GERMANY Holidays

MUNICH

Munich is known as one of the world’s most livable cities. Its strong economy attracts big businesses, while its beautiful architecture, old-world traditions and proximity to the Bavarian Alps draws millions of visitors each year. Take a tour of the inner city on foot to see a range of architectural styles, from the Gothic St. Peter’s Church to the rococo charm of the Asam Church (Asamkirche). Munich was greatly damaged during World War II, but many buildings have been reconstructed with a view to their original style. See a more modern Munich in structures such as theOlympic Tower and the art museum Pinakothek der Moderne. Famous for hosting the world’s largest beer festival, Oktoberfest, Munich is home to some of the world’s best-regarded brews and a passionate beer culture. Dedicated drinkers come from all parts of the world to try out Munich’s “Big Six” breweries. These include the Hofbräuhaus, which was founded by royals, and the world-famous Löwenbräu. Visit one of the beer gardens in summer to find locals sipping beer under the chestnut trees, like they have done in Munich for centuries. The city is home to a number of important multinational companies. The home-grown BMW has its headquarters in Munich along with its BMW World, a fascinating complex which gives an insight into the past, present and future of German engineering. A trip to Munich is not complete without taking a stroll through the English Garden. This oasis right near the city center has peaceful wooded areas and expansive meadows, with the river Isar flowing through. Jump on one of the sightseeing buses that depart from Munich’s main railway station. These tours give a good overview of the city. Alternatively, rent a bike and pedal along the bikeways that run along the main roads and parks. There is also a clean and efficient public transport system, which provides access to most areas of Munich. However you get around, you are sure to fall for the varied charms of this world city with a proud local tradition. Munich is most famous for its enormous beer gardens that draw in thousands of visitors each year. It's also perhaps the only place where drinking is encouraged as early in the day as possible -- it's the only way make sure you guarantee yourself a seat before the beer tents are overflowing with tourists. Visitors will also find plenty of other temptations beyond the delicious food and drink. With world-class museums, charming plazas or platzes, designer boutiques and sleek buildings mixed in with traditional Bavarian architecture, Munich is ideal for those who want a quintessential German experience (complete with polka music) as well as a trendy urban escape.

BERLIN

Easy to navigate via the light rail system, Berlin is divided into twelve boroughs, each with its own individual character. History buffs should head to the central Mitte district to explore some of Berlin’s best museums, including the Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum and the other grand institutions on Museum Island. Just a short walk to the east, the DDR Museum captures life under the East German Government. Adjacent to the Mitte’s Tiergarten, see a monument to a dark chapter of German history in the somber Holocaust Memorial. It is a moving tribute to the Jews murdered during World War II. The Berlin Wall Memorial is just over a mile (1.6 kilometers) to the north. The parklands here include an untouched piece of the wall. Berlin’s political changes and innovative populous and have given rise to a city which reads like a textbook of the world’s great architectural styles. Walk through the baroque Schloss Charlottenburg palace or admire the the Berliner Dom, a beautiful sandstone cathedral which has examples of of renaissance, gothic, neoclassical and baroque styles from throughout its history. The Reichstag, or German parliament building, is perhaps the ultimate in mixed styles. The original classical construction, now has a super modern glass dome sitting on top offering 360 degree views over Berlin. Don’t miss the neoclassical arches of the Brandenburg Gate, known as a symbol of peace and unity. Along with its arts and cultural scene, Berlin has a variety of beautiful, spacious parks. Pack a picnic and head for the Tiergarten, Berlin’s answer to New York’s Central Park, with tree-lined paths and manicured lawns. The renowned Berlin Zoo opened on the Tiergarten’s grounds in 1844, and is home to hundreds of animals including giant pandas and polar bears. Also worth a visit are the dynamic public squares, Alexanderplatz, and Potsdamer Platz. Site of Europe’s first traffic lights, Potsdamer Platz was destroyed in World War II and became a no-man’s-land during the division of Berlin. Recently the square has undergone an extraordinary redevelopment, transforming it into one of the most visionary public spaces in Europe. Here foodies can sample local delicacies like eisbein (pork knuckle), schnitzel and armer ritter, a German take on French toast. Day trips from the city center are popular. Take a one-hour train journey to the historic town of Brandenburg an der Havel, with quaint pubs, restaurants and a picturesque lake. Those wanting to venture further can catch the train to Frankfurt an der Oder, separated from Poland by the Oder River.

BADEN- BADEN

Once a spa resort, always a spa resort. Roman emperors, Prussian queens and even 19th-century celebrities utilized Baden-Baden for its hot spring baths, as well as its horse races, luxury hotels and casinos. Nicknamed the European Summer Capital, Baden-Baden was officially assigned its double name in 1931, to distinguish it from Baden in Switzerland and Baden bei Wien in Austria. Located on the edge of the Black Forest, its countryside setting is optimal for enjoying a healthy, wholesome break. The town’s two main thermal baths, the Caracalla Spa and Friedrichsbad, are supplied by the hot springs 6,560 feet (2,000 meters) underground. The waters are said to treat all sorts of health problems, including cardiovascular issues, rheumatism and metabolic disorders. Indulge yourself with a visit and try out one of the various spa treatments. The Lichtentaler Allee park makes for a perfect stroll, with almost two miles (three kilometers) of tree-linedavenues, and is also home to the renowned Museum Frieder Burda. Inside, enjoy some of the biggest names in modern art, with contributions by Picasso and Pollock, among others. If you like to shop, you won’t be disappointed by the selection of boutiques, labels and jewelry stores. On Kaiserallee, pick up some fine-quality chocolate and enjoy a coffee at Rumpelmayer, before heading to the Kurhaus Casino right next door. Music, gambling, late dinners and balls are just some of the options at Baden-Baden’s most famous casino. If you’re in town at the right time – in spring, late summer or mid-fall – you can also enjoy the Iffezheim horse races. Before you leave, savor a glass or two of Riesling. Baden-Baden is in Rebland, a popular growing district for this type of white wine, so you can be sure of the highest quality. With its reputation for excellence, Baden-Baden is a chic destination with health benefits, old-world scenery and many ways to spend your money. In fact, it's so good they named it twice.

COLONGE

Cologne lies on the banks of the Rhine River and is Germany’s fourth largest city. Its long and fascinating history has given the city a distinctive charm; a towering cathedral, medieval marketplace and grand old buildings sit alongside modern office blocks. Cologne is a hot spot for tourism, as well as media and business. It is famous worldwide for the scent Eau de Cologne, first produced here in 1709. It’s also known as being one of the most liberal cities in Germany. One of the most popular areas for visitors is the picturesque Old Town, which was almost completely reduced to rubble during World War II. Cologne was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany, but it has been painstakingly rebuilt. The historic center, including the Alter Markt (Old Market), has been restored to its pre-war heritage and the surviving old buildings, such as the famous Cologne Cathedral, carefully preserved. A more modern attraction, but still one of the oldest of its kind in Germany, is the Cologne Zoo.Cologne today is known for being a major cultural center and is famous for its Winter Carnival, held in February. There’s also plenty of activity throughout the year thanks to the city’s vibrant arts scene, countless galleries and more than 30 museums. The Museum Schnütgen houses an extensive collection of medieval art in an 11th-century Romanesque church. Visit the Museum für Angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Art) and browse through thousands of design objects, from a Mies van der Rohe chair to a retro vacuum cleaner. If you want to practice your German, Cologne is a great place to do so as the locals are known for their welcoming nature. English is also widely spoken here, especially by younger people, and tours and information in English are available for all of the city’s main attractions. Getting around Cologne is easy with the efficient and affordable public transport network, which includes trams, buses and trains. There is an English language feature on ticket machines. Renting a bike is another great way to see this city; rentals are available from the northern side of the main train station.

WEIMAR

Weimar is located along the River Ilm in the federal state of Thuringia. Germany’s first democratic constitution was signed in the city following the First World War. Weimar was an important location during the German Enlightenment. It was the home of the literary genre, Weimar Classicism, which stemmed from local writers Goethe and Schiller. Learn about the poet Goethe at his home, Goethe House, and next door at the Goethe National Museum. There, you will see exhibition rooms, storage rooms and study rooms as well as collections relating to the writer. Weimar hosts a full calendar of events each year, from concerts and comedy to classical music. If you are visiting in October, make sure to attend the three-day Onion Market, which is Thuringia’s largest festival. You will see about 500 stalls and 100 stage performances across the city during the event. An important monument in the city is the Buchenwald Memorial, which was established for those who were imprisoned at the Nazi concentration camp, Buchenwald, between 1937 and 1945. More than 250,000 people were imprisoned there and over 50,000 of them died. The memorial is a 15-minute drive from the city; a bus service runs hourly from downtown to the site. You will see a former grand-ducal art collection dating from the Middle Ages to around 1900 at the City Palace, which sits on the banks of the river. From there, you can stroll through the Park on the River Ilm, where you will find classical and post-classical landscaping. The Roman House is in the park and looks as though it was built on the ruins of an ancient structure because of its temple-like construction. Continue your cultural visit to Weimar with an evening at the Deutsches Nationaltheater (German National Theater), which is home to Thuringia’s main theatrical company and the Staatskapelle Weimar Orchestra. Buses are available around the city and it is easy to explore downtown on foot. There are also a number of places where you can rent bicycles. Weimar is part of the Goethe cycle tour route and the Ilm Valley cycle tour. Trains stop every hour at the Weimar station on the express train line from Frankfurt to Dresden and Berlin.

DRESDEN

In 2006, Dresden celebrated its 800th year as a city. Before being devastated by World War II bombs, it was a hub of art, classical music and glorious architecture. Gradually, the city has regenerated and today it’s home to more than 40 museums, 13,000 cultural monuments, and a host of concerts and events throughout the year. Dresden’s great buildings continue to rise from the ashes. The lavish Katholische Hofkirche church was reconstructed in the mid 1980s. So too was the early Renaissance and Baroque-style Semperoper opera house. In 2005, rebuilding of the magnificently domed Dresden Frauenkirche was completed. Other photogenic highlights include Zwinger Palace and the city’s Baroque Quarter. Dresden is one of Europe’s most important museum cities. Delve into the city’s past at the Dresden City Museum. Marvel at the invaluable collection of European treasures in the Green Vault. Learn more about who you are at the German Hygiene Museum, which has exhibitions about the human body. Gaze at the paintings, spanning from the Romantic period to now, which hang in the Albertinum. Dresden knows how to throw a party. May’s Dixieland Festival is one of the biggest jazz gatherings in Europe. In the summer, the Filmnächte season screens cinema on the banks of the Elbe. Dresden’s Neustadt area comes alive in June with the Bunte Republik Neustadt street festival. Winter brings the Striezelmarkt, one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. Dresden nightlife is perennially buzzing, especially in Neustadt. For local crafts, souvenirs and antiques, hit the Altmarkt, Hauptstraße, Heinrichstraße or Königstraße. For a break away from the city center, head for Dresdner Heide. This municipal nature reserve borders the northeast fringe of the city. It consists of 15,155 acres (6,133 hectares) of forestland; plenty of space to hike or cycle. Peak season in Dresden is between June and August; the average high is about 72 F (22 C). Because there’s so much to do indoors, a visit in the off-season still guarantees plenty to do. Dresden Airport is located about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the city center. Probably the fastest, and certainly cheapest, way to make the journey is by the S-Bahn from the station. Trains depart regularly, and take about 20 minutes to reach Dresden’s central station.