As summer heats up, Germany’s cities are diving right in – with high-spirited music festivals, parties in the park, and days spent on the water and in beer gardens (Photo: Getty Images)

As summer heats up, Germany’s cities are diving straight in, with high-spirited music festivals, parties in the park, and days spent on the water and in beer gardens. Check out these short guides to five of the country's unmissables – what's more, Germany's excellent rail network means that travelling between them is both efficient and effortless.

Experience Hamburg's unique maritime heritage

Germany, Hamburg, Old Town, Town houses at Nikolai Fleet

When in Hamburg, be sure to spend some time taking in the city's historic canals, such as Nikolaifleet in the Altstadt (Photo: Getty Images)

First things first: base yourself at the artfully designed Hamburg Marriott Hotel, with an indoor pool for a pre-sightseeing swim. Here you’re a joyous morning stroll from the Jungfernstieg promenade, with views of the Inner Alster Lake’s rainbow-kissed fountain. Wander south of here to glimpse the ocean liner-shaped Chilehaus, a wonder of 1920s Brick Expressionism in the UNESCO-listed Kontorhaus District.

In the afternoon, step over to the striking HafenCity and UNESCO-listed Speicherstadt. Historic barges ply its web of canals – hop aboard one for a spin around this maritime-flavoured quarter. As the sun dips behind red-brick warehouses, the ship-shaped Elbphilharmonie reverberates with orchestral music. If this is the focus of your trip, stay at The Westin Hamburg, which forms part of the tallest inhabited building in Hamburg, boasting panoramic views of the city. 

The St Pauli neighbourhood is unmissable, crackling with creative energy and pulsing with the legacy of bands like The Beatles along its party-mad, neon-lit Reeperbahn. Grab morning coffee as Marktschreier, street crying merchants, fill the air at the famous Fischmarkt, then tune into the neighbourhood’s boho beat by diving into the backstreets on an Alternative Hamburg street art tour.

Rewind to 1909 at the grand Hotel Atlantic Hamburg, Autograph Collection on Lake Alster, originally built to receive first-class cruise passengers. If the sun’s out, rent a row boat or canoe, stop for drinks at waterfront Alsterperle, or roam the fragrant botanical gardens at Planten un Bloemen.

Go on a fascinating tour of Frankfurt's museums

Cityscape of Frankfurt am Main at sunrise. Aerial view

Everywhere you go in Frankfurt, magnificent vistas open up, showcasing the city's many different faces (Photo: Getty Images)

Get your bearings with views of Frankfurt’s skyline at the contemporary Frankfurt Marriott Hotel, Germany’s highest hotel at 159m. Right in the heart of Messe district, the hotel is ideally placed for October’s world-renowned book fair. Right on the doorstep you’ll find the science museum Experiminta and the neo-baroque Senckenberg Museum, full of fossils and dinosaurs. Then, for a change of pace, stroll through Palmengarten’s hothouses and rose gardens, pausing at Siesmayer’s garden-facing terrace for freshly baked cakes. In the evening, whizz up to the 53rd floor of the 200m-high Main Tower for drinks as the city sparkles.

Edging east, The Westin Grand Frankfurt is an urban-chic escape, with crisply renovated, wellbeing-inspired rooms and a panoramic pool and spa hovering above Frankfurt’s rooftops. It’s the gateway to the history-packed Altstadt, where big-hitters like Frankfurt Cathedral, the Römerberg and the Museum of Modern Art enthral. Just a few minutes walk from the hotel, Museum Judengasse presents an eye-opening insight into Europe’s first Jewish quarter, dating to 1460.

Frankfurt's cultural brilliance shines on the south bank of the River Main in Sachsenhausen. Here the headliner is the Museumsufer – a parade of museums from film to applied arts and architecture. If you only have time for one, make it the Städel Museum, spanning seven centuries of European art. After dark, roam the cobbled lanes of Alt-Sachsenhausen, stopping at an apple wine tavern for cider paired with hearty dishes like pork knuckles with sauerkraut. Stroll back across the River Main to JW Marriott Frankfurt for spacious rooms with floor-to-ceiling views of the city.

Take in the many charms of inimitable capital Berlin

spree riverside.jpeg

The Spree riverside buzzes with life all year round, but especially so during the summer (Photo: Getty Images)

For an attractive, minimalist base near Spittelmarkt U-Bahn, check into Courtyard Berlin City Center. It’s steps from Cold War border crossing Checkpoint Charlie and Yadegar Asisi’s immersive panorama exhibition Die Mauer: The Wall. On the corner of Zimmerstrasse and Axel-Springer-Strasse, keep a close eye out for remains of the Berlin Wall. A ten-minute taxi hop east delivers you to neat Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof, whose 'green' credentials make it perfect for eco-conscious visitors.

Museum Island’s treasure-trove galleries and Gendarmenmarkt square, framed by the neoclassical Konzerthaus and German and French cathedrals are nearby draws. Or sidestep the obvious by homing in on attractions like the hands-on GDR Museum, winging you back to socialist East Germany, and the exquisitely rococo Museum Ephraim-Palais, former home to Veitel Heine Ephraim, 18th-century coin minter and court jeweller to Frederick the Great. A 10-minute walk north to TV tower-topped Alexanderplatz brings you to Curry 61, where you can munch a Berlin street-food classic - currywurst with mayo-doused pommes. 

Central Berlin Marriott Hotel reinterprets Bauhaus with ultra-modern comfort. From here, it’s just minutes on foot to the skyscraper-encrusted Potsdamer Platz. Zoom up to the 100m-high Panoramapunkt observation deck in Europe’s fastest lift, sip freshly roasted coffee at The Barn in the glass-tented Sony Centre, and take in a stellar 20th-century art collection at the Mies van der Rohe-designed New National Gallery.

Art nouveau glamour meets 21st-century style at Hotel am Steinplatz, Autograph Collection, with a rooftop spa peeking over Berlin’s skyline. From here, step into elegant Charlottenburg’s parks, boutique-lined streets and café-rimmed plazas. In late June, Karl-August-Platz reverberates with world music at Fête de la Musique.

Lose yourself in the lanes and vineyards of Stuttgart

Stuttgart vineyard.jpeg

Complement your explorations of central Stuttgart with an easy trip out of town to discover the nearby vineyards (Photo: Getty Images)

Feel Stuttgart’s historic pulse in Schlossplatz square, topped by the Versailles-inspired Neues Schloss palace, which forms the baroque backdrop for summer gigs and festivals. Dive into the art nouveau Markthalle nearby for lunch, before a relaxed afternoon of walks and beer-garden drinks in the lake-splashed Schlossgarten.

For some off-the-beaten-track tranquillity, wander south to the Grimm fairytale-inspired Hans im Glück fountain and alley-woven Bohnenviertel (Bean District). Filled with boutiques, bookshops, indie galleries and cafes, this artsy quarter is made for serendipitous strolls. Dig into traditional favourites like Käsespätzle (egg noodles topped with cheese and fried onions) at the old-world wine tavern Weinhaus Stetter.

The S-Bahn whizzes north for a brush with Stuttgart’s futuristic side at the Mercedes-Benz Museum and Porsche Museum. If these venues are a focus for your trip, check into the bright and bubbly Aloft Stuttgart, which lies a 15-minute taxi ride west. You could also take the U-Bahn north to Pragsattel for above-the-city vineyards strolls, pausing at a Besenwirtschaft (a seasonal pop-up tavern) to taste local Riesling wines. Venture 11km further to Max-Eyth-See’s lake shores, a summer favourite with pedal boats and beer gardens.

An easy taxi ride or S-Bahn trip southwest of the city brings you to the smart Stuttgart Marriott Hotel Sindelfingen, which combines practicality – it's handy for the airport and offers ample parking – with comfort: think elegant rooms, local cuisine and an inviting pool.

Discover the gardens and grand designs of Munich

View over Sports Venue, Munich, Bavaria, Germany

One of the great pleasures of visiting Munich is spending time in the city's wealth of green spaces (Photo: Getty Images)

In a beautifully redesigned private mansion, Koenigshof, a Luxury Collection Hotel is sophisticated and central, with Munich’s most unmissable sights nearby, from neoclassical Königsplatz square, host of summer concerts, and the Pinakothek galleries, where Old Masters and modern masterpieces wow. But also factor in less well-known sights like the graffiti-daubed Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art and the sculpture-strewn Old Botanical Garden, both just a few minutes walk away. Another great hotel option in this neighbourhood is Le Méridien Munich, with its light-flooded rooms, understated chic design and leafy courtyard.

Neat, modern Courtyard Munich City Center near the Hauptbahnhof is the springboard for Munich’s Altstadt. Check out the twin-spired Frauenkirche, 12th-century St Peter’s Church and Marienplatz, where the Gothic Neues Rathaus’ glockenspiel chimes at 11am, noon and 5pm and a parade of life-sized figures re-enact scenes from Munich’s history.

Break up sightseeing in the English Garden, with its meadows, woods and romantic follies. On Kleinhesseloher See’s shores, Seehaus biergarten is an atmospheric sunset spot for cold beers and schnitzel. Just to the east, The Westin Grand Munich offers an elegant base, with an extensive spa, inviting indoor pool and panoramic Alpine views from the 23rd floor Westin Club Lounge.

The striking Munich Marriott Hotel City West entices with its Italian restaurant and 7th-floor M Club terrace. From here, head north for a spin around the ultra-futuristic BMW Welt, BMW Museum and neighbouring Olympic Park. The 291m-high Olympic Tower has front-row views of the Alps on clear days. Later, go west to Nymphenburg Palace’s landscaped gardens for drinks under the chestnut trees and views of grazing deer at the 8000-seat Hirschgarten beer garden.

Published: June 17, 2024

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