Unique things to do in Germany
You may not believe it, but besides drinking beer and eating sausages and sauerkraut, there are some pretty unique things to do in Germany (admittedly, some of them do involve beer and sausages).
If you were to only make it to Neuschwanstein Castle, you would miss out on a whole road full of castles and Roman ruins. But Castle Road is not the only experience that will make you feel closer to Rapunzel and the Grimm brothers: towns with timbered architecture or the bridge whose arch forms a full circle combined with its reflection on the water will bring every fairytale to life.
If you are more of a party animal, try visiting Hamburg’s red light district, have a real pimp show you around, or enjoy Germany’s version of dressing up in costumes, a three-month celebration!
Experiences are listed alphabetically.
–> You may grab a beer and snack on a sausage, if you want to help yourself get into the spirit of all things German and all unique things to do in Germany.
1. Castle Road – 600 miles of history
Neuschwanstein, the castle which inspired Disney, may be your first choice; however, Germany offers something even better: Castle Road (Burgenstraße in German) – 600 miles spanning from Germany’s southwest into Czech Republic with more than 70 castles, royal residences, ruins, etc. Some of them you find in the middle of a city, such as Mannheim’s Baroque Palace, where Castle Road begins. Others are located on the highest hill with nothing but forest around, such as the Lichtenstein Castle, or within smaller fairytale towns, for example, Schwäbisch Hall’s former monastery Comburg.
The city of Heilbronn along with a few other cities initiated Castle Road in 1954 as a tourist attraction; however, Castle Road’s ruins date back to the Roman era. In 1994, the Burgenstraße was extended through Czech Republic, concluding at Prague Castle.
Depending on the season, castles will have demonstrations of life during medieval times, Christmas markets, festivals, etc. And if you have ever wanted to spend a night in a castle or palace, this is certainly the right place to do so.
2. Concentration camps – the most sobering experience
This has to be the most sobering, yet important activity you can find in Germany. Concentration camps remind us and the rest of the world of the cruelest era Germany is known for. Their museums, memorials, and sites educate others and remind us of the millions of Jews who were killed during World War II.
Exhibits in concentration camps are not only filled with unique stories of the tragic fates of victims as well as a few fortunate escape artists, they also display items of clothing, suitcases, works of art, and other personal items.
Entering gas chambers and burning grounds will make you walk in the shoes of lost souls.
No matter in which German state you find yourself, a concentration camp is not more than an hour or two away. Yes, that’s how many there were.
Opened in 1933, Dachau was Germany’s first concentration camp.
Remember to pay respect and leave your selfie stick at home.
3. Fairytale towns with timbered houses
Fans of timbered houses (some of them several centuries old), narrow cobble stone streets, city walls, and history cannot leave Germany without having seen a fairytale town. Most of them are located in the states of Bayern and Baden-Württemberg.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is Germany’s most famous fairytale town and thus swarmed with tourists. Walking through the cobble stone streets and along the old city wall will catapult you back in time as will the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum including its torture instruments.
A few lesser known and thus less crowded fairytale towns that are even more worth visiting are Bamberg, Cochem, Heidelberg, Schwäbisch Hall, or Tübingen.
4. Fasching – a three month celebration
Halloween? That’s just one day out of the year!
Carnaval in Rio? Not even a week long.
In Germany, we celebrate something called Fasching for a good three months of the year – definitely one of the most unique things to do in Germany during what we call our 5th season. Fasching starts November 11 at 11:11 a.m. and ending on Ash Wednesday. Our tradition began with celebrating nutritious food and the beginning of fasting for Christians to wearing elegant Venetian marks. Nowadays, we drink beer (obviously, because we are German) and dress up in costumes. Street parades, throwing candy, guards, committees, marching bands, etc. are not to be missed.
Especially in Germany’s Ruhrpott (Ruhr Valley) region including cities such as Cologne and Düsseldorf, we take Fasching very seriously. Outside of that, you will also be able to find plenty of Fasching shenanigans throughout the winter months.
5. During the last two weeks of September: Oktoberfest
Did you know that Oktoberfest takes places during the last two weeks of September and usually ends around October 3rd – Germany’s unification holiday? Celebrating Oktoberfest during mid-October was simply less pleasant due to colder weather; thus, the world’s biggest fair (German: Volksfest) was moved to mid-September. Today, five to six million people visit Oktoberfest annually and the numbers are growing.
You can not only drink beer and dance on benches in tents at Oktoberfest, but try traditional German food and enjoy hundreds of rides and other attractions, such as a magic shows and fun games.
On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese after whom the festivity grounds were named: Theresienwiese or simply Wies’n, as locals also refer to Oktoberfest. Horse races were held to add to the celebration. Repeating these races yearly, adding an agricultural show as well as amusements and beer tents transformed into what’s known as Oktoberfest today.
6. Rakotzbridge – the bridge of the devil
Less than three hours away from Leipzig and about one and a half from Dresden, this bridge is sought out by Instagrammers because of its unique architecture. The Rakotzbrücke (in German) was built towards the end of the 19th century, over a small lake. Its arch is so round that its reflection in the water forms a complete circle with the bridge. People used to believe that only the devil could build such a bridge; thus, they also referred to it as Devil’s Bridge. (
Officially, it’s not allowed to go on the bridge because it’s deemed unsafe, but daredevils have done so anyway to nail that perfect photograph.
Architecture-wise, the Rakotzbridge is arguably one of the most unique things to do in Germany.
7. Saxon Switzerland – Switzerland in Germany
Switzerland in Germany? Yes, that’s what we call it. Germans do not like the dialect that’s spoken here, in fact, it’s our least favorite, but we do love the mountain range this area in Eastern Germany has to offer. About one and a half hours from Dresden and directly bordering Czech Republic, Germany’s Switzerland will stun you with fortresses and castles, picturesque trails and a bridge straight out of a fairytale that blends effortlessly into nature.
Many artists were inspired by the uniquely flattened rock formations here, including two from Switzerland, who named the area after their home in the 18th century.
Whether you feel like hiking or cycling through the national park, taking a steam boat trip, or enjoying wellness, don’t miss these highlights: Lilienstein (lily rock), Bastei Bridge, and Koenigstein Fortress.
8. Staying in an alp – a getaway for city-dwellers
This is probably one of the most unique things to do in Germany. The further south you go, Germany’s landscape turns into hills and mountains; which offer flowers blooming in spring, green meadows with happy cows grazing during summer, colorful leaves in fall, and snow perfect for skiing during winter.
Usually in September you can witness the ceremony of cattle being driven down into the valleys and their barns. During summer, it’s still tradition that a woman stays on an alp to take care of the cows. But once she also moves to the valley, these cozy huts free up for city people to spend a weekend in nature.
Without electricity but warmed by a real fire and no showers, just buckets and pans from which you have to wash yourself, you will be catapulted back in time. Treat yourself to a digital detox, spend time with friends, and eat traditional hearty German cuisine – lots of meat, dumplings, sauce, potatoes, and delicious pies and other deserts.
9. St. Pauli – where prostitutes and clubs come together
Have you ever had a real old-school pimp take you through a red light district? Hamburg’s St. Pauli area with Germany’s most “sinful mile,” a street called Reeperbahn, makes this possible. In the evening, sex workers on the south side of the street will only let you guess a small part of what is really going on here. And they are not behind glass, like in Amsterdam. Except for when you enter the Herberststraße, a street only to be entered by men: its windows are lined with women who may throw eggs or water at other women who dare to set foot into here. Make sure you see the Reeperbahn during the day and at night – two completely different worlds.
Just a few feet away from the main street, locals come to drink and hang out by Hans-Alberts-Platz or Hamburger Berg and tourists party on a whole street named Great Freedom – Große Freiheit.
Hamburg also made The Beatles famous. For years they played in St. Pauli’s underground clubs until they had their big breakthrough. Ringo Starr joined the band here in 1960.
Three times a year, you can attend the Hamburger Dom, a fair similar to Oktoberfest including beer tents and rides, just smaller.
Another attraction are the St. Pauli Piers (Landungsbrücken) which have boat tours and celebrations year round, such as the annual birthday celebration of Hamburg’s harbor or the arrival of The Queen Mary II.
10. The Wadden Sea – Wattenmeer
During low tide, Germany’s North Sea exposes up to 12.5 miles of sandy and muddy ocean floor, on which you are able to wander with a guide who will give insight into this unique natural spectacle. Exploring on your own is not advised as tideways with dangerous currents or flooding water can surprise you within an instant.
UNESCO named the Wadden Sea as one of its natural heritage sites in 2009 – 280 miles of coast from Denmark to Germany and the Netherlands. Most of the area is also protected with a National Park status and other laws because of its unique flora and fauna. The Wadden Sea is home to its own species of the Big Five, Flying Five, and Small Five.
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