With a spectacular landscape, vibrant cities and abundant spa towns, there’s much to love about Germany
In the words of David Bowie, Berlin is ‘the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine’, with an insatiable appetite for all-things artistic and vibrant. And little wonder, given that the capital has risen from the ashes of wartime, a period that is addressed with great poignance and respect via the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate, and the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse — the final remaining section of this epoch-defining divide. But Berlin’s present shines through, too: you can spy modern masterpieces at the Academy of Arts, wander the flower-filled borders of the Botanical Gardens, and lose yourself in the exhibitions of Museum Island. To see it all, scale the 368m Television Tower: it’s no Burj Khalifa, but is a spectacular place to get your bearings — especially at sunset.
Move over, Disneyland: Germany has enough rollercoasters, rides and rip-roaring entertainment to fill an entire fortnight. At Europa-Park, in Baden-Württemberg, you’ll find over 100 attractions — including the mighty ‘Silver Star’ (which reaches 130km/h and centrifugal forces of 4G), the racing rapids of ‘Fjord-Rafting’, and the virtual reality fun of ‘Alpenexpress Coastiality’. If you’re travelling with younger children, head to LEGOLAND Deutschland Resort, near Günzburg: its Miniland recreates the likes of Paris and Rome in over 23 million tiny colourful bricks, alongside rides of all kinds in Adventure Land, Pirate Land and the splash-tastic LEGO X-TREME. Meanwhile, the vintage style Hansa-Park, with its classic ’coasters and toddler-friendly Kinderland, sits on the coast overlooking the beautiful Bay of Lübeck.
Spa trips aren’t simply an indulgence in Germany, they’re a way of life. For centuries, the nation has wholeheartedly embraced the benefits of heady herbal saunas, mineral-laced waters and deep-tissue massages — and in doing so, has created some of the world’s finest wellness retreats. It helps, of course, that Germany’s topography is curative by nature: from the geothermal hot springs in the mountainous south – especially the Bavarian Alps and Black Forest regions — to the soothing seawater of the northern coast, where sanitariums draw from the Baltic and North seas for thalassotherapy treatments. Today, the country has over 350 towns and resorts dedicated to wellness: like Bad Wiessee, with its famous healing sulfur fountain, and Bad Elster, a hotspot for mineral baths.
As if on a throne, Neuschwanstein Castle sits high above the Bavarian countryside, its dove-grey walls rising above a ruffle of forest — and its turrets and towers forming a cloud-grazing crown. At its foot, the stone tumbles away to a patchwork of meadows, while the muscular Alps loom large in the distance. It takes little imagination to see why Neuschwanstein is rumoured to have inspired the design of Disney’s Cinderella Castle, but it’s far from alone: Germany has thousands of fairytale-esque castles and fortresses, found in every corner of its cities and countryside. The likes of Heidelberg Castle (in Baden-Württemberg) and Wartburg Castle (in Eisenach) date back to the Middle Ages, but their imposing style has inspired architects ever since – including those of Neuschwanstein, which was built in the 1800s.
For decades, German cuisine was considered more stodgy than stylish, more functional than flavoursome — but it now boasts a constellation of Michelin stars. Many of its most decorated chefs have risen from humble beginnings: like Helmut Thieltges, who has transformed the Waldhotel Sonnora, his family’s modest guesthouse in western Germany, into a gourmet grandee boasting three Michelin stars. Meanwhile, Chef Joachim Wissler grew up on a farm in the Swabian Alb, a southern mountain range. Today, he gives classic alpine fare an haute cuisine twist, at the helm of his three-starred restaurant Vendôme in the Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg. For the culinary connoisseur, other top tables include Rutz (in Berlin), Aqua (in Wolfsburg), and The Table (Hamburg) — all have a trio of Michelin twinklers.
Of course, you could spend your trip simply admiring Germany’s natural beauty: lingering over views of the lush Moselle valley, or Lake Königssee’s mighty backdrop of snow-dusted peaks. But what’s the joy in just looking, when you don’t delve into it all? Germany has wild lagoons to bathe in, forest trails to follow, and countless adventures to try – from cycling between spa towns on the Allgäu Loop, to abseiling the epic limestone towers of Saxon Switzerland National Park. In the Moselle valley, pick up a section of the Moselsteig Trail: it runs the river’s entire 365km through Germany, passing through pretty Medieval villages and pristine woodlands — while Lake Königssee, in Bavaria, offers paddle-boating, hiking and mountain climbing galore. Indeed, the wider Bavaria region is catnip for thrill seekers year-round, with paragliding and canyoning in summer, and cross-country skiing in winter.
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