Top German Cities to Visit: A Guide to the Where, What, How, and Why

Eran Fulson

By: Eran Fulson / Writer, Adventurer, New Dad, Wood & Metal Designer

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Whether you trace your ancestry back to Germanic roots or simply want to travel the world, a trip to Germany should definitely be on your itinerary. We have compiled a list, and it's growing as we discover more gems of the top German cities to visit and what makes them unique.

Intertwined within its borders are a rich cultural past and a thriving arts community. And, of course, the sampling of the delicious foods that are the inspiration for Oma’s recipes. Surrounding some of the most beautiful cities Germany has to offer are the panoramic landscapes of the Black Forest and the historic Rhine River.

So grab your lederhosen and discover a culture centuries in the making and one so uniquely German.


Cologne Cathedral, Germany

There are no half-measures when it comes to history in Cologne. Walk back in time along the cobblestone streets and Gothic spires in one of Germany’s oldest and largest cities.

The Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most popular attractions in Germany. Visit one of the museums showcasing past and present art installations, the world’s largest chocolate museum, and many others.

The best way to experience the local culture is by taking part in the Cologne Carnival, a vibrant blend of history and one giant street party that embraces the entire city.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Plonlein in Rothenburg, Germany

High above the Tauber valley in the Bavarian Alps is one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval towns, Rothenburg o.d.T.

Fairy tales come to life walking through the narrow streets with half-timbered houses and centuries-old city walls encircling the city. From along the 2.5-mile (ca. 4 km) city wall, you can take in the spectacular views from above through its forty-two towers.

A stop at the Weihnachtsmuseum (Christmas Museum) should be at the top of anyone’s list, provided there’s enough luggage space for a bauble, or two, or five.


Dresden, Germany

Dresden is a city with a rich history and a fusion of German and Slavic cultures. Explore the impressive baroque architecture, including the iconic Frauenkirche and Zwinger Palace, which is home to some of the world’s finest art collections.

Culturally immerse yourself by touring any one of the 48 world-class museums and 36 theaters and stages. Dresden is also a great place to indulge your appetite with traditional Saxon and international flavors to suit any palate.

And if the city’s flourishing urban green space isn’t enough, satisfy your adventurous needs at the Saxon Switzerland National Park—one of the most beautiful natural landscapes you’ll find anywhere in Germany.


Stuttgart, Germany

Welcome to the ultimate destination for car enthusiasts, Stuttgart. The headquarters and museums for Porsche and Mercedes-Benz cement the city’s status as Autohauptstadt (car capital city).

Stuttgart is renowned for its economic influence and a lengthy list of innovators. Set in one of the largest wine-growing regions in Germany, this state capital of Baden-Württemberg offers more green space than urbanization. Taking advantage of the greenery is the Wilhelma, the largest combined zoo and botanical garden in Europe.

Cultural aficionados can enjoy the internationally acclaimed Stuttgart Ballet, over forty museums, and the philharmonic.


Heidelberg bridge, Germany

History, culture, and natural beauty all blend together to make Heidelberg a unique and unforgettable experience.

Once in contention for the eighth wonder of the world, the Heidelberg Castle and gardens have overlooked the city since 1398 and still put on a show. Operas, theater performances, and concerts all take place in the courtyard.

Not only known for its castle, the city is also home to Germany’s oldest university, Heidelberg University. The influx of a lively student population gives off a youthful energy that’s palpable among the historical remnants. 


Frankfurt bridge and skyline at dusk

Entwined through the bright lights and skyscrapers lies the ancient and medieval city of Frankfurt. 

The city evolved from one of kingmakers into a cosmopolitan metropolis rivaling the likes of New York and London. Though known for its global economic prowess, Frankfurt offers more than a flashy display of wealth.

A myriad of world-class museums make up a literal embankment of cultural institutions along the River Main. Throw in the political significance Frankfurt played in the unification of Germany and you have a city for the many, not the few.


Leipzig skyline at dusk

Winding through the modern architecture of Leipzig is a medieval city that has seen its fair share of distant and recent upheaval. 

For hundreds of years, Leipzig was renowned for its musical excellence and cultural scene. Even forty years of Communist rule couldn't depose the strength of its citizens who now make the city one of the most desirable in Germany.

A wealth of historical music emanates from the centuries-old churches with the fingerprints of Johann Bach pretty much everywhere. Combined with nationally acclaimed art facilities and many other attractions, Leipzig will have you coming Bach for more. 


Cochem town along river and hilltop castle

Cochem is a charmingly picturesque town in the heart of the Moselle Valley, offering the best of Germany’s scenic landscapes with a bit of wine and history mixed together.

Among the attractions are the hilltop Reichsburg Castle towering over the town or the once-top-secret government nuclear bunker hidden in the heart of residential Cochem. Beautiful sloping vineyards surround the town, with half-timbered houses lining its narrow streets for those seeking a uniquely authentic German experience.

Cochem is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a quintessentially idyllic German town tucked away from the hustle of major metropolises.


Buildings along canal in the even

Wrapped around the Elbe River and its many canals, Hamburg’s history with the sea is as intertwined as the many bridges connecting the city. 

With 1,200 years of history in the bank, the literal heart of northern Germany beats with a lively and vibrant atmosphere. Explore a variety of districts along with unique museums and the best of Hanseatic culinary offerings.

Architecture from traditional and modern influences flow seamlessly together for a city which has not lost its unique and wonderful maritime heritage. It’s easy to lose yourself in the moment wherever you are, and while it may not always feel like Germany’s second-largest city, there’s always something new to discover.


Berlin Skyline with buildings and river

You couldn't do much better than making a stop in the sprawling German capital. Happily, there is little that Berlin doesn't provide in its eclectic bag of cultural offerings.

Whether it's numerous displays of iconic architecture, dozens of museums, or an embracing alternative scene, they all make up a city with a unique and appealing atmosphere.

One doesn't have to travel far in any direction to see poignant memorials to a troubled history. While respectful homage is duly paid, there is no denying the cosmopolitan feel that Berlin has embraced over recent years. It's an easy city to get to, but a difficult one to leave.


Munich skyline with Gothic style New Town Hall and the red roof Frauenkirche surrounded by buildings and blue sky

Munich is internationally renowned for beer, pretzels, and the ensuing Oktoberfest, which brings everything together. But there’s more to this Bavarian gem than meets the beer stein. Whether you’re an ex-pat looking to indulge in a bit of nostalgia or simply quenching a thirst for adventure, Munich has it all in spades.

More than its bevy of beer, this city is equally rich in culture and history. World-class museums accompany the Gothic-style Marienplatz to the spaciously opulent Munich Residenz.

Handily located in the heart of Europe, Munich makes for a perfect gateway to explore further afield once you’ve had your fill of wanderlust - and pretzels.


Aerial view of Nordlingen crater town with red roof buildings

So, you've stumbled across the mysterious town of Nördlingen, a city with a crazy secret. But I'll let you in on the secret. The unique Bavarian city was built inside a massive meteorite crater named the Nördlinger Ries.

It's also among the best-hidden gems and top places to see along the Romantic Road/ romantische straße tourist route.

See the top museums, climb the fully intact ancient city wall, and if you're feeling clever, take part in a Sherlock Holmes mystery-solving scavenger hunt.