In Germany, everything is on the more extreme end of the spectrum—the Autobahn highway system has no speed limit, beer is celebrated so much that there is a half-month long beer festival and sausages are good and plentiful with over 1,500 varieties. But that’s not all: Germany has had and continues to produce some of the greatest music stars from Sebastian Bach to Rammstein (metal) to Zedd (EDM).  And that’s before we consider the over-20,000 castles, with their diverse medieval architectural styles and beautiful locations, that are a treat for anyone inclined towards history. This European country is great for any traveller—read our many destination features on Germany if you doubt that—and is blessed with good weather, a rich cultural history, unique metropolises, iconic food and stunning natural beauty.

Getting There
There are direct flights and stopover flights connecting India and Germany. Kuwait Airways is the cheapest (as low as approx. 30,000 round trip for the stopover flight to Frankfurt). Direct flights are more expensive, but you reach in a comfortable 8 to 10 hours. There are direct flights from Mumbai, Chennai, Bangaluru and New Delhi  to Frankfurt and direct flights to Munich from Delhi and Mumbai. Turkish Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Aeroflot, Qatar Airways, Jet Airways, Lufthansa, Air India, Air France, Emirates, Airberlin and Etihad Airways operate flights between India and Germany.

Visavfs-germany.co.in has all the information on how to get a tourist visa. You’ll need a  Schengen visa (for the Schengen area which comprises of 26 European states). On the website, fill either the online form or print and fill the offline form for short-term visa (up to 90 days). German visa application centres, where you submit your documents and application, are available in most major Indian cities, while the German Embassy is in New Delhi and German Consulate Generals are present in Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Kolkata. An adult Schengen Visa fee is 4,400, service charge extra.

What to See & Do

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The Potsdamer Platz in Berlin
The Potsdamer Platz in Berlin

In Berlin, there are many great Museums and exhibitions such as Topography of Terror (a Jewish history museum), the Tränenpalast or the Palace of Tears (which has an exhibition highlighting the consequences of German separation) and Dalíthe exhibition at Potsdamer Platz (a permanent exhibition of over 400 exhibits by the well-known artist of surrealism; see daliberlin.de). You must visit the Holocaust Memorial – The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Brandenburg Gate with its great architecture, the splendid Reichstag building, which housed the Imperial Diet of the German Empire in the 20th century and, of course, the memorial of the Berlin wall. See visitberlin.de for more. Bike tours such as one offered by Berlin on Bike (berlinonbike.de) are a great way to see the city.   

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Städel Museum IN Frankfurt
Städel Museum IN Frankfurt

Similarly, there’s much to see and do in Frankfurt, Germany’s leading business and financial city. Start off with the Alte Oper (alteoper.de), Europe’s largest English theatre; museums such as Städel Museum, a spectacular repository of art (staedelmuseum.de/en), Liebieghaus for sculptures (liebieghaus.de/en) and Goethe House, a memorial to the great writer and statesman, are some of the best-known sites in the city. The city’s town hall, Römer, with its three-garbled roof and sprawling architecture, is a must-visit too. For shoppers, a visit to the Zeil, a pedestrian promenade, is a given. The many weekly farmer markets—such as those at Berger Straße, Schillerstraße, Ostend, Konstablerwache and Höchst are great places to buy farm produce and other flea market products. See frankfurt-tourismus.de for guided city tours and more.

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The lovely Nymphenburg Palace in Munich
The lovely Nymphenburg Palace in Munich

The Bavarian capital, Munich is one the great world cities. Oktoberfest is perhaps the highlight (Sep 16-Oct 3 in 2017), where fun, frolic and beer are everywhere. Castles and palaces such as the baroque Nymphenburg Palace, where the Bavarian monarchs stayed during the summer, Neuschwanstein, the ‘fairytale castle’, and Lustheim Palace, the ‘hunting palace’, are worth a visit. The Church of St. Peter provides some of the best vistas of the city and the 15th century Frauenkirche church, the largest brick church north of the Alps. The Olympic Park, where the 1972 Munich Olympics were held, the huge English Garden and museums such as the Beer Museum, German Museum, Neue Pinakothek art museum and Pinakothek der Moderne modern art museum (pinakothek.de/en) should be included in your itinerary. For shopping, visit Schwabing, which used to be a small village until a few decades ago and the traditional Christmas market (from Nov 27 – Dec 24 in 2017). See muenchen.de for more.

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Boat trips on the Inner Alster in Hamburg
Boat trips on the Inner Alster in Hamburg

Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, is known for its famous harbour area the Port of Hamburg (hafen-hamburg.de), which you must visit. The Elbe Tunnel is an engineering-marvel worth experiencing, and so is the Miniatur Wunderland (miniatur-wunderland.com), the world’s largest model railway. At the port, take one of the tours departing from Landungsbrücken and ride across the 4km Köhlbrandbrücke bridge there. The City Hall, the Hamburg Rathaus and the famous St. Michael’s Church, a Baroque masterpiece, as well as the Inner Alster and Outer Alster artificial lakes, and the Ohlsdorf Cemetery are some of the prime attractions of the city. See hamburg-travel.com for more details.         

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Konigsallee reflected in a shoe shop window in Dusseldorf
Konigsallee reflected in a shoe shop window in Dusseldorf

Dusseldorf is known for its fashion and art industries. Here, visit the elegant Königsallee avenue with its high-end real estate and beautiful architecture, and the Kaiserswerth neighbourhood, parts of which date back to the 10th century. Explore the the church of St. Suitbertus and Kaiserpfalz, an important seat of the old Holy Roman Emperor, here. The Museum Kunstpalast (Museum of Art; smkp.de/en) has more than 70,000 different artworks which can keep you occupied for days. Enjoy shopping on Königsalle or just , one of the best places for high fashion in Europe. Visit duesseldorf-tourismus.de for more.     
At Regensberg, enjoy sailing down the Danube river, which itself is quite a tranquil experience. The city’s gothic Cathedral was built over 500 years and is a syunning piece of medieval architecture. Visit the Goldener Turn (Golden Tower), St. Emmeram’s Abbey, over 1200 years old, and the Walhalla, a German Hall-of-Fame, named after Valhalla of Norse mythology. For shopping, the huge bookshop, Bücher Pustet (pustet.de), TK Maxx (tkmaxx.com) for German fashions and Schau Hi (schauhi.de) for paper craft must be tried. Visit tourismus.regensburg.de/en      

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The Hohenzollern bridge and cathedral in Cologne
The Hohenzollern bridge and cathedral in Cologne

Finally, at Cologne, there is the Museum Ludwig (museum-ludwig.de), with its Picasso collection, the Cologne Cathedral, with its gothic architecture and twin spires, the interesting waterside chocolate museum known as Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum (schokoladenmuseum.de) and the Great St. Martin Church, which is Romanesque. Visit cologne-tourism.com.      

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The iconic Autobahn
The iconic Autobahn

Other Things to Do in Germany        
Between your visits to these cities, do not forget to drive across the Autobahn. At almost 13,000km long with no speed limits to speak of, driving down the highway makes for an unforgettable road trip. Visit the Black Forest in the southwest corner of Germany, which is a dark and densely-wooded hills, beloved of hikers everywhere. Drive across the Rhine Valley, along the Rhine River. The upper middle Rhine Valley section is a 65km stretch with around 60 medieval towns and 40 castles. Museumsinsel or Museum Island between River Spree and Kupfergraben is home to many of Berlin’s important museums. The oldest here is the Altes Museum, which was built in 1830. Visit the old town of Bamberg in northern Bavaria and its smaller borough, Bürgerstand for a taste of traditional German art and architecture. Rügen island in the Baltic Sea boasts of a gorgeous landscape with its beaches, old growth beech forests and white chalk cliffs. It’s a part of the Jasmund National Park.

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Bratwurst sizzling on a grill
Bratwurst sizzling on a grill

Where to Eat & Drink
Brauhaus Lemke am Schloss is Berlin‘s oldest craft brewery and it also serves authentic German cuisine. Rogacki is a legendary deli, known for its sausages or trout and eel. The home of Currywurst, a gravy sausage dish, Krasselt’s Imbiss, is worth a visit as well. Café am Neuen See is a biergarten absolutely worth the visit. Nobelhart & Schmutzig, known for its modern Nordic food, is fine indulgence. Some of the amazing places to drink in Berlin include Tausend, with its wasabi cocktails and 3D installations, Bei Schlawinchen, which is open all hours and Schwarze Traube, with an award for best mixologist in Germany, is another great watering hole. For street food, there is Bite Club in Kreuzberg, which is a mix of many one-off vendors, especially famous for its cheeseburger by the vendor Bunsmobile.

Frankfurt has plenty of options for a great. Visit Ebert’s Suppenstube for traditional Bratwursts and also enjoy their potato soup and salad. At Holbein’s, situated along a river, the eclectic menu samples dishes from around the world. Villa Rothschild is a Michelin-starred gastronomical delight, while two-Michelin starred Villa Merton is very experimental with their food. As for drinks, enjoy Luna Bar, known for its cocktails and Strandperle, where beer and tapas go just about perfect.

Munich is the place to enjoy Bavarian food and great beer. Asam Schlössl is known for its Bavarian cuisines while Hofbräukeller serves beer and Munich’s delicacies. Augustiner am Dom is traditional with a comfortable atmosphere, while Bratwurst Glöckl is famous for its original Franconian sausages. Furthermore, enjoy beer at Zum Spöckmeier and Ratskeller. Biergarten or Beer gardens, which are outdoor garden where beer and local food are served, are famous here. Hirschgarten restaurant, noted for its beer garden, dates back to 1791.

In Hamburg, head to Haerlin for some excellent authentic German cuisine, while Caramba Especial is a treat for fish lovers. Uhlenhorster Weinstube is another German option. Hamburg’s old town has some great bars, especially Luba Luft for its cocktails and Goldfischglass for its quirky drinks.

In Dusseldorf, there’s Zum Uerige on Berger Street where the locally-brewed Altbier is served. Zum Schiffchen, similarly, is a traditional Dusseldorf restaurant, while restaurant Takumi is known for its ramen.

At Regensburg, visit the Historische Wurstkuchl, which 900 years old and calls itself the world’s oldest sausage kitchen. Dicker Mann is about 700 years old and serves wurst, roulade, knödel with beer.

At Cologne, fine-dining restaurants such as Hanse-Stube, which serves French, German and European cuisines and MaiBeck,an all-purpose  European restaurant, are are two great options. Cheaper options include Lommerzheim and Max Stark, where you can enjoy German food with a glass of beer.

Where to Stay

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The luxurious Hotel Adlon in Berlin
The luxurious Hotel Adlon in Berlin

In Berlin, hostels such as Hostel Adler (singles from 29; +49-30-2829352, hostel-adler.com), 2A (2,300 a night for double room; 2a-hostel.de) and Eastern Comfort (eastern-comfort.com) are the cheapest options. Mid-range options include the 72-room Lux 11 (from 115; +49-30-9362800, lux11.com). For a luxurious stay, head to  Hotel Adlon (from 380; +49-30-2261111, hotel-adlon.de). Airbnb has plenty of options across all price ranges.

Note: All rates mentioned below are from booking.com

In Frankfurt, five-star options include Steigenberger, Frankfurter Hof (from approx. 14,100 for two; see steigenberger.com) and Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel & Conference Center (from approx. 11,900; sheratonfrankfurtairport.com/en). A reasonable option is NH Frankfurt Niederrad (from approx. 4,100; nh-hotels.com).

In Munich, five-star options include Hilton Munich Park (from approx. 13,500 for two; hilton.com/en/hotels/bavaria/hilton-munich-park-MUCHITW/index.html) and Le Meridien Munich (from approx. 16,250 from two; lemeridienmunich.com/en). More reasonable options include LetoMotel Müchen City Ost (from approx. 6,450 for two; letomotel.de).

In Dusseldorf, stay in either InterContinental Dusseldorf (from approx. 21,000 on double sharing; see ihg.com) while a cheaper option is NH Dusseldorf City Nord (from approx. 7500 on double sharing; nh-hotels.com).

In Hamburg, go for Hotel Europäischer Hof Hamburg (from approx. 15,200 on double sharing; see europaeischer-hof.de) or the more affordable Holiday Inn Express Hamburg City Centre (from approx. 8,500 on double sharing; see ihg.com)

In Regensburg, stay at Goldenes Kreuz (from €130 doubles; hotel-goldeneskreuz.de), which has 9 rooms; the Bischofshof am Dom, a former bishop’s residence now a luxury hotel (from €155 doubles; hotel bischofshof.de). If you prefer contemporary lines and French windows, there’s the Best Western Premier Hotel Regensburg.

In Cologne, go for Eden Hotel Früh am Dom (from approx. 10,500 doubles; hotel-eden.de/en/cologne.html) or the more affordable Park Inn by Radisson Köln City West (from approx. 6,100 doubles; parkinn.com/hotel-colognecitywest)