Great beer, fantastic food and a complex and often vibrant history, it’s no wonder Germany is becoming an increasingly popular place to visit. From its fairytale palaces to its world-class cities, there’s plenty to see and do. Here we highlight the essentials with our list of the top 10 tourist attractions in Germany.
Whether you plan a city break in Berlin or wish to visit the Black Forest area of Bavaria, our selection of the Germany’s top sights will help you discover the very best visitor attractions in the country. We’ve included some of the most famous tourist attractions of Germany as well as a couple of hidden gems that shouldn’t be missed. If you’re hungry for more, then check out our full directory of sites in Germany.
Before we say auf wiedersehen, don’t forget to download our free German tourist attractions map.
The iconic Brandenburg Gate stands today as one of the most important monuments in Germany. Commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia at the end of the eighteenth century, it was originally intended as a symbol of German Reunification and peace. But it was later used extensively in Nazi propaganda, taking on darker tones, and then came to represent the Cold War when it fell into no-man’s land near the Berlin Wall. That so many meanings have been attached to it adds to its appeal as does its remarkable appearance. With columns on either side and intricate carvings, its sheer stature ensures it is constantly features on any list of Germany’s top visitor attractions.
In their heyday, the Imperial Baths of Trier were said to be the largest Roman baths outside of Rome. Located in the centre of this ancient city, they date back to the fourth century AD and have been beautifully preserved. Trier itself is worth exploring. It was a Roman city initially established in around 15 BC and called Augusta Treverorum. By the late third century AD, Trier was such a flourishing and important city that it was known as the “Second Rome”.
The Berlin Wall is the most enduring symbol of the Cold War that exists today and, as a result, remains one of the most popular visitor attractions in Germany. It was built in August 1961 and was originally 87 miles long, separating not just East and West Berlin but two inexorably opposed philosophies and some would argue empires. Most of The Wall no longer exists, having been torn down in the days immediately after its fall on 9th November 1989. Still the sections that remain are definitely worth going to see as much for what they represent as for what they look like today.
Scenic, alluring and fascinating, Schwerin Castle is one of the most enchanting sights in Germany and the kind of place young, nerve-wrangled-Romeos will go to propose. Set in a wonderfully picturesque location on a small island in Lake Schwerin, this fairytale castle breathes romance. It dates back to 1160, when Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, built a castle there. The castle as we now know it was later transformed and what we see today was largely completed in 1857. This re-constituted castle came to symbolise the powerful dynasty of its creator, Friedrich Franz II. Today it’s the seat of the local government and contains a wonderful art gallery. A fantastic place to visit and a must-see experience for visitors.
An imposing and eye-popping cathedral, Berliner Dom is the capital’s largest and most important Protestant church, as well as the sepulchre of the Prussian Hohenzollern dynasty. This outstanding baroque monument was completed in 1905, having undergone renewed phases of architectural renovation since the Middle Ages. Damaged during the Second World War, Berliner Dom was closed during the GDR years. It reopened after restoration and now this hugely popular German visitor attraction offers tours and audio guides.
German King Ludwig II was so in awe of France’s Palace of Versailles that he decided to build one for himself. This ‘replica’ is Herrenchiemsee Palace, and is now without a doubt one of the very best tourist attractions in Germany. A luxurious 19th century Bavarian royal residence, with stunning water features and tailored grounds, Herrenchiemsee certainly has the elegance of its French counterpart. Visitors will be enchanted by the art and architecture on display, as well as furniture from other Ludwig castles. Lavishly decorated palatial rooms add to the sheer opulence of this monument to 19th-century megalomania. And the fun starts before you even arrive at the palace. Sitting on its own island, access to the site is by boat. Ramp up the glamour by taking a horse carriage ride from pier to palace in the summer months. Unmissable.
This magnificent example of Gothic architecture is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which towers over the city of Cologne. Large in size and intricate in detail, Cologne Cathedral took over 600 years to build, from 1248 to 1880. Its biggest claim to fame is the Shrine of the Three Magi (or three Kings), thought to contain the skulls of the three wise men. It’s also certainly worth climbing one of the towers for excellent views across Cologne. Truly deserving of its place in our list of top ten sights in Germany.
A short distance from Berlin, the Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz is where the Nazi leadership gathered to formulate the ‘Final Solution’ - their plan to utterly annihilate and murder the Jews of Europe. It is at once sad, sombre and demoralising but also an undoubtedly interesting place. The house itself is beautiful, as are the surroundings - it’s on a lake and surrounded by lush forest. The stark contrast between outside and in makes the content of the museum all the more moving. Visitors to Wannsee might also want to see the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, which is made up of a dark granite maze and subterranean information centre and stands as a lasting memorial to this most heinous of crimes.
For nearly 1,000 years, the majestic and impressive Worms Cathedral has risen above all the other ancient buildings and dominated the skyline of Worms, even from a distance. This sandstone structure, which still has its original Romanesque architecture and splendid carvings, is exceptionally well-preserved. Now one of the most popular visitor attractions of Germany, an added bonus of a trip to Worms Cathedral is the burial site of the Salian Dynasty, a medieval German royal line of Holy Roman Emperors. The remarkable Salian crypt remains in the cathedral to this day.
Last but not least on our list of major German tourist attractions, the fairytale-like castle of Neuschwanstein was built in the 19th century for Bavaria’s notorious “Mad” King Ludwig II. Neuschwanstein was inspired by Ludwig II’s declared desire to live somewhere designed in the authentic style of the old German knights. To this end, many rooms inside the castle reflect Ludwig’s passion for medieval kingship, such as the opulent Throne Hall. With its remote cliff setting and its many turrets, Neuschwanstein might become your favourite fantasy castle.
If that’s whetted your appetite for all things Chinese, remember you can download your free printable Top Ten German tourist attractions guidebook now as well as exploring our full list and map of Germany’s tourist attractions.