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Top 10 cities to see in Germany

German Top Ten

Germany has been at the centre of some of the biggest events in European history, and has shaped much of the world as we know it today. Its rich past is filled with castles and kings, and these bygone times echo through its thriving present, where it stands as an economic powerhouse and a hub of European culture.On a trip to this magnificent country, you’ll find fairy-tale castles, picturesque villages and rolling countryside as well as bustling metropolises, vibrant nightlife, and some of the greatest collections of art in the world. Here are our top 10 cities to visit in Germany, all of which offer a delightful mix of the old and the new which defines the Germany of today.

One of the most pivotal cities in 20th-century history, Berlin is a must-see for history buffs, with sites including Checkpoint Charlie, the Topography of Terror, and the humbling Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Pieces of the Berlin Wall also still stand, covered in vibrant and often politically charged artwork from before its fall.

The city was almost completely destroyed during the bomb raids of WWII, and the beautiful pre-war buildings which remain are often marked by bullet holes from the combat, standing as a reminder of the city’s past. While here, be sure to check out the Museumsinsel, which is comprised of five museums constructed between 1824 and 1930. The architecture of the museums themselves is as breathtaking as the exhibitions they house, making this museum complex a must-see for anyone visiting Berlin.

During the Second World War, the museums took on further significance as the place where the Nazis stored the art they stole from around Europe, adding to the historical significance of this iconic landmark. Berlin is also a hub of European culture, famous not only for its museums and galleries but also its nightlife, which includes some of the best restaurants, bars, and nightclubs in the world. It’s also a very forward-thinking city, and caters to vegetarians, vegans, and those with gluten and dairy intolerances better than almost any other European capital.

You can visit this magnificent city as part of our Baltic Isles, Berlin and Poland and Elegant Elbe, Berlin and Prague cruises.

Like so many of Germany’s major cities, Dusseldorf was almost entirely destroyed during WWII. The Altstadt, the historical quarter of the city located along the Rhine, is perhaps the most perfectly restored Old Town in the whole of the country. A visit will feel like taking a step back in time, with cobbled streets and exposed-timber buildings.

Sitting side-by-side with the historical quarter are the boundary-pushing modern buildings of the city’s wharf. These impressive structures house heavy-hitting banks, advertising and telecommunications agencies, and some of Germany’s biggest fashion houses. These industries have made Dusseldorf one of the country’s wealthiest cities, and it has an art scene to rival some capital cities.

Dusseldorf has a thriving nightlife, even by German standards, and the locals claim the Altstadt is the ‘longest bar in the world’. With over 260 bars, coffee shops and bierkellers crammed into a square kilometre, this is the perfect spot to enjoy some of the country’s finest beers and wines, including the local delicacy of Altbier, a fermented dark beer which is said to taste best in the Altstadt’s historical brewing houses.

See Düsseldorf on an optional excursion as part of our German Christmas markets cruise.

Speyer was founded by the Romans and is one of Germany’s oldest cities. It’s a sleepy town located along the winding Rhine that features picturesque architecture and cobbled streets. It is most famous for its magnificent cathedral, which was founded in 1030 during the rule of the Roman Empire, and served as the burial place of the German emperors for almost 300 years. Its crypt houses the remains of eight emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, making it a significant landmark in the country’s history.

Another must-see in Speyer for both history enthusiasts and petrol heads is the Technikmuseum. It houses more than 2,000 exhibits and attracts more than half a million visitors a year.

See Speyer and its spectacular cathedral on our Rhine Cruise and Swiss Delights and Hidden Treasures of the Rhine to Strasbourg cruises.

Cologne is a centre of German art and culture, and it’s famous for its dramatic skyline which is dominated by the phenomenal cathedral, one of Europe’s largest and most beautiful. Regularly voted Germany’s favorite tourist attraction, Cologne Cathedral, which attracts an average of 20,000 visitors a day, while many more enjoy its spectacular façade from afar. The church, which took over 600 years to complete, is one of Europe’s greatest examples of Gothic architecture and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.

Cologne cathedral, known locally as Kölner Dom, is an absolute must-see on any visit to this city — make sure to climb the 533 steps to get to the top of its south tower, which was the tallest structure in Europe until the construction of the Eiffel Tower. On your way up to the 95-metre high viewing platform, make sure to admire the 24-tonne Peter Bell, the largest working free-swinging bell in the world.

If you’re looking to soak up some culture during your stay, check out the Museum of Applied Art, which celebrates the excellent design of everyday objects, and the Museum Ludwig, which includes some of Europe’s finest modern art. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the Chocolate Museum, which takes you through the history of chocolate from its invention by the Mayans to the modern age.

Experience brilliant Cologne on our Rhine Discovery, Christmas Rhine, and Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley cruises.

Würzburg is located in the region of Franconia, Northern Bavaria, and along the River Main. A 20-minute-long air raid in 1945 left most of the city’s centre in ruins, but it has since been restored to its former glory.

No visit to the city is complete without a trip to the magnificent Würzburg Residence, which is regarded as one of the finest pieces of Baroque art in the world and stands as testament to the power wielded by the German prince-bishops in the 18th century. A visit to the palace and its breathtaking gardens will be one of the highlights of any trip to Germany.

Make sure to take a few hours to climb up to the Marienberg Fortress, the city’s ancient fortifications, where you’ll find magnificent views of the city on one side and the Main on the other. Enjoy a visit to the Würzburg as part of our Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley and Bavaria and the Romantic Rhine cruises.

Dresden, the capital of the German federal state of Saxony, is known for its beautiful old town and breath-taking skyline. Visiting the city now, it’s hard to believe that it was all but flattened during air raids in 1945. The largely reconstructed city now stands as a symbol of the horrors of war, and the bombings, which took more than 30,000 lives, are remembered each year with processions and ceremonies.

The jewel of the city is the Frauenkirche, the original Church of Our Lady, which was destroyed in WWII and has since been meticulously reconstructed using as many of the original bricks as possible. The golden cross on the church’s dome serves as a symbol of peace, and was donated by the English city of Coventry, which was raided by Luftwaffe in WWII.

Approximately 10 million tourists visit Dresden every year, most of them from Germany, and it’s not difficult to see why. Alongside the Frauenkirche, other popular attractions include the Zwinger and the Semper opera houses, both of which were also reconstructed to their original plans after their destruction in WWII. You’ll find all of these sights in the compact and easily walkable Old Town, which is a standout example of the architecture of the German Democratic Republic.

Enjoy a visit to dazzling Dresden as part of our Elegant Elbe, Berlin, and Prague cruise.

Bamberg is one of the gems of Southern Germany, with its picturesque medieval architecture and cobbled streets. It is home to a magnificent cathedral and several famous breweries, as well as a rich and intriguing history.

Things to see include the cathedral, the Altes Rathaus (a building perched in the middle of a bridge above the Regnitz River), as well as the Alte Hofhaltung and the Neue Residenz, the former residences of the city’s prince bishops.

While you’re in Bamberg, make sure to try the local delicacy, smoked beer. The two most famous breweries are Schlenkerla and Spezial, both of which you can sample in any of the town’s beer halls. Beer lovers may want to time their visit for the last weekend in August, when the Sandkerwa festival consumes the entire town for festivities which rival those of Oktoberfest.

See the historic town of Bamberg on our Bavaria and Romantic Rhine and Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley cruises.

Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria and the unofficial capital of Franconia. During the time of the Holy Roman Empire, Nuremberg was the undeclared capital and home to most of the German kings.

Its Old Town will give you a taste of a quintessential Bavarian city, with colourful timbered houses, Gothic churches, and cobbled streets all housed within a Medieval city wall and overshadowed by a formidable castle. While here, you’ll be able to sample the local beers alongside the local speciality of Nuremberg sausages with sauerkraut in the traditional bierkellers.

However, Nuremberg is by no means stuck in the past, with many internationally successful German brands such as Adidas, Diehl, Faber-Castell, Playmobil, Puma and Siemens all having their headquarters in the city and the surrounding towns.

Nuremberg is also a city of huge historical significance, as the Nazis focused a lot of their initial efforts on winning the city’s largely working-class population over to their cause. It was here that the fanatical Nuremberg rallies were held, and where the Nuremberg Laws outlawing German citizenship for Jewish people were enacted. The city was almost entirely destroyed by allied bombers in January 1945, and has since been painstakingly reconstructed using as much of the original stone as possible.

After the war, the city was host to the tribunal now known as Nuremberg Trials, which brought to light the atrocities of the Holocaust and prosecuted some of the most prominent figures of the Nazi party.

Experience Nuremberg and its magnificent Old Town as part of our Bavaria and the Romantic Rhine, Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley, and Elegant Elbe, Berlin, and Prague cruises.

Wiesbaden is one of Europe’s oldest spa towns, with its roots dating all the way back to Roman times, when it was called Aquae Mattiacorum. Its current name translates as 'meadow baths', reflecting both its famous thermals baths, which are powered by the 14 hot springs still flowing today, and its setting among the luscious German countryside.

In the 19th century, the city became famous as a popular gambling destination, and the legendary Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky racked up an impressive amount of debt in the city’s gambling houses in the 1860s. This experience served as inspiration for The Gambler, which many consider his magnum opus.

There’s plenty for fans of history here as well, including the grave of the infamous WWI fighter pilot Manfred von Ricthofen, better known as the Red Baron. Von Ricthofen pioneered the art of aerial combat, shooting down 80 enemy planes in his red Fokker Tri-plane before being killed by a rifle shot from Australian solider during a dogfight.

No trip to Wiesbaden is complete without a visit to at least one of its famous spas. The Kaiser-Freidrich-Therme is the pick of them all, and is decorated in the style of the Roman baths which made the city famous as a health retreat.

Visit Wiesbaden as part of our Hidden Treasures of the Rhine to Strasbourg cruise, and as an optional excursion on our Rhine in Flames, Captain’s Rhine Valley Turkey and Tinsel, and the New Year Rhine cruises.

Regensburg is a city which is absolutely dripping with history. Founded as a Roman settlement by Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 179AD, it was the first capital of Bavaria, and has been home to dukes, kings and bishops. One of Germany’s oldest cities, Regensburg is full of some of the most stunning examples of architecture from every period of the last 2,000 years.

Regensburg’s main attraction is its excellently preserved Old Town, which was inscribed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2006. Its remarkable preservation is largely due to the fact that it survived WWII almost undamaged, which has resulted in the city boasting the largest preserved medieval city centre in Germany. Highlights include the 800-year-old stone bridge which crosses the Danube and the city’s two astonishing churches, the Dom St Peter and the Alte Kapelle, both of which feature breath-taking interiors. If you’re in the city on a Sunday during the school year, be sure not to miss the Domspatzen, a 1000-year-old boys' choir that accompanies the 10am Sunday service at the Dom St Peter.

Another must-see includes the Schloss Thurn und Taxis, the former Benedictine monastery which was gifted to the family of Franz von Taxis, who set up the first European postal system in the 15th century. The former monastery was converted into one of the most modern palaces in the world with the state-of-the-art technology of the day such as flushing toilets, central heating, and electricity.

See Regensburg on our Medieval Towns of Bavaria and the Rhine Valley cruise. If you’d like an intimate view of Germany’s luscious countryside and a chance to see several of its enchanting cities and towns, join one of our German cruises.

If you’d like an intimate view of Germany’s luscious countryside and a chance to see several of its enchanting cities and towns, join one of our German cruises.
Get in touch with a member of staff today for more information about any of our European river cruises.

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