Germany : The Enchanting North
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Frankfurt is a city of bizarre contrasts and contradictions. As the economic powerhouse of Germany, its famously futuristic skyline glistens with massive, ultramodern skyscrapers and its street are abuzz with large herds of suits scurrying around the avant garde superstructures of its central business district. But Frankfurt is by no means all work and no play. At its heart lies an unexpectedly traditional, medieval Alstadt (old city) complete with half-timbered buildings housing apple-wine taverns which serve hearty local dishes, and village-like neighbourhoods brimming with quirky boutiques, trendy galleries and cutting-edge street art. Add to this melting pot a slew of museums, theatres and opera houses, as well as an unbeatable 24 hour party scene, and you’ll find that this sophisticated, cosmopolitan city has much more to offer than initially meets the eye.
Located in the spectacular Rhine Gorge in Hesse, Germany, Rüdesheim am Rhein is one of the most renowned wine towns in the region, and also boasts numerous UNESCO-listed sites. Wine-lovers can enjoy tastings at several estates, or head to the magnificent Brömserburg Castle, to learn more at the highly-acclaimed wine museum. Complete the gastronomical experience by meandering along the famous Drosselgasse, a picturesque cobbled street lined with a diversity of restaurants, bars, and cafes. The street is also home to numerous entertainment venues, offering everything from traditional brass music to pumping clubs, making for a fantastic evening out. Other Rudesheim highlights include the array of impressive historic buildings; the fanciful Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet, and the beautiful Adlerwarte Niederwald, home to an incredible Eagle Observatory.
Situated on the banks of the picturesque river Rhine, Germany’s oldest metropolis, Cologne, offers an interesting combination of well-preserved heritage alongside extreme modernisation. This blend of old and new only adds to the appeal of this remarkable city where historical buildings stand in striking contrast to cutting-edge modern architecture and a host of world-class museums featuring masterpieces by the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Pablo Picasso. The city is perhaps best known for its magnificent, grand cathedral - a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has long held the title of Germany’s most-visited monument. Visitors can look forward to visiting an unlimited array of atmospheric beer gardens, sophisticated restaurants, trendy bars, dance clubs and discover its thriving contemporary art scene. Cologne always makes for inspiring, intriguing and invigorating travel.
Resting in the exquisite Middle Rhine Valley and presided over by the massive Rheinfels Castle, the quaint little town of St. Goar is known for its beer stein, clogs and cuckoo clocks as well as its rich cultural heritage and its remarkable scenic beauty. The town is also famous for its diverse culinary scene, its impressive Rhine wine, and its long-held reputation for exceptionally welcoming hospitality. St. Goar serves as an ideal base for exploring the Middle Rhine Valley on foot, by bicycle or by riverboat. This unique natural and cultural landscape is a delight to discover as it has been shaped by over two thousand years of viticulture and seems to hide a picture book castle at every turn. Spend your days wandering through St. Goar’s narrow alleyways lined with century-old timber frame houses or take a stroll down the lovely Rheinpromenade. This enchanting town is an ideal destination for travellers seeking an authentic German experience away from the frenetic energy of the big cities.
Resting on the southern point of the Jutland Peninsula, the historic port city of Hamburg certainly lives up to its reputation as Germany’s ‘gateway to the world’. It is the country's biggest port and the second-busiest in Europe, despite being located astride the River Elbe, some 100 km from the North Sea. Hamburg’s maritime spirit infuses the entire city; from architecture to menus to the cry of gulls, you always know you're near the water. Spend your days sampling some delicious local food served in a diverse range of fine restaurants, party all night at one of the trendy upmarket nightclubs, or enjoy a relaxing picnic on the banks one of the lovely inner city lakes. With its abundance of renowned museums and art galleries, its astonishing variety of luxurious theatres, excellent music venues and a world-class ballet company, Hamburg has more than enough cultural interest to keep even the most avid culture enthusiast blissfully engaged.
No tour of Germany would be complete without a visit to its vibrant capital which, despite its turbulent history, finds itself at the cutting-edge of European art, architecture, culture, entertainment and nightlife. There is an array of fascinating sites to interest history buffs including the previous site of the Berlin wall, Museum Island which contains the magnificent Berlin Cathedral, the formidable Brandenburg Gate and the eerily haunting Holocaust Museum. However, even non-historians will find plenty to do in the hip, funky neighborhoods emerging in the former Eastern part of the city where the streets are strewn with trendy eateries, quirky boutiques, innovative art galleries and thriving nightclubs. Energetic travellers can enjoy a cycle along the Spree riverfront or a stroll through one the city’s wonderful parks. No matter your preference, there is always plenty to see and do in this fascinating, dynamic, modern city.
No tour of the Berlin area would be complete without a visit to the royal residential town of Potsdam, located approximately 30kms southwest of the capital. The town is idyllically situated among tranquil woods and is surrounded by gorgeous, glistening lakes. While the town experienced major destruction during World War II, much of the city has been restored to its former glory and has miraculously managed to regain its grand imperial atmosphere. Potsdam’s Prussian, Dutch and 18th-century Baroque influences have resulted in some awe-inspiring architectural wonders. The star attraction is undoubtedly Sanssouci Park with its small but exceptionally extravagant palace consisting of 12 exquisitely decorated rooms. Just North of the Park lies The New Garden where you will find the stunning Marmorpalais and the Palace Cecilienhof. With its impressive palaces set in immaculate gardens and its scenic natural surroundings dotted with lovely little lakes, Potsdam is an ideal destination for history, architecture, and nature enthusiasts alike.
What was once a significant trading town in the middle ages is now a bustling transport and industry hub and the capital of the German state of Thuringia. Despite its rampant modernisation, the city has managed to preserve many of its historical structures and its old town remains one of the most intact medieval cities in all of Germany. As a result, Erfurt is a history lover’s dream with its grand squares, countless church steeples, cobbled alleyways, and architectural wonders spanning across centuries. Much of Erfurt’s charm can be found in simply wandering around its pedestrianised streets and admiring the beautiful old timbered houses and small bridges providing access across the Gera river. The city’s location within the wide valley of this lovely river, allows for stunning riverside scenery and provides an ideal scenic environment for a relaxing picnic or an array of outdoor activities. Erfurt offers oodles of medieval charm combined with a lust for life that results in a rewarding destination that will excite even the most jaded of travellers.