Frankfurt tourists in Romerberg Alstadt Old Town landmarks panorama Germany

Germany Guide: Planning Your Trip

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Planning a trip to Germany? Encompassing everything from beers, sausages, and underground clubs to world-class museums, medieval castles, and Baroque architecture, Germany offers a wealth of things to see and do. And whether you want a breath of fresh sea air in Hamburg or to indulge in typical Bavarian gemütlichkeit in Munich, you're bound to find a destination that meets your fancy.

Before you go, use our guide to Germany to find out the best things to do, food to eat, budget tips, and places to stay.

Planning Your Trip

Germany Cities
TripSavvy / Theresa Chiechi  

Things to Do in Germany

Thinking of Germany brings forth images of the majestic Alps, lederhosen-wearing festival-goers, and avant-garde cultural events in the city's capital.

In the north, the capital of Berlin is the center of multiculti (international) Germany, with never-ending events, restaurant openings, and world-famous clubs. Don't neglect the wild coastline of beaches, Hamburg (Germany's second-biggest city) or city-state Bremen. Or go east for some ostalgie (German Democratic Republic nostalgia) in Dresden and Leipzig.

In the southwest, step into the Black Forest—home of the Grimm Brothers—and visit the fairytale-like town of Freiburg. Get to party-capital Cologne for Karneval, or explore the surrounding cities of Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, and Mainz.

With stunning natural attractions and charming cities like Munich, Bavaria has a big personality. Its festive atmosphere comes complete with hearty German meals, traditional beer halls, biergartens, and—of course—Oktoberfest. Don't forget to explore the smaller towns that surround picturesque Lake Konstanz, or medieval villages like Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Need help narrowing down ideas? Here are the top three cities you should check out:

  • Berlin is the largest city in Germany and the cultural center of the country. Here, you'll find world-class museums, UNESCO-worthy attractions, and a buzzing nightlife.
  • Surrounded by lush greenery, grand medieval castles, and historic streets showcasing Baroque architecture, Munich exemplifies what foreigners think of when picturing a trip to Germany. The biggest event in the country and Munich's Oktoberfest is a two-week festivity that takes place every fall.
  • Come late winter, the entire city of Cologne turns into one big, weeklong party for Karneval. Expect costumes, parades, balls, and political commentary. While you're there, be sure to check out the magnificent cathedral and Kölsch bier.

Explore more things to do with our stories on Germany's top cities, the 10 top attractions in Germany, and guide to family travel in Germany.

What to Eat and Drink in Germany

While wurst (sausage) might be the unofficial dish of Germany, German food can appeal to almost any palate. There are dumplings, spätzle (noodles), and loads of potatoes, schnitzel, and schweinshaxe (pork knuckle). International cuisine has also fused with German culture to produce street food favorites like döner kebab and currywurst. And not everything is meat! Vegetarian and vegan food is increasingly popular and even offered in tiny dorfs (villages) around the country.

But you can't talk about German cuisine without bringing up beer. Beer in Germany is not just a drink, it is an institution associated with some of the country's most important locations and festivals. With the oldest continuously-operating brewery in the world, Weihenstephaner, Bavaria has especially embraced the latest in the craft beer movement.

There is also an established wine scene in Germany, with vines dating back to Roman times, particularly around the Rhine and Mosel Rivers. For those that abstain from alcohol, you can find coffee, tea and juices like apfelschorle, along with many other offerings.

To happily eat and drink your way through Germany, read our guides to the best restaurants in Berlin, what to eat at Oktoberfest, and the top 10 foods to eat in Germany.

Where to Stay in Germany

From castle hotels to eclectic hostels, there are a wide array of accommodation options in Germany. Discount hotel options can usually be found around a town's Hauptbahnhof (main train station), with other options like well-established chains and boutique hotels in the city center. There are also luxury spa destinations such as the opulent town of Baden-Baden.

While reserving beforehand is always recommended—especially in the summer high season or Munich around Oktoberfest—you can find accommodations by looking for signs advertising Zimmer Frei (free room) or Pension (B&B).

Discover some of the best places to stay during your visit, including Germany's most unique hotels and top hostels.

Getting There

Many travelers arrive at Germany's biggest airport in Frankfurt, although there are additional airports in Berlin, Munich, and other German cities. The country's biggest cities—including Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich—offer a comprehensive public transportation system.

Visitors can choose to rent a car and fly down the Autobahn, or take a scenic drive through the country. Don't feel like driving? You can enjoy a relaxing, high-speed train ride on the national train network, Deutsche Bahn, or hop on a bus; there are several services offering low-priced transport to cities around the country and beyond.

Culture & Customs in Germany

Visitors to Germany may be surprised by how easy it is to navigate. Despite German being the official language, many people—particularly in service industries—speak some English and can help you navigate the country (especially if you try using some key German phrases).

Be prepared for people to be direct to the point of rude, although most people are helpful. Germany is generally very safe, with the main concern being petty crime and theft.

While dining out, you should ask for the bill when you are ready to pay ("Die Rechnung, bitte"). Pay up—with a tip of around 10 percent—when they arrive at your table.

Money Saving Tips in Germany

  • Peak travel times are during Christmas, Easter, summer, and Oktoberfest in Munich. Attractions will be at their most crowded and accommodations will be at a premium.
  • In Germany, it pays to plan ahead. The further in advance you can book flights, train tickets, rental cars, bus tickets, and accommodations, the cheaper they will be.
  • Deutsche Bahn offers many discounted tickets and deals, such as their Länder-Tickets; these allow up to five travelers to move within a state to different destinations at a very low price.
  • Many of the cities also offer their own discount cards. Inquire at the tourist office if you plan on visiting multiple city attractions.

Learn more about the cheapest ways to enjoy the country with our best budget travel tips for Germany.