Day Trips

12 Beautiful Cities in Germany You Have to Visit

When people picture beautiful European destinations, Germany usually isn’t the most top-of-mind place. Countries like Italy or Switzerland are far more famous for their beauty, and cities like Lisbon or Budapest have that iconic urban appeal. But rainy, cloudy Germany? Nein, danke. However, I would like to challenge that assumption a bit. I moved to Germany in 2019, and I certainly didn’t expect to discover so many beautiful cities and places. It was a real surprise! 

Germany is a country where fairytale castles, medieval walls, and Roman ruins seamlessly blend with natural landscapes to create modern cities. With its deep history, diverse regions, and awe-inspiring architecture, Germany has a surprising treasure trove of beautiful cities waiting to be explored. 

From the streets of Dresden, steeped in history and creative energy, to the romantic charm of Heidelberg, with its picturesque castle and cobblestone lanes, I share my favorite hidden gems and must-visit cities in Germany. 

In this carefully curated list, I will take you on a virtual journey through Germany’s vibrant tapestry of cities, each offering its own unique allure. Whether you’re an avid history buff, an art enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking unforgettable travel experiences, this blog post is your gateway to the 12 most beautiful cities in Germany. So, if you’re ready to uncover architectural wonders, immerse yourself in local traditions, and marvel at the breathtaking beauty of Germany, continue reading.

12 Beautiful German Cities You Should Visit

Eastern Germany

Dresden

Once known as the “Florence of the North,” Dresden is a beautiful German city with a curious mix of old world and new world blending together almost seamlessly. Although much of the city was destroyed by American fire bombing during WWII, there has been significant restoration and rebuilding of the most famous structures in Dresden in the years since the war. The old town of Dresden is absolutely packed with cultural sights to explore in a very compact and easy to navigate area. Don’t miss the markable protestant Freunenkirchen church, whose interesting exterior architecture is almost as lovely as the unique pale pink and blue interior.

The Zwinger palace is another must-visit attraction in Dresden. I featured on my best German castles & palaces list for a reason! The ornate architecture is beautiful, as are the expansive gardens. The interior is now a museum, which includes Germany’s national porcelain collection. Originally curated by Augustus the Strong, his love for porcelain was seemingly boundless and some of the pieces are absolutely huge. He commissioned an entire zoo featuring life-size animals made of porcelain which you’ll find inside this museum.  It is now a museum 

Leipzig

Central Leipzig was spared from WWII destruction because it was a university city (rather than a strategic or industrial city). Most of the original architecture still exists today, and boy is it beautiful! The main Marktplatz of the city is stunning with a colorful astronomic clock tower. Don’t miss out on St. Nicholas Church whose pastel painted interior is completely decked out in stucco ornaments. 

Leipzig is steeped in Germany’s cultural history, particularly with regards to art and music. Bach, Mendelssohn, and Wagner all lived here and the city has the oldest civic orchestra in the world, demonstrating Leipzig’s deep love for music. All around the Altstadt you’ll find pedestrian passageways filled with unique shops and restaurants. Some of them are quite beautiful and I recommend wandering through when you stumble upon them, especially the Madler and Specks Hof passages. 

Görlitz

Görlitz is a town straight out of a movie set. No really, there are a bunch of movies filmed here! It was the primary shooting location for Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel and has scenes filmed from Inglorious Bastards, Monuments Men and the Book Thief as well. You can even take a “Gorliwood Walk of Fame” tour to learn about all the movies. Needless to say, Görlitz is one of the most picturesque small towns!

There are not necessarily ‘famous attractions’ to see in Görlitz per say, but really the entire town is just a cute place to wander around. It feels like a living museum! Around seemingly every corner of the old city is a picturesque scene of candy colored houses, cobblestone streets, and bell-ringing churches. Sample the uniquely flavored regional dish “Silesian Heaven” while in Görlitz. Lightly smoked pork is slow cooked in a light cream sauce with regional fruits, like apricots, plums and apples to create a surprisingly delicious sweet and savory stew! 

Western Germany

Trier

Interested in seeing the oldest city in Germany? Then Trier is your spot! Trier dates all the way back to Roman times, over 2,000 years ago. In the heart of the city, you can find Roman ruins and a number of UNESCO heritage sites. The impressive Porta Nigra, a massive Roman city gate, stands as a testament to the city’s ancient past and is a symbol of Trier. Explore the ruins of the Imperial Baths, marvel at the well-preserved amphitheater, and visit the Basilica of Constantine, a grand structure that showcases Roman architectural brilliance.

More than just Roman history, Trier offers plenty to the modern traveler as well. It sits on the Moselle River and serves as a perfect gateway city for diving deep in Germany’s wine region. It is no secret that I am obsessed with the Mosel Wine Valley, and recommend it to everyone who will listen! Surrounded by lush vineyards and picturesque landscapes, Trier offers opportunities for scenic walks along the Moselle River and day trips to nearby wine villages. Take a boat cruise along the river, savor regional wines, and enjoy the serene beauty of the surrounding countryside.

Mainz

Red sandstone rock is used throughout the old city of Mainz, making it an Instagrammers dream. There are lots of photogenic backdrops throughout the city! Mainz boasts a rich and diverse heritage, and is absolutely flush with museums and cultural attractions. You can learn about the history of the Romans at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum which maintains some of its most important artifacts in the historic Electoral Palace in Mainz. 

To learn about Roman seafaring, the Museum of Ancient Seafaring actually has full-scale replicas of Roman galleon ships. Did you always love the Gutenberg competitions as a school kid? Well you can see fascinating displays depicting the life and times of the inventor, who was born in Mainz, at the Gutenberg Museum.

Heidelberg

Built on the steep embankments of the Neckar river, Heidelberg is one of the prettiest cities in the Black Forest region. Heidelberg is a great place to add on to any itinerary in western Germany, serving as an awesome gateway to the Black Forest. Largely undamaged from WWII, you’ll be able to admire original colorful stucco and half-timbered facades in the old city. Don’t miss the Church of the Holy Spirit, a large protestant church in the middle of the city, or the picturesque Old Heidelberg bridge.

Heidelberg Castle, the iconic pink sandstone attraction in Heidelberg, is a must visit spot. It was built over a series of centuries under different rulers, so you will notice different styles from the gothic through the renaissance periods. You can only access the interior of the castle on a guided walking tour, but you are welcome to explore the terraces and squares without a guide.

Baden Baden

Baden-Baden is a historic spa town that literally translates as “to bathe to bathe.” The Black Forest is littered with small spa towns, but Baden-Baden is the most well-known. Its origins as a wellness destination date all the way back to the Romans, who were the first to discover the healing waters of Baden-Baden. The whole city has an upscale vibe to it, with luxury shopping options and elegant boutiques lining the streets of the Old Town.

The waters here are rich in healthy minerals, like calcium and magnesium, and are said to be excellent for the skin, joints and general healing. The two best spas in Baden-Baden are Friedrichsbad and Caracalla Spa. They are conveniently located in the heart of the city. Although Friedrichsbad was opened in 1877, you can actually see the ruins from the ancient Roman baths in the existing spa. Caracalla has a more modern take on the German thermal water, complete with outdoor Finnish saunas, a swim up bar, and lots of relaxation and meditation areas.  

Southern Germany

Bavaria, Germany’s largest and most southern state, has no shortage of pretty cities and adorable small towns. I could include lots more than this, but these are my 5 favorite.

Bamberg

Hard to believe that an entire town can be a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the picturesque city of Bamberg is indeed. Bamberg’s charm lies in its beautifully preserved old town, which dates back to the 11th century. The city is famous for its unique layout, with the picturesque River Regnitz flowing through the center, dividing it into three main sections. The architecture is a harmonious blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles, with narrow cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and impressive medieval buildings.

One of the highlights of Bamberg is the Bamberg Cathedral, a magnificent structure that dominates the city’s skyline. Another iconic landmark is the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), perched on a bridge spanning the river. Exploring Bamberg’s breweries and beer culture is a must-do experience. The city is known for its traditional beer brewing methods and boasts nine breweries specializing in smoked beer.  In order to hasten the drying process for the wheat, the stalks are laid on shelves over a wood fire. This impacts a smokey flavor in the beer that tastes like a subtle camp fire.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

I basically mention Rothenburg ob der Tauber on every single one of my “must visit places in Germany” lists because I just love it so much! With its fairytale-like charm, cobblestone streets, and enchanting architecture, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a destination that captivates the imagination. You won’t want to put your camera down! When I visited with friends this winter, they kept saying “It feels like we’re on the set of Beauty and the Beast”. It is a true gem that transports you back in time!

Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s most notable feature is its exceptionally preserved medieval old town. Encircled by fortified walls, you can walk around practically the entire city admiring views and snapping photos. The town’s centerpiece is the Marktplatz, a vibrant square where you can admire the Renaissance-style Town Hall (Rathaus) and the imposing St. Jakob’s Church. Climb the Town Hall Tower for panoramic views of the town and its surroundings, offering breathtaking vistas of the rooftops and the Tauber River valley. Whether you are a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply seeking a charming and unforgettable experience, Rothenburg ob der Tauber will leave you enchanted and longing to return.

Würzburg

I find Würzburg rather captivating because of its seamless blending of old and new. It was nearly destroyed in WWII, with over 90% of the city bombed or leveled. However, extensive renovation and restoration has happened since, and you can really admire how much it has come back in the 75 years since then. It is one of those places where you are amazed by what is possible in a short period of time. With its fascinating history, architectural splendor, and cultural vibrancy, Würzburg has timeless charm and a unique blend of old-world beauty and modern vitality.

Würzburg is known for its impressive architectural heritage, particularly the Residenz, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I even featured it on my list of the most beautiful palaces and castles in Germany. The Residenz served as the residence of the prince-bishops and is considered one of the most beautiful Baroque palaces in Europe. Another highlight is the Old Main Bridge. Adorned with statues of saints, this an iconic landmark is a great place for a leisurely stroll picturesque views of the city, the river, and the surrounding vineyards.

Nuremberg

Nuremberg’s historical significance is palpable as you wander through its well-preserved medieval Old Town. The city’s rich past comes to life as you explore its iconic landmarks, such as the imposing Nuremberg Castle. Perched on a hilltop, the castle provides panoramic views of the city and houses the Kaiserburg Museum, where you can delve into the city’s royal history. The charming cobblestone streets of the Old Town are a delight to explore, with their half-timbered houses, ornate fountains, and hidden courtyards.

Another reason to visit Nuremberg is its vibrant cultural scene. The city hosts the renowned Christkindlesmarkt, one of Germany’s oldest and most famous Christmas markets. I am a Christmas nut, and I planned an entire trip last winter just to visit Bavarian Christmas Markets. You can immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere and indulge in seasonal treats, like Lebkuchen. Nuremberg’s blend of historical significance, cultural vibrancy, and culinary delights makes it an ideal destination for travelers.

Freiberg

Often referred to as the capital of the Black Forest, Freiberg im Breisgau exudes the essence of the regional capital. It is a lively university city with medieval roots and a cool, alternative vibe. Freiburg is regularly rated one of Germany’s most liveable cities. It even reports one of the highest rates of happiness and quality of life in Germany. I think much of Freiburg’s charm is found in the narrow streets and shady squares around the Altstadt, so I would recommend spending an afternoon getting a little lost.

The towering 116-meter high Freiburger Münster is a stunning must-visit attraction in Freiberg. Pop inside for a free visit or simply wander around the outside to marvel at all the intricate details. Freiburg still has two medieval city gates – Martinstor and Scwabentor – from the 12th and 13th centuries when the entire city was surrounded by fortified walls. Both of the towers are really cool to look at, and they actually have quite different looks.

Have questions or comments about planning a picture-perfect vacation in Germany? Comment below!

No Comments

    Leave a Reply