Situated in the heart of Europe, Germany is mostly known for its World War II history and although history and culture is definitely one of the highlights of the country, Germany actually has many more things to offer.

You can visit stunning cities like Berlin, Munich or Cologne, explore natural wonders like the Black Forest, Rhine Valley or the Bavarian Alps, attend the famous Oktoberfest or wander around the magical Christmas markets. There are just so many amazing places to add to your Germany bucket list! From beautiful small towns and peaceful countrysides to fairytale castles and lively cities, here are the absolute best places to visit in Germany.

Best Places to Add to Your Germany Bucket List

Are you looking for the most beautiful places in Germany? Don’t worry, I got you covered! In this article you will find best places to visit in Germany together with a bunch of useful recommendations about the best things to do in each location, how much time to spend there and lots of other insider tips. Let’s get into it!

1. Berlin

Panoramic view of Berlin, Germany

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No Germany bucket list is ever complete without visiting the German capital city, Berlin. Spending a weekend in Berlin is a good start but if you have more time, you can easily spend a week in the city without getting bored.

Summer is definitely the best time to visit Berlin when the temperature is ideal for strolling around the city. If you don’t mind the freezing temperatures, winter is another great time for visiting as you can find some of the best Christmas markets in Europe in Berlin.

Visiting the most famous landmark in the city, the Brandenburg Gate, is a real must on every Berlin itinerary. This impressive 26 meters (85 ft) high Neoclassical structure that was once part of the Berlin Wall got severely damaged during WW II. After the wall was demolished in 1989, Brandenburg Gate became the symbol of freedom and later on it was completely restored in 2000.

Although the Berlin Wall (a concrete barrier that physically divided the city into East and West Berlin) was demolished, you can still find a few sections scattered around Berlin. The longest surviving section is called East Side Gallery that boosts stunning artworks from more than 100 different artists. With its 1.3 km (0.8 miles) length, East Side Gallery is now the longest open-air gallery in the world.

Other great things to do in Berlin include visiting the Reichstag (Parliament) building, admire the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), paying your respect at the Holocaust Memorial and seeing the sunset from the top of the TV Tower Berlin. If you want to escape the bustling city life, you can relax at one of the many beautiful parks in the city or visit the Botanical Garden or the Berlin Zoo.

2. Potsdam

Neues Palais in Potsdam, Germany

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One of the prettiest places to visit in Germany is the historical town of Potsdam. Filled with beautiful palaces and gardens, Potsdam makes an amazing day trip from Berlin.

The palaces and parks of Potsdam include an elaborate complex of more than 150 historic buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries and several sumptuously-landscaped parks.

The most iconic of these monuments is the Sanssouci Palace that is often referred to as the Versailles of Prussia. It’s sprawling royal mansion in the middle of an expansive terraced garden so the nickname sounds quite right. Additionally, Sanssouci is also the birthplace of the magnificent European art form, Friedrichian Rococo. This makes Potsdam a fascinating stop for every art and culture lover.

Apart from visiting Sanssouci Palace, there are many other interesting things to do in Potsdam. Exploring Potsdam’s New Palace, taking a stroll through the historic centre that includes the Old Market Square, and marvelling at the red brick houses of the Dutch Quarter are some of them.

The best time to visit Potsdam is between April and October when the temperatures are pleasant and the parks are green and verdant. It is easy to get there by either bus or car from Berlin. The journey takes less than an hour.

3. Marienburg Castle, Hannover

Marienburg Castle, Germany

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There are many well-known castles around Germany such as Neuschwanstein Castle and Eltz Castle. However, Marienburg Castle is just as beautiful and looks like it is straight out of a fairytale but it doesn’t have the same crowds of tourists. Adding this beautiful castle it to your Germany bucket list is definitely a great idea!

Marienburg Castle is located 30 km (18 miles) from Hannover in a small city called Hildesheim. If you are using Hannover as a base, you can take the train or the bus to Nordstemmen train station. From here the castle is 2.7 km (1.6 miles) and while it is possible to walk, it is easier to take a taxi.

Built between 1858 and 1867 by King George V as a gift to his wife, Queen Marie, the castle was intended as a romantic summer residence. However, King George V and Queen Marie were only able to live in the castle for a year as King George V was exiled to Austria. No one lived in the castle again until 1945 and because of this, it is one of the most well preserved castles in Europe.

During your stay you can visit the state rooms, the private rooms of the Royal family and the kitchen. The most beautiful room in the castle is the Queen’s library, however unfortunately you cannot take photos there.

When planning your visit, allow 3-4 hours. Your visit inside the castle (and up the tower if visiting in the summer) will take you a few hours but you will want to allow some time to sit in the old horse stable which has been converted to a restaurant and to explore the forest that surrounds the castle.

Marienburg Castle is one of the best places to visit in Germany, especially during the autumn when the leaves are in bright colours.

4. Hamburg

Rathaus in Hamburg, Germany

Recommended by Maria from EuropeUpClose

Hamburg is a must see place in Germany and such a fun city to visit. It’s a favorite destination among German tourists which is not yet discovered by many international tourists. It’s just a matter of time though, so it’s recommended to get there while it is still a hidden gem.

Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city after Berlin, but before Munich. And here are some more fun facts about the city: Do you like the Beatles? Hamburg is the place where they performed for the very first time on stage and had more hours on stage than in any other city.

Another interesting one: Hamburg is the capital of coffee in the world. It is one of the largest port cities in Europe, so Hamburg has always been a city with flourishing trade, but coffee is one of its main markets. Every 7th cup of coffee consumed has been through the port of Hamburg.

Although Hamburg is a port city, it is not located on the ocean. The city still has a very maritime feel, as it is surrounded by water – the stunning Elb river and the smaller Alster. If you like water sports, you definitely need to add Hamburg to your Germany bucket list! Another must is a boat tour around the Hamburg harbor, which is an incredible feat of engineering, timing, and organization.

5. Sylt

Sylt Island, Germany

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Sylt, the northernmost German island with a very distinctive shape is also the largest and most popular island of the North Frisian islands group in the Wadden sea, an UNESCO World Heritage site. It has a reputation of being the place for the rich and famous, but even if you do not fall into this category there are plenty of reasons why you should visit this island.

Due to its proximity to Denmark it offers a unique mix of German traditions and Nordic landscapes. One can get to Sylt either with a ferry from the mainland or from Danish Rømø island, but you can also arrive with a regional train or a car train via Hindenburgdamm causeway. There is a smaller airport on the island as well.

Sylt is definitely one of the most unique places to visit in Germany and although it’s only 38 km (24 miles) long and 13 km (8 miles) wide, it has an incredible network of cycling and walking paths. Bringing or renting a bicycle is one of the best ways to get around the island!

As for accommodation, there are a lot of expensive hotels but also lots of affordable apartments and camp sites. You can see most of the island during a weekend visit, but for a better experience five days are recommended.

Depending on the season, the best things to do include swimming and water sports such as surfing and kite surfing, cycling and long walks, soaking up the sun while lounging in one of the traditional beach furnitures called “Strandkorb”, indulging in one of the beach spas, eating out in fancy restaurants and more.

The best place for cycling is the remote and mostly uninhabited Ellenbogen in the north. You should not miss the cliffs in Morsum and Kampen, climbing up the highest dune Uwe Dune, relaxing on the beaches in Rantum, Hörnum and Kampen and strolling around the island’s largest town, Westerland.

6. Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf skyline, Germany

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One of the best places to visit in Germany is the city of Düsseldorf. This lovely city that is really worth visiting if you like art, history and German culture. The city is also amazing to visit because there is a lot to do and see and there are many events happening throughout the year.

Düsseldorf is located in the western part of Germany close to the border with the Netherlands and Luxembourg in the state North Rhine-Westphalia. In fact, it is the capital and second most populous city of that state.

One of the best things to do in Düsseldorf is going to the old town. This is a small part of the city that has amazing architecture which is lovely to see. Furthermore, there are plenty of bars and nightclubs here.

Another great thing to do while you are in Düsseldorf is climbing the tallest structure of the city. The Rhine Tower is 240 m (787 ft) high and has an observation deck from where you can see the city of Düsseldorf. Also, there is a restaurant with spectacular views.

When you are in Düsseldorf you should also check out one of the museums in the city. There are so many to choose from! A great one is Museum Kunstpalast, which has a very diverse collection.

Even though there are a lot of things to do and see in the city, you can visit most of them in one day. However, if you want to explore the many museums in more detail, then a bit more time is recommended.

7. Cologne

Cologne, Germany

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Cologne is a fantastic city for a break because it is packed full of culture, history and wonderful places to eat and drink so you should definitely put it on your Germany bucket list. There is so much to do in Cologne you will want to stay as long as possible in this welcoming city.

Start at the Farina Musuem, the world’s oldest fragrance house. Here you can find out about the history of perfume and try some out for yourself, including the original cologne recipe from the 18th century.

If you’re here on your family holidays to Germany (or even if you’re not visiting with kids), head out to the fantastic Cologne Zoo which is so well looked after and filled with interesting and lovely animals.

There’s also the NS-Documentation centre for a darker side of Cologne’s history, but nonetheless one that we shouldn’t forget. Visit this former Gestapo prison for a disturbing glimpse into the past and some of Germany’s darkest days.

Mix the history with a trip to the Lindt chocolate factory here in the city where you can learn about the story of this sweet stuff and also get to sample some for yourself. There’s a great cafe here to stop and have some more treats.

The modern art gallery of Museum Ludwig is also a wonderful place to lose yourself for an hour or two. Stay in one of the great family hotels in Cologne – there’s so much to do here, come for a weekend but you’ll without a doubt wish you had a longer stay.

8. Eltz Castle

Burg Eltz, Germany

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As one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, Burg Eltz is a place not to miss when visiting Germany. The medieval castle is located on a beautiful spot in the forest and a picture-perfect gem to see, both from a distance and up close.

The castle’s origins date back to the 13th century, when it was constructed for the Eltz noble family. It is one of the few castles in the world still owned by its original family. The castle is divided though between three branches of the Eltz family: the Kempenich, Rodendorf and Rubenich branches. The parts of the Rubenach and Rodendorf families are open for visitors.

The location of Burg Eltz is what makes it such a fairytale picture. It’s built on a rock in a valley, surrounded by the Eltz forest. The best way to arrive at the castle is by leaving your car at the parking area and walk through the forest to the castle. The first view of the fairytale castle after the winding walking trail is the most stunning picture of Eltz.

The courtyard can be visited without a ticket but you’ll need to buy one for the guided tour to visit the castle. You can’t walk around at your own pace but need to join one of the tours. Your guide will tell you more about the castle, its owners and history.

9. Bacharach

St. Peter's Church in Bacharach, Germany

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Bacharach is one of the cutest small towns in the Rhine River Valley that offers the most scenic views in the area. The village is about one and a half hours from Frankfurt and 15 minutes away from Bingen.

This beautiful stretch of Rhine is surrounded by castles and small towns. These towns made their money historically by collecting the tolls extracted from vessels passing by. It’s one of the best places to visit in Germany because of the scenic views, the popular white wines harvested from the vineyards, friendly locals, historic buildings, big old castles, cobblestone streets, and more.

Bacharach offers fantastic eating and drinking experience and it is also a great place to enjoy a cruise down the Rhine river and taking in the castles situated along its banks. If you want to appreciate each of its beauty spots, you must take out more than two days for the trip.

You can experience architecture dating back to historical eras and you can enjoy so much in this village including visiting the Burg Stahleck, a 12th century castle which is a picturesque location. You can also see the Lorelei Valley and the quaint town of Bacharach down the castle.

Other exciting things to do include visiting the Saint Peter’s Church, witnessing Vineyards and wineries. You must also check out the view from Loreley Plateau by going straight through the end of it from where you can see all the valley below.

10. Mainz

Old Town of Mainz, Germany

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Mainz is a Medieval town located 22 km (14 miles) from the Frankfurt airport. Frankfurt is a modern city known for banking and finance, while Mainz is laid-back and situated in the heart of the German wine country.

This town is worth exploring because of its rich history, wine production, and colorful architecture. It has a population of over 200,000 people and the Old Town resembles a fairytale village. Pastel colors and half-timbered buildings are prevalent throughout the Marktplatz and cobblestone streets pave a path to the Rhine river.

The Romans founded Mainz in the 1st century BC, and it was under their control for several hundred years. They built a six-towered Catholic Cathedral of St. Martin and St. Stephen, and it was renamed the Mainz Cathedral. Construction began in AD 975, but it mostly dates to the 11th-13th centuries. It is located in the Marktplatz and is close to the Gutenberg Museum.

Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, was from Mainz, so a museum was built in his name. Visitors love learning about the history of the printing press and comparing the different printing techniques used throughout Europe.

While there is a lot of history in Mainz, it is also the capital of the biggest wine region in Germany. The Rheinhessen valley is made of soft rolling hills and produces excellent Riesling. Other popular wines from this region include Liebfraumilch, Pinot Noir, and Dornfelder.

There are several wine taverns in town, and locals are excited to host wine tastings for visitors. Mainz is not the most well-known city in Germany but it should definitely be added to every wine enthusiast and history lover’s Germany bucket list.

11. Frankfurt

Frankfurt skyline, Germany

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Over 700.000 inhabitants make Frankfurt am Main the fifth biggest Großstadt (metropolis) of Germany. It’s famous skyline, dominated by skyscrapers explains the city’s nickname Mainhattan.

Frankfurt am Main, or Frankfurt for short, is the main financial center of Germany and is known for the yearly book fair, the Frankfurter Buchmesse. Easy to reach by plane, high-speed train (ICE) or car, Frankfurt has a lot to offer for city explorers.

Most of the (architectorial) highlights can be discovered during a 90 minutes sightseeing cruise along the river Main. The downstream cruise offers the most complete overview of the city. If you have more than a day to spend in Frankfurt, a day-long cruise is warmly recommended.

Not all travelers are fond of German cuisine, since most dishes are high in calories and quite heavy on the stomach. Do try Frankfurt’s famous drink though: apple cider. The most famous water landmark of Frankfurt, skyscraper Westhafen Tower, resembles an apple cider glass. It’s façade contains 3500 glass triangles.

A good dish to go along with apple cider is pumpkin soup (Kürbissuppe). Apfelweingaststätte Atschel is one of the oldest and most beloved cider restaurants in Frankfurt, a bright star in the apple cider sky of Frankfurt.

12. Baden-Baden

Baden-Baden, Germany

Recommended by Amber from Thessaloniki Local

If you’re looking for a restorative, relaxing holiday, Baden Baden is an ideal destination and one of the top places to visit in Germany for this purpose. This gorgeous spa town – whose name means “bath bath” – has been specializing in leisure for centuries. Particularly aristocratic leisure – this is also the place for high culture, like Opera, and more idle indulgences, like baccarat. Spending a weekend in Baden Baden in winter is a perfect combination of spa time and culture.

Of course, the highlight of a stay in Baden Baden is the famous baths. There are two choices: the historic Friedrichsbad, where one will have a 17 – step experience including a thorough brushing down with soap and soaks in many pools, culminating in a round pool under a high coffered dome. The Friedichsbad is strictly textile-free.

The Caracalla baths, on the other hand, are a contemporary facility you can enjoy in a bathing suit. There are also fantastic outdoor pools to have a great time year round.

By night, the opulent Kurhaus is the place to be. There are cultural events throughout the year, but the main attraction is the casino. Even those who don’t gamble will enjoy the singularly luxurious ambiance of this classic casino, where high stakes games unfold in silence under gilded ceilings.

By day, one can stroll along the banks of the river Oos, or hike in the Black Forest. The Altes Schloss Baden Baden is a fine destination, with splendid views. In town, the Trinkhalle is the chic promenade of choice, followed by the Lichtentaler allee. One can enjoy Kaffee und Kuchen – the German ritual of afternoon coffee and cake – at the same cafe where Franz Liszt and Leo Tolstoy once enjoyed theirs.

13. Black Forest

Black Forest, Germany

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The Black Forest, also known as Schwarzwald in german, is located in the region of Baden-Württemberg, in southwest of Germany. Not only associated with cuckoo clocks, black forest cakes and the Grimm’s fairy tales, it is also known for the dense pine forests, punctuated with thermal spa towns and glacier lakes.

It is often said that the forests are dark and so dense that it is difficult for sun to seep through the woods. Naturally, for this reason, the region got its name Black Forest. It is one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country and a must on every nature lover’s Germany bucket list.

Black Forest is truly a year-round destination as it offers excellent hiking trails, cross country skiing and biking adventures. Spring is still cold in Black Forest, so if you are looking for warm or comfortable weather conditions, it is recommended to visit Black Forest during summer or autumn.

Allow 3 to 4 days to explore the forest and start your adventure from Freiburg through Baden Baden. There are plenty of things to keep one occupied for weeks in Black Forest.

While there are many interesting tourist routes for driving, make sure to drive Hochstrasse, one of the most popular routes in Black Forest. Be sure to explore Triberg town and Triberg waterfalls, one of the highest waterfalls in Europe.

14. Freiburg im Breisgau

Freiburg Minster in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

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Freiburg im Breisgau is located in an enviable location close to the French Alsace Region and Swiss borders and on the edge of the Black Forest. Freiburg receives some of the best weather in Germany making it a city to get out and explore. There are many things to do in Freiburg for the whole family.

The Bachle is unique to Freiburg. It is a series of small open waterways that flow through the city. The Freiburg Minster has been standing since the 12th century, not even the war could destroy it. If you’re lucky, one of the weekly markets will be taking place around the walls of the cathedral.

You can take a cable car from the city centre to Schlossberg hill. From the top of the hill, you will get some fantastic views of the city stretching into the surrounding mountains. The Mundlehof is an open-air zoo and green zone where people can go for a walk and eat. If you are a football fan, Freiburg S.C plays in the Bundesliga and has a stadium near the city centre

Food in Freiburg has a German and French feel. One should always try the Flamkussen, which is a regional speciality. Freiburg is a lively city when it comes to eating out with many cafes, bars and restaurants. The Martins Brau Brewery in the city centre brews its own beer and serves freshly cooked meals.

You can take a day trip to Titisee or Basel and you can easily reach some of the most beautiful cities in France like Colmar or Strasbourg in under an hour from Freiburg im Breisgau. Freiburg is a university town which gives a young feel because something is always happening.

15. Tübingen

Colorful houses in Tübingen, Germany

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If you’re looking to visit an architectural gem and a place that’s home to one of Germany’s oldest universities, then head for Tübingen. It’s an ideal day trip from Stuttgart because it takes only an hour by train but it’s also perfect for an overnight stay.

Tübingen is a lovely town to potter around and soak in the main sights. Most of these are centred on its historic old town which is littered with old timbered buildings with coloured façades and pretty cobbled streets.

The 15th century St. George’s Collegiate Church, with its impressive stained-glass windows, can be found here. It was apparently one of the first churches to convert to the Protestant movement. The main square also features a 15th century old town hall (rathaus) with its astronomical clock, on the opposite is the Neptune Fountain.

Off of the main square there are some quaint and utterly enchanting small streets with tiny little streams flowing down the sides. There are also some restaurants alongside the water where you can stop for a bite to eat.

Overlooking all this is Schloss Hohentübingen, the town’s castle. Built on high ground, the castle walls afford sweeping views over the surrounding countryside.  There’s also an archaeological museum in the grounds.

Finally, a trip to Tübingen would not be complete without a short stroll along the Neckar river. There are picturesque postcard views of colourful half-timbered houses that form a row along the banks of the river. If you would like to see them you should head to the Eberhart Bridge. At this beautiful spot, you’ll also find the Plantanelle, a wide sycamore framed promenade, which is perfect for an afternoon stroll.

16. Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle, Germany

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Hohenzollern Castle is set in a spectacular position at the edge of the Swabian Alb mountains in the southern Germany state of Baden-Württemberg. The fortification is built on a limestone outcrop in the farmland to the south of Stuttgart and is named after and still owned by the descendants of the former German imperial family.

The castle is about an hour’s drive from the city of Stuttgart and is just off the main road which leads south to the town of Singen and the Swiss border. There are several large car parks to help deal with the estimated 350,000 visitors annually. Visitors can walk up to the castle or take a regular shuttle bus service.

Views from the castle gardens and battlements take in the entire panorama of the surrounding countryside and visitors can purchase an entrance ticket to explore some of the ornate rooms in the castle interior. A visit to the castle rooms and exterior during a day trip from Stuttgart would also leave time to explore one of the attractive towns, like Tübingen, in the area south of the city.

Although the Hohenzollerns were once Emperors of Germany and the family is one of the most famous historic dynasties in Europe, the current castle was only built in the 19th century. In much the same way as Neuschwanstein Castle in neighbouring Bavaria, the remodelling of the family ruins was part of a romantic concept which harked back to an idealised time of knights and ladies as they were portrayed in Germanic legends.

17. Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle Viewpoint from the Marienbrücke

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Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle is a true bucket list experience and it has to feature on the top of your Germany bucket list. The castle is located in a small town called Hohenschwangau in Bavaria, close to the German-Austrian border. You can easily visit Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich or Innsbruck as a day trip but if you want to properly explore the area, it’s best to stay for a few days in one of the nearby towns.

The construction of the castle began in 1868 on the request of King Ludwig II but unfortunately it has never been fully finished as the funds of the project were cut after the king’s death. Two months later the castle was opened up to the public and it quicky became the most visited landmark in the whole country. Legend has it that the castle even served as an inspiration for Walt Disney when creating the famous Disney castle!

Neuschwanstein Castle sits atop a hill in the foot of the Bavarian Alps and it takes around 30-40 minutes to reach the castle by foot from the center of Hohenschwangau. Cars and bicycles are not allowed on the road but if you’re not keen on walking that much (especially uphill), you can choose to take a shuttle bus instead. The bus will drop you off at Marienbrücke which is one of the best viewpoints at Neuschwanstein Castle and from there you can reach the castle within 10-15 minutes.

It’s important to know that it’s not possible to buy an entrance ticket directly at the castle so if you want to go inside, you need to purchase a ticket from the ticket office in Hohenschwangau in advance. The castle can only be visited with a guided tour and an adult ticket costs 13 EUR (14 USD).

18. Zugspitze

Zugspitze, Germany

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The mighty Zugspitze stands at 2,962 metres (9,718 ft) above sea level and is Germany’s highest mountain. Fondly known as ’the top of Germany’, the Zugspitze lies to the south of Germany’s famous mountain town, Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

You don’t need to be a hardy hiker, or expert skier to visit the Zugspitze which is certainly one of the most beautiful places in Germany. Just hop on the quaint but magnificently engineered cog-wheel train or take a ride on the uber-cool cable car, all the way to the summit.

If you want to do both – and why not – take a slow ride up on the train from Eibsee station to the Zugspitzplatt at 2,600 metres (8,530 ft). Not quite at the top, but this not to be missed stop gives you the chance to stand on an actual glacier! The glacier can be seen below the snow, glistening blue-green in the crisp sunlight and cooling the mountain air. You can also enjoy sledding here, as well as a hot chocolate from the bar, whilst wrapped in a rug.

From here, there is a small cable car to the summit, where the views across the Alps are absolutely incredible. The panoramic viewing platform gives you the opportunity to see the entire mountain range, spreading across 207,000 square km (80,000 square miles) – the views are breathtaking. It will be cold and windy at the top all year round, so wrap up warm.

The main cable car from the summit will take you all the way down to the Eibsee, revealing the gorgeous blues and greens of this beautiful lake. Once you reach solid ground again, look back and be in awe of Mother Nature and her creation.

Final Thoughts

If you love European culture and history and you enjoy visiting beautiful cities, stunning natural wonders and magical fairytale towns and castles, Germany will not disappoint. I hope you liked this article about the best places to visit in Germany and you will have the chance to visit some of these stunning places on your next trip to Germany.

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