When looking to visit Germany, most people think of Berlin and Munich and both are amazing destinations and well worth visiting. But there is far more to Germany than just these two cities, from the Alpes to the northern and eastern coast, mountains, nature, lakes, different cities and cultures, there are a lot of different places to explore.

Within three weeks, Nadja Braun visited 8 different federal states and got to know different areas of the country which are slightly off the beaten tourist track. Some destinations include smaller lesser known citiies whilst others are absoluetly beautiful national parks and nature reserves.

Here are 8 of the best places to check out and things to do on holiday in these amazing areas in Germany.


1. Thuringian Forest

Thuringian Forest

The Thuringian forest is a mountain range, located in the federal state of Thuringia in the middle of Germany. Because of its location people call it the “Green heart” of Germany. Among locals and visitors it is well known for its very fantastic woodlands and fresh air. You can enjoy very nice, beautiful and most important quite walks and hikes in the forest.

It can happen that you don’t meet any people while walking, which can be nice and scary at the same time, depending on the perspective. In the forest you will find a lot of tiny little towns that are perfect for accommodation, eating or drinking. My favorite place is the town of Oberhof, which is mainly famous for winter sports activities. This is a good location for starting walking and hiking tours.

A highly recommended hiking trail is the Rennsteig walk, which is also an historical boundary path in the thuringian forest, thuringian Highland and Franconian Forest. From there you have a lot of hiking options. My personal favorite is the so called “Großer Beerberg” which is the highest mountain in the thuringian forest. From there you can enjoy stunning views over the forest and villages.

After a nice day out in the forest a “Thuringian Sausage” is a must (the best I have ever had so far). If you have a few days in this area you can also include a day trip to the cities of Jena or Weimar. They are reachable within 1 hour by car.

These are two beautiful cities with a lot of nice little restaurants and cafés. Especially Weimar has a lot of historical buildings and culture information. By the way, if it is raining, you can relax in one of the wonderful thermal baths in the forest.


2. Lake District “Neuseendland”, Leipzig

Lake District “Neuseendland”, Leipzig

It is not a well known place among German’s and foreigners, however the Lake District around the city of Leipzig also called the “Leipziger Neuseenland” is a fantastic and beautiful piece of land. It is located in the federal state Saxony, particularly in the south of Leipzig and combines water, culture, action and relaxation.

The Neuseenland is a former mining area which has been converted into a huge lake district. That’s why people call it the “Neuseenland” which pretty much means “New Lakeland”. Just not to confuse it with the country of New Zealand.

It consists of more than 16 lakes right now, but there will be following more lakes in the coming years. What you can find there now, are a lot of biking and walking paths, water sport options and cafés to have a coffee and a cake

Of course you need a lot of time to get to see all lakes, but why not focusing on just a few and enjoy a nice bike ride or walk around one of them. By the way, have a nice beer and enjoy the sunset at the lake, it is just amazing.


3. Dresden


Dresden is the capital city of the federal state of Saxony and located in the east. It is the second biggest city in Saxony, right after Leipzig. Many people visit Dresden because of its fascinating culture, historical buildings and museums.

Just to mention a few great spots: the baroque Zwinger, Frauenkirche, Semperoper, Hofkirche or the Residenzschloss. If you are interested in beautiful architecture, this is the right place.

As Dresden has a long history, there are a lot of things to see and learn, depending on how much time you have. If you just have a bit of time, I would suggest a walking tour around the city centre, the old town and along the river Elbe, which is very lovely and you get a good overview.

However what would be a walking tour without a break? Yes, nothing so drop by a nice café and enjoy a coffee and a local “Eierschrecke”, which is the most famous and homemade cake in Dresden.

Of course there is so much more to see and do, but these are just my personal suggestions on how to spend time in Dresden. If you do want to visit during winter Dresden is home to one of the best Christmas markets in Germany.


4. Goslar and the Harz National Park


Goslar is a little historic town located in the Harz National Park area in Lower Saxony, close to the cities of Braunschweig and Hannover. The beautiful Old Town of Goslar is part of the UNESCO World heritage sites.

The brilliant Kaiserpfalz, the medieval city fortification and several churches as well as the colored half-timbered houses are a great invitation for a visit.

The market place is the centre of the Old Town, where you can also find the city hall and a lot of cafés and restaurants. It is definitely worth it to have a walk through the Old Town and its narrow alleys, where you can also find a lot of beautiful and old houses.

The Imperial Palace of Goslar (“Kaiserpfalz”) is a historical building close to the Rammelsberg hill in the south of Goslar.

From there you can have a nice walk/hike to the “Steinberg Alm”, which is pretty much a mountain hut. From there you have a nice few into the Harz mountain range and of course something to eat and drink.

Afterwards you have different options to walk further up from there and enjoy stunning views into the Harz Mountains. There are also a lot of people biking up there.

By the way, if you need a suggestion for dinner, then take a look at the “Landgasthaus Schwarze” in Dörnten, which is close to Goslar. They have amazing, very tasty rustically food and most important: the dishes a sooo big that you can easily eat for two.


5. Cologne


Cologne is located in West Germany in the federal state North Rhine-Westfalia at the river Rhine. The city is well known for the cathedral with its two towers. You can climb up there and enjoy the wonderful view over the city and the Rhine.

Close to the cathedral you can find the Old Town of cologne with shops and cafés. Even though Cologne is not a very beautiful city (from my personal perspective), it is very lively and diverse. Locals say it is a sense of life to live in Cologne.

Every year they celebrate the famous carnival on the streets and bars. Tourists from all over the world come to see and experience this special event. Learn some basic German phrases before arriving to impress the locals.

It is also called the 5th season in North Rhine-Westfalia. Weeks before the events starts, people already prepare their costumes. When the event start hundreds of people are running into the streets, drinking, celebrating and enjoying their 5th season. It lasts for 5 days and many people celebrate also for 5 days until the event is over.

If you don’t have so much energy, then even a short visit is very interesting and so much fun. By the way you will get to see a lot of gay and lesbian people in cologne. The city is well known for it.

If you are not so much into celebrations then I definitely recommend enjoying a nice walk at the Rhine riverfront or take a boat trip. It is also worth it to have a look at different neighborhoods or how the locals call them “Veedel”.

These “Veedel” are very diverse and are famous for different things e.g. the Belgian Veedel is well known for its hipster milieu and therefore has special shops. It also has a lot of Bars, cafés and restaurants, which is pretty nice for young people...even though it is not very cheap there.

If you are short on money then go to one of the kiosks (or “Büdchen” in Cologne) and buy a local Kölsch beer there. It is much cheaper and also Cologne style to walk around with a road beer. In German they call it “Wegbier” and everybody knows what you mean when you ask for it.


6. Taunus Mountains, Hessen

Taunus Mountains, Hessen

The Taunus Mountain range is located in the north of the city Frankfurt am Main in the federal state Hessen. It is a very popular holiday area both for locals and tourists and just wonderful for hiking, walking and biking trips. This is also one of the most popular camping destinations in Germany.

The fantastic nature diversity makes people be surprised again and again. Moreover it has a lot of thermal baths and Wellness oases to relax. The small towns and villages that are part of the Taunus area with their castles, parks and beautiful houses are perfect for a stroll through town. Towns like Bad Homburg, Kronberg or Königsstein are today part of the greater Frankfurt area.

For outdoor enthusiasts this area offers a huge range of hiking and biking trails. The hike up to the “Feldberg”, which is the biggest peak in the Taunus, is a highly recommended hike. From there you have amazing and stunning views over the Taunus mountain range and the forests. In winter you can enjoy the variety of cross country ski-tracks.

In case you are tired of nature, then visit the cities of Wiesbaden or Frankfurt am Main and enjoy the cities atmosphere.


7. Bergstraße - Forest of Odes


The region Bergstraße - Forest of Odes (in German: Odenwald) is a mountain range in the federal states South Hessen, Unterfranken (Bavaria) and in the north of Baden- Württemberg, particularly between the rivers Rhein, Main and Necker.

This beautiful area fascinates tourists and locals alike. The landscape of the UNESCO Geopark guarantees fresh and healthy air, romantic valleys and forests as well as beautiful lakes. So just perfect for a hiking tour or a nice bike ride.

The famous “Bergstraße” is the name of the street that runs from Darmstadt (South of Frankfurt am Main) over Heidelberg and down to North of Baden. Along this street you can find more than 10 towns and villages, where you can expect beautiful castles, Old Towns and houses. This area is also well known for its vineyards and very tasty wines.

My personal recommendations: Having a long walking/hiking tour through the valleys, having a nice snack and enjoying the beautiful views over the vineyards, valleys and lakes.

For culture enthusiasts I would suggest choosing one of the beautiful towns along the Bergstraße e.g. Seeheim-Jugenheim, Alsbach or Bensheim (just to mention a few) and take a look at the buildings, market places and Old Towns. It is worth it. And don’t forget to enjoy the taste of a regional wine.


8. Karlsruhe


Karlsruhe is a city in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg and the second biggest city there after Stuttgart. It is a very lively, green and warm city. As one of the warmest cities in Germany and therefore its Mediterranean flair both locals and tourists enjoy long mild evenings in summer in the cafés and restaurants.

Events, culture and beautiful parks make this city attractive for a weekend trip. One of my favorite places is the Karlsruhe Castle with the wonderful Botanical Garden close-by. In summer all the flowers are blooming, which invites people to have a nice pick nick, a walk or a nice coffee in one of the cafés right there.

If you want to see the city from above, there are a few hills where you can climb up and enjoy amazing views over the city. Here you can also see how green the city is. You will be surprised. Of course, if you have more time, it is a must to visit one of the vineyards and do some wine tasting.


Plan a Trip to Germany

There really are so many underrated destinations in Germany and more places to visit than you might think. From city breaks, to nature and countryside - you'll find somewhere that appeals to you.

If you want to see as much as possibe lots of Germany tour operators offer trips all year round. Also if it is going to be your first time visiting Germany, you should actually visit Berlin and Munich too. View some Oktoberfest first time tips if this epic festival appeals to you.

Have you ever been to any of the destinations on my list? Or do you recommended somewhere else in Germany? Let me know in the comments section below.

By Nadja Braun