When tourists from overseas visit Europe, Germany might not be on top of most travellers’ bucket lists – there are just too many popular European destinations such as London, Prague or Rome to visit instead. And the few people who decide to visit Germany mostly stick solely to the main cities, such as hip and multicultural Berlin as well as beautiful and more traditional Munich (Oktoberfest anyone?). However, there’s more to see and discover when backpacking Germany and it’s certainly worth the spend a few weeks exploring the country
I asked some of my fellow travel bloggers about their experience and recommendations when backpacking around Germany – here’s what they say!
Best places to visit when backpacking Germany
In the following, you’ll find the best and most exciting places for your backpacking trip around Germany as recommended by fellow travel bloggers!
When most people think of Bavaria, they immediately start dreaming of Oktoberfest, or the picture perfect”Cinderella Castle,” Neuschwanstein. But, the reality is that there is SO much more to see, do and explore in the rolling hills and strong German culture of Bavaria.
One of those places is Nürnberg (Nuremberg). This ancient, but also thriving city is absolutely drenched in history and things to do, making it perfect for both wanderers and historians alike. Nothing beats a stroll down the main streets, lined in cobbled stones. Beautiful churches dot just about every corner, each one a necessity to pop in, even for just a brief moment. Of course, the towering castle gives commanding views over the city and offers picture perfect Frankonian images as you stroll the grounds. And if you are lucky enough to be around during Advent, you simply can’t miss Germany’s largest Christkindlesmarkt, complete with delectable treats and adorable trinkets.
Across town is the more sinister, but arguably just as important Nazi Rally Grounds, where one of the BEST World War II/ Nazi documentation centers I have been to can be visited in addition to some of the most important Nazi-planned facilities. The Germans have done an impeccable job of remembering and learning from the past, as they continue to look towards the future and this arena and area is a perfect example. Whether just making a quick stop off the train or making it a weekend, Nuremberg is a must while backpacking Germany.
– LeAnna from Wander in Germany
Passau’s Old Town has a wonderful medieval vibe with its jumble of cobbled lanes, archways, and underpasses leading off the main streets. Known as the “City of Three Rivers”, it sits at the confluence of the Inn, the Danube, and the Ilz Rivers. It’s one of Bavaria’s oldest cities and it’s where the German-Austrian border begins.
You’ll want to explore Passau’s colorful old-world streets on foot. You can shop for traditional sweet Bavarian mustard and marmalades on the Rindermarkt, check out the largest bohemian glass collection in the world at the Glass Museum, or take in an organ concert at St. Stephan’s Cathedral.
One of my favorite things to do in Passau, though, is to just sit and enjoy the city’s outdoor café culture. It seems like there’s a charming sidewalk café around every corner serving coffee, schnapps, and hot Aperol punsch. These cafés are open year-round, regardless of how cold it gets outside. When I was there last November it was a very chilly 28º F. Cold? Yes. But not cold enough to close down the outdoor cafés. Instead, people cozy up to patio heaters on sheepskin-lined chairs, drape blankets over their laps, sip steaming mugs of warm gluhwein, and watch the world go by. And if you happen to be in Passau in the winter, you should too.
– Laura from The Culinary Travel Guide
Munich, the capital of Bavaria, is one of Germany’s best places to visit when backpacking around the country. It is one of our most memorable big-city stays in Europe. Modern and traditional, Munich is known for being fun, sophisticated, and the cultural capital of Germany. It is famous for the annual Oktoberfest celebration, but there is a vibe in the city that makes it feel like there is always something to celebrate.
The beautiful green English Garden is the largest city park in Europe and bustling with locals and tourists. Watch surfers taking on the waves in the river, ride a bike, or grab a beer and sit amongst the cheer in one of the park’s beer gardens. The Marienplatz is the incredible main square (since 1158) in a pedestrian-only area! See the new and old Town Halls and the famous glockenspiel, with its fun show. There is a multitude of fascinating museums, an elegant palace, and historical churches to visit.
The Hofbräuhaus (since 1589!) is a world-famous beer hall and a must for any tourist and backpacker. After having a beer in the lively place, check out another one of the many beer gardens in Munich. The Viktualienmarkt is an open-air market full of gourmet food and great for a quick bite to eat. There is so much to do in beautiful Munich and I look forward to going back.
– Whitney from Go Fam Travel
Celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich
One of the best places to visit in Germany is Munich but you don’t just want to go to Munich any time of the year, you want to go to Munich during Oktoberfest of course! The celebration takes place for almost 3 weeks, starting around mid-September until the beginning of October and is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Oktoberfest is held at the Theresienwiese fairgrounds, off the U4 or U5 metro stop. The event is geared towards all ages, they have carnival rides, local food to eat and of course giant beer tents. Oktoberfest dates back to 1810 when the King at the time was getting married and they held the festivities on the fields of the city gates to celebrate the event. They decided to keep the beer drinking celebration alive year after year and now over 6 million visitors come to enjoy the live bands playing classic German tunes and of course the cold beer that never seems to stop flowing.
Having been multiple times, this survival guide will help you to plan your trip and know what to expect. The most important thing that you do to prepare for Oktoberfest in Munich is to book your accommodations at least six months in advance.
– Gina from Jetset and Forget
Linderhof Palace in Bavaria
Linderhof Palace in Bavaria is often overlooked by tourists going to Neuschwanstein Castle. However, this miniature Versailles in its magnificent park setting is just as worthy of a visit as Neuschwanstein.
Linderhof is the only one of “mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s castles or palaces which he lived to see completed. In fact, he loved to spend time here, living as a recluse in his “French” hideaway. He originally set out to recreate Versailles before this project was relocated to Herrenwörth in the Chiemsee where the Herrenchiemsee New Palace took shape. However, Linderhof Palace and its gardens are still very Versailles-like in character.
Ludwig II’s bed in gold and royal blue, the hall of mirrors, and a dining table that can be lowered through the floor with a crank mechanism are some of the highlights of the guided tour through Linderhof Palace. The tour is the only way to enter the palace and included in the ticket price.
While the palace interior is certainly impressive, the gardens and park buildings of Linderhof Palace deserve more time exploring. Ludwig II’s love of art and to be reminded of exotic destinations is evident in the Venus Grotto, an artificial version of the Blue Grotto on Capri, the oriental Moorish Kiosk and the Moroccan House. The latter two are both products of the Paris World Fair.
Apart from its proximity to Neuschwanstein Castle, Linderhof Palace is close to three more must-visit places in Bavaria. They are the Ettal Abbey, the town of Oberammergau and the UNESCO World Heritage Wieskirche. The best time to visit Linderhof Palace is from April to October when the gardens are at their prettiest. Unfortunately, many of the garden attractions are closed during winter.
– Linda from Travel Tyrol
The Old Town of Regensburg with Stadtamhof, located in quintessential Bavaria, is definitely one of the best places to visit when backpacking Germany. And that is because of a number of different reasons.
Regensburg is believed to be the northernmost city of the illustrious Roman Empire. Situated on the banks of River Danube, it was a thriving trade and cultural center in the medieval ages. The most iconic attraction here is the 12thcentury Old Stone Bridge that was the only pathway for merchants and artists of that era. Standing on the bridge, you can imagine life from more than thousand years ago.
You can also admire impressive buildings in ancient Roman, Romanesque, and Gothic architectural styles. These buildings form the heart of the old city center. St. Peter’s Cathedral, an old town hall, and a historical corn market are some of the notable ones. Old Town of Regensburg was accorded the World Heritage status in 2006 by UNESCO. And today it is the only intact historic city in Germany.
Apart from all of this, Regensburg also has some historical food on offer. It is home to a Historic Sausage Kitchen that has been serving fried sausages to customers for the past 900 years! Additionally, there is a large BMW plant a few miles away that can give you a paid tour of the premises.
Regensburg has a bit of everything – history, culture, and modernity. Come here if you wish to feel the real Germany.
– Soumya from Stories by Soumya
A charming city nestled on the banks of the River Main, Würzburg is Bavaria to a T. If you want to experience the real, traditional Germany, you’re in the right place. The city is free from the hipster influences of Berlin and Hamburg but what it does offer is far more charming: colourful timber-framed buildings, churches dating back hundreds of years, and plenty of traditional German eateries.
One of the best things to do in Würzburg is climb the Marienberg Fortress. This may leave you a little breathless but it will be worth it for the views out over the picturesque city and rolling countryside. Once you’re down, reward yourself with a ‘Hugo’ (a cocktail made with wine and elderflower) while listening to live music on the bridge. If you’re not blessed with good weather, learn about the lives of the ancient royals at the Wurzburg Residence. This place is a UNESCO Heritage Site with some gorgeous gardens to wander.
Würzburg can be visited as an easy day trip from Nuremberg or Frankfurt. While you’re there, you should tuck into some hearty German cuisine like schnitzel or bratwurst. If you’re trying to look after the pennies, grab a fresh, tasty picnic from Bäckerei Hanselmann and eat it on the banks of the river, overlooking the perfect Bavarian architecture. Bliss!
– Rose from Where Goes Rose
Bad Reichenhall and Berchtesgaden
Every single town in the Upper Bavaria is very unique. However, there are two that stand out a lot: Bad Reichenhall and Berchtesgaden, located some 20 km away from each other. Both of the towns are great locations for staying for 5-7 days and exploring the Upper Bavaria properly. If you book in advance, you can book some really affordable properties.
Berchtesgaden has the most scenic views over the mountains and is overall a very beautiful town. There are plenty of restaurants to visit and to try the traditional Schweinebraten (roasted pork). Berchtesgaden also has a lovely local brewery and plenty of hiking trails nearby. Bad Reichenhall is a slightly bigger town and it’s famous for its numerous health resorts. Moreover, it has a great thermal spa (not expensive) with a huge sauna zone (be aware of the fact that you have to go there naked – bikinis and swimsuits are prohibited) and a huge outdoor pool with the view over the mountains (there you don’t have to be naked). There are plenty of activities you can do in both towns including visiting salt mines, Eagle’s nest and even Salzburg in Austria that is only half an hour away and it’s totally possible to reach it by bus for less than €5.
All the towns are actually connected by buses and rail, so you don’t even have to hire a car to explore this region. It’s certainly a highlight when backpacking Germany!
– Liza from Tripsget
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
One of the most charming villages in all of Germany, Rothenburg has it all. As you walk through the stone gates that surround the Old Town, you just can feel the ambience seeping in. The Tudor-style half-timbered houses line the street, with flowers decorating every window. The cobbled streets lead you down to the center where you can gawk at the old Town Hall, climb the towers and end up winding your way through parts of buildings you didn’t know were connected. Plus the view is spectacular.
While visiting, don’t miss the Medieval Torture Museum or the Kathe Wolfhart Christmas Store. Eat a local specialty, a snowball. It’s a ball of baked dough, covered with all kinds of delectable toppings like chocolate and sprinkles. Make sure to wander through the small streets, around the walls, visiting shops and cafes! It’s all so charmingly German, and you’ll always remember it!
– Corinne from Reflections Enroute
The Oberpfalz region of northeastern Bavaria allows visitors to see the smaller-town side of German life, outside the hustle and bustle of the more tourist-laden destinations. Although more rural, the region is a wonderful stopover site between major German cities and attractions, such as between Dresden or Berlin and Munich, or Nuremberg and Prague in Czech Republic.
Dating back well over eight centuries, Amberg is a well-preserved medieval town that’s worth walking around to see its architecture and explore its long history, especially the original fortified wall that still remains intact. There are plenty of cafés at which to relax and watch pedestrians stroll by, and festivals are often held in town, especially around Oktoberfest and Christmas time.
Weiden in der Oberpfalz is a beautiful place to bike or hike many miles of trails and try out delicious cafes (Edelweiss) and restaurants (Gaststätte Brau Wirt). In springtime, look toward the roof of the Old Town Hall to spot White Storks, the symbol for the region, nesting right in the middle of town.
The Oberpfalz is also home to Zoigl beer, a special blend of hops and malt made only in this region for generations. There are now only a handful of places that produce and sell their local brew, such as Gaststätte Brau Wirt, and no Zoigl beer tastes the same. Look for the 6-pointed Zoigl star outside of eateries and beer houses, or even do some of the 115 km Zoigl Radweg, or biking trail.
There are 1000 year old hotel-castles (Burg Falkenberg), extinct volcanoes turned into a (now) fortress ruin (Parkstein), castles hosting the greatest Christmas Market in Bavaria (Schloss Guteneck), and so much more in the Oberpfalz region. Flixbus and Deutsche Bahn trains visit many of these towns from major German cities on a daily basis – don’t miss out on experiencing this stunning and charming part of Germany when backpacking the country!
– Christa from Expedition Wildlife
Traveling along the romantic road
No trip to Germany is complete without a trip along the Romantic Road (Romantische Straße). This 400km stretch of road runs from Wurzburg to Füssen and takes you through the quintessential storybook towns of Bravaria. Along the way, you will get to see beautifully preserved Medieval architecture, sample authentic German cuisine and immerse yourself into its magnificent history.
While there are more than 25 different cities and towns along the Romantic Road, there are five places you will want to spend the bulk of your time.
Beginning in Wurzburg, you can easily spend the better part of a day touring the Residenz palace & Marienberg-Fortress. The Baroque palace is one of many UNESCO sites in Germany.
Quite possibly the best storybook towns on the Romantic Road, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was one of the few places to be spared from bombing during WWII and thus has remained as it once was. You will want to be sure to park and walk the cobblestone streets, checking out its storefronts and unique charm.
With 16 fortified towers, Dinkelsbühl is one of the only remaining walled medieval towns in Germany! Its colorful architecture and quaint shops, it is a great place grab an authentic German meal while sitting outside enjoying the city.
As you approach the foothills of the alps in Steingaden, you will find a white church sitting along a field. This church, named Wieskirche is actually a UNESCO world heritage site. While it may look unassuming on the exterior, the interior is amazing with colorful paintings, golden ironwork, and elaborate wood carvings.
As the Romantic Road comes to an end, you will find one of the most famous German landmarks, Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle was built for Mad King Ludwig (who only lived in it briefly) and the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle.
– Kristi from Day Trip Tips
Rüdesheim / The Rhine Gorge
The Upper Middle Rhine Valley (or Rhine Gorge as it’s otherwise known) is a stunning place to visit. The 65km section is a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks in part to its dramatic, steep-sided banks and the historic castles that perch on the valley sides.
During summer, cruise ships of varying shapes and sizes, glide up and down the river, full of people admiring the spectacular scenery. The river banks are also full of walking trails. As well as the fascinating castles, many of the villages that sit beside the river are extremely attractive.
One of the most famous towns on the river is Rüdesheim. The cobbled streets are lined with little shops, bars and half-timbered houses covered in geraniums. The town is also a particularly good place to stay if you like wine; it’s famous for its wine production. The banks for the Rhine have been used as vineyards for centuries and Rüdesheim is a real hub of Reisling expertise.
One of our favourite things to do in Rüdesheim is get the cable car from the town, over vineyards, to the huge Niederwald Monument. This was erected to commemorate the unification of Germany after the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. Up close you realise quite how enormous it is and also get superb views back over the vineyards and town to the river Rhine.
– Claire from Epic Road Rides
The University town of Rostock, and its seaside resort Warnamunde, make for charming destinations when you’re backpacking Germany. Located on the Baltic Coast in northern Germany, Rostock is a Hanseatic town known for its architecture.
In Rostock, start at Neuer Markt, the pretty square in the center of town. Then do a self-guided walking tour of the main sights. You will see churches from medieval times, pretty gabled houses, remnants of the old walls of the city, two of the old city gates, and one of the oldest university buildings in Europe. When touring St. Mary’s Church, right off Neuer Markt, don’t forget to view the old astronomical clock that still keeps time. Many of Rostock’s historical buildings suffered bomb damage during the second World War, but most of them have since been restored.
In Warnamunde, the pretty harbor is a big draw, with its many shops and restaurants. But the streets and squares of the town are worth exploring as well. Walk to the beach if the weather is nice, and to Warnamunde’s famous lighthouse.
Rostock and Warnamunde can be toured as a day trip from Berlin or Hamburg, or you can choose to spend a night or two in these pretty towns. To get to Rostock from Berlin or Hamburg, a high speed train is your best bet. From Rostock, you can take the local train to Warnamunde and be there in 20 minutes. In season, you can take the more leisurely ferry as well.
– Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
Cologne (Köln) is a city with a quirky culture all of its own. The Colognians’ have an enthusiastic outlook on life and enjoy a vibrant music and arts scene which really comes to life during Carnival in November each year. There are plenty of free things to do in Cologne if your backpackingon a budget, like visiting the old harbour district called the Rheinauhafen with its young vibrant cafe culture and some funky architecture or wander the old city with its history that goes back to Roman times. Discover the history of Perfume (Eau de Cologne) or enjoy one of its many other Museums and Art Galleries. Of course you can’t go to Cologne and not see its Cathedral (Kölner Dom), which dominates the skyline. Millions go ever year to see this UNESCO listed site. Its pretty spectacular. Did you know that Cologne has its own beer? Its called the Kölsch and is available all over Cologne in one of the many Pubs (Brauhaus) around the Old Town or Student District. It comes in a variety of flavours and is a unique part of this cities culture.
If your are there in December you must head out to the Christmas Markets. The best is located right in front of the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) and is a hive of excitement and twinkle lights. Here you can really get into the Christmas spirit, share a Gluewein or two and try some traditional German food like the Potato Pancakes that come with interesting sauces! But to really get into the fabric and discover the uniqueness of this city, do a walking tour. The Guides are locals that know the best and cheapest places in and around this amazing city. Cologne is a must when backpacking Germany!
– Rosina from Find the Map
Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt am Main is German’s largest air transportation hub in one of the largest cities in the country. Frankfurt is a very interesting and unique European city, having both old, historical structures along with new, tall modern skyscrapers. There is so much to do in Frankfurt!
For visitors who only include Frankfurt as a quick layover, a popular itinerary is the Old Town Altstadt. The majority of the old structures here are actually reconstructed from the Second World War. As in many major German cities, Frankfurt’s medieval city center was completely destroyed during the Allied bombing raids from 1939-1945. The city did a great job restoring the historical structures. As a result, the charm and old-town ambience of Altstadt remains a big draw for Frankfurt.
If you opt to see more modern architecture, head to the Eurotower. Frankfurt is the headquarters of the European Central Bank, and this 40-story glass and metal skyscraper is an icon of modern Europe and Germany. You can visit the famous Euro Monument right outside in the courtyard – one of Germany’s iconic landmarks!
Or just walk around and get lost along the Main River. Sometimes, this is the best way to discover something that you like, such as checking out the many love locks on iron bridge or having a shawarma lunch from the floating gyro boat – the Meral Imbiss!
Especially due to the large airport, Frankfurt might be the perfect spot to start and / or finish your backpacking Germany adventure!
– Halef and Michael from The Round The World Guys
When talking about the best places to visit when backpacking in Germany, Berlin certainly has to be on that list. Not only is it the capital and historical center of Germany, but also home to various attractions. In my opinion, every kind of traveler can find an activity that is interesting for him or her.
Probably the most interesting part about Berlin is its history, as it is home to several amazing museums, such as the Pergamon Museum, Topography of Terror or the DDR Museum. This was just a tiny selection of museums I liked in Berlin – I personally visited over 10 already and there are literally dozens of good options to choose from. If it’s your first visit in Berlin, I highly recommend visiting the “Museum Island”, which is home to some of the best museums in Berlin.
Besides the interesting museums, it is still possible to visit a small part of the original Berlin Wall – which doesn’t look as fancy as the East Side Gallery – but is well worth a visit.
If you are traveling / backpacking on a budget in Germany, Berlin is also a valid option – especially compared to other Central European or Scandinavian cities. There is a great food scene and the prices are (except for accommodation if you don’t stay in a hostel) very reasonable. For people interested in photography, there are also some amazing photo spots in Berlin that you should check out. You can also read more about what to do for two days in Berlin!
– Michael Gerber from mscgerber
With canals, pretty houses, historical architecture, red light district, interesting street art and an amazing party scene – Hamburg offers something for every kind of a traveler. Believe it or not – this city has more bridges than Amsterdam and Venice combined. Hamburg also has Europe’s biggest red light district – Reeperbahn. Reeperbahn is in St. Pauli and it is the same place where the Beatles played in their early music career before they became famous all over the world. Hamburg also has the longest underwater river tunnel that goes under the river Elb. The best part – Hamburg’s buses have bookshelves and you can borrow the books for free!
Hamburg is a highlight when backpacking Germany and a city that you shouldn’t skip on your trip!
– Sonal & Sandro from Drifter Planet
Düsseldorf is often bypassed by travelers for some of the bigger named German cities, but it is one of the best places to visit when backpacking Germany. There is a plethora of things to do, with something for everyone.
Düsseldorf began as a toll point along the Rhine, where the Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa built his royal castle, the Kaiserpfalz in the 12th century. The ruins can now be freely explored in the suburb of Kaiserwerth. Subsequent city rulers have also left behind stunning baroque and rococo palaces, Schloss Benrath and Schloss Jägerhof, which can be toured.
Today, Düsseldorf is renowned as the center of fashion and culture in Germany. Fashion is centered around the beautiful Königsallee, where upscale shoppers can find all the elite brands they hope for. Culture abounds in several ways. Art and architecture also abound. Art lovers have a number of venues, including the K21 where they can become a part of the art, or the Kiefernstrasse neighborhood, a highlight of the prevalent street art scene. As for architecture, the city is sprinkled with award winning ultra-modern buildings, with the showcase being at Neuer Zollhof.
The city is filled with excellent food options. A Michelin starred meal can be found in Kaiserwerth, while authentic Japanese can be found throughout the Japantown area along Immerstrasse. Locals enjoy the Turkish restaurants and Carlsplatz market, where vendors offer gourmet street food.
The Rhine River is the centerpiece of Düsseldorf, and a walk along the Rheinuferpromenade is a must. Along the way, the Rheinturm offers a stunning views, while further down leads to the Altstadt, which is said to be the longest bar in the world, with over 260 restaurants and pubs in a half-mile radius. There are 2 specialty drinks to try, Altbier, or old town beer, and Killepitsch, a krauterlikor. Both pack a punch, just like the city itself!
– Roxanna from Gypsy with a day job
Karlsruhe and The Black Forest
Karlsruhe is the second largest city in Baden-Württemberg near the French-German border along the Rhine river. Hosting the German Federal Constitutional Court and the highest Court of Appeals in civil and criminal cases, and the city where the bicycle was invented.
Considering Germany being mostly a flat land, one of the must do in this region is walking in the mountain range of the Black Forest, and for this there are several trekking routes with different intensity levels. Karlsruhe is a great point to set up a base to explore the Black Forest, or Schwarzwälder Schinken in German.
Perfect for organizing day trips to explore the area walking in nature and experiencing the calm life of the region finishing your hike with a glass of wine or a slice the delicious Black Forest cake, that will taste here way better than you ever tried overseas.
This region located on the East side of the border with France and the Rhine river is one of the most beautiful places to visit during the whole year. The Black Forest is one of the most visited areas in Germany for good reasons, known not only for its beautiful mountains with dense forests and panoramic views, but also traditional villages making you feel you are walking into a fairy-tale town.
The Black Forest is worldwide famous for producing the famous cuckoo clocks since the 1700s. You can not only find walking and cycling paths, but also vineyards and several spas around the Baden- Württemberg region.
– Gloria from Nomadic Chica
Located in the spectacular Black Forest in southwestern Germany resides a little city called Baden-Baden. It is a short easy drive, about an hour and half, from the Frankfurt airport. As you exit the tunnel you soon enter the old part of the city.
The word Baden translates in English to Bath and Baden-Baden is famous for their healing baths. In fact, Baden-Baden is known internationally for their spas. Surrounding the city is the Lichtenaler Allee, a park that is tree filled with paths to walk along the Oos River. There are walking bridges that you can cross to enjoy both sides of the park.
The streets in Baden-Baden Old town are mostly cobblestone as you stroll through the shopping district. There is a wonderful selection of shops, from designer to local artisans. A wide variety of restaurants and cafes with seating outside to enjoy the lovely days and beautiful views. The world re-known Royal Casino is a must visit even if you just take a peek inside at its opulence. There are plenty of museums and theatres to enjoy too, including a privately-owned Fabergé Museum with a remarkable display.
– Sherrie from Travel by a Sherrie Affair
Koblenz and Bacharach
Koblenz is a picturesque city, where the Rhine and Moselle Rivers join. Set on the cliff overlooking the river, you can take in the panoramic views while visiting the Prussian fortress “Festung Ehrenbreitstein.” We also enjoyed wandering through the Baroque Old Town, with its hidden courtyards, romantic narrow streets, and postcard worthy architecture. Walking around the city, you will see views of the city walls that have survived centuries, with 3 (out of the 4) 14th Century gates. If you have a chance, hike up to the upper part of the Old Town to the Skagerrak-Brucke (bridge) for stunning views of the town.
There are plenty of buses heading down the Rhine that stop in Bacharach, which is 45 minutes south of Koblenz. Bacharach is another lovely historic town, with steep-roofed houses and meandering, hilly lanes. While exploring the city, don’t miss the fairy-taleish Altes Haus: built in 1368 of timber, and decorated with turrets and gables, it is the oldest building in Bacharach. If you have a night to spend in Bacharach, there is a Youth Hostel in Burg Stahleck! Guests can wander the 12th-century castle, that looks over the vineyards and river. Our room was in a tower overlooking the Lorelei Valley.
While these places aren’t as well known for tourists compared to Berlin and Munich, you should certainly visit them when backpacking Germany – you won’t regret it!
– Becky from Kid World Citizen
Located around a 40-minute drive southwest of Stuttgart is the small little town of Tübingen.With a medieval castle atop one of the many hills of Tübingen that dates back to 1078 and the founding of Eberhard Karls University in 1477, making it one of Central Europe’s oldest, Tübingen has a wealth of history. Luckily during the Second World War, Tübingen was left relatively unscathed and many of the medieval buildings still remain intact. If you willing to take the small hike up a hill to Hohentubingen Castle (Schloss), the reward is spectacular views of the river and surrounding town. While it now houses part of Tubingen University, it is the original castle of the dukes of Tubingen. The Marktplatz or marketplace is a small square with numerous cobbled streets weaving off it and is home to a busy market during the weekends as well as outdoor cinema screenings and other events throughout the year. The Swabian alps sit around Tübingen and many locals speak with the Swabian dialect (which is slower than standard German) and the food has swabian influences with hearty and tradiational dishes such as stews that are worth a try.
Tübingen remains a heavily student-populated town, with almost every third person of the city being a student! This creates a rather liberal and young energy to this city, almost in contradiction to its medieval beginnings. There is a bustling nightlife, with many bars open late and lots of events open to the public through the universities – perfect for backpackers! The Neckar river remains an important feature of the town and in the summer is the scene of many busy beer gardens and if you fancy your chances a punt down the river in a Stocherkahn. Standing on the bridge there are some brightly coloured picturesque houses that sit along the river bank and has become a picture postcard synonymous with Tübingen.
– Claire from Jeffers Adventure
Backpacking Germany – How to get around?
Train travel in Germany
Train travel in Germany can get very expensive, very quickly. In particular, travelers who want flexibility in their itineraries and the ability to book onward journeys a few days in advance are often hit with sky-high last minute ticket prices, even for second-class travel on German trains.
However, smart travelers know that there is a secret to scoring cheap tickets on German trains: the official German Rail Pass offered by Deutsch Bahn. Offering travelers a choice between two, three, four, five, seven, ten or fifteen days of travel, either consecutively or anywhere within a one-month period, this prepaid rail pass can offer huge savings to visitors looking to explore Germany by rail.
To check the value of the German Rail Pass, I priced out a rail trip that would take travelers on a loop around the entire country, starting and ending in Frankfurt. I tried to find direct routings, balanced weekday and weekend journeys, and always looked for the cheapest second-class fare possible (typically these are the inflexible fares that must be booked months in advance and can’t be changed without incurring a huge extra cost). With stops in Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Salzburg (Austria) and Baden-Baden, the most inexpensive round-trip routing I could find cost €365. With a seven-day German Rail pass, this route could be booked for €280 in high season, or €220 during promotional periods (often the entire spring and autumn!). Plus, with the German Rail Pass there is no need to book tickets in advance, so you can adjust your itinerary as you go.
Anyone whose permanent residence is outside of Europe, Turkey or Russia can purchase a German Rail Pass online. They are sent by post to your home address, so purchase your pass well before your planned departure date.
– Carly from Fearless Female Travels
Alternatives to train travel when backpacking Germany
As you’ve seen above, backpacking Germany by train can easily get pretty expensive. To be honest, us Germans are not a big fan of the “Deutsche Bahn” (the German railway) – the tickets are (especially when booked last minute) absolutely crazy expensive and on top of that, trains are notoriously late and unreliable – there’s always something which gives them a reason to be delayed or get cancelled completely. Therefore, I personally avoid using trains when traveling Germany completely.
Here are the transport alternatives for your backpacking Germany trip:
When checking flights, you will soon realize that you can actually get some good deals here. While Germany is not a huge country, you won’t want to take a flight for every leg of your trip (this might even take more time for some routes if you include the waiting times at the airport). However, if you need to cover a big distance (e.g. getting from a place in southern Germany such as Munich or Stuttgart to a place up in the north such as Hamburg or Berlin), a cheap flight might be the best choice – and it will certainly be cheaper than taking the train.
Germany has a wide network of long-distance buses, mostly owned by the company Flixbus. Tickets are very cheap, and busses do have a good quality (they even include free wifi). As a downside, backpacking Germany by busses will take more time than taking the train. While I don’t mind sitting in the bus for a few hours, I certainly don’t want to spend a full day in it either. I’d recommend using the long-distance busses for shorter journeys (up to a few hours) and if you’re on a low budget – however, I’d certainly avoid a trip from let’s say Munich to Hamburg in a bus…
Another good and cheap alternative to trains and busses is carsharing. Like this, people can post their trips and offer free seats for passengers. The price is normally cheap, it takes less time than the bus and it’s a nice way to get to know other people. However, you’d need to have a certain flexibility since most offers only get posted a few days in advance and you’re dependent on your driver when it comes to the times.
Some more travel tips when backpacking Germany
Don’t only rely on credit cards and get some cash
Let’s be honest – many Germans are not as keen on innovation and technological progress as other nationalitities. Therefore, using credit cards is still not as common as it is in other countries. While you can use your card at most places, don’t expect to be able to pay paperless everywhere. Especially smaller stores or restaurants sometimes only take cash (and some places hav a purchase minimum in order to pay with a card). It’s pretty difficult for me to understand why Germany is still so far behind compared to neighboring countries, but many people still have the mentaility that electronic payment is dangerous or uncontrollable – or even worse, that the government tries to take them their paper money away. Therefore, don’t rely only on cards when backpacking Germany and always have some extra cash ready – you will need it.
The (mobile) internet situation will disappoint you
When it comes to digitalization, Germany is a developing country and far behind most (European) countries. Mobile connection is patchy and limited across many parts of the country and mobile internet is very expensive – forget those umlimited data packages you’ll get for little money in the Scandinavian or Balkan countries. If you’re on a bigger backpacking Europe journey, I recommend getting your sim card with mobile data in another country and just keep using it in Germany, which is possible due to the new EU laws.
Everything is closed on Sundays
This will be weird for many nationalities as well. Sunday is a “quiet day” in Germany – therefore, all businesses and stores will be closed, with no exception. You will find some cafés and restaurants to be open, but you certainly won’t be able to do any grocery shopping on a Sunday. Therefore, try to plan a bit ahead.
Germans might appear cold and rude (but most luckily aren’t!)
As a German, I’m not particularly happy about this stereotype – but unfortunately, it’s true. Germans are generally not as outgoing as people from other countries. For example, Germans are just not very good and keen on smalltalk – something which will be weird especially for visitors from North America. No one will start a random conversation with you in a supermarket or in the bus, and if you’d do so, people might find it weird that someone who doesn’t know them is asking how they are doing or what they think about the weather. That being said, tourists are still very welcome to approach locals if they have a question or if they need help, and I like to believe that (most) Germans will be happy to help.
There’s also a good side effect to the whole “no smalltalk” mentality – if Germans say something, they mean it. When I travelled around North America, I found people to be very friendly, but also highly superficial and unreliable. If someone asks you in Germany how you’re doing, they are really interested in you and expect a detailed and honest answer. If someone in America asks you how you’re doing, they mostly don’t really care and anything besides the usual “good and you?” would be considered to be weird. Germans might be a bit cold on the surface, but you can keep their words for granted. If someone will offer to meet up for coffee next week or to help you sorting some stuff out, they 100% mean it.
It’s just those small cultural differences you need to keep in mind.
Water is never free in Germany – and peeing neither
While tap water is a curtesey in restaurants in other countries, in Germany the concept of free tap water for your meal doesn’t exist. If you order water, you’ll need to pay for it. Additionally, drinks are also not super cheap.
However, keep in mind that food is generally very affordable (and there’s also no such thing as tax added afterwards and a mandatory tip). Therefore, most restaurants and cafés make the majoritiy of their profit by drinks.
By the way – tap water is completely safe and good to drink. I’d recommend carrying a plastic bottle with you to fill up.
Oh, another note – expect to pay a small fee to use public restrooms, especially at train stations and public places. You can use the restroom for free in restaurants, cafés and malls.
Most Germans speak English well
English is mandatory to learn in high school for every German, therefore, most people should speak at least some basic English. Some older folks might not be as good in it anymore, but generally it shouldn’t be difficult for you to backpack Germany when speaking (only) English.
Food and grocery are super cheap in Germany
While German trains are overpriced, and water is never free, here are finally some good news for your budget! Food is in fact very cheap in Germany and much cheaper than in most other countries that I’ve visited – especially in supermarkets. If you’re on a low budgt, get some snacks in bakerys, at street stalls and in supermarkets and you’ll be able to get good value for little money.
German punctuality is real
This one is a big stereotype, but it’s true. Germans value punctuality a lot (this is why they hate always delayed trains). If you’re supposed to meet up with a German, better be there 5 minutes earlier than 5 minutes later. While obviously not all Germans are extremely punctual, we generally really appreciate being on time and if you’ll show up 20 minutes too late for a meeting or an appointment, you should have a good explanation for it.
I hope I was able to give you some information about backpacking Germany! As you seen, there are plenty of beautiful places to visit in Germany and if you keep a few things in mind, a backpacking trip around Germany will be fun, affordable and uncomplicated!
Have you already been backpacking in Germany? How was your experience? Please let me know in the comments!
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