Germany has so much to offer visitors. Whether it’s the World War II history throughout the country or the Bavarian charm of Munich or the chic vibe of urban Berlin, there’s something for every type of traveler.
Germans are proud of their homeland and excited to show you what there is to offer beyond what you’ve seen in guidebooks. This is a great place to venture out from the tourist destinations and live like the locals! Just make sure you include Germany in your modern Grand Tour of Europe.
If we’ve left anything out of this Germany travel guide, or you’d like to add to the conversation, please leave comments below!
Germany Travel Expenses Tips
As a member of the Eurozone, the price of traveling in Germany can depend on your home currency. The economy in the country is one of the most stable in Europe, so you probably won’t have to worry about economic crises during your visit.
Take the Train
It’s possible to fly within Germany, namely from Munich to Berlin, but is totally unnecessary. Not only would you miss all the gorgeous scenery in between but you’d also be wasting money. Trains are how everyone, especially the Germans, get around as it’s efficient and easy. I used a rail pass during my 2012 trip around the country and was glad to have the DB Bahn app, which told me rail schedules. I only had one delayed train in the nearly 10 that I took!
- Tips for Rail-Tripping Around Europe on a Budget, On the Luce
Research Free Attractions
A number of museums offer free admission on certain days of the month, so plan your visit around them when possible. I also went on a few free walking tours in Hamburg, Berlin and Munich, Germany with Sandeman’s New Europe. Tips are welcome, though, so be sure to save a few Euro if you enjoy your tour.
Get Out of the Cities
While places like Berlin and Frankfurt have their merits, they’ll slowly but surely eat away at your budget. Check out the scenic, and cheaper, towns throughout the country. I fell in love in particular with Heidelberg and Freiburg.
- 9 Reasons to Head Straight for Small Town Germany, Matador Network
ATMs are plentiful in Germany, especially in city centers, but most restaurants will prefer payment in cash. And don’t forget about the fees you’ll rack up every time you charge to your credit or debit card.
Two Wheels Are Better Than Four
See Germany how the locals do: by bike. While your feet are the best free way to get around, sometimes it isn’t possible to walk such far distances with your limited time. Rent a bike from a shop or borrow one from your hostel.
Eat for Cheap
I saved money mostly by making my own meals or grabbing small dishes. Not many hostels have kitchens, but train stations are ideal for finding a quick, budget-friendly bite. My favorite were the simple sandwiches with meat and cheese for around 3 euro. Some cheap German dishes to try are the famous doner kebab and currywurst.
- Berlin Cheap Eats: Top 10 Under 5 Euros, Uncornered Market
Essential Gear to Bring
Lightweight jacket– Even during the warmer months, you can get a cold front in parts of the country, particularly as you get closer to the Alps. I was glad to have brought my ExOfficio Storm Logic jacket, which also folds down into a pillow. If yours is waterproof, that’s even better!
Comfortable shoes– I wore casual ankle boots during most of my trip, but I could also have worn my Converse All Stars and fit right in. Make sure they have a sturdy sole and are comfortable to wear for hours at a time.
Shopping bag– It’s easy to keep down your travel costs by shopping at grocery stores to cook meals, but you’ll want to bring your own reusable bag to bring them from the store back to your accommodation, whether it be a hotel, hostel or apartment rental.
- 10 Essentials to Pack for a Trip to Europe, The Overseas Escape
Books to Read Before Visiting
Please note that the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink– In the book that later became an award-winning movie, a young man meets an older woman who changes the course of his life. They reunite many years later, but under tragic circumstances. Grab on Amazon.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut– As the ultimate war novel, Slaughterhouse Five tells of the bombing of Dresden. It features around the fantastical account of a soldier’s experiences as a prisoner of war. Grab on Amazon.
The Black Obelisk by Erich Maria Remarque– In this novel, a German World War I veteran named Ludwig deals with the aftermath by selling headstones until he falls in love and discovers more to life. Grab on Amazon.
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood– Later turned into the hit play Cabaret, this book features the underbelly of 1930s Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power. Grab on Amazon.
- 10 Books That Will Make You Fall in Love with Berlin, The Culture Trip
Movies to Watch Before Visiting
Modern German film has become more popular over the years, even winning major international awards. Here is a small sampling of films both created by Germans and set in the country.
Run Lola Run– Lola’s boyfriend loses the money he owes to a mobster while on the train. She gets a phone call, giving her 20 minutes to get it all back. Grab on Amazon.
Goodbye Lenin– A young man in the 1990s continues to tell his mother, who just came out of a coma, that East Germany still exists. Grab on Amazon.
The Lives of Others– A secret agent in 1980s East Berlin becomes increasingly interested in the people he is paid to watch. Grab on Amazon.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas– Based on the book of the same name, the son of a Nazi commander strikes up an unlikely and forbidden friendship with a young Jewish boy in a concentration camp. Grab on Amazon.
Top Things to Do in Germany
There is so much to do in Germany that it’s difficult to sum it up in a few sentences. We’ve included a few of the more popular cities and regions with their attractions, but be sure to see beyond them!
As Germany’s cultural capital, there’s no shortage of places to explore in Berlin. Be sure to stop by the East Side Gallery, a former portion of the Berlin Wall that has been covered in murals. Museum Island is home to the city’s many art and history museums, many of which you gain entry to on the same ticket. They include the Pergamon Museum, the Altes Museum, the German Historical Museum, the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie.
Other highlights include the famous Brandenburg Gate, the TV Tower and the expansive park at the former Tempelhof Airport.
- Ultimate Female Packing List for Berlin (Spring or Fall), Her Packing List
For either two or three consecutive days (your choice), the Berlin Pass offers you great value and convenience with free entry to more than 50 top attractions and museums, including the Berliner Dom, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Museum Island. Your Berlin Pass also includes a free hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour, a Spree river cruise (summer only) and free travel on Berlin public transport.
Bavaria was one of Germany’s largest kingdoms prior to unification and has its own distinct flair. Munich is the capital of the region, home to some of the more iconic aspects of German culture: beer and lederhosen. If you’re not visiting during Oktoberfest, be sure to set aside time to explore the many parks, especially Englischer Garten, and the BMW Visitor’s Center.
- Ultimate Female Packing List for Oktoberfest, Her Packing List
- 10 Tips to Have the Best Oktoberfest, Her Packing List
- How to do Munich on the Cheap, No Money, Will Travel
Sightsee by bike in the morning and swig beer in the evening, on a Munich Super Saver tour that combines two best-selling experiences at a discounted price! Visit Munich Beer and Oktoberfest Museum, a traditional beer garden and the atmospheric Hofbrauhaus am Platzl beer hall for a sampling of beer in steins and local specialties such as pretzels.
The financial hub of Frankfurt doesn’t have as many traditional tourist attractions as other German cities, but there is plenty to do. However, the Römer neighborhood offers the best photo ops. Main Tower has an observation deck that offers the best views of the city.
- How to Spend a Layover in Frankfurt, Caroline in the City
Enjoy a two-hour Frankfurt sightseeing tour by open-top bus and see the contrasting sides of Frankfurt. Commonly known as an international trade hub, the city of Frankfurt actually boasts many different facets, with beautiful Baroque architecture, lively plazas and impressive modern skyscrapers.
- 10 Things to Do in Cologne, Germany, Travels of Adam
Get to know Cologne on a 2-hour comprehensive sightseeing tour, led by a private guide. Rest your feet and travel around the city by private minivan, hopping out here and there to take photos and learn about the sights. Visit Cologne Cathedral, scout out landmarks such as Great St Martin Church in Cologne Old Town, and hear tales about the city’s history, culture and Jewish heritage.
Other regions to check out are the beaches of the northern coast and the Black Forest. I was also taken with Hamburg, which has a popular theater scene, seafood markets and street art that rivals that of Berlin.
Food and Drink in Germany
Food in Germany is as varied as any other part of Europe, especially thanks to the influx of immigrants. There’s much more than sausages and schnitzel. A large Turkish population has aided in the creation of the doner kebab, the unofficial dish of Berlin. You can also find Asian, Persian and even Latin American cuisines in the country.
Another famous dish is currywurst, sausages topped with tomato sauce, fries and paprika. More authentic dishes include spaetzle, potato dumplings typically topped in cheese and onions, and sausages and roasted chicken. Soups like goulash can also be found.
If you’re interested in visiting a biergarten but aren’t visiting during Oktoberfest, there are still plenty to check out. The most famous ones in Munich are Hofbrauhaus and the Chinese Tower in Englischer Garten. You simply go through a cafeteria-style line or order at a table. Cash is highly recommended, as most won’t take cards. You are given a token, which you must return in exchange for a few euro when you bring back your glass. Otherwise, just keep the glass and they’ll keep your money. Food is also served here.
- My Favorite German Meals, Caroline in the City
German Language and Additional Help
While a number of German words are cognates, it’s not the easiest language to pick up for travelers. Learn the prefixes and a few key words. For example, “bahnhof” means train station, with “bahn” being train and “hof” being station. It’s also a good idea to learn the words for types of foods in case you’re picky or have sensitivities.
- The Funniest 5 Mistakes Foreigners Make in Germany, Not A Ballerina