Top city themes – select 'your city' …

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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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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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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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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Are the people of Freiburg so cheerful because their city gets more sun than anywhere else in Germany, or have they been rewarded with so much sunshine precisely because they are so good-natured? It's hard to say. But what is certain is that life is good in Germany's southernmost city.

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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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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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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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Saarbrücken is a likeable city with a vibrant cultural scene, baroque architecture and a French ambience combined with the joie de vivre of the Saarland. This state capital, university city, economic hub and trade fair venue is situated at the centre of a region that spans three countries. If you are looking for an easygoing, friendly city with a feel-good factor, then Saarbrücken is the place.

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