The best places to visit in Germany

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Germany A-Z travel guide 2019: Füssen

Most travellers pass through the Allgäu spa town of Füssen on a day trip from Munich to the Romantic castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau nearby.

This is both a shame and a mistake. The castles and the landscape they stand in is remarkable and the views they afford well worth the visit. But for an independent visitor they form only a part of a much richer experience, including two monasteries, a medieval castle and basilica, a mixed Gothic and Baroque streetscape and a Baroque church of rare cultural significance set in pastureland – to say nothing of the area’s appeal for cyclists and hikers.

Taken as a whole Füssen, in Lakeland at the foot of the Alps and only 5km from the Austrian border, is the ultimate postcard experience for visitors prepared to linger two or three days. The Allgäu custom of adding paintings to houses’ outer walls can also be observed here. Füssen also offers the striking sight, at least in summer, of the metallic blue-green river Lech, probably a phenomenon of dissolving limestone and worth a photograph for those prepared to make the short stroll to the bridge at the south end of the old town. A little further on are the falls for which the place was probably named.

The south end of the Romantic Road is in Füssen, at the arch of the Bleichertörle off Floßergasse, about 30 metres from the north bank of the river behind the church of the Franciscan monastery of St Stephan. A surviving stretch of medieval town wall closes off the monastery on the east edge of the old town and the last of the town gateways in original condition is nearby at Klosterstraße.

When the Romans arrived just before the time of Christ, Italian influences first began flowing north over the Alps to the Danube along the military road Via Claudia Augusta. Füssen’s site was strategic. The missionary and hermit St Magnus, known locally as St Mang, probably died in Füssen, where he had built a cell, about 750 – details of life are uncertain. It was not until the 9th century that a company of Benedictine monks appeared to venerate his memory. His cult then grew around the town’s church. St Mang’s remains, buried in the early medieval basilica, have gone missing but frescoes below the church preserve his heritage and he became patron of the Allgäu. Italian links with Füssen were renewed through the medieval period, now evident in the town’s Baroque architectural legacy.

In the mid-19th century the castle Schloß Neuschwanstein was built at Hohenschwangau near Füssen, based on drawings by Christian Jank, a set designer for the opera maestro Richard Wagner. Wagner loved this part of Germany and it fired his imagination. His patron, the Bavarian king Ludwig II, was in turn inspired by Wagner’s operas and he commissioned Jank, who produced a Neoromanesque design.

Neuschwanstein, as a medieval pastiche, matched Ludwig’s wildest fantasies but was never completed. Despite being Germany’s most photographed castle, it is one of the smallest and one of the least characteristic, with only 16 rooms. But its Romantic appeal is undimmed and a fitting legacy of one of the least practical of kings. Reality was slipping away from Ludwig, whose real legacy is the afterglow of the Romantic movement, his extravagant residences and the operas he patronised. Ludwig has accumulated stories – not least about his mysterious death in a nearby lake – but he remains the symbol of Bavaria’s last defiance of the Prussian juggernaut that created modern Germany and the last link with a receded past of princes and hilltop castles.

On the hill adjacent to Neuschwanstein is the lesser-known Neogothic Schloß Hohenschwangau, which has a 13th century history but was updated and reshaped from an old ruin for Ludwig’s father, the Bavarian crown prince Maximilian. Its creator was Domenico Quaglio the younger, also a set designer, who died at the castle and was buried at the St Sebastian cemetery in Füssen. Some of the interior decorations are frescoes inspired by medieval tales. These include the story of the swan knight Lohengrin, which moved Wagner to write the opera of the same name, and the Arthurian Parzival, which became the theme for another opera. The young Ludwig’s summers were spent there and he was moved by the wall paintings. Today the castle, unlike Neuschwanstein, is a privately owned property.

Tickets to visit both castles, including combination tickets, are available at the Hohenschwangau village visitor centre, less than a quarter-hour bus ride from Füssen. The stepped walk up to Schloß Hohenschwangau is about 15 minutes (there is also a wagon ride), but the Neuschwanstein climb is longer and a bus (€2.50) or horse carriage (€7) ride up is available. The bus also carries visitors to the classic view of Neuschwanstein from the bridge Marienbrücke above. The lives of Ludwig and his forebears are covered by the Museum der Bayerischen Könige in the village.

But Füssen has its own castle, Hohes Schloß, superbly preserved in 13th and 15th century Gothic with the illusions of trompe l’oeil windows outside and a rare wooden carved and coffered ceiling in the Rittersaal inside. It was built for the prince-bishops of Augsburg but now houses part of the Bavarian state art collection and is one of the best places to appreciate Füssen’s overall cultural significance. A medieval view of the town, a short pictorial life of St Mang and a section of Romantic paintings are among the galleries. The castle’s gate tower, which dominates the town, was built in stages between the 13th and 16th centuries and offers superb all-round views of the town, the river, the surrounding lakes and the Alps.

Across Magnusplatz is the Baroque Basilika St Mang. The church, now Füssen’s parish church, has had several forms and periods going back to the time of the saint in the mid-8th century. The 12th century building was reshaped by local architect Johann Jakob Herkomer under the influences of his study in Venice and includes impressive later ceiling frescoes celebrating St Mang. Below is a 9th century Romanesque burial crypt with 10th century frescoes that are among Germany’s oldest, depicting the saint. The crypt, also burial place of a millennium of abbots, can be viewed only by tours in German. The only relics – a bone fragment, a staff, a cross and a chalice as the skeleton went missing in medieval times – are in a glass cross above the church’s main altar. The early 18th century organ is highly valued.

The town’s other cultural site is the connected abbey of St Mang, now Füssen’s museum, with Roman remains, Romanesque architecture and exhibits of the town’s violin, lute and guitar manufactures. There is also a chance to look at the chapel of St Anna with its complete Totentanz or ‘dance of death’, an expression of the fatalism surrounding the recurring plagues from about 1600. St Mang founded the first monastery in the 8th century but today’s 18th century Italian Baroque Benedictine abbey was designed by Herkomer. The richness of the interiors is best viewed in the library, with its ceiling frescoes, and the Fürstensaal.

More painting, this time exterior Rococo, is a feature of the mid-18th century Heilig-Geist-Spitalkirche at the corner of Lechhalde and Spitalgasse near the Lech bridge. The pictorial theme is crossing the river. On the facade giant figures of St Christopher (bearing Christ across the waters) and St Florian (by convention depicted pouring water on fire) are presented with traditional Allgäu flair over the portal. The Baroque painted interior is equally opulent. At the altar St Johannes Nepomuk, the patron saint of rafting who went to martyrdom by drowning, is represented and there is a painted illusionary cupola showing the seven sacraments.

But the richness there hardly compares with the 18th century Rococo Wieskirche, south-east of Steingaden, a local bus ride of about 45 minutes from Füssen. It is nowhere near as well recognised as Neuschwanstein but world heritage listing by UNESCO accords it much greater significance. The stucco work and frescoes and the purity of style give the church’s interior its precious quality and artistic status. It commemorates a 1738 miracle in which a wooden carving of Christ was seen to weep and was built as a place of pilgrimage. Part of the old pilgrimage way can also be seen. The church was designed by Dominikus Zimmermann but many craftsmen contributed, including the architect’s brother. Sunday evening summer concerts are offered there. The church was UNESCO listed in 1983 and subsequently restored. Regular tours in English are not offered.

Füssen can be reached by regional train from Munich (about two hours) or Augsburg. Other connections from Munich are available by changing from Lindau-bound services at Buchloe. Two or three times a week from April to late October, the Deutsche Touring Romantische Straße bus service arrives from Munich, departing northward again early next morning. The bus also stops at Wieskirche (15-20 minutes) and Hohenschwangau both ways.

But to really appreciate the Wieskirche and its location, travellers should use the regional RVA/OVG buses, which depart from Füssen’s rail station. The services vary and some links involve a change at the Steingaden fire station, so a careful timetable check is recommended. These buses also provide a service to the Hohenschwangau castles and the Tegelbergbahn cable car at Schwangau, one of several lifts in the district supporting the popular summer hiking and winter sports trade and providing the ultimate panorama of the district.

An updated Raven Guide to Füssen will appear early in 2020.

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Great Cities of Germany

Füssen

Füssen travel guide PDF 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

Aachen travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The Romans developed the hot springs at Aachen, then 1200 years ago the Frankish king Charlemagne set up his court there and the town 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

Eisenach travel guide PDF 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

Wittenberg travel guide PDF 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

Bamberg travel guide PDF 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

Trier travel guide PDF 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

Rothenburg travel guide PDF 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

Potsdam travel guide updated for 2019

Potsdam is a curious but beautiful mixture of Prussian palaces and military buildings established by its martial rulers. The Stadtschloß palace was the first royal residence and others gradually multiplied in the city's extensive parklands over 250 years. The city’s minorities grew with waves of immigration, leaving the Dutch quarter Holländisches Viertel, a Bohemian district and the Russian colony Siedlung Alexandrowka and its tiny Orthodox church. This guide offers:

● An introduction to the delicate Rococo palace Schloß Sanssouci and the palaces and pavilions of Park Sanssouci with brief histories

● The story of Potsdam’s ornate city gates, its Baroque streetscapes and 15 museums

● Details of essential services, transport links and fares, accommodation, food and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Regensburg

Regensburg travel guide PDF 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

Würzburg travel guide PDF 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

Passau travel guide PDF 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 PDF 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

Augsburg travel guide PDF 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

Heidelberg travel guide PDF 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

Goslar travel guide PDF 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

Lübeck travel guide PDF 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

Berlin travel guide PDF updated for 2019

Get 34 pages of things to do in Berlin free. Berlin is used to crisis, novelty and immigrants – so to visit Berlin is to visit many Berlins. The city that the Enlightenment and industrial progress created survived years of destruction and division.

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

● A complete guide to what to do in Berlin, including tours, cruises, parks and the best views

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

● Summary of major transport links with Berlin

● How to use urban transit services including Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn, with their differences and the fares

● Summaries of more than 50 Berlin 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

● Hyperlinks to websites for Berlin hotels and hostels and further tourist information

Bremen

Bremen travel guide PDF 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

Dresden travel guide PDF 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

Hamburg travel guide PDF 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)

Nuremberg travel guide PDF 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)

Cologne travel guide PDF 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

Stuttgart travel guide PDF 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)

Munich travel guide PDF 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