The German countryside is seldom dramatic but always lovely, studded with cathedrals, castles and old towns snug in a landscape of vineyards, forest and cow-chewed pastures. Several well-developed scenic routes join the dots of must-see destinations. The Alpine Road is a rollercoaster through the stunning Bavarian Alps, the Romantic Road a romp through medieval history, while the Fairy-Tale Road explores the backdrop to the legendary Grimm Brothers’ stories.
If you’re keen to explore culture, then Germany has some of Europe’s best museums. A top stop should be Frankfurt for its riverside arts precinct, where museums showcase everything from architecture to film history, Impressionism and sculpture that span back 5,000 years. Berlin’s Museum Island is also renowned, with excellent collections of Greek, Roman and Middle Eastern antiquities as well as Islamic art, German Romantic painters and French Impressionists.
Places you’ve never heard of can be very rewarding. Take Augsburg, an important commercial and banking centre in the Middle Ages, and the seat of a powerful bishop: it has an old town crammed with churches, merchant houses and cobbled squares. Another gem is Koblenz, with its immense fortress and Rhine River promenades. Mainz, Heidelberg, Regensburg and Cochem are others in a long list of delightful, small-scale destinations.
Germany is a great place to go on a river cruise. The Rhine, Main and Danube are the best-known waterways, offering a string of beautiful towns to glide by (such as baroque Passau and Würzburg, and medieval Regensburg) and there’s the splendid landscapes of the fabled Rhine Gorges and Black Forest to admire. Less well known is the Elbe River, nicknamed the ‘Saxon Switzerland’ for its scenery, and the utterly lovely Moselle River, flanked by steep vineyards.
Germany’s Christkindlmarkt retain their medieval character with their wooden booths and handcrafted products. From late November until Christmas Eve, they supply festival sparkle and seasonal cheer to winter evenings. Fairy lights and Christmas trees shimmer, carol singers warble, and castles rise above stalls far below. Hearty German sausages, gingerbread and mulled wine are among the many mouth-watering treats for sale. Some of the biggest and best markets are in Berlin, Munich, Dresden and Stuttgart.