You’ve just landed in Germany. Your tired and jet-lagged after your over night flight, but honestly, sleep is for the weak. So let’s go! It’s time to start exploring Deutschland.
European travel is made pretty easy by their extensive RailEurope system. It’s a great way to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery, without having to do much work. That being said, I’m in Germany, and I’m a bit more adventurous, so I’m renting a car and hopping on the Autobahn! Germany’s highway systems are famous for being one of the only places where you can drive as fast as you want. At 120mph, there were still cars flying past me on the German Autobahn. There are certain areas where there is a suggested speed limit, and you can get ticketed for not obeying it, so pay attention!
If you plan to see all the major cities in Germany it is worth considering renting a car so you can go where you want and when you want. You can pick up a rental car at any airport that you arrive in, using companies like Enterprise or Hertz. Most credit cards will cover insurance for your car rental if you are charging it to your credit card and reject the insurance through the car rental company. Call and check with your credit card before hand for their exact rules on it.
Here are all the best stops for your road trip through Deutschland!
Nuremberg is the site where huge Nazi Party conventions where held, otherwise known as the Nuremberg rallies. It is also famous for the 1945/1946 Nuremberg Trails, which were trails against German officials involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity. You can visit the Nazi Party Rally Grounds today for 5.00 EUR.
Your first action in Nuremberg should be strolling around and taking in the picturesque town. Make sure to find your way to Weissgerbergasse, one of the original streets that wasn’t destroyed during WW2. Here you will find old, colorful, artisan houses lined up along the street. Photo-op worthy. Stop somewhere for a bit to eat – ideally at the lovely market in the city square.
If you have more time here, you can check out the Nuremberg Castle, which was the residence of all legitimate German kings and emperors from 1050 to 1571, see the town walls dating back to the 14th century, or stop into the National Germanic Museum.
I had the least amount of time planned for Munich, but it turned out to be one of my favorite stops. The only place you need to go to in Munich is the Hofbrauhaus. Hofbrauhaus is one of Munich’s oldest beer halls. You can get the whole Oktoberfest experience here any time of the year, without having to deal with the crowds during actual Oktoberfest. Hitler was often found in this beer hall. He gave many famous speeches here and it is the location where he declared the 25 thesis of the National Socialist party in 1920. Obviously, you must order and drink at least one large stein while here. Make sure to meet up with some locals so that they can tell you the proper time to cheers and drink during the band’s set. If your not interested in drinking but still wanted to visit, they offer food as well (go for the spaetzle, a traditional German egg noodle). If you still have time make sure to stop by Marienplatz, the central square in the city.
About and hour and 45 minute drive from Munich lies Neuschwanstein Castle. You really can’t go to Germany without visiting at least one castle and if your only going to one, this is the one to go to. The castle is located in Bavaria and was built by King Ludwig 2 of Bavaria. He was also known as the “Fairytale King”. The fairytale style look of the castle was the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. You can walk around and explore the castle on your own but if you’d like to actually go inside the castle you will need to buy a ticket. Tickets go for about 20.00 EUR.
The castle is located on a large hill and therefore, you can either take a bus ride up (about 3 EUR roundtrip), a horse and carriage ride (about 10 EUR roundtrip), or you can walk in about 45 minutes time. I’d recommend staying in the area for a few days to check out the three local castles and make the most of some nice weather.
If you need a quick rest stop along your drive I’d recommend the historic town of Ulm. Here you can find the Ulm Minster, which is the tallest church building in the world. The steeple reaches up to 161.5 meters or 530 feet high. You can step inside the church and have a look around, or just explore the square outside. After that you can grab a bite to eat before getting back on the Autobahn heading towards Berlin.
Berlin seemed to be a very modern type city to me, which can sometimes lead you to forget about how much history it has. Berlin was subjected to many air raids and bombings during the Second World War, and had to be rebuilt after the war, which explains the modern feel to it.
There are many things to do and see in Berlin. I started with the East Side Gallery.The East Side gallery is a 1316 m long section of the Berlin Wall which consists of 105 paintings by artists from around the world. The most famous paintings on the wall are gated off to prevent others from drawing graffiti over them. The gallery is free to attend. Make sure to start at one end of the gallery and walk past the whole thing. A leisurely walk along the gallery should take about an hour, more or less depending on how much of the artwork you would like to take in.
After seeing the wall, we walked to the Topography of Terror Museum, with a quick stop at Checkpoint Charlie (a Berlin Wall crossing point between communist East and democratic West Berlin during the cold war). The Topography of Terror Museum, once the Gestapo and SS headquarters, is now a free museum and memorial site. You could spend hours here reading about the Historical events that took place here. The documentation center includes photographic, audio, and video material, among other exhibitions as well.
The Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe is another free memorial that is worth visiting. Here is a place of remembrance for the millions of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Underneath the memorial is the Exhibition at the Information Center, which you can do an audio tour for a few Euros.
In addition to these museum and memorials you can visit Sachenhausen Camp in Oranienburg, about an hour drive from Berlin. You can do an audio tour for 3 Euros or a guided tour which provided about six hours worth of information including personal accounts of what happened here. It is a very emotional experience for many people, so factor that into your decision to visit the concentration camp.
For a more uplifting day trip from Berlin I suggest visiting the Sanssouci Palace. This is the former palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. The bright yellow castle is quite stunning.
You could spend hours admiring it as well as a few more hours walking through it’s generous gardens. For 12 EUR (8 EUR with a student I.D.) you can do an audio tour inside the palace. The tour is a timed ticket so if you would like to do this make sure you get there early so they don’t sell out. If you only have a certain amount of time at the palace, I’d suggest spending that time wandering around outside of the palace!
If you are starving they have a food truck towards the entrance of the palace. If you can wait I’d recommend driving over to the Dutch Quarter for a sit down German meal. Augustiner’s wheat beer and mashed potatoes are delicious!
AND OF COURSE, THE FOOD
Deutschland has so much amazing food. Make sure to grab some street food Doner Kebabs in Berlin. There’s also pretzels, wheat beer, spaetzel, and Haribo candies everywhere! You will not be disappointed.