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North half of Germany Itinerary Help Please

Myself (45) and my daughter (25) are planning our 20 night trip to Germany for Aug/Sept. We plan to fly in and out of Berlin. We will train travel, we will not have a car. We are interested in a mix and small and large. Urban, rural, village destinations. Also interested in more off the beaten path destinations as we would like to see more of authentic German life and I don't love crowds. Very interested in regional food, bakeries, coffee shops. We do plan some museums, castles, churches, old towns, shopping, light hiking. We have a tentative destination list. But it seems we have an extra 4 nights to fill. Any niche sites, towns, destinations in the upper half of Germany that you recommend?

Current ideas
Nights 1-4 Berlin (Berlin sites, museums, day trip to Potsdam
Nights 5-7 Erfurt (day trips to Wartburg Castle and Weimer bauhaus museum)
?Here is where I think we have extra time, suggestions?
Nights 12-14 Bremen (day trip to Bremerhaven)
Nights 15-18 Hamburg (day trips to Lubeck, Luneburg)
Night 19 Schwerin
Night 20 Berlin

Vielen Dank!

Posted by
14580 posts

"I think we have extra time" In that general area I suggest Leipzig.

" the beaten path destinations....." I heartily suggest the towns in Schleswig-Holstein, unless you prefer seeing small places in eastern Germany between Berlin and Schwerin. Towns in Schleswig-Holstein well worth such trips are Eutin/Holstein, Schleswig, Husem, Heide.

Posted by
556 posts

I would also suggest Leipzig as well.

If you are in Dessau anyway because of the bauhaus museum, then there is also the 'Gartenreich of Dessau-Wörlitz' - UNESCO World Heritage.

Bremerhaven is really worth a visit with its Emigration Museum and the Climate House.

And as Fred has already mentioned, there are some places in Schleswig-Holstein that are worth to be visited. I love the area around Hamburg - Lüneburger Heide when the heath is in bloom in August. Or Stade I find is a very charming little town.

Posted by
27416 posts

The Buchenwald camp/memorial site is right outside Weimar.

I don't know how you'd fit it in, but the small city of Quedlinburg is stunning with its 2000 half-timbered buildings; it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cathedral treasury is small but rich; many of its most-valuable objects were stolen during the war by an American military man and only recovered in the 1990s. Apparently two are still missing.

Article from The Art Newspaper

Gifted article from The New York Times

Posted by
3903 posts

I like acraven's suggestion of Quedlinburg and, more generally, the Harz Mountains. That region lies between Erfurt and Bremen and would fit nicely into your trip, I think. There are multiple cool places in the area to to visit.

(scroll to the bottom of the page to see some of the small cities/towns in the area)

Posted by
7565 posts

Weimar in a historical, literary city with much more than the Bauhaus. Bach connections, for example. Erfurt has a very nice botanical garden with its own tram stop, EGApark. Do not miss the deconsecrated Synagogue museum in Erfurt. We had a car for travel from Erfurt to Quedlinburg and the Wartburg, so study train schedules carefully.

I agree that Leipzig is a great place to stay multiple nights. Consider Dessau/Worlitz Gartenreich UNESCO WHS as well.
(DDR state vacation scene shot on Rügen, I think)

Posted by
335 posts

In 1995 when I did a summer abroad class in college, one of our stops was in Weimar/Jena. It was fun to explore those two towns. It is such a beautiful area and really off the beaten path. A small group of us went to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. This one impacted me more than my visits to Dachau. At one point during the tour I had to go sit down because of all of the emotions. I don't know how it is now, but that visit hit me that we weren't in Western Germany any more - the signs now included Russian.

Weimar also had the most beautiful painted eggs. I brought 6 of them back and they all made it. We toured Goetha's House - which I recall being really interesting.

In Jena we visited a botanical conservatory. Another thing I remember is the Zeiss building is shaped like a pair of binoculars. Zeiss is known for their scientific glass.

Gera which is not too far is the sister city to my hometown (Fort Wayne, Indiana) and I have been wanting to visit here for a long time.

We did Northern Germany in 2017. We loved Bremen, Hamburg, Luneburg, Lubeck. It is interesting to see the Hansa part of Germany's history here. The architecture is amazing. Each of the four cities has very different feels to it. I really want to go back to these 4 places too.

This sounds like a wonderful trip!!!

Posted by
6797 posts

Nights 8-11 between Erfurt and Bremen:

You can stay geographically between these two cities and find LOTS to see. I'll share some charming small-ish places with local color that we've visited and that lie on or near your most direct rail route.

Hannoversch Münden
Bückeburg (Palace)
Schloss Marienburg (train to Nordstemmen + pleasant 40-min. walk or taxi)

Posted by
27416 posts

During the DDR era (or at least part of it) the Buchenwald camp was used to lock up enemies of the Communist regime. The camp has an English-language loaner booklet about that period.

Posted by
545 posts

I would put Glückstadt on your list. This is a really cute old town with very little tourism--you can do what the locals do and have a meal around the city square, walk along the dike, or visit the small local museum. It can be easily accessed by train from Hamburg.

I also second the idea of the Harz and Quedlinburg.

Posted by
14580 posts

Another vote for Weimar, called Deutschlands Dichterstadt, (city of poets). If you're interested in seeing the singular aspects of Germany cultural history, the houses/museums of those connected with German literature, Schiller, Goethe , Herder , Wieland are in Weimar. Weimar is one of my favourite small towns in German along with Potsdam, which is also on your itinerary.

See the famous Goethe-Schiller statue am Theaterplatz. In SF that statue can also be seen.

As to your preference for avoiding crowds and seeing the "more off the beaten path destinations," if you prefer staying in the greater Berlin area, say, instead of my suggestion of Schleswig-Holstein, I would suggest lovely small towns aside from Potsdam also Babelsberg, Neustrelitz, Rheinsberg, Neuhardenberg, the Spreewald and the town of Lübbenau,

This is one area where a rental car would be very useful if you want to get out the rural areas and villages of Brandenburg, (very revealing as to North German life ), where you'll be the only foreign visitor for miles around taking in all this.

Posted by
148 posts

I was in Erfurt in late November. Very nice but you don’t need more than one day and night.
I highly recommend Dresden!

Posted by
7565 posts

I agree that Erfurt only needs one day. I think we were sleeping three nights in Weimar when we visited Erfurt, Quedlinburg, and Eisenach. There was a bit more do wake up and see there than in Erfurt. But even with a car, Eisenach and Quedlinburg were a really long day out. That's why I mentioned checking the train schedules carefully - I agree that Germany can usually be visited without a car, but sometimes it's convenient.

Posted by
14580 posts


If going to Buchenwald is part of the Weimar itinerary, you can get the bus from the Goetheplatz in Weimar.

Walking from the train station straight down to the Goetheplatz takes ca. 25 mins. Signs " am Goetheplatz" point the way. US troops in April 1945 following the Frankfurt - Leipzig route got to Weimar and liberated Buchenwald.

Posted by
1337 posts

" Very interested in regional food, bakeries, coffee shops." Our Weihnactsmarkt trip to Erfurt included our search for a good Stollen. We took buses and trams all over the city old and new visiting bakeries. That was us then. Good cafes in the Altstadt too. We were there for three nights, but we had the time. It's been sometime and not to everybody’s taste but: