Planning a trip to Germany? I’m so excited for you!
I lived in Germany for four years and have spent nearly 30 years of my life going back and forth between the US and Germany. I’ve not only traveled all over the country, I’ve lived in several German cities in several regions of the country. Germany is a wonderful country to visit!
If you’re traveling to Germany for the first time you probably don’t know where to even begin to narrow down your travel options! This guide will help you prepare for your visit to Germany.
Why visit Germany?
- 1 Why visit Germany?
- 2 What’s the best time to go to Germany?
- 3 The cheapest time to fly to Germany?
- 4 Weather in Germany
- 5 What Time is it in Germany?
- 6 Getting to Germany
- 7 Getting Around Germany
- 8 Where to Stay in Germany
- 9 What to Wear in Germany
- 10 3 of my favorite travel clothing items:
- 11 7 Cities to Visit in Germany – A Suggested Itinerary
- 12 1. Munich
- 13 2. Berchtesgaden
- 14 3. Berlin
- 15 4. Magdeburg
- 16 5. Hamburg
- 17 6. Lübeck
- 18 7. Freiburg im Breisgau (the Black Forest)
If you have dreams about traveling to another country, Germany is a great place to go.
- There’s much to see and experience!
- It’s easy to get around Germany by air, train, car, bus, bike or foot.
- Cities, mountains, spas, castles, lakes, hiking trails, beaches…Germany has it all!
- It’s an easy country to travel in if you’re first time traveling alone or if you have anxiety about traveling alone.
- Most Germans speak at least a little English (most young people are pretty fluent), as well as other languages.
- Centrally located in Europe, it’s super easy to start in Germany and then visit other countries in Europe.
- Germany has the BEST bakeries, cafes, bars. Not to mention all of the to-die-for desserts!
What’s the best time to go to Germany?
The best time to visit Germany is whenever you can get there! No, seriously. There’s no best time of year to visit Germany because there’s no bad time of year to visit. I’ve traveled all over Germany in spring, summer, fall, and winter and enjoyed every season. It just depends on what you’re looking for…
Summer is when you’re most likely to have warm (even hot) sunny weather. But it’s not guaranteed. I’ve had hot steamy summers in Germany, cold rainy summers, and everything in-between. Fortunately, even if you encounter rain in the summer it likely won’t last more than a few days before you’ll see the sun again.
The benefit of summer travel is that you’ll have long days for sight-seeing. If you’re interested in beaches or mountains, summer is a great time of year to visit.
Note, however, that not all hotels, cars, and restaurants use A/C. If you really hate hot weather, play it safe and avoid Germany in the middle of the summer. Summer can also be a more crowded time to travel, since so many families make use of summer break.
Winter travel in Germany can be cold but beautiful. One of my favorite times of year to travel in Germany is during the four weeks of advent at Christmas. Yes, it gets dark early but the lights, decorations, and Christmas markets more than make up for it. Plus, you can go skiing and enjoy other winter activities. Just bundle up, grab a mug of Glühwein, and you’ll be fine!
photo credit: Jovica Trajkovski
Fall and spring are also great times to visit Germany. In the fall you’ll enjoy crisp mornings and cool evenings and see the leaves change color. In the spring you’ll experience the joy everyone feels when they can once again sit outside at cafes and restaurants.
The cheapest time to fly to Germany?
The least expensive time to fly to Germany usually during the off season or shoulder season. Summer and Christmas can be more expensive but even then I’ve found great deals (I always track flights through google before I buy my ticket). If you plan to use miles, look at your options several months in advance so you have the most options. I regularly fly to and from Europe using miles only paying for taxes!
Weather in Germany
What will the weather be like when you visit Germany? It depends on the time of year and where you are. Weather in Germany can be unpredictable no matter the time of year. I recommend being prepared by wearing layers and packing an umbrella or rain jacket.
Summer. Germany comes alive in the summer with everyone and their dog (literally, there are dogs everywhere) outside enjoying the nice weather. Average high in the summer is 80F. Be warned…it can rain in the summer but it doesn’t usually last that long.
Fall. Such a beautiful time of year in Germany with the leaves changing colors and cool, crips mornings and evenings. In September, the average high is 67F and by November it’s around 47F.
Winter. Bring your scarf, hat, and mittens because German winters can get cold! Average temps hover around freezing. That doesn’t mean everyone hides inside, though. On the contrary! Do what the Germans do – bundle up and enjoy the outdoors.
Spring. I love being in Germany on the first spring day because everyone heads outside to enjoy the sun. Everyone is in such a good mood! Early spring will see a high around 47F but by late spring it’s more like 67F.
What Time is it in Germany?
Germany is in the Central European Time zone (CET) or UTC+2. It’s 6 hours ahead of the US EST, 7 hours ahead of CST, 8 hours ahead of MST, and 9 hours ahead of PST.
Germany observes daylight savings time and “falls back” at the end of October and “springs forward” at the end of March.
Getting to Germany
photo credit: Brücke-Osteuropa
It’s easy to get to Germany! Many people fly to Frankfurt, one of the largest and busiest airports in Europe, and then take a commuter flight, train or bus to their final destination. There’s a train station right in the airport, so transferring from plane to train is a breeze. You can also easily pick up a rental car at the Frankfurt airport. If you need to catch a bus from the city center, the metro will zip you into town quickly and cheaply.
I used to always fly into Frankfurt and then take the train but in recently I’ve found that it often doesn’t cost any more (and sometimes it actually costs less) to fly directly into cities like Munich, Hamburg, Berlin, Düsseldorf or Stuttgart when booking my international flight.
Sometimes you can get direct flights into these cities from the US; other times you’ll connect via another European city, such as London, Amsterdam or Reykjavik. (Tip: depending on the airline you fly, you might be able to arrange a stopover in your connecting city. A couple years ago I did a 48-hour stopover in Reykjavik!)
Getting Around Germany
One of the benefits of traveling in Germany is that it’s really easy to get around. You can rent a car and drive from city to city or stick to trains and busses. I’ve done both; if I’m primarily visiting big cities I prefer to take the train or bus to get from one city to another. When I spend more time in smaller cities or want to take day trips I prefer having a car.
Germany has an excellent public transportation system, which means it’s super easy to get everywhere you want to go via the S-bahn (above ground metro), U-bahn (underground metro), Strassenbahn (street car), and Bus. Taxis (and Uber/Lyft) are also convenient options, though a bit pricer than public transport.
German cities are very walkable, so it’s easy to get around by foot. And, if you’d like to bike around like a local, there are places to rent bikes. If you’re more interested in say one afternoon of biking, try a city bike tour!
A few transportation tips:
- For the best train ticket prices book your ticket in well in advance. Note: if you pre-purchase your ticket at the lowest price you have to take the train you booked. If you miss that train, you have to buy another ticket.
- If you don’t mind taking slower regional trains you can get some really cheap group tickets. You may not want to use these tickets to go from, say Munich to Hamburg, but they’re great for day trips.
- Busses are often less expensive than the train (though not quite as comfortable).
- There are Eurail options for Germany, and they’re a great choice if you value flexibility over price.
- If you plan to rely on public transportation in the cities you visit, buy a day pass rather than individual tickets. Also check to see if there are group day tickets or if young kids can ride free.
Where to Stay in Germany
Germany has so many options for lodging:
- Vacation rentals (e.g., AirBnB)
- Hip boutique hotels
- Quirky hostels
- More traditional HI hostels
- Large hotel chains
- Family-run Pension (bed and breakfast)
When I’m in Germany I typically opt for a vacation rental (I like having a kitchen) or a smaller family-run Pension or boutique hotel. I used to stay in hostels frequently when I was younger but even then I found Pensionen to be very affordable when traveling with one or two other people.
Breakfast is often included with lodging in Germany (but not always). Sometimes that will comprise of bread or Brötchen (delicious German rolls), cold cuts and cheese, butter and jam, tea and coffee. Other times the buffets will be more extensive with yogurt, cereal, a variety of breads, and even eggs.
If you’re looking to save money on lodging, book rooms with a shared bathroom. Sometimes that will mean you’ll have share a full bathroom down the hall with guests, and sometimes that will mean you’ll have a sink, toilet or shower in your room and will share the rest in a hallway bathroom. I booked these types of rooms for years. These days I like the convenience of having a full bathroom in my room but I’m not averse to sharing a hall bathroom. I’ve never had to wait to use a shared bathroom or had any trouble with them. If you do opt for a shared bathroom, bring flip-flops.
Hostels can be great options for families, as many offer family rooms. Hostels typically offer a simple breakfast and sometimes also offer dinner. While simple accommodations, some hostels can be in spectacular locations. The hostel in Bacharach, for example, is in an old castle on a hill and offers a gorgeous view of the town below and the Rhine river!
What to Wear in Germany
Layer, layer, layer! As I mentioned above, the weather in Germany is often unpredictable so your best bet is to bring layers so you can customize your wardrobe on the fly. Since rain is a possibility any time of year, you may want to bring a light rain jacket or an umbrella.
Bring comfortable shoes. You’ll no doubt walk all day long (often on cobblestone streets), so bring your most comfortable, supportive shoes. Be sure to break in your shoes before you travel. There’s nothing worse than realizing a day into your trip that your shoes pinch your toes or give you huge blisters. (Bring along moleskin, just in case.) I typically bring a good pair of walking shoes appropriate for the season (boots in the winter) and a nicer, dressier pair of flats (sandals in the summer).
You can wear jeans. Some people say never travel with jeans but I’m not one of those people. I love traveling with jeans! They’re comfortable, I can wear them a few times without having to wash them, and I feel less like a tourist wearing them. If you like jeans, wear jeans.
Scarf, hat, gloves. If you’re traveling in the winter or even late fall or early spring, definitely bring a warm scarf, hat, and gloves or mittens. Or buy them in Germany and take them home as a souvenir! Almost all of my winter accessories are from Germany.
You can wear shorts in the summer. Sure, shorts aren’t as popular as they are in the US but if you like them and are comfortable in them, wear them. That said, most women wear dresses or skirts in the summer and men will often wear light pants. Capri pants were quite popular for both men and women…
3 of my favorite travel clothing items:
Moreno wool camisole – these camisoles are the BEST for travel! They’re soft, comfortable, easy to hand wash, and they never stink. This might be TMI but a few years ago, when I was traveling solo, I wore the same moreno wool camisole each day for 14 days in warm spring weather. It never smelled bad! Since that experiment I don’t typically go that long without washing my camisoles, but I like knowing that I could.
Tieks – yes, they’re expensive and you might not find them worth the price. Even after I bought them and took them on a trip to Munich and Stuttgart I wasn’t convinced. But after I finally broke them in I started really liking them. I wouldn’t recommend them for a full day of walking (especially on cobblestones) but I like to bring them along for a change of pace or when I want the option for a cute pair of flats but don’t want to take up much space in my suitcase. I have the basic black flats but they do come in a wide variety of cute colors and patterns.
Allbirds – I bought these a couple years ago because they’re made out of moreno wool! What I like about my Allbirds: I can wear them barefoot and they don’t usually stink when I take them off at the end of the day, I can throw them in the wash if they get dirty (though mine still look great 2 years later), they pack flat, and the heel is thick and cushioned. You can also buy replacement moreno wool insoles without having to buy a new pair of shoes.
What I don’t like: not enough arch support for me and not enough padding under the ball of my foot. To be honest, I didn’t like them at first. I bought a pair just before a trip to Hamburg and didn’t have enough time to break them in. The first few times they were very uncomfortable after wearing them all day and I was super disappointed! But after adding an arch support and a gel insert under the ball of my foot I started liking them better.
I now wear them all the time!
7 Cities to Visit in Germany – A Suggested Itinerary
If you’ve never been to a country it’s hard to know where to go! Here are the seven cities in Germany I recommend you visit. I’ve included cities of various sizes and locations in various parts of Germany. Some cities are well-known and a few are more off the beaten path.
You could easily start in city #1 (Munich) and travel to each city following the order on the map. Or simply add one or more city to your current itinerary. Of course, there are so many more cities you could visit but this is a good place to start when planning your trip to Germany!
Located in Bavaria, Munich (München) is a beautiful city that’s so very different from Berlin and Hamburg in the north. After spending a few days in the city enjoying everything Munich has to offer you have so many options for day trips to visit the Alps, fairy tale castles (like Neuschwanstein) or even hop over into Austria or Switzerland!
What to do and see in Munich:
- Marienplatz & Neues Rathaus
- The English Garden
- Alte Pinakothek
- Neue Pinakothek
- St. Peter’s Church, Frauenkirche & Asam Church
- Nymphenburg Palace & gardens
Berchtesgaden is the quintessential Bavarian mountain town. After strolling the village’s winding streets to admire Bavarian architecture, you can visit nearby Eagle’s Nest, go for a sail on the Königssee or tour the Salt Mine (I did that several years ago and it was SO much fun)! If you’re there in the summer you can enjoy an alpine hike. In the winter go skiing!
You can’t visit Germany without visiting Berlin! It is the capital, after all. Berlin is such a vibrant city with so much history, museums, people watching, cafes, restaurants…you defiantly won’t be bored! I’ve visited Berlin several times since the early 90s and I’m always eager to go back.
What to do and see in Berlin:
- Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag & Unter den Linden
- Visit the museums on Museum Island
- Checkpoint Charlie
- The East Side Gallery (see photo above)
- Holocaust Memorial & Jewish Museum
- Charlottenburg Palace & Gardens
- Take a walk in the Tiergarten park
- Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche
- Eat a currywurst
Magdeburg probably isn’t on your radar at all…and that’s why I’m recommending it! I lived there for a year so I’m probably a little biased but I do recommend a stop in this eastern Germany town. It’s only about 1 1/2 hours from Berlin by train so it’s an easy day trip. If you stay in Magdeburg, you could easily day trip to adorable Quedlinburg or visit the Wernigerode castle.
What to see and do in Magdeburg:
- Magdeburg Cathedral
- Jahrtausandturm in Elbauenpark
- Go for a stroll in the Rotehorn or Herrenkrug park
- The Green Citadel by Friedensreich Hundertwasser (see photo)
- Take a bike rid along the beautiful Elbe river
- Visit the University
- Take in the (fading) east German architecture
Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city and one of the most beautiful! I lived in Hamburg in high school and fell in love with northern Germany. Hamburg is less known than Berlin and Munich, and that’s exactly why you should visit. It’s only a couple hours by train/bus/car from Berlin or Magdeburg making it an easy stop of your Germany tour.
What to see and do in Hamburg:
- Ride the U3
- Take a harbor tour
- Rathaus & Alster Arkaden
While you could easily spend a few days in Lübeck, since it’s only an hour from Hamburg by train, the hanseatic city of Lübeck makes a great day trip.
What to see and do in Lübeck:
- Wander the streets and admire the architecture of the Altstadt
- Holstentor (old city gate)
- St. Mary’s Church
- Rathaus (town hall)
- Günter Grass museum
- Take a boat tour
7. Freiburg im Breisgau (the Black Forest)
The last town I recommend visiting is in the Black Forest and only an hour from France and Switzerland. Freiburg is a great little university town with a lot to offer. I spent a semester teaching here in grad school and absolutely loved the area. I highly recommend fitting a trip to Freiburg and the Black Forest into your itinerary!
What to see and do in Freiburg:
- Visit the university
- Münster & Münsterplatz
- Try not to fall into the Bächle (although if you do, legend has it you’ll marry someone from Freiburg)
- Schwabentor & Martinstor (the city’s medieval gates)
- Take the funicular to the top of Schlossberg
- Take the regional train to Titisee
- Day trip to Mullhouse, France or Basel, Switzerland (both are about an hour away by bus/train)