Germany is an incredible country, filled with so much history. I spent 12 days in Germany, staying in Hamburg, Berlin, Nuremberg, and Munich. Considering the time of year, the Christmas markets were a big attraction for me in Germany. However, I spent a good majority of my time doing a lot of history related activities (i.e. WWII, Holocaust, Cold War related museums and sites etc.), so this post is a bit heavier than most of my recaps. Of course, I’ll share my favorite eats as well though. 🙂 Please note, the order of the cities on my recap is listed in the order that I visited them.
Why Hamburg? Hamburg is port city in the North of Germany, bustling with life and culture. To be honest, it’s not the most *beautiful* city but regardless, it’s fascinating and for sure a must visit. From the city center to the harbor, the food scene to the nightlife- Hamburg is one diverse city.
- Hamburg Fish Market: This is an absolute MUST see in my opinion. It’s only open on Sundays from 5-9:30AM (7-9:30AM in the winter) and is basically a social event. The fish market was initially scheduled for this time because it had to be before Sunday church, but at this point in time, it’s become tradition. You’ll find a whole lot more than just fish at this market (although tasting the local fish + seafood is the highlight)- the market is filled with fresh fruit + vegetables, souvenirs, and other goodies to eat.
- Port of Hamburg: Hamburg’s harbor is known as Germany’s “Gateway to the World” and is largest port in Germany. The harbor is massive!
- St. Michael’s Church: This beautiful baroque church is thought to be a landmark in Hamburg’s skyline. This church has had a tough history. It was destroyed by lightening in 1705 and rebuilt with a new design afterwards. It then burned down in 1906 and then again had to be rebuilt after the 1944 and 1945 bombings (following the design of the second reconstruction this time). Climb to the top for some epic views of the city!
- St. Nicholas’ Church: The majority of this gothic church was destroyed in the WWII bombings but the remains are really something to see.
- St. Pauli Quarter and Reeperbahn: Reeperbahn is a street in the St. Pauli quarter where the red light district centers upon. There are many clubs, bars and restaurants in this area (just be careful where you’re walking at night!).
- Große Freiheit: Check out where The Beatles played in the 1960s.
- Happenpappen: for epic vegan burgers and burger salads
- Mamalicious: for a vegan/vegetarian style diner with all day breakfast food. I got an incredible vegan currywurst…
Currywurst: is a typical German dish consisting of sausage seasoned with a spicy tomato-based curry sauce and served with potatoes (you can find this all over Germany, not just Hamburg!)
- Instant Sleep Backpacker Hostel: I loved the vibes here! It was super cozy and such a friendly atmosphere.
Why Berlin? Berlin is without a doubt one of the most fascinating cities that I have ever visited and I think if you are only going to visit on German city, then it should be Berlin. It is huge and one of the few cities that I would recommend spending a minimum of 4-5 full days in, but honestly a week would be more ideal (I usually recommend just a couple of days per city). Berlin is incredibly rich in history, is filled with a huge amount of both historical and cultural museums, and has a massive artsy scene as well.
- Free walking tour: I did this tour by NEXT City Tours and I can honestly tell you it was one of the most informative free walking tour I have ever done. It was about 4-hours long but went by quickly because it was absolutely fascinating.
- Ravensbrück Concentration Camp Memorial: I truly cannot put into words how much I recommend taking a day trip to this lesser-visited concentration camp memorial. It’s about an hour train ride from Berlin to the Fürstenberg/Havel station (regional train 5, runs hourly), and then <30 minute walk to the memorial from the station. Ravensbrück was the largest women’s concentration camp during the Third Reich (although a smaller men’s camp was added later) and had 70 sub-camps used for slave labor. Prisoners at Ravensbrück came from over 40 countries and consisted of Jewish, Sinti and Roma people along with political prisoners (the majority were political prisoners at Ravensbrück) and those deemed asocial. Approximately 132,000 women and children were registered at Ravensbrück between 1939 and 1945 and it is estimated that between 50,000-117,000 individuals were murdered there. This memorial gives insight into the atrocious treatment that was unique to female prisoners, including medical experiments, slave labor and forced work in brothels (prostitution).
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: (also known as the Holocaust Memorial) This memorial was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and consists of 2,711 concrete columns, all in slightly different shapes/heights, on an uneven concrete slope. It is an an open memorial and allows visitors to walk through from any direction. There is a museum located beneath the memorial as well.
- DDR Museum: This museum depicts life in the former East Germany when it was occupied by Soviet forces and run as a socialist state. It is a very interactive museum and it is fascinating to learn about the everyday life in former East Germany.
- Topography of Terror: This museum is located on the former Gestapo (the secrete police of Nazi Germany) headquarters. It has both outdoor and indoor areas and covers the atrocities of Nazi history.
- Brandenburg Gate: The Bradenburg Gate is probably the most iconic landmark in Berlin. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the gate was reopened on December 22, 1989.
- Checkpoint Charlie (the structure, NOT the museum): This was the best-known crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. It was named Checkpoint Charlie because each checkpoint was named for a different letter in the alphabet. (i.e. A…, B…)
- East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall: This is the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall and displays incredible graffiti. Some of the art is transient and others are permanent displays. Many of the murals display a vision for a better future.
- Jewish Museum: This is a very comprehensive and fascinating museum that I would encourage you to explore if you are further interested in German-Jewish history.
- Weihnachtzauber at the Gendarmenmarkt: If you are in Berlin during the holiday season then definitely check out this Christmas market. Locals say it is the most beautiful Christmas market in Berlin and is one of the most traditional.
- Fernsehturm (TV Tower): I’m usually a sucker for a good view point but this was a tourist trap in my opinion. Although the views are great (I mean it is the highest tower in Germany), it was €13 for entry, which is a bit too steep for what it is.
- Daluma: for healthy and creative eat-in breakfasts and lunches or lots of goodies to take-away.
- Spreegold: for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The menu is huge and as are the portions! You can get everything from a burger and fries to salmon salads and paleo pancakes.
- Beets & Roots: for all of the veggies that your heart desires.
- Shiloh Cafe Bistro: for healthy, homemade Israeli style food.
- Lia’s Vegan Kitchen: for loaded veggie burgers, huge salads, and crispy (sweet potato) fries.
- Rose Garden Berlin: for quick, healthy and delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner. Love how fast the service is without sacrificing quality.
Why Nuremberg? To be honest, I was surprised at how much I loved Nuremberg. It was a truly fascinating city and really important in terms of the Nazi regime’s history. If you are further interested in this history, I really recommend visiting Nuremberg. It is also a lovely city to walk around as well.
- Palace of Justice: Courtroom 600 is the courtroom in which the leaders of the Nazi regime were tried for their crimes before an International Military Tribunal between November 20, 1945 and October 1, 1946. On the top floor of the courthouse there is the Nuremberg Trials Memorial, housing a fascinating exhibit of the trails. Courtroom 600 is still a working courtroom today so it is not always open to visit- aim for a weekend as the courtroom is generally open to the public on weekends.
- Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds: This museum is located on the unfinished remains of the Congress Hall of the former Nazi party rallies. It gives a comprehensive look into the history of the Nazi party in Germany. Although it is quite a disturbing place, I think it is still very important to see.
- Nuremberg Castle: The imperial castle has particularly interesting history. Climb up the tower for beautiful views of the medieval city of Nuremberg. Although if you are not interested in the exhibits, you can access the castle’s grounds for free and still gain gorgeous city views.
- Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt: If you’re in Nuremberg during the holiday season, you have to check out the Christmas market. It is supposedly Germany’s most famous Christmas market and is completely traditional.
- Church of Our Lady: I’d mostly recommend climbing to the top during the Christmas season because you get a beautiful view of markets.
- Lebkuchen: You can’t visit Nuremberg without tasting real German gingerbread! It is a typical Christmas time German treat that has been around for over 600 years! It has a bit of a cake-like texture, not really cookie-like (aka nothing like American gingerbread). My favorite was from Lebkuchen Schmidt, located in the main market square.
- Nuremberg Sausage: Grab a “3 im Weckl” (aka ‘3 in a bun’)! The Nuremberg sausage is different than all of the other sausages produced in Germany (and trust me, there are a lot!). This sausage has been produced in Nuremberg for about 700 years and has to follow strict guidelines, such as being less than 9cm, weighing less than 25g, and it must be produced within the city’s limits.
- Fränk’ness: for amazing sourdough pizza, loaded salads + veggie dishes, and an all over great menu.
- Green Lion Fitness Food House: for delicious and healthy meals with a lot of variety. They serve everything from protein pancakes to vegan Buddha bowls.
Why Munich? Munich is a beautiful city and although it is widely known for Oktoberfest, I promise you there is a lot more to this city than just beer. There’s great potential for day trips from Munich as well.
- Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial: Dachau is known as the “model” camp as it was the first permanent concentration camp built by the Nazis and was opened on March 22nd 1933, just 2 months after Adolf Hitler came to power. Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945. I have visited four concentration camp memorials now (including Terezín in the Czech Republic, Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, and Ravensbrück in Germany) and I believe that if you are only to visit one camp, then I would suggest Dachau. I did a tour with InMunich and would really recommend it as my tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and I felt it really added depth to my experience at Dachau. It is truly difficult to comprehend the atrocities that occurred at these camps and I believe that a day trip to Dachau is absolutely essential if you are in Munich.
- Neuschwanstein Castle: It’s no wonder that Neuschwanstein Castle is Germanys #1 tourist attraction. The castle is absolutely magnificent- the impressive exterior, picturesque hilltop setting, and the extravagant interior. Something like only 10% of the interior was actually completed as King Ludwig II spent so much money on the castle, including both his personal funds and extensive borrowings from relatives. The castle and Ludwig have quite an interesting history as well.
- PRETZELS: Granted although you can get pretzels anywhere in Germany, they are a true part of the Bavarian culture- locals grab them as snacks! My favorites were from Rischart and Ditsch.
- Brezenhörnchen/laugencroissant: One of my favorite snacks in Germany! These are a hybrid between a pretzel and a croissant. My favorite was from Rischart. I also had an incredible pretzel croissant sandwich from a bakery in the main train station (sorry I don’t know the name, it was the grocery store one though if that helps).
- Schneeballen: (snowball in English) These pastries are native the Bavaria and are shortcrust pastry rolled into balls and coated with chocolate, nuts and other sugary goodies. I found them at the Christmas markets.
German coconut macaroon: I know you can get coconut macaroons anywhere, but I swear there is something about the German ones! I found them at most of the Christmas markets throughout Germany and they were absolutely incredible- the inside was very goey and moist while the outside was crisp and caramelized.
- Bowls & Blenders: for delicious bowls packed with lots of veggies and lean proteins for lunch or dinner, or smoothie bowls for breakkie. Special shoutout to the incredible staff here!
BiteDelite: for nourishing pre-packaged meals. Great for on-the-go!