The best places to visit in Germany

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Germany A-Z travel guide 2019: Bremen

For about 1000 years, Bremen was better known for its travellers than as a visitor destination. Bishop Ansgar, whose diocese included the pagan north of Europe, set off for Sweden in the 9th century and became the first Christian visitor of note to the Norse people then known as the Svear.

Bremen’s traffic increased as the Middle Ages advanced and sea trade became its livelihood. But by the 19th and early 20th centuries, the travellers of Bremen were making a much longer voyage. Emigrants, more than seven million of them, departed from Bremen’s port Bremerhaven for a new life. Many Americans whose forebears came through the system can see what they experienced by visiting Bremen and Bremerhaven.

Fans of fairytale know the Bremen Town Musicians, and many visitors may be attracted by the interactive science museum Universum, with an architecture that might suggest a clam shell or a flying saucer, in the university precinct north of the city. But followers of art, especially 20th century art, will find rich sources of inspiration in the city’s museums.

Bremen faced many threats through time, partly because its position was vital, first to the church and later to trade. Ansgar’s first trek was long and perilous and he lost all his holy books, but he made it to the trading post of Birka, not far from today’s Stockholm. But he reportedly made converts in the kingdom of the Svear. The northern mission based in Bremen, which thanks to Ansgar’s work became an archdiocese, continued its efforts for a few hundred years until the faith began to spread in Scandinavia.

Bremen, which remembers St Ansgar today in the name of a city precinct, is guaranteed to make plenty of converts. There are many signs of the city’s turbulent past and in many ways the character of the city centre is unchanged since late medieval times.

The ancient cathedral of St Petri, rebuilt in the 11th and 15th centuries before later restorations, is a monument to the early period, in which the archbishops were the effective rulers of Bremen. Inside the cathedral today – rescued after the damage of heavy World War II bombing – is a portion devoted to a museum including some of the surviving vault paintings, early archaeology and the cathedral’s architectural history. Romanesque features are preserved in the crypts, where there are more than 80 graves of early bishops.

But the rule of the archbishops faced a challenge from the town’s prominent citizens. After struggles between the city council and the church for control of Bremen, the cathedral precinct was for a while ruled separately from the city. The Bremen statue of Roland, the sword-wielding giant protector regarded as the definitive statement of northern German cities’ fierce civic independence, was raised in the central square Am Markt in 1404 and inspired imitation throughout northern Germany. It was erected in stone after its wooden predecessor was burned in 1366 by the archbishop’s men. Facing the cathedral, its appearance was the signal for the archbishops to move their residence out of town in the interests of safety.

Importantly, the double-headed eagle on Roland’s shield signifies its status as a free city under the German emperor. The 16th century Low German inscription asserts the dignity of freedom after the example of Charlemagne and the temporal lords. Roland is a mythical figure, but his identity is associated with the soldier nephew of Charlemagne, celebrated in medieval verse epic. It is the largest medieval German sculpture, more than 10m high, and has been world heritage listed by UNESCO.

Eventually, the cathedral was taken over by a Lutheran pastor in 1547, signalling the victory of the Reformation in Bremen. The townsmen had won the long struggle for power.

By then, Bremen’s river port was the source of its influence. A replica of a 14th century cog, the characteristic deep-draught trading ship of the Hanseatic League of German, Baltic and North Sea cities, is moored at Teerhofbrücke on the Schlachte, the river harbour on the Weser east bank that was Bremen’s link with the north. It was developed with a stone quay and unloading machinery in succeeding centuries. Unloaded trade goods had to be hauled up and through the gates in the city defences. At the height of trade, an area several hundred metres long was employed but the river’s silting increasingly restricted ever-larger ocean-going shipping and by the 18th century only loading barges could dock there.

The pitiless aerial attacks of World War II claimed the old fabric of the harbour area but the character of the moorings right next to the old town has in recent years been reconceived and now the Schlachte and its sailing vessels are a favourite evening stroll.

One other medieval monument needs mention. Unser Lieben Frauen Kirche was built in Romanesque-Gothic style in 1229 on the site of earlier parish churches. In its north aisle vaults remnants of medieval painting are preserved and paintings on the walls and in the vaults below the chapel of St Veit are from the 15th century and include Christ’s appearance before Pontius Pilate. Around this period the church served the city council. The equestrian relief on the north tower celebrates the 19th century Prussian field marshal Helmuth von Moltke. The church was restored after World War II bombing damage.

Also rescued from war rubble was Bremen’s characteristic post-medieval architecture, the Weser Renaissance. This was realised in red brick in the Altes Rathaus, the old city hall, and the Stadtwaage (weighhouse), but its forms are also realised in stone in the shape of the twin-gabled Gewerbehaus (an early centre for city clothmakers) and the Schütting (merchant centre). The flourishes on the stepped gables of these buildings are naturally more in keeping with Dutch and Flemish patterns and provide a contrast with buildings of the same period in Lübeck or other Baltic cities.

Bombing also claimed the Schnoorviertel precinct, on the river south of the city centre, but this has been resurrected with some of its old-town feel of tiny buildings and narrow and snaking streets, becoming a boutique quarter popular for weekend leisure and shopping.

Bremen’s commitment to art and culture is best exemplified at the heart of the city in the medieval coopers’ quarter, the Böttcherstraße, the location of two museums. One features the works of the Expressionist artist Paula Modersohn-Becker. The Böttcherstraße project brought together restorations and Expressionist 1920s building design in a combined arts and business precinct, where the coffee magnate Ludwig Roselius set up his headquarters and became patron of the construction and its artists. Sculptor Bernhard Hoetger created many of the works, including a bust of Roselius and the gilded relief above the street’s portal. The period artistic touches of the street set the tone and demand a visit even from those who prefer to stay out of the art museums.

There are two other city art precincts – the central historical collections at the Kunsthalle and the sculptures of the Gerhard-Marcks-Haus at Am Wall, on the south-east edge of the city centre, and the modern art of the Weserburg Museum and GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst on an island in the Weser. Marcks was the creator of the city’s most famous sculpture, the bronze animals outside Altes Rathaus known as Bremer Stadtmusikanten the Bremen Town Musicians of the Brothers Grimm tale.

The Bremen city defences outlived their usefulness by the 18th century and were demolished, parklands being planted along the bastions of what was still known as the Wallanlagen. There, windmills were built to produce flour for the populace. The Mühle am Wall, more than a century old, it is the last of the windmills that from about 1700 stood on the site and continued operating until 1942. Five other mills stood in various parts of the Wallanlagen. Today, a cafe-restaurant with breakfast and brunch service operates on the lower floors.

But trade was always the source of Bremen’s prosperity and its warehouses are precious reminders. Hanseatic traffic vanished in the 17th century, but late in the 18th century the city began to develop profitable trans-Atlantic routes and soon was the port of choice for emigration. The Übersee-Museum reflects the outlook of a port city with its emphasis on trading history and the geography and ethnography of distant continents. Covering the history and working lives of the free port is a museum in the city’s last historical cotton warehouse, known as Hafenmuseum Speicher XI, north of the city centre.

The Alter Speicher marks the Vegesack harbour precinct north of the city centre and a tall ship is moored nearby. Vegesack, thanks to the silting of the Weser, became one of Europe’s earliest artificial harbours in the 17th century and its history included Swedish, Danish and French rule. Today, the harbour area and old town – especially around Alte Hafenstraße – preserve their maritime ambience with a riverfront walk, small pubs and traditional housing styles. A regional museum is nearby at Schloß Schönebeck, a 17th century manor house with exhibits extending to boatbuilding and historical fisheries.

After the end of the Holy Roman empire, and a brief French overlordship under Napoleon, Bremen again became independent and today remains an independent city-state of Germany, consisting of the city, its surroundings and Bremerhaven, the port at the Weser mouth bought by the city to overcome the silting of the river harbour that gradually threatened its trade.

Bremerhaven, 40 minutes by train from Bremen, is the home of Deutsches Auswanderer Haus, a museum of the European emigration experience. Visitors can follow the path of emigrants through the departure process and see recreations of what life was like on board during the voyage and during arrival at Ellis Island off New York.

The Raven Travel Guides Germany Bremen guide is available for download at the Great Cities of Germany section below.

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Great Cities of Germany


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 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 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 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 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 travel guide PDF 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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