Top 10 Things to Do in Germany
(this was hard because there are many cool things)
1. Rothenburg ob der Tauber – The best place for Christmas in the world
This has to be the most picture perfect old European city in all of Europe. Christmas here is like being in a snow globe or fairy tale. The city is home to the famous Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store too. The walk along the top of the outer wall is fun. We loved just walking around and taking in the the feel of the city.
In the evening, a period actor does a night guided tour as he lights the old gas lamps. He does an amazing job of telling stories and playing the part. I recommend you stay for the evening and follow along. We got a hotel inside the walled city, which was much better than staying outside.
2. Neuschwanstein Castle – The castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle
“Mad King Ludwig II” commissioned the castle as a personal retreat in 1869. It was never meant to be a real castle in the sense of a fortified stronghold. Instead, Ludwig was a romantic who wanted to live the fairy tale (If you were king, wouldn’t you?). Unfortunately, he was murdered (drowned in the nearby lake) and never got to see it fully completed. To this day, it is unfinished. You can only imagine what it would look like if Ludwig survived.
You can only visit the castle on a 35 minute guided tour. Since it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, lines can be very long in peak season, so plan accordingly. You can also walk on your own on a path that takes you above the castle to Mary’s Bridge. From there you can see the castle from above.
You can also walk down to the lake and tour Ludwig I (the father) castle. It is not as elaborate as Neuschwanstein, but still worth a look. Plus, the lake is very nice to walk along.
3. Munich – Museums, shops, restaurants, Octoberfest, and the Glockenspiel
Munich lies in the heart of Bavaria. Bavaria is more than just the southern state of Germany. It is a distinct culture. Munich and Berlin have as much in common as Miami and Denver. People in Munich consider themselves Bavarian first and German second.
Munich is a very interesting city with loads to see and do. Every hour on the hour, you can watch and hear the Glockenspiel do its thing in the center of town. You can visit the famous tavern where a young Adolph Hitler staged the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. The German National Museum (kind of the equivalent of the U.S. Smithsonian) is definitely worth a few hours of your time. BMW world headquarters is also located here.
The Weißwurst (‘white sausage’) is a Munich specialty. Traditionally eaten only before 12:00 noon – a tradition dating to a time before refrigerators – these morsels are often served with sweet mustard and freshly baked pretzels.
4. Heidelberg – Go to the castle there
5. Checkpoint Charlie Museum – Cold War history
For those of us who grew up during the cold war, this is a big thrill. When the U.S.S.R. was in existence and occupied eastern Germany and the eastern half of Berlin, going behind the “iron curtain” was all but impossible for most Americans and western Europeans. Today, you can stroll right across the line where the wall once stood dividing the city. Checkpoint Charlie is a reminder of a time when Berlin was the clashing point of two super-powers. The museum houses artifacts from the cold war that include spy gadgets, military memorabilia, and devices and vehicles used by desperate Germans to escape east Berlin.
6. Christmas Market at Nuremberg – worth the wait until Christmas
Every German city has a Christmas market, but this is the original and still the biggest.
7. Burg Eltz – Rick Steve’s favorite castle in all of Europe
8. The Eagle’s Nest – Hitler’s infamous alpine retreat
The Eagles Nest was a gift to Adolph Hitler on his 50th birthday from the Nazi Party. It is as beautiful as it is impenetrable. We had lunch in what was once Hitler’s private living room.
9. Drive the Black Forest and German Alps – Breathtaking! (remember to have cake)
10. Dachau Concentration Camp – certainly not fun, but very moving and historical