Germany for travellers

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A guide to cheap beds in Germany – where you want them

Germany is home for hostels. The idea of cheap accommodation for young travellers started in Germany and has continued – except now, they don’t have to be young.

German hostels (Herbergen) or youth hostels (Jugendherbergen) can be private or affiliated with the national organisation Deutsches Jugendherbergswerk (DJH). Today there are more than 500 DJH-affiliated establishments. It would be wrong to say that these hostels are absolutely Germany’s lowest-cost beds but, generally speaking, this is the low-cost network that offers cheapest sleeps with breakfast, plus a large measure of predictability due to standardisation.

The basis of hostel accommodation is dormitories or multi-bed rooms, normally designated male or female, for which most nightly bed rates are between €15 and €27. But some hostels, usually big hostels, offer single, double or family rooms at higher rates. House rules vary but night-time quiet and self-maintenance of rooms are standard. Bed linen is included in the rate.

It’s best to sign up for annual youth hostel membership before leaving home. Holders of valid memberships in the international federation Hostelling International (HI) can use DJH hostels but other visitors from abroad can obtain an international guest card (€18) at a hostel or pay a nightly €3.50 fee for a welcome stamp to allow them to stay. Six of these stamps qualify as a guest card.

Junior hostel memberships apply for people aged up to 26. But only permanent residents of Germany can join DJH. Conditions and family and group memberships are explained at the website. The DJH hostels are organised by federal state but it is only in Bavaria that there are important differences. Bavarian hostels give priority to guests aged under 27 and for guests 27 or over surcharges of €3-4 per night generally apply. For HI details in your home country, go to www.hihostels.com.

Hostel locations vary widely. Often they are a little out of town and the necessary transport can involve a walk, but these factors are often reflected in rates. To book DJH hostels, go to www.jugendherberge.de/en.

Some German hostels also offer a heritage experience by being set up in historical buildings. The world’s first youth hostel, at Burg Altena south-east of Dortmund, occupies part of a 12th century castle above the town.

In Bremen, the DJH hostel Jugendherberge Bremen has a great position at Kalkstraße 6, the west end of the medieval wharf area, but the novelty attraction is attached accommodation on the steamer Gästeschiff Die Weser, which is most often booked for families or groups.

Bavaria has plenty of hostels in heritage buildings. In Nuremberg, the 500-year-old Kaiserstallung or imperial stables of the imperial castle has been converted into modern accommodation with about 350 beds while preserving the outer heritage appearance and inner historical ambience.

In a dramatic location at Passau, where the rivers Danube, Inn and Ilz meet, the castle of the city’s former prince-bishops dominates the preserved medieval and Renaissance old town. The DJH hostel occupies part of the castle, which has to be reached by a climb or a shuttle bus.

In the walled town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the 500-year-old Roßmühle and part of the historic Spitalhof have been converted for hostel use with about 180 beds. The Roßmühle was named for the horse power used for the grinding work.

In Rothenburg’s walled and picturesque Romantic Road cousin Dinkelsbühl, the recently restored hostel in a late medieval half-timbered grain barn inside the walls at Koppengasse 10 has reopened with 25 rooms offering 100 beds.

South of Munich, the DJH hostel Burg Schwaneck is in a riverbank castle at Burgweg 4 in Pullach south of the city. Take the S7 train to Pullach and walk east on Bahnhofstraße and Karl-Schröder-Straße, then about 250m north-east on the wooded path.

By far the majority of hostels, however, are in modern buildings for which the best description is practical.

Reservations as a rule are held until 18.00 but guests expecting to arrive later can usually do so by arrangement when booking. Checkout is by 10.00. Most hostels are closed during the day, generally between 10.00 and 16.00, though they can operate 24 hours in big cities. So, when booking with DJH hostels, it is important to be clear about check-in times and it’s often necessary to store luggage in rail station lockers until a late-afternoon opening.

All hostels can be searched in English at the DJH website www.jugendherberge.de, where rules are laid out. Look under the ‘Basics’ tab near the bottom of the English homepage to check membership details.

Forward bookings are advisable and these can be managed online (there is a mobile version of the website accessible from the homepage) or by phone. Some hostels might ask for deposits. Websites such as Hostelbookers.com do not book beds in DJH hostels. Availability of beds can be affected by the popularity of hostel accommodation among groups – especially school and sports groups – and conferences.

Some DJH hostels are not open year-round and many close between Christmas and New Year. There are four comfort categories, category IV being the highest. Self-catering kitchens are normal but breakfast is generally included in the cost. Full or half-board (or packaged lunches) can often be arranged at an extra charge. Half or full board (with packed lunches) is often available but meeting all dietary requirements cannot be guaranteed. Inquire when booking – individual hostel pages cover most details. Hot evening meals, when offered, are in the €5 range.

DJH is not the only hostel organisation focused on youth. Christlicher Verein Junger Menschen (CVJM, the German YMCA) runs about 30 German hostels and a few hotels, several of which are in key destinations, including Berlin (three), Munich and Dresden. Hostel rates are generally compatible with those of DJH and budget hotel rates are competitive with those of private hostels. The website cvjm.de/reisen/cvjm-gastfreunde is in German and less complete than DJH but refers to individual sites.

Private hostels have boomed and a single room with breakfast in a fairly central position in a German metropolis or regional city can cost as little €20 a night. Travellers can get this in the form of a private hostel or a small family-run establishment with a dash of charm and personal service. Sometimes rates are lower still, especially with shared bathrooms.

The line between budget hotel and hostel has become blurred as certain chains – A&O and Meininger are prominent – offer elements of both. Single rooms (at normal demand times in the range €40-45) or double/twin rooms, generally with bathroom, share a building with dorms or other multi-bed rooms with beds about half that price. Buffet breakfast costs from €6 extra.

But in these hostels rates are demand-driven and can be higher Friday and Saturday nights or during city festivals. Room rates also vary seasonally. Business is a heavy user of budget hotel-hostels and prices can also rise when availability is squeezed during local trade fairs.

Availability and price, however, are transparent when online booking systems are viewed in response to a specific inquiry. Hotel chains such as Ibis Budget are often competing in a nearby price range and use similar booking systems.

There is a middle group of private hostels that are more intimate in scale, usually not run as a chain, although there are several concerns in big cities running two to four hostels in different parts of town.

In Berlin, the One80o Hostel Berlin, walking distance north-east of Alexanderplatz at Otto-Braun-Straße 65, offers bed rates starting at €17.90 in eight-bed rooms, €23 in six-bed rooms and €25 in four-bed rooms, varying by season. Visit one80hostels.com/en.

Also near Alexanderplatz, St Christopher’s Berlin, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 39 (book.st-christophers.co.uk), offers beds in large dorms starting at €14.80 and single/double rooms at €44/71.

Nearby at Alte Schönhauser Straße 2, Wombats City Hostel Berlin (www.wombats-hostels.com/berlin), part of a small chain serving central Europe and London, offers low-season dorm beds from €15.20, private single/double rooms from €57/72.20. The breakfast buffet is €5.30 and WLAN is free.

In Munich, a selection of private hostels is in the city centre. The Wombats City Hostel Munich (www.wombats-hostels.com/munich) is at Senefelderstraße 1, about 60m south of the station’s south exit. It offers private rooms in high season at about €40 per person and beds in dorms starting at €20. The dorm rate is €4-5 higher Friday and Saturday.

The 4You Hostel & Hotel Munich (www.the4you.de) at Hirtenstraße 18 offers low-season budget singles/doubles (from €45/72) and three-bed rooms (from €96) with full facilities. There are also twins and four to 12-bed dorms (€15-16 a bed high season). All rates include breakfast and WLAN. The house is a block north of the Hauptbahnhof via Seidlstraße or Pfefferstraße.

But the cheapest Munich sleeps are at the institution known as The Tent – Jugendlager am Kapuzinerhölzl, a giant backpacker camp run by the city and open from early June to early October near Schloß Nymphenburg. There are no curfews and floor space (€9), beds (€12.50) or camping space ranges. The website is the-tent.com.

Rates – as ever in Munich – are higher, often much higher, during Oktoberfest.

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Culture Encounters

Jewels of the Past

Berlin

Great Cities of Germany

Füssen

Füssen travel guide in 3 pages

The tiny town at the foot of the Alps has its own medieval castle and Baroque monastery as well as being the jumping-off point for visits to the famous Romantic castles nearby.

● How to visit Schloß Neuschwanstein and Schloß Hohenschwangau

● The Wieskirche, a UNESCO-listed Rococo pilgrimage church, is a short ride away

● The town’s own castle, churches and museums

Hyperlink access to essential tourist and accommodation information

Aachen

Detailed Aachen travel guide in 5 pages

The Romans developed the hot springs at the site, then 1200 years ago the Frankish king Charlemagne set up his court there and Aachen became the centre of his empire. The 2018 Raven Guide to Aachen is available for free download now.

● A guide to Charlemagne's church, which grew to become the present Aachen cathedral, one of the first world heritage sites

● The Roman and medieval survivals of the city and details of the city tour

● Essential services with hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Eisenach

Detailed Eisenach travel guide in 4 pages

The new Raven guide to the Thuringian town, birthplace of Bach and hiding place of Martin Luther early in his revolt against the established church. It is also the site of one of Germany’s great medieval castles, with links to another great German composer, Wagner, and a centre of automobile making.

● Guide to the Wartburg castle

● Guides to the Bach museum of his life and work and museum of car manufacture

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Detailed Wittenberg travel guide in 4 pages

More than 500 years after Martin Luther's Reformation, this free guide covers the place where it all began. The town was the cradle of the religious movement that threw off the structures of the Catholic church and shaped new ideas and ways of worship, but also more than a century of bitter conflict that shaped Germany forever.

● Key sites, now world heritage monuments, include Luther's house and the castle

● The church where Luther's revolt began and churches Luther and his associates preached

● Hyperlinks to further tourist information and to websites for city accommodation

Bamberg

Detailed Bamberg travel guide in 5 pages

The layout of the UNESCO heritage-listed city centre and a range of Baroque and medieval architecture makes Bamberg one of Germany’s most beautiful cities.

● The Romanesque cathedral, the opulent bishops’ Residenz palace, and its Renaissance predecessor dominate the old town

● The old town hall in the middle of the river Regnitz and the mysterious statue Bamberger Reiter attract millions of travellers

● Summaries of 35 historic sites and museums

● Information on tours, parks, food and the arts

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Trier

Detailed Trier travel guide in 7 pages

The Roman Trier was at one time second only to Rome itself. It was home to one of the most powerful Roman emperors, Constantine the Great, and later to Karl Marx. Signs of its past greatness remain for travellers to marvel at. Germany’s oldest city – and one of its oldest cathedrals – remain and are world-heritage listed.

● Read about the ancient Roman city gate Porta Nigra, the Roman bath complexes, a well-preserved amphitheatre and Constantine’s former imperial palace, plus the buildings of the medieval city

● The guide includes more than 30 sites, churches and museums, with essential services, *transport links, transit and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Detailed Rothenburg travel guide in 4 pages

Completely walled with more than 40 towers, the cobbled pedestrian streets of the Romantic Road town perched above the Tauber valley are little changed since the 17th century, with medieval and Renaissance half-timbered houses and stone churches.

● The guide includes 17 sites and museums and an excursion to the Franconian open-air museum at nearby Bad Windsheim

● Essential services, transport links, food tips and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and websites for many of the town’s small accommodation houses

Potsdam

Detailed Potsdam travel guide in 8 pages

The Stadtschloß palace was the first Prussian royal residence and more gradually multiplied in the city's extensive parklands. The city’s minorities grew with waves of immigration, leaving the Dutch quarter Holländisches Viertel and the Russian colony Siedlung Alexandrowka and its tiny Orthodox church.

● The delicate Rococo palace Schloß Sanssouci and the palaces and pavilions of Park Sanssouci with brief histories

● Potsdam’s ornate city gates, its Baroque streetscapes and 10 museums

● Essential services, transport links and fares, accommodation, food and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Regensburg

Detailed Regensburg travel guide in 6 pages

The streets, archways and buildings of this medieval city, which grew from remains of a Roman legionary camp, remain. The range of ancient monuments and its streetscapes justify Regensburg’s world heritage listing.

● One of Germany’s classic Gothic cathedrals, several medieval churches, rare Gothic tower houses and one of Germany’s oldest stone bridges

Almost 30 sites and museums, including the nearby Walhalla gallery of great Germanic figures of history

● Information on essential services, transport links and urban transit and fares plus listings of travel essentials

● Hyperlink access to accommodation websites and further tourist information

Würzburg

Detailed Würzburg travel guide of 7 pages

The prince-bishops who controlled Würzburg for centuries built wealth, power and influence expressed in Baroque by their huge palace, the UNESCO world-heritage Residenz. Their medieval castle still commands the city, reached by a stone bridge.

● Summaries of Würzburg’s grand residences, the medieval cathedral, churches and other sites

Museums and galleries including one of Europe’s prominent Jewish museums

Tours, essential services, transport links, transit services and fares and food tips

● Hyperlink access to accommodation and further tourist information websites

Passau

Detailed Passau travel guide in 4 pages

The border city of three rivers includes the Baroque cathedral of St Stephan, with one of the world’s largest organs, the fortress Veste Oberhaus and the well preserved old town.

● Descriptions of 13 sites and museums, including the exhibits of Passau’s Roman past and history of glass manufacture

● Details of essential services, transport links and urban buses including fares, accommodation, food, tours and spectacular views

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Dinkelsbühl

Dinkelsbühl travel guide in 2 pages

This short guide covers a tiny medieval walled town, left unchanged by a royal decree and now a favourite of artists and a small number of travellers.

● Dinkelsbühl’s town walls and many Gothic and Renaissance buildings keep its atmosphere alive

● Small hotels, pensions and restaurants complement the historical scene

● Essential services, tourist and transport information are included with hyperlinks to accommodation

Augsburg

Detailed Augsburg travel guide in 6 pages

The wealth and influence of Augsburg’s powerful families brought the Renaissance to Germany at a time when the city was also the site of key events of the Reformation.

● The home of Germany’s onion-domed towers, museums with magnificent works of art, and one of the beautiful Renaissance streets of Germany, the Maximilianstraße

Guides to more than 30 sites, including monuments to Roman settlement

Transport links and fares, food and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Heidelberg

Detailed Heidelberg travel guide in 7 pages

The most common description for Heidelberg is Romantic. This comes from its valley location, half-ruined castle and the towered stone bridge crossing the river Neckar.

● Explore Heidelberg’s cobbled streets in search of the essence of the city – Germany’s oldest university, the churches, monuments to its religious struggles, and its restaurants and cafes

● Discover the castle, its history, and thefunicular railway that makes the climb – and vantage points above the city – much easier

● Several budget hotel and private hostels that help make Heidelberg accommodation affordable, plus hyperlink access to other accommodation and tourist information sites

● Guides to 27 sites and museums

Goslar

Detailed Goslar travel guide in 5 pages

The medieval town has hundreds of colourful half-timbered houses, Romanesque churches and the Kaiserpfalz, one of Germany’s oldest palaces. Its ancient Rammelsberg mines were the source of its wealth and are partly responsible for the town’s world heritage status.

19 sites and museums including the finest town houses

● A town walk and Rammelsberg tour

● Information on transport links plus listings of travel essentials and hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

● An excursion to the nearby half-timbered Harz town Wernigerode

Lübeck

Detailed Lübeck travel guide in 7 pages

Trade made Lübeck the centre of the Baltic and the red-brick Gothic old town its merchant wealth built is now UNESCO world heritage-listed. Its churches, town houses and civic institutions are preserved and restored.

● The commercial and civic culture of the city through guides to 30 sites, museums and galleries

Tours, the best views and food options with other travel essentials

● Information on transport links and transit services including fares

● Hyperlinks to further tourist information and to websites for city accommodation

Berlin

Detailed Berlin travel guide in 31 pages

Berlin is used to crisis, novelty and immigrants – so any journey to Berlin is a journey to many Berlins. The city that the Enlightenment and industrial progress created survived years of destruction and division.

● Separate sections for the districts Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Neukölln, Schöneberg-Tempelhof, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Spandau, with local food and accommodation and quick guides to essential services

● Summary of major transport links with Berlin

● How to use urban transit services with fares

● Descriptions of more than 60 historic sites, with guides to walking sections of the Berlin Wall and its memorials

● Summaries of more than 50 museums of history, art and culture, and information on all major performance groups including orchestras, opera and theatre

● Short history of the city and its precincts

● Parks, views, tours and cruises

● Hyperlinks to websites for accommodation houses and further tourist information

Bremen

Detailed Bremen travel guide in 6 pages

One of Germany’s oldest cities includes UNESCO world heritage monuments, ornate Renaissance architecture with a regional stamp, the story of world travellers including emigrants to the US and arts precincts with works by some of the most innovative German artists.

● The ancient St Petri cathedral and 11 other sites including the giant Roland figure

17 Bremen museums including art and the remarkable Übersee-Museum, with exhibits of the wonders of the continents touched by Bremen’s worldwide trade interests

Transport links and the city’s complicated transit system explained

● Hyperlink access to websites for accommodation houses and further tourist information

Dresden

Detailed Dresden travel guide in 11 pages

Twice over the centuries, Dresden has been an amazing place. The first period was the Baroque magnificence of the 17th and 18th centuries. The second is now, with much of the city’s splendour restored.

Dresden's city palaces with their museums and galleries, highlighted by the two Green Vault museums, are among the most remarkable in Germany

● The exquisite, rebuilt Frauenkirche

● The Saxon ducal and royal summer palaces of Pillnitz and Moritzburg

● In all, 30 museums and galleries of art and culture

● Information on tours, essential services, parks and views, food and performing arts

● Details of excursions to the medieval city of Meissen, centre of European porcelain, and the fortress of Königstein

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Hamburg

Detailed Hamburg travel guide in 8 pages

Germany’s mighty port city attracts travellers from all over the world and was the departure point for generations of migrants. ● 25 sites, ships, museums, monuments and churches that reflect Hamburg’s maritime and trading traditions

● The UNESCO world heritage Speicherstadt, centre of Hamburg’s former free port

● Essential services are listed with a choice of tours, including port tours

● Information on transport links and extensive urban transit services including fares

● Listings of essential traveller services

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

● The city’s arts and music scene, including opera

Nuremberg (Nürnberg)

Detailed Nuremberg travel guides in 8 pages

Modern Nuremberg has preserved or restored many walled and historic areas. The city’s leading late medieval citizens were some of the best known German personalities. Then came the Nazis.

● Guides to 20 buildings, historic streets and monuments, among them the Kaiserburg, the castle of early imperial German assemblies

● 13 museums, including Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Germany’s leading cultural history museum

● The courts of the post-World War II war crimes trials, now also a museum

Transport links, urban transit, tours and essential services

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Cologne (Köln)

Detailed Cologne travel guide in 11 pages

Cologne is Roman, medieval and modern all at once, a city known for piety, carnival and perfume. Travellers can walk the historic centre and the remains of the Roman wall.

Germany’s mightiest cathedral, which took more than 600 years to complete

● Cologne’s Roman and medieval walls and gates picked out for travellers

● 12 precious Romanesque churches with historical background

● In all, 25 sites and 17 museums of art, history and culture including the Römisch-Germanisches Museum and associated archaeological sites

Transport links and urban transit services including fares

Tours, parks, views, food and performing arts

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Stuttgart

Detailed Stuttgart travel guide in 6 pages

The Baden-Württemberg capital is one of Germany’s beautiful lifestyle cities, surrounded by hills and some of the country’s most beautiful palaces and pleasure pavilions.

● 10 sites including Stuttgart’s castle complexes, Schloß Solitude and the magnificent palaces of Ludwigsburg nearby

● 10 museums and galleries of art

Tours, walks through the city’s extensive parks and views

● Guide to essential services and hyperlinks to tourist information and accommodation house websites and a guide to performance art

Munich (München)

Detailed Munich travel guide in 13 pages

Munich was founded by monks and built up by dukes and kings, but became a centre of revolution as well as a home for arts, industry and travellers enjoying the good life.

● Germany’s largest museum, Deutsches Museum, and some of its richest art museums

● The city’s extensive palaces and palace gardens are featured

● Almost 30 museums of history, art and culture

● 30 historic sites in and around the city

● Information on major performance groups including orchestras and opera

Accommodation, food and a guide to essential services including transport links and urban transit services and fares

● A choice of city tours and some of its finest views

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites