Germany Things to Do

10 Days in Germany: Itinerary Ideas

Germany is quite diverse. The traditional and the modern mix in many ways. Shining cities often snuggle against medieval castles. Each of these trips in the south of the country is designed to be a relaxing week long and is based around day trips from a central city. Though of course you can go to more or fewer day trips and adjust the length to your schedule. These are more for getting deeper into an area and not packing in sights. A night train or quick flight from one to another also lets you string a couple together if you have more time.

There are train connections to the day trip suggestions in less than 2 hours each way from the main city. If you stay on the regional trains (RE, RB) there are tickets called Länder Tickets that let you travel on the slow trains inside of the state you are staying in for a day. These can be cheaper than directly buying tickets, especially if you are traveling with several people. Also check with the public transport office of your base city, often there are tickets that work just in that region and could be even cheaper.

This is just a sampling of possible daytrips and activities around each base city. Definitely look for local festivals in nearby towns not mentioned. Due to the great public transport system, Germany is a great country for day tripping and exploring cities.

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Freiburg – South Baden : Spas and Nature

Freiburg is the gateway to the Black Forest and in the sunniest corner of Germany. The town is home to a university which keeps the city young and happening for the out of the way city. Bicycles rule the roads and an excellent public transport system lets you get up into the forest for some hiking or to any of several nearby spa towns. This region has been known as a spa resort area since the Roman towns.

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Getting Here: Frankfurt airport is 2 hours on the ICE train and there is a bus from Basel-Mulhouse Airport that takes about an hour to Freiburg.

Baden-Baden : A Roman era spa town which still has modern spa houses, one of which is built above roman ruins. Once also a playground for the Parisian elite, this town retains its resort roots but is a pleasant place to stroll and relax. Bad Krozingen and Badenweiler are also nearby spa towns south of Freiburg if that s your thing.

Titisee & Schluchsee : These are two lakes up in the Black Forest. Titisee is more touristy while Schluchsee is bigger and more outdoorsy with its walking tracks. Good places to start hiking tracks or just get out of the town into the cool fresh mountain air.

Breisach : On the Rhein River looking out over France, there has been a human settlement here for thousands of years. A rebuilt cathedral stands on the promontory.

Outdoor Activities: Both the hills of the Black Forest and the wine growing dormant volcano of the Kaiserstuhl are popular hiking and biking areas.

France (Colmar and Strasbourg) and Switzerland are also within easy reach.

Nürnberg – North Bavaria : Medieval Charm

Nürnberg is a large city north of Munich. The most famous Christmas Market is here. The town is watched by a castle on a hill and straddles a river. This part of Bavaria is called Franconia and home to many towns with medieval and Gothic features.

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Getting Here: Although Nürnberg does have its own airport, it is small, so Munich is the larger airport of choice nearby.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber : A medieval village, Rothenburg is part of the Romantic Road. The town retains its almost cutesy look and is a popular tourist spot.

Nördlingen : One of the few towns (Rothenburg being another) in Germany to retain its full city wall.

Bamberg : A university town as well as a town of beer. Worth a day to walk the hills, see the many churches and gawk at the town hall built in the middle of the river.

Amberg and larger Regensberg lie to the east and south-east respectively. Both have Gothic features such as churches, town halls and bridges.

Munich – South Bavaria : Postcard Vistas

Munich is one of the most well known city in Germany and likely what most Americans are expecting when they picture Germany. There really is enough to do in Munich itself to spend a few days doing that, but there are plenty of nearby places that are interesting as well.

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Getting Here: Munich has its own airport that is fairly well connected.

Füssen – Castle Neuschwannstein is world famous. Füssen is just over 2 hours south on the edge of the Alps and only a few miles from the castle. Avoid the tour busses if you have time and some hiking abilities. The less famous yellow Castle Hohenschwangau is just down the hill from its neighbor and not on most tour agendas.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen – Site of the 1936 Winter Olympics, this is your alpine day trip from Munich. The tallest mountain in Germany (Zugspitze) is also nearby. As expected, there are plenty of hiking trails around.

Dachau – Very close to Munich, a concentration camp with museum to experience some of Germany’s sad history.

Ulm – The tallest church spire in Germany is in Ulm, and is also the birthplace of Albert Einstein. The main part of Ulm is actually in Baden-Würtemberg not in Bavaria, so ask about tickets before you rely on the Länder tickets.

In addition, the day trips to Nördlingen and Regensberg (from Nürnberg above) are also easily reachable from Munich.

all photos by Andrew Couch & may not be used without permission

Germany Things to Do

Germany Itinerary: The Perfect Two Weeks

Germany is a land of regional differences. This trip aims to highlight these differences giving a taste of the north, south, east and west. The point is to see the different faces of the country at the same time as seeing the postcard highlights. You will get castles and churches, museums and markets in these two weeks. Be sure to sample the foods and beers in each the different regions. Although there are plenty of nature and hiking opportunities in Germany this is primarily a city tour for seeing urban German society. Two weeks is enough to get a taste of each place and yet enables a slow enough trip to not get overwhelmed.

This itinerary is a circle based on a round trip to Frankfurt airport, though Berlin or Munich would work as well. An open jaw ticket saves a travel day at one end though not required. Germany has an excellent train system for transport between the cities and for daytrips. For all of these places, picking a hotel near a tram/metro stop will make your days easier.

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Cologne : 3 Days

Take a train from Frankfurt Airport to Cologne. The impressive and enormous Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) is right out front of the train station. There can’t be much better first impression of the country than that. Cologne is a big city with shopping and activities to match.

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Tall Towers and Short Beers
Take a tour of the cathedral and climb the tower for views. If you are at all into beer, find a bar that does kölsch, the local type of beer served in small glasses. Gaffel and Früh are well known breweries of it. There are several museums near the cathedral and a chocolate factory with tour in town if you are so inclined.

Rhein Boat Tour
The “must do” day-trip in this area is the Koblenz-Bingen section of the Rhein river. This stretch has a number of castles along its bank for medieval charm. Take the train to one end and ride the ship to the other. Check out St. Goar in the shadows of the Lorelei for lunch.

Explore Bonn
Bonn is close to Cologne but presents a different face of the area. This university town was the capital of West Germany during the split up of the country. The birthplace of Beethoven is here as well as one of Germany’s oldest churches.

Hamburg : 3 Days

Again get on the train and head north to Hamburg. A daytime fast ICE train ride takes about 4 hours to the inland port city on the river Elbe. Hamburg was once part of the Hanseatic league and retains much of its mercantile feel.

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On the Banks of the Elbe
The Old Elbe Tunnel (Alter Elbtunnel) is a pedestrian tunnel near Landungsbrücken that goes under the river and dates from 1911. Nearby on the other side of Landungsbrücken is the historic warehouse district(Speicherstadt) that is now home to several museums and Hafen City. Check out more of the waterbound nature of the city with either a harbor boat tour or one on the Alster lakes. For a bit of greenspace, explore the Planten un Blomen park or visit the Tierpark Zoo.

Honor the mercantile history and seek out the outdoor markets. The Isemarkt, under the U3 train line at Hoheluftbrücke, is the longest in Hamburg and opens on Tuesday and Friday mornings. If you happen to be in Hamburg on Sunday morning, the Fischmarkt is worth getting up early for (it starts at 5am in the summer).

Reeperbahn street is known as a red light and party district. Clubs and nightlife with anything you can imagine. There is even a Beatles connection if you are so inclined.

Berlin : 4 Days

Another few hours on the train gets you to Berlin. I like staying on the Eastern side of the center of the city, but definitely make sure you are near a subway stop. Berlin is an enormous place and has so many little nooks and crannies to find. This is an overview of the big tourist highlights, but get out and look for the smaller jewels too. You could really spend a whole trip around Berlin, so this is but a small taste.

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Walk Around
There is so much recent history in Berlin. The first day I really recommend taking a walking tour. Pick your length from several hours to all day, but it gives a good overview of the center of town. Check out the famous “Walking Man” cross walk signs. Find a Currywurst stand for lunch.

A Sad History
Berlin with its wall was the focal point of the split between East and West. Check out the Checkpoint Charlie Museum as well as the few pieces of the wall that remain. There is a small window in the middle of a square in the Humboldt University campus that looks down into an empty room of shelves representing all of the books burned during a Nazi organized action against intellectualism.

Day Trip : Potsdam
A short train journey outside of Berlin is Potsdam. There the palace and gardens of Sanssouci was the Prussian answer to Versailles. The best time to see the flowers and fountains is while they are in bloom, so late spring through summer.

Museum Island
You hopefully walked around this on your walking tour, so go back and take in a museum or two. The Pergamon with it’s replica temple is my pick and there are several art museums as well. The island in the Spree is also home to the Berlin Cathedral. If you haven’t had enough of museums there are plenty more around the city.

City Sights
Kurfürstendamm is a shopping street in the west of town. A church ruined by the war is left in its ruins as a reminder is also on this street. Berlin has a well known zoo and park for outdoor enjoyment. On the eastern side of things is the Hackescher Markt, a group of interconnected shops in courtyards.

The iconic sight of Berlin is the Brandenburger gate at the split between East and West in the center of the city. Nearby Potsdamer Platz is a revitalized entertainment, nightlife and shopping area built in the no man’s land where the wall used to be. Several theaters and restaurants are under a large upsweeping pavilion.

Munich : 4 Days

Get on a night train from Berlin to Munich. Munich is the capitol of Bavaria and what most Americans think of when they think of Germany, Lederhosen, Beerhalls and Oktoberfest. While it has all of these things, there is more to the city. It is near the Alps, so you have now traveled nearly the full height of the country and seen both the coastal lowlands and the mountains.

Look for a hotel near a tram or subway stop to get around easily, though try to avoid the area immediately around the main train station.

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Day Trip: Fairytale Castle
Must-do daytrip is to Castle Neuschwanstein. The fairytale castle that was the basis for Disney’s Cinderella castle is on so many postcards (and rightly so). There are numerous day trip buses from Munich or the town of Füssen is two hours by train and a few miles from the Castle. If you can be there on your own schedule, add a visit to the Hohenschwangau Castle which is the yellow castle just down the hill.

City Walk
The Gothic Rathaus(City Hall) and nearby Frauenkirche(the cathedral) are in the very center. There are several city gates around the edges still standing like the Isartor. For outdoor enjoyment, check out the Viktuellenmarkt in the center or out a bit further to the English Garden or the Theresienwiesen, the fields where Oktoberfest is held.

History and Museums
The Deutsches Museum is Germany’s largest technical and natural history museum. It nearly fills an island in the Isar river. Even if you can’t read German, the displays are still amazing to look at. Airplanes share the building with animals and more. Take a look for the people that surf the river nearby.

Just as Berlin has the wall, other German cities bear marks from the Holocaust time. The Dachau concentration camp is reachable with public transit and worth some time to experience and “never forget”.

Beer and Sausage
After a long day sightseeing go have a Bavarian beer or several in a beer hall. Although the Hofbräuhaus is the most famous, I like the Augustiner Bierkeller near the train station. If you are there in the summer it is worth sitting in the beer garden outside. Look for a Weisswurst meal made of white sausages with sweet mustard and a pretzel. This is typically Bavarian and is often eaten as breakfast.

Hamburg photo by Metro Centric; all other photos by Andrew Couch & may not be used without permission

Peru travel guide

Itinerary for 10 Days in Peru

The Incas could never have predicted that hundreds of years after their disappearance Peru would become one of the most visited destinations in all of South America. The diversity of activities you can experience in Peru will leave you more breathless than the altitude change you’ll feel upon arriving to its vibrant city of Cuzco, which was once the capital of the Inca Empire. From desert sands and miles of coastline beaches, to lush green virgin rainforest, and the crowning glory of Machu Picchu, Peru has something for everyone to experience.

You could probably stay in Peru for 6 months and tackle all of the hiking trails, live among the local tribes in its Amazonian rainforests, or surf and eat your way slowly from north to south and back again. If you’ve only got 10 days to explore, this itinerary can help you decide what to see on this trip, and although many variations are possible, I’ve picked locations that can best help you get an understanding of the culture and history.

1 day in Lima

Admire Lima’s historic center, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can stroll through the Plaza Mayor, which is surrounded by 5 important buildings: the Government Palace, the Cathedral, the Archbishop´s Palace, the Municipal Palace, and the Palace of Lima. Lima is the 5th largest city in Latin America, and besides being Peru’s capital, some of its buildings from the colonial era still stand, a feature of these buildings being their prominent balconies, which adorn the lively and bustling area.

Walk over to the San Francisco Monastery, famous for its catacombs where over 250,000 bones rest. Also worth a visit is the Museo Banco Central de Reserva del Peru, housed inside a bank. Showcasing fascinating Folk Art, a separate Art Gallery, and inside its vault- a brilliant gold exhibition making for a dramatic display.

1 day Paracas/Nazca

Only 3 hours by bus from Lima, Paracas is easily reachable by early morning. Kick off from the nearby Pisco airport on a flight over the Nazca lines, which were built between 500 BC and 500 AD. The Nazca Lines are another World Heritage Site and have been studied for half a century, and yet they continue to baffle researchers. Many scientists believe the lines had some astronomical function for the Nazca civilization. During the sometimes stomach-churning flight, which takes about an hour, you can see famous glyphs such as the condor, the hummingbird, and the monkey etched into the mountainside. Be sure to bring your camera and have only a light snack beforehand!

2 days Puno

The capital of folkloric Peru, Puno lies at the foot of the world’s largest commercially navigable lake, Lake Titicaca. This lake, 12, 500 feet high in the Andes, is home to a population of people who live on some of the artificial islands, created by floating reeds. The exact number of islands changes as they are made and remade by hand and, after a period of time, abandoned. Each island is inhabited by islanders who either work in Puno (generally those who live on the islands close to the shore), live in relative isolation (those far from the shoreline), or who use tourism as their main source of income and allow travelers to visit during the day or spend the night.

Most of them speak Quechua, a language native to Peru and neighboring Bolivia. Amantani & Taquile islands are the most popular to visit, where you’ll get a chance to learn about the local customs and take a ride on a reed boat. The handcrafts of Puno are some the best in Peru and the sunsets on the lake are spectacular. If you’re lucky you can dress up in typical clothing, which is something you’ll get to do when you spend the night on Amantani Island and experience the hospitality of a local family who will host you, give you a home cooked dinner and possibly a dance show in the evening, lit up by candles.

2 days Cusco

Cusco is a gem, a gorgeous city flanked on all sides by mountains stretching as far as the eye can see. Walking among its ancient cobblestone streets you might think you’ve stepped back in time. Once the capital of the Inca Empire, its population has exploded and it’s now the most visited city in Peru. Tourists flock here by the millions, and it’s easy to see why. Dozens of ruins are spread out among the hillsides, most notably the ones to visit are Saqsayhuaman (which can be reached by a short hike-mostly uphill from the city center), Tipon (with its water terraces), and Moray (with its unusual agricultural terraces).

Scope out the local art scene in the barrio (neighborhood) of San Blas, where the number of art galleries outnumber its coffee shops. Sit on a bench in the famous Plaza de Armas and breathe it all in, which might be a bit difficult while you get used to the high altitude. Have a cup of coca tea, which works wonders for altitude sickness at any of the 2nd floor restaurants in the Plaza de Armas for a better view, especially at night. When you’ve recovered, walk along the Avenida el Sol to the temple of Qorikancha and its Church and Convent of Santo Domingo. On your second night, gear up for your train ride to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu.

1 day Aguas Calientes

Wake up at 3am for breakfast before you join other travelers making the line for the bus (first one up leaves at 5am) that will take you up to visit the stunning ruins of Machu Picchu. The bus ride takes about 30 minutes or the more adventurous can walk up the winding road till the top. Take the whole day to wander around the exquisite ruins, saying hello to the Llamas that wander freely amongst the grounds, eat some lunch on a grassy viewpoint, or make the early morning line to climb Huayna Picchu (if you don’t easily get vertigo!)

You could spend days properly exploring so make sure you get there early enough to be on one of the first buses going up the mountainside. Witnessing Machu Picchu at sunrise is an experience you’ll never forget.

2 days Puerto Maldonado

The southeastern city of Puerto Maldonado is a perfect beginning to a trek deep in the Amazon jungle. The protected nature reserve of Tambopata Reserve is a unique place to spend a few days unwinding and observing one of the greatest eco systems on the planet. The diversity and amount of species here is mind blowing: thousands of butterflies, hundreds of birds and amphibians, reptiles, mammals and so on. Hopefully you’ve charged your camera batteries so you can get out and photograph the beauty that lives here. Protected reserves like this are rare because of logging/deforestation in the surrounding areas so you have a better chance of seeing species that might not be found anywhere else in the rainforest. Head there between June and October and you can stay overnight in a primitive campsite, or splurge in more luxurious jungle surroundings.

1 day in Pisco

After the last 9 days of adventure, take a little day trip to the city of Pisco and discover more about the brandy of the same name which is produced in this particular region of Peru. Watch a local guide show you exactly how the Pisco is produced at a local farm and cap off your incredible time in Peru by having a tasting of all the different types of Pisco.

author: Mica Ivealis

photos by the author (and may not be used without permission) – except the photo of the Cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace in Lima, by David Baggins, and the Nazca Lines, by Bruno Girin