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.

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Holiday like a local: Five of the best camping regions in Germany

If you want to embrace Germany's nature and holiday like a local, look no further than these camping spots.

Holiday like a local: Five of the best camping regions in Germany
Tourists stand on the Bastei rock at sunrise in the Saxon Switzerland National Park and take a selfie. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp Schulze

Germans are renowned for their love of nature. And it’s no wonder – with sprawling nature reserves, soaring mountain ranges and expansive heaths, Germany has a lot to offer.

So what better way to explore the outdoors than pitching up a tent? Here are five unmissable camping areas that draw Germans (and a growing number of foreigners) in. 

The Black Forest

You’ve probably heard Germans gushing about how scenic this particular spot is, so there’s no way it could be omitted from this list. The Black Forest (‘Schwarzwald’ in German) is located in south-west Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg. It is a forested mountain region with a few scattered villages and towns in the area. 

Although wild camping is illegal in the forest, as in the whole of Germany, due to the region’s popularity as a camping spot there are a huge number of campsites in the area covering a large range of different price ranges and offering a range of amenities. 

Some top picks are the Campingplatz Weiherhof, which is located on the edge of the glacial Lake Titisee, and the Campingplatz Trendcamping Wolfach im Schwarzwald, which is known for its unbeatable views. 

READ ALSO: The six types of hikers you’re bound to spot in Germany

The soaring pine trees in the Schwarzwald National Park is a must-see for all nature lovers, Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uli Deck

From here, you’ll also be set to visit some of the beautiful places in the area such as Baden-Baden, a spa town with a towering reputation for its architecture and art, Calw, the birthplace of Hermann Hesse, or Freiburg, a university town with a young and lively population. You could also check out the Allerheiligen ruins, a 12th century monastery tucked away in a quiet valley nearby. 

On top of this, when you’re not peacefully absorbing the picturesque landscapes and views, there are endless activities on offer, which will always make for a family-friendly trip. You could travel easily to the Black Forest’s open-air museum, to an ancient castle which has historically been the residence of the Prussian royal family, or to the Europa Park, Germany’s largest theme park. 

The Mecklenburg Lake District

Located in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, this district is part of what makes the state one of Germany’s top tourist destinations. It is sometimes nicknamed the ‘land of a thousand lakes’, where countless bodies of water are punctuated by nature reserves and undisturbed stretches of green. 

There is plenty to amuse you even in this sparsely populated region. Three of Germany’s fourteen national parks are in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and within close distance of the lake district are towns like Neustrelitz and Müritzeum, palaces like the Güstrow Palace and even an important bear sanctuary. Water sports are also a key selling point for this region. 

Fancy waking up to views like this? Then Malchow, in the Mecklenburg Western-Pomeranian lake district, should be your first port of call. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

READ ALSO: Travel in Germany: 10 must-see places within reach of Berlin

You’ll have a range of campsites to choose from here as well, catering to all needs and budgets. If you have a higher budget you can even rent a houseboat without needing any prior experience of boating. 

It is easily reached from major cities like Berlin or Hamburg via train, car or bus.

The Campingplace at Krakower See is always a popular campsite in this area, situated at the edge of the Krakow Lake so you can wake up and dive immediately into the cool water. Campingplatz Sternberger Seenland is also in the area, and offers log cabins, mobile caravans and bungalows as well as space for pitching tents, whilst the Campingplatz am Zwenzower Ufer is surrounded by forests and small lakes and specialises in supporting eco-camping. 

The Bavarian Alps

This is a world-renowned beauty spot which will offer you a camping experience you’ll never forget. From its sprawling green fields to its villages seemingly in miniature, its imposing castles to its towering mountains and spires and crystal-clear waters, camping out here will feel like walking straight into the pages of a fairytale. 

READ ALSO: The five best Bavarian lakes for a spring day trip

The Alps run along Germany’s southern border with Austria, and are close to the cities of Munich, Salzburg and Innsbruck. There are a number of campsites located in and around the Alps, offering everything from the bare basics to a high-end luxury glamping experience complete with saunas and bathhouses for the colder months. 

Stunning hiking routes, soaring peaks and crystal clear lakes make the Bavarian alps an immensely popular spot for campers. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

Although the most popular activity in the Alps by far is skiing, there are also lovely opportunities for hiking. There are a tonne of hiking trails and guides online, as trekking through the Bavarian alps is a rite of passage for any experienced hiking enthusiast. 

READ ALSO: REVEALED: 10 of the best hiking day trips from Munich

You’re more likely to come here for the range of legendary landscapes than for the activities and scheduled fun available, but there are plenty of historic places to visit. Monasteries, abbeys, palaces and castles are all within easy distance of key camping sites. 

One major attraction of the Bavarian Alps is the large number of castles in the surrounding area. Particular attractions are Hohenschwangau, an ancient fortress, and Neuschwanstein, one of the most famous castles in Germany. 

You might try out the Campsite Brugger am Riegsee, which has beautiful panoramic views, an emphasis on eco-camping and various different pricing options, or Fuchs Kur-Camping, which doubles as a health and fitness spa. 

Elbe Sandstone Mountains

This mountain range sits on the border between Saxony and the North Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. It has been a popular tourist destination for over 200 years, especially for climbers, due to its 14,000 climbing routes. 

But it’s not just climbers that can find something to remember in this idyllic spot. If you stay here you’ll be close to the famous Bastei rock formation, the Königstein Fortress, the Kirnitzsch valleys and the Kamenice rivers, so you won’t be at a loss for things to see and do.

The mountains were historically a place to go to cure and rehabilitate sickly people, so you might even find some unexpected health perks from spending a few days out in the open here.

After spending the night under the stars, why not scale one of the breathtaking hiking trails in the Sandstone Mountains at sunrise? Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains have also inspired work by Caspar David Friedrich, Richard Wagner, Carl Maria von Weber and more, so who knows? Maybe you’ll even leave your excursion with the first draft of a novel or opera forming in your mind…

There are a huge range of camping sites in the area, but you’ll find that the camping experience is far less conventional here than in most places.

Taking advantage of one exception to Germany’s ban on wild camping, some climbers choose to ‘cave camp’ in the mountains in a tradition named ‘boofen’. There are designated areas for this practice, which is still subject to a few rules: no tents (only sleeping bags), no littering, and no fires. 

The highest rated campsites in the area are Camping am Treidlerweg, which includes a number of different facilities and activities, and the Campingplatz Ostrauer Mühle, which is a large campsite with a lot of amenities near to a lot of popular hiking spots.

Lüneburg Heath

This area is in northern Germany and consists mostly of nature reserves. For entertainment there are lots of walking, hiking and cycling routes where you are directed to look out for rare animals and plants, as the area is renowned for its biodiversity. 

FIND OUT MORE: VIDEO: Watch Germany’s 7 natural wonders for Earth Day

There are plenty of activities to enjoy while camping at Lüneberg Heath, including talking a dizzying walk along the Heath’s famous Treetop Walk. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp Schulze

Because the heath is surrounded by rivers, there are ample opportunities for swimming and canoeing. If you’re taking a longer holiday and missing city life somewhat, you can also get to Hamburg, Hanover or Bremen without too much hassle.

There are plenty of campsites to pitch up in here, though not the same range that you might find in other places on this list. However, if you’re interested in conservation, this will definitely be the place for you.

One of the most popular campsites here is the CampingPark Südheide, which is situated near woodland and meadows and by the side of a heathland stream. You could also camp at Röders’ Park, a premium campsite with stellar reviews which is particularly suitable for seniors or older families, or Südsee-Camp, which is family-friendly and offers activities like skating, rope trails, pool sports, horse-riding and even workshops in the creative studio.