Content produced in partnership with the German National Tourist Office.
We trust locals to know best — the best bar, restaurant, or hidden gem— so why not travel like one? A trip through Germany wherein you enjoy life like a local is something to jump at, and there’s plenty of spots to stop and love on your German road trip through its largest cities.
Hamburg, a port city in northern Germany, offers stellar views, unforgettable maritime experiences and a bustling city center.
Locals and visitors alike are in awe of the massive cruise liners that come in and out of the port here, so much so that they often line the coast to welcome them in. And can you imagine a better greeting than that? It’s no wonder it’s such a happy place.
Another happy-factor? The incredible shopping! Head to Jungfernsteig to stroll around town, sip coffee, enjoy a bite to eat and really let your self-indulgent side wild. This grand promenade came to be in part because unmarried daughters of wealthy German families would walk this area, a Hanseatic “coming of age” tradition, but now it’s home to boutiques, darling stores, luxury shoemakers and NIVEA’s flagship store, where it seems almost rude to not indulge in a massage. One of the most well-known department stores, Alsterhaus, is also found here and touts furniture, high-end clothing, and on the top floor, a market home to expensive champagnes, teas, chocolates and seafood.
While you’re there, visitors absolutely have to stop at Cafe Alex, whether you’re grabbing a cup of coffee to keep your energy up while toting around shopping bags or settling in to enjoy the views from their decks. The entire atmosphere is something out of a classic movie.
While it’s hard to narrow down the perfect couple of days in Hamburg, a visit to Elbphilharmonie, the stunning glass concert hall on the water, is a must. Though it’s a fairly new building, having opened in 2017, it blends beautifully with the existing architecture of Hamburg. And once you see the new, check out the historic at the centuries-old St. Michael’s Church and climb your way to the top for breathtaking views.
And if you can, spend a few hours in the Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus district with Chilehaus, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that gave way to Germany as a world trading power. You can see the beautiful Elbe Philharmonic Hall and HafenCity, the new city center complete with shopping, restaurants and plenty of activities for the whole family.
Now, if you don’t have time to take in all of Hamburg, it’s understandable, so head over to Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg, in the Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus district, to see the whole city in mini-form. It’s both adorable and truly incredible.
For some more incredible sites and a perfect family outing, plan a visit to Tierpark Hagenbeck, Germany’s only private zoo. See polar bears, penguins and walruses in the new Arctic Ocean exhibit that opened in 2012, and of course, catch zoo favorites like flamingos, elephants, lions and monkeys.
Germany’s capital, Berlin, is a testament to trends and tastes. Its people are friendly, and its atmosphere is bustling, creative and authentic. Get to know Berlin in all its liveliness and city-wide love.
Principal among the things Berlin is known for is the Brandenburg Gate, an iconic and beautiful landmark. This gate served as a landmark to German unity after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Be sure to snap a few photos before you head on your way to the high end shops and vibrant nightlife, like Friedrichstadt Palast, a performance house that sees concerts, ballets, and acrobatics — think Las Vegas-like, but in German style.
If you get the chance to visit Berlin while it’s warm, stop over at Capital Beach, near the government district and on the Spree River, to lounge in lawn chairs and have a drink — or a few. That’s relaxing like a local.
Or, across the river, grab a pint at Zollpackhof, a rustic restaurant complete with beer garden that taps a wooden keg every night at 6 p.m.
Now, Berlin certainly has wonderful food and drink, and any local probably has a handful of favorites, so it’s hard to go wrong here. However, you’d be missing out if you didn’t visit the TV Tower, the tallest structure in the entire country, for an unforgettable meal and vast view of the historic city.
There are a plethora of memorials built to honor and remember the victims of the Holocaust, so plan a visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust memorial, to take in the solemn and pensive atmosphere. Designed by a New York architect, the memorial features 2711 concrete slabs over 19,000 square meters. Take time out of the trip to visit at least one of these sites to pay tribute and think in the quiet that permeates the memorials.
And while Berlin certainly knows how to pay tribute, it also knows how to throw a stellar party. Plan your trip to catch the Carnival of Cultures which takes place around Pentecost weekend every year. This four-day festival is full of colorful street parades, dance and music, and it culminates on Pentecost Sunday with thousands of performs in front of millions of spectators. It’s a true celebration of diversity. There is nothing quite like it in the world, and it stands to be one of Berlin’s most notable events.
Frankfurt is a modern city rooted in love for knowledge and arts, and perhaps that’s why there are so many museums here. It’s also known for big business, brokers and banks.
First stop here has to be the museum embankment on Maine, particularly the Städel Institute of Art with the Municipal Gallery. It’s full of nearly 3,000 paintings, 300 sculptures, 4,000 photographs, 100,000 drawings and other graphic works. It is an incredible array of art in one place. To the east, you can see the film museum architecture museum, and near that lies the Museum of Applied Art. Across the river is the Museum of Modern Art. If it sounds like you can just wander Frankfurt and see museums and galleries all day and be wonderfully content, you’re right.
The Market at the Court in Kreativquartier Brückenviertel is a creative, vibrant and quintessentially German destination. Locals head to the market every Saturday because they love the artsy feel, scratch-made foods, microbrewery and apple cider manufactory. The Market is part of the bridge district, which also comprises Brückenstraße. Here you can find small, local shops and boutiques selling both classic looks and eccentric pieces.
The New Frankfurt Old Town is now complete after years of construction, and it’s a marvel for visitors and locals alike. The reconstructed old town is rich in culture and history. It evokes of feeling of a quaint, cute old-timey town, while being in the heart of one of Germany’s most popular cities.
To take in the vastness of Frankfurt, visitors can check out the two-hour Frankfurt City walking tour that takes them through the history from German kings to present day, and tours St. Paul’s Church, Emperor’s Cathedral, and Emperor’s Hall.
All the walking calls for a drink, or a few, and there’s nothing more Frankfurt than apple wine, sometimes called liquid gold here. They have an Apple Wine Festival, and Apple Wine Walk, and an Apple Wine Weekend. We recommend the Apple Wine Express, part of the Apple Wine Weekend, which not only takes you to try various apple wines, but commences with a traditional dinner and wine at one of the many apple wine pubs in the area.
Leipzig is steeped in history and visitors and locals both love traipsing around the area to take it all in. It’s full of historic buildings and amazing attractions, like the panometer. This beyond incredible, awe-inspiring experience is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The 360-degree panorama puts visitors on a 1:1 scale with what they’re looking at, whether that be walking through historic events or looking at a lush garden as if you’re the size of a daffodil. This stop is an absolute must for anyone near the area.
Once you have been the size of a flower, try a birds-eye view from one of Leipzig’s observation towers. Check out one of seven observation areas, like the City High-Rise Building where you can enjoy the deck and panorama restaurants. Or climb to the top of the Monument to the Battle of the Nations for a 360-degree view of Leipzig and surrounding areas. Your breathlessness after climbing to the top of these is worth it to see views, however breathtaking they might be.
The Gohlis Palace is also one for the ages. Originally commissioned in the 1700s by a local merchant and city architect, the palace is now home to concerts, exhibitions, and theater presentations. The amazing and expansive structure is a gorgeous testament to the architecture of the time, and on the grounds, it certainly feels as if you’ve traveled back centuries in time.
Naschmarkt Plaza stretches nearly 300 feet and is lined with restaurants, shops and cafes. At the end of the strip is The Old Stock Exchange, a 17th-century Baroque-style building used for small concerts, literature readings and other meetings. It’s a beautiful building worth a look and a few photos, of course.
Munich is modern and chic, and it’s full of life — both in it’s attractions and the vibrance of the locals. The heart of Munich, and some contend of Germany, is the Marienplatz square, home to both the new and old town halls. Visitors can get lost in the luxury and excitement of Munich and the Marienplatz square. It’s full of shopping and restaurants and always bustling.
Shopping addicts must check out shopping avenues like Ludwigstrasse, Maximilianstrasse, Kaufinger Strasse or the Tal. Feel like an Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly as you peruse the high-end shops with the latest fashions as well as high-end antiques.
To downsize a little, head over to Munich’s Pub and Club Quarter for a more relaxed tone to shopping. This area is known for a more party-like atmosphere and welcoming LGBT scene.
Between the Isar River and City Center lies the English Gardens, a free and beautiful experience. Enjoy some people watching or try surfing on the Eisbach River. The Gardens are also home to two beer gardens that are always full of locals.
2019 happens to mark 100 years of the Bavarian Film Studios, and to honor this, the city has opened the Filmstadt Atelier, an interactive journey through 100 years of film and media. This offers a wonderfully interesting way to experience history and how it continues to impact media today. Along those same lines, visitors can take the Light and Luxury tour. The ability to have light at night was once seen as a luxury, so this tour takes visitors through how palace-residents lived hundreds of years ago.
If night is just when you come alive, check out the planetarium and observatory at the Deutsches Museum. See stars so up close, you’d think you could reach out and grab one as a souvenir.
When you think Düsseldorf, you should think fashion. The city is known for emerging trends and for being on the forefront of what you see on catwalks all over the world. The Gallery Düsseldorf, a biannual event, brings in international designers, buyers and visitors alike. Königsallee, a true boulevard, boasts high-end shopping like Marco Polo, Hugo Boss, Strellson, Calvin Klein, Armani, Bulgari, Gucci, Jil Sander, Prada, Tiffany & Co. and Versace. Needless to say, you can shop well in Düsseldorf.
For something a little more laid back but still impeccably refined, Carlstadt offers luxury antiques, galleries and art dealers. The pubs, bars and clubs here have given way to “the longest pub in the world” nickname that is just calling out for visitors to flock to.
Additionally, Düsseldorf is home to the third largest Japanese population in Europe, so be sure to visit the Japanese quarter to find extraordinary restaurants, bookstores and shops.
This chic little city on the Rhine is also known for it’s delicious food, between the posh market and the international fusion, you really cannot go wrong here. Check out the city’s oldest restaurant, Zum Schiffchen for traditional German food, or enjoy a Michelin-star awarded meal at Agata’s.
Dox Restaurant is also a delicious option that presents diners with a gorgeous view of the river. What better way to indulge than with a wonderful meal overlooking the water after you’ve shopped and enjoyed living like a local in Düsseldorf?
Finally, be sure to stop by Burgplatz, where the locals go to relax with a beer and enjoy the beautiful city. Be like a local.