusement park, but it’s actually a remarkable little island in the North Sea. It’s Germany’s only high-seas island and is reachable by ferry from Cuxhaven or Büsum. 

This compact little island (only 1.7 square kilometres!) packs a lot in. As well as a beautiful sand beach, which you might need to share with some fluffy seals, it has a museum, cinema and a mini-golf course, as well as other land and sea sports on offer. 

Heligoland is the perfect destination for those looking for a relaxing beach weekend and for wildlife lovers. The island is an oasis for sea and song birds. 

It’s also a popular destination for day tourists who take advantage of the tax-free shopping. 

Dahner Felsenland, Rheinland-Palatinate

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Rhineland-Palatinate is often underappreciated when it comes to German tourism. This means that as well as its stunning and unspoiled natural beauty, it’s also irresistibly affordable. 

One of the highlights of the region is the Dahner Felsenland in the Palatine Forest. It’s most famous for its colourful sandstone cliffs and caves, which crown the hills and valleys along the French border. 

As well as an attractive hiking and rock-climbing destination, it’s also home to a lot of culture. It’s home to thirteen different castles and ruins, with mysterious atmospheres and famous folktales.

If you’re looking for a more laid-back retreat, the area has you covered too: there’s an 8,000 square metre sauna nestled into the birch forest. 

Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt 

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This Instagram-worthy UNESCO world heritage town is just north of the Harz mountains. Twee alleys of 1,100 year-old half-timbered houses lead up to the collegiate church at the center of the town. 

But there’s more to do in Quedlinburg than glowing up your Insta feed. The town is filled to the brim with little independent galleries, history museums and cosy cafes and restaurants offering everything from local delicacies to fine dining. 

Happy shoppers will find it hard to resist the unique stores and boutiques in Quedlinburg’s historic houses. 

And for travellers with itchy feet, the nearby mountains offer an exciting escape. There are biking and hiking tours in the Harz a-plenty, each as charming as the next. 

Schrecksee, Bavaria

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You’ll have to pinch yourself a few times when you get to Schrecksee: the views are unreal. 

This picturesque alpine lake on the Austrian border isn’t the easiest to get to. It takes a seven hour trek on foot to get to, and so is one for the hikers, wanderers and wild campers among us. 

However, the walk over the Allgäu is breath-taking – in all senses, as the Schrecksee is at an altitude of 5,949 feet. Once you’ve reached the top, you can bathe in the refreshing water and the mysterious atmosphere of the lake. 

You can stay in the nearby Bad Hindelang, where there are plenty of luxurious hotels (but also Airbnbs and hostels!), which is famous as a spa and health resort. 

Meersburg am Bodensee, Baden-Württemberg 

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For those who are looking for stunning views without having to sweat for it, Meersburg is the place to be. 

Here culture reigns supreme with a whole tick-list of sights to see, including a medieval castle, a baroque palace, museums galore and lots of historical spots around the town. 

What makes Meersburg particularly special, is that on top of all this, it has a fantastic location. Nestled into a vineyard-landscape on a hill overlooking the sea, it has endless romantic viewpoints hidden along the roads and paths. 

Add to this the fresh fish, local wine and the local delicacies of sea-vegetables, and you’re sure to have a memorable and indulgent holiday here. 

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Is Leipzig really Germany’s ‘ultimate travel destination’?

The Saxonian city of Leipzig has been named by traveller’s bible Lonely Planet as its “ultimate” travel tip for Germany. Does the Local Germany’s knowledgeable readership agree?

The city centre of Leipzig.
The city centre of Leipzig. Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild

Long a cult favourite among Germany fans, the left-wing city of Leipzig appears to now be gaining mainstream recognition after the Lonely Planet crowned it the country’s top travel destination this week.

In a new book titled “Ultimate German Travel Destinations – the top 250”, the travel publisher put Leipzig ahead of picturesque getaways such as Lake Constance and the Zugspitze as its number one destination.

“The hype that some say surrounds the city isn’t hype t all: Leipzig really is hipper than Berlin, and hotter than Munich, especially among millennials,” the guidebook boldly claims.

It goes on to lavish praise on the city of 600,000 inhabitants as “young, exciting, multifaceted – sometimes colourful, sometimes grey – and with a vibrant liveliness.”

“Everyone wants to go to the city where the anti-GDR demonstrations started,” the guidebook continues. “It is the home of Auerbachs Keller (made famous by Goethe and Faust); it’s the city of street art and wave gothic festivals; and its artistic scene at the Baumwollspinnerei is second to none.”

READ ALSO: A love letter to the eastern German city of Leipzig

‘Not cooler than Berlin’

Reaction to the list among the Local’s readership was mixed.

“It is a beautiful city and it’s easy to navigate. I find it hard to say that it’s cooler than Berlin, though. Berlin simply has more,” one reader told us on Facebook. “It’s the kind of place where people find their ‘spot.” I think most people in Leipzig know about most places in Leipzig. It’s a much smaller city. That may just be a more favourable lifestyle for some.”

Praise for Saxony’s biggest city ranged from admiration for the beauty of its architecture (particularly its train station) to the vibrancy of its arts scene.

Others suggested that Leipzig is indeed overhyped and that it can’t compete with natural wonders such as the pristine Königssee in the Bavarian Alps.

Lake Constance wins silver

Lake Constance, the country’s largest body of fresh water, came in second on the list.

The authors praised the southern See, which borders Switzerland and Austria, for “the many beautiful spots on its shores: Lindau, Meersburg, Überlingen, Constance and more – often surrounded by lush orchards.”

A regatta on the Bodensee in September 2021. Photo: dpa | Felix Kästle 

Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall came in third. 

“It’s impossible to imagine the Hanseatic city’s skyline without this glass work of art, which soars into the sky above the harbour like a frozen wave,” the book notes.

Also in the top ten were the Wattenmeer, which is a huge nature reserve on the North Sea coast, Berlin’s museum island, the sandstone hills of Saxony, and Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze in Bavaria.