Copenhagen, Normandy, Barcelona and San Sebastian
By Dakota Lum
Posted On August 6, 2017
I spent a semester abroad in Germany and was able to travel to lots of cities across the country. If you’re interested in traveling to Germany and are wondering where to go and what to do then read on.
- Free Walking Tour
Start with a free walking tour! I can’t stress it enough! When you’re in a big, overwhelming city like Munich it is so nice to start with a tour that gives you a good overview of the typical “touristy” and historic stuff. I have never been let down by New Sandeman’s Free Walking Tours – the tour guides are great and informative and I learned a lot about the German superstitions in Munich, but I won’t spoil it for you.
- Alte Pinakothek Museum
For the art history lovers I recommend going to the Alte Pinakothek Museum. This museum is filled with a bunch of historical art. I was amazed at the collection they had of Peter Paul Reubens’ and Rembrandt’s work. The best part was it was only 2 euros with my student discount. Always ask if they have discounts – chances are they have something for you.
- Go to the top of St. Peter’s Kirche
Donate to the church and get your stair workout in for the day! The climb is worth the view at the top; you get to see a stunning 360 view of Munich. The only downside is you’re not the only tourist who knows about it, so be prepared to keep your elbows out to avoid being squished by other tourists.
- Tap House Munich
If you finished the stereotypical stuff and already went to Hofbrauhaus then you need to go to Tap House Munich. Although they have American craft beer imports, you should step out of your comfort zone and try some German craft beer. I will warn you ahead of time – they are not on the American level when it comes to use of hops so if you’re an IPA lover, just know they tend to be more mellow here.
- Be a princess (or prince!) and go to Neuschwanstein
I am a huge Disney fan girl and ever since I found out Neuschwanstein was the castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty’s castle, I just had to see it with my own eyes. Unless you already know all the history of the place, I suggest scheduling a tour that takes you from Munich and do a day trip. I used Mike’s Bike Tours (although it wasn’t a bike tour) and my guide, Dani, was fantastic!
I learned more from her than I did actually touring the inside of the castle (which is only about 10 minutes long). Also, I would recommend getting the full experience and buy a ticket to see both castles and the museum. Might as well get the most bang for your buck!
- Cathedral of St. Peter’s
Religious or not you have to see this medieval church! It is the most impressive church I’ve seen yet. The church took hundreds of years to construct and was completed in 1520. I really can’t even describe how intense it was for me, I just walked in and my jaw dropped. The high ceilings, the organs, the art, the stained glass, everything in there is a masterpiece. I may have mentioned this before in a previous post, but it’s one of those buildings that just makes me feel stupid. I don’t even know how to make a table and people created this church with their bare hands; it is absolutely incredible.
- Eat at Wurstkuchl
This little sausage house is said to be the oldest in Germany. Why not be a part of history and eat there? It has outdoor seating right next to the river so you can enjoy some delicious sausages and sauerkraut while looking over at a peaceful view.
- Oskar Schindler’s House is not what you think
I know this isn’t a best post but I don’t think anyone else should be as disappointed as I was. Being a history buff and film major, I of course had to see Oskar Schindler’s house. Unfortunately, all it is a plaque on the side of a building saying he used to live in this building!
- Historisches Museum
Just by walking around this ancient town you can clearly see the lasting effect the Roman Empire left here, but if you want a little more detail then you should go to the history museum. You can get an audio guide and learn all about the history of Regensburg. Remember to ask for discounts!
- Johannes Kepler Museum
For you science lovers, there is a Johannes Keppler Museum in his former house in Regensburg. I didn’t actually get to go inside because it is only open on the weekends, but it seemed legitimate from the outside, so you might want to check it out!
- Traveling on a budget?
Five Reason Hotel & Hostel is where you need to stay. This is hands down the best hostel I’ve ever stayed at. The rooms are spacious, bright, and clean. The lockers were big enough to fit my 70L backpack. The bathrooms are super clean and have the best showers. The staff is friendly, it’s in a great location, and it was only $20 a night for me.
- Kaiserburg Nürnberg (Nuremberg Castle)
At the top of the hill in Nuremburg this castle still stands after centuries of construction and reconstruction. Besides getting the best view of the city, you also learn all about the history of the castle and Nuremberg as they take you through the Roman Empire up until Nazi occupation.
- St. Lorenz Church & St. Sebaldus Church
These are two very beautiful churches. Although they were rebuilt, due to being destroyed in the war, they are still very stunning pieces of architecture. St. Sebaldus Church even has the remains of the Patron Saint standing in the center of the church, it’s a little spooky but cool.
- Lochgefangnis Prison
This is a little more off the beaten path, but I have to say it was one of my favorite tours as it was such a different learning experience. This was an underground torture prison for everyone: men, women and children. The guides take you down
through the cramped spaces and explain all uses of torture. You get to see the tools they used to inflict the torture, and they even let you touch them. The only downfall is the tours are only in German so you need a buddy who can translate!
- Hangman’s Bridge
The darkest and dreariest bridge that crosses the river is Hangman’s Bridge. As the name suggests, this is where people were hung in medieval times. It is a bit of a weird feeling to stand there and imagine the horrors that occurred, but it really puts into perspective how times have changed.
- Hausbrauerei Altstadthof
Once you’re done with the depressing thought of Hangman’s Bridge, go reward yourself with a beer or whiskey at Hausbrauerei Altstadthoft. You can do the cellar tour with them in which they take you underground and explain the history of beer in the area. The tour ends with an included tasting of one of the beers, but I recommend paying for extra tasters of their beers and whiskeys.
- Smoked Beer (Rauchbier)
It may sound strange, but you have to try smoked beer while you’re here. It is a style of beer that was created in this town and it is surprisingly delicious.
- Weyermann Malz
Get more into German beer history and take a tour of the Weyermann Malz facilities. This company has been around for over a century, creating high quality malts for brewers. They even have a few of their own brews as well, which you get to taste at the end of the tour.
- Churches and Palace
Walk up the hill and check out the old church and palace grounds. I’m not sure if there are tours inside the palace as it was closed when I was there, but you at least have to take a walk around the area. You can have a drink at the café in the rose garden and look over all the medieval streets and buildings of the old town.
- Altstadt (Old Town)
I didn’t get to spend more than a day in this town, but I think it is my favorite German city. It is small and quaint, and it was untouched by the war so it is completely medieval. It’s another town situated on a river and it is just so breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful. Spend some time wandering in the Altstadt and enjoy the views.
This is a historical church in the Altstadt that, like the Nuremberg Castle, has been through centuries of construction and reconstruction. You have to pay to get in unfortunately, but if you like historical churches I suggest doing it because it is very different in style from the others I’ve seen. Once inside you can pay for an audio tour and learn all about the history of the building.
- The Zwinger
This is the old palace garden area, which was used for exhibitions and festivals. There weren’t too many flowers but there are fountains, sculptures and grassy areas for one to relax on.
- Pillnitz Castle and Park
This is a bit outside of the city, as it is located in the former village of Pillnitz, but it is worth it if you’re a nature lover. The picturesque castle grounds and park sit on the bank of the Elbe. Now that it is a community park, you can get a little taste of what it feels like to be German royalty.
- Vineyards and Mt. Everest
If you like wine, hike or drive up to the top of the hills along the Elbe, where there are so many vineyards! The staircase to the top of one of these hills is named Mt. Everest because if one completes the staircase 100 times it is equivalent of the height of Mt. Everest, and there is an annual marathon where people do just that.
- Watzke Ball und Brauhaus
Try a Saxon specialty like Altpieschner Pilzgulasch. I can’t really explain what it is other than meat and dumplings, but it was literally the best German food I had this entire trip. And of course, it’s a brewery, so get a little barrel keg for the table and enjoy your night!
- Holocaust Memorial
This is a little bit different from the typical sights like the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie. Here you experience art with a stone memorial that gives you the impression of being at a very bleak cemetery. Linked to it is an underground museum to tell you about the history of the memorial and the Holocaust.
- East Side Gallery
Here you’ll find a large remaining portion of the Berlin Wall, which is now dedicated to artists to display their work. Much of it is centrally themed among the political and racial history of Germany, but I’m not sure about the rules for who can paint and what they can paint. Nevertheless, it is an interesting piece of artwork that I recommend checking out.
- Topography of Terror
This is probably the only free museum that you’ll find and it’s well worth it. It is small but you learn a lot about the history of the brutality placed upon the Jews and other minorities by the Nazi regime.
- Vagabund Brauerei Tasting Room
This place is a little hole in the wall, but usually those places are the best-kept secrets. It’s an American-owned brewery that is slowly trying to bring American style craft beer to Germany. I looked like an idiot being the only person ordering a flight of beer (I guess it’s not a thing in Germany), but I had to try it all. I loved their experimental chipotle beer; it was a deliciously spicy treat!
- Ehrenbreitstein Fortress
This was a fortress used in both World Wars. Located on the grounds is the Landesmuseum where you can learn about the fortress and Koblenz history. If you want to spend the day up there, there is also a nice café overlooking the stunning view of the Deutsches Eck and the city. Note that there is a cable car that takes you to and from the fortress, we somehow missed this and ended up walking up but it was still nice.
- Deutsches Eck (German Corner)
This is the part of the country where the Rhine and the Moselle meet. Here you will find a monument dedicated to the history of the “German Corner,” but this area is mostly a “touristy” spot to admire the views of the rivers.
- Hike in St. Goar
Spend a day wandering the trails of the area and take the train down to St. Goar. It is a small town just south of the city that has an array of hiking options. Being completely honest, we found the trails to be poorly marked, but if you’re alright with getting lost in the beauty of the greenery, then it doesn’t really matter. Once you’re done or need a break you can follow the trail that leads to a local winery and relax along the river with a glass of wine in hand.
- Dinner at SauBar
We really enjoyed having dinner at SauBar in Koblenz. It is a small restaurant tucked away in a little square. The service was great, the food and the variety were great, and best of all they have a large wine list.