• Leslie

Guide To Famous Landmarks and Attractions in Germany

view of Munich from St. Peter's Church
view of Munich from St. Peter's Church

Planning a trip to Germany and need some destination inspiration?

This travel guide takes you to 30+ of the best landmarks, monuments, and attractions in Germany, for your bucket list or itinerary. From the glitter and glitz of Germany's lavish palaces to its craggy medieval castles, you can travel through Germany soaking up culture along the way.

Germany is a gorgeous country, blessed with scores of high powered sites. Germany boasts a heady mix of towering castles, historic landmarks, massive cathedrals, and iconic museums.

Germany is a land steeped in history, with the earth shattering events of WWII defining the country. Germany has magnificent architecture, dazzling art, and culture. The country attracts over 40 million visitors a year.

guide to famous landmarks in Germany

Why? Because there are so many amazing things to see and do in Germany.

Many of these must see landmarks in Germany are UNESCO World Heritages sites or designated historic monuments. They're located in destinations that could be weekend getaways or mini-vacations in and of themselves. These German landmarks can also be combined to create a customized road trip or itinerary for Germany.

READ: 10 Day Itinerary for Bavaria

30+ Must See Historic Landmarks and Monuments in Germany

Here's my picks for the must see landmarks in Germany, in alphabetical order for ease.

the frescoed Bamburg Town Hall
the frescoed Bamburg Town Hall

1. Bamburg Town Hall, Bamburg

The most iconic attraction in Bamberg is the gorgeously sited Old Town Hall. Dating from 1462, it's built on an island in the middle of the Regnitz River and appears to hover above the water.

The Town Hall is connected to the town by two stone bridges. You've probably seen iconic shots of it before, especially from the Geyerworthsteg Bridge.

The building itself is adorable. It has arresting yellow timbers, trompe d’oeil frescos, and a cute cherub's leg sticking out of the wall for a 3D effect. Not surprisingly, the town hall made an appearance in the 2011 movie The Three Musketeers.

How was the location of the Town Hall chosen? By some irate citizens.

Legend holds that the reigning bishop-prince refused to grant land for a new town hall to the emerging bourgeoise. Infuriated, the citizens hulked out and began throwing sticks and stakes into the river. Eventually, they created an artificial island and built their own floating town hall -- a symbol of rebellion.

Address: Obere Brücke, 96047 Bamberg

Beethoven Monument in Bonn, the city of the composer's birth
Beethoven Monument in Bonn, the city of the composer's birth

2. Beethoven Monument, Bonn

Ludwig von Beethoven was a German pianist and composer. He's one of the world's greatest musical geniuses.

Through sheer force of will and emotion, Beethoven catapulted the music world from Classicism to Romanticism. His tormented life was like a Wagnerian soap opera. The often irascible Beethoven suffered from debilitating deafness, unrequited love, and abject poverty.

Beethoven waas born in Bonn Germany in 1770. He had a musically inclined grandfather and a helicopter father, who was a drunk and yearned for Ludwig to be the next Mozart.

In 1845, in Beethoven's memory, a bronze monument was erected in Munsterplatz Square. Musician Franz Liszt contributed to the project and composed a cantata for its unveiling. At the statue's base are four symbols representing the different types of music.

Address: Munsterplatz 5311 Bonn

Berlin Cathedral
Berlin Cathedral

3. Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral is the largest and most impressive church in Berlin. It was built at the start of the 20th century as a symbol imperial power of Germany. It's dubbed the "gateway" to Museum Island.

The cathedral is a four story edifice with a massive central dome in green and matching domed twin towers. In style, it's Neo-Renaissance with some Neo-Baroque elements.

This iteration of the cathedral dates from 1893-1905. The cathedral was damaged in WWII, but reconstructed and restored.

The cathedral is filled with Corinthian columns, marble, gilding, and sculptures. The beautiful dome has colorful mosaics showing Christ' beatification.

The church is a venue for concerts. Its enormous organ, the Sauer-Organ, is a highlight of the cathedral. On a visit, you can climb to the top of the 225 feet dome and enjoy beautiful views.

Address: Am Lustgarten 10178 Berkine

East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall
East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall

4. Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall is a historic wall, which once divided East Berlin and West Berlin. Finally falling in 1989, it's a symbol of Cold War oppression. There are many different ways to see what remains of the Berlin Wall. Throughout Berlin, cobblestones mark where the wall once stood.

One of the best known crossing points of the Berlin Wall was Checkpoint Charlie. Controlled by the Western Allies, the border crossing bore an ominous sign stating “You are leaving the American Sector." This was the single crossing point for members of the Allied forces and foreigners.

If Checkpoint Charlie is too touristy for you, head to the Berlin Wall Memorial, known in German as the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer. It’s a memorial to the countless men, women and children who died while trying to get across the wall.

the Fraternal Kiss on the Berlin Wall
the Fraternal Kiss on the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall's East Side Gallery is the longest and best preserved section of the wall. It's now a free outdoor art gallery with 105 murals, which were created in 1990 after the borders started to open.

The graffiti style works, painted in 1990, were created as a monument to the fall of the divide. The most striking and renowned mural is Dmitri Vrubel’s Fraternal Kiss. The mural shows Leonard Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing, based on a real photograph.

Address: Niederkirchnerstrasse 1, 10117 Berlin

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

5. Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Located at the end of the Pariser Platz, the Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most iconic landmarks. It was originally built as one of 18 similar fortifications in the early 18th century under Prussian King and Berlin Elector Friedrich Wilhelm II.

The gate was designed in a Neo-Classical style on the place that marked the dividing line between East and West Germany, symbolizing the schism. Affixed to the top is a gilded statue of the Greek goddess of peace, Eirene.

But the Brandenburg Gate hasn't always been associated with peace. The gate infamously played host to infamous military processions, from Napoleon to the Nazis.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, that has changed. Now, the gate is a symbol of unification between Berlin and surrounding regions of the country. In 2000, it was fully restored. Today it serves as one Berlin's most prominent tourist attractions.

Address: Pariser Platz 10117 Berlin

Cochem Castle
Cochem Castle

6. Cochem Castle, Cochem

Cochem is a little gem on the Moselle River in Rhineland Germany. It's an idyllic riverside town with fairytale architecture.

Cochem is famous for its doughty romantic castle built in the 11th century, officially called Reichsburg Castle. The entire setting looks like something straight out of a movie set.You can either hike or take the shuttle up.

The castle was built in 1130. But its current iteration dates from the 1870s. The castle's most distinctive feature is its striking four story octagonal tower with mini turrets.

There are 40 minute guided tours. You can inspect the beautiful furnishings inside, courtesy of the Ravene family. The castle also offers killer views of the surrounding countryside.

Address: Schlossstraße 36, 56812 Cochem

Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral

7. Cologne Cathedral, Cologne

A hallmark of the Rhine River, the UNESCO-listed Cologne Cathedral is one of Germany's most stunning sites and its most visited attraction. Finished in 1880, the stone mass is almost 160 meters high.

The cathedral was constructed in a Flamboyant Gothic style, which reflected the Romantic Movement prevalent at the time. The cathedral has a Latin cross shape with side aisles supporting the highest Gothic vault ever built.

Inside, the High Altar is black marble, faced with white marble niches and relief sculptures. The most valuable piece of art is the Shrine of the Three Kings, a reliquary that reputedly contains the relics of the three wise men. The relics make the cathedral an important place of pilgrimage.

There's also gorgeous stained glass, including a newer piece by famed German artist Gerard Richter. It's a bit of a miracle that the cathedral escaped WWII with only some damage.

Address: Domkloster 4 50667 Cologne

memorial sculpture at Dachau Concentration Camp
memorial sculpture at Dachau Concentration Camp

8. Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau

The notorious Dachau Concentration Camp is on the outskirts of Munich. It's about 25 minutes by train from Central Station. Be sure to pick up an audio guide to orient yourself. It's a vast space.

Dachau played a significant role in having Hilter's history in Germany. It was one of the first camps set up to hold political prisoners, subversives, Jews, and other "undesirables" during WWII.

There are chilling and disturbing memorials -- prisoners cells, death chambers with chemical induction pipes, barbed wire fencing, and a crematorium. You can see bullet marks on the walls. The onsite museums details atrocities the prisoners suffered in this satanic world.

Dachau was liberated in 1945 by the US Army. After liberation, the camp was used by the US Army as an internment camp. It was also the site of the Dachau Trials for German war criminals, a site chosen for its symbolism.

Address: Alte Romerstrasse 75 85221 Dachau

Dresden Cathedral
Dresden Cathedral

9. Dresden Cathedral, Dresden

Dresden is a delightfully Baroque city, reborn from the ashes of World War II. Dresden Cathedral, known simply as Frauenkirche (the Church of Our Lady), is the star attraction.

The Baroque church was completed in 1743, by architect George Bähr. The famous domed church dominated Dresden’s cityscape for 200 years, before being incinerated in WWII.

For decades the church was a collapsed and blackened ruin, a grim testament to the destruction of war. Over time, and after long debates about its future, money was raised to rebuilt a replica church. It was unveiled in 2005.

The blackened stones from the bombing are set into the cathedral along with new sandstone. Visible imperfections were intentional. Like the Brandenburg Gate, Frauenkirche now stands as a symbol of peace and reunification.

Address: Schlosstrasse 24 01067 Dresden

Semper Opera in Dresden
Semper Opera in Dresden

10. Dresden Opera, Dresden

Dresden Opera House, now called the Semper Opera was also gutted in air attacks on Dresden. The famous opera house reflected Dresden's former fame as a musical center. it was once directed by Richard Wagner, who called the acoustically perfect venue a "wonder harp."

The building was designed by German Romantic architect Gottfried Semper in an Italian Neo-Renaissance style. Forty years after the air raid, the opera house was carefully restored over 7 years to the tune of $83 million. It reopened in 1985.

The restoration recreated the pastel wall colors, faux marble columns, decorative motifs, and filigreed ceiling and wall frescos. Atop the opera house is a bronze statue of a quadriga, or chariot drawn by four horses.

The building is now a large concert venue, home to the the state orchestra and ballet. Click here to check out the schedule or here to book a guided tour.

Address: Theaterplatz 2, 01067 Dresden

Hitler's Eagle's Nest
Hitler's Eagle's Nest

10. Eagle's Nest, Berchtesgaden National Park

Hitler's Eagle's Nest is perched in the clouds on the Kehlstein peak of Berchtesgaden National Park. The mountain aerie was once a private meeting place for the Nazi Party. It's one of the few remaining monuments that still stands as a legacy of Hitler’s reign of terror.

Historians believe the retreat wasn't just a scenic getaway. Rather, it was a symbol of absolute power, the crown jewel of the Nazi empire. Set atop one of Germany's steeped roads, it took 18 months to build.

When the Eagle’s Nest fell to the Allies near the end of WWII, it was viewed as a highly symbolic and important capture. The Allies uncovered a bunker full of hundreds of thousands of bottles of expensive wine and liquors – Hitler’s private stash.

In theory, the Eagle’s Nest was built for Hitler to host and entertain VIP guests of state. But legend holds that Hitler didn’t go there much due to vertigo. Other Nazi officials, however, used the home as a private party pad.

Today, the Eagle's Nest is a scenic beer garden, as well as a buzzing tourist site open from mid-May to mid-October.

Address: Obersalzberg Berchtesgaden, 83471

Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle

11. Eltz Castle, Wierschem

Burg Eltz is one of my favorite castles in Germany, likely for its medieval good looks. The fanciful rural castle sits on a rocky outcrop above the sinuous River Eltz. Eight towers soar, with quaint turrets and oriels.

The fairytale castle escaped damage by wars. Inside, it has has original period furniture. There's a huge collection of armory, jewelry and artifacts.

The Knight's Hall, or meeting hall, is the castle's most important room. The Rodendorf Kitchen gives you a revealing peak of what medieval life was like. The most important work of art is by German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder, Madonna with Child and Grapes.

You can hike from the town, 2. 5 kilometers. From the woods, the castle appears like a mirage. Or, take the shuttle bus from the towns of Münstermaifeld and Wierschem. You visit via a 45 minute guided tour.

Address: 56294 Wierschem

Harburg Castle
Harburg Castle

12. Harburg Castle, Harburg

The town of Harburg is famous for one thing, its 11th century Harburg Castle. Harburg Castle is my kind of castle. It's one of the most impressive medieval castles in Germany and a mandatory stop on the Romantic Road.

A visit to the complex, which looms over the Wornitz River, will transport you back to the Middle Ages. I mean just look at those pointy towers and criss cross shutters. *swoons*

Harburg Castle was built by Hohenstaufen emperors of Germany.

Tours of the castle include the church, dungeon, granary, and state rooms. You can explore on your own, but it's best to take the guided tour where you'll see more rooms and hear about the castle's ghosts. Be sure to peak through the arrow slits.

If you fancy a castle stay, you can also book a room for the night. And take time to stroll through the pretty Altstadt. You'll have great views from the Stone Bridge spanning the river.

Address: Burgstraße 1, 86655 Harburg

Heidelburg Castle
Heidelburg Castle

13. Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg

Perched on the Neckar River, the pink sandstone of Schloss Heidelberg glistens in the sun. It's the crown jewel of the university town of Heidelberg. The fastest way to get there is via the funicular tram.

The Gothic castle was once the palace of the Palatine prince electors. It was built, rebuilt, and expanded over 700 years. The castle has been plundered by the French, struck by lightening, and its stones stolen for other buildings.

Heidelberg Castle never regained its former glory, unlike other German castles. Only the Friedrich Building was fully restored.

ruins of Heidelberg Castle
ruins of Heidelberg Castle

The castle is practically defunct. The furniture is long gone. But the romantic ruins are nonetheless charming.

One million visitors visit annually. The castle is home to the world's largest keg, Heidelberger Tun, located in the royal wine cellar.

You can also see model of what the castle once looked like. From the Great Terrace, you have a fine view of the old town and the Neckar River.

Address: Schlosshof 1, 69117 Heidelberg

Herrenchiemsee Palace in Bavaria
Herrenchiemsee Palace

14. Herrenchiemsee Palace

Herrenchiemsee Palace is a massive island palace spun from the mind of Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It's a popular day trip from Munich.

Ludwig literally built the palace on an island in Lake Chiemsee. Not terribly convenient for builders. But Ludwig only cared for a stunning vista, not convenience.

In 1878, construction began. Herrenchiemsee isn't an exact replica of Versailles. It has Ludwig's personal stamp. Though it doesn't seem like he ever intended to finish it.

Ludwig built two side wings that were to left as shells and only designated 18 of the 70 rooms to be finished. The side wings were actually demolished in 1907.

the grand staircase in Herrenchiemsee Palace
the grand staircase in Herrenchiemsee Palace

The guided tour starts at the stunning Ambassadors Staircase, outfitted with colorful frescos and a stroke-of-genius glass roof. After the staircase, the highlights are the State Bedroom and the Hall of Mirrors.

Both are grander and more opulent than Versailles. Sadly, Ludwig only stayed at his Versailles-Herrenchiemsee for 9 nights in September 1885.

Ludwig spent more than 16.5 million marks on Herrenschiemsee Palace. That was double the cost of Ludwig's Linderhof Palace and triple that of Neuschwanstein Castle. The building basically spiraled out of control. With his apparent motto of "build or die," it may have cost Ludwig his life.

Address: 83209 Herrenchiemsee

Hohenzollern Castle
Hohenzollern Castle

15. Hohenzollern Castle, Badem-Wurttemberg

Located near Stuttgart in southern Germany, Hohenzollern Castle was once the province of the imperial Hohenzollern kaisers, who ruled Germany from the Middle Ages to WWI. Wilhelm I and II were once German emperors.

The family rebuilt a castle that was in ruins in the early 19th century. The resulting Neo-Gothic fantasy, realized in golden stone and picturesquely set on Mount Hohenzollern, became their ancestral seat. It's still privately owned by the family.

Hohenzollern is a military structure that was given a civic facelift. It delights the eye with pointy turrets, crenelated walls, and gothic windows.

Inside, you'll find artifacts of the Hohenzollern dynasty, including statues, busts, portraits, armor, the crown of Wilhem II, and ceremonial swords. A two story chapel has a Neo-Gothic tabernacle. The Hall of Ancestors is painted with the Hohenzollern family tree.

You can hoof it up a very steep hill or take the shuttle bus.

Address: 72379 Burg Hohenzollern

Linderhof Palace
Linderhof Palace

16. Linderhof Palace, Ettal

Mad King Ludwig II's primary residence was Linderhof Palace. Linderhof is a must see site in Bavaria and a popular day trip from Munich. The beautiful palace was build as an homage to Ludwig's trifecta of obsessions -- Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, and Richard Wagner.

Linderhof's glamorous interior reflects Ludwig’s imaginary, dreamlike world.

You enter a world of riotous rococo, flashing mirrors, and glittering gold. There was apparently no such thing as too much gold leaf.

Because the rooms are fairly small (by palace standards), you might feel a little claustrophobic from the gold pressing in on you. The highlight is the Hall of Mirrors.

In the resplendent red and gold dining room, servants were rendered invisible. The room sports an ingenious trap door -- a disappearing dumb waiter that lowered and raised the dining room table to and from the kitchen below. This way, the king could eat solo with his imaginary medieval friends, conveniently eliminating the need to talk to an actual living person.

The palace gardens are perhaps the most luscious part. Ludwig built huge ornamental gardens in five geometric sections, dotted with architectural follies. Be sure to check out the Moorish Kiosk, the Greek Temple, and the Venus Grotto.

The Venus Grotto is a man-made cave, complete with a lake, waterfall, and faux stalactites. Dressed as a knight, Ludwig rowed langorously across the lake in a golden clam-shaped boat listening to opera performances. Perhaps the ultimate escapism.

Address: Linderhof 12, 82488 Ettal

Lubeck town Hall
Lubeck town Hall

17. Lubeck Town Hall, Lubeck

Lubeck is a pretty city with a dreamlike panoply of architecture -- medieval gates, ancient gabled houses, and soaring spires. A majority of the city is a UNESCO site.

Lubeck's Rathaus, or town hall, is described as a "fairytale in stone." It's one of the finest examples of Gothic brick architecture in Germany and, indeed, all of Europe.

The town was built from 1126 to 1308. Outside there's an ornate stairway.

In the 15th century, a Renaissance sandstone arcade and staircase was added. Inside is a yellow Gothic ribbed vault.

The magnificent Audience Hall glows in plush red velvet Rococo. It formerly served as a conference room for the Council until the beginning of the 20th century. The walls are decorated with ten paintings by the Italian artist Stefano Torelli, which embody the virtues of a good government.

To visit the interior, you've got to take a guided tour. Unfortunately, it's only in German. Still, it's definitely worth doing, just to see the 13th century frescos and ornate staircases.

Address: Breite Str. 62, 23552 Lübeck

view of the town hall in Marienplatz
view of the town hall in Marienplatz

18. Marienplatz, Munich

Marienplatz has been a popular meeting place and hub for Munich since the 12th century. The centerpiece of the grand square is the majestic city hall, named the Neues Rathaus.

Its gaudy Gothic facade is festooned with gargoyles, statues, and, most often, bright red flowers. You can take an elevator 85 meters to the top for views. Just stop in at the Tourist Office in the building and purchase your 4 euro ticket.