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Germany has so much to offer its visitors: sprawling alps, winding rivers, lush valleys, and about 20,000 elegant castles. The country also has an incredibly complicated history, reflected in its many monuments and museums. With so much to see and do, it’s hard to decide what truly deserves a place on your German bucket list! Here are what we consider to be the top 12 tourist attractions in Germany, in no particular order.
Though now in ruins, Heidelberger Schloss (Heidelberg Castle) remains an impressive structure that can be seen from nearly anywhere in Heidelberg. Nestled in the rich green forest of the Königstuhl hillside, some 80 metres from the rest of the city, the castle can be reached by funicular railway or by stairs. Once at the top, take in the views of the city below (including the Neckar River and the Old Bridge), take in the impressive Renaissance architecture, roam the castle’s gardens, and visit the Heidelberg Tun - the World’s Largest Wine Barrel! For these reasons and more, Heidelberg is considered one of the best cities to visit in Germany.
- Best time to visit: The castle is open year-round, with the heaviest crowds in the summer. Visit in the spring for good weather but less crowds.
- Entrance fee: EUR 7 for adults, EUR 4 reduced (includes use of the Funicular Railway, Great Tun, German Apothecary Museum)*
It’s impossible to miss the towering Fernsehturm as you explore Berlin! Standing 368 metres tall, the Television Tower is the tallest structure in Germany and was originally built by the German Democratic Republic as a symbol of communist power. While the tower is primarily used for broadcasting TV and radio stations, you can also visit its observation deck for incredible panoramic views of the cosmopolitan city of Berlin. Be sure to grab a drink at the bar or, if you’re really feeling fancy, have a bite at the tower’s rotating restaurant.
- Best time to visit: Visit late at night (21:00 - 23:00) for cheaper tickets and sparkling views of the city
- Entrance fee: Adults from EUR 13 and children from EUR 8.50*
With so much to offer its visitors, we’re considering the entire town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber one of Germany’s top tourist attractions. Prepare to step back in time, as this medieval town has been virtually untouched since the early 1600s. We highly recommend climbing the tower of the Town Hall, where you’ll be able to look out over the town’s red roofs (they look like gingerbread houses from up there) and the winding Tauber River beyond the town walls.
- Best time to visit: Rothenburg ob der Tauber can be fairly crowded year-round, and is beautiful in all seasons. Visit in December for some gorgeous Christmas markets.
- Entrance fee: Free
Though Berlin has many famous monuments, the Brandenburg Gate with its sandstone columns and its horse-drawn chariot is possibly the most recognizable of them all. The monument was built in 1791 in honor of King Frederick William II and is modelled after the Acropolis in Athens. Though it was once a symbol of oppression as part of the infamous Berlin Wall, today it is recognized as a symbol of peace and unity, along with being an ode to Germany’s complicated history. You can walk right up to the gate as it is surrounded by a pedestrian area. Many walking and cycling tours of the city departing in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
- Best time to visit: This attraction is best seen at night, when you can enjoy it shining in its surrounding yellow floodlights while eating some street food.
- Entrance fee: Free
A gorgeous example of High Gothic architecture, the Cologne Cathedral is the main attraction for this German city. Nestled on the banks of the River Rhine, this cathedral covers nearly 6,200 square meters of space and consists of 56 gorgeous, massive pillars. Pop inside to see the cathedral’s incredible stained-glass windows, dating back to the 12th century, and climb the South Tower for panoramic views of Cologne.
- Best time to visit: The Cathedral is usually open from 6:00 – 21:00 and 13:00 – 16:30 on Sundays. Do plan a visit on a Sunday if you wish to attend a church service.
- Entrance fee: EUR 3*
Perhaps one of the most photographed tourist attractions in Germany, Neuschwanstein is an impressive fairytale-like castle that inspired Walt Disney to create his most famous park, Magic Kingdom. In fact, it is quite easy to see the resemblance between this 19th-century castle and Cinderella’s castle. Surrounded by sweeping valleys, towering mountains and beautiful lakes, Neuschwanstein is best viewed from Marienbrücke, or Mary’s Bridge — a bridge over the Pöllat Gorge that offers stunning views of the castle and the scenery around it.
- Best time to visit: Visit during the winter months for fewer crowds and spectacular views of the castle and surrounding hills covered in snow
- Entrance fee: EUR 13. Free for children under 18*
You’ll have to plan wisely if you plan to visit this tourist attraction, as it only happens once a year over the course of 16 to 18 days. Running from the end of September until the first weekend of October, Oktoberfest attracts an incredible 6 million visitors every year. It’s a full-fledged celebration of German heritage, beer, hendl (roast chicken), würstl (sausage), knödel (dumplings) and other traditional fare. While celebrations occur all over the country (and, in fact, all over the world), the largest parties can be found in Munich and wider Bavaria. If you would like to know more then, please read our Insider's Guide on Oktoberfest.
- Best time to visit: Runs only from the end of September until the beginning of October. Be sure to research specific dates in advance.
- Entrance fee: Free (varies by location)
No visit to Berlin is complete without seeing one of the world’s most famous walls. The Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) separated East Germany (including East Berlin) from West Berlin from 1961 until 1990, when it was eventually demolished. You can still visit some of the wall’s remnants, including Checkpoint Charlie (a well-known crossing point along the wall) and the remaining stretch near Ostbahnhof. Sections of the wall, often graffitied with political messages and symbols of peace, can also be found throughout the city — and around the world!
- Best time to visit: Anytime. The memorial site is open from Monday to Sunday 8:00 – 22:00
- Entrance fee: Free
Though far more sombre than many of the tourist attractions on this list, a visit to Dachau is an incredibly humbling experience that every visitor to Germany should take in. As the first of Germany’s concentration camps, Dachau is a memorial site offering a wealth of information on the more than 200,000 individuals imprisoned in the camp over a 12 year period. Guided tours and audio tours are available, taking you through various exhibits, the barracks, and the crematorium.
- Best time to visit: Anytime of the year. However, it is best to visit during warmer months as there is a lot to see outside.
- Entrance fee: Free (EUR 3* for an audio guide)
You don’t have to be a train or transportation aficionado to appreciate this miniature wonder. Located in the centre of Speicherstadt, the city’s historical district, this model railway (the world’s largest) will transport you from the Austrian Alps to Las Vegas and back again, all using more than 15,000 meters of track, 1,300 trains, and about 400,000 human figurines! You’ll want a couple of hours at least to appreciate the sheer scale and amount of fine detail at Miniatur Wunderland.
- Best time to visit: Visit on a weekday as soon as it opens (08:00) to avoid heavy crowds
- Entrance fee: EUR 13 for adults and EUR 6.50 for children under 16*
With a steep staircase leading up to this summer palace’s once copper dome and long yellow walls, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the Sanssouci summer palace for France’s Versailles. In fact, the two are often compared. Though Sanssouci is comprised of just ten rooms, much smaller than the Palace of Versailles, it is an impressive sight that shouldn’t be missed during your visit to Germany. After exploring the palace’s interior and taking in the gorgeous architecture, be sure to take a stroll through the surrounding park where you’ll find more than 3,000 fruit trees, countless greenhouses, and a sprawling flower garden in the baroque style.
- Best time to visit: Between May and October (to avoid any closures or limited operating hours)
- Entrance fee: EUR 12*
Floating in Lake Constance, near the city of Konstanz, you will find a small garden island named Mainau, another famous tourist attraction in Germany. Covering about 110 acres of land, the island is nicknamed ‘Flower Island’ as it is covered in parks and gardens teeming with vibrant, colorful flowers and about 500 species of trees, along with beautiful sculptures and fountains. Explore the island’s Italian rose garden, home to 500 varieties of roses, and the greenhouse, where you’ll find plenty of tropical and semitropical vegetation and thousands of butterflies.
- Best time to visit: Visit in the spring to enjoy the trees and flowers in full bloom
- Entrance fee: In summer, EUR 21 for adults, EUR 12 for students and free for children under 12. Half price entry after 5pm. In winter, EUR 10 for adults, EUR 6 for students and free for children under 12*.
Germany is a country full of interesting sites, rich culture, vibrant cities, stunning historical architecture, and lovely European landscapes. There is so much to see and do for the avid traveler. We suggest you take the time and explore all of these 12 sights, guaranteed you won't regret it!
*Please note: prices listed in the article are as of December, 2017