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In progressive Berlin, the old buildings of Mitte gracefully coexist with the modern Reichstag. Don't miss top historic sights like the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz. The city's great zoo makes for a fun break from touring the staider attractions.
With its own stock exchange, banking system and navy in place by the end of the 16th century, Hamburg has long been an important city. The efficient, straightforward and integrated HVV transit system offers a route planner in English. Having sprung up around a 9th-century castle, Hamburg has some unique sites, including the landmark St Michael's Church and museums showcasing art to erotica. For a look into the wild heart of this port, visit the Reeperbahn, Hamburg's notorious nightlife centre.
Munich was almost completely destroyed in two world wars, yet it's managed to recreate much of its folkloric, Bavarian past. Oktoberfest is legendary, but you can visit the Hofbrauhaus any time of year for an immense beer. Olympiapark, the site of the 1972 games, is not to be missed (you can skate on the Olympic ice rink and swim in the pool). On a somber note, take time to visit the concentration camp at Dachau—it's an intense, yet unforgettable, glimpse into the not-too-distant horrors of the Holocaust.
On the banks of the lovely Elbe River, the German city of Dresden is lush and green, filled with forests and gardens and parks. The city is rich with cultural and artistic history; the great operatic composer Wilhelm Wagner debuted a number of works here in the 1800s and, today, an independent light opera company keeps the classical art form modern and fresh. Culture vultures will love the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and Grünes Gewölbe museums, and architecture buffs will salivate over the mélange of styles reflected in the cityscape.
South of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the Austrian border lies Germany's highest mountain, Zugspitze, rising nearly 10,000 feet and offering gorgeous glacier-top skiing. The towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen used to be separate, but were merged for the 1936 Winter Olympics. With almost 75 miles of downhill runs of all difficulty levels, Zugspitze also has 68 miles of cross-country trails, a terrain park and Germany's first superpipe. It's super cool to say you were skiing in Garmisch, so be sure to spread the word upon your return.
One of Germany’s biggest and best-known resorts, Bavarian Alpine village Oberstdorf is popular with families year round. It’s home to Heini-Klopfer-Skiflugschanze, the world's second largest ski-jumping hill (and site of the famous "agony of defeat" ski-jump wipeout clip from ABC's Wide World of Sports). Nearby are the ski areas of Nebelhorn, Kanzelwand/Fellhorn and Kleinwalsertal.
Walk atop Rothenburg’s city walls or climb to the top of the town hall for great views. The Night Watchman tour is an unforgettable way to learn the city’s history. And our travelers also recommend the Medieval Crime Museum (Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum)—it’s gruesome but fascinating.
Roman legions marched into what is now the Rhineland's largest city in 38 B.C. These two thousand years have produced a wealth of sites to visit, from Roman towers to Gothic churches to modern architecture. With a reputation as a fine art center, Cologne has museums running the gamut from the Museum of Applied Art to Museum Ludwig, home to works by Warhol and Picasso, to the Chocolate Museum. The city has an excellent bus, tram and train system, on which Kolner Tageskarte, Day Tickets, are valid.
Winter sports enthusiasts will love Berchtesgaden, a village in the German Alps with several ski slopes and a top-notch bobsled track. Visit the Berchtesgaden Salt Mines (TripAdvisor travelers rave about their slides!). Nearby Lake Königsee makes a great day trip.