Best Things to Do in Germany

Imbibe in a Beer Garden

As soon as the sun comes out and temperatures allow, Germans set up tables and chairs under the open skies and offer a "Prost!" to their friends or colleagues. Bavaria is the home of the Biergarten, but you can sample local variations of beer and bratwurst at outdoor tables almost anywhere in the country. If it's a beautiful day and you don't see a beer garden nearby, take your own drink to the park: Germany has no open-container laws.

Hike a Mountain

Germany's landscape is ideal for hiking, from leisurely strolls through flat fields to steep climbs up tough terrain. The country has tens of thousands of miles of walking trails, many with views of castles, vineyards, or waterfalls. Pack a bag lunch, strap on your hiking boots, and join the crowd—it's a great way to get a feel for the real Germany.

Eat White Asparagus

If you visit between April and June, you're in for a treat: it's white asparagus season. Germans go crazy for the stuff, which is thicker and larger than green asparagus. Enjoy it with a slice of ham and potatoes with butter or hollandaise sauce.

Visit a Museum

Every major German city has world-class art museums, but it doesn't stop there. From the antique treasures in Berlin's legendary Pergamon Museum, to fascinating objects in the fields of science and technology at Munich's Deutsches Museum, Germany has impressive and informative exhibitions around the country. Open-air museums offer collections of buildings from previous epochs that visitors can walk through to get a sense of daily life in the past.

Take a Bike Tour

Whether you're discovering Munich, Dresden, Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, or one of Germany's smaller cities, seeing the place from the seat of a bike is the way to do it. Take a guided tour or rent a bike and set off on your own. As you wind your way through Munich's English Garden or along Hamburg's harbor, you'll find that you see much more than you would from a tour bus.

Enjoy a German Breakfast

Breakfast in Germany can be a major affair, especially on the weekend. Show up hungry to indulge in a spread including several types of bread rolls, salami and dry sausage, hard cheeses, butter, honey, jam, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumber, liver pâté, cold cuts, hard-boiled eggs, and coffee.

Snack at the Bakery

Germany takes its bread seriously. It's a historically important part of the German diet, and the tradition of Brotkultur, or bread culture, continues today. Each region has its own delicious variation, so wherever you visit check out a local artisanal Bäckerei and sample the various pastries and rolls.

Take a Curative Bath

With more than 300 Kurorte (health spas) and Heilbäder (spas with healing waters), Germany has a spa tradition dating back to the time of the Kaisers. Visit one by the sea, near mineral-rich mud sources, near salt deposits, or natural springs, and you'll be treated to salt baths, mud baths, saunas, thermal hot springs, and mineral-rich air, depending on the specialties of the region.

Cruise along the Rhine

No trip to Germany is complete without a boat tour of the Rhine. Board in Rudesheim and follow the river to Bingen, or do it in reverse. Along the way, you'll see countless castles rising up from the banks along the river. Keep a lookout for the rock of the Loreley, the beautiful river maiden of legend who lured sailors to their deaths with her song.

Sip Wine at a Vineyard

Germany is internationally renowned for its beer, but it's also an oenologist's dream. Go to a wine tasting to try high-quality Riesling and Pinot Noir on the sloping hills of the Mosel Valley and find new favorites to fill your cellar.

Browse a Christmas Market

Just about every city, town, and village has an outdoor Christmas market (and larger cities have more than one—in Berlin, for example, there are as many as 60 small markets each year). The most famous are the markets in Dresden and Nürnberg, both of which have long traditions. Christmas markets open the last week of November and run through Christmas. Bundle up and shop for handmade gifts like the famous wooden figures carved in the Erzgebirge region as you sip traditional, hot-spiced Glühwein to stay warm.

Drive on the Autobahn

Germany is the spiritual home of precision auto engineering, and Germans love their cars. You can rent a Porsche, Mercedes, or BMW for a day to see what it's like to drive on a German highway—some stretches of the autobahn have no speed limit. Take your rental to the Nürburgring, a world-famous racetrack built in the 1920s. There, you can get a day pass to drive your car around the track. Visit the on-site auto museum afterward. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have fantastic museums, too.

Take a Dip in a Lake

Germany is dotted with tranquil lakes, and when the weather is warm, locals strip down and jump right in. Don't worry if you don't have your suit: it's perfectly acceptable to swim in the nude. If swimming's not your thing, rent a paddleboat and cruise past the sunbathers.

Watch a Movie Under the Stars

Throughout the summer, many German cities set up huge screens in parks and other public places. Spread out a blanket and enjoy snacks and beer in the open air at a Freiluftkino. You can catch a movie in English or German with subtitles—just check the day's program.

Cheer at a Soccer Game

As you might expect of the recent world champions, Germans are nuts for soccer. Even if you aren't a fan, going to a live match is an exciting experience. There's a palpable energy and it's easy to follow the action. You can catch a game just about anywhere, anytime except for June, July, and over the Christmas break.

Go Sledding

In winter, children and adults alike head for the nearest slope, sleds in hand. If you don't have a sled, just stand back and enjoy the spectacle. The children's old-fashioned wooden sleds are truly charming.

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