Information on Germany: a brief overview of the essentials
You will find everything you ever wanted to know about Germany in our summary of key facts and figures.
How many federal states does Germany have?
The Federal Republic of Germany has been a parliamentary democracy since 1949. Since reunification in 1990, Germany has the following 16 federal states.
What are the names of the 16 federal states?
- Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
- Lower Saxony
- North Rhine-Westphalia
The head of state is the Federal President; the head of government is the Federal Chancellor.
How big is Germany?
Germany covers an area of 357,022 square metres. As the crow flies, the longest stretch from north to south is 876 kilometres and from west to east is 640 kilometres.
Germany's biggest city is also its capital: Berlin, with a population of 3.4 million. There are two other cities with more than a million residents: Hamburg (1.8 million) and Munich (1.3 million); Cologne falls slightly short of this milestone. Frankfurt am Main (662,000) is an international financial hub.
Germany boasts a variety of rural landscapes. The North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts stretch out in the north, while the Alps soar in the south. There is a medley of rural landscapes between these points: agricultural plains; winding rivers and huge lakes; sprawling forests; urban hubs and gently rolling uplands. Germany's tallest mountain is the Zugspitze at 2,963 metres. The longest river is the Rhine, which carves its way through 865 kilometres of German soil. Germany also has 16 national parks, 104 nature parks and 18 biosphere reserves, including 16 UNESCO biosphere reserves.
How many people live in Germany?
With 83 million people, Germany is the most populous state lying entirely in Europe. In relation to the land area, this is a population density of 230 people per square kilometre.
The official language is German. There are many dialects and vernaculars that reveal where a person comes from. Standard German is understood throughout the country.
A large proportion of the population also speaks English, so language barriers shouldn't pose a problem for many international visitors.
Life in Germany is influenced by a variety of cultures. It is modern and open-minded. There is always an excuse to socialise, with numerous traditional events – such as Carnival, wine festivals, Oktoberfest and music festivals ranging from classical to rock – and good food paired with wines from the country's 13 wine-growing regions.
Germany is home to great poets and famous musicians. Names such as Goethe and Günter Grass, Bach and Beethoven are a testament to the country's long history of world-class culture. Nowadays, Germany is a vibrant mosaic of ancient cultures and modern art: the nation boasts 300 theatres, 130 professional orchestras and 630 art museums with internationally renowned collections. Literature and film are two industries where German artists channel their creativity year after year.
Science and important educational facilities and research institutes are also a core part of Germany today. The 370 or so higher education institutions have even established an excellent reputation among international students.
What is the weather like in Germany?
Germany generally has a temperate climate with moderate rainfall and predominately westerly winds. Major temperature fluctuations are rare. Rain falls throughout the year. Mild winters (2 °C to –6 °C) and warm summers (18 °C to 20 °C) are the norm.
When entering Germany, does my passport need to be valid beyond my period of stay?
When entering Germany, your passport must be valid for at least four months beyond your period of stay. Unless you are a citizen of an EU member state, in which case a valid identity card is all that is required.
Who needs a visa for Germany?
Citizens of EU member states do not require a visa. As a basic rule, citizens of all other nations will require a visa. The exception being a few countries for which the European Union has waived the visa requirement. Citizens of these nations do not need a visa for stays in Germany of up to three months within a period of six months.
Goods from EU countries are duty free as long as you carry the goods with you, and they are intended for personal consumption.
Goods imported to Germany from non-EU countries are duty free up to a value of EUR 175. There are, however, certain restrictions on goods such as tobacco, alcohol and perfume.
Which vaccinations are compulsory for entry into Germany?
There are no compulsory vaccinations for entry into Germany.
From spring to autumn, however, there is an increased risk of catching Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), both of which are transmitted through tick bites. Ticks mainly live low to the ground in areas of dense vegetation. So the best protection against them is clothing that covers as much of the body as possible. If bitten, you should see a doctor as a precaution.
The main at-risk areas are Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, as well as certain regions of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia. We recommend a TBE vaccine for anyone who spends a lot of time in the countryside.
What does SOS mean?
Across Europe, you can call the standard emergency number 112 at any time to request assistance from the fire brigade and emergency services. Calls are free from all networks, even from a mobile phone.
The SOS distress signal originated in German government maritime radio regulations and stands for Morse code. It's not an abbreviation: it represents the Morse code 'three short/three long/three short'.
What does the German flag look like?
The German flag is represented by the colours black, red and gold in a horizontal tricolour.
How many articles are in the Basic Law?
The Basic Law is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. It consists of a total of 202 articles.
When did the Basic Law come into force?
The Basic Law came into force at midnight on 24 May 1949 and was signed and promulgated the day before.
The Bundesadler (Federal Eagle) graces the coat of arms of Germany. It is depicted looking to the right and designed in black and red on a golden-yellow background. The national emblem therefore features the colours of the German flag.
Who wrote the German national anthem?
The German national anthem was written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben and composed by Joseph Haydn. The third stanza of the Deutschlandlied was agreed as the national anthem by Chancellor Kohl and President Weizsäcker in August 1991.
When is the Day of German Unity?
Every year, 3 October is a national holiday in Germany to celebrate the Day of German Unity. This date was chosen to mark the reunification of all German federal states on 3 October 1990.
Its representatives can be described as Germany's 'eyes, ears and voice' abroad. They represent Germany, safeguard its interests and protect its citizens in host countries based on guidance from the German Federal Foreign Office. They negotiate with the respective foreign government and promote political relations as well as economic, cultural and scientific collaboration.
The embassies play a part in all aspects of international relations to promote bilateral – especially political – relations and German economic interests, to look after German nationals and to collaborate internationally on research and technology as well as social, agricultural and development policy.
Unlike embassies, which are responsible for one or more countries, Consulate Generals and Consulates have a regional administrative district. Their range of duties encompasses mainly legal and consular matters, export business assistance, cultural collaboration and PR work. However, political relations fall under the embassies' remit.