The world's most famous castle, Neuschwanstein, is nestled in the Alps, and it seems to come straight out of a fairy tale; Walt Disney drew inspiration from it for his classic, Sleeping Beauty. Neuschwanstein (new-swan-stone) is the most photographed building in Germany.
King Ludwig II designed his dream castle in 1869, and instead of an architect he hired a theatrical set designer to realize his vision.
Take a tour through the flamboyant castle's interior. Highlights include a gaudy artificial grotto, the Throne Room with its giant crown-shaped chandelier, and the lavish Minstrels' Hall.
More than any other landmark, the Brandenburg Gate is the national symbol for Germany. Built in 1791, the gate was a symbol of peace. It is crowned with the winged goddess of victory, riding a four-horsed chariot.
During the cold war, when Berlin was divided in two, the Brandenburg Gate stood between East and West Berlin. It was here, in front of the Gate, that former American President Reagan said his famous words, “Mr. Gorbatschow, tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbatschow, open this Gate.” After the wall fell in 1989, the Brandenburg Gate became the symbol of Germany's reunification.
Weimar is a city in Thuringia, in the East of Germany. To visit Weimar is to get at the heart of German culture.
Since Goethe moved here in the late 18th century, Weimar has been a site of pilgrimage for the German intelligentsia. The list of former residents reads like the “Who's who” of German literature, music, art, and philosophy: Johann Sebastian Bach, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Schiller, Walter Gropius, Wassily Kandinsky, and Friedrich Nietzsche are only a few of the many luminaries that lived and worked here.
Weimar is the also the birthplace of the Bauhaus movement , which created a revolution in design, art, and architecture in the early 20th century.
The Romantic Road is one of Germany's best scenic routes, leading you through a region that boasts quintessential German scenery and culture; charming medieval towns surrounded by walls and towers, half-timbered houses, historic hotels, castles, and restaurants that offer hearty food and great beer.
Highlights along the Romantic Road: the picturesque Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the best-preserved medieval town in Germany, and the castle Neuschwanstein.
The Cathedral of Cologne is one of Germany's most important architectural monuments and the third tallest cathedral in the world. It took over 600 years to construct this gothic masterpiece, and when it was finished in 1880, it was still true to the original plans from 1248.
When Cologne was leveled by bombings in World War II, the Cathedral was the only building that survived. Standing tall in an otherwise flattened city, some said it was divine intervention. A more matter-of-fact explanation is that cathedral was a point of orientation for the pilots.
It might be a cliché, but it is an essential German experience: Visit the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, the most famous beer hall in the world. This Bavarian institution has defined gemütlich (“comfy”) since 1589. Wash down Bavarian specialties and giant pretzels with beer that is only served in one-liter glasses.
Plan to be in Germany for Oktoberfest, the world's largest fair with over 6 million people annually, eating sausage and sauerkraut and drinking Oktoberfest beer. Celebrate in 14 different beer halls, and enjoy Bavarian “Schuhplattler”, alphorn players and yodelers.
The Dresden Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady, has a moving history: In World War II, when air-raids wiped out the city center of Dresden, the grand Frauenkirche collapsed into a 42 feet high pile of rubble.
The ruins were left untouched for over 40 years as a reminder of the destructive powers of war.
In 1994, the painstaking reconstruction of the church began, almost completely financed by private donations; in 2005, the people of Dresden celebrated the resurrection of their Frauenkirche.
If you imagine Germany with rolling hills, small villages and lush forests, visit the Schwarzwald (Black Forest), where you can experience it all. The vast expanse of hills, valleys, and forests stretches from the posh Spa-town Baden Baden to the Swiss border, covering an area of 4,600 square miles.
Walking, biking or driving – there are many scenic routes that will lead you to tiny villages, wineries and old-world monasteries. Two of the most recommended tours are the Wine Route and the German Clock Road, which traces the history of the cuckoo clock.
But remember: No visit to the Black Forest is complete without a piece of Black Forest Cake, with chocolate, cherries, cream and a good dash of cherry schnapps.
On the banks of the Moselle River lies Trier, Germany's oldest city. It was founded as a Roman colony in 16 B.C. and became the favored residence of several Roman emperors.
Nowhere else in Germany is the evidence of Roman times as vivid as it is in Trier; highlights of the city are the Porta Nigra, the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps, and the Cathedral of Trier, which houses a holy relic that draws many pilgrims: the Holy Robe, the garment said to be worn by Jesus when he was crucified.
The old center of Nuremberg with its imperial castle towering majestically over the city is certainly worth a visit any time of year. But starting in November, the famous Christmas market turns this city into a magical winter wonderland.
Stroll through this open-air market with its 180 wooden huts festooned with red and white cloth, lights and fresh garlands.
There is also a Christmas market just for kids, featuring a steam train and nostalgic carousels. A magical moment for young and old is the procession, where over 1500 Nuremberg kids join in a lantern procession parading up to the castle on the hill.