Although the Oktoberfest beer celebrations are a big draw to go to Munich during late September and early October, it’s not the only reason to take a trip to Germany. Autumn can be a lovely time of year to explore its picturesque countryside, fairy tale castles and lush forests.
Aside from Munich’s breweries that welcome around six million visitors to their beer halls and tents for the Oktoberfest festival each year, there’s plenty to do and see in the city as well as further afield. When it’s time for a break from the beer-drinking, you won’t be short of things to do and see. Here are a few of Germany’s top attractions that are truly worth taking a little time out to explore.
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There’s a wealth of history to discover within the city of Munich. Age-old breweries that burst with Bavarian charm are at the heart of the Oktoberfest celebrations and often date back several centuries. A good example is historic Hofbrauhaus, which was founded around the 16th century. However there are also some more artistic historical attractions to take a look at too, such as luxurious palaces and beautifully decorated churches.
The huge Munich Residenz is a plush palace full of art, featuring sculptures, intricate silverwork and chandeliers. Don’t miss the gorgeous Court Garden with its pretty ponds and fountains. Explore the east side of the Munich Residenz and you’ll find the 18th century Cuvilliés Theatre. The Rococo style theatre features boxes adorned with elaborate gold-coloured carving and is a sumptuous setting to go and see an opera in.
Berchtesgaden National Park
If you want to explore Germany’s natural side, take a day trip to the Berchtesgaden National Park, which is less than two hours away from Munich by car. You can immerse yourself in its outstanding wild beauty with a selection of trails that run through the lush forest. They’ll take you past picturesque little villages and jagged rocky cliffs. Don’t miss the stunning Lake Königssee with its stunning crystal clear waters. It’s a tranquil spot to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Be sure to pay a visit to the Burg Eltz in Rhineland-Palantinate, one of Germany’s most spectacular castles. You’ll see the stacked medieval turrets rise up above the tree-tops from the surrounding Elzbach valley. Featuring Gothic design details, this 12th century castle is extremely well-preserved and has been under the care of the same family for around 850 years. The interior is decorated with original furnishings from centuries gone by. Explore the surrounding nature reserve and Rhine River area a little further and you’re likely to come across quaint German villages and more dreamy castles.
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If you stop off in Cologne, be sure to cast your eyes upon the Cologne Cathedral, also known as Kölner Dom, with its pair of spires that poke up into the skyline. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, this architectural masterpiece took an epic 600 years to build. The Gothic structure features arched ceilings and impressive stained-glass windows in both traditional and contemporary styles. If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb the 533 steps of the south tower. While you’re exploring Cologne, an evening stroll along the Rhine River will give you lovely views of the city. Or you can check out the many museums and galleries there, such as the Römisch-Germanisches Museum where you can learn about the city’s Roman origins.
Berlin is a unique city with a unique past. Now a cultural hub with a bohemian feel and famed for its energetic nightlife, its history has not been forgotten. Remnants of the Berlin Wall can still be seen in various places all across the city. Visit the East Side Gallery section of the wall which runs for more than a kilometre along the River Spree. This stretch of the wall has been transformed into a symbol of freedom and peace with colourful murals painted by international artists. Then there’s Museum Island to add to your list too. The UNESCO World Heritage Site features a collection of five fabulous museums floating on its own little island in the middle of the river.
The hilltop Neuschwanstein Castle looks like it’s been taken straight out of the pages of a story book. In fact, if it looks familiar it could be because it was the inspiration behind Disney’s iconic Sleeping Beauty castle. You’ll find this spectacular structure, which takes the title as Germany’s most photographed building, looking down on the Bavarian countryside near Füssen. The magnificent 19th century castle is a must-see, including its interior which is decorated with elaborate paintings depicting tales of kings and knights.
Jasmund National Park
This wonderful nature reserve is home to the largest chalk cliffs in Germany, the magnificent Rügen Cliffs, which run for 10 kilometres along the striking coastline. Jasmund National Park sits on the northeast coast of Germany, overlooking the Baltic Sea. The park also encompasses forest areas filled with beautiful 700 year-old beech trees, marshes and grasslands. Make the most of the stunning scenery by following one of its hiking trails or cycling routes. And don’t forget to look up – you might just catch a glimpse of a rare white-tailed sea eagle spiralling in the sky above you.
This picturesque city spans the German mainland as well as a floating island on Lake Constance, near the Austrian and Swiss borders. The island is connected to the mainland on the banks of the lake via a bridge, so it’s easy to access by car, and is just a couple of hours drive away from Munich. You’ll see lots of examples of traditional medieval half-timber buildings here, as well as Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Wander through the historic streets of the charming old town area with its cafés and pretty fountains. And be sure to check out the harbour and its 13th century lighthouse. You’ll be treated to breath-taking views across the lake and the alpine mountains in the distance.