Let's kick-start this new conversation space! What's your favorite destination in Germany and why?
There are so many good choices it is hard to pick a favorite. If I had to, I would probably say the Mosel valley. I love the river drifting through the hills and vineyards. I love the many hiking trails around the towns along the Mosel. So many of the towns can be visited in day trips from one location. Trier and it's Roman ruins provide a nice, different type of day trip from the other typical Mosel towns. The wine from the area is delicious! And I have many happy memories of spending days exploring different places in the Mosel valley, and nights relaxing on the vineyard-side terrace of my hotel in the Mosel valley. But Munich is also a favorite, and the Odenwald, and many others.
It is no secret that I love Frankfurt and love it a lot. It has so many interesting historical facets to it and combines everything that I love in a city. Having lived here for 27 years, you would think I would be bored with it, but I'm not. I find new things, new corners to explore, and new quirky bits of history all the time. The muli-cultural aspect of it is one of the more interesting facets, and the fact that it has been like this since the late 1500's means it affects the way the city has evolved. Having once had the largest Jewish population in Germany, has also affected how the city evolved. In the 1870's, it was 11%, and this certainly helped Frankfurt develop into the city it is today. Living in a city with so many museums, so many festivals, so many varied neighborhoods, and with such a lively population is a treat. One of my favorite things to do, is to show Frankfurt to Helpline readers when they come to visit.
I am also one to root for the underdog cities, the ones that others say to get out of as quick as possible, the cities that have maybe one or two "sights" to see, the ones that people ask if they are "worth" visiting. Milan, Brussels, Cologne, Koblenz, and yes, Frankfurt are all those types of cities. For me, they are more interesting then the others, as you need to try just a little bit harder to find the gems, but when you do, they are worth it. We won't talk about Heidelberg or Mainz here, both cities that offer a lot to see and do to the tourist, as consensus says, yes, they are well worth it, but Rick doesn't like them for some reason.
My 2nd favorite city is Berlin. Lots to see and do, and I love the cool mix of architecture and the vibe of the city. plus all the history sitting there, waiting to be explored. Not sure I would want to live there, but it sure is fun to visit.
If I had to pick another city in Germany to live in, it would probably be Büdingen. Every time I go there (and I go there a lot) I dream of buying one of those fachwerk houses and seeing what it would be like, living the small town life.
Two favorites- the Odenwald, and the Alps.
If you fly into Frankfurt on a clear day, look to the south. You'll see a range of low forested mountains. This is the Odenwald... figuratively, my backyard playground. Why do I love it? Well, it has almost everything people expect in Germany. Castles, both ruined and preserved. Beautiful, well-preserved towns and villages filled with Fachwerk... part of the Deutsche Fachwerkstraße passes through the region. History and legend: You find historical markers and ruins ranging from the Roman period to the Thirty Years War (several battles were fought in the area). Several of Grimm's fairy tales, parts of the Nibelungenlied (and by extension, Wagner's Ring Cycle), and the inspiration (if not the setting) of Weber's Der Freischütz all take place here. Although I wouldn't quite put it on the same level as the Mittelrhein, the Neckar River Valley, as it flows through the Odenwald, is definately a competitor to the Mosel, Danube and Elbe. Finally, most important to me, it's a hiker's paradise. Several thousand kilometers of hiking trails wrap through the forests, mountains, villages and pastures. And what you won't find- tour buses (well, maybe a few in Michelstadt and Miltenberg), trinket shops, large factories, highways or cities. Just the rural Germany of your travel dreams.
And the Alps- hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter. 'Nuff said.
I will have to visit Tom's Odenwald and Jo's Frankfurt.
I like the river towns of Franken (Franconia). I lived in Germany for 6 years and came to really enjoy the people and the places where they lived. I spent 3 of my years in Franken and going back rekindles my affection. I enjoy the historical context of Würzburg, Aschaffenburg, the wine villages on the Main River, Nürnburg, Bamburg, etc. (Even the oft despised Rothenburg ob der Tauber.) I love the rolling green countryside. The Alps have greater beauty and might be better for a first timer; but Franken feels like it is home to me. I seldom return to Germany without at least passing through the area.
My vote goes to the charming Bavarian lakeside town of Dießen am Ammersee.
In 1968 I went on a five-week student tour of Europe. The tour organizer put us up in fleabag hotels in London and Rome, and in university dorms in Paris. But for the week in Bavaria we stayed in private homes in Dießen. Nobody in town spoke English, and I had studied just enough German in high school to get by. I loved Dießen -- so much so that 45 years later (just three months ago) I took my wife back there on our 40th wedding anniversary trip. We found it even more wonderful than I remembered.
From the Munich Airport take the S8 train to the far end of the line at Herrsching, then cross the Ammersee to Dießen on one of the stately, century-old steamships of Ammersee Schiffahrt.
Berlin, by leaps and bounds, and I write this acknowledging Germany has many interesting sights and cities.
Berlin is the most dynamic big European city, a place where as I use to say the sense of change, that feeling of things being always on the move surpass the perception of open-air museification, be it in regard of food/dining, art and so on.
Jeff's Dießen is indeed a lovely, authentic, non-touristy, little-known Bavarian town with a fantastic setting on Ammersee Lake and a great base for visiting many destinations in southern Bavaria (good train connections.) Not my absolute favorite, but definitely high on my list.
My favorites have to be Munich and St. Goar. Munich is a fun city that combines history, parks, cobblestones, and beer gardens in a complete way. I have challenged myself to never visit Europe without a side trip to Munich, and so far I haven't! The Rhine River valley and St. Goar hold a special place for me and always will. While stationed in Hanau in the late 80's I often visited St. Goar and Rheinfels Castle. I still think it's one of the coolest castles I've ever visited. St. Goar itself is a quiet little town that is a perfect spot to relax for a day or two during a hectic touring schedule.
Munich. Great city center and lots to do.
Diessen is also reachable from Munich by regional trains with a change in Weilheim.
Munich: I don't really like big cities, but Munich doesn't feel like one to me. I've spent 23 nights there in 9 trips since 1987 and always enjoy it. Will be going back sooon.
Berchtesgaden: Been there four times since 2000.
Oberallgäu: I've been there 5 times for a week each time. Close to Kleinwalsertal, Lindau, Füssen.
Pfronten: First found it on the bus from the Oberallgäu to Füssen in 2001 and was impressed with the beauty of the town. Went through it 5 times before I stayed there for two nights in 2009. Went back for a night this year. Very affordable, convenient gateway to Füssen and pleasant to stay in on it's own right.
Bad Herrenalb: Part of the northern Black Forest. Great spa and hiking. Good access to other towns (Bad Wildbad, Calw, Freudenstadt, Karlsruhe) in the area.
Harz NP: Mountainous island of pine forest in the otherwise flat northern Germany. Northern Germany's highest mountain, the Brocken, is there. Close to Goslar, Bad Harzburg, Wernigerode, Quedlinburg.
I'm joining Andre and saying Berlin. It's such amazing place. The 20th century history is such an incredible story and then the vitality of the city today make it a wonderful place.
I spent many months south of Stuttgart in the Schabian Alp. It's beautiful place to go that is off the beaten track. The landscape, the apple orchards, the apple drinks, the easy access to other parts of Europe all made it a marvelous place to stay for six months.
Potsdam The city is much more than just Sanssouci. Most people don't even see everything Sanssouci has to offer, but Sanssouci is actually only one part of a much bigger park landscape. To fully appreciate the city you need at least three days... and you need to slow down. Potsdam was were the Prussian kings relaxed, and so should the modern traveller. Do a picknick at Babelsberg palace, which overlooks the lakes and the famous spy bridge, walk to some of the ruins, pavillons, churches and belvederes that are scattered around the city, rent a bike, do a boat tour to Peacock Island, see a village or two, like Caputh, where Albert Einstein lived etc.
Baltic Coast Almost unknown to foreign tourists (and Rick Steves), but one of the most popular destination for Germans. The region offers something for everyone. Impressive, preserved towns like Lübeck, Wismar, Stralsund, Güstrow or Schwerin, beautiful spa towns with wonderful architecture from the 19th century like Binz, Sellin, Heiligendamm, Bansin, Alhbeck or Heringsdorf, cozy fishermens villages like Born, Wieck, Wustrow or Warnemünde, endless sandy beaches on the Darß peninsula, on Usedom island (10 miles long) and Rügen, or car-free places like Hiddensee. The area is perfect for all outdoor activities, and in the hinterland you can rent a houseboat and explore the Mecklenburg Lake District.
Erzgebirge or Ore Mountains. These are the border mountains between Saxony and Bohemia, and everything there is related to mining. The mountains were colonized in the Middle Ages because of mining (called Berggeschrey = mining clamour, a medieval gold rush), and all the towns and villages were founded because of mining. Almost every little village offers at least one visitor mine or some other historic sights related to mining, like hammer mills, mining stores, horse gins, hat houses or huge mining sink holes. You can even find the influence of mining in churches like the one in Annaberg-Buchholz, and if you leave this church, cross the street and enter the town museum you can visit yet another visitor mine (in the middle of the town). And although mining ended 50-150 years ago it still not only defines the culture of the Ore mountains to this day (where people don't greet you with Guten Tag but the old miners' greeting Glück Auf for example) but Christmas worldwide, as you can read here: Longing for light. The Ore mountains, and no other region, are Germanys Christmas country.
Saxon Switzerland maybe other mountains are higher, but no other mountains in Germany are more picturesque. These are very small and compact mountains, and without a very good hiking map you will never find all the small, hidden hiking trails that make Saxon Switzerland so unique. Hiking there is great fun, even for people who usually don't like to hike (i.e. children and teenagers with their parents), because of all the ladders, steps, gorges, walls, views etc. Here is a nice gallery: Click here
Frankfurt made the NY Times top places to visit in 2014. We got the #12 spot!
I love the Mosel valley, particularly Bernkastel-Kues. The half timbered buildings and abundant wine shops makes this a favorite destination. Berchtesgaden is a close second with its charm. I really enjoyed the salt mine tours and the views from the Eagles Nest, although I was a bit disappointed at how commercialized it was. Lastly, I'm a fan of Heidelberg, which in my opinion, doesn't get the attention it deserves. The castle is very pretty, nestled atop the hill overlooking the city. Hiking up the Philosopher's Way on the opposite side of the river gives stunning views of the city while providing an interesting history with the unscathed Nazi amphitheater located along the trail followed by a ruined Monastery.
I agree with Amanda. Bernkastel-Kues is by far my favorite town in Germany. The old buildings alongside the Mosel. The cute little fountain in the center. They have the best gelato I have ever had, even better than Italy.
I agree with some of the others, the Mosel River valley is a beautiful, peaceful area to visit. I've stayed in Beilstein (a very pretty little town) and also in Zell (also charming; home of the Schwarze Katze wine). But my favorite is the very picturesque, well-preserved medieval walled town of Rothenburg ob de Tauber. Yes, it is very touristy, but there's good reason for that. Go in May or September and the weather will be nice and it won't be crowded with tourists.