The best places to visit in Germany

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German destinations A-Z: Koblenz

Travellers to Germany should make time to visit Koblenz, where the great rivers Rhine and Moselle meet. It is a picturesque location with romance and German, French, even Roman history to make a short style worthwhile. It stands at the end of a priceless landscape given UNESCO world heritage recognition.

The spur on the east Rhine bank that dominates Koblenz, site of the mighty fortress Ehrenbreitstein, was first fortified long before Roman times. But the military post set up in 8BCE provides a convenient birth date for today’s German city. The location has always been strategic and the river junction was the source of the Latin identity ad confluentes (and later German and French names for the city). The Roman frontier Limes Germanicus lay just to the east, roads criss-crossed the site and the Rhine was bridged using timber.

One historical French view of the Rhine as frontier included Koblenz and for almost 150 years the city suffered accordingly. At various times through the ages, it was attacked or occupied by Franks, Vikings, Swedes and (during Napoleon’s retreat) Russians and was used as a refuge by Frenchmen fleeing the Revolution. In the Thirty Years War Koblenz changed hands repeatedly and again under Louis XIV, the revolutionary regime and Napoleon, French armies were on the attack. Flooding was also a common problem, giving extra significance to elevated areas.

At the river junction now known as the Deutsches Eck, a nationalistic monument to German unity, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Denkmal, shows the Prussian-German emperor Wilhelm I in equestrian glory, his back toward France, whose defeat in the 1870s was celebrated by the creation of the Prussian-German empire. But the French returned in occupation after the armistice of 1918 and again under the Allied occupation agreement after World War II. The statue, all but destroyed in 1945, was restored in 1992.

Heavy damage was done by 1944 air raids over Koblenz and some of the city’s oldest monuments had to be rebuilt. Mutilated was the Liebfrauenkirche, built with Romanesque and Gothic elements between the 12th and 15th centuries with towers embellished in Baroque in the 17th century. It stands on the site of a 5th century church built using a 4th century Roman hall, which shows the antiquity of the Koblenz settlement. On an adjacent site, almost as old, is the vicarage, a successor to a 6th century Frankish royal manor and an 11th century palace for Koblenz’s lords over centuries, the elector-archbishops of Trier. The church had to be reconstructed after World War II and has been restored twice since, including its beautiful galleried interiors, the subject of the most recent work.

Also built on early foundations was the 13th century Alte Burg, where a Roman circular fort formed part of an early town wall. The first castle, completed in 1307, spent a generation in use by the Trier elector-archbishops, largely as protection from a townsfolk seeking self-government. The issue led to fighting, but the princes prevailed, extending their defences with a moat and curtain wall long since gone. Today the castle stands in the 17th century form – with Baroque tower features – it had when it formally became the archbishops’ principal seat, although the electors in practice had to move their residence to the more removed and heavily fortified Ehrenbreitstein.

In scale, the Alte Burg is outshone by the later Neoclassical palace Kurfürstliches Schloß, the glistening grey-white riverside palace the archbishops occupied for less than a decade. The late 18th century building was designed by the French architects Pierre d'Ixnard and Antoine-Francois Peyre and built for the last archbishop of Trier, Clemens Wenzeslaus. But a few years later the elector was forced to escape by the arrival of the French army. That was not the end of French advance and the invaders used the building as a military hospital. All electoral states were formally abolished in 1815 when post-Napoleonic Germany took shape and Koblenz soon became part of Prussia.

After the Prussian takeover the palace was used by the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV and his son, the region's governor (later Wilhelm I, celebrated at Deutsches Eck). Magnificent gardens were laid out, accommodating a sculpture of father Rhine and mother Moselle. Peter Joseph Lenné, famous for his Berlin and Potsdam garden designs, laid out the Terrassengarten along the Rhine promenade. Fire destroyed the structure in 1944, after which it was rebuilt for use by government authorities and the vestibule restored.

But one Koblenz structure is bigger still. The archbishops’ continuing need to control the independently minded townsmen was the reason for developing the late medieval version of the Ehrenbreitstein fortifications across the Rhine, a spot that had been strategically fortified over three millennia. Bastions were added and the fortress enlarged from the 16th to the 18th centuries, mainly as a bulwark against united France, showing the mindset of the fragmented Germany. It became one of the largest fortresses in Europe and, almost 120m above the river, it proved militarily impregnable until 1759, when it was held by French troops for three years. For more than a century, it guarded the Holy Robe of Trier. The French Revolutionary army carried out a successful siege late in the 18th century and France blew up the fortifications before leaving in 1801, although later subsidised a new Prussian fortress under the terms of the 1815 European settlement. This is the basis of the Ehrenbreitstein visitors see today. The moderator of that settlement, the Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich, was a native of Koblenz. American forces were headquartered in Ehrenbreitstein in 1919, during the inter-war Rhineland occupation and again in 1945 raised the Stars and Stripes. Then the French again used the site until 1947.

Ehrenbreitstein’s power and position impressed the greats: Byron lauded it in verse, Turner painted it repeatedly and Moby-Dick author Herman Melville used it as a metaphor of power. Today, as well as housing the regional museum Landesmuseum Koblenz (covering cultural history, archaeology, photography and winemaking) and the city’s youth hostel, the fortress offers one of Germany’s classic views, with the Deutsches Eck below. It is popular for markets, concerts and shows. A cable car crossing over the Rhine from the city bank has made access much easier, saving both the climb and the detour once necessary to reach it and providing a photographic experience in itself – especially the contrast between the greenish Rhine and darker Moselle.

The warren of passages, courtyards, chambers and casemates of this multi-level complex has to be experienced from the inside. In parts, internal walls stretch more than 10m high. The structure served at various times as artillery base, army headquarters, barracks and jail. The museum component includes insights into the daily life of its occupants over centuries, including weapons, uniforms and the full range of daily paraphernalia.

In the Prussian period, Ehrenbreitstein became the strongpoint of an even larger fortification project protecting the city. More than a dozen separate forts, batteries or other works formed a network surrounding its approaches, river confluence and bridges. Several of these, such as Fort Konstantin above the city’s main railway station, Feste Franz and remnants of the huge Feste Kaiser Alexander built to protect the city centre, are easy to find today and some have been preserved. But large parts, like many of Germany’s Rhine fortifications, were dismantled after 1890 and further work was carried out in the 1920s in the interests of urban development.

The Romans left Koblenz in the 5th century and were replaced by the Franks, who set up a royal court. Like most medieval centres, Koblenz was fortified, a wall built in the 13th century enclosing a much larger area than the late 4th century Roman wall on the Moselle and making a rough triangle along the Rhine and Moselle banks. This was reinforced early in the 17th century with bastions and extensive double ditches. But these could not prevent the garrison being overwhelmed, or the city being retaken by imperial troops, during the Thirty Years War. The Deutsches Eck quarter was used by the Teutonic Knights and the city was part of the shortlived first Rhenish league, but for almost 800 years, apart from interruptions by war, the territory was under the control of the elector-archbishops.

The role of the Trier archbishops in the building of the 9th century church of St Kastor, built to honour a Moselle saint, is evident from early records. It was there that the royal brothers Charles the Bald, Lothar and Louis the German negotiated through representatives the partition of the empire of their grandfather Charlemagne. Their agreement became the Treaty of Verdun in 843, beginning the process that laid down the national divisions of modern Europe. Parts of that early church can be glimpsed in the present Romanesque 12th century structure and investigations show a small Roman temple had existed on the site. St Rizza, supposed sister of the three Frankish kings, has a shrine in the church today. A monastery developed around it and became an important imperial meeting place – the first Hohenstaufen Holy Roman emperor was elected there. But the monastery was torn down by the French in 1802. The church, which is notable for two star-patterned vaults, was named a minor basilica as Basilika St Kastor by the pope in 1991.

The Teutonic Knights came to the Rhineland in the early 13th century at the invitation of archbishop Theoderich von Wied and were given land to settle in the grounds of St Kastor. Over time their name (Deutsche Ordern) led to the corner being named Deutsches Eck. The small area was administered under the order’s grand master. The Renaissance building Deutschherrenhaus standing in a walled garden today was rebuilt after heavy World War II bombing and houses an art museum.

The other important medieval church in Koblenz is the 11th century Romanesque Florinskirche, which includes fragmentary 14th century Gothic interior paintings rescued in a post-World War II rebuilding after destruction caused by bombing. The church’s style is typical of the region, but unusual for the horizontal basalt bands running across its towers. After the 1688 French invasion a cannonball was built into the repair work in the vault above the baptismal font as a memorial. It was a collegiate church until the early 19th century, when it became the first Evangelical church in the region.

The self-reliant Koblenz townsfolk, for centuries itching under the rule of archbishops, even managed to build their own towers. The Vier Türme, four 17th century three and four-storey residential and commercial towers with corner oriels at the meeting of Marktstraße, Löhrstraße and Altengraben, have different histories. One, for centuries a pharmacy, was dedicated to St Peter and one was for almost two centuries the city guardhouse, decorated with muskets, other weapons and insignia. They were rebuilt in the 1690s after their destruction in fighting against the French and only one survived a World War II air raid, but their heritage value demanded a rebuilding effort.

The museum Romanticum, in the centre of the city’s central cultural complex Forum Confluentes, takes interactivity to new levels as visitors can create their own internet page by saving information to a card as they go or take a virtual steamer cruise along the Rhine, passing its castles.

It is hard to imagine a better base to explore the culture of the middle Rhine and Moselle valleys than Koblenz. The natural, Roman and medieval heritage of the middle Rhine upstream of the city, including Ehrenbreitstein, parts of the city and attractions such as the pristine medieval castle Marksburg, have earned the region UNESCO heritage listing. Marksburg, standing 170m above the small town of Braubach, is one of Germany's most faithfully medieval castles, partly because it was never taken by attack and partly because of a lack of resources to update it at critical stages. The Holy Roman emperor Heinrich IV was said to have sheltered in its tower keep.

The castle’s earliest materials are 12th century and it provides an excellent example of how the design features of medieval castles worked defensively. The castle passed through several lordships over eight centuries, being successively built outwards, and owes its present name to the vaulted and painted 14th century chapel of St Markus inside. The castle is now owned by the Deutsche Burgenvereinigung, an organisation devoted to the study of fortifications. Displays of armour, torture instruments and a kitchen complement the chambers. The small 16th century palace Schloß Philippsburg was built beside the river below. Visitors can accompany the many German-language tours with a guide leaflet. The castle is easily reached by KD Rheinschiffahrt cruise ships from Koblenz or rail or bus services to Braubach, where a minitrain takes visitors up.

The 13th century castle Schloß Stolzenfels, several kilometres south of Koblenz near the junction of the river Lahn, was left in ruins by the 1688 French invasion. After the Prussian takeover prince Friedrich Wilhelm was granted the site and, after the current fashion, he had Karl Friedrich Schinkel design Stolzenfels as a Neogothic replacement. The showpiece Rittersaal was not large but is typical with its romanticised touches such as vaulted ceilings and themed decorations including armour and weapons. Lenné laid out the castle garden. Queen Victoria visited the castle when the chapel was opened a few years later.

All this, as well as Cochem, start of the Moselle wine route, and Burg Eltz, another medieval classic of fortification, are within easy reach of Koblenz as a day tour. Cruise ships, trains and buses provide ready access to everything. But there is plenty to look at without leaving the city.

A free Raven Guide to Koblenz is due for completion in coming months and will be available for download at this website.

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Füssen travel guide PDF in 3 pages

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Wittenberg travel guide PDF in 4 pages

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● 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

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Trier travel guide PDF in 7 pages

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● 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

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Rothenburg travel guide PDF in 4 pages

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● 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 in 11 pages

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

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Regensburg travel guide PDF in 6 pages

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● 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

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Würzburg travel guide PDF in 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

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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

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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.

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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

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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 the funicular 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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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Bremen travel guide PDF in 8 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. This guide is updated for 2020.

● 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

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Dresden travel guide PDF in 11 pages

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● The exquisite, rebuilt Frauenkirche

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

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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

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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 15 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. The guide has been updated for 2019-20 and expanded with new material.

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

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

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● 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.

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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

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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