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Things to Do in Germany

Germany offers a path for every kind of traveler, whether it leads toward the castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, a glass of local wine in Rhine Valley, or across to Austria's Salzburg Lake District, an area synonymous with the Von Trapp family and The Sound of Music. For history buffs, stories of the Cold War abound in Berlin, and day trips to World War II memorial sites offer a somber and significant look at the past. If you find yourself in Munich in the fall it can only mean one thing: a stop at Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, for a taste of Bavarian brews, culture, and food.
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Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom)
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55 Tours and Activities

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.

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Cologne Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum)
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Hans Imhoff, a chocolatier and businessman from Cologne, opened the Schokoladenmuseum in 1993, after retiring from the confectionary business in 1992. The museum that bears the late industrialist's name is a paen to the product of the cacao bean, from its development and primitive processing in the New World by the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs, to modern production methods and innovations. The program discusses the role of chocolate in later South American societies and among European elite. The museum sits inside a glass-and-steel structure shaped like a ship. Inside, the tour takes visitors through the process of chocolate production from the farm to the candy store, continuing through a greenhouse where two species of cacao trees are grown and then on through the industrialization of chocolate production, including vintage advertising campaigns. Miniature machinery allow guests a closer look at the production process, and the chocolate produced by these machines can be sampled.

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Hohenzollern Bridge (Hohenzollernbrücke)
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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.

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German Museum of Technology (Deutsches Technikmuseum)
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The German Museum of Technology in Berlin provides an in-depth look at Germany's technical history through its 25,000 square meters (over 269,000 square feet) of floor space with exhibits about technology on land, on water and in the air. Topics include traffic, communications, production and energy technology, as well as inland and high sea navigation, space and aeronautics. Many of the exhibits in the museum are interactive and hands-on experiences.

The museum has an extensive rail transport section that starts with the steam train and works its way through the first electric trains all the way to present-day German high speed rail. One of the biggest exhibits at the museum is in the "From Ballooning to the Berlin Airlift" display, which shows roughly 200 years of developments and events in German aerospace history. Another section teaches visitors about the technology of ships and their effects throughout history.

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Reichstag
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Topped with an acclaimed glass dome designed by British architect Norman Foster, the Reichstag parliamentary building is home to Germany’s Parliament, the Bundestag.

The classically pedimented and columned building was built in the 1890s, and seriously damaged by fire in 1933 and subsequent air raids. In the 1990s the building was restored to host the parliament of the newly reunified Germany.

Visitors can step inside the multi-tiered glass dome and onto the roof terrace for 360 degree views of Berlin’s government district and the Tiergarten.

Take an audioguide tour to learn about the parliamentary goings on in the Bundestag and the history of the famous building. After taking a stroll, relax in the rooftop restaurant.

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Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom)
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With its many green domes, the baroque Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom) is the city’s largest church. The classical building was built in the mid-1700s, and was extensively restored following bombing during World War II.

Audioguide tours provide in-depth information about the building’s history and artworks. Highlights include the Hohenzollern Crypt, with its royal tombs, and the monumental pipe organ. The centerpiece of the building is the soaring dome, with its stained glass and mosaics. The original dome was destroyed by Allied bombs, and its restoration was particularly painstaking.

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Marienplatz
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Marienplatz serves as Munich's city center with a variety of historic town hall structures and shopping markets. At the center of the square, the Mariensaule, the column of St. Mary, exhibits a statue of the Virgin Mary and the "four putti" symbolizing the city's triumph over war, pestilence, famine, and heresy. Visitors flock to Marienplatz at 11 am, 12 noon, and 5 pm each day to watch the famous animated Glockenspiel (carillon) in the New Town Hall made of 43 bells and 32 figures. The best views of the show can be found on the top floor of the Hugendubel bookstore and the Cafe Glockenspeil.
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Madame Tussauds Berlin
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Madame Tussauds is the ultimate wax museum with locations the world over. Madame Tussauds Berlin has a wide variety of life-like wax figures made to look like celebrities, including actors such as Johnny Depp and Julia Roberts, and musicians such as Rihanna and the Beatles. Wax exhibits also include politicians such as Angela Merkel and Barack Obama, sports stars such as Muhammad Ali and Mesut Özil, and historical figures such as Albert Einstein and Ludwig van Beethoven. There's even a section of superheros like Spiderman and Shrek. There's also a behind-the-scenes area where visitors can get a closer look at how the figures are made. It's a complex process starting with measuring and photographing the person who will be sculpted. Great care is taken to ensure the eye color, hair color and style, skin color and even the teeth are as accurate as possible.

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Odeonsplatz
68 Tours and Activities

Located at the western entrance to the exquisite Hofgarten gardens, the Odeonsplatz is one of central Munich’s largest public squares, notable for its distinct Italian-style architecture. Taking its name from the 19th century Odeon Concert Hall that once stood at the head of the square (the remains of the building now form part of a government office block), the space still retains its creative streak, hosting a number of annual concerts, parades and city celebrations. At the top of the list is the Odeonsplatz Classical Evening, a grand open-air event held each July and drawing crowds of over 16,000 to watch performances by the prestigious Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and other world renowned classical acts.

Even if you don’t catch the square at its most atmospheric, the Odeonsplatz still offers a dramatic starting point to city walking tours.

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Museum Island (Museumsinsel)
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Located on the northern tip of Spree Island, Berlin’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is an ensemble of five world-renowned museums. In 1830, King Friedrich Wilhelm III commissioned the construction of the Royal Museum - now the Altes Museum - to allow the general public to view the royal art treasures of Germany. The idea for the island was devised in 1841, when Friedrich August Stuler wanted to create a cultural center, which later became Museum Island.

Almost 70% of the buildings were destroyed during World War II, where the collections were divided between East and West Berlin. Since 1999, the museum has been the only architectural and cultural ensemble that was honored world heritage status by UNESCO.

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More Things to Do in Germany

Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm)

Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm)

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The Berlin Television Tower,or the Berliner Fernsehturm is the city’s tallest structure at 368 metres high. It was inaugurated on 3 October 1969 just before the 20th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). For Walter Ulbricht, who was the State Council Chairman of the GDR at the time, it was one of the most important symbols demonstrating the superiority of socialist societies. The construction of the Berlin Television Tower illustrated that a better future was being built in East Berlin.

With over 1.2 million visitors a year, come early to beat the lines to go up the tower at the panorama level at 203 metres. This point offers one of the best views of Berlin on a clear day. You can look for your favourite Berlin landmarks here or at the upstairs rotating cafe, which makes one revolution every 30 minutes.

VIP ticket holders can visit at any time without waiting in line and are guaranteed the next available free seat in the Tower’s restaurant.

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AquaDom & SEA LIFE® Berlin

AquaDom & SEA LIFE® Berlin

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AquaDom and SEA LIFE Berlin is an aquarium featuring more than 5,000 aquatic animals in over 35 different displays. The AquaDom, specifically, is the largest freestanding aquarium in the world, where you can take an elevator ride through 1 million liters of saltwater and groups of various tropical fish.

The newest exhibit at SEA LIFE Berlin is the Octopus Garden. Here you can learn about the fascinating physical and mental strength of the octopus and also see the giant pacific octopus, as well as its relatives, the cuttlefish and the nautilus. At the Interactive Rockpool, you can learn about the animals that live in this sort of habitat along the coast, such as starfish and crabs, and learn what sea anemones feed on. All of the animals in this section are safe to touch, and experts are on hand to help you handle them. A variety of talks are given throughout the day at certain areas of the aquarium.

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King's Square (Königsplatz)

King's Square (Königsplatz)

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Königsplatz was initially built to serve the urban notions of King Ludwig I, who wished to integrate culture, administration, Christianity and Bavarian military in one massive green space. The king opted for a European Neoclassic style based on the Acropolis in Athens. He even had two museums built in the same style; first was the Glyptothek, where he could house his sprawling collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, and second, the Bavarian State Collection of Antiques, which contains Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts. King Ludwig I also commissioned the Propylaea, an imposing and austere gate which served as a memorial to his son, the Bavarian prince Otto of Greece.

Despite this architectural and urban prowess, the square is now infamous for being the place where the Nazi party held marches and mass rallies during the Holocaust. In fact, the national headquarters of the Nazi party, the Brown House, was located on Brienner Straße just off the square.

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Munich Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus)

Munich Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus)

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Enclosing Munich's central square Marienplatz, the Old Town Hall, Altes Rathaus in German, serves as the center for city council activity for the historic city. The Old Town Hall is also known for its architechture style change from Baroque to Gothic after the structure was bombed during World War II.

The interior is a masterpiece of medieval design with golden stairs, decorated beams, and a frieze of Munich's multiple coats of arms. The Grand Hall is decorated with the figures of Erasmus Grasser's Marisco Dancers. The tower of the Old Town Hall is now home to the Toy museum, a childhood collection by Ivan Steiger.

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Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)

Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)

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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.

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Elbphilharmonie

Elbphilharmonie

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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.

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Theresienwiese

Theresienwiese

8 Tours and Activities

Oktoberfest is possibly the world’s most famous beer festival, taking place in fall in Munich, Germany. Around one million partygoers pour into the city between mid-September and the first Sunday in October for 2.5 weeks of serious carousing and drinking; the epicenter of the merrymaking is Theresienwiese (‘Wiesn’ for short) festival ground just to the west of the Altstadt (Old Town). Here local Bavarian breweries sponsor 14 gaily decorated tents – each accommodating up to 6,000 beery revelers – with their own theme and local beer to sample in one-liter (2.2-pint) glass steins. As the hours pass by, the vibe ramps up and singing and dancing become the order of the day.

But Oktoberfest is not just for drinkers; there are fairgrounds for kids, costumed parades through the streets, an abundance of Bavarian folk costumes – dirndl skirts and leather shorts – to be admired, brass-band concerts and horse-and-trap rides.

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Munich Residence (Residenz München)

Munich Residence (Residenz München)

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The former royal palace of the Bavarian monarch, the Munich Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and is open to visitors to see its spectacularly adorned rooms and royal collections. The complex of buildings in the Munich Residenz contains 10 courtyards and the museum displays 130 rooms. The three main parts of the Residenz are the Königsbau, the Alte Residenz, and the Festsaalbau, which is also home to the Cuvillies Theatre.

Get a feel for palace life in the Residenz museum which features the collections of porcelain, silver, paintings, and classical antiquities amassed by the Wittelsbach monarchs. The Antiquarium's Renaissance collections is especially breath-taking. Step outside the elaborately decorated rooms to the beautiful Court Garden or check out the Treasury (Schatzkammer) for a display of the royal jewels, gold objects, and ivory.

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Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz

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The huge Potsdamer Platz has been a major focal point for Berliners since the 19th century, the busy meeting point of half a dozen major thoroughfares.

Historically, the square was dominated by the enormous Potsdamer train terminal, and at the turn of the 20th century it was a major dining, hotel, entertainment and shopping hub. Potsdamer Platz was destroyed by Allied raids during World War II. Before reunification the barren area was a militarized no-go zone cut in two by the Berlin Wall; this no man’s land was one of the first areas to be breached in November 1989. Since the 1990s, Potsdamer Platz has undergone a total rebirth as the new heart and inspiring symbol of the reunified Berlin. Take in the surroundings from the Panorama Observation Deck, and seek out the only pre-WWII building, the Weinhaus Huth.

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Hamburg City Hall (Rathaus)

Hamburg City Hall (Rathaus)

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Hamburg's town hall building, or Rathaus in German, was built from 1886 to 1887, and it is located in the Altstadt, or Old Town, in central Hamburg. It was built to replace the old town hall building that burned down in 1842. It was built with an ornate neo-renaissance facade and has 647 rooms. The front of the building features an imposing clock tower and 20 statues of emperors, and the entrance hall is supported by 16 sandstone pillars painted with 68 portraits of important Hamburg citizens. The building houses the city's senate and parliament.

Guided tours of the state rooms are available daily in both English and German, and last 40 minutes. Visitors will get the chance to see tapestries, glittering chandeliers, detailed ceilings, and grand portraits while learning about the history of the building and its importance to Hamburg. Rathausmarkt, Hamburg's main market square, is in front of the town hall building.

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St. Pauli Piers

St. Pauli Piers

29 Tours and Activities
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Reeperbahn & St Pauli District

Reeperbahn & St Pauli District

52 Tours and Activities

Hamburg’s alter ego is raffish St. Pauli and the Reeperbahn, forever synonymous with strip clubs and the Beatles.

The city’s red light district, the Reeperbahn is a pedestrianised street lined with clubs, brothels and sex shops. Its proximity to the port has attracted sailors for centuries, while more recently the Beatles cut their musical teeth playing the seedy clubs here back in the early 1960s.

The scene is still in-your-face but a little less brutal these days, and up-market restaurants and theaters hosting shows like Cats and the Lion King rub shoulders with the less family-friendly forms of entertainment.

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Iron Bridge (Eiserner Steg)

Iron Bridge (Eiserner Steg)

14 Tours and Activities

The looming steel peaks of the Eiserner Steg, or the Iron Footbridge, have dominated Frankfurt’s skyline since 1869, a striking homage to the city’s industrial age. The iconic footbridge runs across the Main River, linking the central Römerberg plaza with Sachsenhausen on the south bank. Taking in the views from the Iron Bridge is a favorite pastime of visitors to the city, looking out over the grand villas of the famous Museumsufer (Museum Embankment), which hosts Frankfurt’s colorful Saturday flea market, the passenger boat jetty and the towering skyscrapers that frame the north bank.

The distinctive bridge is engraved with a Greek quote from Homer's Odyssey and has become a popular haunt for lovers in recent years, with couples taking to engraving their names on ‘love padlocks’, before locking the padlocks onto the metal rungs of the bridge.

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