Coming from the South of the country, I’d be lying if I said Central Germany was ever high on my bucket list. There was a period in my life, however, when I simply didn’t have the time to organize and take a trip abroad. That’s when I decided to explore my own country instead — and I definitely didn’t regret it! Keep reading to find out what to include on the perfect Central Germany itinerary.
1 | Take in the Natural Beauty
If you’re in Saarland, don’t miss out on Mettlach’s treetop walk. This 1.2-kilometer-long and 23-meter-high trail isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it’s worth it for the spectacular views over the forest valley below. If you prefer to stay on flatter ground, Hesse’s natural beauty might be what you’re after. Enjoy Kellerwald-Edersee, the largest primeval beech forest in Central Europe, or Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe for gorgeous flower displays, water features, and an impressive palace.
The state of Saxony also has plenty of nature to offer, including the spectacular Ore Mountain range and the gorgeous Saxon Switzerland National Park. While in the latter, be sure to check out landmarks including the Bastei Bridge, Lilienstein Mountain, and the unique Schrammstein Rocks.
If you’ve planned a trip to Berlin, be sure to get out into the Brandenburg state for amazing parks. The Barnim Nature Park, for example, offers impressive alder and beechwood forests, vast lakes, and moorlands. The 30-square-kilometer Grunewald, meanwhile, is actually located within Berlin’s borders. It’s home to imposing trees, shimmering lakes, and picturesque hiking trails.
2 | Get Tipsy
While Saxony produces some good-quality wine, Central Germany’s best vino is produced in the Rhine Valley, particularly along the slopes of the Rhine, Moselle, and Saar rivers. In fact, this area produces some of the best Pinot Noirs and Rieslings in the world! If you prefer beer, I’d recommend heading to Cologne to try the locals’ favorite, Kölsch. Leipzig also has its own local beer, Gose, which is said to be over 1,000 years old!
If you don’t really care what you’re drinking, but just want to have a good time, get out and enjoy Berlin’s nightlife scene. The Mitte district is now quite commercialized and overpriced, but you’ll still find some cool bars along Oranienburger Street. If that’s still too mainstream, head to the Friedrichshain neighborhood for a more alternative scene.
3 | Visit Castles
A trip to Central Germany will leave you feeling like a true royal. Start by visiting Rhineland-Palatinate’s Eltz Castle. This 850-year-old medieval building is set in the middle of a dense forest, making it extra picturesque, if not a little creepy. Be sure to book a guided tour in advance if you want to see the kitchen, treasury, armory, and more.
Visit Hesse to see Braunfels Castle, which sits 100 meters above the Lahn Valley, offering breathtaking views. The Limburg Castle also towers over a stunning valley, but is around six hundred years older than Braunfels, dating back to the seventh century. More historic castles can be found in the neighboring state of Thuringia. Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, for example, played an important role in the Reformation, while Schloss Belvedere (not to be confused with the Austrian place of the same name) offers gorgeous Baroque-style interiors and English landscaping.
4 | Be Impressed by the Architecture
There’s more to Central Germany than castles. It feels like every town and city has a completely unique and stunning piece of architecture to offer! In Rhineland-Palatinate, for example, you’ll find the world’s oldest Romanesque Cathedral, the Speyer Cathedral, as well as Porta Nigra, the remains of an Ancient Roman in Trier.
The medieval town of Erfurt in Thuringia also offers impressive architecture, such as the old Merchant Bridge across the Gera River. Its Baroque-style Petersburg Citadel, meanwhile, is one of the largest fortresses in Europe, while its Gothic cathedral is over 1,000 years old.
5 | Enjoy Live History Lessons
You’ll learn most of your German history lessons in Brandenburg and Berlin. Be sure to take a guided tour of the KZ Sachsenhausen in Brandenburg. This concentration camp played a unique role in the Second World War, owing to its close proximity to Berlin, and the fact it was also used as an SS training camp. You can learn more about this tragic period in Berlin itself. The city’s Jewish Museum and Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, for example, invite visitors to pay respects to the victims of the Holocaust, while educating them about the lead up, key events, and consequences.
On a slightly happier note, Berlin is also full of reunification icons, such as the Brandenburg Gate, the East Side Gallery, and Checkpoint Charlie. The latter was formerly used as a legal crossing point between the two German states. You can still get your picture taken with a pretend border guard, which I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for that perfect Instagram shot! If you’d like more information about life in the former East Germany, check out the DDR Museum, where you can learn all about the East’s government, secret police, lifestyle, and even try some traditional East German beverages.
6 | Eat All the Food
Central Germany just goes to show that there’s more to the German cuisine than sausage and sauerkraut. While in Saarland, try some specialties like Dibbelabbes, a potato hash with leeks and bacon, or Bettsäächer Salat, a dandelion salad with boiled eggs, bacon, and shallots.
There are plenty of culinary delights to be enjoyed in Saxony. The state has several famous soups, including its potato soup, which features onions, green veg, sausage, and bacon pieces. Alternatively, try Flecke, made from tripe, onions, herbs, and celery. The state’s most populous city, Leipzig, is a dessert-lovers dream. Be sure to try Lerche, for example, a shortcrust pastry treat, and the Leipziger Räbchen, consisting of battered and fried prunes, filled with marzipan.
While in Berlin, you can get your hands on all kinds of German favorites, including Currywurst (sausage cooked in curry sauce). While this is popular all over the country, it’s thought to have originated in the capital! Finish on a sweet note with some Krapfen, which are similar to donuts, filled with jam, and topped with icing. Locals in Berlin often refer to Krapfen as Berliner Pfannkuchen, but elsewhere in the country, the term Pfannkuchen refers to crêpe-style pancakes. Don’t stress about getting the right word; you’ll get a delicious dessert whatever you ask for!