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Germany might just be the best place to orient yourself to central Europe's varied terrains: Its borders are flanked by vertiginous Alps, brilliant lakes, and dune-ribbed beaches. Off the northernmost tip, the Frisian Islands form a dreamy 24-mile long archipelago, with the island of Sylt shining as a popular choice for a ritzy getaway. Down south, the Romantic Road winds through Bavaria’s historic walled towns, Romanesque villages, and mountainous landscape. This rugged region is also synonymous with popular festivals like Oktoberfest.
In the country’s interior, the scenery softens into idyllic valleys, plains dotted with farmhouses, and meditative forests. But it’s German cities like Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt that offer a steady pulse of culture. The country still hums with activity throughout the winter season when the snow-capped mountains change from a hiker's paradise to a base for skiing. The famous Christmas markets that spring up across most towns and cities in Germany offer mulled wine, traditional sweets, and handmade crafts.
Most visitors flying in and out of Germany travel via Frankfurt International Airport (FRA), one of Europe’s biggest airports. Munich (MUC) and Düsseldorf (DUS) are also popular international hubs. Taxis are plentiful in most cities, and easily hailed from airports. If you’re traveling outside of Germany’s major cities, renting a car is a convenient way to see the countryside. Modern infrastructure and well-integrated public transportation networks make commuting and traveling very convenient here. Germany’s national railway, the Deutsche Bahn, spans more than 11,000 miles and is an easy way to get around the country. Route-planning and ticketing apps make using German public transportation even easier.
With the weather at its finest and festivals galore, summer is the perfect time to visit Germany. Travelers take advantage of the long sunny days to hike and swim amid the glorious landscape and linger in the country’s iconic beer gardens. From December through early January, Germany transforms into a winter wonderland with famed Christmas markets lighting up nearly every city and village, set against a backdrop of pristine snow. This is also a great time to visit for winter sports enthusiasts — especially if skiing in Alp towns like Oberstdorf is on your bucket list. Although summer is considered peak travel season, fall and winter are also popular times to visit. For smaller crowds, visit during spring and autumn, when you’ll find festivals and wine harvest taking place in smaller towns and villages.
Bavaria’s countryside boasts a trove of natural wonders. Bavarian Forest National Park, the country’s first national park, is home to 14,000 wildlife species, including the endangered lynx, Ural owl, and capercaillie. The shorelines of Lake Constance’s sparkling cyan waters touch Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, making the lake a hotspot for swimmers and sailors from all three countries. The setting for all this: The Bavarian Alps and Danube plains, which are dotted with storybook castles fit for a fairytale.
Originally a retreat for King Ludwig II, this 19th-century castle is now one of Europe’s most-visited citadels. A mix of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, it is inspired by castles and cathedrals of the king’s childhood. Inside, discreet passageways and grand hallways lead to gilded rooms and skyscraping watchtowers.
Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Berlin’s most popular stops. Here, five world-class museums were built over the course of centuries. The Altes Museum was designed by one of Prussia’s most prominent architects, the Pergamon Museum houses a coveted collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, and the Bode Museum is known for its 19th sculpture collection.