Updated: Jun 13
Germany, as we all know, has had a long and detailed, but complicated history. What we now know as Germany, has existed since 1871 when it was regarded as the German Empire. Of course there was also the state of Prussia, which was founded in 1525 and was predominantly German. It is impossible to forget the devastation caused by Nazi Germany throughout the 1930’s and 40s. The history of this massive nation, however, has led to the creation of a number of beautiful cities which we have ranked below.
Don’t be upset if this list doesn’t match your thoughts, as this is based on our own opinions and experiences. Instead comment below and let us know how you would rank the top 10 cities to visit in Germany.
Nuremberg, famous for the Nuremberg trials, is a city of over 500,000 people in Bavaria. In fact, it is the second largest city in the region and 14th in the country. An interesting fact to note is that the city was the first in the country to produce a railway. The city is obviously worth visiting for World War 2 enthusiasts, as it allows you to explore the realities of the Nuremberg trials and how the Allied forces carried them out. A great book to read regarding the tribunals is The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials by Telford Taylor. Taylor was an American lawyer who eventually became general counsel in the trials.
While still a relatively big city, a trip to Nuremberg over neighbouring Munich will allow you to get a taste of Bavarian culture without the hustle and bustle of the larger, more touristy Munich. While here, make sure you don’t miss the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg as well as its old town area.
9. Freiburg im Breisgau
If you haven’t already check out our Freiburg travel guide. The city of Freiburg im Breisgau is probably not as visited as it should be. While you won’t need the same time to explore it as Berlin or Munich, it's still absolutely worth visiting. I think it's actually unlucky to be in the wonderful country of Germany, as if it was in nearby France, Switzerland or Austria it would be much higher than 9th.
You can get a great taste of the world-famous Black Forest region, with a visit to Freiburg. Take some time to ascend up the Black Forest hills such as the Schlossberg for a wonderful almost-birds-eye view of the city. Importantly, walk beneath the Schwabentor, a city gate dating back to the middle ages. Don’t forget to catch sight of the Freiburg Minster, although that won’t be hard as it is 116m tall.
Schwerin might not be the most well-known city on this list but it's one of those places I never expected to visit, and having done so would recommend it to anyone. Schwerin is a northern city which is also the capital of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state. While the city is beautiful, the main reason you have to visit is for the wonderful Schwerin Castle. The castle is one you have probably seen posted all over Instagram, and in fairness there is a good reason for that. What separates it from the other beautiful German castles is that it sits, even to this day, on its own island. The castle is truly a piece of neo-renaissance beauty.
The best way to visit the castle is to fly into Hamburg and Berlin and then a short drive is required from there. Just 1 hour from Hamburg and 2 from Berlin.
If you love fashion and art, then Dusseldorf is a great alternative to the more touristy Paris and Milan. Dusseldorf thrives with its own fashion and art scene, which makes for excellent viewing around the city.
The city is well-known as being the most expensive in the country, but when you walk around the city you can see why with its endless high-end stores, well-maintained infrastructure and numerous fancy restaurants. When navigating the city, try to catch a boat ride on the magnificent Rhine, which divides the city, and then ascend the Rhine Tower to give you outstanding aerial views. If possible, try to stay in the area known as Stadtmitte, as it is centrally located to the city and right beside the infamous Königsallee, which is “an upscale shopping street with a canal”.
Leipzig is a rapidly-growing city in Saxony, East Germany. Just 1h30 drive away from the state’s capital Dresden. Leipzig is a wonderful city that’s population is growing as much as its tourist numbers. What you will notice immediately about Leipzig is how clean it is, how many green spaces there are and how calm the place is compared to larger European cities. There is little air pollution and the overall cleanliness of the city has been ranked very highly in a report by Numbeo.
When you visit Leipzig it's important to recognise that it used to be a part of the DDR, therefore, in recent history, it has had some difficult times. The best way to learn more about times in the DDR is to visit Zeitgeschichtliches Forum. This museum exhibits everything from 1949 to the reunification of Germany in 1990.
If you love football, you shouldn’t need reminding about RB Leipzig, the controversial German club owned by Red Bull. Their magnificent stadium RB Arena, which holds almost 42000, is certainly worth checking out.
The financial capital of Germany, Frankfurt, is a city like no other, where corporate business meets medieval architecture, art and of course a famous food culture. For time, the city of Frankfurt has been one of Europe’s most important trade centres as well as the birthplace of Anne Frank and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
What separates Frankfurt from most of Europe is its skyline. As well known, Europe has hardly any skyscrapers compared to other continents. Germany, itself only has 18 and 17 of these are in Frankfurt, which is why the city has been nicknamed Mainhattan. The nickname comes from a combination of the River Main, where Frankfurt lies, and Manhattan, New York as the skyline feels more American than European.
It would be a crime not to try at least one Frankfurter while you are in Frankfurt, so make sure you do! (unless you don't eat meat of course).
Located almost 200 miles north of Frankfurt and 4th on our list, is the beautiful Cologne or Köln, as it is known in German. It is the largest city in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and is known across Germany as being the country’s carnival capital, with the famous Köln Carnival taking place between February and March annually.
Cologne Cathedral (which took 632 years to build) dominates the city’s profile and is actually the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. Since 1996 it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cologne is one of the more pricier cities when it comes to visit, alongside Dusseldorf, so don't expect to pay minimal prices around the city. One thing that is worth paying the money for is the Farina Fragrance Museum where tickets cost upwards of 9 euros. This museum is the oldest perfume factory in the world (since 1709) and is one of the key reasons fragrances are often referred to as cologne universally.
Hamburg is a unique and easily distinguished city due to its maritime location, known as the Speicherstadt, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is arguably the best in the country when it comes to shopping; a real paradise for shopaholics! As most of the city is effectively built on water it offers a unique dynamic compared to the rest of the city’s on the list. Some see it as the German Amsterdam.
The city has found the perfect balance between showing off its interesting history and its modernisation. The city hall built in 1886, the famous port of Hamburg founded in 1189 and the St Nicholas Church memorial are all great ways to see Hamburg’s History. If you are more interested in the city’s modern landmarks check out: Miniatur Wunderland (2000), which is the world’s largest model railway, and the International Maritime Museum (2008).
Ranking both 1&2 was really hard, and in fairness, you wouldn’t do anything wrong by ranking them the other way around, but for me Munich just misses out on the top spot. Munich is the second-most visited city in Germany, attracting about 4 million visitors annually. It's also the home of the Oktoberfest, which is the world’s largest Volksfest and has been held every year since 1810.
The city has excellent transport links making it very easy to navigate and is one of the reasons we have ranked it so highly on our list. What is also great about Munich is its geographical location in Germany. While we would certainly recommend staying longer, it's possible to visit Munich on a daytrip from nearby Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria. Another reason to visit is because of how clean the city is. There are lots of green spaces, parks and you’ll find almost zero litter around the city. Diesel cars are completely banned from the city centre.
Our favourite picks to visit in Munich is the:
The Marienplatz is the main square in Munich where you can see the city hall, go shopping and have a variety of restaurants collectively located together.
The Asamkirche or Asam church is a baroque-style church with truly stunning architectural beauty.
For car lovers it is an absolute necessity to take a tour of the BMW headquarters and for football fans check out the world-famous Allianz Arena which is easily one of the best-looking stadiums in the world.
The main reason it just misses out on the top spot is because it is one of the most expensive cities in the country and doesn’t offer as many cheaper alternatives than Berlin.
After seeing Munich at the number 2 spot, I think it became fairly obvious for you to understand who would be taking the number 1 spot as the best city to visit in Germany.
The capital of the country, Berlin, is the best city in Germany for lots of reasons; it's cheap, it offers lots of history to learn about, it combines its history and modern adaptations perfectly, it looks after its citizens, it's clean and very safe. These are just the factors that come straight to mind but I could write a whole book as to why it is the best city in Germany and why it is one of the best in the world.
There are 3 things that I believe everyone has to see when visiting Berlin:
East Side Gallery
The east side gallery is a 1.3km long stretch of the Berlin Wall that has been brilliantly created into an open-air gallery. Over 100 artists took part when it started in 1990 and is easily one of the most important landmarks in the capital.
The Brandenburg Gate dates back to its completion in 1791, which makes it one of Berlin's oldest landmarks. On the 12th June 1997, 2 years before the wall was brought down, it was here where Ronald Regan made his famous speech asking President Gorbachev to "tear down this wall". An iconic landmark which demonstrates Germany's Cold War division is most certainly worth seeing.
This 17th century Baroque palace is located just outside of Central Berlin but it's easily accessible with public transport. It was badly destroyed in the second world war and since then has been restored to its former beautiful self. The Palace holds a stunning garden which is available to the public, however, entry into the Palace will cost you.
Having visited the city a few times, all in different times of the year, I would definitely recommend visiting during the festival of lights season. This event normally kicks off in September or October over the course of a week or so and gives you a unique insight into the city's history. The festival is free and uses luministic projections, 3D mapping and illuminations on some of Berlin's most famous landmarks. It's great for children as it is informative but also great fun!
If you are thinking about visiting Berlin, check out our article on Visiting Berlin on a 50 Euro Budget. Make sure to follow us on Instagram and tag us in your trips!