Perhaps the most German of German constructions, Neuschwanstein castle was a 19th century creation of Bavarian King Ludwig II to imitate and surpass the great medieval castles of Europe that were so popular during the Romantic period. Inspired by Wagner, ‘Mad King Ludwig’ chose the most spectacular of Alpine locations for his dream retreat, which famously inspired the castle of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
3. Holstentor – ‘The Holsten Gate’
This gothic relic of Lübeck’s medieval fortifications is a city entrance so iconic it even appears on the 2-euro coins you might use to buy that tasty frankfurter hot-dog. Made a UNESCO heritage site in 1987, this world renowned gate very nearly disappeared from the world. By 1863 it had become a ragged and lopsided mess until the city parliament voted by a tiny majority of one, decided to have it restored to its former might and glory.
5. Erfurt – The 'ford' at the heart of Europe
Between Frankfurt and Berlin, virtually at the heart and center of Europe, lies the pretty city of Erfurt, which great reformer, Martin Luther, pronounced to be “ideally suited.” Decreeing “there just has to be a city on a spot like this.” So, why not see what a terrific city the Germans built in the middle of the civilized world? If you go at Christmas you will even be able to enjoy one of Germany’s traditional Christmas markets where mulled wine, gingerbread and traditional music are to be found.
6. Brandenburger Tor – ‘The Brandenburg gate’
There is no more poignant reminder of the wounds that were healed when the Cold war ended and the Berlin Wall finally came down, than this 18th century sandstone masterpiece. Ronald Reagan chose the spot to deliver his exhortation to Gorbachev, to ‘tear down the wall!’ and unite the free world. This famous neo-classical gate modeled on the Athenian acropolis was erected during the terrible French Revolution, subsequent to which, the tyrant, Napoleon, conquered the state and seized the Quardriga sculpture that represents the Goddess of Victory. Eventually it was returned, and Victory now sits emblematically astride this German colossus, a symbol of victory and unity.
7. Heidelberg Altstadt - 'Old Town Heidelberg'
Just look at this breathtaking city. From the gliding river Neckar, to Heidelburg Castle and the world renowned university, this city was the center of the 19th century Romantik movement, which seized and furnished the imaginations of some of Europe’s most important artists. Somewhat surprisingly, given its stunning beauty, the town was also the headquarters of the American military forces in Europe. They only moved out of Heidelberg in 2015. I can understand why they stayed so long.
8. Kölner Dom – ‘Cologne Cathedral’
The seat of the Catholic church in Germany, Cologne Cathedral is also Germany’s most visited landmark, with some 20,000 people coming to see it every day. A gothic work of stupendous ingenuity and patience, it is the world’s tallest twin spired church at 515 feet. It is also the largest gothic church in Northern Europe, with the largest façade. It is not often you can truly say, words don’t do it justice.
10. München Oktoberfest – the world’s largest Volkfest in Munich
We all know that Germany has some of the greatest beer in the world. Only local beer (around the vicinity of Munich) which conforms to the German purity laws (Reinheitsgebot) can be served at Munich’s world famous festival of beer, the Oktoberfest. Unbelievably more than 6 million people attend the festival every year, and it’s not just about Beer. Festival goers can also enjoy sausages, pretzels, cheese noodles, sauerkraut, obatzda and Weißwurst.
11. Rothenburg ob der Tauber – ‘Red fortress above the Tauber’
This little town is one of the hidden gems of Germany, and one if its glories. With a population of around 10,000 the friendly locals will be thrilled to welcome you to their immaculate medieval town. They are also very proud of their town’s appearance in the movie Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang, two of the Harry Potter films, and it was also used as the inspiration for the 1940 Disney movie, Pinocchio.
12. Rügen Island & Königsstuhl - 'Rugen Island & The King's Chair'
Germany also counts several islands as part of its territory, the largest of which is Rügen Island, lying in the Baltic Sea, but close enough to the mainland to be crossed by road or railway. Its wonderful Königsstuhl (King's chair) chalk cliffs are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as this wonderful photo shows, they give Dover’s white cliffs a run for their money any day of the week.
13. Rheintal – ‘The Rhine Valley’
The river Rhine formed part of the ancient boundary of the Roman Empire, so here in the Upper Rhine Valley you are at the border of Northern and Southern Europe. Dotted along its banks are many idyllic villages and farms like you see here in this lovely photograph.
14. Walhalla - 'Valhalla, the hall of the slain'
This modern structure celebrates all the great achievers in German history, with a nod to the mythical Valhalla ‘hall of the slain’ from Norse mythology. At the memorial itself, which is glorious, you will see 65 plaques and some 130 busts which celebrate figures from over 2000 years.
15. Zugspitze - 'The avalanche pathways'
Not many people realize that Germany borders the Alps, yet just look at this monstrous mountain range. The Zugspitze is Germany’s highest peak, jutting out nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. Here you can ski, hike, climb and even snowboard.