Are there any good websites to reserve a B&B in Germany?
I have never had any trouble booking directly with the place via their website. As has been mentioned, most towns have a town website that lists most if not all of the accommodations in the town. Check out Bavaria Ben's website (www.bensbauernhof.com) for several examples. If you plan on staying in one place for 3 days or so, consider an apartment (ferienwohnung, or fewo for short). They often are cheaper than a B&B, especially if you have a family.
Most sizable towns will have a website with links to lodgings. But you would have to know which specific town or city interests you. By the way, the term "Bed and Breakfast" is generally not used in Germany (or most of Europe, for that matter). The equivalent type of lodging could be referred to as a hotel, Gasthaus or Pension.
Tom, of those three terms, are they defined in terms of cost? Like is one category generally less expensive than others or are they interchangable terms?
Pension is usually cheaper. Gasthaus and Hotel are generally interchangeable, but hotels can be much larger. The cheapest option might be listed as "Gastenzimmer" "Zimmer Frei" or "Ferienzimmer", which usually means that someone is letting a spare room in their house.
Excuse me, James, but I pride myself in finding economical accommodations, ie, inexpensive places with as much real value as the expensive places, not cheap accommodations, ie low quality at low price. I'm not sure of the distinction between Gästehäuser and Pensions, but the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) has a different set of requirements for hotels vs Gaestehaeuser. The main difference that I see is hotels have a restaurant and front desk whereas Gästehäuser don't usually have a restaurant and give you a key to come in through the door when you want to. But I think most hotels in German don't bother with star ratings (although I have always found them to be good), so non-starred hotels don't have to provide those amenities. As for Zimmer, I have rarely if ever stayed in a "spare room". Most are in a house with a floor given over to guests, with rooms, each with a private bath. And they will have a separate room for breakfast. But I have had much success using town website. They often have twice or more the number of accommodations, particularly the less expensive ones, as the booking websites. Booking websites often take a 15% booking commision plus as much as 10% for credit card use, which discourages the really economical places from participating.
You might have a look at the Munich TI then. All of their offers are run through www.hrs.com The price on the hotels seldom changes no matter if you are using a hotel consolidator like hrs, or the hotel itself. I have checked this many times. I have also asked hotels who have told me that the price on hrs, was actually lower than what they could offer. Those town websites (TI) also charge a fee to the hotels that are listed. Thinking they do this out of the goodness of their hearts is a fallacy. Important for a hotel is to be listed in as many places as possible, so that their occupancy stays high. Because tourism is so international these days, it becomes difficult for the small hotel or B&B owner to run a website in multiple languages as well as answer emails. So, it is well worth a 10% fee to keep a listing, if their occupancy is good. If it didn't keep the hotel full and be worth the money and the fees, they wouldn't use it.
Whatever, Jo I just know that I have extensively compared town websites to booking websites and find that the town websites often have three times the number of places compared to the booking websites, and more of them are of the economical type. I had a conversation once with a Gastgeber about the cost of listing on his town website. If he just had a listing on the website with his URL, it cost him a few hundred Euro per year, and he had to work a few days in the town tourist office. If they handled the bookings, like a booking website would, it was 15%. He, of course, only had a listing on the website with no possibility to book online. I think that explains why small economical places that don't have much margin in their prices eschew the booking websites. And I think the Germans are so much more acustomed to finding their accommodations the way I do that a lot of places don't find it necessary to pay the high commission.
Count me as an HRS.com fan. I find the information about location and facilities to be better. Communication is clearer. Ratings are reliable. I generally prefer small hotels to rooms in private homes. I use the town websites as well, especially in small towns or villages, where HRS offerings are more limited. If you are going to one of the towns covered by Rick Steves books, I have found his recommendations reliable.
I have also found websites - both town sites and larger sites - that will have more listings in the German language version than an English one. Where this occurs, the less expensive places are left off the English version.
A very upcoming website for the most inexpensive rooms is AirBnB.com. You can often find rooms online at the cities' tourism bureaus. Hotels.com has all kinds of accommodations. You can also go to the big "I" at any train station and they can find you places to stay on the spot for a small fee. I've never stayed anywhere in Germany that the rooms were not perfectly clean. And I've often winged it going from place to place without reservations. I've never yet had to sleep on a park bench or in my rental car.