Top city themes – select 'your city' …

Aachen is a city that lives and breathes Europe. It is practically Europe in miniature. Aachen, on the border with Belgium and the Netherlands, has encapsulated the spirit, values and ideals of Europe since the days of Charlemagne. Indeed the Charlemagne Prize for services to European unity has been awarded at Aachen's town hall since 1950.

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Wuppertal is the biggest city in the Bergisches Land and is the region's main centre for business, education, industry and the arts. It is above all known as the city with the suspended monorail – as Wuppertal's official slogan proudly proclaims. From the windows of the monorail, visitors look out onto a confident, historically aware city, with an amazing amount to offer.

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The regional capital Magdeburg is one of the oldest cities in Germany's new federal states, although the course of its history has not always been smooth. As an imperial seat, Hanseatic power and fortified city, Magdeburg has repeatedly been ravaged by war and destruction. Yet it has always had faith in its own future, has always rebuilt and reinvented itself, whilst preserving the memory of the two Ottos who shaped the city.

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What does Berlin have that other world cities don't? Well, first of all, there's the locals, whose rough yet friendly charm is all part of the Berlin experience. Add to that an incredible array of sights that reflect not only the city's newfound swagger but also its great history and the dramatic events of the 20th century.

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Frankfurt is first and foremost a city of modernity. Business, architecture and Europe's third-largest airport – they're all here and they're all at the cutting edge. Perhaps that's why Frankfurt has grown a particular fondness for museums that vary greatly in terms of size, style and subject matter. The city prides itself on always staying ahead of the times, whilst preserving traditions at the same time.

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Explore the far corners of the globe and return via Hamburg – travel itineraries don't get much better than that. Gateway to the world, beautiful seafaring hub, maritime capital of the north – even the normally reserved locals find it hard to conceal their pride in their home city, its ambience and its cosmopolitan charm.

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Leverkusen is known internationally as the headquarters of Bayer AG, the world-renowned chemical and pharmaceutical company. But there is much more to this industrial city, which has plenty of opportunities for relaxation thanks to its location in the foothills of the Bergisches Land region. Leverkusen is a place where urban buzz and village-like tranquillity exist in close proximity.

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Kiel has a long shipbuilding and naval tradition but today it is characterised by its vibrant student scene, laid-back lifestyle and urban flair. You can sense this atmosphere from the city's beautiful setting on the Kiel Fjord, its modern and spacious city centre and Dänische Strasse, a street of late-19th century buildings full of maritime charm in the heart of Kiel.

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Augsburg, with its Mozart heritage, is one of the most historically significant cities in Germany – not to mention one of the prettiest. As you stroll through the city's ancient streets, it doesn't take much imagination to gain a sense of Augsburg's importance as a prominent financial centre, international trading hub and focal point for the fine arts in the days when the Fugger banking empire was at its peak.

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Kassel, the city that became the hub of the contemporary art world with its documenta exhibition, also owes much of its cultural renown to the legacy of the Brothers Grimm. A city that has always fused tradition with innovation to great effect; a city in possession of one of Europe's most palatial gardens, the Wilhelmshöhe, and with it a landmark like no other, the Hercules monument.

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The summer capital of Europe during the belle époque and a rendezvous for the rich and the beautiful, Baden-Baden today is famous worldwide as a spa town with a cultural tradition and a top-class reputation for healthcare. Glittering festivals and unrivalled elegance make it a byword for exclusivity, elegance and luxury living. Baden-Baden excels in everything it does, whether it's cures or culture.

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Bielefeld was founded in 1214 by Duke Hermann von Ravensberg. A man of great foresight, he saw potential in the location at the intersection of two old trading routes near a pass through the Teutoburg Forest. This paved the way for a typical mercantile town with a large market and beautiful timber-framed houses, which to this day remain prominent features in a city that appreciates fine art.

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There are many ways to interpret or define culture. But it can be easily summarised with just one word: Dresden. The sheer abundance and splendour of the city's cultural treasures are enough to take your breath away. And since Dresden also just happens to be set amidst a stunning river landscape, your amazement is soon accompanied by pure delight.

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Every Cologne resident has more than their fair share of zest for life and partying spirit – it's in their DNA. After all, Cologne is more than just a city – it is a matter of the heart, an emotion and an unfalteringly positive state of mind. At the root of this outlook are carnival, kölsch beer and, of course, Cologne Cathedral.

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If German cities were schoolchildren then Darmstadt would be top of the class. Highly educated, well read, cultivated, immaculately groomed and with a range of interests. Through science, literature, art and architecture, Darmstadt has developed a wholly unique appeal that has earned it much acclaim.

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Krefeld, the centre of Germany's textile trade, is three towns in one: neo-classical Krefeld, baroque Uerdingen and the small medieval castle town of Linn. Though the different influences are still easily identifiable, these places have grown together over time to form one city – a city characterised by fine traditions combined with a cheerful demeanour and a refined lifestyle.

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Mainz is famous for its university, its Roman heritage, its status as a media hub and regional capital, and its three most defining features: the Romanesque cathedral, the Gutenberg printing press and the Rhineland carnival. The people of Mainz have good reason to be proud of their city's history spanning almost 2,000 years. This rich cultural heritage incorporates a well-established winegrowing tradition, which only adds to Mainz's appeal.

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Originally a collection of small settlements on the banks of the Rhine, Ludwigshafen owes its growth to the rise of the chemicals industry and did not really play a part in history until the 19th century. Today, art and culture have given the city a new identity. Like all towns on the Rhine, Ludwigshafen is a compelling destination, with an urban face and green lungs, a fascinating history and its own particular charm.

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Formerly Germany's coal-mining region, the Ruhrgebiet forms one of the largest conurbations in Europe with 5 million residents and is now known for its diverse and vibrant cultural scene. Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Oberhausen and many other towns and cities combine to form a fascinating urban area that is full of surprises.

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Which city is home to the world's biggest exhibition site? Perhaps Tokyo? No, sorry – try again. Chicago, London, Shanghai? Wrong again. Frankfurt? Getting closer. The answer is in fact Hannover. Thanks to its state-of-the-art exhibition centre, the city has become an engine for the global economy, and a byword for ideas, innovation and investment.

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Formerly Germany's coal-mining region, the Ruhrgebiet forms one of the largest conurbations in Europe with 5 million residents and is now known for its diverse and vibrant cultural scene. Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Oberhausen and many other towns and cities combine to form a fascinating urban area that is full of surprises.

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Formerly Germany's coal-mining region, the Ruhrgebiet forms one of the largest conurbations in Europe with 5 million residents and is now known for its diverse and vibrant cultural scene. Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Oberhausen and many other towns and cities combine to form a fascinating urban area that is full of surprises.

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Wolfsburg, founded on 1 July 1938 and one of Germany's few new cities established in the 20th century, has had a short but eventful history. Many a trend in the revival of West Germany can be traced back to the city. It is a typical and successful example of a planned urban development, and its history is closely bound with Volkswagen AG.

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Osnabrück has gone down in history as a city of peace for its role in the Treaty of Westphalia. But Osnabrück is much more than that. It's also a city of many layers, with something new to discover at every turn. Connoisseurs, for example, are spoilt for choice by the exceptional gourmet restaurants and regional specialities on offer here.

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Leipzig's key role in setting the rhythm for the peaceful revolution of 1989 is testament to the city's musical endowment. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leipzig was labelled 'City of Heroes' – a title which could also be in reference to the many great musicians, kapellmeister and composers who are arguably more popular and more prominent here than anywhere else in the world.

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Lübeck, the Queen of all the Hanseatic cities, was founded in 1143 as 'the first western city on the Baltic coast'. Today, its appearance is still characterised by a medieval ambience and by cultural and historical attractions, such as the Holsten Gate, that hark back to Lübeck's glorious past as a free imperial and Hanseatic city.

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A city of emperors and princes, leaders and followers, inventors and scholars, Nuremberg has mirrored German history ever since the Middle Ages – the power, the tension, great achievements and great tragedies. Protected by the castle, arts and crafts once flourished, while a new spirit of freedom enlivened the city at a time when few other places could offer such a quality of life. And the same is still true today.

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Bremen: a regional capital and trading city with a long-standing maritime heritage. Bremerhaven: 1,000 years Bremen's junior but still steeped in history and with many tales to tell. These two cities together form Germany's smallest federal state – a world of experiences that is cosmopolitan, welcoming and full of pleasures, open to the new and respectful of the old.

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Famously home to such companies as Schott Glas and Zeiss, Jena offers a remarkable combination of industrial and intellectual heritage, research, innovation and academia. This is as evident in the city's institutions and universities as it is in the bars of the wonderful old quarter, which as cosy as they are traditional.

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At the famous Deutsches Eck, or German Corner, where the Rhine and Moselle converge, lies one of Germany's oldest and most beautiful towns – Koblenz. Vineyards, forests and four mountain ranges form the backdrop to the city, whose 2,000-year history has given rise to beautiful churches and castles, palatial residences and grand town houses.

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Würzburg is a pleasing harmony of history, culture and wine. This university town and former royal seat is idyllically situated on either side of the Main river and offers a vibrant atmosphere and an endearing charm. It has gained a name as the centre of the Franconian winegrowing region and, not least, as a city with exceptional places of interest.

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Churches, towers and bridges, great culture and glittering festivals: Erfurt offers medieval charm in abundance and a rich history combined with a lust for life and a warm welcome. Situated at the crossroads of ancient German and European trade routes, the regional capital of Thuringia has always been popular with important intellectuals and is a self-assured, proud centre of innovation, as well as a magnet for visitors from around the world.

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Ingolstadt – a city of many facets, steeped in history and tradition yet with a modern, urban flair, vibrant and full of life. This university city and shopping destination on the Danube has a delightful blend of charm and atmosphere. And it also has the Audi Forum, a world of automotive discovery that is not just for petrol heads.

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Mönchengladbach is a city that successfully combines urban sophistication with rural charm. Parks and woodland dominate this 'green city', but it is also known for its art and culture, with significant architectural monuments, a world-class museum and a vibrant theatre, variety and performing arts scene.

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Formerly Germany's coal-mining region, the Ruhrgebiet forms one of the largest conurbations in Europe with 5 million residents and is now known for its diverse and vibrant cultural scene. Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Oberhausen and many other towns and cities combine to form a fascinating urban area that is full of surprises.

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This university city on the banks of the Rhine and Neckar rivers has seen many firsts in the history of transport. Karl Drais built the first two-wheeled draisine in Mannheim in 1817, and Carl Benz's first car took to the city's streets in 1886. The legendary Lanz Bulldog tractor followed in 1921 and Julius Hatry developed the world's first rocket-powered aircraft here in 1929. Inquiring minds clearly feel at home in Mannheim.

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Situated on the Rhineland Plain between the Black Forest, the Vosges mountains and the Palatinate Forest, Karlsruhe is a hub of science and technology, Germany's online capital and the home of the Federal Court of Justice. The city has always been just that little bit more liberal than most, allowing art and culture to flourish and creating an atmosphere of vitality.

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Lifestyle, joie de vivre or lebensart – whatever you call it, Munich has it in spades. It might be down to the clear blue skies or simply the city's beauty, but one thing's for certain: the people of Munich always like to show their best side, whether they're in a beer garden, on one of the exclusive shopping streets, or in Bayern Munich's stadium.

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Formerly Germany's coal-mining region, the Ruhrgebiet forms one of the largest conurbations in Europe with 5 million residents and is now known for its diverse and vibrant cultural scene. Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Oberhausen and many other towns and cities combine to form a fascinating urban area that is full of surprises.

More »

Heidelberg is a city that will capture your heart. Famous the world over, it is a perennial favourite among international tourists. The city has so much to offer: charm and character in abundance between the Old Bridge and the mighty castle, an unparalleled choice of culture and entertainment, hearty yet heavenly cuisine and a picturesque setting nestled between the Neckar river and the foothills of the Odenwald forest.

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There are few cities in recent history that have to live with the label of 'ex-capital city', but Bonn is one of them. Nevertheless, those who thought Bonn would fade into obscurity without its capital status have been proven wrong. Previously known as the 'federal village', and now an internationally renowned hub of commerce and culture, Bonn comes across as assured and cosmopolitan as ever.

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In many ways, Chemnitz is one of Germany's most modern cities. It flourished during the industrial revolution, and business and research continues to thrive here, while at the same time its architecture and culture show strong modernist influences.

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