So influenced are we by Bollywood that Switzerland has become the ultimo of our European destinations- and yet, what of its neighbours? Here are ten must-dos in the land of black snow, Germany.
9. Frolic with some Futbal
Germany has some of the best premier league teams on Earth, and even if you don't see a match, do go see the stadiums: especially Munich’s Allianz Arena, which is usually lit up in a range of colours. If you're a football fan, you’ll be glad to see the array of local team FC Bayern Munchen’s merchandise and even full-day tours centring around the team and its history. Bayern’s rivals, Borussia Dortmund, can be found playing further up in the picturesque Rhineland- the diehard football fans can take a trip to their home, Dortmund, in the Westphalia region (which by itself boasts of some impressive history and raw German culture).
8. Awesome Oktoberfest
Germany takes beer extremely seriously- and if a nation so beer-obsessed has a beer-themed festival, you just know that this is the place to be. If you’re going down to Germany in the autumnal months, then make sure to check out the Oktoberfest (which, paradoxically, begins in September) which served more than 7.7 million litres of beer last year, from the maibock lager to unique wheat beers like the weiss. Going off-season? Not to worry, Munich (the self-proclaimed beer capital of the world) has you covered: head to the Hofbrauhaus, the Royal Brewery that was founded in the 1500s, for some beer thats as original as it gets. Be sure to snack on some cold meats, cheeses and pretzels while you're at it: that much chugging could get exhausting!
7. Riding along the Romantic Road
Driving the Romantic Road will make you fall in love with Germany (if you weren't already in love)- winding roads take you past palaces and castles, century-old towns with classical German architecture and medieval walls, purpling vineyards and wide open ski slopes. It’s a direct route into the very heart of Germania, and you’ll find yourself travelling at a snail’s pace because of all the pitstops along the way: be sure to check in at Gorlitz, a darling chocolate-box skitown, and climb Nordlingen’s Daniel tower for a great view of the surrounding countryside. Want a faster-paced roadtrip? Hire yourself one of the beautiful German luxury cars and zoom around the infamous Autobahns (Berlin to Hamburg is an especially popular route).
6. Splash around at Sylt
Snowy climes not your cup of tea? Not to worry, one of the lesser known destinations in Germany is celebrated for its sand dunes and surf. Called the “St. Tropez of the North”, Sylt, a peninsula on Germany’s Northern Sea coast, is a popular resort- bustling boardwalks, high-end boutiques and luxury hotels attract tourists galore. Boat to secret coves, relax on the beach or climb a lighthouse for all your European seaside dreams to come true without the price tag of Southern France or the crowds of Italy.
5. Casual Cologne
Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities, spanning the river Rhine in its 2000-year-old glory. Don’t miss the Cologne Dom (Cathedral), a renowned example of High Gothic architecture with twin towers that are 157 metres tall, offering panoramic vistas and, for the more historically minded, bells that have been ringing daily since the 1400s. Thinking along eau de cologne lines? You can make your own fragrance at famous parfumerie 4711’s flagship store, where you will learn about perfume and its history before designing your own signature scent! If you’re going in February, be sure to see Europe’s biggest winter carnival, full of street parades and parties that last through the night.
4. The Fairytale Forest
Spiky firs and winding paths make for a twilit world: exploring the Black Forest, setting of many a fairytale, is for the more outdoorsy traveller. Open lakes, idyllic countryside and magical groves make for a great hiking route but driving tours are also possible, taking you through Mummelsee lake and of course (as Sherlock Holmes fans know) the infamous Reichenbach Falls. The region is also popular for another, less strenuous reason: some of the world’s best natural spas and springs are situated here: Baden Baden is an especially popular destination amongst European royalty, but cheaper alternatives can be found.
3. Captivating Castles
The castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle as well as the Brothers Grimm, is quite the stuff of legend. Built by the “Mad King” Ludwig of Bavaria- who dedicated his fortune and life to it, being dethroned and declared insane for his genius (but expensive) plans for this very castle- in the nineteenth century, this cloud-capped palace is a masterpiece. Set atop a cliff and emerging out of the forest in classic fairytale style, the interiors of Neuschwanstein are no step down from its exterior: beautiful and intricate rooms full of medieval art and design, they're a sight to die for. The perfect end to a trip to Germany, Neuschwanstein (Swanstone castle) cannot be missed. Dream-like turrets and picturesque cliffside views make the castle seem straight out of a fairytale- when in reality, Neuschwanstein came first, setting the bar for all self-respecting castles to come after it.
2. Berlin Break
The question is what not to do in Berlin, rather than what to, because the city is as electric and enticing as can be, with a layer of its past and/or present that will attract everyone. Start with breakfast in a cafe- Cafe Einstein, haunt of intellectuals and silent film stars, is a good option- and have a Berliner. No, I’m not suggesting cannibalism- jelly doughnuts called Berliners are extremely popular in the city! Next, stroll through Museum Island: from ancient Persia to the Cold War, there’s a museum for everyone in this idyllic, tree-lined vista. More hands-on? Go see the Berlin Wall, the landmark that divided a nation for decade, or pay respects at the Holocaust Memorial. The Topography of Terror is also great for history buffs, detailing how Nazism rose and fell. More eclectic? Check out some vintage flea markets or listen to some karaoke at the Mauerpark more refinement entails a trip to the celebrated Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Monumentally speaking, the magnificent Brandenburg Gate is the perfect photo op, and a trip up the Reichstag (Parliament)’s glass dome is well worth it. You could also take the opposite approach, and burst into some nightclubs or some kooky underground fashion houses which sell clothes by the kilo in the Kastiannallee area.
1. Beautiful Berchtesgaden
The German Alps are one of the most underrated attractions in Europe! Sail on the Konigsee (King’s Lake) with a glass of bubbly in your hand, hike the Sound of Music-esque meadows for vibrant pictures (hello, new Instagram hashtags). Take a Salt Mine tour for some interesting insights into the area’s industry and fun mining songs that might just remind you of Snow White’s dwarves, but most importantly climb the Obersalzberg. Atop the mountain, you’ll see the perhaps best panoramic view in Germany. Austria one one side, the Alps all around, the brilliant yellow fields behind you, waterfalls gushing in the distance- what more can you ask? Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, the Eagle’s Nest, is worth visiting not just for its historic value (though it has so much of it: a gold-plated lift that carried Mussolini to meet Hitler? Hitler’s secret escape bunkers? His personal tearoom? All of that and more) but for the huge panoramic windows it has on all sides, so you don't have to brave the snow for those Snapchats- just sip some cocoa in the warmth while you gaze at the view!
- Devanshika Bajpai