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DISCOVER GERMANY

7 of the best destinations for an autumn break in Germany

Though the hot summer days are long gone, autumn in Germany can be just as charming. Here are 7 great places to visit in the colder months.

The Neuschwanstein Castle peeps out behind a tree in the autumn sunshine.
The Neuschwanstein Castle peeps out behind a tree in the autumn sunshine. Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa

1. Allgäu

Though stunning all year round, the mountainous region of Ällgau in southern Bavaria is particularly beautiful at this time of year. Varied hiking trails offer explorers plenty of fresh air and autumnal landscapes, as well as impressive historical landmarks.

A particularly pleasant hiking path for all abilities begins at the Immenstadt train station and leads via the sleepy hamlet of Zaumberg up to the picturesque Siedelalpe, to the Großer Alpsee (big Alp lake).

The Allgäu region is also dotted with charming historical castles, like the 19th-century fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle, the nearby Hohenschwangau Castle and the ruins of the centuries-old Eisenberg and Hohenfreyberg castles which all offer spectacular mountain views.

Trees around the Neuschwanstein castle take on autumn colours. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

The Neuschwanstein castle and surrounding area have a particularly special charm at this time of year. As the castle itself closes at 6pm, visitors have plenty of time to descend the peak to watch the autumn sunset over the Alpsee lake next to the Museum of the Bavarian Kings.

2. The Moselle Valley

Romantic wine villages, fairytale castles and palaces, varied hiking trails and steep and vineyard-covered slopes characterise the stunning Moselle region in Rhineland-Palatinate.

READ ALSO: 10 unmissable events in Germany this October

The region, which follows the meandering path of the Moselle river from Trier to Koblenz, is widely considered one of the most impressive river landscapes in Europe.

The sun rises over the Moselle village of Detzem and the vineyards. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Harald Tittel

The autumn months are a great time for taking long walks through the vineyards or for sitting in the courtyard of a winegrower in the fading sun with a glass of Moselle wine.

Those who enjoy a sporty holiday can explore the Moselle Cycle Path, which starts in France and runs for over 300 kilometres to Koblenz. On the German stretch of the tour, there are plenty of opportunities to make a stop at one of the small wine-growing villages such as Bernkastel-Kues, one of the most beautiful towns in Germany.

3. The Black Forest

With its mystical lakes, enchanted paths and dense forest – the varied nature of the black forest region makes it a perfect destination for an autumnal break.

A woman walks along a hiking trail along Feldberg in the southern Black Forest. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

Autumn offers the perfect backdrop for a tour by mountain bike or a hike through the forest. In the winegrowing villages, wine taverns offer regional specialities and, along the Baden Wine Route, visitors have a choice of several wine festivals to enjoy on autumn weekends.

READ ALSO: German words you need to know: Die Herbstfärbung

In clear autumn weather, the Feldbergsteig peak offers magnificent views as far as the Vosges Mountains and, even as far as the Alps.

4. The German Islands

Vastly popular in summer, the German islands in the North and Baltic Seas offer a quieter, but no less picturesque, retreat in the colder months.

By early autumn Rügen’s beech trees start to turn yellow and are a particularly breathtaking sight from the top of the famous chalk cliffs which stretch along 15 kilometres of coastline. In the autumn, visitors can also enjoy a natural spectacle, as flocks of cranes make a stopover on the Baltic Sea island during their journey south.

The deciduous trees on the chalk coast in the Jasmund National Park on the island of Rügen. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

Autumn on the North Sea island of Sylt – which is hugely popular in summer – is characterised by deserted beaches which are perfect for long, bracing walks.

The offshore salt marshes and the Wadden Sea on the North Sea Island of Pellworm also have their own special charm at this time of year.  A stiff breeze sweeps over the rugged landscape making the island the perfect place for refreshing autumnal walks.

5.  The Mecklenburg Lake District

With over 1000 lakes and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ancient Beech Forest, the lake district in Mecklenburg West-Pomerania is a great place to discover nature in autumn, by foot, by bike or even canoe. 

The sun rises in the fog behind Schwerin Castle. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

Also, from October 8th to 23rd, over 2000 stately homes and manor houses throughout the state open their doors to the public. With castle and park tours, concerts, exhibitions, readings and numerous culinary events, there are a wide variety of cultural offerings to choose from for visitors to the region. Find the full programme of the Schlösserherbst (“manor houses autumn”) here (in German).

6. Regensburg

While millions of people will be flocking to Munich this autumn for the return of Oktoberfest, the Bavarian city of Regensburg, 120 km to the north, is also well worth a visit at this time of year.

The Stone Bridge on the Danube. In the background, St. Peter’s Cathedral in the old town of Regensburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

A stroll along the banks of the Danube river in the autumn sun is particularly captivating, while the highlights of the ancient city – including St. Peter’s Cathedral, the famous Stone Bridge and Bismarck Square and the Presidential Palace – are perfect to discover at this time of year. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

Just outside the city gates, the Bavarian Forest also offers numerous opportunities for outdoor activities.

7. Lüneberg Heath

Lüneberg Heath, a huge nature park made up of heath and woodland in northern Germany, is one of the best places to admire the unique beauty at this time of year.

The oldest nature reserve in Germany, Lüneberg Heath is also one of the largest areas of protected woodland in the country, making it the perfect place to see the variety of foliage turn from green to olden yellow.

The sun rises over Lüneberg Heath. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp Schulze

The Heath is a great place for hiking at cycling in autumn, as chestnuts and acorns crunch underfoot and numerous cosy inns dotted throughout the region welcome weary hikers with hearty, autumnal cuisine.

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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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