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German Cities

Going to continental Europe for 3 weeks open-jaw style, starting in Brussels or Amsterdam, going through Germany, Austria and ending in Switzerland. Which German cities are a must?

Posted by
1986 posts

If I had semi limited time in Germany, my itinerary would include the Rhine, down the Romantic Road, Munich, Black Forest, Nuremburg, and a combination of Oberamergaud/,Mittenwald/Garmisch, with a stop at the Hohenschwangau and Nieuwschwanstein castles.
not many Cities

Posted by
26 posts

Thank you so much for all your detailed advice. Much appreciated. Tom: I'll likely be going in September. I'm not sure how long I need to spend in Germany but there seems to be no shortage of possible places to go. You mentioned "old buildings and sweeping vistas", those are exactly the kind of things that I am looking for. Along with cathedrals and castles. Lane: I was thinking of going by Eurail but do you think it would be necessary to rent a car as well to get to some of the smaller cities or Black Forest? For sure I would like to see Berlin and Munich, but I don't want to confine myself to just the big cities every tourist hits. I've also read about Dresden and it seems intriguing. And seeing the Neuschwanstein Castle would also be great. Thanks again.

Posted by
8902 posts

The cities I would have on my list for Germany would be Berlin, Hamburg, Quedlinburg, Lübeck, Büdingen, Idstein, Mainz, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich, and Garmisch. Musts are hard to define. My musts may not be the same as your musts. I like history, mainly Roman history in Germany, some Celtic stuff, medieval history, the Staufens, Charlemagne, Jewish culture and history in Germany, and WW2 history. I enjoy going to cathedrals and old churches, the older the better. I like looking at vaulting and gravestones and visiting cemeteries. Does any of that interest you?

Posted by
26 posts

Big fan of German and WW2 history as well as cathedrals and churches. Also interested in classical music, so anything pertaining to composers such as Bach or Beethoven would also be of interest.

Posted by
32277 posts

"Which German Cities are a must?" Must for what? What do you want to see? I'm sure you have done research, including reading Rick Steves' Germany book and others. What caught your eye?

Posted by
26 posts

Just requested Rick Steves' book actually but if this helps I'm a big fan of architecture and buildings, cathedrals, German/WW2 history, sightseeing, classical music and anything worth photographing. Thanks!

Posted by
32155 posts

Tiffany, Focusing more on WW-II history, Munich would definitely be a good choice, as that's where the Nazi party first started, which included an "uprising" in about 1923, which led to Hitler being imprisoned. Another good feature of Munich is that it's close to Berchtesgaden, which is also worth a visit to see the Eagle's Nest and Dokumentation Centre and Bunkers. Finally, it's an easy trip from Munich to visit Dachau, one of the first Concentration Camps and of course the Castles at Fussen. Berlin would of course be a very worthwhile stop also. From a photography perspective the Rhine is a good choice (in the area of Bacharach / St. Goar), and that also provides the opportunity for a day trip to visit the remains of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen. There's a "Peace Museum" in the towers on the west side. It's worth a visit if you have time, but not essential. One more essential visit for photography is Hallstatt, Austria. It's incredibly scenic (take lots of memory cards!). Happy travels!

Posted by
12040 posts

Piggy-backing on another thread, WWII history in Germany is more noticable by what's missing than what is present. The parade grounds in Nuremburg and Hitler's Kehlsteinhaus (the term "Eagle's Nest" is actually an English language misnomer, as the term in German, "Adlerhorst", refers to a different Nazi HQ near Frankfurt) are probably the most prominent remains of the Nazi era. To answer your question, what are you looking for? Old buidlings, sweeping vistas, fun nightlife? How much time have you allotted for the German portion of the trip? And, what time of year are you traveling?

Posted by
850 posts

If you start in Amsterdam you may want to consider going on to Arnhem where the failed "Operation Market Garden" began and visit the Hartenstein Airborne museum in Oosterbeek just out from Arnhem with film, photographs, weapons and other objects on display. If you haven't watched the movie "A Bridge Too Far" be sure to do that if you go. From Arnhem maybe go on to Cologne and walk up the 500 plus steps of the Cathederal with a nice view of Cologne and the Rhine. Take a photo of the Cathederal at night from across the River. Makes for a beautiful photo. From Cologne you could take a route best suited for the rest of Germany before going on to Austria and Switzerland. Berlin would be great I am sure but may not fit geopgraphically as well as other places. I would try to get down to the Rhine around Mainz, Bacharach and St. Goar. Nuremburg may be a little out of the way but well worth a stop to Zeppelin Field and the Congress Hall with a visit to the Documentation Center there. In Munich you could take a Third Reich walking tour along the route Hitler and his followers took during the failed beer hall putsch which landed him in prison. From Munich on to Salzburg and then to Berchtesgaden for a tour of the Hitler's mountain retreat on the Obersalzburg and on for a tour of the Eagle's Nest. You could do a side trip to Hallstatt if you have time. Beautiful setting and a nice Salt mine tour and/or ice cave tour. From there back west toward Innsbruck and on to Switzerland. There are so many places in Germany alone to visit that it is hard to tell you the best places. You cannot go wrong with any of the places that others have mentioned. Are you going by public transportation, driving or a combination?

Posted by
14460 posts

"Big fan of German history"---fantastic. As for must-sees and if your interests focus on Prussian history, then these are the musts for you: Berlin (to be sure), Potsdam, Sigmaringen an der Donau, Duisburg, Hechingen, Leipzig, Dresden, Minden an der Weser, Koblenz, Münster, Dortmund, Xanten, Ratingen, Marburg an der Lahn, Hamburg, and others. You have to choose which among these are going to be top priority, but I would suggest Berlin and Potsdam first. Vienna is the must-see in Austria, an enchanting and haunting city. When I visited it (twice) in the early and mid-1970s, the city struck me as depressing. I wouldn't say that now since being back there...just haunting. Of course, Salzburg

Posted by
258 posts

For the 1st time traveler to Germany, I would suggest not skipping Munich. I've traveled all over Germany and, based on my experiences and speaking with fellow travelers (and as Rick has often said), Munich (and Bavaria) seem to offer that quintessential German atmosphere/experience most of us conjure up! It is a thriving, fun, vibrant city (with SO much to see & do) and is also very easy to navigate. From Munich, it is also very easy to travel into Southern Bavaria (to see Neuschwanstein and the Zugspizte, for example), as Fussen, a handy base for exploring Bavaria, is around a 2 hr train ride from Munich. Munich is also a VERY easy gateway into Austria, as from Munich, it is around a 2.5 hr train ride to Salzburg. IF you have the time to do more than 1 main city in Germany, I would also advise seeing Berlin. VERY different atmosphere than Munich. It's a sprawling city with SUCH a sense of history everywhere you turn. I can't say it's necessarily the most "beautiful" looking city in Germany (much of it is very modern/stark/brand new), but it is an absolutely facsinating city that I enjoyed a great deal. And, as large as it is, the majority of tourist sights you'll visit are relatively easy to navigate in a few short days (in Rick's Germany guidebook, he has a great/comprehensive 2 day suggested itinerary of top sights). I also really enjoyed traveling down the Rhine and the Black Forest (I was in Baden-Baden, Freiburg and Triburg)----which would be a great addition to any trip to Germany......BUT if I HAD to choose between The Black Forest and Munich/S. Bavaria (due to time contraints), I'd PROB have to go w/ Munich. As Rick always points out; don't try to cram in TOO much in 1 trip-----assume you WILL return!

Posted by
19024 posts

"I was thinking of going by Eurail" ??? Eurail is not a railroad. There are no Eurail trains. You might go with a Eurail pass. Eurail is a joint enterprise of European railroads to package and market passes for use on their railroads. In Germany, you will be traveling on trains of the Bahn, German Rail. "do you think it would be necessary to rent a car as well to get to some of the smaller cities or Black Forest?" Anyone who tells you you need to rent a car to see the Black Forest thinks that because they don't really know the transportation possibilities. If you stay in almost any hotel, Gasthof, B&B in the Black Forest, you will pay a resort tax and with that get a Kronus card, which is valid for unlimited use of the regional trains and buses in the area - costless. I've spent weeks there without needing a car.

Posted by
850 posts

"Lane: I was thinking of going by Eurail but do you think it would be necessary to rent a car as well to get to some of the smaller cities or Black Forest?" Not necessary at all to rent a car and you can get anywhere you need to go via public transportation. Depends on your preference for travel. I personally would take a car for the smaller places but that is just what I prefer.

Posted by
7 posts

Disregard the pedantic response from the previous poster. It's perfectly OK to say "going by Eurail." We all knew what you meant. :) Whatever you do, don't miss Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It's a wonderful town. I can also recommend Munich, Fussen, Nuremberg, and the Rhine River cruise departing from Bingen, disembarking at Koblenz. You'll have a lovely trip! Happy travels.

Posted by
1035 posts

"It's perfectly OK to say 'going by Eurail.'" It is? Here are you choices, believe the guy with 3 posts or the guy with 6,000 posts, many of them related to German train travel.

Posted by
850 posts

We knew what Tiffany meant by "going by Eurail". That was the main point John was making. That was "ok"
with me.

Posted by
19024 posts

Equivalent to a European saying "I'm traveling by Greyhound trains" in the US., It is important to realize that the rail system in Europe is not some monolith. The trains in each country are run by the government or by semiprivate endeavors with different rules and fare structures. If you are not using a rail pass, which I don't recommend because I've spent less than $20 a day, average, for transportation, trains and buses, which aren't included in Eurail, for the last 52 days in Europe, there are a lot of different discount offers dependent on the country. If you want to minimize your cost, you need to understand the different rail system. BTW, that statement, "there are no Eurail trains" was one of the FAQs on the Eurail website for years.

Posted by
9110 posts

Lee is not pedantic. He is obstinate and pig-headed. He is also always correct and knows more about parts of Germany than some folks who live there. His knowledge of mass transit in the area is encyclopedic. I don't agree with the way he travels, but I study every word he writes - - eventually he will probably win me over to his twisted way of thinking. It's better to be corrected now than go around asking where a eurail station is.

Posted by
850 posts

Well, I understood that she meant going by train vs going by car in her question. Seems to me that is the more relevant point when trying to offer assistance with her trip.

Posted by
26 posts

Thank you to everyone for setting me straight on the Eurail issue, I guess I would have been better off just saying "trains" instead :) However your advice has been duly noted. Glad I figured this out before I got to Germany!

Posted by
12040 posts

Yes, Lee is a bit "set in his ways", but in his defense... I have learned more about Deutsche Bahn by reading his replies than I have from the company's own website. I have even found that I get more satisfying answers by posting questions here and waiting for Lee's inevitable response than by sending an email directly to DB. Unlike He Who Shall Not Be Named, who wrote thousands of posts of garbage, Lee's posts are usually spot-on. Opinionated and a bit rigid, yes, (He's not going to convince me that I should take the bus to work, though!), but he is unquestionably the resident expert on the German rail system. And he seems to know a fair amount about Swiss and Austrian rail too.

Posted by
32277 posts

And who on this Helpline is not opinionated? Certainly the regulars here have a pretty good idea what we will say. I bet you knew that I would pitch up here. And Lee is right. If you have just a little information you can be much more dangerous than a well researched person. Every country, and every railway company within, are different. Understanding that you don't have a blanket "Eurorail" or whatever you call it IS important.... So instead of criticizing, take the advice and learn from it. ... off soapbox .... AGAIN

Posted by
850 posts

Lee's knowledge of public transportation especially in Germany needs no defense since no one criticized that knowledge nor wrote anything to contradict that knowledge. We all recognize his expertise which he has acquired through research, study and personal experience and it has benefited many folks here who have learned from his input. There is nothing wrong with having his passion for traveling in this manner. That is ok. We all have our preferences and that is a good thing.

Posted by
258 posts

@ John & Lane (and some others above) - I agree that Lee DEFINITELY knows his stuff. He's clearly a VERY knowledgable traveler, and for that, I have great respect for him. BUT I also agree that the question above re: Eurail was very clear and we all knew what was meant by it. I was also recently "chastized" by Lee for writing that I "traveled DOWN The Rhine in Germany." Lee corrected me in that I actuallty traveled "up" and then went into a detailed explanation re: the currents or something. Lee IS a great source of European travel info & I appreciate that......he just also seems to be a real stickler for EVERY detail!

Posted by
12040 posts

BTW, Tiffany, since you mentioned in another post that WWII history interests you, in Brussels, don't miss the Royal Museum of Military History. Half the museum is mostly uniforms of the Belgian military from the 19th century (of pretty limited interest), but the other half has a huge display of material and exhibits from the world wars. It covers virtually every combatant nation from both conflicts, with a particular emphasis on Germany.

Posted by
14460 posts

Hi Tiffany, You mention cathedrals as an interest area/site to visit. In that case, I recommend these cities for seeing the cathedrals and churches...have been to all, at least once, except for two....Ulm, München, Berlin, Köln, Frankfurt, Erfurt, Naumburg an der Saale, Marburg an der Lahn, Magdeburg, and, of course, Dresden. If you want to get a breadth exposure to German cities that have the most in common with your interests...WW II history, cathedrals, architecture...be prepared to take a night train or two, otherwise, I would suggest concentrating on the north, ie., north of Frankfurt and the east. Skip Zürich this time. You'll have to choose between Brussels and Amsterdam...I don't believe you would have ample time for both.

Posted by
12040 posts

More cathedral recommendations: Brussels has one of the most unique cathedrals in Europe, in terms of architecture - the massive Basilica of the Sacred Heart. As far as I know, its the only cathedral in the world built in the Art Deco style. Imagine St. Peter's in Rome done in the style of the Empire State Building or Chrysler Building and you'll get the idea. Some people hate it, I think its a stunning building. Two very old cathedrals in Germany worth a look (and not far from each other) are in Worms and Speyer. I haven't visited the Ulm cathedral that Fred mentions, but driving by on the main expressway through town, it looks stunning. One of those cathedrals that completely dominates the landscape of the town.

Posted by
1035 posts

Tom is inspiring me to do a deeper dive of Brussels. Thanks for the info.

Posted by
14460 posts

Tiffany, Aside from cathedrals/churches in Germany, my recommendations for cities/towns connected to your interest in classical music because of pertinent sites, most of which I have seen, a couple I still have to go back for a more thorough visit or have yet to see: Frankfurt--the "new" opera house, see that at night as well, impressive, just beautiful, Berlin--Kongresshalle, just numerous sites, Hamburg--Hamburger Staatsoper, cultural center of North Ger., Munich--the Opera House, and other sites, Eutin/Holsten--birth house/museum of Carl Maria von Weber, and, of course, Bonn--Beethoven's birth house/museum, Leipzig--Bach, Liszt, Mendelsohn, Wagner, Gewandhaus Symphonie, numerous sites, and, of course, Dresden.

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks to everyone for providing such detailed suggestions, insight and travel tips. Your wealth of knowledge is invaluable and collectively, it's certainly enough for an entire encyclopedia!

Posted by
813 posts

I also want to add the towns around Lake Constance/Lake Bodensee. The castle at Meersburg am Bodensee was built in the 7th century. It's a real castle, not a tourist castle. Insel Mainau is a beautiful little island during spring and summer. The lake is right on your way to most locations around Zurich and the Black Forest. Worth a stop.

Posted by
111 posts

Bamberg, Rothenburg ob de Tauber and Munich You might find leaving Brussels or Amsterdam will be tough, you might spend more time there than you plan.
What a great trip...planning is a lot of fun too!