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What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany


Swirling in history and yet future-forward, the cities of Germany are immediate magnets for urban tourists and those drawn to the cosmopolitan delights of one of Europe's most vibrant economy. Here's a detailed look into what it's like to travel in the three largest cities of Germany – Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, and all about the places to visit in Germany.

Photo of What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany 1/1 by Trisha Singh

Decidedly gritty and blatantly irreverent, Berlin is almost notorious for its reputation as the coolest city in the world. Berlin doesn't glitter with glamour like Paris or bustle with energy like London. Unlike other European capitals, Berlin is unpolished and understated and yet, an absolute delight.

Places to visit in Germany:

Getting around in Berlin

Cycling is one of the best ways to get around Berlin. The faultlessly maintained cycle lanes are easy to navigate, often segregated from pedestrians and are used by more than half a million Berliners everyday.

The public transportation infrastructure includes the U-Bahn (underground trains), S-Bahn (hybrid underground and street level), trams and buses.

Cost: A 24 hour bike rental (often includes a lock, but not a helmet), costs €12. A day-ticket for unlimited use of all transportation networks costs €7 a day for adults and €4.70 for children aged 6 to 14.

Cycle rentals in Berlin cost €12 a day. (credit)

Photo of What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany by Trisha Singh

Where to stay in Berlin

Kreuzberg/Freidrichshain is perfect for easy access to the city's museums and parks during the day, and also to the incredible nightlife that the city serves up in the after hours. Like most other cities in Europe, Airbnb is your best bet.

The streets of Kreuzberg. (credit)

Photo of What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany by Trisha Singh

What to eat in Berlin

While Turkish Doner stalls and Currywurst reign supreme, Berlin also has an eclectic world-food scene. From vegan Pho, gluten-free momos to organic hot dogs, Berlin's palate is, unsurprisingly, as trendy as the city itself. Walk along the streets of Freidrichshain and Kreuzberg to sample some of the world's best in craft foods.

Turkish Doner-Kebabs are a staple in Germany. (credit)

Photo of What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany by Trisha Singh

What to do in Berlin

Even for someone completely oblivious to Berlin's recent political history, it's easy to see through the mesmerising, graffiti-plastered facade and realise that the city has a complicated story. The writing is almost literally on the wall and politics is almost a part of Berlin's landscape. Germany went through a lot in the 20th century and those events have shaped the very core of the country's largest city.

Here's what to do in Berlin to wholly experience (almost) everything makes this city the coolest city in the world.

Check out Checkpoint Charlie

One of Berlin's biggest tourist traps is worth a visit, if only to observe the slightly absurd, but entirely self-aware spectacle of watching tourists pose for pictures with men dressed in military costumes. What used to be a US Army Checkpoint to control movement of people between East and West Berlin, is today a monument to the Cold War, appropriately flanked by a glittering McDonalds in the background.

Posing for selfies at Checkpoint Charlie (credit)

Photo of Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstraße, Berlin, Germany by Trisha Singh

Walk along the Berlin Wall

A 1.3 km riverside stretch of what used to be the Berlin Wall, is now called the East-side Gallery. A spectacular community art project, the wall is now a canvas for local and international artists, and also an awesome space for commissioned exhibitions.

The East Side Gallery is a canvas for art and graffiti (credit)

Photo of East Side Gallery, Mühlenstraße, Berlin, Germany by Trisha Singh

Wander around Kreuzberg for its fantastic street art

In many ways, Kreuzberg has come to define present-day Berlin. Unapologetically gritty, Kreuzberg is what other cities try to be when they 'experiment' with the alternative (usually pre-gentrification) community art projects. But in Kreuzberg, the art is effortless, organic and everywhere; integrated within the very fabric of the neighbourhood.

A street-artist at work (credit)

Photo of Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany by Trisha Singh

Political street art is commonplace in Berlin (credit)

Photo of Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany by Trisha Singh

Historically, one of the poorest parts of Berlin, Kreuzberg or X-berg, is today Berlin's trendiest neighbourhood and is considered by many to be the nightlife capital of the world. More on that later.

Explore the Museums of the Mitte

Berlin Mitte is the city's classical European heart. Elaborate neoclassical and Baroque architecture, magnificent monuments, stone-arch bridges, intricate statues and fountains; this is where the pre-war glory of Berlin thrives, immaculately preserved.

Neptunbrunnen in Berlin Mitte (credit)

Photo of Mitte, Berlin, Germany by Trisha Singh

Museum Island is a UNESCO world heritage site built on an island on the river Spree, housing five museums, all within minutes of each other. The Mitte is also home to at least 14 other museums and several temporary exhibits.

Berlin Cathedral on Museum Island. (credit)

Photo of Museum Island, Berlin, Germany by Trisha Singh

Walk through the Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate is perhaps Berlin's most photographed monument. The gate is also mired in Berlin's political history and is to this day, periodically hosts political events and demonstrations.

An Anti-Trump American voter registration drive at Brandenburg Gate (credit)

Photo of Brandenburg Gate, Pariser Platz, Berlin, Germany by Trisha Singh

The Brandenburg gate leads to Tiergarten, one of the largest urban parks and one of the most stellar places to visit in Germany. The perfect place to spend an afternoon under the sun. Au naturale, if you dare, but only in designated areas (look for signs reading FKK) .

Right by Brandenburg gate is the Reichstag building, which is the legislative centre of Berlin. The dome on the roof of the Reichstag is a massive tourist attraction for a spectacular panorama of Berlin Mitte.

Visit the local markets

The Turkish Market by the canal is a little bit of Istanbul, whipped up with classic Berlin. A great place to buy local art and experience real Berlin.

Markethalle Neun is Kreuzberg's world-famous farmer's market and a melting pot of German and contemporary world cuisine. A few steps from U-Bahn, this needs to be must-visit on every food-lover's itinerary.

Neun Markethalle, closer to closing time. (credit)

Photo of Markthalle Neun, Berlin, Germany by Trisha Singh

Experience the city's nightlife

Berlin's nightlife is legendary. The door policy can be bewildering, esoteric even, but the clubs are thoroughly worth the hype. It's easy to feel overdressed, so don't try too hard. Find out who's playing in advance, just in case. And if you think you won't be able to handle the wild-side of Berlin, you are probably right and the mind-reading bouncer at Berghain won't let you in anyway.

Places To Visit Around Berlin

Berlin offers great access to some of the most beautiful places to visit in Germany's northern sect. Rugen Island (3 hrs) off the northern coast is a Baltic paradise and the largest island in Germany. Harz National Park (3 hrs) is also easily accessible from Berlin and is perfect for hikers of all levels. Tropical Islands in Krausnick (1 hour) and Filmpark Babelsburg in Potsdam (40 mins) are also worth checking out.

Photo of What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany by Trisha Singh

Germany's second largest city has a sophisticated demeanour, behind which lurks mischief and abandon. Hamburg is considerably smaller than Berlin, more tight-night and connected, and yet thoroughly eclectic when it comes to art and music.

Getting around in Hamburg

The U-Bahn is the best way to explore most of Hamburg's sights. A lot of walking will inevitably be involved. A single day pass for unlimited use of all public transport costs €6.20 a day for adults, €2.30 for children aged 6 to 14. Bike rentals are available, but not as accessible or widely advertised as in Berlin

Bike rental station in HafenCity. (credit)

Photo of Hamburg, Germany by Trisha Singh

Where to stay in Hamburg

For quickest access to the city's attractions, stay near the central train station. There are plenty of great choices on Airbnb and a number of hostels in the area.

What to see in Hamburg

Stroll through HafenCity in Hamburg-Mitte

The newest part of a thousand year old city, HafenCity is one of Europe's largest rebuilding projects. What was historically a commercial harbour with hundreds of warehouses, is now converted to hotels, restaurants, residential and public spaces. The neighbourhood is still a work in progress, with many upscale residential buildings in the pipeline.

Shipping container art gallery in HafenCity. (credit)

Photo of HafenCity, Hamburg, Germany by Trisha Singh

HafenCity is a criss-cross of trusses and arch bridges over Hamburg's waterways, along with red brick buildings, built to blend into the existing urbanscape. Here you will stumble upon beautiful museums, the towering Elbe Philaharmonie, Miniatur Wonderland, the Hamburg dungeons, dotted around a myriad of winding brick lanes and sleepy canals.

A waterside promenade in HafenCity. (credit)

Photo of What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany by Trisha Singh

People watching on the boardwalk

Through the bridges and the winding roads you will eventually land up on to the Port of Hamburg, a lively boardwalk which is perfect for an afternoon stroll and people watching. Buskers and street performers keep the energy up, against a beautiful backdrop of the city's harbour.

Festivities on the boardwalk. (credit)

Photo of Port of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany by Trisha Singh

Cruise on the Elbe

Ferry 62 to Finkenwerder follows a popular tourist route through the historic port of Hamburg, stopping at the the Fischmarket and Dockland along the way. Tourist boats normally charge upwards of €15 for the tour, whereas the same trip on the public ferry is € 3.20 (or free if you've already paid for the day-ticket). You can chose to return back to Landungsbrücken or get off at any of the stops. The whole round-trip takes about an hour.

Explore Hamburg's underbelly in Reeperbahn

Home to the city's hippest clubs and a red light district, Reeperbahn is where Hamburg goes a little naughty. Here you can witness some of the world's most iconic music and dance venues (there are hundreds), peek inside the sex-shops (there are many), or take it all in from the sidelines at Beatles Platz.

Große Freiheit in the red light district in Reeperbahn. (credit)

Photo of Reeperbahn, Hamburg, Germany by Trisha Singh

Reeperbahn is where the musical career of The Beatles first took off. Their Hamburgarian roots are commemorated at Beatles Platz, which was built in 2008 on Große Freiheit in the red light district. One of the clubs the band used to frequent during the early days of their legendary career, is still a popular music venue called Indra Musiklub.

Beatles Platz in Reeperbahn. (credit)

Photo of What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany by Trisha Singh

Rathaus and Alster lake

A short walk from the train station, the Hamburg Rathaus building is a beautiful backdrop to the immense waterside plaza in the heart of the city.

Rathaus Platz in Hamburg (credit)

Photo of Rathaus, Hamburg, Germany by Trisha Singh

A few steps from the Rathaus Platz is Alster Lake, where visitors can take boat trips for some gorgeous vistas of the city and the surrounding greenery. Jogging tracks and sunbathing areas line the lakeside and in the winters, the lake can sometimes even freeze over. The last time this happened was in 2012.

Places to visit around Hamburg

Wadden Sea National Park on Germany's northwestern coast is a popular day-trip from Hamburg. Ferries run from Landungsbrücken, all the way to the island of Neuwerk in the North Sea (5 hrs). Also, the cities of Bremen and Hanover are both just over an hour away from Hamburg.

Photo of Außenalster, Hamburg, Germany by Trisha Singh

Hailed as the beer-capital of the world, Munich has always attracted the crowds on accounts of Bavarian brewing skills, especially during Oktoberfest when (seemingly) the entire continent, if not most of the western world comes down to participate in the annual celebration of Bavarian pride. There's much more to Munich than the city's approach to beer and word seems to be getting around.

Getting around in Munich

Cycles are pretty mainstream, as is the case with most of Germany, although renting one is not as easy as in Berlin. The U/S-Bahn and tram network will take you pretty much anywhere. A day ticket costs €6.40, but if you are staying longer, the 3-day ticket costs €16.

Trams near Hauptbahnof in Munich (credit)

Photo of Munich, Germany by Trisha Singh

Where to stay in Munich

Again, Airbnb is the best bet and hostels are plenty. The highest concentration of young backpackers is in and around Theresienweise. But if you are looking to get away from the tourist heavyload, Airbnbs are a bit more spread out.

What to do in Munich

Perched on the banks of the crystal clear waters of River Isar, on the foothills of the Alps, Munich is a Bavarian city through and through. Striking museums, gorgeous parks and beautiful markets, all eventually nudging you towards the famous beer halls.

Here's what not to miss while in Munich.

Explore the old city around Marienplatz

For centuries, Marienplatz has been the commercial and political heart of München. Today it is dominated by the towers of the New City hall, the Mariensäule column, and surrounded by churches and mansions showcasing the city's Gothic legacy.

Marienplatz is the heart of Munich (credit)

Photo of Marienplatz, Munich, Germany by Trisha Singh

Stroll on around the corner to Viktualienmarkt for some fine Bavarian delicacies, bakeries and local produce. Munich's beloved farmer's market is one of the best places to get fed in the city.

The largest city palace in Germany, is among the most elaborate residential buildings in the world. It's impossible to take it all in in one visit, so don't even try. Completed over four centuries, the Residenz spans multiple architectural styles. Don't miss 'The Renaissance Antiquarium', the most lavish and the oldest buildings in the Residenz.

Image Credits: Raphael Fetzer via wikipedia

Photo of Munich Residenz, Residenzstraße, Munich, Germany by Trisha Singh

This legendary beer hall has been around for over four centuries. The building was nearly completely destroyed during the bombings in the second world war, but since the post-war restorations, has become one of the major attractions in the city. The atmosphere within the high-ceilinged beer hall is always festive for a little bit of the Oktoberfest all year round.

Top floor of the massive Hofbrauhaus (credit)

Photo of Hofbräuhaus München, Platzl, Munich, Germany by Trisha Singh

Witness history's dark side at Dachau

The Dachau concentration camp was the first and longest running concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Today, the place stands as a memorial to the lives lived and lost here during the 12 years of this camp's operations (1933 to 1945).

A chilling exhibit at Dachau Concentration Camp (credit)

Photo of Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, Alte Römerstraße, Dachau, Germany by Trisha Singh

Take a trip out to Nymphenberg Palace

Around 30 minutes away from the city centre, the Nymphenberg Palace stands at the head of sprawling royal gardens. The interiors of the palace are converted to a museum and a gallery of the royal portrait collection.

Gallery of Beauties at the Nymphenberg Palace (credit)

Photo of What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany by Trisha Singh

Places to visit around Munich

Munich is the gateway to Bavarian Alps. Schloss Neuschwanstein (2 hrs, via Füssen) and Berchtesgaden National Park (2 hrs) are perfect for endless hikes in the Bavarian wilderness. Salzburg (2 hrs) is also easily accessible from the Central train station in Munich.

Königssee, one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe is 2hrs away from Munich (credit)

Photo of What Guidebooks Won't Tell You About Places to Visit in Germany by Trisha Singh

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