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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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Goethe and Schiller, Herder and Wieland, Nietzsche, Fürnberg, Liszt, Bach, Cornelius, Gropius, Feininger, Klee, Itten. Weimar is intrinsically linked with the great names of Germany's and Europe's intellectual past. Both Weimar Classicism and the Bauhaus remain beacons of the extraordinarily rich cultural life that is abundantly and harmoniously manifest in the town.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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You don't have to hold a doctorate to visit Göttingen, but it could come in handy in a city that seems to pulsate with a thirst for knowledge, and that is dominated by students and academic life more than anywhere else in Germany. A total of 44 Nobel laureates are associated with Göttingen. Some were born in the town, others came here to study, teach or carry out research.

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Anyone thinking a medieval town with a 2,000-year-old history might be slightly on the quiet side is greatly mistaken: Regensburg is anything but dull. World heritage comes to life in the individual historical buildings and squares but, above all, in the town that they form. What's more, this is a town for fun-lovers with the highest concentration of bars in Germany.

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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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This is a cosmopolitan city, youthful, laid-back and proud of a history going back more than 1,200 years. Whether as a bishop's seat, a member of the Hanseatic League or a university city – Münster has always played an important role in the region and far beyond. The city earned its place in the annals of world history when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed there.

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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.

More »

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 »

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 »

The harbour is the heart of the maritime city of Rostock. Although there may be fewer sailors on the quayside these days, the harbour still shapes the character of the city. It is also the venue for major events, such as the Hanse Sail in August, which attracts hundreds of sailing ships and a million visitors each year.

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Founded as Augusta Treverorum in 16 BC during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, Trier is Germany's oldest city and an important site for classical monuments and art treasures. This can be seen at the Porta Nigra, the best-preserved city gate from antiquity and today the most famous landmark of this city on the banks of the Moselle.

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Düsseldorf becomes the focus of the fashion world when the city reveals the latest in designer fashion and high-street trends. 'The Gallery Düsseldorf' emerged from Igedo (the world's biggest fashion show in its day) and is now a biannual event that attracts international fashion designers and buyers in their droves to the Rhine 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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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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