Aside from beer, lederhosen and other stereotypical images associated with Germany, Bavaria offers a wealth of beautiful scenery from crystal-clear lakes to dramatic Alpine peaks – get an eyeful of the Zugspitze, at 2,962m Germany’s tallest peak. Here, hikers, canoeists, paragliders and other adventurers are well-catered for.
And after a busy day they can relax in one of the region’s many spas. For a gentler pace, head to the Black Forest for leisurely cycles and strolls or take a cruise down the Rhine past postcard-pretty towns and vineyard-covered hills.
Then there are the cities – Berlin stands out, with its mix of grand culture and gritty recent history, plus buzzing nightlight life.
Climate and crowds in Germany: German weather is at its best in summer, when it’s hot but not uncomfortably so. But this is also the time when major attractions are at their busiest, roads get clogged-up and accommodation prices are high. At least in scenic areas such as the Black Forest, there is enough space to stop you feeling too claustrophobic.
Winter can get bitingly cold but if you wrap up warm and don’t mind few hours of daylight, there are fewer crowds. Germany is renowned for its Christmas markets and is pretty much guaranteed snow every winter.
Spring and autumn are ideal times to visit – the weather is mild, if sometimes unpredictable, and prices lower than in peak season.
Festivals in Germany: Most of Germany’s classical music festivals are held in June. Paradoxically, Munich’s world-famous Oktoberfest actually starts in mid-September. Germany’s renowned Christmas markets are held from mid-November until early January. Check your destination's tourist board website for specific dates.
Berlin-Tegel (TXL), 8km from the city; Berlin-Schönefeld (SXF), 20km; Frankfurt (FRA), 12km; Cologne (CGN), 14km; Düsseldorf (DUS), 8km; Hamburg (HAM), 9km; Munich (MUC), 28.5km; Stuttgart (STR) 14km.
By air: The national airline Lufthansa and the budget airline Germanwings operate numerous domestic flights between Germany’s major cities. These tend to be an expensive option in comparison with the trains.
By train: Germany has one of the most efficient and extensive railway networks in the world. The most popular intercity routes are served by the 330km-per-hour InterCityExpress (ICE) trains.
Most major cities have underground U-Bahn system or trams in the centre and a S-Bahn network going out into the suburbs. For timetables and fares see Deutsche Bahn’s website (www.bahn.de).
By road: In the few rural areas not served by trains, buses efficiently fill the gap. It’s well worth buying travelcards for these. Germany’s roads are well-maintained. Fly-drive deals often work out cheaper than hiring cars through local agents.
Cyclists are well-catered for: there are bike lanes throughout Germany and you can hire bikes from most of the main train stations and drop them off at any other participating station.
From five-star luxury to simple rooms in wooden chalets, Germany has accommodation to suit every budget.
Holiday homes, rented by the week, are an economical option if you’re planning on staying put in one spot and holidaying as a family or in large group.
Farmstays are becoming increasingly popular and full lists of these are usually available from local tourist offices.
There are over 2,500 campsites dotted all over Germany’s scenic spots. To search for one in the area you’re staying in, go to the German Tourist Board’s website.
Typical German cuisine is a hearty affair – meat-heavy main courses are often served with dumplings. Schnitzel is a popular, lighter favourite, while maultaschen and spätzle are state specialities in Baden-Württemberg.
Nowhere in the world has more varieties of sausage than Germany and there are many types which you won’t find anywhere else, such as Bavarian boiled weißwurst and the unique currywurst. For the best wurst, head straight to the local butcher’s, where you can buy hot sausage or roast-meat sandwiches to take away.
In large cities you’ll find a good variety of ethnic restaurants, especially Italian and Turkish. Vegetarians should head to the burgeoning number of organic restaurants for the widest choice of veggie dishes.
There are over 1200 breweries in Germany, and many restaurants have their own micro-breweries, so wherever you are there’s always a selection of local beers to sample; try Alt in Düsseldorf and Kölsch in Cologne.
Frankfurt is Germany’s cider capital and if you’re in Baden don’t leave without trying the Kirschwasser – a cherry-based spirit.
Germany has an excellent healthcare system. If you are an EU citizen, a European Health Insurance Card covers you for most medical care. No vaccinations are required, though it’s worth checking your tetanus jab is up to date. In some parts of Germany there is a small risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease – consider insect repellent. Tap water is safe to drink.
In touristy areas in Germany, as in other parts of the world, be aware of pickpockets.
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