Which city should you visit in Germany?

If you only have a short time to visit Germany which city do you visit? Here’s my opinion and experience of 6 German cities to help you decide.

Only have a short time to visit Germany and need some help deciding which of the many popular cities to visit?

Here’s my thoughts on 6 German cities I recently visited.

Berlin —> Nuremberg —> Munich —> Füssen —> Heidelberg —> Cologne

 

Berlin

The capital of Germany combines rich history and architecture with an edgy, alternative subculture. It took me a day or so to really start to like the city as it’s not typically “pretty” and many of it’s best aspects are hidden away, waiting to be discovered.

One of my favorite things in Berlin was scouring the second hand and vintage stores for unique pieces- I loved these stores most. Somewhat surprisingly, Berlin is also home to my favorite Christmas Market. If you visit during December be sure to head along for some mulled wine, delicious food and gorgeous handcrafts in a beautiful setting. 

Overall, I’d recommend visiting Berlin if you like other culture packed cities like Melbourne. Here’s 5 unmissable sites that you can walk to from the cbd.

 

Nuremberg

I chose to spend Christmas here with some friends from Australia, as we’d heard it was a magical place to spend the holidays. Particularly I’d hear the Christmas markets set against a backdrop of the old town and castle were unmissable. In reality visiting the markets at Christmas Eve was not the experience I’d hoped for. It was extremely busy, rainy and after the stunning markets in Berlin, a bit of a let down.

The exterior of the castle also wasn’t very picturesque and during the three days I visited, the interior was closed. My opinion of Nuremberg may well have been clouded by the weather- the whole time it was grey and the city appeared very brown and a bit lackluster.

If you do visit, I’d recommend going in mid-December before the Christmas crowds become unbearable.

Munich

Arriving in Munich straight from Nuremberg, I was struck by how attractive the city was. Especially the towering buildings of Marienplatz with their beautiful, intricate details shining in the sun- my photos definitely do not do the city justice!

Munich is also famous for it’s large bustling beer halls and as it’s in the south of Germany, it’s also a perfect jumping off spot for trips to the alps and the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. If castles interest you then have a look at this post where I discuss all the specifics on how to get to Neuschwanstein from Munich.

Heidelberg

Arriving at the train station in the modern part of town, I was surprised at the size of Heidelberg. I’d imagined it to be a small, quaint historic University town, which is not really the case until you arrive in the old town itself.

I found the castle enchanting and much larger than I expected. Crossing the old bridge and walking up the hill on the opposite bank of the river provides a stunning vista of the castle and old town. The most famous of these walks is the Philosopher’s way, an ancient cobbled, stone wall lined path that meanders up the hill and was the pondering ground for many a philosopher of the past.

I’d recommend Heidelberg if you like castles and old towns, but again it was extremely busy in December.

Cologne

We visited Cologne for New Years Eve and it definitely had a bigger party vibe than other places I visited in Germany. Fireworks are freely available to anyone to release at will over New Years and during our cruise of the Rhine we were treated to a continuous sparkling show on both sides of the river purely put on by the locals.

Cologne is also home to the second tallest church in Europe. Located right next to the train station, the Cologne Cathedral is hard to miss and possibly explains why it’s the most visited site in Germany, with 20,000 visitors a day.

Füssen

I visited this quintessential Bavarian town whilst I was exploring Neuschwanstein Castle. I fell in love with the old town lanes and the stunning green-blue colour of the river. I only regret that I didn’t spend more time in the town. As it’s often overlooked while people rush to the nearby castle, Füssen was also refreshingly quiet compared to every other place I visited in Germany.

Füssen ended up being my favorite place in all of Germany and I highly recommend adding it to your itinerary. Here’s some more photos if you’re not convinced.

 

What’s your favorite city in Germany and why do you love it?

 

Fussen: a photo diary of a quintessential German town

If there’s one thing I’d change about visiting Germany it would be to spend a few nights in gorgeous Fussen. Here’s some photos from the 2,000 yr old town!

If there’s one thing I’d change about my recent trip to Germany it would be to spend a few nights in this perfectly adorable town. Fussen is over 2000 years old and I absolutely loved the old town vibes and how picturesque it was

Some of the noteworthy sites include the Hohes Schloss (High Castle) which houses part of the Bavarian State Collection of Paintings, with most of the artwork from the late Gothic and Renaissance period. St Mang’s Basilica is home to Germany’s oldest fresco which dates back to 980AD. On St Mang’s Feast Day (September 6th) a holy mass is held in the Basilica, followed by a torch-lit procession through the old town. During the week of the feast, special ‘Magnus Wine’ is sold, with only 500 bottles produced.

I also loved the traditional huge ‘snowball’ sweets pictured below. These are fried biscuits shaped into a ball and rolled in chocolate, sugar or nuts and often stuffed with ganache!

Visiting Sleeping Beauty’s Castle: a day at Neuschwanstein

Visiting the inspiration behind Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle was a highlight of my trip to Germany. Here I share photos and tips on how to get the most out of a day trip to Neuschwanstein from Munich.

One of the highlights from my recent trip to Germany was visiting the place that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle- Schloss Neuschwanstein.

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Two things struck me when I visited the area. Firstly, it’s crazy busy with tourists, so much so that it almost detracts from the charm of the castle. Secondly, the natural beauty of the region is so incredibly stunning that I’d list it in the top 5 most scenic places I’ve visited in the world. The mountains are rugged, thick with snow and pine trees and the rivers and lakes are the most intense green-blue colour I’ve ever seen.

Visiting the area is possible as a full day trip from Munich, but as there’a a lot to see in the surrounds I’d recommend staying a few days and exploring at a relaxed pace. Things to see include: two other castles- Hohenschwangau and Hohes, museums and galleries, beautiful hiking tracks, a ski resort at nearby Tegelberg and the charming town of Füssen.

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Below are some photos from my visit, info on the key sites and tips on how to make the most of your trip to the area.

 

 

Neuschwanstein Castle

Construction of the castle began in 1869, after King Ludwig II of Bavaria enlisted a stage designer instead of an architect to draw up the plans. The castle was to be his fairytale palace and was built in honor of Richard Wagner, whom Ludwig had been patron to since 1864. Sadly, the castle was still not complete in 1886 when Ludwig died.

Neuschwantein would go on to become Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s castles and the company’s logo. The castle now attracts over 6 million visitors a year, ironic as Ludwig intended that none of his castes ought to be visited by a stranger.

 

 

Hohenschwangau Castle

Located just across the valley from Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau is the castle that Ludwig and his family actually lived in. The 19th century Gothic castle was built upon 12th century ruins and has an authentic, well lived in feel, due to the presence of all the original furniture. The paintings, decor and ornaments inside the castle provide an interesting insight into aristocratic Bavarian life during the 19th century.

Füssen

This 2000+ year old town was founded by the Romans and is the perfect place to stroll around, taking a walk along the river or through the old streets. Whichever way you turn a scenic view will greet you. My only regret during my Germany trip was that I didn’t stay a few nights in the town- it was my favorite place in the whole country.

There are also a few notable sites, including the Hohes Schloss (High Castle) which houses a gallery that’s part of the Bavarian State Collection of Paintings. Most of the artwork in the gallery is late Gothic and Renaissance works.

Then there’s St Mang’s Basilica which houses Germany’s oldest fresco (dating back to 980) in its crypt and plays a central role in St Mang’s Feast Day (September 6th) where a holy mass is followed by a torch-lit procession through the old town. For the week of the feast special ‘Magnus Wine’ is sold- with only 500 bottles produced.

 

Walking from Füssen to the Castles

The highlight of my day was waking from Füssen along the river to the castles, and then back by lakes and the forest. This beautiful walk is roughly 4km in each direction, and the best bit was that I saw less than a handful of people- welcome solitude compared to the hundreds of tourists milling around the castle area. Walking also means you can appreciate different views of the castle from afar.

If you prefer not to walk then you can take the local bus for a few euro. It leaves from the train station and arrives in the castle precinct, but is very busy during peak times, so be prepared to wait.

 

Practicalities

Getting to Füssen from Munich: A return train ticket cost me 50€ in peak season, for a 2hr (each way) trip. I booked my ticket from the Deutsche Bahn website.

Castle Tickets: The only way to go inside the castles is on a tour, which you can book online up to two days prior to your tour date. There are various combinations of tickets available. You need to fill in a form and enter credit card details, but pay when collecting the ticket on the day. A 35 minute tour is 13€ for one castle or 25€ for both.

If it’s a last minute decision, you can still get tickets at the site until they sell out for the day. To have the best chance of getting last minute tickets, arrive early (the ticket center opens at 7.30am from April-October, otherwise at 8.30am) and if there are long queues head straight to the museum rather than waiting at the ticket center. When I visited there were at least 100 people queuing at the ticket center. I walked past them all to the very end of the road near the lake, where there wasn’t a single person at the museum counter and I was able to purchase one of the last 4 tickets for a castle tour. I’m very grateful to the friendly local who advised me on this little trick!

Map of the Castle area:

Further Tips

  • The Marianne Bridge (where the iconic photos are taken) is often closed in the colder months as ice makes the path dangerous
  • No photos are allowed inside any of the castle buildings
  • It can be very busy during peak seasons (summer and around Christmas) so be prepared for long wait times and many other tourists trying to get photos with the castle in the background. I coped with this by walking to the castles from Fussen- the solitude allowed me to recharge my introverted batteries!

 

 

Have you visited Füssen or one of these castles?

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Exploring Berlin on foot: 5 unmissable sites

Shaped by the likes of Marx, Einstein, Hitler and Bowie, the capital of Germany is incredibly rich in culture and history, yet simultaneously one of the most effortlessly cool and edgy places I’ve visited.

The city has some beautiful landmark buildings and gardens, although it’s not what I’d call a “pretty city”. For me the allure came from wondering around on foot and discovering the cafes, vintage stores, murals, graffiti and generally chilled vibe of Mitte and the Barn district. I’d recommend staying centrally so you can easily wander on foot- saving money and the environment.

Here are 10 sites you can walk to from central Berlin and explore for free!

1. Walk up the dome of the Reichstag

Germany’s parliament building expertly combines old and new architecture, with the 19th century main building contrasting elegantly with the new dome. Constructed in the 1990s during the building’s restoration, the glass dome was designed by Norman Foster and features a mirror-lined central column which allows natural light to filter down to the parliament below. While entry is free you need to book ahead and bring your passport for security purposes. Make sure you click through on the multiple email confirmations to secure your spot. The view from the top is well worth the small hassle and the audio guide explains the buildings you see in the 360-degree vista with just the right amount of information.

Afterwards wander the nearby Tiergarten and visit the famous Brandenburg Gate.

2. Get lost in Mitte- especially the Barn Quarter

Scheunenviertel, also known as the Barn Quarter is the historic Jewish neighborhood, and home to the beautiful Neue Synagoge, a belle epoque ballroom– turned into a restaurant and dance school, and a bunch of edgy galleries and eating spots. Some of delicious bakeries and restaurants include; Five Elephant, Zeit für Brot and Tinman.

As with many places I travel to, I loved wandering around aimlessly and taking in the pretty vintage stores amid graffiti coloured walls and locals cycling to work. I listed my favorite 10 eco-friendly and vintage stores that I stumbled on here. Another of the more popular sites is Hackescher Markt and Hackesche Hofe– a complex of eight interlinked courtyards with shops, restaurants and theaters.

3. Wander Gendarmenmarkt

The most elegant square in Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt is boarded on two sides by twin French and German churches and a third side by the Konzertaus (Concert Hall). The beautiful square is also home to an enchanting Christmas Market in December.

4. Visit Museum Island

With over 6,000 years of history, the five museums on this small UNESCO World Heritage listed island contain no modern art! If you’re interested in art and architecture it would be worth purchasing a 3-day Museum Pass for 29€. While some museums in Berlin offer free entry one a week or month, this does not include any on museum island. However, if you’re on a tight budget or time frame the buildings are stunning to observe from the outside, by wandering along the river banks or the island itself.

5. Take a step back in history at the Berlin Wall

There are several sites to view the Berlin Wall and learn about the history of the era, including Checkpoint Charlie– the main gateway for foreigners and diplomats between 1961- 1990, the Gedenkstatte Berliner Mauer (the Berlin Wall Memorial) and my favorite- the East Side Gallery, a 1.4km stretch of the wall with murals and street art. I walked here from Mitte but it’s also close the Schöneberg metro stop.

Berlin Christmas Markets

While cities like Nuremberg are more famous for their Christmas markets, two markets I visited in Berlin were also spectacular. Each has a slightly different vibe, with the market at the Berlin Town Hall, near Alexander Platz, a more kid friendly market, with a huge ferris wheel, ice-skating rink, carousel and illuminated moving Santa on a sleigh. On the other hand the beautiful market at Gendarmenmarkt is much more geared for adults, with a plethora of Glühwein stalls, delicious food options, gorgeous handicrafts, live music and a general exuberant atmosphere. Here are some photos from each of them- I hope they help to get you in the festive spirit!

 

Gendarmenmarkt

 

Berlin Town Hall

 

 

 

10 vintage and eco-friendly stores you’ll want to visit in Berlin

I no longer buy new clothes- you can read about why here. Instead, I love finding second-hand bargains or clothes that someone has up-cycled into something unique and beautiful. I also no longer buy touristy souvenirs as a reminder of a country I’ve traveled to, instead I prefer to find a unique item of clothing or jewelry that will remind me of the country whenever I wear it. If you feel the same then you might like these gorgeous stores I found whilst wandering around Mitte in Berlin.

1. Who Killed Bambi?

This store is amazing! Full of up-cycled vintages dresses, blouses, denim jackets and more, I couldn’t get enough. I fell in love with and purchased two blouses, as they had a distinctly Berlin feel to me.

2. 1213bst

Probably the best value and range of all the stores I visited, as there are clothes from different people selling what they no longer want. It’s well curated and doesn’t feel cramped thanks to the open-plan layout. They also have a great range of jeans.

3. Unico

Some of the most stunning hand-made jewelry I’ve seen. They stock more than twenty jewelry collections, with a focus on contemporary Argentinian designers. I wanted everything. And I’ve never been in a shop that smelt better. My favorite store in all of Berlin.

4. Garments Vintage

Elegant and well curated, mainly designer vintage at reasonable prices. I fell for a Burberry trench and a high waisted Dolce and Gabbana skirt… maybe next time!

5. Villa Sorgenfei

Opposite to Garments Vintage this tiny jewelry store has quirky, earthy somewhat fairytale inspired pieces, with imprinted leaves and dandelion wisps in glass balls.

6. Made in Berlin

I found this store to be quite expensive but extensive as f*#k. They have everything and in every colour you might imagine.

7. Picknweight

This chain store has a large range but displayed in a more hap-hazard and tightly packed way than other stores. As the name suggests you pay by the weight of your clothes, so you can get a good deal on lighter items.

8. Ecoalf

I love the idea of this store- they repurpose plastic bottles and fishing nets into clothes. I especially loved their tees and pull overs but it was a bit out of my price range on this trip.

9. Humana second hand & vintage

This chain store is super cheap (many things for 1€) but requires a lot of rummaging to find anything decent.

10. Mauer Park flea market

And finally, Berlin’s largest flea market! It’s open every Sunday from 8am-5pm And I’ve heard it’s best to arrive early for the bargains. Unfortunately I had to catch my bus early Sunday morning so I couldn’t get there this trip.