While many Germans flee their country for Italy, Greece and Spain in summer, there is no need to leave Germany's borders for a beach vacation. While it may not be swimsuit weather year-round, every inch of the country's sandy corners are filled in the warmer months.
Whether you swim in the Baltic's wide, white, sandy beaches, swim for island life or engage in the Germans' zest for lake swimming, you will be surprised at the quality of beaches in Germany. From May to September the waters are (usually) warm enough to swim in as temperature are typically between 25C to 35C. Try to find a space for your beach towel at the 10 best beaches in Germany.
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The largest and most visited German island is - of course - the site of some of the country's best beaches. It also averages 1,800 hours of sun each year, making Rügen one of the sunniest places in Germany (the top title oddly belongs to a city in the Black Forest, Freiburg).
Located off the northeast coast, it was once a luxurious tourist destination for East Germans. Today, it is everyone's favorite nearby vacay and features UNESCO World Heritage sites like ancient forests and the beautiful chalk cliffs of Nationalpark Jasmund.
As to the the beach, there are 37 miles of white sand waterfront. Visit Binz and Sellin for promenades, piers and seaside resorts that hark from the 1800s. In the south, Baabe and Göhren also feature a promenade and calm waters, ideal for families. Perhaps the best beach for those looking for an island experience is Prora with 3.5 miles of fine sand. To beat the crowds, visit Cape Arkona, Schaabe or Nordstrand. Want to visit more than one? Take the Rügens...che Bäderbahn (nicknamed Rasender Roland or "Raging Roland") which carries its sand-covered passengers to 4 beach entrances.
The island can be reached by passing through Stralsund (worth a stop in itself) and is just 3 hours north of Berlin.
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Located to the west of Rügen, this car-free island in the Baltic Sea is relatively unknown to outsiders - but that is changing. The majority of its west coast is an idyllic sandy beach buffeted by dunes. The beaches of Kloster and Neuendorf are well-maintained and the softly sloping sands of Vitte make it a pleasant beach for small children.
Leave your car back at the harbor and make your way around the island on foot, by bike or by horse-drawn carriage.
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Another island destination in the north, oddly-shaped Sylt has nearly 40 km of beachfront - enough to satisfy any dedicated sun-worshipper. Called Königin der Nordsee (Queen of the North Sea) its white sands against Rotes Kliff (red cliffs) are a little otherwordly, as if you landed on a different planet and not just one of Germany's best beaches.
Find the unique red cliffs in Kampen before luxuriating in Westerland for sands as well-manicured as the elegant hotels. For families, the beaches of Wenningstedt are peaceful. Imagine you are somewhere altogether more tropical in exotically-named Samoa and Sansibar. If the attractions of Sylt have brought the crowds, travel a little further to the nearby island of Amrum where the Wadden Sea beaches to the east and the Kniepsand to the east are usually deserted.
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A seaside resort next to surprisingly charming Rostock, this was once just a small fishing village founded in 1200. Today's visitors are more likely to spend their time sunbathing, swimming and sailing. This expanse of sandy beach is located at the junction of the River Warnow flowing into the Baltic. Step back from the beach and climb the iconic lighthouse from 1898 for an unbeatable view.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Located near lovely Lübeck with its distinctive Hanseatic brick architecture, this seafaring destination has been going strong since 1802. Travemünde is where the Trave River empties into the Baltic and it is actually Germany's largest ferry port with connections to Scandinavia, Russia, Latvia and Estonia.
Like Warnemünde, it has a historic lighthouse, Alter Leuchtturm Travemünde, which is the oldest on the German Baltic coast built in 1539. Wide expanses of beach are dotted with the classic German Strandkörbe (wicker beach chair) with many people taking to the water by sailboat.
If you arrive in July, attend the annual sailing week, Travemünder Woche.
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This peninsula stretches into the Baltic and features a 14-kilometre-long beach backed by sand dunes. Feel free to kick off your shoes and feel the sand beneath your toes as this area is maintained as an environmental conservation with designated dog beaches located elsewhere.
The small population that calls this area home is a bohemian crowd of international and national artists. Even the mayor, Hans Götze, has an art career. You never know who you could bump into coming out of the endearing fisherman’s cottage.
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Another Baltic Sea island, divided between Germany and Poland (like nearby Stettin), is a summer destination. It is one of the sunniest locations in Germany and it has a 45km-long coastline of sandy beaches. The Sonneninsel (Sunny Island) offers seaside mansions, hotels over the water and leisure activities like cycling, horse riding and thermal spas.
Consider resorts like Drei Kaiserbäder, Bernsteinbäder, Ostseebäder and intimate Zempin.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Long stretches of sandy beachfront extend side to side and far out into the water. The dramatic tides create additional sunbathing space at low-tide, while at high tide kite surfers and swimmers rule the beach.
Soothe the pains of an active day with waters inland. The town is known for its sulphur springs (Therme), the cure to everything for a German.
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Its not all about the sea for most Germans. Lake swimming is a big deal, either for a day trip escape or a full-on vacation. The country is covered in pleasant lakes, but some of the best include:
- Lake Constance, known as Bodensee by the Germans, is a 63 kilometer long lake that you can't even see across. It borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland and has an iconic island, Lindau. One of the beast beach fronts in Germany is Horn Beach.
- Chiemsee is the largest lake in Bavaria and has two islands and a castle to explore.
- Lake Starnberg is only a 30 minute ride on public transport from Munich and offers typical watery delights.
- Ammersee is little-known outside of Germany, but offers beautiful green waters, water sports and hiking opportunities galore.
- Wannsee (+ list of best Berlin lakes).