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DISCOVER GERMANY

12 things you should do in Germany at least once

Germany is full of stunning natural landscapes, as well as cultural activities and culinary delights. Here are some of our favourites that you should try doing at least once.

Revellers celebrate Karneval in Cologne in February 2018.
Revellers celebrate Karneval in Cologne in February 2018. Photo: picture alliance / Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

1. Hike around Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz)

Germany is a land of outdoor sports enthusiasts and there is no shortage of places to put your hiking boots to the test.

But Saxon Switzerland, south-east of Dresden, is possibly the most stunning of all of the country’s hiking destinations.

Various hiking trails lead through the stunning rock formations of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and offer endless magnificent views.

2. See the original Disney castle

Perched on a cliffside in the Bavarian Alps is the magical Neuschwanstein castle – a must-see German tourist attraction.

The Neuschwanstein Castle in the Allgäu region in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Commissioned in the 19th century by the eccentric King Ludwig II, the castle became world famous when Walt Disney used it as the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle, which eventually became part of the iconic Disney logo.

For a particularly spectacular view, walk across the nearby Marienbrücke (Queen Mary Bridge), suspended 114 metres above Pollät Gorge.

3. Sip an Apfelwein in Frankfurt

For over 250 years, apple wine has been Frankfurt’s signature drink.

The area around Frankfurt is one of the richest fruit-producing regions in Germany so it’s no surprise that some of that precious produce has found its way into an alcoholic concoction. 

Called Ebbelwoi by some locals, ordered as a Schobbe by others, Apfelwein usually has an alcohol content of between 4.8 and 7 percent and is traditionally served in a geripptes glass or a stoneware mug known as a Bembel.

READ ALSO: ‘A megacity on a smaller scale’: The inside guide to Frankfurt

4. Strip off on an FKK beach

Though Germany’s Frei Körper Kultur (free body culture), which celebrates the beauty of the naked body, may be a little disconcerting at first for non-Germans, getting naked on a German beach is something you have to try at least once. 

A sign indicates the area of the nudist beach in Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Rehder

And who knows, once you’ve done it once, you may find yourself never wearing a bathing suit again.

5. Watch a football match at the Olympiastadion

Berlin’s Olympiastadion, which was built in 1936 and hosted the infamous summer Olympics of the same year, is worth a visit for its historical and architectural significance of the place itself.

But it’s even better to grab a seat at the 74,000 capacity stadium to watch home team Hertha BSC play a match against another Bundesliga team. 

The Hertha supporters are well known for their raucous and entertaining support, and always put on a good show from their spot in the stadium’s Ostkurve (east curve).

Since Germany goes wild for football, we’d also recommend visiting other stadiums or even checking out a local team! 

6. Try to get into Berghain

Germany’s world-famous techno nightclub – Berghain – is one of the most difficult clubs to get into in the world. 

Based in Berlin, the club is open from Friday to Monday and operates an exclusive door policy which often sees would-be clubbers turned away for reasons that are often hard to decipher.

Several hundred people line up in front of Berghain nightclub in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

However, it’s something you’ve got to try at least once – because even if you don’t get in, queuing with the hardcore techno fans on a Sunday morning is an experience in itself.

If you don’t make it past the door, try one of the many other clubs in Berlin and laugh about it with friends. 

7. Drink a beer at Oktoberfest

Downing a gigantic pitcher of frothy golden beer in a tent in Munich during Oktoberfest is an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. 

Oktoberfest is the world’s biggest public festival and takes place every year in late September. It sees thousands of Germans and international tourists donning the traditional dress of Lederhosen and Dirndls to celebrate and relax. 

If you haven’t been there yet, it returns this year. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s Oktoberfest to return in 2022 after pandemic pause

8. Take a thermal bath in Baden-Baden

Thanks to its mild climate and hot springs, the town of Baden-Baden has been (literally) a hotspot for spa lovers since Roman times.

The thermal water in the Black Forest region bubbles out of 18 different springs and there are plenty of spas you can visit for a soothing dip.

9. Behold the home of Bauhaus

Bauhaus is an iconic art school that started in Weimar just after the first world war. Characterised by simple geometric shapes like rectangles and spheres and without elaborate decorations, the Bauhaus style flourished throughout the 1920s.

Replicas of the figures of the “Triadic Ballet” by Oskar Schlemmer are shown in the exhibition of the Bauhaus Museum in Dessau. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

When political pressure led to the centre of Bauhaus art leaving Weimar, a new building designed by Walter Gropius, the institution’s founder, was built in Dessau to be the movement’s new home.

Nowadays, the Bauhaus Building in Dessau remains the spiritual home of the movement and is home to a museum that shows off some the era’s most stunning creations.

10. Dress up at Karneval

If you want to see what millions of Germans are like when they let their hair down – then go to the carnival in Cologne (or one of the other places it is celebrated).

Every year in February, millions of revellers take to the streets dressed in wacky attire to celebrate the ancient springtime festival.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about celebrating carnival in Germany

Cologne has the biggest carnival celebration in Germany, followed by Dusseldorf and Mainz. The celebrations in these big cities and all over the Rheinland are full of colourful costumes, a lot of alcohol, joyful songs, and crazy parties. 

11. Have a Glühwein at a Christmas market

Germany’s Christmas markets are known all over the world for their magical festive atmosphere and charming stalls selling handicrafts and tasty treats. 

One of the best of those treats is Glühwein, hot wine cooked with oranges, cinnamon, cloves and usually served in a decorative mug.

12. Order Königsberger Klopse

Forget Currywurst, Käsespätzle and Bretzels – Königsberge Klopse is the ultimate German dish that you have to eat at least once.

The more than 200-year-old recipe comes from Königsberg – the former capital of Prussia and today’s Kaliningrad – and consists of minced meat meatballs, bread, egg, mustard and anchovies (yes – that’s right). Then you let them steep in a meat broth with onions, allspice, bay leaf and pepper. You’ll find it in many traditional German restaurants – and there are even vegan versions. 

READ ALSO: The 10 heartiest German dishes to get you through winter

What else do you recommend trying in Germany? Let us know by emailing [email protected]

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DISCOVER GERMANY

9 things to know if you’re visiting Germany in December

From Christmas markets to local holidays, here's what you need to know when visiting Germany this December.

9 things to know if you're visiting Germany in December

If you’re travelling to (or around) Germany this December, here are a few key things to keep in mind, from Covid restrictions – or lack thereof – to the best Christmas cookies to scoff down guilt-free. 

No more Covid restrictions for travel to Germany

Unlike the past two holiday seasons, no negative coronavirus test or vaccine card is required to enter Germany by plane, train, bus or other overland transport. 

While Germany specifies that anyone coming from a virus-variant region faces restrictions such as quarantine and a test requirement, it currently does not list any countries that fall into this category.

Still a few nationwide rules

Until April 7th, 2023, Germany still has a few COVID rules in place. FFP2 masks are required in all long-distance public transport, with children ages 6-13 allowed to wear medical OP masks.

Those entering a hospital or care facility will need both an FFP2 mask and a COVID test. Anyone entering a doctor’s office or other medical practice is also required to don an FFP2 mask.

READ ALSO: Will Germany get rid of masks in public transport?

Otherwise, each of Germany’s 16 states has its own rules. While most still require masks on local public transport, a handful of states have voiced plans to drop the requirement soon.

Local holidays 

While St. Nicholas Day on December 6th is not an official public holiday in Germany, it’s celebrated by almost all families and for some is a bigger gift-giving occasion than Christmas itself.

READ ALSO: Why is Nikolaustag celebrated before Christmas itself?

December 24th and 31st are not official holidays, but most local employees give at least half of the day off as a gesture of goodwill. 

Note that Germans open gifts on Christmas Eve (or Heiligabend, Holy Evening), usually after a special dinner with close family members. Then on the 25th, they gather for the first celebration day (Erster Feiertag) with extended family. 

December 26th, which falls on a Monday this year, is a day off.

Candles decorate a Christmas tree in a living room. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Christmas markets are on again

After two winters of being fully or partially closed due to Covid restrictions, Germany’s beloved Weihnachtsmärkte are now back in full swing. You will find them everywhere you go, from big cities to the tiniest of towns. 

READ ALSO: Seven unmissable Christmas markets that open this week in Germany

While each has its own regional twist, you can sample staple treats such as Glühwein, or mulled wine, Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread) and Stollen

Everything is more expensive

While it’s dipped slightly, inflation in Germany is still 10 percent, which has led to price increases for everything from daily groceries to energy bills and dining out.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Germany

Even the Christmas markets are more expensive this year due to higher prices for the Glühwein mugs. This means some markets in Berlin are charging almost €5 for the Pfand (deposit) for that first glass of mulled wine.

The same applies to ski resorts with hotels, lift tickets and restaurants all costing more this year.

It’s not too warm to ski

While Austria and Switzerland are the best known in the German speaking-world for their ski resorts, there are still many options in Germany starting at the beginning of December, especially in the south of the country. Like nearly everything else, though, expect some hefty price increases. 

The top resorts in Germany include (but are not limited to) Arber, Alpsee-Grünten, Garmish-Partenkirchen, Winklmoosalm-Steinplatte, Oberstdorf, Winterberg and Oberjoch.

Advent countdown 

Starting December 1st, Germans count down the days till Christmas with either a homemade or store-bought Adventkalendar. Traditionally, children open a small door each day to receive a tiny piece of chocolate, but in recent years it’s been possible to find calendars offering all sorts of small goodies, from a daily new flavour of tea to different dog treats.

READ ALSO: How do Germans celebrate Christmas? 

Christmas treats 

German restaurants have special menus for all seasons and occasions, and the holiday season is no exception. Check for a special ‘Weihnachtskarte’ (Christmas menu) with Gänsebraten (roasted geese) usually featured as the main specialty. And everywhere you go you can sample a batch of Weihnachtskekse (Christmas cookies), in all shapes and sizes. Many are baked by local schools or charities, so you can alleviate some guilt in chowing down on Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) or Vanillekipferln (vanilla crescents).

Loud New Year’s Eve celebrations 

New Year’s Eve (or Silvester) is notorious in Germany for firecracker chaos. While people in Germany were banned for two years from setting them off due to coronavirus restrictions, fireworks should be back in full swing this year – especially in the centre of big cities. So watch where you step, or if you’re lucky, look out of your window with a glass of champagne and enjoy the countdown till 2023.

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