Things to Do in Germany
The site of six of Hitler’s infamous Nazi Party rallies sits southeast of Nuremberg city center, a vast tract of land covering 4.2 square miles (11 square kilometers) lying virtually untended a short, lakeside walk from the Nazi Documentation Center. The massive parade grounds and mammoth Modernist stadium, with its central focus on the stern, austere Zeppelin Grandstand, are slowly crumbling into dilapidation, and the German government is torn between knocking them down or preserving them as a reminder of the horrors of the Third Reich.Built by Nazi architect Albert Speer in 1933, the stadium was designed as a “cathedral of light” with floodlight reaching up to the sky. It became a backdrop for some of Adolf Hitler’s most notorious speeches, when millions of Hitler youth and Nazi sympathizers attended his political rallies and were whipped into a frenzy of hatred against the Jews, leading to the passing of the notorious Nuremberg Laws and ultimately to the Holocaust.
The waters of the mighty Rhine split Cologne in half, and the city is united across a series of seven bridges, with none more splendid than the spans of the Hohenzollernbrücke, which stretch 1,342 feet (410 meters) across the river in three great steel arches.
This spectacular city landmark is almost as famous as Cologne’s twin-spired Gothic cathedral – the largest in Europe – and was completed in 1911, with four railway lines joining Cologne to cities across Europe. German troops destroyed the bridge at the end of World War II in the face of advancing Allied soldiers but it rose phoenix-like once more in 1948. Today it is both a pedestrian and rail bridge with around 1,200 trains passing over it daily and pairs of equestrian bronzes punctuating both ends.
A curious tradition has recently grown up around the Hohenzollernbrücke; lovers affix padlocks to its sides and throw the key into the Rhine in exchange for eternal love.
The Old Bridge in Heidelberg is a sandstone pedestrian bridge that goes across the Neckar River linking the old town on one side with the Neuenheim district on the other. It was built in 1786, and even though there were several other bridges before it in this location, it was the first one made of stone. On the city side of the bridge, there are two towers that once formed part of the city walls. They contain old dungeons which were used to hold criminals. Between the towers, you can see a plaque honoring the Austrian troops who helped defend the bridge against an attack from the French in 1799.
Another feature visitors will notice is a statue of a monkey holding a mirror. The monkey represents the idea that neither those who lived within the city walls nor those who lived outside the city were any better than the other, and that they should look over their shoulder as the cross the bridge to remember this.
The Kölner Dom, also known as the Cologne Cathedral, is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. In the 19th century, it was the tallest building in the world. Amazingly, it would take 632 years to complete.
Begun in 1248, the Kölner Dom was commissioned as a suitable place to house the relics of the Three Kings, acquired and delivered by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Construction was predictably slow, beginning with the east wing. At some point in 1473, construction came to a stop and it remained at rest for four centuries, marked by a crane that loomed over the south tower; until 1842, when a civic organization raised the bulk of the money to finish construction. In today’s dollars, the cost for finishing Kölner Dom would be over a billion dollars. Finally, in 1880, Germany’s largest cathedral was completed.
The Elbphilharmonie, or Elbe Philharmonic, is a concert hall located in the Hafen City district of Hamburg. It has been under construction since 2007, and the expecting opening date is in January 2017. The concert hall is being built on top of an old warehouse building, and once it is completed, it will be the tallest inhabited building in the city standing at 360 feet. The eastern side of the building will be a Westin hotel, the lower floors will contain restaurants and a wellness and conference center for the hotel, and the upper floors will have residential apartments.
The Elbphilharmonie will be home to classical music as well as music from the 21st century. There will be a small hall with 550 seats for chamber music, jazz concerts, and banquets, as well as the Great Hall with 2,150 seats for larger performances. The building's integration with the warehouse combines the modern philharmonic building with Hamburg's history as an important port city.
More Things to Do in Germany
The Brandenburg Gate (or Brandenburger Tor) is one of Berlin’s original city gates, erected in 1791. It marks the entry to the Under den Linden avenue as part of the ceremonial boulevard that led to the Prussian monarchs’ royal seat.
The classical monument is topped by a chariot driven by a winged goddess, which was briefly carted off to Paris by Napoleon as booty.
During the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate could not be accessed from East or West Germany, making it a particularly poignant symbol after reunification.
The Frauenkirche in Dresden was built between 1726 and 1743. Its dome collapsed on Feb. 15, 1945 during the bombings of World War II. After the war, the ruins of the church were left as a war memorial. Once Dresden and the rest of East Germany were reunified with West Germany, reconstruction on the church began and was completed by 2005. As much as possible, the reconstruction of the church followed the original plans and methods and used the original materials. The church now serves as a symbol of reconciliation.
The reconstruction of the church was supported by donations from people all around the world. In order to honor those who donated, the church set up an exhibition area, which explains what was left after the destruction and what was was needed to start the rebuilding process. The exhibit includes original documents and finds from the archeological site.
The Old Heidelberg University, Germany's oldest university, was build in the early 1700s. It now holds the Rector's Office, the Old Assembly Hall, and the University Museum. The museum shows the history of the university beginning with its foundation in 1386 through today. Exhibits, portraits, and documents explain this history in three different sections. There's one about the Palatinate electors, one about the Baden era, and one about the twentieth century. In addition to the permanent exhibits, every few months there is a new special exhibit opens.
In the square in front of the building is a fountain of a lion, called Löwenbrunnen. The lion was the symbol of the Palatinate. At the back of the Old University, visitors can see the student prison, which was in use until 1914 and is now one of the most popular attractions in the city. Students could be put in the prison from two days to four weeks depending on the offense, although life there was quite comfortable.
Neuschwanstein Castle was commissioned as the private refuge for Ludwig II of Bavaria, but opened to the public immediately after his death in 1886. Now recognizable as the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle, Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular castles in Europe. The fairytale charm of Neuschwanstein Castle is also felt from the idyllic scenery of the Bavarian Alps. During the winter, some of the best views of the snow-capped mountains can be seen from the palace grounds.
The picture cycles in the castle were inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner, to whom the king dedicated the castle, and the corresponding medieval legends from his works. The throne room is magnificently decorated with frescos of angels, ironically the king died before the actual throne was built. Despite the medieval motif of the decor, the castle was actually outfitted with latest technology of the time with running water and central heating.
Inaugurated in 1880 Frankfurt’s Old Opera House (Alte Oper) was among Germany’s elite opera houses during its 20th-century heyday, but by 1951 the building had been badly damaged by fire and a new Opera house had sprung up to take its place. Further damage was sustained throughout the war years and it wasn’t until 1981 that the Old Opera House, saved from demolition by a public petition, was reconstructed and reopened.
With its exteriors and entrance hall restored to reflect the Renaissance design of original architect Richard Lucae, the Old Opera House is now serving out its days as a magnificent concert hall and congress center. After being fated with the post-war nickname of ‘Germany’s most beautiful ruin’, the modern Alte Oper complex is now one of the city’s leading concert venues, hosting around 300 classical and popular music events throughout the year and drawing many additional visitors to its atmospheric onsite café.
The baroque Protestant Church of St. Michaelis - or Michaeliskirche - is a Hamburg landmark. Its famous clock tower soaring above the city roofs has been a beacon for sailors since the 1680s.
The copper dome and gold clock of St. Michaelis’ 132-meter (433-foot) tower rises above a network of tiny alleys known as the Krameramtswohnungen, lined with half-timbered almshouses from the 17th century.
Take a guided tour of the tower for views over the port of Hamburg from the observation platform, and visit the crypt for a historic tour.
After WWII destroyed much of Frankfurt’s historic center, it was the late 18th-century St. Paul's Church (Paulskirche) that was rebuilt first – a fitting tribute to the symbolic significance of the holy building. The landmark church is renowned as more than just a center of worship – it was also the seat of the first freely elected German parliament and the location of the German National Assembly inauguration on 18th May 1848.
Since reopening in 1948 to mark the parliament’s 100th anniversary, St Paul’s has ceased to be used for church services but remains an important symbol of democratic Germany, hosting a number of ceremonies and exhibitions in its public halls. Most notable is the large-scale circular mural ‘The Path of the Representatives to St. Paul’s Church’, completed by Berlin artist Johannes Grützke in 1991, which chronicles the history of united and democratic Germany.
The notorious wall that divided Berlin for nearly 30 years was erected by East Germany at the height of the Cold War in 1961. The barrier isolated West Berlin within a heavily armed barrier of double concrete walls and gun turrets and was constructed to stop disaffected East Germans escaping to the west; it was part of a strictly enforced military fortification that separated communist East Germany from capitalist Europe.
Guards patrolling the wall’s watchtowers and mined "death strip" were ordered to shoot East Berliners attempting to escape to the west, and increasingly the wall became a canvas for protest murals and memorials.
With the thawing of relations between east and west and the downfall of communism in Poland, the Czech Republic and other central European countries, the Berlin Wall was ceremonially torn down in November 1989 with the world’s media as witness.
Sections of the wall remain as permanent reminders of the days when Germany was split.
The traditional heart of the city and one of Germany’s most famous nightlife districts, Dusseldorf’s Old Town (Altstadt) is where visitors spend the majority of their time, home to many of the city’s top attractions. As well as the scenic Rheinuferpromenade running along the waterfront and the famous Königsallee shopping boulevard just a couple of blocks east, highlights of the Old Town include the Burgplatz, with its landmark castle tower and unique City Monument; the Neander-church and Old City Hall (Rathaus), two of the only buildings still standing after WWII; and a number of museums, including the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and the Filmmuseum. The historic district is at its most atmospheric in the evening hours when locals and tourists gather to drink and dance at “the longest bar in the world” – the nickname given to the almost 300 bars, bier-halles and pubs built so close together that the bar counters are said to run from one venue to the next.
The Topography of Terror exhibition and documentation center covers the history of terror during the Nazi era. The centers of this national-socialist terror between 1933 and 1945 were the Gestapo and its prison, the SS headquarters, the SS Security Service (SD) and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Main Office for State Security). These institutions were located in the immediate vicinity of the Nazi government district, and the history of the crimes originating there is featured at Topography of Terror. There is also a second exhibition that focuses on the role of Berlin as the capital of the Third Reich.
Also on site is one of the few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. Niederkirchnerstrasse, formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, formed part of the border between the U.S. and Soviet sectors of Berlin, and the boundary ran along the south side of the street.
- Things to do in Berlin
- Things to do in Munich
- Things to do in Cologne
- Things to do in Hamburg
- Things to do in Frankfurt
- Things to do in Rostock
- Things to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Things to do in Passau
- Things to do in Potsdam
- Things to do in Kiel
- Things to do in Luxembourg
- Things to do in Czech Republic
- Things to do in Rhine River
- Things to do in Bavaria
- Things to do in Northern Germany